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A Most Embarrassing Moment, Sweaty Senoritas and Near Decapitation

December 8, 2013

It has been fun voyaging back in time to that distant year 1972 through the yellowing leaves of my old diary in order to post extracts here.

Having married in ’71, Stella and I lived in the Flintshire village of Leeswood (Coed-llai), just across the Welsh border from Chester, where we both worked and my family lived.  It was a great year, a light-hearted, colourful, exciting year when we felt the world was our oyster. 

The following batch of entries (the 5th) opens with my most embarrassing moment and brings me to the end of the diary almost exactly 41 years ago, Christmas around the corner.  I close with a visit to someone who meant so much to me in life, whose memory will always be an inspiration – my wonderful Grandad Dawson.


FRIDAY 15/09/72

Parked up in Luton 4pm to do some shopping.  Then, checking our itinerary, found our flight was TWO HOURS earlier than we’d thought!  So off to the airport we dashed, arriving in a muck-sweat with fifteen minutes to spare.  Time enough for me to commit a faux pas I’ll never live down.

“Onto the scales,” said the pretty assistant at the baggage desk.

So onto the scales I hopped!

Stella nearly died.


We’re on the plane awaiting take-off.  A loud hiss from the rear!  Soothing music from overhead speakers.  This will be the first flight for either of us.

Gawd, listen to those engines…the aircraft trembles with their power… Taxiing now… A stewardess on the tannoy: two hours fifteen minutes to Malaga; we’ll be flying at 29,000 feet.

A 90º turn.  We’re pointing straight down the runway and… gulp, the runway lights blur as the screaming engines whisk us into a steep take-off, G-force tugging our cheeks…


11.05pm:  Just arrived at our villa after a long coach ride.  Will always remember following the porter through the trees: his bandy-legged trot, our cases slapping his legs; and the fresh resinous smell of pine.  Pleased with the villa – typically Spanish. 


We had mixed feelings about Spain back then.  My more interesting observations are pretty caustic and best left in my private diary.  I shall content myself here with just the odd innocuous snippet… well, fairly innocuous…


SATURDAY 16/09/72

Marvellous views from our rooftop sun patio – south, the blue Mediterranean; north, a jagged range of dark mountains, the Sierra Nevada.  Our front garden of stubbly grass is haunted by a black cat with greedy eyes.

Inside, insects are a bloody nuisance – red ants, buzzing flies… 

The Med is freezing but just down the road is a super kidney-shaped swimming pool with a giant concrete fish spewing water.  Our nearest town in San Pedro, where we’ve been nearly run down more than once, expecting traffic from the wrong direction.  


SUNDAY 17/09/72

Stella attended mid-morning mass at San Pedro church while I explored the town.  Down a potholed alley came a grey Seat with flamenco music blaring.  A pair of sexy senoritas appeared from nowhere, clicking fingers to the rhythm.

Back at the villa, we took sunloungers up to the patio and read our books.  Later we took a dip in the pool, visited the beach and played outdoor ping-pong at the community centre.  We crashed out after tea.


SATURDAY 23/09/72

Our hire car was delivered this morning, just one day late!  A Seat 600, bright yellow with brown and grey upholstery, and quite nippy.  Strange at first, driving on the right; roundabouts hair-raising! 

Marbella this afternoon, a bustling, happy place, easily the most sophisticated Spanish resort we’ve seen so far.  After sauntering in the sun for an hour or two, savouring the carnival atmosphere, we dined at the Metropol restaurant – roast chicken, wine, ice cream.  This is the life!


WEDNESDAY 27/09/72

Tonight a flamenco show at a club in Marbella, a poky joint amidst illuminated shrubbery.  The show started an hour late.  Rough, raw and colourful: percussive gypsy rhythms and a troupe of sweaty senoritas giving it all they’d got.  It was a miracle the chequerboard floor didn’t collapse under their pounding stilettos.  The clackerty-clack of castanets still reverberated in my skull when we landed back here, knackered, at 3am.


THURSDAY 28/09/72

Made a discovery en route to Marbella this afternoon – Puerto José Banús, a millionaires’ yachting anchorage.  Luxury craft by the score, a forest of masts.  Aston Martins and Maseratis cruising by.  Silver-haired gents with dollybirds in tow.  A carefree, technicolour world.  Definitely our sort of place!  


SATURDAY 30/09/72

Touched down at Luton 12.10am.  A black night with icy drizzle and the car wouldn’t start.  Arrived home 7.55am to find our newly seeded lawn pricking through.  We crashed out immediately and woke at noon.  Something missing – the sound of the Med.  But a Welsh wind was blowing.


MONDAY 03/11/72

Nearly decapitated this morning!

I was out inspecting overflow gauges with Loopy Luke.  Finally we came to this manhole in a bramble patch. 

We peered down into the dark slimy depths… 

Loopy wrinkled his nose.  “I’ll whiz the van round whilst you take the reading.”

“Go on then,” I said.  And pulled the overalls on, yet again.

Reading taken, I sprang back up the stepirons desperate for fresh air.  Stuck my head out, took a couple of lungsful, then heard it – something rushing at me from behind… 

Bloody Luke in the van!

Thank God for quick reactions.  If I hadn’t ducked instantly, the bumper bar, like a guillotine, would have taken my head off.

Needless to say, upon emerging from that manhole I kicked somebody’s arse all around the bramble patch! 


Health & Safety practices were perhaps rather lax back then!  “Luke” was not my colleague’s real name, of course.


SUNDAY 10/12/72

Washed and waxed the Vitesse, then over to Prestatyn to see Grandad.  Still rather strange and sad to find him alone, a widower now.  But, apart from a touch of deafness, the old soldier was in fine fettle, his blue eyes sharp as ever.

A nice tea (salmon salad followed by peaches and cream), then we settled in front of the fire for a good chat.  Grandad is my favourite storyteller, compelling in a modest, gentlemanly way.  Often those blue eyes would wander to an old, framed photograph on the wall, a picture of Grandma in the New Forest, circa 1935.  And his voice would falter, just for a moment.

Unnoticed, the room dimmed until Grandad was visible only in silhouette against the glowing fire – a grave profile, Roman nose, military ‘tash.  A proud profile.  We left him whistling quietly to himself.  

That photograph of Grandma now hangs on my study wall.


Copyright © Paul Beech 2013

From → Diary

  1. Angela permalink

    These are great.

    The grandad story brought a tear to my eye. I can picture him exactly as you say with grandma’s picture nearby, sitting in that arm chair, elbows on the wings and hands clasped high up in front of his chest….maybe waiting for the next episode of Dixon of Dock Green.

  2. Thanks, Angela. I enjoyed putting the post together, especially the bit about Grandad. His stories always held me rapt – those from the Great War, such as the one about meeting his brother Ellis in France (“Off you pop”), and those from his days as a policeman, such as the tale of the truncated truncheon! Of course, Grandad was also a brilliant self-taught violinist, and those musical evenings with his family (including Sooty the cat!) must have been quite something…

    Love Paul x

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