Now, I know you all think that I’m the luckiest person on earth, living in Marbella, but I’m not.
I would be the luckiest person on earth if I lived in Marbella for ten months of the year, and could escape from here in July and August.
And because I can’t, I’m beginning to detest July and August almost as much as I detest Christmas.
Actually, let’s re-think that… I think I hate July and August more than Christmas because I’ve now found a way of escaping at least the business end of Christmas.
Left to my own devices, I would go almost anywhere to escape the searing heat, the flocks of tourists, and the monumental levels of stupidity that are endemic here in what I now refer to as “the insanity season”.
Whether it’s the heat that turns people’s brains to pulp, or whether their brains were already pulp before they plotted to invade us, and bludgeon us to death with their stupidity, I shall never know. The only thing that matters is that – for me – there is no escape from it.
Given a choice – which I’m not – I would even swap these two months in Marbella for a couple of months in Grodków, my wife’s home town. You know, the town where I bumped into two guys wearing NASA uniforms in what passes for a High Street, and asked them what on earth they were doing in Grodków? They told me that NASA had sent them there to prepare for living in an environment with zero atmosphere.
The last time I had an extended stay in Grodków, I decided to take up painting. I’d just finished my maiden canvas, of which I was immensely proud, when my wife asked me what it was.
‘But it’s just black paint, sweetheart,’ she said.
‘Indeed it is, darling’ I replied. ‘How very observant of you. I’m calling it “Grodków nightlife.”
No… seriously I would. Grodków would suit me just fine. And I know what you’re thinking. It’s eleven o’clock in the morning and I’ve not touched a drop yet. But I certainly intend to later, as a vaccine to cushion me against further impending bouts of imported stupidity.
Now, you’re probably wondering – or there again you may not be – why I can’t simply lock the door of my apartment and escape?
The answer is that my wife has just begun a job – ironically within the tourist industry – and July and August are her busiest months. Her job is to manage a portfolio of luxurious high end rental properties. And by “manage,” I mean that she has to take care of every little detail, and this has ratcheted up my exposure to brought in stupidity. And there appears to be a correlation between stupidity and wealth, because the more people pay for a property, the stupider they appear to be.
Let me give you some examples.
Last night around midnight she had a call from a “guest” in a €10k a week villa.
‘The temperature of the swimming pool’s wrong,’ whinged the lady. ‘It’s like a bath… far too hot. Do something about it please.’
I would have told her to put some ice cubes in her swimwear, but my wife managed to tell her – for the second time that day – where to locate the switch that controls the pool heater, and the direction of travel (opposite to that at which it was currently set) to turn the thing off.
And on her first day on the job, at around six in the evening, my wife had a call from a lady who had rented a second line apartment in Puerto Banús, complaining about noisy neighbours.
My answer would have been: ‘This is Puerto Banús, madam, what do you expect? If people aren’t trying to break down your door to sell you drugs, or drive their rented Lamborghini through your front window, consider yourself fortunate.’
The following evening, she had a call from a distressed “guest” in a luxury villa in Cabopina, telling her that his teenaged daughter had somehow managed to get locked in a bathroom, and Siri couldn’t open the door. This resulted in an irate handy man being dragged from his bed in Estepona to drive fifty kilometres to release her.
Oh yes… on day two, during check-in, a guest complained that the settee was the wrong colour. Apparently, it was a shade of duck egg blue in the brochure.
And one “guest” asked where she could find the bins (despite them being across the road from the apartment, hidden in plain sight, and having been informed of this at check-in).
Another “guest” called my wife and asked if she could contact the restaurant they had booked for that evening, and tell them that they would be half an hour late. Oh… and she’d forgotten the name of the restaurant and lost the number, but she could describe roughly where it was.
And not all of these “guests” are old codgers like me. Most of them come from a generation that asked their mothers the wifi code whilst still in the womb.
Why can’t they use Google, for heaven’s sake? The answer to this is that the more they pay, the less inclined they are to do anything for themselves.
But just to add balance to this, not all the stupidity is the domain of the “guests.”
Yesterday, a “guest” in a €12k a week villa, complained that the air conditioning was set to cancel itself every two hours, and while this was okay during the day, it meant that the heat became unbearable during the night and woke them up. They have four children, and no one could get a decent night’s sleep.
My solution would have been to tell the “guest” to draw up a rota and instruct his kids to set their alarms so that each kid got up and turned on the air conditioning at two-hourly intervals. Four kids… eight hours… problem solved. Instead of which, my wife contacted a disgruntled owner who reluctantly re-set the controls.
The meanness of some of the owners – most of whom are either Brits or Northern European – is simply staggering. But such is the demand for holiday properties that even the threat of a bollocking on Trip Advisor cuts little ice.
Another owner of a €12k a week villa was informed that “guests” had arrived to find that, not only was the air conditioning not working, there was no running water.
His response: ‘What the hell do they expect? It’s only a bloody rental property!’
Luckily my wife seems to have the Midas touch, and has thus far remained unflappable and adept in resolving these bouts of crass stupidity.
To judge from my own short-lived venture into the hospitality industry, I would last about five minutes in this job.
In case you didn’t know it, I once owned a sort of bistro-slash-wine bar in Sidmouth called Brown’s.
My main contribution to the business was to resolve all signage issues, so that an apostrophe was inserted as appropriate within the establishment’s name. However, one Saturday evening when I couldn’t find anyone else to work, I found myself front of house, actually waiting at tables.
A diner ordered a bottle of wine – on which I gave him the benefit of my knowledgeable advice – and I presented the bottle, uncorked it and invited him to taste it. After a lengthy process of sniffing and slurping, he told me that he didn’t like it.
‘The wine sir, is offered for tasting so you can check that it’s not corked,’ I told him. ‘If it smelled musty, mouldy or was simply unaccountably flat – I would have replaced it. As it clearly has none of these deficiencies, you’ve bought it. Whether you like it or not is immaterial. Enjoy your meal.’
Back to Marbella.
On one occasion I was asked by a friend to handle a check-out so she could escape for the weekend. I was requested to rock up at an apartment in Puerto Banús at eleven o’clock, check the condition of the property, and refund a €2k deposit – if the place hadn’t been trashed – to the “guests,” five young Arabian gentlemen.
I rang the bell at 11:05 to which there was no response. So I rang again… and again, until finally a bleary-eyed guy in his underpants opened the door a crack, emitting clouds of tobacco and cannabis smoke.
‘What do you want?’
‘Time to go,’ I told him. ‘Eleven o’clock is check-out time.’
‘Come back in an hour,’ he replied, attempting to close the door in my face.
To his surprise, I pushed back.
‘Here’s the deal,’ I told him. ‘I’m in a generous mood this morning, and I’ve not yet had breakfast, so I’m going to go for a coffee and a bacon butty. I’ll come back in precisely fifteen minutes, and for every five minutes that you’re not out of here, you’re going to lose €500 from your deposit. Now do I make myself clear?’
When I retuned fifteen minutes later, they were waiting in the hallway outside the apartment, and even apologised for the inconvenience.
But I’ve reserved the top step of the stupidity podium for my final flourish.
Last Saturday I was queuing to join the A7 at Elviria following a meeting with a client. The A7 is probably the most dangerous road in Spain, if not the entire universe. It was my turn to go, but before I could take the death leap onto the dual carriageway, I was shunted from behind by a foreign woman in a BMW tanklike thing.
My wife was with me and handled the aftermath.
‘I didn’t see you,’ the assailant told my wife.
‘You didn’t see us? Red car… bright daylight… easily done. Perhaps your phone was obscuring your vision?’ Of course, I didn’t say this… I just thought it as I filled in the paperwork.
So now I’m counting the days until everyone goes home, the brats to back to school, or college, or borstal – or wherever they go – and some form of sanity returns to southern Andalucía.
In the meantime, I go to the gym – or the Meeting Point cafe, mainly because they have air conditioning and I don’t have to pay for it – and I count down the hours until it’s cool enough to blow the froth off a cold one on the terrace in front of the fan.
Hasta pronto amig@s, and I hope you enjoy your July and August, wherever you are.