Kotseng nagkabit sa kable

I want to be upfront and honest. I dye my hair blonde (it’s grey), I am fifty years old, I wear men’s jeans so I don’t look so fat and I hate flying and getting in anything high up that is not secured properly (they go hand in hand really). This might include such things as big wheels, helicopters, platform shoes, parachutes etc.

I love sushi, watching Nurse Jackie (for her bitch like qualities, pill taking without a conscience and the fact she feels no need to wear those stupid nurse’s crocs), and I prefer to write with a fountain pen (typing doesn’t do it for me, OK, it leaves no ink on my finger, but I can’t draw stick men in the margin).

Most of all I love the city of Porto. This is just as well as I now have an apartment there. It wasn’t a case of ‘I liked this razor so much I bought the company’ or ‘I love fruit so bought an iMac’ or ‘I love Formula 1 so much I gave up the day job and spend my life travelling around Europe impersonating Fernando Alonso, eating large quantities of sushi and farting in restaurants’. This was a cold-headed investment of our entire life savings in a desperate attempt to stop ourselves spending them on wine and shoes.

Anyway, we are in fact on the other side of the river in Vila Nova De Gaia because the grass is greener on the other side. We are a ‘God these shoes are killing me from walking all day but I can see the flat from here, so I’ll bear it’ away from the D. Luis I bridge, famous because it’s famous. (I should mention here that some people think the bridge is famous because the guy that designed the Eiffel tower in Paris, can’t remember his name, think it began with an ‘E’ and rhymed with trifle) apparently designed the D. Luis I Bridge too, but he didn’t build it personally. He had a bit of a practice at the one two along, the baby version, AKA the Maria Pia Bridge, what were they on when they named that one? I think he was still a bit fagged out after building that one so he got one of his trainees to do it. If it’s anything like trainee hairdressers, it was probably supposed to be another tower and he cocked up, he meant to build a tower and it fell over and became a bridge, it’s possible, if so there may have been this conversation:-

Maria Pia Bridge, the one Eiffel really built.

Mayor of Porto: WTF????
Eiffel: Oh, sorry Paulo. It’s young Teofilo here. I don’t know how many times I’ve told him to use the no. 15 rivets but he never listens, he’s work experience, see.
Mayor of Porto: What the hell am I supposed to do now? It’s fallen right across the bloody Douro. I’m up for re-election in 3 months. My reputation is going to be in tatters.
Eiffel: Never mind your reputation, matey, what about mine…hey, it has gone right across the river… hmm, I the great Gustav Eiffel have an idea… stick with me on this Paolo and I’ll make heroes out of both of us….

Anyway, the one Eiffel built himself, it seems, might not be there for much longer. It’s a single track railway bridge that hasn’t been used for 20 years, and it seems nobody wants to take responsibility for its upkeep. Maybe they will make up a song about it – Eiffel’s bridge is falling down, falling down, Maria Pia.

So we are at the top of the famous for being the Eiffel bridge even though it isn’t, up high, as opposed to down on the Ribeiro, and we benefit from having a seagull’s view of everything. For us to get down to where the seagulls deposit their daily intake of fish and tourist’s ice cream cones, we can do any one of the following:

A. Walk along historic cobbled streets in-between the beautiful Port houses of Gaia and trip trap over the lower level of the ‘famous for being famous’ bridge, while looking up and feeling inspired to dig out that old Meccano set in the attic, and looking down at the barrel-carrying boats taking sightseers on the majestic River Douro.
B. Slide on a tea tray on our backsides down the very same historic cobbled streets in-between the beautiful Port houses of Gaia and so on and so on. Maybe not such a good method but it may work.
C. Get a taxi, by raising our right hand ever so slightly towards the beige coloured vehicle with the ever so friendly Portuguese man seated waiting, with a tip of our head to say ‘over here’.
D. Walk across the ‘ famous for being famous’ bridge and take the funicular (clamped so tightly onto the rails that are clamped so tightly onto the side of the rock using precise engineering with no room for error) to the bottom and mosey on down a few steps.
E. Take the loosely swinging death-is-inevitable cocoon- like cable car.

Now for me B is probably out, as I am fifty and a gran and I would not make it far down the cobbled streets on a tea tray before I was reminded of an ailment I have been afflicted with since giving birth to one of my three children. A would be good, as would C and D, all routes that would leave me with a spring in my step and with change in my pocket as the cost is minimal if I take option C and free if I take A and D.

My wife’s preferred route down is E. My wife thinks because as I am blonde (see upfront opening) she can ‘lure me’ to her preferred route down with idle chitchat like ‘mmmm, I wonder if the sushi restaurant is open’ (see upfront opening). So on that promise of sorts she gets me to the crossroads of ‘yer going down’.

I smile at the thought of the slow jaunt over the bridge en route to the ‘clamped to the rails’ funicular and I dream of a Salmon California hand roll. I grin impishly at the children playing in the park with the skateboard and try to think if I could ask for extra soya sauce this time as the Sashimi is always better with more.

I nod across confidently at the taxi with his ‘ready and waiting’ light on the roof of his off white Mercedes as I picture a futo maki. I almost burst into a happy Fado (tautology) as I see the cobbled streets and Port houses in front of me, with a mirage of saki coloured by a rainbow maki on the skyline………but she pauses. She turns her body. I hear the Jaws sound track; she steps away from the small children and the board with wheels on. She brushes off the friendly cabby and side steps the bridge and skips towards THE cable car AGAIN.

Top terminal

It’s at this point ( 3 times she has caught me) I am deafened by the Jaws music in Dolby stereo, surround sound and blue toothed directly into my ear drums and I swear I can see a shark fin in the river below, circling. How does she get me every time? I wear men’s jeans for god’s sake, I am tough, and I eat liver and can operate heavy machinery while on Valium but please not the cable car. I hate it hate it hate it. Even the name scares me. “Cable car” is fine, cable is reasurring, and a car stays firmly on the ground, so it doesn’t sound too bad. But the Portuguese word for it is “teleferico”, a word that seems to go with “telekinesis” and “telepathy”, which says to me, “stand at the top here and we’ll whisk you off the edge of this cliff and down to the bottom using only the power of our minds.”

Porto Ribeira, as seen from the cable car

I break into a sweat and my heart starts racing, my mind gets busy and I picture myself falling while I am trapped inside the ‘not clamped on but just hanging there’ cocoon-like thing as it spins and deposits me on the river’s edge where I bounce, still encased, into the murky shark-infested waters of the Douro. But in my mind, I escape like Houdini and make for the surface only to be eaten by that shark that I knew was there all along.

You see, my Mum always had these sayings that suited the occasion, like ‘if God wanted us to have pierced ears he would have made it so we were born with holes in our ears’. Or ‘If God wanted us to wear flip flops he would have given us forked feet’. Well I think if God meant us fly he would have given us wings, not just this flabby arm fat. By the same reasoning, if he meant us to swing precariously from a very loosely fitting cocoon he would surely have made us all silk worms hanging by an umbilical cord to our mothers until she chose to part with us.

D. Luis I bridge, from the cable car

I try so hard to make out I am not scared and appear nonchalant by saying flippant things like ‘oh my God this thing is so high!’ I gave the game away when this happened last time we were with a friend and I said ‘no don’t take pictures, yes, I know it’s a wonderful experience but you are moving about the cocoon way too much, the thing is shaking. I need you to only breathe if you have to and don’t sneeze, cough or turn your head, nothing that will alert the cocoon to the fact it may need to drop us.’ I mean those things can go at any time, only this week two lots of innocent everyday sort of folk have been held upside down by some fairground ride for hours, Google it if you don’t believe me, it’s the machine that wins in the end.

Calem Port House, as seen from the cable car

So I was not impressed by the teleferico, the first time, the second time or the third time. The thing is my wife would never eat sushi, she hates it, in fact she won’t even go into said restaurant but I have fallen for the bait enough. I won’t go on it now even if the cable car stopped actually in THE restaurant at an ‘all you can eat for 3 Euros’ table. I for one will not be using that means of transportation again. However, if you are in Gaia, wear womens/mens jeans and are under fifty, go right ahead, you will love it. If however you have ever had a nightmare where you are falling………..did anyone check whether it was a trainee who built the bloody thing? Well it makes you think doesn’t it?

Teleferico de Gaia – Photo Album

The Gaia Teleferico (cable car)

Serra do Pilar, as seen from the cable car

Cais de Gaia and the bridge, as seen from the cable car

Port cargo boats, as seen from the cable car

Torre dos Clerigos, as seen from the cable car

Porto, as seen from the cable car

Historical centre of Gaia, as seen from the cable car

Porto Ribeira, as seen from the cable car

Calem Port House, as seen from the cable car

D. Luis I bridge, from the cable car

Top terminal

Imagine There’s No Santa

So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun. John Lennon sang that, and let it be known, for the record, he has been dead for 30 years this year. Now, had he lived, it is possible he would have seen Santa every year, so then that would be 30 Santas he has missed. Let’s say he would have seen another 100 in shopping centres etc in that time too, so shame, that’s 130 Santas he may have missed. Ho ho ho hang on here, lets push the sleigh out and say John might have had a few parties where Santa arrived in his red suit, and maybe he would have seen a few out shopping with the elves or gliding over rooftops in a sleigh, so let’s add them in too. Now I am feeling sorry for him. Take it the whole hog and let’s say he himself roughly seven times would have dressed as Santa, (stay with me on this – I know, its hard to imagine there’s no seven) had his picture taken and looked at the picture 500 times. So we are now at roughly 800 Santas, give or take the odd paedophile, that John has missed, thanks to Mark David Chapman’s decision to riddle him with bullets as a thank you for signing his autograph.

Now, I expect God will at some point decide to give John just one day back on earth. After all, he probably gets fed up of John guilting him out by singing Give Peace A Chance at him every time he tries to smite someone, so he’ll probably just send him away for a bit of peace and quiet. Well, if this happened John would probably be gutted, because he would think there would be no way he could possibly catch up on all those missed Santas in the stingy 24 hours he’d been given. Well, let me tell you, he would be wrong. I was in Porto on Sunday and I had seen three times the amount of Santas that John has missed even before I parked my car.

I wasn’t really fussed about going to Porto this weekend, but my wife had been mumbling on about some Santa parade for months. To be honest with you June is not really the time I am thinking of some old git with a white beard and a red suit but that is when her Christmas preparations began. I was all for spending Sunday with my feet up watching Come Dine with Me, but I looked into her pleading eyes and thought “All you need is love” or maybe it was “Happiness is a warm gun”, and I agreed to go.

It was a good decision, and not just from the point of view of keeping wifey happy. I don’t think I have had this much fun since John Lennon’s funeral. If you have ever been accused of being odd for dreaming about Santa on a moped, or 8 Santas driving classic Mini Coopers in formation, or Santa doing a Saturday Night Fever dance with a giant frog and an even more giant TV remote control (okay if you dreamt that last one might you were probably on an acid trip) I want you to no longer feel stupid for those dreams. These things really do exist, I have seen them all this weekend. This is Porto’s Desfile de Pais Natal, in which every year Porto tries to beat its own Guinness World Record for largest gathering of (and parade of) Santa Clauses, which it took from Derry in Ireland in 2007. Last year’s Guinness Record break was 14472 Santas, so I knew this year it had to be more or what would be the point of 14473 Santas coming out and dragging themselves to Porto when it wouldn’t change a thing.

I am not sure what I was expecting really, I mean I knew there would be people dressed up but I was not at all prepared for the sea of red that hit like a Santa tsunami right down the Via Catarina. I couldn’t stop laughing and smiling and pointing like a 9 year old. The parade started with five Santas on stilts, which as luck would have were able to lean up against a double decker bus for a sly fag before kick off. Whilst they were trying to figure out how to stub the fags out we took up our viewing position underneath a mini flyover that had been closed to traffic. Then, led by the Peter Crouch Santas, there came over the bridge hundreds and hundreds of Santas. Well, thousands actually. 14,963 to be precise. When you thought you had seen them all, more came and it was just a sea of Santas. Several large companies took the opportunity to advertise and ‘Meo’ , a Portuguese cable company, had handed out long plastic air filled noisy batons. I think they were to be bashed together to create a drum sound but for some reason (see Porto hammer festa) they thought it would make for more enjoyment by smashing each other over the head with them. There were happy Santas, suicidal looking Santas, dog Santas and horse Santas, Santas on push bikes, on Harleys, on open top buses, Santa bands, acrobatic Santas, fire-juggling Santas, a bit too huggy Santas who I think were from the Portuguese Downs Syndrome association, an FC Porto Santa (the only one in a blue suit), pissed Santas, Santas trying to push in and being sent to the back by bigger Santas, and one Shetland Pony reindeer who thought the whole outfit was undignified and decided to up-end his sleigh and its two fat bastard Santas that were driving it. Bringing up the rear were the Minis – I’m not sure really what they were doing in the parade as it made it look like The Italian Job goes Portuguese and as always I kept hearing Michael Caine saying ‘you’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’. It really looked like they had been on some vintage car rally and spun off down a side street, down some steps, along the outskirts of a town square and through an open garage door, onto the back of a car transporter truck and off the other side to drive through a funeral procession and under a bridge to turn left and find them selves slap bang in the middle of a Santa parade. You could almost see the passenger/navigator saying ‘shit it said turn left at the third Café’!

John would have loved it. George would have loved it for that matter. Even the Maharishi would have loved it. And really, if you think about it, the only thing that was missing was two ghost Beatle Santas on a triplet bike with a ghost yogi Santa, so put a date in your diary, guys: 11th December 2011.

As for us, we had made an error, (well I say ‘we’, but it was really ‘her’, as I thought it was a stupid idea from the start) in that she had decided that the best place to park was slap bang in the middle of Porto. I was worried, I did voice my concerns, although obviously too quietly and in a voice of Yoko Ono. I said to her ‘daring why we park car here, it vewy busy and we not get car out later stuwpid’. And sure enough, when we returned to the car park, we found it sandwiched between a police cordon and the ‘Had too much Port before we set off’ section of the parade. Wifey suggested we turn right, which not only was crashing through the police cordon but also going the wrong way down a one way street. Late teenage daughter suggested we turn left and just mow over the “freaking stupid Santas” who were getting on her nerves anyway. I decided on a left and tempting as it was to mow a couple of them over, I decided to recognise my brothers and everyone I met so that instant karma and/or the police didn’t get me. We got home about 5 hours later.

Anyway, congratulations Porto, a new World Record. But one last word to the 4,037 who got suited up but never made it across the finish line: next year, leave the bloody Shetland ponies behind. Your city needs you!

Photo Gallery

Planes, Trains and Car Ferries

We like to do our planes, trains and automobiles bit and after having travelled from the UK to Portugal by planes and automobiles, and a bit of train in the channel tunnel, we decided to try doing it by boat. This meant the car ferry to Santander, which of course isn’t actually in Portugal but is about the nearest you can get to it by ferry from the UK.

We arrived at the dock in Portsmouth and to the check-in/passport control/customs, which was basically a five minute chit chat with a lady in a box who was fascinated for some reason with my name. She thought it was very funny and she was keen to tell me she had also had someone through recently called “Truly Scrumptious”, as if my name is in the same kind of category as that. My name is just a shorter version of my original name, which I changed by deed poll as everyone calls me that anyway. I wondered whether Truly Scrumptious changed hers by deed poll or whether she was christened that by her parents (I am assuming it is a ‘her’, it would be even worse if it is a ‘him’) Frankly, anyone who wants to name their child after a Mary Poppins character should be locked up. I have told my daughter Toot Sweets that it won’t help people later in life being given a stupid name. Anyway after our ordeal back in the UK we breathed a huge sigh of relief as the ship sailed out of Portsmouth and headed for Spain. I could almost see the red tail lights (heading for Spain).

The ferry was jam packed with Saga folk. By that I mean older people, like sixty years and then some people. It was all very British although the ferry was owned by a French company, and as soon as the musical ‘trio’ came onto the stage in the cabaret lounge it all became very reminiscent of a working man’s club. Men sat with pints of ale while the women folk slapped their Crimplene covered legs to the music of ‘Fred Basset’s Trio’. The men had one eye on their beer and one eye on the football being shown on the big screen. I felt a little sorry for the ‘lead singer’ as she sang ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ and men cheered at Nani scoring United’s first and only goal. She was so far removed from their heads she might as well have been on her way to the moon in Apollo 13.

I just knew that a lot of the people on board the ship were going to their holiday home in Spain or Portugal or on their way to a few weeks of sun and the Daily Mirror in Alicante, Algarve or Ali anywhere that sounds like Spain and impresses the neighbours. They were happy, they were complaining about the inedible French food and the lack of Guinness and they were happy. The sailing was so calm at times we forgot we were on a ship and if it wasn’t for the round porthole and navy personal walking up and down we could have been at Butlins.

The next morning we saw land and waited for the tannoy woman to tell us in French, English and then Spanish, that we could make our ways to our vehicles. We waited and then they called out A3, so I decided that A4 was imminent so dragged my wife to the stairwell. While walking there I complained about the way Brits queue and always got into a line long before needed. She reminded me of this as we reached the stairwell to find it full of like minded Brits waiting for ‘the voice’ to call A4. The guy at the front of the queue told us all what was happening and how we must be patient, and then got impatient and started rattling the door handle by the big sign that said ‘Do not attempt to open this door manually as it will break the mechanism’. We waited a little longer than I thought my wife moaned for, but not quite long enough for the woman next to us to finish her ‘try to weave a story together in which you get to mention all the expensive cars you have, all the expensive holidays you’ve been on, all the private and public schools your kids have been to and all the holiday homes you have dotted about Europe’ game, and eventually the voice called A4.

After the repair man came to fix the broken door we went through to our vehicle hoping that the other car owners would not take too long to find their cars as anyone parked in front of you was going to ‘ruin your holiday’ or ‘hold up your journey’. We were fortunate in that the guy in front of us and slightly to the right was all present and correct and in his car waiting. I nodded with a sort of ‘good man’ nod and got myself all sorted and ready with my hand on the ignition, nodding with that knowing nod of being efficient to drivers unlocking cars behind me.

I perused the area in front and God help us, there to the right and blocking my way was a fat geezer with his equally fat wife still standing outside of their car with more luggage than Madonna and her four or five or six kids. The problem was not his size, no no no, the problem was not her size, no no no, it wasn’t even the amount of luggage nor the lost look on their faces that perturbed me, it was the fact that they were going to try some sort of Guinness world record by squeezing all of this into a tiny little two seater MG sports car………with the top up.

I could see us sitting here for days and even Noah would have cleared the Ark long before we got off of this ferry. The fat man huffed and puffed and sweated and at one point I felt he was about to collapse. His patient wife stood looking embarrassed as he tried to jam the array of luggage (not matching by the way) into the car. Now, an MG has a tiny shelf where people can put say, a lighter, pen or a pair of sunglasses. He wanted to get two cases, a laptop, wash bag, two coats (puffy anoraks) and a carrier bag of food onto that very same shelf. I could hear cars starting up and knew we needn’t bother as he was not even looking close to getting into the car. His wife was still standing at the passenger side, as I am not sure she would be able to get in anyway. People around were laughing and my wife said ‘ shame they are struggling’. I said ‘shame my arse, why buy a car that can only be driven by midgets, naked, with no belongings, when you have clearly eaten all the pies and the pie shop’. She said ‘you know maybe it is their dream and they have bought their dream car and they are off to Spain driving their dream, living their dream’. At that point I looked over as he seemed to have squeezed it all into the car and I thought finally he is done. Then he patted his top pocket, then his trouser pockets and then his back pocket. I said ‘ the fat bastard has now misplaced the car keys , so all of that shite he has spent twenty minutes cramming into the car is now coming back out and anyone who has a dream to squeeze their fat bodies into a tiny kiddy’s car and drive through Spain with their legs bent up at the windscreen and their necks doubled over has got to be off their minds as its a f*cking nightmare.’ Martin Luther King had a dream, Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz had a dream even Pam in Dallas had a dream but this happening in front of me was not any sane person’s version of a dream.

After what seemed like three days they squeezed in, unfortunately just before I could get Angus McWherter on the phone and drove off. I lost them somewhere on a roundabout in Santander, I can’t say for sure but I think they went round more than once and were looking like lapping themselves coming the other way. I could see the wife’s hollow eyes looking out at the Spanish surroundings and they seemed to be saying “Please God just take me now.” His eyes said “I’m so scared I want my Mummy but I have to pretend I’m a grown up and bluff my way out of it.” I would like to think that wifey was right about them fulfilling a dream, but somehow I think it was just a case of a man and his self-deluded vanity gone mad.

As we headed for Portugal we decided we like the car ferry method of travel most. OK so it might be a bit slower than driving through France and a lot slower than flying, but this is easily outweighed by being able to come home with a car packed full of Galaxy, Terry’s chocolate orange, non-drip paint, porridge, halfway decent wood filler, Galaxy, Terry’s chocolate orange and various other items that are not available in Portugal, and having been able to entertain ourselves watching stroppy ex-pats arguing with stroppy French cafeteria employees about the lamb, followed by the how much you can pack into an MG world record attempt. You can’t buy that kind of entertainment.

A Warning to Those Renting Their UK House Whilst Living in Portugal, or, Something Smells Rotten in the State of Ceredigion

We had to take a trip back to the UK last month to check out the damage to our house, we had foolishly, stupidly, gullibly rented out for a year. We knew our tenants were nuts but we thought they were nuts in a nice way, as she would phone us every week with news such as “Nathaniel has just heard on the radio that Al Qaeda are invading Birmingham, and we have seen our fighter jets heading south, can you see them out of your window in Portugal?” and “Someone was walking on the roof of the house, we think it might have been the SAS” and “We had an earthquake in Wales yesterday, but don’t worry, the house is all right” and “They’ve just passed a law in the Welsh Assembly which says English people can’t buy a house in Wales”. In the same phone calls she would tell us that “Kevin is a registered Corgi engineer and has serviced your central heating system for you – no charge”, “We’ve had the house insulated for you – no charge”, “we’ve had some new storage heaters fitted for you – no charge”, “we’ve got a kitchen lying around we can fit for you if you like – no charge”. We were a bit concerned by “we’ve painted your study a lovely buttermilk for you – no charge” but we passed it off as being a matter of good taste, as the study was a heavy and old-fashioned shade of blue before.

Recently though we had been receiving increasingly disturbing emails from the neighbours and with each email we were able to start our own painting – as we started to paint a picture of the house being used as some sort of animal shelter/kindergarten/terrorist hide out where all house-mates were equipped with paint brushes, large fully stocked pallets with every colour of the rainbow and sledge hammers. We were not disappointed. It was fine at first glance; we could see through our 200 year old cottage windows a table laden with chocolate fingers and a chocolate fondue set, with a box of non brand chocolates (it should have given the game away really, the un-known brand). There appeared to be a vase of flowers (plastic – the second ‘game up’ sign) and some pot pourri in a dish (I f*cking hate pot pourri and who ever invented wood chippings with dead pine cones dyed orange while all smelling like a toilet wants the stuff ramming down his throat).

The table was set for four people (there are two of us so she must have assumed we were expecting guests) with brightly coloured dinner plates, side plates and dessert bowls. It looked sort of warm and inviting in a scary, ‘whatever happened to Baby Jane’ way. I half expected to see Baby Maddie seated at the table and Lord Lucan serving a fine port to the table of guests that included Elvis and Michael Jackson. We gingerly (although thank God none of us are) opened the front door and were met with the very scene we had peered at through the window, not unlike Tiny Tim on Christmas day seeing the warm fire while he stood outside in the snow. We wondered why the neighbours had described for us a vision of some sort of cold cuts eery feeling of emptiness, when in fact we felt like Tiny Tim seeing a huge turkey carried to the table with roast potatoes and a rich gravy. However, I am not sure Tiny Tim would have wanted to enter into out ‘cat litter, dog shite smelling interior had he known what was on the inside. In fact Tiny Tim would have taken his crutch and hopped off to some soup kitchen that smelled of human urine, anything would have been better than the smell that greeted us.

The tenants, whom I cannot name for legal reasons as they cannot be identified and so will be referred to as Mr & Mrs Raincoat from here on in, had indeed, as promised, replaced the kitchen with one they had ‘lying around’. They had replaced the new washing machine with one they had found “lying around” in our stable (i.e. our old one that doesn’t work), they had replaced the kitchen door with a piece of cardboard they had found “lying around” in the gutter, and they had replaced our fan assisted halogen hob oven with a selection pack of cereals that they presumably found “lying around” in Tescos. And they had indeed got halfway into replacing our storage heaters as they had done the ripping out of the old ones, they just hadn’t quite got round to replacing them with new ones. And they had certainly improved the insulation of the house by knocking a big hole in the wall of the lounge for no reason and considerately covering it with a plastic vent cover to make it look attractive. They had painted much of the walls of the study buttermilk, I’m sure a second coat would have followed at some point, and they also tried to bring in the skirting board, ceiling and lino by adding splashes to them as well.

There were other gifts they bestowed upon us as well. Mrs Raincoat had been watching Kim and Aggie who once said you can use urine to clean old copper coins, and she figured, since it worked with old coins, why not with carpets and solid oak floorboards as well? So she had considerately hired between 6 and 9 dogs and between 15 and 20 cats (estimates varied from neighbour to neighbour) and kept them in the house so that they would soak every single square inch of flooring with urine. Thank you, Mrs Raincoat.

Did we cry? Yes we did, but we are not people to let a little matter of three bedrooms of carpets so totally uncleanable and so stained it looked more like something from “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” than “How Clean is Your House” get us down. We wandered around the house and at one point my wife had to put on my sanding mask for fear of gagging for the rest of the tour. So while I tried to stay upbeat about the fact my left sock was now damp with cat piss, she was walking around mumbling (as I couldn’t hear a fucking thing she said), while looking like Jason from Friday 13th, or was it the guy from Halloween? She kept saying ‘mmmmmnnnnooommmm’ and then would get mad with me when I said ‘yes please but no sugar, make sure you only use the kettle the clean neighbours have loaned us’. How was I to know she was pointing out various cat and dog turds dotted about what once was our roof terrace – the very sun terrace that we would sit and watch the sun go down over the ocean while sipping a fine Chilean wine (before Chile became famous for throwing a few men down a hole)? Now we stood on the roof terrace, with my one sock soaked in cat piss and my other sock squelching in a King Charles Spaniel’s stomach contents, while my wife glanced over at me in her sanding mask and said ‘mmnnnnnnnnn’. You had to be there, it was romantic.

We had some good friends in the village who loaned us a blow up mattress, which in my youth was just called a lilo and would cost 2 quid, now it’s called a blow up mattress and costs you 40 quid. Can you float on the sea on it, yes you can. Can you sleep on it? Yes you can. Would a shark bite through it? Yes it would, so no point to changing what worked in 1970 really.

We spent a week hearing from the doom and gloom neighbours about how bad the tenants had been, meanwhile painting walls, unpainting skirting boards and window frames and ripping out carpets. I took great delight in throwing away the ‘madness’ of the table setting and the jar of coffee, tin of milk and jar of home made raspberry jam in a black bin bag. I am not sure why Mrs Raincoat chose to leave us those items as she had in fact stolen our kettle and microwave and broken our fridge and stove and abandoned them in our garden, along with most of our furniture but I don’t want to mention that as it brings up bile. I just don’t understand what she was thinking when she took the time, kindly and thoughtfully to label the jam ‘raspberry’ so I would know (a large percentage of the population aren’t that keen on raspberry) what flavour she had especially selected for me when the bitch troll from hell had just about ruined my f*cking house. Was I mad? Just a little, but moving on. We got it all sorted and what we couldn’t do we arranged for some kind local folk to do for us. We were so fortunate in being able to redirect the bailiffs who were calling to repossess belongings for the tenants’ debts. I’m not sure they would have found it amusing to be bundling an orange dinner service, chocolate fondue set and three large carpets with underlay sodden in piss into their van. Comme-ci, comme -ça. They mustn’t come back to me at any point and say they weren’t offered anything from Mr and Mrs Raincoat’s belongings.

After a week of clearing up as best we could, we got the estate agent out to reassess the value of the house. She told us that we’d have to drop the price by about £30,000, accidentally broke the bloody window and then left to go to the Caribbean on holiday. We locked the new lock (because the Raincoats had the old key) on the front door one last time, and as we were getting in the car, another neighbour, the one that Mrs Raincoat had told us was in a coma and a vegetable after falling off her horse, stopped by. “I hear they left it nice for you” she beamed. “Lovely people … a bit nutty, but really lovely.” It was the wrong thing to do when I was carrying a piece of broken glass in my hand. It turns out Mrs Raincoat was right about her physical condition after all.