‘Sid’s’ £35,000 sand castle Part 1 of 2

AUTUMN is my personal favourite time of the year. Generally, the masses of tourists have returned, their cars and their noise have left too and Mojacar returns to its quieter days.

Then, we have time to bump into our friends again. Of course, most of them have been here all along, but got lost in the crowd.

Old friends are like old shoes, slip them on and your comfortable with them right away. It gives us a chance to complain about those rascals that have left, and a chance to spin a yarn or three or maybe tell a decent lie (for public interests).

It is an essential time when red wine comes back into use, a quick warmer-upper from a chilly wind or preventative from rude bank phone calls. I especially like fires, sitting in front of them, feet up and “copa” in hand.

The memories seem to quicken their return with a nice “tinto” and even more so with friends about you.

So, here is a fall story about a few friendly boyz I used to know (before they grew up) and how they built a £35,000 sand castle.

There once was a time in which almost every Englishman clambered at the chance of working abroad, and especially in one of the Arab countries that paid three times the normal salary even though allotting living quarters just suitable enough to keep them on hand, out of trouble and away from the true population centres.

Well you can see the draw backs right away, especially if you’re English. Those places are dry. Not just desert dry but without glassfuls of cheer.

Now those Arabs should have known you cannot keep an Englishman away from his tipple when he wants one so it wasn’t too long that some of them decided to “copper kettle” the situation and brew their own.

Using those ingredients they could easily obtain a few of them started brewing a local drink known as ‘Sidiki’ (apparently, Arabic, for ‘my friend’). It’s pretty much a vile concoction I am told, but if you’re thirsty enough and deserve a proper sundowner, it would have to do.

Massive amounts of it were brewed and sold too at unfriendly prices by fellow compatriots who “took the risks”. It had to be purchased en situ, no other drink was allowed.

The buyers were virtual prisoners at their own work stations. And, if you didn’t want to rock back and forth reading the Quran,  paying lip service to your new found friend, Uncle Sid, was the next best form of recreation.

Now one of the most clever of those workers became a legend in Saudi Arabia, virtually a household name amongst the foreign service forced to spend their time in that dry climate.

He liked it if you called him Bobby and he was the Jack Daniels of that industry amassing large amounts of cash that he decided to bring to Spain and share with me to invest for him on the purchase of small houses.

In those days a four bedroom detached on a quarter of an acre was about €50,000 and within 2-3 years they would increase tremendously in value or could easily be sold to some other “customers” who had grown partial to the drink and the monotony that it helped break.

Bobby and I had a standing law that was never to be broken. On his entry into festive Spain, he was to make a bee line for my house, pay me and then he could continue to party.

On one such occasion he came in very late at night having drunk too much on the plane cruising down from Madrid. Businesses were happy to rent him and his friends cars and off the whooshed into the night to ring those bells in Mojacar.

Often I could ascertain the proximity of Bobby to my house by the grinding of the gears and the loud cursing and occasional mini-bump into the sides of the hills. I knew he was coming and was clever enough to have a large supply of beer on hand for him and other possible investors.

Greeting them was fun as he always appeared with lots of cash and new friends. Getting rid of them was always a type of war.

Now on one such visit Bobby appeared with girl friends he had met on the plane. He was civilized enough to intake just a case or two of beer before he departed in the same electric frenzied state that he was always in while not serving the robes of Saudi. He spent his entire next two weeks as inebriated as a human can get without falling asleep.

You could run into him and his entourage at any time of the day or night in the damndest and most unusual places. How they arrived or ever left and went to another engagement is still probably a state secret.

Fortunately, as I needed to talk with him about a house he was having built and the payment he had not made on his arrival night he was easy to track down.

Similar to following a wreck of a car with pieces scattered alongside the road. Within hours I caught him and we had a quick chat. I needed the money he had promised for the workers and materials and he hadn’t the slightest idea of what I was asking.

Nor did he seem to want to understand either. It took some serious shouting and a hell of a lot of slamming down drinks on tables to get his attention. When the basic dilemma was finally conveyed to him in a way that his alcohol sopped mind could just understand the fringes of it’s importance—he became gob smacked.

“Why I gave it to you like I always did, on my first night”. Bobby,  you didn’t. I always give you a receipt right? Where´s that then?

The more I talked as quietly and purposefully he began to understand the widening gap of distance between our two positions, a mere thirty five grand and growing with each passing moment, Not being able to retrieve those vital “other” moments between when he left my house and where he had been for the past 13 days (and what had become of the money).

Bobby had lost track of the girls too and most of the luggage had gone missing.

But, that coincidence couldn’t be related in any way to his present circumstance—could it? Trying to reason with someone on the 13th day of a roaring binge tests one’s personal manners to the fullest.



CAPTION: Mojacar: A four bedroom detached on a quarter of an acre was about €50,000

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