The Dangers Of Holidays

Readers of this blog will know that I have a bit of a rep for organizing disasters for holidays, so much so that my father christened my holiday planning ‘Dickhead Tours’ many years ago.

Today I was reminded of a holiday disaster not of my making, but which Dad said happened to a colleague of his. Let’s call him Bert.

Bert and Beryl, his long-suffering wife had taken their annual two-week holiday on the East coast of England at Skegness for many years. Bert liked the familiarity of the routine; Beryl not so much. Beryl’s friends began to report about their holidays to Spain and Portugal, the guaranteed sunshine, the exotic food and the golden sandy beaches, the bars that stayed open all day and pretty much night. No sharp easterly winds, no early closing and grumpy landladies. Bert wasn’t convinced. Not until a colleague reported back on the price of the beer…

Bert and Beryl took advice and plumped for a two week, all inclusive holiday in Torremolinos, in Southern Spain. Bert wasn’t sure about it, at all. The flying, the heat, the overall foreignness. But Bert wasn’t so myopic that he didn’t give it a go and, after a few days of being initially unsure about the food – he fell in love with the sardines, freshly grilled and the asparagus, drenched in butter – he began to settle.

Beryl, cunning woman, had arranged for some of their friends to be in the same hotel and had booked a coach trip into the mountains to see one of the vertiginous villages clinging onto the cliffs. Unfortunately, on the day of the trip, Ted was taken with a stomach bug and couldn’t go. Doreen, his wife was devastated and Bert, good man that he was, offered to stay and pop in on Ted from time to time, letting the two women have a girls’ day out.

Ted really wanted to be left alone so Bert decided to go for a wander and then end up at their favourite beach bar for a beer before lunch. There were two things that Bert was still finding difficult; the hot sun which had turned him the colour of a well-cooked lobster and the language which he had failed to master. Sporting his wide-brimmed Panama hat he headed for the Old Town and the shade of the narrow streets. He was studying the dark recesses of a knick-knack shop when he became aware of some sounds of distress. Turning to the street he realized a funeral procession was approaching.

Bert was a man of instinctual politeness, so took off his hat, bowed his head and waited for the cortege to pass. As the briar approached, balanced on the shoulders of six men Bert looked up. As he did so the man on the back corner nearest him tottered slightly and then sank to his knees, apparently overwhelmed either by the heat or the emotion of the day.

Without giving it thought Bert stepped smartly forward and took the weight of the briar, and in so doing preventing the other bearers from dropping the deceased.

Incomprehensible words were mumbled around Bert, but no one stepped forward to replace him and after a moment he realised the cortège was moving again. Feeling awkward – everyone else was head to toe in black where Bert was wearing something garish that pulled tautly across his stomach, some wide, somewhat unflattering shorts and scuffed open-toed sandals.

After a few minutes, Bert found himself entering the even gloomier interior of the church. Someone eased his hat from his free hand and stepped away leaving Bert to continue up the aisle to the front. After the coffin was lowered a kindly hand guided Bert to a seat, where he was squeezed between two stony-faced pallbearers. The service was a mystery to him, being both Catholic and in Spanish. Eventually his companions stood and he found himself, once again lifting the coffin onto his shoulders. Off the procession marched, this time further up the hill to the cemetery and the internment.

Here after helping lower the coffin into the grave, he managed to sidle to the back of the crowd. He spotted his hat and retrieved it from its minder and prepared to slip away. Two stern, short and stout women shook their heads when they realised his plans and, not sure of the etiquette, but knowing (a) he was out of his depth and (b) he didn’t want to offend, he stayed.

It became apparent, soon enough that no one spoke English and his Spanish wasn’t going to make him understood but there is a universality to the rhythms of internments and he was hugged and kissed by men and women and offered sips of fiery spirits and spicy nibbles before he managed to ease himself away.

Back in the hotel, Ted had slept himself better and the two women, on their return were full of their stories of the glories of Ronda and the scenery and food. Bert, for his part, said nothing.

Nothing that is until the next day when the four set off for a stroll along the front before finding somewhere for lunch. There were many competing restaurants, each trying to attract the tourists to partake of their version of Spanish cuisine. Bert left Beryl and Doreen to decide. However, as they dithered about which direction to go, two young sultry Spanish women in their twenties approached, each grinning broadly. They swamped Bert in kisses, pronouncing his name in their thick accents and leading him and the others away from the tourist traps to a quiet, friendly restaurant two streets back. Here, using pointing and some printed menus in broken English they provided a sumptuous meal as good as any the four had tasted.

Throughout Beryl eyed Bert, clearly the hero to everyone in the restaurant with surprise and not a little suspicion. When finally they wended their way back to the beach, having paid nothing for the meal, the beers and the wine, Beryl had a moment alone with her husband.

‘Okay, Bert. What did you do?”

Bert shrugged. ‘I just took off my hat.’

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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35 Responses to The Dangers Of Holidays

  1. Sadje says:

    That is an oversimplification if any.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. …..and dined out on the story

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a great read! Bert in shorts and scuffed open-toed sandals walking side by side with the other pallbearers must have been quite a site!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I can imagine, back in the 70s when keeping up appearances was so important to that generation, he would have found his unsuitable clothes a real challenge but he didn’t shy away from helping. A decent man.


  4. Bert needs to keep the mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ThingsHelenLoves says:

    Bert, a good egg whatever might come his way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great story about a very kind man!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful story Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Darlene says:

    I love this one. It can easily happen in Spain. I got separated from my hubby during a fiesta. He found me sitting with a large Spanish family sipping a glass of wine and having a wonderful time. They just take you in as one of the family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I think Bert was overwhelmed. Back in the 70s when this happened travelling abroad was so novel and someone like Bert, fairly shy and v British in that he was undemonstrative would have been overwhelmed by the outpourings of emotions.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. willowdot21 says:

    Absolutely great Geoff and true?


  10. petespringerauthor says:

    Great story! Bert happened to be in the right place (or wrong place, depending on how you look at it) at the right time. I can imagine his wife and friends were mystified at the attention he got.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      He was so shy and retiring it would have been hard to believe, other than he was also so polite and wouldn’t have understood the etiquette, he wouldn’t have known how to get out of it

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Great story, and wonderfully told.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. V.M.Sang says:

    What a wonderful story.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. emmblu says:

    So glad to know that the universe dispenses awkward moments not just to me but to the rest of humanity as well. Thank you for an amusing and unexpected read.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Widdershins says:

    Bwhahahahahaha … Love it! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jennie says:

    That was a great story!!

    Liked by 1 person

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