When you are aged 34 and 29 at the weekends, it is a massive compliment to be called a senorita. I lapped up all adoration of perceived youth from the men in the lobby. Ok, so they were all over the age of 60, drunk, had rifles and no hunting trophies or any evidence of dead animals, but who cares, to them I was young. I was finishing my Wifi credit in the lobby and was shocked to realize that my newly acquired drunken companions, would not be locking their rifles in an approved cabinet.
Singing what I can only imagine were Cataluniyan hunting songs, they disappeared for the rest of the night, stumbling into the lift which was nearly as old as its passengers. It was only early, at 10.30 p.m; after all, I was only just stepping out for dinner.
Dining alone had taken a turn for the worse. Not only did it mark me out as a social pariah, but also available to any man who was from the Sub Sahara. I once travelled through the Sahara and was a massive fan of bright stars in the desert free of light pollution and completely still. I am not a massive fan of anyone interrupting my dining time, alone or otherwise.
Whilst I fended off the interests of a man whom I could not understand whatsoever; my brother was still in the back of the 4 by 4. Unbeknown to me he was reading in the truck, with some Hungarian wine and a huge pile of laundry. A large blue van pulled in and one of the three men approached the vehicle. In the darkness, he could see no passengers in the front and started move towards the tyre slashed 4 by 4. Paul peered out into the darkness, with his headlamp on, dazzling the wood- be thieves with the powerful petzel light. A veritable Cyclops in the van, the robbers had not banked on a large skin head with a headlight to rise up from his unlaundered makeshift bed. Quick as a flash, they got back in the vehicle and disappeared into the night.
Meanwhile, I was scouring the town for garages phone numbers to try and get the unlocking nut for the Landrover. Well done Landrover, after the unlocking tool was broken, you have made the vehicle a sitting duck. In Hungary, a blacked out 4 by 4 strikes terror into the populace; in Spain it attracts thieves. Unable to get the wheel lock off, Paul remained sitting duck-like in the Discovery.
He was philosophical about it and recounted the time when he had to sleep in a swamp. The 4 by 4 was taking on some very swamp like qualities and one waft of the door might have seen the robbers off, in any case.
Morning crept up, like 3 men in a blue van, silent and full of hope! Not having a phone with the correct time poses problems, so I slept with the curtains open; half expecting to hear a rifle being accidentally discharged on the floor below, by one of the drunken old duffers, from the night before.
It was time to harness the dramatic skills of the pathos- laden cab driver. He met me at the garage. He launched into his act, using the grubby mechanics office as his stage. His lively hands conveyed the story of a poor man gripped by the cold, a victim of thieves and a tale of hunger and woe. His refusal to be interrupted
amused me greatly. It would seem however, that despite backing up the tragedy with a charm offensive, of note-that the mechanic did not have the part to unlock the stationary wheel.
With my best damsel in distress voice ( fragile and confused) I implored him to help me, holding his gaze for too long, I came off as a bit derranged. The upshot was that we all arrived at the side of the motorway ( including the cab driver who stayed for hours, to watch the drama unfold). In a very unorthodox fashion, the fresh faced young business owner, unscrewed the nut from his own car and used it, as well as a welder, to release the wheel. Of course ,I am an expert on welding, having seen Flashdance a few times too many. I personally felt he had not let the vehicle nut cool for long enough before trying to remove it and hence it broke. I figured this out whilst imagining him somersaulting across the car park in some kind of leotard affair.
Eventually we were back in the road. The car was moving, the taxi driver finally and sadly parted with our joyful company . We then waited a further 4 hours for a spare tyre, as of course, all mechanics need a four hour lunch break. The garage bill was hefty and I tried to memorise the meal from the night before; suspecting that might be the closest I got to a hot meal for sometime.
The news that one of Paul’s sponsors had paid him came as a huge relief. I had spent the last of my money on a pay -as- you (don’t) go Spanish phone, with a falsified address and no way of operating it.
We drove into the region of Valencia, the Foo Fighters belting out of the stereo as we pulled into Oliva. I had got over my “survivors guilt” of having slept in the two star hotel whilst my brother bedded down in a freezing van. We headed for the luxury of a 5 star hotel. The Gods were smiling as we asked for single rooms in the empty hotel and I was delighted to discover that my room was in fact a double suite. I dragged my body to the bath and sunk into the marble carved bathroom in a haze of utter joy.