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I hate flying; if humans were meant to fly then we wouldn't have fallen out of the trees all those hundreds of thousands of years ago. The flight was late, an omen perhaps? Turbulence was experienced on board. As we went up my ears popped continuously; as we came down the G forces exerted made my intestines jump into my mouth. The only redeeming grace was the view; patchwork fields punctuated by conglomerate towns, sewn together with roads, hedges, rivers. Then through the clouds, a fog of white smokey vapour, a break in the layers, semi-translucent. Below was planet Earth.
The “Residencia de Ancianos” stands proud in the newest part of town. Its pistachio-coloured exterior brightens what could otherwise be considered a dismal place. Pineapple-trunked trees and yukkas in ceramic plant-pots line the approach, casting graceful shadows. Inside its residents are the residue of Old Spain, unceremoniously offloaded by their children, so as to continue uninterrupted in their hatefully busy, selfish lives. I’m introduced to the smallest inhabitant, a white-haired, pencil-black-eyebrowed Doña; la Señora Macarena. At any visitors residents spark interest, welcoming us with kisses on both cheeks. Despite all the fellow ancients and nuns, this is a lonely place.
England has experienced some heat this year, interspersed with periods of mugginess and rain. Spain’s climate is drier and therefore the heat is more bearable. The trees and plants are different; coarser, broader leaves; razor sharp needles; tough, rough bark. The colours of the landscape are of a basic palette. The mountains in the distance exude a green haze. The sky is clear blue, without a single cloud. The land is reddy clay, ready to kick up into a dust cloud at a moment’s disturbance. All vehicles look old and jaded, covered in dust and dents. Flats dominate the townscape.
I am feeling sorry for myself. Despite the town’s ambient thermometer recording 32 degrees heat, I am suffering with a cold; “cold” is perhaps the wrong word though! My nose constantly streams fluid, and at one point I sneezed continuously every minute for an hour. I attribute it all to the flight over. I wish it would go away. I laid in bed restless last night, with the fan blowing from the hallway, feeling wheezy and tight chested. Dad keeps warning me about the dangers of leaving the fan on at night; remembering that fateful holiday when he caught pneumonia.
I don’t know how Spanish construct anything even with moderate efficiency; their project management skills are haphazard, lapsidaisical, if my father is an example. Tonight we’re left without a toilet. The Romanian builder failed to return at 8pm as promised, later citing t’was too far to travel from the next town. There was no alternative put in place, except for a bucket in the corner. Clearly outnumbered by women 2-to-1 Dad realised this was not an acceptable alternative. An argument ensued, but satisfactory arrangements were eventually made; we borrowed the keys for my Aunty Joaquina’s flat on the first floor.
Spanish men and shorter than Northern Europeans, frequently standing shorter than my 5’9’’ stature. From a distance they appear dark, rugged, handsome; unfortunately up close they are more often dirty, with minor disfigurements. Their frames are small, but with large facial features. It is perhaps lenient to say that these noses give their faces “character”. They strut around confidently, bandy legged, perching precariously on high stools in bars, their body language sending the eye to their exposed hip region. These creatures are sexual predators, they expect women to flock at their feet. (even the men that are truly past it.)
In Spain, everybody smokes. It isn’t banned in public places yet, and they are quick to light up at the table after dinner. Smoke snakes a trail to air-conditioning machines, whilst they gabble conversations in fast Valenciano to their “tios”. Some bars are avoided, purely for the health of our lungs. Smoking and drinking at lunchtime are as much a part of Spanish culture as flamenco and paella. Jugs, or “jarras”, of San Miguel are brought out on a regular basis. Only in Spain could you drink beer from a wine glass. The table is full, no room for elbows.
A return to “la residencia” allowed closer inspection of her elderly charges. Some of the “hermanas” look frail, yet still they tirelessly work through the heat. Old men sit on the bench in the shade outside her entrance, sharing unfocussed views into their pasts. Every day, one particular ancient takes up his seat in the conservatory, never venturing outside, but marvelling trepidly at its wonders; visitors in expensive saloons parking, “jovenes” congregating on the bleached walls, chatting casually. He never takes off his cap. Elsewhere, a lady with dressings on her cheeks cries quietly in the corner in her wheelchair.
The terrace offers extensive views over much of Onda. Immediately to the South is the humanoid-esque park, where kids and old men alike meet and (re) live their youths. Further out, the old castle at the top of the hill casts its regal eye over “la ciudad antigua” and its sleepy inhabitants. To the East, the main road cuts a straight to the blue sea of the Mediterranean, where fishermen stroll every “madrugada” for the early catch. To the West, “la careterra” stretches to the mountains, punctuated by traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, straight through the heart of the town.
I don’t seem to be having much luck in Spain. First, there are the arguments; I have inherited my father’s passion and when we both let loose it’s like an explosion. Secondly, I have had my purse stolen. I am mildly annoyed but not excessively so. It’s karma, I reckon. I was in the pool changing rooms, doing my hair, and a girl was following me around. She was part of a crowd and I assume she was a diversion for the others going into my bag. I lost my bank card, European health card, driving licence and 25 Euros.
I haven’t told the story of the job “offer” yet, so I will enlighten you. I went for an interview and was expecting to hear back within a week (they had to advertise internally first). That was extended to another week as they had to seek approval to recruit from an Executive Director. I was advised by the agency that they would call on Monday – when I was travelling out to Spain. They didn’t. I called the agency Tuesday, no response. I eventually got a call from Amicus on Wednesday, whilst in the middle of a DIY store. Perfect timing!
I asked for the details of the benefits package, and asked for some time to consider it. I didn’t get back to them that day, but mulled it over that night. As I wasn’t thrilled to be offered it I decided on gut instinct not to accept. I called back the following day. They had withdrawn the offer because I hadn’t given them an answer instantly! I was disappointed with their lack of professionalism, and told them so. But their behaviour just confirmed my original thoughts; that it was not worth jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
A nightmare day I’d rather forget. Woke at 8am. Left Zaragoza in northern Spain at 9am. Arrived at Spain-France border midday. Stopped for lunch around 12.30pm. Up to then Dad had driven the van, at 1pm I took over. Arrived in Bordeaux, drove most of the way around the west side of the city before being diverted back on ourselves to go via the east side; the bridge was closed for repair. Drove for another three hours. Pulled over for a break at 5.30pm. On the road again by 6pm. Drove for another three hours then changed seats with Dad.
Yesterday: Took over driving at 11pmish, a couple of hours south of Calais. Drove to the port. Due to Eurotunnel fire crisis was told we would have to wait until 4.30am for the next ferry, and pay extra for privilege. Dad was very pissed off and made a scene with the French – we almost weren’t allowed on the ferry. Dad paid extra money in the ticket office, which meant going through Customs & Excise twice. Both times van was pulled over to be “randomly” searched. Nothing to declare either time. Eventually hit English soil at 5am local time. Bloody knackered.
But the saga of the end of the holiday didn’t end there. I slept until the afternoon yesterday, woke in a panic as I realised the kennels shut at 4pm and it was getting on for 3pm. I tried to start my car, but the battery was dead. My heart slumped and I wondered if I was ever meant to pick Jack up today. Thankfully my neighbour helped me jump start it. Mum turned up with a cheque for the fees, as my replacement bank card hadn’t come through. Got to the kennels dead on the hour, Jack was pleased.
The Chief was down today, so the Indians had to behave themselves. We had a brief catch up, where I put my idea about the archives to him. Although acknowledged, it was not to be followed through as there are more staff changes taking place. L is moving on. Coincidentally to Amicus. It all falls into place now, why they were so shifty the following day. Still, I am pleased; the job was not the right one for me, and it means another problem is moved on. Just proves that sometimes taking no action is the best course of action.
Sometimes I am so dithery I embarrass myself. I left my keys in a tenant’s house, and had to go back to retrieve them before they found out and nicked my car! I inspected two occupied houses on site, and one of them was disgusting. The tenant had the cheek to say she hadn’t time to clear up – since she moved in? She also asked if she could decorate; I felt like saying if you clean the dirt up first. Piles of laundry knee height littered the upstairs hallway, greasy scum lurking on surfaces throughout the house. I felt disheartened.
At training tonight I realised that expecting to play again in October is perhaps a little ambitious. My medial collateral ligament played up; it was twinging before I started the warm up so I saw the physio to get it strapped. By the end of the session I was limping whilst running. I realise that not exercising for a couple of weeks is bound to take its toll, but I felt a little disappointed, almost like it was a backwards step. I want to get back to full fitness; my knee will always feel a little different to the other.
My first night out on the town since before my injury. I headed out with some girls from rugby; it was a laugh, good to let my hair down, be care free for a while. Unfortunately, the club we chose was pretty empty. The highlight was a break-dancing dance-off, which as expected, ended with an idiot in a suit who thought he was cool doing a caterpillar across the floor. Town wasn’t much more active, and it was all a bit disappointing. Consequently, I didn’t drink myself to oblivion and managed to get up the following morning without a hangover.
I don’t like weekends, I don’t like not being busy. I am at a bit of a loss what to do with myself, but feel so damn lazy not to go out places anyway! It’s a losing battle. I walked down to the rugby club and watched the men play, just to get out of the house for a bit. When I was back at home I cut the grass, which it desperately needed, what with 10 foot high blades and triffids sprouting from the corners. My internet isn’t working, which would normally provide some entertainment. What shall I do?
Back to work tomorrow, and I can’t wait. How sad is that? My house is a mess; piles of clothes are stacked in the spare room, waiting to be folded or ironed and put away. Jack hair is everywhere – on the floor, sofa, in the bed. I wonder if people think I look scruffy turning up for work with little white hairs on my clothes. Dog biscuits are scattered on the kitchen lino. Jack has made another nest in my duvet; I only made the bed a while ago. I wonder if it would be best to relent to chaos?
I found out something quite shocking today; my colleague has been bad-mouthing me to others at work and externally. She has been saying things like “they should roll out the red carpet for her when she returns from sick leave”, and “that girl is a waste of space”, amongst other things. It’s so hateful, and hurtful. I wish if she had a problem with me she would at least have the balls to say it to my face. Instead, I was led into a false sense of security with her, told her private things, which she’s then used against me.
My colleague has come back to work after her holiday. There is an atmosphere in the office as I found out about the backstabbing and gossiping, but she doesn’t know I know. In some ways, I wish I hadn’t found out because it makes me feel uncomfortable around here. Whereas before I would have happily chatted away about life generally, perhaps divulging some personal details, I realise now that it has been used against me. I feel betrayed, not because we were ever close friends, but you expect a level of professionalism from your colleagues which she has completely destroyed.
I’m a shoulder to cry on for a few close friends at the moment, but am wondering where is my support? I have shared my concerns over work with A, and he surmised it is jealousy, before continuing to relay his own woes. He has got himself into a pickle at work too, getting involved with a subordinate who now takes any opportunity to harass him. Unfortunately his contemporaries are not so supportive of him. I told him to keep a log of events in case he ever needs to take action against her. Work isn’t pleasant for us now.
After suffering in non-silence for three days I have finally made an appointment and been to the doctor’s. I couldn’t get in with a dentist; I’m not registered with one locally and the closest appointment my old one had was a month away. With inflamed gums oozing blood whenever I bite into something, I had to take action. Turns out it is gingivitis, thus I have a prescription of antibiotics for the next week. I have been warned not to drink alcohol AT ALL. Apparently I will vomit profusely if I mix the two. A good reason to become tee-total.
I find I’m working late, in an attempt to prove my worth. Perhaps I did need to discover those comments made behind my back, in order to realise that I haven’t been fulfilling my potential at work recently. Before holiday, I felt unmotivated, hence starting late and leaving early. That didn’t go unnoticed. I spent most of the day on the internet, surfing aimlessly or chasing words on Wiki. Now I am busy, perhaps because I was so lazy before. In a way I feel happier, I find tasks to do so I am not rubbing my hands in boredom.
I just can’t escape K. At the club today there was a cup match for the under 21’s. I went, to escape the confines of the house. It was sunny, a good day. Unfortunately though, K feels he must make conversation with me. It all seems a bit fake as he asks how I am, what I’ve been up to. I wish he wouldn’t bother. He looks bad – fatter, balder, older. I gather that he has been drinking too much, eating the wrong things too and not taking care of himself. He hasn’t got anyone looking out for him now.
I have alcohol-withdrawal symptoms; this is not good. Around my next door neighbour’s house I felt nauseous, so I was plied with bucket loads of soothing tea. I sat, huddled in a corner on their sofa, enveloped in a thick hoodie. I confessed my sins; midday drinking, drink-driving, bottle-a-night-minimum habit. It’s no wonder I am fat, all those empty calories being guzzled day after day, night after night. They were shocked at what I told them, but supportive. The problem is, I don’t like to feel dependant on others, hence my dependency on substance. It’s all a matter of control.
My life right now is an endless cycle of breakfast, work, lunch, work, dinner, television, bed. In December I will be starting the next year of the surveying degree, which will give me something to do in the evenings. I was supposed to meet a friend at a new gym tonight, but we both pulled out because we finished work late. I have to decide what I want from life, I lack a direction and focus. I want to fill that void left by K’s departure; the gap previously filled with long dinners, children’s activities and socialising down the club.
This is the end of the first 3 quarters of the year. I have spent far too much time mulling over one person, one past. I need to look ahead instead. I have some great ideas for the NaNoWriMo challenge this year, in November, for which I am researching now. That story seems to be falling into place, I just need to sort out my own life story now. Today, I realise I have got past the difficult phase of the alcohol withdrawal. I still lustfully crave it, but know that I’m going to be a better person without it.
The Tip Jar