About My Books‎ > ‎

A Meander In Menorca

Available to buy now from
Available to buy now from
 Available to buy now from
 Available to buy now from
 Available to buy now from
 Available to buy now from

This is the holiday we had after the events told in An Italian Journey and Sometime in Sorrento, though this is actually my second book.  This extract introduces us to our charming neighbour.  That’s the good thing about travelling – you meet so many people you would otherwise not go within a bargepole of!

A car pulls up opposite and Jane, the rep, gets out.  After she disappears from view, I hear her heels clip-clopping on the pavement and presently I hear snatches of her conversation.  She appears to be talking to some people in an apartment three or four down to our left.  Perhaps they are complaining about the smell.

“It’s got faulty wiring in the bathroom, that’s why I can’t let you have it.”  I can’t make it out, but someone is making some lengthy response, then Jane’s voice pipes up again.  “Well, I’ll let you see it, if you like…”

Clip-clop.  The heels don’t sound too happy, but brusque and business-like.  She appears with a thickset man wearing a red singlet with cut-away shoulders, the type that Iona hates.  Never mind the singlet, I don’t like the look of him.  His bullet head is shaved down to the wood, but he’s got a moustache like a thick black leech clinging to his upper lip.  He waddles rather than walks.  If the circumference of his stomach is anything to go by, I imagine the thighs in his jogging bottoms are so thick he has to – to stop them rubbing together.  I can see his biceps though – as thick as my thigh – and decorated with a tattoo of a dagger framed by a wreath.  Some people have MOTHER or RUBY or the name of someone dear to them, but he just has a dagger.  I don’t blame Jane for not arguing with him.  He looks an ugly sort of customer and yet he has fathered at least one child, because a girl of about twelve is following in his wake.

Oh, my God!  They’re coming next door!  Come to think of it, our neighbours on the right have been very quiet and we’ve never seen any sign of them.  This explains it. The apartment is empty.  Iona and I look at each other wordlessly, in dismay.  She doesn’t like the look of him either. 

There’s a high wall between us, so we can only hear the sound of the door being opened, then we can’t hear any more for a few moments, presumably because they are inspecting the premises, then Jane’s Liverpudlian vowels, sounding rather exasperated: "Well, it’s not safe, that’s why we’re not allowed to let it out.  If you insist on taking it, you’ll have to do so at your own risk and sign an indemnity form."

There is a pause.  I’m not a religious person, but I pray to Someone very hard indeed. Surely no one in their right mind would take an apartment under such circumstances? If that bathroom is anything like ours and the one next door, swimming in water and with dodgy electrics, surely it wouldn’t take much thinking about?

Right enough, it doesn’t take him long.

“We’ll take it.”  He sounds like a Geordie.

In a few moments there is a procession past our door, father and daughter joined by a skinny little woman with ginger hair scraped back from her face into a pony tail, far too young a style for someone of her age.   They don’t bother to pack suitcases, but carry their clothes, which seem to consist mainly of football tops, on hangers.  They look like Manchester United’s red, certainly not Newcastle’s stripes, so maybe I’ve misplaced the accent, but I don’t think so.  Amongst his other faults, as I perceive them, he also appears to be a traitor.

It’s dislike at first sight.  His tattoos (I’m sure he must have more of them) and his appearance don’t make him a bad person, but there’s something belligerently arrogant and boorish about him which repels me. He looks the type, all brawn and no brain who bulldozes his way through life with absolutely no regard for other people.  Naturally, one wants to get on with one’s neighbours, but for what its worth, I just can’t see us becoming bosom buddies, discussing Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads over a glass of chilled Chablis for instance.

He can hardly not see us, sitting just yards away, nor can we pretend not to notice what is going on, for that would be to instantly signal our ostracism of him. Apparent overtures of friendship must be made. I give him a nod of acknowledgement  –  it’s the most I can muster and he nods back.  A nodding acquaintance.  I should think that’s the most our relationship is likely to amount to.

On the second trip, what I feared most, happens.  He is carrying a ghetto blaster.  I’m not surprised.  In fact, I expected no less.  And what’s worse, we’re getting it right away.  Within a moment, our peace, already destroyed, is shattered by a calamitous cacophony, the very same sort of insufferable din which Hélène was playing in the car, only in her case, dozens of decibels more quietly.  This is obviously Music and Movement, but not as I knew it in my primary school days.  It blares away to the empty apartment as they ferry what looks like a whole shop of clothes next door. It’s no consolation to find my assessment of his character has been correct.  Anyone who has not even moved in yet but who can inflict this, not just on me, but the entire neighbourhood, is a boor of the first magnitude.

Right that does it!  I can’t stand it any more. I couldn’t bear to even have eye contact with him again.  I’m going to move round to the back.  I’m pretty sure what the reaction would be if I asked him to turn it down, let alone off.  Even if he didn’t hit me, I know he wouldn’t turn it down, and he would know it was bugging me so it would be tantamount to a declaration of hostilities.  Better to pretend it isn’t affecting me, then perhaps he won’t deliberately keep playing it, for I have a feeling he didn’t like the look of me either, and I can pretend that I am merely indifferent to him instead of hating his guts with a passion.

Come back, Ghetto-Blaster Woman, all is forgiven!


Available to buy now from
Available to buy now from
 Available to buy now from
 Available to buy now from
 Available to buy now from
 Available to buy now from