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Dai Another Day

January 2003 and a Happy New Year to one and all!

some bird on my beach
Don't it just make you sick?

I spend a year sitting on that beach without a celebrity in sight.  But no sooner do I move away than Hallé bloody Berry leaps out of the sea in a skimpy bloody bikini, a few yards from the spot normally occupied by your correspondent's lardy old arse.

Yes, gentle reader, it's now 2003 and I don't live in Spainland no more.  And no doubt, out there in Cyberspace, tens of faithful readers have spent the last two years wondering what on earth happened to your aforementioned humble correspondent.  It's a tragic story but at last it can be told.

Shortly after penning the last masterpiece, I headed back to Blighty to spend the Festering Season in the bosom of the family and to check things out in the treetops of NW3.
As the number two bus took me past la Caleta, a couple of bikini-clad tourists were soaking up the late December sun. Oh to be in England?

The Yuletide jollities were enjoyably uneventful and the kid brother drove me back to the smoke to see in the New Year.  As we headed for the M1 (South), the snow-blanketed fields of Leicestershire glistened in the feeble morning light.  Oh to be in thermal underwear . . .

okay - taken a year later but same folk And the New Year was seen in in suitably raucous fashion, as the Brothers Lowe visited the absolutely excellent Sapori Italian Restaurant in Drury Lane, attended by many lovely and lively Spanish and Italian folk.

Wednesday January 10th 2001 saw me heading out to the bus stop at the crack of dawn, trundling my big case on wheels to catch the bus to Finchley Road, there to get on the bus to Luton airport. All went smoothly and I settled on the coach, making one last check of my travel documents … tickets and passport, all present and correct and, in the latter case, about to expire.

Saturday January 13th 2001 saw me heading out to the bus stop at the crack of dawn, trundling my big case on wheels to catch the bus to Finchley Road, there to get on the bus to Luton airport.  Good old easyJet.  Only £10 to change flight long enough to get a new passport.  In fact, that Saturday saw me heading out at uncharacteristically high speed.  I'd carefully set the alarm to start playing music to me at some ungodly hour (good old Radio 3) but carelessly failed to switch it on.  So when I woke at an hour only slightly more godly and lay there thinking how much lighter it seemed than on Wednesday and the alarm is bound to go off soon and, as Mr Grant so aptly put it in Four Weddings …, "Fuck!  Fuck!  Fuck! …"
Dame Fortune smiled on me. According to the "Countdown" patent bus-dueness indicator at the stop, a C11 bus was imminent.  Calmly I worked out I could let the taxi go by and only resort to such costly means if the large public service vehicle failed to approach in five minutes.
Dame Fortune stuck out her tongue, turned round, dropped her pants and mooned at me as the indicator went blank.
Not only did the bus not show for well over ten minutes but no more taxis appeared either.  When the C11 finally arrived , I was in a mild panic to say the least.  Every traffic light was torture, every doddering pensioner getting on and paying in pennies was mentally hurled into the hedgerows, as I stared at my watch and visualised the airport bus racing up from Victoria in record time, a green blur jumping traffic lights and scattering hapless cyclists.
And so, as the C11 finally disgorged its passengers, I hit the ground running, the plastic castors on my huge case rumbling along behind me like the thunder of a thousand stampeding guinea pigs. As I turned the corner at Finchley Road Tube Station, maniacally making Roadrunner noises to get people out the way, I saw the bus at the stop — 75 metres away but at least tantalisingly stationary.
Then I saw the pavement coming to meet my face at high speed as I tripped and was pulled headlong by the momentum of the case.  By Jove, did it hurt!  I believe I even swore.
——You alright, mate?
——The green bus, at yonder stop? Tell me, good sir, has it departed?
——Er … yep.
——In that case, my good man, I fear I am far from all right. Pray you sir, if you could help me to my feet, my gratitude would, like a dead kangaroo, know no bounds.
Well, something like that anyway.
I'm not completely stupid, despite all the evidence.  Let's forget about the expired passport as that's an easy mistake to make, especially if you're a complete pillock.  Yes, a sensible guy would have remembered to turn on the alarm; but I did have everything packed ready to leave as soon as I was dressed.  And a sensible guy would have abandoned all intention of making the journey the second he felt the crack of his left shoulder hitting the ground; but I had left time to catch the next airport bus as a contingency measure.  Of course anybody but an idiot would have taken that into account and not run for the bus in the first place, especially somebody claiming to have an Andalucian spirit. 

Good old easyJet.  When I turned up at the check in, mere minutes before the flight closed, with my Cádiz C.F. football scarf acting as a sling, they immediately marked me down as suspected broken arm, definite plonker and gave me special treatment which included putting me on the plane first, along with a babe-in-arms and a wheelchair-bound octogenarian, as well as pointing me out to people and laughing throughout the flight.

Malaga General hospital is way out of town, so I decided to take a taxi from the airport to the bus station — oh no, there were no winter planes direct to Jerez, so I had another four hours of throbbing agony on a coach ahead of me.  Let us draw a veil over the details and race ahead, past swerve of shore and Rock of Gibraltar to my city by the bay.

my shattered arm Off bus, cab home, dump rucksack and large case, notify neighbour of problem, taxi to hospital.
Queue to register, queue for chit for X-Ray, queue for X-rays, wait outside, called back in, more X-rays, chit for doctor, queue for doctor with many grumbling locals.  Cheer them up in broken Spanish, saying, we have a better system in the UK.  We are given a definite appointment for three years time.  By then, we are either better or dead — either way, no queues.  Run from cheery attempts to break other arm.

For nearly eight months I had got by with my broken Spanish, not to mention my broken heart.  But with the addition of a broken shoulder (for such it was) the language suddenly became an issue.  The half-understood banter in the bars with dentally-challenged and inebriate old locals was mere social lubrication.  Nodding and smiling was the only necessary response.  But now it was crucially important to ditinguish between what I was being told I should and shouldn't do. The Spanish word for the broken bone, Humero, is close enough to the English Humerus for me to recognise, if not for them to understand my corny pun.
Any doctors out there might just be able to see past the reflections and make out the vertical crack at the top of the bone. Others, like me at the time, will simply have to take it on trust.  With dictionary and patience, I worked out that I was instructed to do nothing with it for about six weeks (I hardly needed telling that, given the pain) and report back for further pics in the meantime.  I was fitted with a lovely designer sling to replace the scarf and went back out into the night, exhausted but not foreseeing much sleep.

It was a few reeking days before I regained enough movement to get my shirt off.  At first I thought sweat had caused colour to leach from the navy blue fabric all around my elbow.  I refer the lay reader to the dictionary, wherein they should look up the word ecchymosis.

In retrospect I was dead right to continue with my journey. It's amazing how debilitating it can be to lose the use of just one arm, even the one less used.  So many things the right hand doeth, rely on the left hand not only knowing about it but bally well joining in.  Preparing food was all but impossible, at least for the first week but, at Cádiz prices, it was possible to eat out three or more times a day (strength needed building up, is my excuse) and tapas can easily be eaten unidextrously.  There's no way I could have done that in London and my only hope would have been to travel back up North and billet myself on my long-suffering sister, who does not deserve such torture.
Add to that the sympathy vote.  In London a man with a neck brace and both arms in plaster can be ignored or even abused for getting in the bloody way.  Not so for me in Cádiz.  People offered to help me in the shops and the supermarket, folks I'd never even spoken to before stopped me to ask about the arm and run off to their friends in fits of laughter to share the Schadenfreude.  In restaurants I started to order steaks and whole fish just for the pleasue of having the waitress cut it up for me, though sadly none of them would sit on my lap and feed me.
Indeed, when I went back a year later, and two weeks before Ms Berry made her dramatic entrance, all the old acquaintances in all the shops and bars greeted me in roughly the same joyful way.  Basically ——Hey, hombre!  How are you?  How's the shoulder?  Bloody hell, you've put on weight!

But I'm getting ahead of myself and this episode is far too long already.  I only hope you now understand why churning out an article a week was not something I felt like doing for a while and can find it in your hearts to forgive me.

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