Oblique yet enticing, we sat beneath a poetic melancholy evening Spanish sky. Laughter abound, I enjoyed many glasses of fine wine beneath the dusky painterly beauty that bathes nearly everything and everyone in sleepy torpor. Tempered by the poignancy of our anniversary supper beneath the stars we inhaled deeply upon the most wonderful essence of peace.
And then, in a moment of weakness, I checked my phone messages while my dear lady was away powdering her nose and whatever else that ladies do in those wee secret rooms at the back of every restaurant and bar across the globe..
Raoul, the pool guy, is a seemingly fine example of unflappable male Spanishness. He is calm of voice, slow of word and totally devoid of either haste or panic. His dexterity with a pool net and chemical cleaners is legendary and sits slightly above the achievements of Don Quixote himself. His ability to speak clearly into a phone however has the same resonance on the ear as a walrus vomiting onto rough cobbled stone. Raoul's swiftly spoken words and my lack of encapsulating the local language in its entirety had us both reaching for the divine intervention of the restaurant waiter.
"Señor, it would seem as though the sky has fallen in and there is much damage. You must go now and meet with the end."
Siobhan, with her succinctly (sober) feminine wisdom, decided that she would undertake the three hour long drive back to our home while I frantically made calls to both a suddenly deaf Raoul and our neighbours to try to discover the extent of the Armageddon that awaited us. Alas, it would seem that during our short ten day sabbatical inland our neighbours had become devout Buddhists and now no longer required the complexity of answering their phone. Either that or they too had succumbed to whatever fate had befallen our hillside home.
Forty-five minutes into our journey, Siobhan managed to swerve to avoid 'a rather large moth' of which had become 'bedazzled' by the luminous white beams emanating from the headlights. A swift tug to the left and my beloved new 4x4 managed to collide with the only tree within a fifty mile radius. Luckily no injuries occurred, however I doubt very much whether the tree will bare much fruit for the remainder of its solitary lifetime. Many hours passed by the time the local polis had arrived, scratched his unshaven chins, removed many folds of surplus material from the crack of his arse, smoked the obligatory cheroot, coughed up something usually found growing profoundly in a petri dish, urinated against the side of my vehicle, shook his head a dozen times before declaring that we had hit the only tree within a fifty mile radius and left. We had contacted the vehicle recovery people (European AA service, ghod bless them) and help was on its way.
Just before the dawn broke across the morning sky, we trundled up, battered and bruised, still in our somewhat wrinkled evening refinery,(no, not a spelling mistake, just plenty of spattered oil from the impact) after a nightmare journey in a rather small lemon yellow Fiat 500. For those unfamiliar with small Italian motor vehicles, can I ask you at this point to imagine trying to place two thick cut raw pork sausages into a matchbox?
Raoul had gotten bored with waiting. He had left a brief note pinned to the wooden gate.
Señor... just over a week ago a large wild ram leaped 9mtrs off of the adjoining hillside and crashed through your glass sun roof. In its brief moments of remaining life it destroyed the patio furniture, completely smashed the glass furniture, barbecue, most of the potted plants and now resides in the bottom of the pool.
We stepped gingerly across many splintered slivers of shrapnel sized glass fragmented beads. My wonderful aluminium man-toy barbecue with its lifetime guarantee lay on its side broken and abused. My carefully
As I knelt down amongst the sheep shite beside the pool I was met with the somewhat bloated corpse of a large dead ram the size of a small Belgian dwarf bobbing about quite merrily. Corpses tend to sink when water saturation becomes too immense, but after more than a few days in the hot sun the gases inside pop them back up to the surface where they can either give you a wee start if you are not expecting such a sight, or fifteen years in prison if the corpse happens to be of the human kind. Don't ask me how I know so much about corpses, let's just say that being Glaswegian I appreciate the value that the dead weight of a five kilo bag of quick drying cement can bring to a man's life. Unfortunately, I've seen my share of waterlogged corpses over the years, they aren't pretty and can empty the contents of a weaker mans stomach at the blink of an eye. Fortunately, my rather sheepish intruder didn't have to worry about blinking any of its dead eyes. There wasn't any. They were missing. No doubt eaten by the many large birds that frequent the Spanish hills eating prey only slightly smaller than a baby rhino. What it did have however, was an uncanny resemblance to John Travolta. The fleshy lips were curled back in a rather macabre smile. No doubt due to the fact that he had completely fecked my previous evenings planned bout of romance with Siobhan.
John Travolta had tumbled down the hillside, fell through my glass roof trying to break the long jump record from the last Olympics and now lay rotting in my pool whilst blindly laughing at my misfortune. I donned my gardening gloves while Siobhan set about making us a cup of tea. It's not only the English who revert to strong tea in times of crisis, especially when there is man's work to be done. I grappled it towards me with the extending mop handle and after a much frenzied mish-mash of J.T refusing to dance his way over, I finally managed to take hold of his front legs and heaved him starboard bound as I lay atop the small, rather bendy, diving board. Bad move... Rotting flesh and brute force do not good bed fellows make. I was left with two ragged woolly shoulders of muttony fetlock, while J.T pirouetted away as if the delightful Olivia Newton-John had entered the pool naked and up for a wee paddle herself. Another bad move was me standing on top of the diving board and throwing the mop handle like oul Capt Ahab spearing the white whale from the fore deck of the Pequod.
In Glasgow we have an underground glossary of people providing a corpse-with-a-hole-in-it removal service. Usually these people can be found outside most city centre pubs smoking hand rolled cigarettes, wearing camouflage jackets and speaking in whispers. For the price of a pint they will also shotgun your enemies, dismember body parts and fill your car with stolen diesel while you wait. Sadly, not here. I was on my own while Siobhan, despite the last traumatic 24 hours, was wetting herself with laughter in the sanctuary of the kitchen with her husband busily demonstrating his hunter-gatherer skills in the wild eventually used a perforated plastic shower curtain to scoop up the bloated gassy corpse. Decked out in scuba mask and snorkel, marigold gloves and a straw hat to protect myself from the greasy sludge that now oozed across the waters surface, I finally managed to bring Moby-John back to dry land. If only it was as easy as disposing of the weans goldfish by flushing them down the kludge, eh?
Have you ever tried to dispose of a very gassy dead sheep full of pool water? The idea sounded good until the water from the less than golden fleece put out the fire and left the usually fresh breeze carrying the scent of a Jewish offal shop in London's back streets during the war. You can't just pop them outside with the trash here in Spain, they have laws against it apparently. Run over a dog and the polis will stand around it smoking until one of them eventually pulls out a gun and shoots it in front of a family of visiting German schoolchildren. But desecrating a woolly hillside beast usually prettier than some of their wives/mothers/girlfriends and you will spend a long night in a grey bar, cockroach infested cell while they play cards with the money from your confiscated wallet and argue about who now owns your shoes. Of course if my trusty 4x4 had not now lay upon a mortuary slab due to Siobhan's love of large ugly cabbage moths, I could have slung it in the back and driven off into the hills returning it from where it had originally derived. Trust me, you cannot fit the belly button lint from a polyester shirt in the back of a Fiat 500! I have tried...
Various rumours would appear to be grossly exaggerated in the community these last few mornings about dismembered bodies being removed under the cover of darkness from our home. I'm happy to let them continue, because strangely enough, my daily newspaper is now never delivered anywhere but onto the porch. The local plumber, uncontactable since he installed my iron guttering three months ago, has refunded the money owed in regard to his oversight with my rumbling pipework above the garage and we never have to wait for a table in our favourite restaurant any longer. Disconcertingly though, the local Spanish Nazi's have arranged a boys night in featuring cards and mutton broth, so should I vanish for a few weeks you will know that I have been pulled in for questioning due to the fact that a stinking, oozing, recently deceased ram has popped up in the town well. Och, you can take the man out of Glasgow....
This mornings recipe was to be lamb shanks, roasted to perfection and served on a sea of spiced and aromatic rice. Of course you will understand that lamb, not to mention ram, is now off the menu for the foreseeable future.
Honey Glazed Ribs
3 tbsp of soy or fish sauce
2 tbsp Heinz tomato ketchup
4 tbsp fresh honey
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp paprika
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4kg of fresh free range spare ribs, each cut into 2 or 3 pieces
Preheat the oven to 200°C (gas 6). Put the soy sauce, ketchup, honey, garlic, paprika and lemon zest in a small pan. Bring to the boil gently, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Place the pork in a lightly oiled roasting tin, in a single layer, and brush with the warm sauce. Cook for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 160°C (gas 3) and cook for a further 45 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking and basting regularly with the sauce in the tin. Add several spoonful's of water to the tin to prevent the juices sticking and burning. When cooked, the ribs should be golden and sticky on the outside. Serve immediately with jacket potatoes and seasonal salad. Wash down with chilled bottles of lager with fresh lime.