Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The one thing you don’t really expect to see broken down on the hard shoulder of a motorway is a hearse - a thought which occurred to me yesterday morning, somewhere between the inappropriately-named Villaviciosa and Santander. Possibly between the sign saying I had 90km to go and the one a minute or two later advising that the city had moved and was now 101km away.

After 8 years in Spain, I was always going to find a ship full of Brits to be a quiet place. In fact, I seemed to be surrounded by boat whisperers who were forever moving backwards or sideways to get out of each other’s way, while simultaneously apologising. Truth to tell, even though I do seriously miss some British courtesies, I found myself mentally agreeing with the Spanish that this is all bit a bit excessive.

As for peace-impairing levels of noise, I only had to move once to continue my reading elsewhere. This was because an indulgent father seemed oblivious to the impact of his kid’s non-stop screams and wails. But I will leave it to you to guess their nationality.

Still on noise – As we approached Portsmouth, a Spaniard from (I suspect) Andalucia decided to share a mobile conversation with the 40-50 almost silent Brits sitting upfront of the boat. Either that or his friend on the other end was seriously deaf. Surprisingly, it didn’t render me nostalgic.

As we came alongside the quai at Portsmouth, I saw the British destroyer Lancaster moored there and recalled I'd been on it in Vigo not so long ago. Not perhaps the big coincidence it initially seemed, as the entire British fleet appeared to be parked up in the port. A terrorist's dream.

Backing up . . . While I was checking in at the ferry port, I came up alongside a snazzy-looking, black Honda Civic at the other booth. From the driver's window a thin, tanned, braceleted female arm was gesticulating - rather imperiously I thought - at the woman dealing with the paperwork. Some time later, the Honda drew up alongside mine in the boat and a young woman of the footballer’s wife genre got out, took her bag from the boot and moved towards the stairs. Two minutes later she was back, almost screaming at me that my door was ‘actually touching' her car as I took my case from the back seat. Despite my Scouse origins, her shrill northern accent was above my pain threshold. And, as the word ‘car’ was strangulated out of recognition, I found myself simply muttering a sarcastic ‘Sorry’, while thinking she clearly had a lot more money than class. But I later regretted this. I should never have apologised. Still too British for my own good.

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