A while back, Partner went to the UK to do some work at my mum’s house. On his return, he brought my dad’s old rustbucket back (actually mine technically after my dad died) via the Plymouth-Santander ferry.
I spoke to him on the Saturday morning that he left. I never heard from him the rest of the day. On Sunday I waited anxiously for a call before he embarked on the ferry. No call. (We didn’t have mobile phones at the time.)
I panicked and rang the ferry company. They wouldn’t tell me whether he had checked in or not because the ticket wasn’t in my name. Even though I had bought the ticket with my card and we were both members of the ferry company travel club. “Ring the police,” they helpfully suggested. So I did. No joy from them either.
By this time my imagination had flipped and gone well overtime. Broken down? In hospital after an accident? Kidnapped? (Don’t know why – but that one made its appearance in the many theories too). The departure time of the ferry came and went. Still no ‘phone call to say he had missed the ferry. I didn’t know what to do.
Monday morning and the ferry was due to dock. At last, I hoped, he might get off the ferry and ring me immediately. No. I went out to distract myself. When I came back there was a strange message on the answerphone. It sounded like him, but with a very odd voice, and he was somewhere noisy – talking to someone called Freddy.
My heart sank. He obviously hadn’t made the ferry. He was still in England? Where? In a garage? He’d left a mobile number belonging to Freddy. It didn’t work. I tried all manner of combinations of the numbers but got no joy.
Much later the same day we finally spoke. He’d made it down to Plymouth in the rustbucket but couldn’t find a public ‘phone. (???) He’d got terrible flu hence the strange voice – hoarse and spooky. He’d shared a cabin with Freddy and they had decided to travel in convoy as far as Madrid where Freddy was going. Freddy hadn’t a clue how to get there, his Spanish was less than mediocre, and Partner was having problems with the rustbucket which was losing power going up the hills.
Partner stopped at the Three Js on the southern outskirts of Madrid. (Recommended). The next day he made it to the Andalucían province of Jaen but then decided to pull in at a garage rather than pay for a breakdown truck when the inevitable happened. He got home on the bus that day and a few weeks later went to pick up the rustbucket after the fuel tank had been cleaned out.
About four months later Freddy rang. He had been travelling round and was coming to our part of Spain. Partner and he had got on pretty well on the boat and so ever-generous Partner had offered him a bed for a night or two if he was passing. He had obviously decided he was, and turned up the same day.
Freddy had bought a rather flash campervan for around 30,000€. He parked it up outside the house. Obviously he wasn’t bothered about a bed with us but Partner offered him the use of the shower in our little house. Freddy said it looked fine. In fact he said the little house looked so nice he would use the large double bed as well. Before we knew it he had carried in his lap top so he could mess around with his mobile phone internet connection.
We all sat down in the patio for a beer. “It’s rather good here, I think I’ll stay for a week,” he announced.
Partner and I gulped. A couple of nights for someone who you have shared a cabin and a few beers with is one thing – but a week? When he had a perfectly good campervan?
“What do you say darling?” said Partner, in the way that men do.
“Nothing to do with me.” (Oh no. I have learned a few things in life and one is not taking someone else’s decision.) “It’s your decision. Sweetheart.”
Partner gulped again and couldn’t find a way to say No. Stop. Taking. The. Piss. So naturally he said “Yes. That sounds fine. No problem at all.”
We’d both done the sums. Freddy was paying nearly 20€ a night on the campsites for his expensive rig. Now let’s see, seven times 20€ makes a saving of €140 for Freddy. Smart guy.
We went shopping later on. He offered me 20€ towards the food and drink. In the past I would never have dreamed of accepting it. “Thanks,” I said stuffing it quickly into my wallet.
I cooked for us all for a few days. He obviously got bored with vegetarian cooking half-way through the week though and started eating out, or heating up some meat stuff he had in the freezer in the van.
We were going out one morning.
“Well, I think I’m just going to do….(whatever it was,)” said Freddy. “And then I’ll go out later.”
“OK,” we said. “But either you need to stay in the guest house until we come back, or you need to go to your caravan, because we are locking the main outside door.” We had visions of this guy gaily wandering out to his campervan and leaving the door unlocked. He looked a bit put out.
When we returned he contrived to miss the bus so Partner gave him a lift into town. He was out all afternoon and most of the evening. I think it was at this point that he stopped eating with us. We thought he might have got the huff and change his mind about staying the week. Not a chance. He stuck it right out.
Every morning we were graced with his presence in the patio. I kept his margarine in the fridge and brought it out for him. If I was late he would call for me to bring it. He invariably left his dirty plate on top of the dishwasher (hardly a long way to go to load it – he was sitting right next to it), the top off the margarine tub, and his empty bread bag sat next to the dirty plate. The rubbish bin was also within arm’s reach. But hey, I just love running round after people. Naturally he left his smelly shoes and socks out in the patio too. Like why would he take them inside to where he was sleeping? Nah. Much better to share them with everyone else.
We developed hysteria through the week. Especially when he started moaning about something. He moaned about most things. We alternated between escaping out of the house – and banishing him to his campervan, and rolling around inside our main house stuffing our fists in our mouth so he couldn’t hear us laughing.
He could be quite good company sometimes. He would have been better company if he had put the bread bag in the bin, the top on the margarine tub, his plate in the dishwasher and his socks and shoes inside his guest accommodation.
The morning for his departure arrived. He had a flat battery. I nearly died. Partner got his jump leads out faster than – well, let’s just say, very fast. We merrily waved him off.
And the moral of the story? Don’t offer accommodation to someone you have shared a cabin with for one night, and if you are daft enough to do so – don’t say yes if they decide to stay for a week.
We have seen him since by the way. Not often. Fortunately.