The curse of the lone diner and the quest for an unlocking nut.

I have become the type of woman I hate. I am only interested in men who drive the right kind of car, in this case a Discovery 3. I have scoured the streets of Tortosa looking for Tortossas who drive 4 by 4’s. There were plenty of them, but they were all Hyundais or Suzukis. I walked down through the town’s atrium and admired the rusting railings on old terrracotta coloured houses and flowers peeping over the high balconies. I felt distinctly at home, with no jacket. In Spain however, as if to boast about how sunny their weather can be, women like to walk around wearing thinly padded jackets even in early summer. We have all seen the Italian and Spanish tourists in London, in July. All the Brits have got their marbled pink and white skin on show, trying to absord the sunshine through their skin as if they are part of some kind of human photsynthesis experiment. The Mediterraneans however do not perspire an iota. Instead they pull their size extra small belts tighter around their wintery outerwear, as if to say “You call this Summer? “,

I ignored the padded coats and celebrated the sunshine as it cast afternoon shadows around the square. I see the a cat reflected in the sun light, arch its liquid back before neatly arranging itself on the corner of the church steps. He worships his own slither of daylight on the delapidated steps. A feline altar in an ancient square.

It is Sunday and the church bells ring for Mass. I sit in the square and survey the vehicular terrain. 4 by 4’s sweep in and neatly dressed families head towards the church. It feels odd, like I am some sort of reverse curb crawler, hunting for cars. I wonder if I look like an early morning street walker or just a common car thief.

Speaking of which I made contact from the broken down Discovery. Somehow, someone has topped up the Hungarian mobile. It seems my brother is in fact alive and appears to be in good spirits ( this maybe due to the homebrewed Palinkah.) Hanging around the Catholic church has clearly rubbed off on me. I start feeling guilty for having clean clothes and a shower, when my brother is festering in a broken down vehicle. I am however not one for packing hair shirts, so continued on my wanders. I mused the evening meal I had the night before. I ended up in a South American restaurant, perfect for steak. Guilt free, I ordered an extra rare steak and salad. This is possibly my favourite meal in the world. Or at least it was before the salad was brought to the table. I look at the salad and it is a towering creation from circa 1973. On a tired bed of dreaded iceberg lettuce there is nothing but boiled eggs and slithers of anchovy. Any freshness has been smothered with a hybrid of garlic and salad cream, bought from the cash and carry.I love salad and somehow they had managed to combine three of my pet hates on one plate.

Incidentally, I reacted very well, as my inner Diva had long since packed her matching luggage set and headed for the nearest 5 star spa.

Dining alone can be quite an experience. The waiters can be everything from suspicious, painfully sympathetic or down right rude. In this case, the waiter was utterly professional and did not want to talk for too long.  A man behind me who had the equivalent of a Marlon Brando voice with a Spanish accent talked and length about crippling taxes and the state of the economy.

Then the cook, a small and mighty woman, threw open the kitchen door. My virtually untouched salad had made it back into the kitchen and the woman was taking it as a personal afront. She appeared in a cloud of steam from steeping dishes. It didn’t take her long to spy me out, as a lone diner in the hurly burly of the busy restaurant. Her eyes narrowed, like the a witch possessed, suddenly she seemed a lot taller than her approximate height of 5 foot four. Her back straightened and she pointed a slightly hooked finger at my table. I shuffled uncomfortably, she reminded me of a gypsy woman in Granada who had tried to put a curse on me, many years ago. I checked quickly behind me, just in case, by some strange twist of fate that she might be furious with someone else, or  indeed that she had just misplaced a salad nicoise.

No, it was definitely me. The Spanish Lady Macbeth, disappeared as quickly as she had emerged and I felt quite on edge. After all, she got to point at me and I didn’t get a chance to defend myself against her dramatic and silent accusation.

Begrudgingly, having paid the bill, I happened out into the night. People were still being seated in the restaurant at half eleven. That was the problem I remember with dating South Americans. I used to be ravenous all the time. Starving from 3 p.m until 11 p.m and then sitting down and eating like a person from post rationed World War 2 when the food finally did arrive. It was neither very elegant nor very healthy, but it had a certain appeal nontheless.

I had gone to bed unable to sleep and trawling the net for parts for the Discovery. I tracked down a man who was selling the tool kit and was utterly elated, until he got in touch to tell me he had sold it to a man in Barcelona. I wonder what that man is doing in Barcelona this evening. Driving around with four wheels that work unaware of his state of luxury. P.S Man in Barcelona, I am available for dinner this evening and can hold out until 11 pm plus and dine elegantly ( thanks to a sly sandwich) but you must bring your unlocking nut. I am no longer interested in high maintenance, just basic car maintenance. If all else fails tomorrow, I am buying a sledge hammer and taking a cab to the broken car.

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About The Only Way is Espana.

An Essex girl and her champ fly fisherman brother, meet up in Hungary. They have a broken vehicle and a set of tryes. Between them they will go on a philanthropic voyage in pursuit of anything unrelated to British winters. It will be a journey of border crossing, suspension of disbelief and the down right ridiculous.
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