Tamarite II

Things are very different here. The kids are not the same. For example, they aren’t at each other’s throats all the time. I asked one from my family yesterday if he disliked any of the other kids from Tamarite and he responded with ‘no’. When I was a kid, everyone hated each other. Everyone was falling out all the time. Who slagged who off on MSN? Bullying left right and centre. He’s shit at football, she’s fat, he’s gay. I spent a lot of energy on hating other kids, and many spent a lot of energy hating me. Hatred of the completely irrational, childish sort. Everyone in Tamarite seems to get on perfectly well.

I could guess at the reasons for this. Tamarite is a small town,nestled between two rocky hills, isolated from nearby civilisation. It is by no means tiny, I would say it was about the size of my own village, Barrow Upon Soar. Tamarite has a population of about four thousand, Barrow nearly six. I got here on the Monday, met quite a few kids on the second day playing racket sports, Uno, swimming, Pokemon hunting etc. And I found that even the next day I was bumping into the same kids, sometimes twice. Everybody knows everybody. With the frequency of seeing each other so high, people become like some kind of extended family- naturally it makes sense to have amicable relationships with your next door neighbours.

But also, I think the kids are just brought up with decent values.

The sun helps. In Tamarite there is a swimming pool, right next to the football stadium. When it gets to twelve o’clock, you flip on your slip slops, jump on your obscure brand Spanish mountain bike, you’re out of the door and the world is yours.

When you walk in there is a bar, the tables have the word San Miguel strewn across them in that classy green and red font that exudes class. Then you go through an arch made of hedge onto the lawn, and you are by the swimming pools. Take your towel to your preferred patch, lay it down next to your cerveza, and you are free to bask to your heart’s content. In the evening, the pool is surrounded by families who perpetually seem like this experience is novel to them, spellbound in summer mirth. It really is quite idyllic. People passing slices of watermelon around, reading books in the shade of the trees, playing racket sports, men, women and children alike sliding in and out of the water like otters. If Bethan happens to be by the side of the pool you can just swim underwater for that part it’s fine. What’s not to be happy about?

Back to the kids. I used to find kids really annoying, I used to question parents for their obsession with them, their dependence on having them. But I think it was the parents whom I rejected. I rejected the deluded, middle class English parent, infinitely proud of their child– their child over all others– places astronomical expectations upon them only for them to inevitably achieve nothing but a life of mediocrity and banality, a paltry echo of their parents dull lives. Here the kids are all really quite cute, happy creatures. Like Kangaroos their mothers carry these miniature versions of themselves smiling in their front pouches everywhere they go.

Considering that they speak a different language, one might expect all manner of verbal abuse to be going on in my presence. Now I can’t say I have any idea what they’re talking about when I’m there, I know they ridicule me because I wear sports socks. But that’s nothing. It’s certainly not ‘oi fuck off clean shirt’. What I love about the kids as well, is the can-do attitude. None of this ‘I’m tired’, ‘I’ve not got any money’, ‘what if a rock falls on my head?’ bollocks. The attitude is, let’s find something to do and do it.

There’s a rock in Tamarite, it looks like it’s been placed on top of a much larger rock, and sits on top of it like a hat. A steep granite lump which if you climbed, you could see everything. You could look down upon God’s creation in its entirety and smile. I was there the other day and I weighed it up and thought, I can’t climb that. I wouldn’t be able to get down. It’s too steep. My legs are too big. I’m too clumsy. I’d end up being that English bloke taking up one paragraph on the right hand side of the Metro. I asked my fourteen year old kid if people had climbed it, and he said, yes, as a matter of fact, he had climbed it once.

“One day I was there with a friend, and I say shall we climb this? And he say no we can’t climb this. I say why can’t we climb this? And then we climbed this.”

I love stories like that.

He also told me about how the other day he was at his friend’s house, who has a swimming pool full of stagnant, muddy water, which had accommodated a plethora of frogs and snakes. He was saying they were all swimming in it. I asked him why? He said ‘because it was funny’.

Tamarite I

I told my Madre that I was going to meet a girl in the town centre. She asked, ‘oh how do you know girl?’ I said Tinder, ‘What is Tinder? Is it like Facebook?’

‘Yes it’s like Facebook.’

I didn’t look too much into the girl. She was British, which is why I wanted to meet her, hoping for a nice fluent conversation (none of the Spanish chicks around would match with me). I would equally have met up with a British lad if there was one around, possibly with far greater enthusiasm. She was eighteen, which is five years my junior, an age disparity which I am oftentimes prone to forgetting. She was not the finest looking, but appeared like she made an effort with the feminine things like makeup and hair etc. From her pictures she looked very pleasant, happy, full of life. Almost every message she sent she used the 😀 face, so I assumed even if she was lacking in the brains department at least she would be entertaining. This certainly wasn’t a date, however. More a casual surveillance of what’s on the radar.

I was walking down past the rocky roads and the Favela like buildings towards the chick. The streets were punctuated by groups of old ladies on deckchairs, sat together on the pavements. I had only seen elderly women sit like this in Requiem For A Dream. They always seem in fine spirits. I say Hola! When I walk past which never fails to make them giggle.

I walked past a chick on the other side of the road who was quite beautiful, she was also using her phone so I was confident it was her, and I intermittently looked over at her until she had gone past so as to indicate it was me. It wasn’t her.

I wished it was.

So the chick calls. Bethan is her name. She asks me where I am and I say I don’t really know, but I will know soon as I’m near the centre, which was where we planned to meet. Then she starts getting a bit stressed, ‘Oh so I’ve been going in the wrong direction this whole time, HAVE I?’.

I say ‘don’t get stressed, everything is going to be okay.’ She’s a bit northern. I explain in very simple terms that I know where I’m going, I just haven’t got there yet, but she insists on staying on the phone to talk through it all. I hear sighs through the phone. I tell her I’m near the tower. She says, what tower? The massive one in the middle, that comes up when you search Tamarite on Google Images. She says, oh my God I don’t know any tower and I imagine a :/ face.

You’ve been here for two months already girl get a fucking grip.

She mentions walking past some Jesus statue, and I make a couple of jokes about how I love Jesus and Jesus loves us too. There’s a bit of silence on the line, and she says, ‘are you a Christian or something?’.

‘No Bethan, no I’m not.’ What kind of idiot calls their kid Bethan?

I’m in the centre of Tamarite in no time, where the shops and bars are immaculately split up by two parallel lines of trees. There are kids around of all ages, jumping around and playing. My own kids go out at ten every night, and come back at twelve. This is seen as normal, as the little town is a proud community and safe place, radiating with joy.

They took me a bit by surprise in their brightly coloured t-shirts, flocked round a monument of some sort. One who was perched on the steps said ‘Hello Jim.’In Spanish the Js are pronounced like Hys. So this would be pronounced ‘Hello Hyim!’. I took a long look to see if my kid was there, fortunately he was not. I then saw Bethan, standing on the other side of the road, on her mobile phone. It was unmistakably her. I wandered over and as I got closer I slowly began to make out what I was dealing with.

She was of course fat and stumpy, and on getting closer I was instantly reminded of a dumpling. I went in to hug her and found that her head was in line with my belly button. We went over to the nearest bar. I went inside to get a drink, and she stayed outside. I looked at her and made a drinking gesture through the window. And she eventually clambered in and said, ‘it’s Spain, they come to you you know.’ I stayed at the bar, getting myself a San Miguel and her a cloudy shandy. I’m not a fan of that pay monthly contract bollocks, pay as you go all the way.

‘You don’t mind smoking do you? It’s just I smoke, all the time.’ She got the fags straight out, and in a few moments, it was confirmed that she was a glumbucket, of the highest order. The way she talked about everything was like a moan.

I don’t get paid enough. My dad doesn’t speak to me anymore. He cheated on my mum. Not a single one of my friends wished me a happy birthday the other day. Nothing ever works out for me. Yeah, yeah get over it.

I knew this was nothing but a pointless exercise, not even a training exercise, more like being caught in a traffic jam on the M25. But still I had enough energy to rage against the dying of the light, having a glass of Estrella sitting in front of me. I found it hard to listen to what she was saying lest it depress me into a Toblerone binge to Scotland in my bare feet.

Her hair was dip dyed and slung back across the top of her head, above a red forehead which was faintly glistening with a border of sweat. The rest of her head blended into the neck, leaving no obvious distinction of which was which. She was wearing these awful glasses that were very large, with thick black frames. If they were practical glasses it would have been preposterous, if they were fashionable, it would have been even worse. I say this as a guy who’s conquered the whole geek-chic look, with the braces and everything. I don’t even pretend those things are practical.

Bethan smoked her third cigarette, and told me about some party she went to in a neighbouring city. ‘It was alright, not the best. I got my purse stolen, when I was really drunk and passed out. Which was really bad because I needed it and it had money in it. Just my luck.’

‘So tell me about this party then.’

‘It went on until eight in the morning.’

‘Were they all on drugs?’

‘I don’t think so I think some of them do weed, but I don’t mind them doing weed because it doesn’t do that much. It’s the other drugs that I mind. They put them in your drink you know.’

I bet they do. ‘What other drugs?’

‘I don’t know what they’re called, I don’t know drugs, I don’t like drugs. My friends don’t do them either. They get offered them but they just say no.’

‘Oh right.’

‘I haven’t been to many parties even in England because I’m only eighteen.’

‘Old enough to go bungee jumping.’

A slight creaking , the gentle escaping of air, the subtle flutter of light objects. Background noise. I didn’t make much of it. Her eyes kept disappearing behind me as I spoke, then returning momentarily, then disappearing again. With each change of focus I think, ‘ she’s not going to do it again surely.’ Then eventually I expect it to happen with a tiresome indifference. She really can’t help herself with this. What’s even going on behind me? She clearly wasn’t listening to a word I was saying. Perhaps something even more captivating than me was taking place behind there. Finally I gave in and turned round to see that the bar woman was was moving a number of cardboard boxes into the restaurant.

A couple of kids turn up, a lad and a girl. He’s broken his voice, and has a beard, which is more than I have, but he’s still a junior. The girl says ‘I think I know what this is going to be about!’ Before the kids even say anything, Bethan draws two fags out of the box, then holds them out behind her, facing the other way. The kid takes one of them, says in Spanish he doesn’t need the other one. She wields the remaining one like a magic wand. ‘Oh take it, I insist!’ he takes it, and hands it to his girlfriend. ‘It just saves him coming back to bother me later, you see.’

I ask her why she does that, and she just says they all get fags off her whenever they see her. She then says, if she doesn’t hand them over, they don’t go away. No, they don’t go away, because you hand them over, you absolute specimen, you despicable splodge, you unbalanced little flump, you base!

Oh no. I see a woman walking towards us down the road, and as she gets closer I realise it’s Madre, with one of the kids. Oh dear. She then introduces herself to Bethan, and they have a small dialogue in Spanish until Madre says something a bit more complex that Bethan inevitably doesn’t understand. The kid says ‘I want to go now’ and Madre whisks him away.  

She then talks more about the bad things that had happened at home, how much she doesn’t get on with her Dad and how he can’t keep off the bevs. I feel so violated, the 😀 faces were all a lure to reel me in. So too were the photos, which weren’t that good but at least she appeared happy and not abnormal. I’m not being shallow about it, I just don’t like being conned. It’s not morally okay to do that. Girls are so successful in the art of deception with things like this, they can make themselves appear skinny in photos, appear reasonably good looking in some even when in reality they are ugly. I on the other hand, struggle to put a profile together that makes me look as good as I feel I do look, it being hard to find a photo that doesn’t make me look like creepy goblin. Besides, it’s 2017, who even takes photos anymore?

This was dragging along now like a colossal trailer full of broken fridges, with four flat tyres, being towed by a 1960s Reliant Robin. I’d only been there thirty minutes. I had finished my cerveza and I wasn’t getting another one. I told her I had to go to the bathroom then I was going to go, as I had to get up at eight in the morning. I got back and another little kid– looked about fourteen years old– was stood by the table, talking to the glum-faced town fag-dispenser. He introduced himself to me as Pedro. He lingered around quite awkwardly, until he finally asked for a fag, got one, and then ran off back to his friends.

‘You do realise he’s about fourteen.’

‘Yeah I know. I don’t care.’

I give it to her straight- ‘It’s not acceptable to give cigarettes to children,’

‘Well I’m going home in 8 weeks anyway.’

?

Being the Jacob Rees-Mogg that I am, I waited for her to finish her cigarette, before darting off into the backstreets with my earphones in, hoping something like this would never happen again.