The Pain in Spain
It is possible that I may be misrepresenting the job of Continental Truck driver somewhat. For every yin there is a yang. For every up, a down. For every easy job a…let me explain…
My very first trip to Spain made me fall hopelessly in love with the place and the people. Sadly it is something like twenty years since I last visited, apart from a wonderful week when two dear friends of mine invited me to partake of an off-roading holiday in Andorra. Even that short return visit rekindled my love of the place. Even if Spain has tried to kill me on at least three occasions…
The first occasion was whilst I was delivering Blackpool illuminations to The Castle in Barcelona. I was, for reasons I have never managed to discover, delivering to The Castle the following:-
One Large Plastic Illuminated Postman Pat.
One Large Plastic Illuminated Postal Van.
One Large Plastic Illuminated Cat.
Two hundred and fifty Wuzzle’s bottoms.
I had no idea at the time what a Wuzzle was, but have since found out that they are combination animals. For example one is called Bumblion, a combination of lion and bumble-bee. Of course, they are characters from children’s TV and therefore only the better characteristics of each animal are manifested in each of the mythical beasts. Excuse me? What are the better characteristics of a bee and a lion? Does this beast have the capacity to sting you to death before it eats you, but chooses not to do so out of the kindness of its feline heart? And Eleroo. A cross between a kangaroo and an elephant! I’m still trying to imagine what would be the effect of an animal the size of an African Elephant hopping across your back garden. I’m guessing you’d need a JCB to discover whether your garden gnomes survived the attack. But I digress…
The whole concept was so bizarre that whilst the team were unloading the trailer, I went across the road and took pictures. As it happened there was an old wreck of a Renault 4 abandoned at the kerbside outside the main entrance, so I used it as a makeshift tripod whilst taking pictures of the load coming off and being carried past what turned out to be inflatable illuminated sarcophagi. It was obvious that the team that were unloading the trailer were quite skilled and before long they had completed the job. The trailer was empty and I was ready to return to the TIR park, to see my agent, and sort out a reload.
I am not the most striking of individuals. I don’t have ‘presence.’ People don’t stop what they are doing and stare when I walk into a room. I actually enjoy being inconspicuous. So you can imagine my surprise when I wandered into the office of my agent and the assistant shrieked, dropped her coffee and fled the room! Moments later my agent came out of his office and beckoned me, whilst gabbling on that he thought I was dead. Bemused, I followed him into his office, wherein he had a little black-and-white TV, whilst reassuring him that I had not, to my knowledge, shuffled off these mortal coils. He pointed to the TV, which was showing a local news program. I watched for a few moments and then, as my fairly limited Spanish began to understand what the rapidly speaking reporter was saying, my stomach turned over.
Apparently, a bomb of several hundred pounds of explosives had detonated outside The Castle causing mayhem, death and destruction. A lorry driver had been badly injured, police and soldiers had died in the blast. The bomb, it turned out, had been packed in the shell of a Renault 4 at the front of the castle. The same Renault 4 that I had used, not 90 minutes earlier, as a tripod.
As the news story unwound, we worked out that the explosion had happened no more than twenty minutes after I had had my paperwork signed. Had the crew who unloaded the trailer been less efficient, or I had been a little later with the delivery, then I could have been resting against the Renault when it exploded…
The second occasion was at a place called Vic, just outside Barcelona. I was in the process of delivering chopped polythene pieces to a factory near the fire station and had stopped on a hill just outside the town, so I could have some lunch. As I sat drinking a cold cola, I watched another Renault 4 drive past, heading down the hill into town. About three seconds later my brain caught up with my eyes and ears. There was no driver in the car and the engine wasn’t running. I looked down the hill to see what was going on, and my heart lurched.
At the bottom of the hill was a police centre, with police office, a courtyard and housing. The car had gone through the courtyard and the explosives had detonated. Later I was to find out that many of the dead and injured were women and children playing in the courtyard. I understand the politics, but I don’t care about them. No organisation can claim any moral high ground when it bases its protests on the slaughter of the innocents. No matter what ETA may claim, it can never take the moral high ground, and any political statements, any deals, any progress it makes toward gaining Basque independence will be forever tainted by the souls of their victims.
The third occasion required the combined efforts of the Guarda Civil, twenty tonnes of paper, the cack-handed mechanical ineptitude of Mr Boss and a paella, and can be read elsewhere in the book, under the title ‘Paper paper everywhere.’