There is one more thing I want to tell you about when Paqui was in a coma and then I shall let her rest in peace. It is something that I wish I could forget, but which is indelibly etched on my brain for evermore. I told you she had septicemia in the brain. I was desperate and held her head between my hands and whispered to her: “But Paqui, you promised me you would never leave me!” Her sister told me to hold her head carefully for fear of squashing her skull… There are some things that no man should have to go through. Boy, was I a mess!
We arrived in Gandia, which is ancestral city of the Borgias. They have life-size statues there to commemorate them. I read a book about these illustrious characters once. They made Machiavelli look like a boy scout. One of them was a Pope and his sister Lucretia probably poisoned more men than Attila the Hun laid to waste( and she was the nice one of the family!) For some reason I´d always mistakenly thought that they were Venetian by birth. Well, to err is human.
On our first day there we got to know a German, called Stephan, who lucky for Steve and Paul also spoke English. He was a piss-artist like us and we got on like a house on fire. He showed us each a good begging spot and we did alright. I parked my arse in front of a tobacconist, but I could only do that in the mornings, because at noon the ´regular´guy showed up. After a while, Steve and I decided to try something new. We bought different coloured chalk and started making religious portraits on the pavement in the pedestrian part of town. This was much appreciated by the locals, but the cops would have to come along to spoil our fun, as they do.
They told us we needed a permit. After playing cat and mouse with them for a couple of days, we got tied of this and stomped off to the town hall to apply for one. The clerks told us that we were the first people ever to do so and that they wouldn´t even know where to start looking fo such a form. Bureaucracy at its finest again! You see, laws are made to protect the rich, who in turn take care of the politicians. And in order to be able to earn a crust, the poor have to make the politicians even richer, by paying for silly things like permits. The civil servants´job is to hide these for as long as possible. Fantastic system, isn´t it? Needles to say, we shelved the chalk and went back to begging.
The first night we´d made our ´beds´on the larn of a tiny park next tot he bus station. When the employees from there had finished their shift they actually waved and grinned at us, which surprised us a bit. The next morning at 6 AM, when the sprinklers started spraying the lawn, we understood why. Talk about a rude awakening and a hasty retreat. Next we moved to a slightly bigger park behind the tourist information office, but the cops told us to move to the big park on the other side of town. Surprisingly, they actually left us in peace there. We slept on the band stand, because again the lawns were booby-trapped!
Stephan had two wonderful dogs, one was called Theodore(Theo for short), who was rather big and Lotti, a Belgian shepherd with a slightly mangled hip. Stephan used to push her along in a wheelchair, which Madam took in her stride. But when the two of them spotted a cat, she outran Theo in her zealous pursuit. Only to afterwards come back limping, with a woeful look in her eyes. I suspect she was quite the actress, Miss Lotti!
One evening, a lady of the night came to visit, in quite a bit of distress. Some unsavoury character had been stalking her, she said. Stephan polished his armour to a spit shine and rode to the rescue. And as sometimes happens between a man and a woman, they fell in love. Steve and I were a bit sceptical at first, but it turned out to be the real things and Maite was accepted into our little family. I did ask them nicely if they could take their nocturnal gymnastics a bit further down, so we could sleep. Maite offered to bring along a couple of her friends(working girls). I for one declined as I was not n the mood, so soon after what had happened.
I had made the foolish decision, back in Valencia, to ask someone to put dreadlocks in my hair(all of it). The result was not inspiring. I looked like a demented rat and therefore asked Stephan, who´d had some previous hair-dressing experience somewhere, to shear me. He gladly accepted.
To be continued…