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The International Writers Magazine- What Me Worry?:

It's a hap-hap-happy day
James Skinner

‘Or so the old song goes from Gulliver’s travels in the land of Lilliput! I live in an equally fun country. No matter how bad things are around the planet, Spain, its government and its people always look on the bright side. If there is a fishermen’s strike, the catch of the day is handed out as a freebee to the community. For a week or so, truckers around the country paralyzed the highways and cities. So what! The housewives took it with a pinch of salt and stocked up with everything from Soy sauce to toothpicks.

Trucker’s cafes were full. Six month ago, our president Rodrigo Zapatero said that we were in the ‘Champions League’ of the economic growing countries. He said that we were better off than Italy and France. From a local perspective, that is, the area of my abode – as the British passport forms imply - the regional government announced yesterday with great pomp and circumstance that our city will be connected with Madrid by high-speed train no later than the year 2015. In their construction shopping list they included refurbishing our airport, a new 1800 bed hospital, an upgrade of our outdated port facilities, a super concert hall and half a dozen new parking lots to cope with the ever increasing number of cars invading the center of town. In the meantime the communist mayor had just presented in Brussels to the organizing committee the city’s CV to host the 2012 University Olympics known as Universiade (Latin) and although they lost, were given the green light to prepare for the same event in 2015. And the money for all this? No problem, as the Jamaicans say. We’ve always got the European Union to bail us out.
Personally, I was also in a good mood.

I had just returned from my annual prostate and general medical check up; once again the doctor gave me another twelve months breather whilst I was watching the pompous display of goodies on the goggle box’s midday local news with a double smile on my face. ‘How about that for good news,’ I thought. I forgot about the increase in petrol prices, the drop in economic growth, the fishing fleet locked up in the cupboard and my wife complaining about the cost of lemons. It’s also summertime and I have retreated to my small flat by the sea.

The school term has ended and the kids are out on their bikes or skateboards, playing football and driving their grandparents wild as they shelve their books till next term. The beaches are crowded, the restaurants have opened their terraces, the ‘tapas’ bars are flush with seafood, the beer and wine is flowing, the nightclubs are in full swing and even the unemployed are smiling. I’m no longer a representative of HMG, so I don’t have to cater for my fellow countrymen if they fall off a bus and break a leg. My weekly column in the local rag is in full swing and has just celebrated its 4th year. To cap it all, my publisher in India has included yet another one of my essays for this year’s annual review (The Taj Mahal), yet another set of reasons for being complacent. I haven’t sold many copies of my novel ‘The Goa File’ (about the Falkland’s war in 1982) except that the Governor of the islands has ordered two copies. Bully for me!

On the international front, Spain has just gone through to the finals of the European Football championship. Fingers crossed as I go to press for the final. George Bush is fading away, Berlusconi has a new ‘in’ look, Hugo Chavez is dishing out free oil to all the underdog nations of the world and Qatar airlines now offer double beds on their intercontinental flights. Britain still frets about Europe and the Euro, France and Germany have eradicated racial hatred, power windmills are all over the planet, Al Gore will probably be given an honorary knighthood and I’ve got Bob Dylan on my home patch, ‘live’ to 5000 fans waiting to mob him. The world weather watchers predict a slowdown. What does that mean? Can we expect less rainfall, or rainfall in the right places and at the right time? I cross my fingers thinking of the coral reefs. Why? I’ve actually seen them when they were alive! Parrot fish, groupers, lobsters and moray eels are still fresh in my mind. So are rum punch and coconut juice and a cool breeze from the aftermath of a hurricane. Will they all come back again once the planet slows down?

Am I living in a dream? Am I making all this up? Are all those happy people around me faking it or just postponing the agony for a few months? ‘No’ I say, ‘No!’ I will not let the Ides of July break me down! I join the Spaniards in ‘Mañana’ and ‘no problem’. I’m sure the world is not in such a bad shape as everyone says. I’m looking out of the window as I write this trash. I’m opposite the park. I see a couple of pigeons making love in a tree as a brown squirrel hops in front of them with a pinecone stuck to its teeth. The sea is a few metres away. Its 30 degrees and the powerboats are at full throttle weaving their way between the catamarans and the odd scuba diver. My portable radio is crowing with a small unknown chorus piece. My feel for pop music died 20 years ago. My wife has just reminded me its lunch time. ‘Open the wine’, she utters from the kitchen. That’s my contribution to the meal other than setting the small table on the porch.

That’s the beauty of living in a wine producing country. Plonk is exported whilst a reasonable three-year-old is at 3 Euros a bottle. No kidding! Half a dozen fresh grilled sardines appear before me. A mixed Mediterranean style salad is placed beside them. Olive oil and wine vinegar plus a dash of salt are all you need to savour the ‘greens’. My wife smiles as if she has just accomplished a culinary milestone. I’m switching off to scoff my fish. Back in a tick!

I’m back to my Toshiba laptop. By the way, it’s 10 years old! Had the hard disk changed as it packed up about 6 months ago! The IT mechanics managed to install Windows 2000 as well as Office. No Internet or Outlook Express though; this is a true virgin computer isolated from undesired viruses!

I’ve got to go into town, about 5 miles away to pick up the mail. Bills, bills and more bills fill my postal box. Then I see my pension cheque. Bloody pound has dropped again! So what, it’s still 30 degrees outside and hot. The terrace bar across the road offers good Heineken draft at 1.50 Euros a shot. ‘Would you like a ‘tapa’ of cured ham and salmon to go with it?’ says my old friend Manuel (not the guy from Fawlty Towers). ‘Why not,’ I answer. My doctor can’t see me. Time goes by. My wife turns up with some shopping. ‘Bread’s gone up!’ she says, carrying two loaves. ‘So what,’ I think again. That’s a ten percent increase from last week. Multiplied by 30 it works out at 3 Euros more per month.

Back to reality. Mortgages closed for the winter, floods in USA, killings in Afghanistan, riots in Indonesia, Zimbabwe down the drains, Dafur slowly dying, cockeyed oil producers and fuel companies locked in battle over prices; both are off their rockers. I ‘open my eyes wide shut’ and forget about the ‘clockwork orange’. Stanley, all is forgiven.
Keep taking the tablets friends, I’m living a ‘Hap-hap happy day.’
© James G. Skinner. July 2008.

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