Justin is my dinner companion in Barcelona, a chap I met on a polar expedition.
Well, it was billed as an expedition, requiring high levels of fitness, but really it was a small cruise for duffers. Let’s just say that we were fit before we started.
It was a circumnavigation of a Norwegian archipelago in the High Arctic, and yes, we saw polar bears – see “Clips” for the relevant article.
The photograph above was taken at about 75 degrees north, and features Justin with Susie, one of my favourite duffers of all time. She would occasionally opt to remain onboard – possibly in the spa with Russian sailors, but was never caught – instead of taking a stroll in a pristine wilderness.
Anyway, Justin and I met last night at the famous Montjuic fountains near Place Espanya in Barcelona. What a treat to see him sharing an umbrella with younger brother Tim, self-described as gormless. But that’s only because he lopes along, grunting, and says ‘supposably’.
Fortunately (as I can hardly describe myself as famished) the favoured restaurant is full, so we toddle off round the market buying white sausage for tapas at home.
For every plus, however, there tends to be a balancing minus: there’s a gorgeous bottle of wine open…but once AC/DC stop making all that noise round the corner, I have to drive their gear to Madrid. Groan – tea it is, then.
A wide array of infusions fills the cupboard, yet what a dearth of proper tea bags. Ooh, wait a minute, there’s a packet of Lady Grey hidden away at the back. My heart soars but then Justin rather lets the side down by offering soya milk. It’s foul but one has to grin as a guest, and say, ‘mmm, lovely, thanks.’
The tapas, however, are delicious. Justin’s wife arrives and they lisp at each other in Castillian for a bit before my lift back to the concert in what can only be described as a spaceship.
Or I suppose you could call it an ergonomic automobile, but it seems jolly clever and far better for the environment than twenty lorries arriving from Switzerland.
Oh, what a memory I have. Again, I’ve forgotten to buy Namibian’s cigarettes while near shops in town; we now have to stop early in the overnight journey to Madrid. I decide that we might as well have four hours in bed while we’re stopped, but make a small mistake with setting an alarm.
Confusion arises: the tachograph remains on time of origin (UK), but we all work on local time, meaning that I’m an hour ahead of myself. The tacho says 3am, but it’s really 4, and I set the alarm for 7 – not, in fact, four hours at all.
Namibian is always up before me – to prepare flasks of tea/coffee etc. – yet there is no sign of him. Of course my initial thought is that he’s passed away in the night. I rock and bang the cab to make sure.
A disgruntled teddy bear peers through the darkness, telling me I’m a trifle early. What’s worse is that tobacco is unavailable here – I’ve already asked in the garage. The little Spaniard behind the bar said, ‘cerveza?’ in response, which you all surely know means ‘beer?’
Blimey, what a topsy-turvy country: I can’t buy cigarettes at night, but I’m offered beer at eight in the morning on the motorway. Oh sorry, I mean seven in the morning.
Actually, if we’re going to be silly about the clocks going forward, I could say that it is really six am. No, that’s enough of that. Namibian, down to a ration of three cigarettes, which will last approximately half an hour, forcibly suggests that we stop in 22km at the next rest-stop..