I can still remember it now; I was 15 and at Butlins holiday camp in Minehead. I was wearing my Levi corduroy trouser (black, oh yes) and a splash of Old Spice. As it was the last night of our holiday my step-brother and I had not spent our lunch money for the last few days to save up for a few beers. Come on, I know I was only 15, but lankiness and almost convincing bum-fluff moustache enabled me to have a 75% chance of being served in a bar. We were in the disco. For any younger readers, a disco was like a club except there was no drugs or annoying techno music. Oh yes and you could wear trainers to get in. You could at Butlins anyway. I have just invented a new advertising campaign for Butlins – “Forget seeing the world or for that matter any sunshine – come to Butlins and wear your trainers”.
I don’t understand the not being allowed to wear trainers into a club thing. These days a pair of trainers could easily be worth more than the whole of a bouncers outfit. Maybe it is so you cannot outrun them when they are trying to beat you up.
Right, where were we? Butlins, the disco. The girl that I had seen a number of times that week was sitting at a table with her mum and dad. After a sniff of the barmaid’s apron I had Dutch courage coursing through my veins, but still I was reluctant to speak to her. My step-brother said “go on. You’re never going to see her again anyway”.
I shuffled up and sat down at the table between her mum and dad who looked a little shocked. What I said to her is actually a bit of a blur but was probably along the lines of “do you come here often?”
She said that she was very sorry but she was there with her boyfriend. At that point right on cue a tall, better looking Arnold Schwarzenegger was lumbering towards us. Luckily he did not hit me and maybe the girl took pity on me and neglected to tell him about my unsuccessful attempts at chatting her up.
My step-brother was right of course; I never did see her again, but the point is that to this day I still cringe when I think of that incident. I am not really sure why. She never said “bog-off ugly” but I swear I am in a cold sweat as I type this.
So was I embarrassed by the rebuff or was my pride hurt? To be honest I find it hard to tell the difference. Pride is what makes us try to be the best we can at what we do and also what makes most of us wear clean clothes and shower regularly. But are we doing these things for ourselves or to make other people think better of us? An extreme example of an excessive sense of pride is the terrible story of Christopher Foster. Foster killed his wife of 21 years, his 15-year-old daughter and the family horses and dogs before setting fire to the family home, the fumes from which killed him. The reason for all this; he would rather take the lives of his family and destroy his home rather than face the humiliation of having his home repossessed due to his failing business and £4 million in debts. His friend, David Mitchell said after the tragedy “To come second place wasn't Chris' style. He had to be up there with the winners.” It seems incredible that one man’s loss of face could result in this. One of the many reasons we left decided to move to Spain was to escape the 9 to 5 treadmill. Of course we have friends the in the UK totally stressed-out but earning good money and playing one-upmanship with houses and cars. Quite frankly they are welcome to it. We keep a Skoda Fabia in the UK that we use when we go back. It never fails to make me smile when I am driving there and I pull up to the lights next to a man in his BMW 3-series rep mobile. Invariably he sits there with his Bluetooth hands-free kit gesticulating away as he talks; bursting with pride, looking at me in the Skoda with disdain and probably stressed to hell. I remember my company car days when I was eager to call my friends to tell them I had a new 1.4 Astra LS, not to be confused with my previous Astra 1.3 L. Oh no. This one has electric windows! Sad but true.
So whilst I am no longer bothered about cars, I still have a sense of pride. A few weeks back I was walking towards my car carrying an empty gas bottle and had to step over a rivulet of water trickling down the street. My heel did not clear the flow of water and I slipped over sending the gas bottle clanging down the street. I instantly jumped up and made sure that nobody had seen me fall before checking to see that nothing was cut or bruised. In that order!
But surely the most ridiculous example of my pride happened again very recently and was the reason I thought of writing this article. I took an old fridge to the dump and was just unloading it when a man, who I think was German, asked me what was wrong with the fridge. I explained that it did in fact work but was not very efficient in summer, hence throwing it away. I could tell now that it was interested. “Oh it works does it? Let me have a look” I turned the fridge to show him the front revealing deep scratches in the door. “I can see that it is badly scratched, you had better throw it away” commented the man. Suddenly I became very protective of my old fridge. It was not that bad. It worked but I did not want this man to think I had had a battered old wreck of fridge in my house.
“The scratches must have just happened on the drive here” I explained. But he was not interested in having it anymore. He smiled politely as he walked off before saying “I would help you lift it but I have a bad back”.
I would like to think that the fridge is now full of lukewarm San Miguel in the house of the gypsy man that lives in Cómpeta. Cómpetenians reading this will know who I mean – the man with the grey plastic quiff who drives a white Piaggio van with the naked woman calendar in (calm down girls, he’s married). This man makes a living by rooting shamelessly through the rubbish and taking the things he thinks he can use or sell. Mind you, if this recession gets any worse I think I might have to swallow my pride and join.