Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Grass Is Greener (Part 2)

Now then, where was I? Ah yes I was boring you to tears with the adventures of my male staff's youth. In other words it's an ancient history lesson. In case you need to be reminded of the story so far, here's a link to "The Grass is Greener (Part 1)".

Last week we left my male staff as he flew from Gibraltar to London to take part in four professional soccer club trials. Three of the four rejected him but the fourth invited him back for another trial because they couldn't believe how bad he was the first time. In the end they too rejected him - for just one reason. He was crap. Sure he had a right foot shot that could burst the net from forty five yards out and plough into the crowd, killing several people and denting the crush barriers, but that isn't enough. Professional soccer teams expect you to have talent, skill, dedication and a low blood alcohol level and my male staff had none of these.

So now he was at a loose end, and not wanting to return to Gibraltar as a failure he found a job in an early skateboard factory in Staines. Staines is world famous. When you see TV adverts saying "GET RID OF UNSIGHTLY STAINES" This is the place they are talking about. A few months dragged by and my male staff's parents returned to the UK, probably to make sure that my male staff wasn't misbehaving. He was of course, but what they didn't know didn't hurt them. He soon became tired of the skateboard job and all the injuries he received from trying to ride them in the factory. He was crap at that too. Finally he got together with his friend Andy and they decided to go to Gibraltar together to make their fortune busking. Andy was shortsighted and wore round wire framed John Lennon glasses and and permanently had half a roll-up cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. Most of the time he was unshaven and was what my male staff's mum called "a scruffy little bugger." And yet he was lucky with women and I think my male staff was hoping some of that luck might rub off on him.

Andy could play the guitar. That is he could play the riff from Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" and he said he'd teach my male staff to play. Neither of them could sing a note. In fact they had about as much talent between them as Milli Vanilli. That didn't dampen their youthful optimism though. Neither did the fact that they had virtually no money. They'd get to Gibraltar by hitchhiking - once they reached France. That was the plan in any case.  My male staff purchased a cheap and nasty guitar and he and Andy pooled their meagre funds to buy a tent. Then on mild dewy morning in June 1979 they boarded an early train for Victoria station in London. From there they boarded a bus to Newhaven, where they spent the rest of the day in pub while they waited for the night ferry to Dieppe in France.

They sat on the deck of the ferry as it forged across a calm English Channel on that balmy summer night. Andy tried to teach my male staff a few guitar chords much to the discomfort of the other passengers, some of whom dived overboard rather than have to listen to my male staff murdering "My Sweet Lord" over and over again. It was still dark when they arrived in Dieppe. They had intended to hitchhike south from there, but where to start? There was a train for Paris due to leave, so they boarded that and vowed to hitchhike from there instead. Once in Paris they looked at the traffic, looked each other and thought "How the hell do we find a way out of this place?" So much for hitchhiking. They piled onto a Metro train jabbing people with their guitars and apologising in French. At least they thought they were apologising. What they said having poked some poor commuter in the groin was "Merde Monsewer". A so called friend of Andy's had told him that "Merde" was the sincerest form of French apology. At Gare de Lyon they bought tickets for a train to
Hendaye on the Spanish border in the shadow of the "Pair 'o' knees Mountains". They crossed the border into Spain and caught a bus to Irun. "We'll hitchhike from there." they said, and to be fair they really did try this time. They found the road that lead south towards the town of Burgos.

So, they set off along the road up into the gloomy, oppressive "Pair 'o' knees Mountains" They walked, then stuck out their thumbs, and they walked some more, deeper and deeper into the mountains. Nobody stopped for them. In fact people glared at them with open hostility. It turns out that there were daily bombings and shootings being carried out in the area by Basque separatist gorillas. My male staff, never the sharpest knife in the drawer at the best of times was disappointed that he didn't see any of these gorillas. In fact the only primates he saw were humans until his emotional reunion with Angela (see part 1) when he finally reached Gibraltar. Anyway, these adverse security conditions were not conducive to successful hitchhiking and having walked several miles through the drizzly mountains they camped in low spirits near a river as night fell.

It rained all night and was still raining in the morning when my male staff crawled bleary-eyed on hands and knees from the tent and put his right hand in pancake of wet bush chocolate. The culprit - a cow, eyed him suspiciously with big brown eyes from a few yards away. Our heroes packed up the tent and trudged across the sodden grass back to the road where they stood in the drizzle and got glared at by several drivers before Andy said "Sod this! Let's go back to Irun and get a train."

It took them until midday to get back to Irun station where though bought two tickets on the night train to Madrid. They went into the depressing little town and purchased a bottle of red wine for something like four trillion pesetas (thirty pence) and some stale lemon biscuits which they scoffed on the platform while they waited for the train.

It was a bright, clear morning when they pulled into Madrid. My male staff was famished so while Andy was pointing Percy at the porcelain he ordered a whitebait roll at a food stall. The guy at the stall sliced the bread roll and his finger at the same time. Bright red blood pumped from the gash over my male staff's roll, but that didn't stop the Spaniard slathering it with butter, filling it with whitebait and handing it to my male staff who took it, not trusting the quality of his Spanish to complain. One end of the roll looked as though it had been generously dipped in tomato ketchup. He was so hungry that he ate it anyway, apart from the blood soaked bit. He gave that to Andy. My male staff always looks after his friends.

So, another big city. "Why don't we just get the train all the way to Alegeciras?" They suggested simultaneously, and that's how Andy and my male staff managed to hitchhike all the way from London to southern Spain without once getting into a car. That has to be some sort of record. Anyway, once in Algecrias our gallant duo could see Gibraltar just a few miles across the bay. But the border was still closed, so they had to get the ferry to Tangier. Once there they were immediately accosted by a nice man in a dirty djellaba who told them that his brother would change some money for them as they had to have Moroccan dirhams to purchase their ferry tickets to Gibraltar. Naturally the money changer also had a carpet shop and he and his three employees put the hard word on the two travellers to buy a rug each. Just what they needed. It was quite intimidating for two naive lads who were convinced that they were about to be robbed and murdered. They weren't of course, but my male staff was persuaded to swap his cheap and nasty guitar for a genuine camel leather passport wallet. This was no bad thing because he was more likely to produce a recognisable tune from the passport wallet.

So near and yet so far. Gibraltar from Algeciras.
Later that night the friends arrived in Gibraltar, their funds drastically depleted by all the train travel and with only one guitar between them. Less than a week later they had no money left at all and no job. They checked out of their cheap hotel and slept on Eastern Beach where their rumbling stomachs kept a large guard dog at the nearest beach bar awake and in turn his barking prevented my male staff and Andy from sleeping. It was a truly wretched time. They wandered the hot summer streets looking for work. Andy had by this time run out of tobacco for his roll-ups and was scavenging in the gutters for partially smoked cigarette butts. Their only food were the fresh figs they picked from the trees that lined some of the streets. They may have been hungry, but at least their bowels were regular.

Eventually they found a job in an armed forces supply store at the Royal Navy dockyard and they moved into a workers hostel. Things were looking up, but again my male staff got the idea into his head that he might be better off elsewhere - specifically Britain. Then on the same day that my male staff watched (with tears in his eyes) the great aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal steam from Gibraltar, banners flying, crew lined up smartly on deck and band playing on her final voyage to the scrap yard, there came news that the Royal Air Force owed my male staff three hundred pounds from his previous employment in Gibraltar. It was enough to fly them both back to London. Andy decided to stay as he'd by now got a taste for second hand cigarettes. Two days later my male staff was back in Britain, wondering if he would be better off elsewhere.


Hitchhiking all the way to Gibraltar without once stepping into a car. Quite a feet eh? Get it? Feet.....feat. Get it? Get it? Oh, please yourselves. You know what the best thing about "The Grass Is Greener Part 2" is? There's no part 3.


  1. OMC what a tour! I never wanted to be somewhere else as in good old "Ruhryork" ... we people from the Ruhr (pronounced: ʀuːɐ̯ /`Roor´) have a famous saying goes like this "Elsewhere is shitty too"

  2. Thanks for the comment Janis. I think my male staff would like the Ruhr people.

  3. I love your site! You will be in our prayers and thoughts! Nice and informative post
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  4. Always nice to hear of males staff travels. He has has quite a lot of them! Keep up the good stories we love them