A Short Story
Day 14 – The Ferry Office, Cadiz, Spain.
“Una billete, Santa Cruz Tenerife, bicicleta, por favour”.
“Ferry full”, says the man behind the glass.
“…come back tomorrow”
The ferry was full - the ferry that runs only on Tuesday’s - the ferry I had cycled 14 days and over 1000 km's for. Santander to Cadiz down through the middle of Spain for! I have been in Cadiz for three days already. Waiting for this bloody office to open!
Day 15 – Well, I am on a list. After they picked me up off the floor yesterday I found that if you came on the day of travel, you might get a ‘no show’ ticket. So here I am, 7 hrs before sailing time, the air conditioning, and the decent toilets help - but the day still passes slowly.
Let’s eye-up the walk-on competition; luckily most are luggage free, suggesting they have cars, so no threat to me. My competitor’s are, probably, the thin Moroccan man in the faded floral shirt. He constantly hovers by the counter window. Then there is the two female American backpackers, there's the blonde one. I don’t see much of her, she pops in from outside and whispers to her friend as the day goes on. Both are very determined young ladies - despite language issues they have made their point very clear to bland man behind the glass. This ferry sails only once a week and this going to mess up plans – big style. They have however, burnt their boats re any possibility of using charm and female guile to get priority. He has been pestered so much by them I am sure he would love to bump them off and watch dispassionately the proceeding tantrum and scoff at the promises of a hail missiles from a passing B52 as daddy is ‘big in defence’.
Anyway, my No.4 is an aging Hells Angel. Male 50’s, big belly, balding, giveaways are the cleanish clothes, and the leather jacket with ‘Gran Caneria Chapter Hells Angels’ on the back. This man is a fraud, a pretend tough-guy, playing with motorbikes on his 3rd mid-life crises. He has however, taken the same quiet approach as me. One advantage he does have, being a resident of Canaries he probably entitled to priority boarding. Yes, it’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for.
Then there is No. 5. His name is Jesus. Much to my surprise and probably even more to the western Christian population, Jesus is black - very black and not from Nazareth but from Senegal. And yes, that was his name; his second name was very, very long. He has come in a wonderfully wrecked Citroen van with ‘Senegal Crafts - Canary Isles ‘ hand-painted on the side. Jesus, as you might properly expect is cheerful and friendly. He is the only one in the group here today that has spoken to me. By the way, he and his van had tickets; it was his two African companions lurking in the background that are ticketless. I was desperate to ask him about my chances but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I would have felt I was abusing his good nature. I played the seasoned traveller with a minor issue about ‘getting out of town’.
It is now getting late. What seemed like hundreds had come into the office and collected tickets. Come 4 o’clock and there is a deathly hush, all eyes are on the man behind the glass. He calls the Moroccan over - didn’t have to come far as he was hovering inches from the counter - yes it’s a ticket. The man produces a big worn pile of documents from his back pocket.
All of us were by now around the window. I heard a murmur from the man, it sounded like my name ‘YES’!
I so wanted to stick a finger up at the mighty US of A contingent but not before I actually had the tickets in my hand. A few questions to answer - how was I paying? I wanted to say “Anyway you like cash, credit card, you can have my body, do you fancy a nice bike, and would a bag of oranges help”? I resorted to my Fairfx Card in the end. A few clicks on the computer then the words.
A voice echoed around my head, “Noooooo”!
I listen, there is only one berth available and it’s in a 4 berth cabin. I restrain myself from shouting “CALL THAT A PROBLEM.....! “
Tickets duly arrive and were now in my sweaty hands. I am heading for the ferry queue but in full ‘unruffled mode’ and was directed to the ‘German motorcycles’ and ‘proper bike’ boarding area. (There are always German motor-bikers waiting to catch a ferry). There was only one other cyclist and amazingly he had a trailer which had a little mongrel dog in it. All belong to a young lad ‘Jamal’. He has limited English but we get on very well and soon established our touring credentials with each other.
What was running through my mind was who was I sharing with? Bet it was three Turkish lorry drivers. I would crash open the door carrying panniers and a bag of oranges (that’s another story) and there they would all be - smoking Camel cigarettes and sitting there in sweaty vests, playing cards. The biggest one would be lying on the bunk cleaning his fingernails with a flick knife.
“Missee Thatcha’, she good ladyee, eh, Misteer Englishman, you like?”
I would whisper “I am not English, I am Scottish”.
“You come, stay me in Turkey land.”
“Is Turkey like Scotland? Does it rain, have midges and haggis?”
“You takka pissa, mister Englishman, I’ll slitta your throat in the night”.
Anyway, as only right and proper after my ordeal of waiting 4 days for this ferry, I am the very last person on board. My cabin is so far empty; just me and my imagination. Ages later the door is opened and it’s my companion for the next three days, Jamil - the dog/biker, we both give relief smiles.