As Richie is still unable to re-boot his Facebook page he has again asked me to post his blog. Yeah … no problem, Richie … just don’t make it a regular occurrence!
Okay, let’s get the soccer out of the way first.
And before you go all Italian in the penalty box with me, it is called soccer. Or Association Football, if you prefer. There are more variants of Football than there are of the Chinese flu, of which soccer is just one.
I detest the bloody game, but somehow I seem to have become hooked on it.
And this is for three reasons.
First I’ve watched most of the Euro action in my local bar, the Moët, and – to my surprise – the “beautiful game” appears to attract significant numbers of beautiful women – las chicas calientes – in addition to hoards of sweaty, beer-gutted hombres.
Secondly, although I generally despise all things English when it comes to sport, the Euros is a sort of latter-day Jeux sans frontiers, and seeing Germany, France and Belgium go out, put a smile on my face in the way that soccer habitually fails to do. With a bit of luck, by the time you’re reading this, Italy – with all their duplicitous theatrical shenanigans – will be out too (footnote: sadly they are not!).
And the third reason? I’m bored. Yes … even the great Richie Malone has peaks and troughs and, with my next novel, Dead Brides stalled in the doldrums, a lugubrious torpor of tedium has enveloped me, which is marginally repelled by the soccer.
But enough of soccer; if you know me, you will know that the only sport I value is Rugby, and I regard the forthcoming Olympics as a festival of people I’ve never heard of doing sports I have zero interest in.
Anyway, that brings me rather untidily around to The Party.
Saturday afternoon, and I find myself in the middle of nowhere, an ice box full of beer and white wine (cheap stuff, as I won’t be drinking it) to celebrate the birthday of someone called Zoé, from one of the Low Countries … I think it may be Holland? I know her vaguely, as she’s a friend of Maria’s.
Let me tell you a bit about the setting: we’re in what could be loosely described as a cross between a field and sub-Saharan scrubland. Australians would probably refer to it as “the bush” of perhaps even the “outback”. Our pitch – which costs two hundred bucks to hire for an afternoon – is reputedly adjacent to a stream – but no one has managed to verify this yet. The one redeeming feature of this pastoral setting of unsplendid isolation is that several forlorn looking trees shield us from the fury of the Andalucían early summer sun.
‘Okay, so where are the toilets?’ I ask Maria, whom I hold entirely responsible for my incarceration at Spain’s version of Guantanamo Bay.
I guess the answer before she tells me.
‘There are none.’
To make matters worse, I have been coerced into wearing some ridiculous sort of toga, as the party has been daubed with a ‘sixties theme, although the music is what I would term Hispanic-Moroccan gangsta rap.
Let me tell you about the furniture. Basically there is none. No, I tell a lie … there’s one reasonably comfortable, if slightly piss-stained sofa in the midst of chez-longes constructed from straw bales covered with seen-better-days sheets.
A few goats observe us sardonically from a safe difference and a couple of feral dogs solicit for scraps.
Thankfully I had taken Maria’s advice and had eaten before we arrive, as there is nothing I would consider fit for human consumption (other than crisps) on offer.
So I do what I generally do when I’m going to be stuck somewhere I’d rather not be for a significant period of time: I numb the tedium with alcohol and mentally coral the women into the following categories:
- Good-looking and potentially available (3, although one possibly excludes herself on the grounds of age – however, the dullness of the event gets her onto the subs bench).
- Women I have slept with before and would do so again, if push comes to shove (2, but ditto above comment).
- Those I have slept with before (accidentally) and wouldn’t do so again, unless desperate (2).
- Those who, if all else failed, might be doable after sufficient alcohol (2 … possibly three, if I drink the cheap wine and persuade Maria to empty the rest of her vodka into the tinto verano-slash-punch.
Of course, the ludicrous and curve concealing ‘sixties garb doesn’t help, so a certain amount of guesswork is required for those with whom I have no previous form.
There are around ten men, some of whom I know, and some I know by reputation.
Let’s start with Nathan, a Cockney, who is Zoé’s partner. You wouldn’t put them together; truth be told, you wouldn’t put Nathan together with anyone, but a successful career as an East End jeweller-slash-fence has elevated him into the category of “a catch” for women whose lives haven’t matched their expectations. Nathan, who’s knocking seventy and looks it, had a couple of spells in “The Scrubs”, and enjoys telling everyone about it. Who knows, this may even come in useful; amigo, intel is ever wasted.
Then there’s a fat homosexual called Pablo who spends the afternoon bickering with another fat homosexual in a curly black wig (whose name I didn’t get) until eventually they tire of bickering and disappear together in the direction of where the stream is supposed to be.
There’s a bloke called Antonio who is about my age but looks much older. Antonio used to do something in corporate finance but now teaches some sort of weird vegan yoga. I finally escape from him by claiming the need to urinate; I stroll into the adjacent woods to be rewarded by the sight of the unnamed fat homosexual performing oral sex on Pablo.
I glance at my watch – not even four yet. Bloody hell.
Back at our pitch, a bloke called Juan makes the decision that the party needs more drugs and calls Alvaro, the local drug dealer. I’ve taken a dislike to Juan (and he to me); he’s an irritating little fucker who a) thinks that all women fancy him – and that is actually the prerogative of yours truly – and b) he is a total control freak, and when this extends to the contents of my ice box I come very close to punching him, but Maria intervenes and manages to reduce the tension to defcon two.
Now, as you know amigo, I don’t do drugs; I like to know my poison. But there’s enough weed being smoked to stun an elephant and significant amounts of other substances are being exchanged. Even the goats look out of it. Someone has even brought along dope infused cakes, and I’m only told this when I’ve eaten two of them. So a shortage of drugs is akin to Israel saying we don’t have enough vaccine.
What happens next could definitely be classed – in soccer parlance – as “back of the net”.
A furtive, weedy little scroat, fully-tatted up and with baseball cap the wrong way round, wings into camp. He might as well have “drug dealer” tattooed on his forehead.
‘Alvaro?’ I ask Maria, as the intruder hugs and reverse handshakes Juan.
There’s an animated conversation going on between the two of them that grabs everyone’s attention. I’m no expert in body language, but it looks to me as if a deal’s not going to go down.
‘What’s going on?’ I ask Maria.
‘He has no drugs.’
‘What? A drug dealer comes all the way up to this shitehole to tell us he’s out of stock?’
‘Everyone is out of stock. It’s the pandemia.’
‘Hasn’t he heard of phones?’ I ask.
‘Of course. But he likes to give the personal touch, … you know, the customer loyalty. And, in any case, he don’t use his phone cos the cops can trace it to who he deals with. They not after him … they after Mr Big but they get something on him and he can be made crumble from it.’
And, as if right on cue, the conversation between Alvaro and Juan is interrupted by the wailing of police sirens, three cars bearing the legend Policía Nacional pull up outside what passes for a gate, and eight cops and four evil looking dogs are disgorged and sprint in the direction of our pitch.
Things, I think to myself, are starting to look up.
Five minutes later, a comprehensive body search confirms that Alvaro is as out of stock as he claims to be.
But the dogs find some very interesting scents on Juan and the cops go to work on him and – I’m pleased to note – not in a particularly sympathetic way.
Pablo, somewhat revitalised by his tryst in the woods, tosses a dope cake towards one of the dogs, which – being a dog – swallows first and asks questions later.
‘What the fuck did you do that for, you moron?’ demands Nathan.
‘Diversion therapy,’ he replies, with a smirk.
One of the cops looks at the dog – who has a glazed look on his face and is doing his best to vomit the thing up … looks at Pablo, produces a pair of handcuffs and arrests him.
The other fat homosexual – who is clearly stoned – finds this hilarious, makes a comment about handcuffs, lunges at the belt of the cop standing next to him in an attempt to take his handcuffs, so he gets arrested as well.
By this time, the combined efforts of cop and canine have located Juan’s poorly concealed stash (in his underpants) arrested him, and all three are marched back to the cop cars.
So this – thankfully – puts a damper on the party, as guests begin to shuffle towards their cars wondering two things: a) will the cops still be there to breathalyse them? And, b) should they ditch their dope in case “a” happens and they’re arrested for both offences?
‘I think the fat lady’s sung,’ I tell Maria.
‘Fat lady? Which one?’
I collect my icebox and we head back to civilisation and a bar with actual seats and a toilet.