My Sister

Now this has the potential to be a sad tale so, as the Beatles once said, ‘Take a sad song and make it better.’  My sister died last Sunday, now that is sad, but I feel like celebrating her life and rightly or wrongly I’m doing it here on WordPress.

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Me on the right and her on the left. Centre is my other sister

You see she drove me to the edge of insanity sometimes, not in a bad way, in a mischievous way, but let’s start at the beginning. I was born when she was eleven and I cried, I mean I cried a lot. When dear older sister offered to take me out in my pram there was relief from everyone. They of course didn’t realise she was going across a ploughed field. Everything was going great bouncing across the field until, with no warning, I  bounced out of my pram onto my head, she thought I was probably dead and decided to say ‘nowt.’ I slept for the rest of the day and most of the night and she was congratulated for achieving what no one else appeared capable of.

As I grew she liked to wrestle with me. I never won. She was eighteen and I was seven. Her grand finale was to kneel on my shoulders and lick me all over my face. Later in life, once when I had been naughty she stripped me naked and locked me outside the house. When she left home to be a nurse and I was relieved of the torment I cried all the way back from the railway station.

Eventually she married a soldier and lived in Malta and Germany before  returning home for a while. Then she went to live in Spain as an expat for seven years and had a jolly time, so did I on the times that I visited. As we grew older we debated, the rest of the family called it arguing. It seemed, just like Winston Churchill, she had an opinion on everything. Sadly there were no real facts to back up her theories, but she still argued them. I realise now that it was just mischief. But, we were alike in many ways. She would argue that David Beckham was a rubbish footballer I would argue that Cliff Richards was a terrible singer. She started writing, I started writing, she loved to travel, I love to travel. She was a wife, a mother and a grandmother. I couldn’t compete with that 🙂

 

 

So, after sixty years of driving me mad, you’re gone, to a better place, I hope Sis and maybe we’ll meet again one day and carry on the debate xx

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Cyprus Break

I had never been to Cyprus, it wasn’t on a bucket list and not exactly Machu Picchu but I needed a break and it was warmer than East Yorkshire. The weather was great as was the hotel Damon Apartments in Paphos.

 

If you have read any of my SILH posts, you’ll know that CCB isn’t an erudite, informative travel blog, but just stuff I like to write about. The gurus of blogging state that a post should enhance people’s lives, be informative, interesting and you should post at least twice week. How I managed to survive seven years is beyond me 🙂

 

 

I am a cultural philistine on holiday, because I am a beach bum, I try to speak the language, consume the local food and alcohol but I draw the line at trudging around old ruins in 40 degrees of heat listening to a tour guide. So I thought this time I would pass on some interesting facts I discovered whilst I was away. Alexander the Great was born in Macedonia not Crete as I incorrectly put on my Damon Apartments/hotel quiz sheet in the bar one night and a game of Bingo costs €5. I had the pleasure to meet a delightful troupe of very professional and slick dancers called Top Dog Showgirls who perform once week and I will be writing an article based around them soon, but for now here’s a little taster.

 

I don’t know why there are lovehearts in the corner of the photo’s but it’s not a creepy thing :-). So there you are, some previously unknown facts about Paphos, Cyprus. Someone mentioned some mountains and a historical site. Oh and the oldest ever pet cat was found there that was about 9,000 years old. I think it was sitting under my table in the restaurant 🙂

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SILH (6) Lets Build a Bar!

“Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.”                                                      Shine on You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd – 1975

Music was a predominant part of our trip and the ‘Floyd’ got an enormous amount of play, but back to the storyline. Javea was becoming a bit of a holiday, the fishing was scarce, the Master and John were enjoying hobnobbing with local dignitaries and Maggots and I were running a little wild. It was around this time I discovered that Maggots’ real name was Mudguts (some family name given to him as a tot because he ate mud) of course when pronounced by an Australian it sounded like maggots. The fishing was still thin on the ground and we discovered that some years ago it was popular to throw dynamite into the sea and then just scoop up the dead fish, a process known as Blast Fishing, which may have had an affect on the wildlife environment.

We were considering moving on when Laurie and Ronnie informed us that they needed to convert the storeroom of the Cave Bar into a small restaurant preserving the cave theme throughout. The Master was an electrician amongst many other things and John had been a building inspector back in Oz, so with two willing labourers a deal was done and we started work the next day. I don’t know if you have ever built a Cave theme restaurant, but the materials are slightly different to standard buildings. This involved a lot of chicken wire, paper mache and plaster. If you fancy having a go there’s a rather good blog link below:                                                                                       http://jo-motion.blogspot.com.cy/2012/03/cave.html

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Source: Zillow Digs TM

We created the shape of the Cave walls and ceiling with the chicken wire, inserting electric cables and light fittings accordingly I really hope none of you are Health and Safety Inspectors 😲, but it was a long time ago. We covered the whole thing in paper mache and plaster then it was painted. The back wall seats were created with concrete, which was the labourers job and if you lifted the first cushion on the left as you entered you would see inscribed in said concrete, ‘Mudguts and Lucky Legs 1976.’ The ‘fortunate’ legs were mine. I wasn’t always the Adonis you see today and my legs were quite skinny, John gave me the nickname ‘Lucky Legs’ meaning lucky they didn’t break 😀. We were paid for our labours, given a flat to stay in and had all our meals cooked by our employers, this was a good deal. Except Mudguts and I had our wages withheld, yes we were still on the naughty step and not to be trusted with money, kinda true really. One day we were sent for groceries, a safe enough task you would think. The problem arose because the weather had been inclement and so the local fishermen, who had become our very good friends were in the bar and not on the ocean. This bar was between the grocery shop and our abode. Mudguts and I could see no harm in a game of Spoof.

It involves placing three coins behind your back. Everyone stands in a circle and then produces a closed fist into the circle with a choice of one, two or three coins hidden from view. Everyone then takes a turn in guessing how many coins there are in total. If you guess correctly you are out and the last man standing buys the drinks. We we’re very good at this game and several hours later emerged extremely intoxicated with revolution in the air, this was Spain after all. To start our revolution we thought that it would be an excellent idea to lie down in the road and bring the traffic to a halt. We were escorted home by the Guardia Seville.                                                                                   If there’s a worse place than the naughty step we were on it. Although Franco had gone, Spain at that time was still very much authoritarian and we were warned what consequences we may suffer if arrested. But of course we knew better, at eighteen you have that immortal persona and we explained to our elders, if we ever arrested we would demand to see the British Consulate. Later in the trip I was to discover this wasn’t an option offered by Spanish police in 1976. We managed to keep out of trouble long enough to finish the Cave and with more money in the pot the Master announced it was time to head for Cadiz and the ferry to Gran Canaria. We bade farewell to our friends in Javea and the two vans headed south. 🙂

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SILH (5) Javea, Spain.

 

 

“Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way”

Time: Pink Floyd.

That was the point I wasn’t. After the grape picking and with the help of a pin and a map we headed for Javea   and two became four the Master, myself, John (older Aussie) and Maggots (younger Aussie). Our two vans  with the Floyd as company hit Javea beach after driving through the night and so it was Speedos and the sea. An effeminate voice called out. ‘I wouldn’t swim there dear, it’s where the sewer pipe empties.’ Remember this was 1976, a blue beach could actually be blue contaminated by chemicals and sewerage, but this one looked ok. Apart from that, for spear fishermen sewerage is good, where there’s s*** there are Grey Mullet 

 

Anyaways, enter Ronnie and Laurie, two ex-merchant seamen, an Englishman and yes, an Australian who owned the Cave Bar, to which we were duly invited that evening. We found a place to camp by the harbour and it wasn’t long before the Guardia Seville informed us, “No es posible acampar aquí.” spanish-300x238Upon which the Master quite simply said. “Pesca submarina.” apparently if you catch fish underwater you camp wherever you like, they smiled and walked on. They later returned and informed us they would visit our vans throughout the night to ensure we were safe. Roughly translated it meant leave a bottle of wine and two mugs out. A little like leaving a glass of whisky for Santa, but every night. The Cave Bar was decorated like a Cave (strange that) Ronnie and Laurie had been together for years and were fun chaps except when one of them bit my bum one night. Maggots explained that I didn’t need to worry it wasn’t a Gay thing it was an Australian thing, needless to say i explained it wasn’t ‘my thing.’

It was around this time that Maggots and I formed a duo, not an entertainment duo, we were a, ‘hearts and minds’ duo. We set out to win as many as we could. There were a lot of beautiful girls in Javea and our support of the local vineyards was legendary, to such an extent that the Master and Maggots’ older brother, John took our money away  purely so we could survive the winter in Gran Canaria. So a cunning plan was devised. The barman in the Cave agreed to swop wine for light bulbs. There were a lot of light bulbs in the Cave, there were even more in Javea. We appropriated many, many light bulbs, so our decadence continued.

I’ll have to leave you there as I need to get to Manchester Airport in three hours for a flight to Cyprus, they have vineyards, don’t they? 🙂

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So, I Left Home (4)

 

 

“Red Red wine, goes to my head.”                                                                                                      Neil Diamond.

Hot August Night.

Music is the soundtrack to your life, well I can’t argue with that. If you have read part three you know we were in Portbou Spain. We had come to fish, sadly the fish weren’t aware and hadn’t arrived yet. We discovered that our new-found friends were headed to Perpignan en France to gain employment in La vendange (an interesting read if you follow the link). The Master decided that we should join the two Aussies, four Welshmen (we picked another up since the last post) and the English boy with French girlfriend and try our hand at grape picking. So, in convoy form we returned to France and the Perpignan employment dept. They offered us ten days grape picking in a small village called Latour the requirement was for twelve pickers. We were only ten, but luckily two English girls struggling with the French language at the counter agreed to join us. 

 

Upon arrival at said farm we were deemed suitable for ten days grape picking, given a house to live in and told to be ready at 05:30. At such a young age I was disconcerted to discover there were two 05:30’s in one day and even more shocked when the youngest Aussie nearly took a finger off with the secateurs, you mean these things are sharp? The farmer was the happiest man I ever met at 05:30 am. His bad back, his tablets and the wine made him happy. He slapped me on the back regularly shouting, “Bon.” At school I learned French with a cartoon family called the Tibou’s. All I remembered was, ‘Mme Tibou a acheté un nouveau chapeau.’ Sadly the fact that Mrs Tibou had bought a new hat was not a phrase I needed to call upon, so I nodded and smiled, which had the effect of making me look a little simple

The days were hard, mainly because the nights were long. Our employer gave us a huge cask of wine, telling us when it was empty he would fill it. We emptied the first night and when one of the Welsh boys crashed out early we carried him and his bed down two flights of stairs and put him out in the street. He was surprised upon wakening, but not quite as surprised as our employer and the local population the next morning. After ten days hard labour with approximately three hours sleep per night and money in our pockets we bid our hosts farewell and headed back to Spain, the fish were beckoning 😀

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So, I Left Home (3)

“So put me on a highway and show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time.”                                                                                     Take it to the Limit: Eagles: 1975.

The open road is such a cleansing experience. Everything left behind with only the future ahead, a future that is as exciting as it is unknown. Jersey in the summer of 1976 was a learning curve. The Master as he has now been deemed had agreed to take me on his forthcoming trip by camper van through France into Spain, culminating in Gran Canaria for a winter of spearfishing. He made it clear that it was his way or the highway and set about re-educating me in the ways of ‘man.’ Boundaries and integrity were foremost, but boundaries and integrity had their grey area when, late one night, he ‘acquired’ an inflatable complete with an outboard motor. Jump a few months to September and we were on a French highway heading across country to Portbou, Spain. We parked on the front by the sea and within an hour a VW camper pulled up alongside. A rather large bearded man jumped out, opened the back of his van,  spat at it, kicked it and called the engine names that I couldn’t possibly repeat, but it was something to do with fornication and the dubious parentage of said engine.

‘Ask them if they are Australian,’ said Master.                                                                                  ‘You ask them,’ said I. We didn’t talk to strangers in Bradford and although I didn’t say it, I thought the Kangaroo stickers on the side of the van gave it away. He quickly established they were two Australian brothers on the Europe tour with a smoking VW engine. Tables, chairs, wine and beer were quickly set out and it became apparent that Portbou was a popular place to stopover as the first Spanish town south of the Pyrenees. By 7pm the Master, two Aussies and I were joined by six Germans, three Welshman, a young couple (English boy, French girl) and a Moroccan girl who appeared and disappeared without any of us knowing who she was. The Welshmen ended up running around the beach naked, two Germans fell from the sea wall after nodding off, they were uninjured in fact one of them stayed asleep. If this was what travelling was all about then I was definitely ‘in.’

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So, I Left Home (2)

I had arrived, Jersey, OK it wasn’t the world but it was a start. I was eighteen with £70 (a lot of money in 1976). I was a bit disappointed with the absence of beautiful girls in grass skirts to welcome me with a garland but Fantasy Island was a year from being aired on TV, so I had to make the best of it.

I calculated that the Tourism Office would have a guide to Guest Houses complete with prices and they did. So I quickly made my way to The Casa Mia Guesthouse at £2.50 a night. Within in a week I had a job Yay, although we didn’t say ‘Yay’ back then, it was more like brama? I know, weird. As a labourer on the new Fort Regent Sports Center build I was quite happy.

Fort Regent

Until they laid me off two weeks later. Apparently I was holiday cover, but I had already met a Geezer who was an Electrician turned Plasterer/Carpenter/Bricklayer he was the four-year-old me grown up. More importantly he was a Spear-fisherman. So here you have a twenty seven year-old Mancunian who catches fish underwater using a spear gun, snorkel and an eighteen year-old Yorkshire lad looking for a bit of adventure. A match made in heaven 🙂

I was re-employed and became a prodigy. Spearfishing is an expensive sport when you first start out. The equipment is costly, but for my new Master barriers didn’t exist. One Saturday morning he picked me up from the Casa Mia and we visited lots of houses where diving men lived. The Master pointed out to each and everyone of them which equipment they never used anymore and promptly relieved them of it. Three hours later I was fully equipped. That was the day I got my first nickname ‘Tramp of the Sea.’ I guess with all the cast offs I was wearing I kinda resembled Albert Steptoe. So we trundled to the bay for a days ‘flatty bashing’ (catching Plaice).

It didn’t take him long to realise that inexperience boarded on complete incompetence, so he left me to flounder. After floundering for six hours he came back to find me slightly less floundersome (don’t care if there is a red line I like it as a word) and I got some respect for sticking at it, but he had a lot of Plaice and I was dutifully impressed. It was shortly after this that it was revealed to me that aforesaid master was due to depart from the ‘rock’ in September in his van to travel down through France into Spain and from thence to Gran Canaria to spend a winter of spearfishing. 😀

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