Category Archives: Alqueria
The ‘Alqueria Four’ had set out on their expedition to block the source of the stream which irrigates the Remitroot crop. If the stream is blocked the unnamed invading power will be forced to water the Remitroot plants with fresh water thus rendering them impotent and the aggressors will then leave Alqueria.
What could go wrong?
As the four trudge towards their destination we’ll be a ‘fly on the wall’ and listen to their conversation as Manuela has some interesting questions for Antonio Poyato.
“Antonio we have been walking for three days since we left the cave, haven’t we?”
“Sí Manuela, three days since we left the cave”
“Antonio, just how far was the source of the stream from the cave?”
“Two hundred metres Manuela”
“Antonio, do you think something might be wrong”
“No Manuela, my compass says we are heading in the right direction”
“Let me see your compass Antonio……..Antonio let me see it……..YOUR COMPASS, NOW! ANTONIO!”
“Antonio, this is not a compass, this is an ‘I love Donald Trump’ lapel badge”
“Sí Manuela they were going cheap, but I only wanted to please you, to make amends for shooting you in the culito”
“And you think getting us all lost is going to make up for my disfigured bottom? It looks like a relief map of the Moon now Antonio”
“I know Manuela I have destroyed a thing of beauty”
“How do you know what it looks like Antonio? And do you really love Donald Trump?”
“Whose Donald Trump Manuela?”
“Not to worry Antonio and HOW do you know what my culito looks like?”
“From the pictures Manuela”
“Oh I see, Antonio do you have any idea at all where we are?……….ANTONIO, WHAT PICTURES?”
“Yes Manuela we are in the Sierra Alhamilla”
“Antonio, you are starting to get on my t.., my nerves ……….. what’s that coming towards us, Antonio? LOOK!”
“It is a mist, going against the wind. What kind of mist goes against the wind Manuela?”
“It’s getting closer, it’s cold, Antonio I have much fear, hold my hand …………MY HAND, ANTONIO, HOLD MY HAND NOT MY………..”
“Sorry Manuela, it surrounds us now, it is drawing us down.”
“I am sinking Antonio! SINKING! ………………………………….”
What is the strange mist?
Why haven’t Pepa and Paco said anything?”
“Antonio WHAT pictures?”
“The ones on my phone Manuela”
“Oh I see”
Time For Reflection
Readers will of course remember from last week that Manuela had been accidentally shot in her perfectly shaped, wonderfully rounded and in general perfect bottom. Antonio Poyato did the shooting and is now feverishly packing while clutching a tramp-steamer ticket to Baffin Island. Manuela realised that it was all an accident but that didn’t prevent her from trying to hollow Poyato out with a soup spoon. Fortunately for Antonio, Manuela’s injuries restricted her mobility and allowed him to evade her thrusts with the spoon which she had specially sharpened. All Manuela could do was to let her injuries heal, I won’t say she ‘licked her wounds’, that would require her to be a contortionist, which, of course some say she is.
Loca Pepa tended Manuela every day, dressing the pellet marks and applying cream after cream. As the scars faded so did much of her anger and Antonio Poyato unpacked and tried to get a refund on his steamer ticket. Manuela however never allowed Poyato to approach her from the rear again, a lesson the majority of the female population of Alqueria had learnt long ago. As tempers quelled it again became possible to start planning the reconquest of Alqueria from the unnamed power which had invaded our village republic.
Using cast-iron logic and keeping Antonio Poyato in view at all times Manuela reasoned the problem out thoroughly. The answer became blazingly obvious and Manuela metaphorically kicked herself for not thinking of it before but having an ounce or so of lead in one’s culito does cloud the mental processes somewhat. It was so simple. The unnamed power had invaded Alqueria for a reason, so remove that and they would leave. Control of the Remitroot crop was why the unnamed country had played its ‘trump card’ and entered Alqueria. The problem now was how to remove the Remitroot crop. Poyato redeemed himself in Manuela’s eyes somewhat by pointing out that it was the effects of Remitroot that were prized and not the crop itself.
The catalyst in the maturing process of the plant was the natural spring water which flowed into the Remitroot fields. It was from a direct result of this water that Remitroot produced the potent whisky, wine and beer and why its effect as an aphrodisiac was so sought after. This ‘water’ started life as a natural spring rising clean, clear and fresh from the sierra but it flowed through Alqueria where it mingled with the bad drainage of the Pueblo. The drainage was so bad that the water became thick, chunky and reeking but it was what was necessary to mature the Remitroot crop.
Manuela outlined the plan of action. Block the stream at the source and the unnamed power will irrigate the crop with fresh water. Remitroot has no tolerance to fresh water or indeed anything that is healthy and clean, in short the crop will fail.
How will the ‘Alqueria Four’ block the stream?
Will Manuela’s culito ever be the same again?
Will Poyato get his refund?
Benjy sat in his cell, forlorn while nervously checking his watch every few seconds and trying not to arouse the suspicions of his jailers. He was a sad sight and there is no sight sadder than an imprisoned Saharan dung beetle waiting for rescue on a Sunday morning. To make matters worse his rescuers were idiots. He however longed to see his owner Loco Paco again. Benjy’s mind went back to the games they played together during those warm summer evenings long ago. Paco would throw a stick and Benjy would scamper after it, grab it and scamper back to Paco with it between his teeth. He often wondered why Paco threw the stick in the first place if he wanted it returned but it appeared to please Paco so Benjy humoured him. Now his freedom rested on this feeble minded cretin and three others of his ilk. Benjy wasn’t a happy dung beetle.
Manuela, Antonio Poyato, Loca Pepa and Loco Paco moved stealthily towards the castle and Benjy’s cell. They were to perform a frontal assault a speciality of Manuela. They could see the jailer asleep at his desk, a row of keys hanging from hooks above his head. The Alqueria four made their preparations.
Manuela first checked her hair then the magazine on her Mauser, making sure the rounds were clean and sitting properly, she didn’t want them to jam when the shooting started. She checked the barrel was clean of oil so the rifle wouldn’t ‘throw’ the first shot. She finally worked the bolt putting a cartridge into the chamber and slipped off the safety catch. Poyato ‘broke’ his shotgun and slipped a cartridge into each barrel. His gently closed the gun. There was no safety catch which was unfortunate as at that precise moment Paco’s fingers slipped on his water pistol sending a stream of water into Poyato’s eye. His pulled the trigger of his shotgun peppering Manuela’s shapely bottom. She jumped, used to having her culito interfered with but never with ‘buck shot’, she dropped her Mauser. It discharged making a neat hole in the window of the jailer’s office. Loca Pepa opened her first-aid box and tended Manuela’s wound while Poyato took photographs with his mobile phone.
The jailer wasn’t the bravest of men and made long strides in the direction of away leaving his now stained chair spinning on its axis. Manuela was too concerned with her injuries to notice, next to her hair her culito was her most cherished attribute. Paco in a burst of bravery and stupidity headed towards the office, found it empty and freed Benjy.
“Antonio if you come within three metres of my culito again you die” muttered Manuela through her clenched pearly white teeth as the five made their way back to Matas’s cave in the sierra.
The Alquerian Expeditionary Force
Manuela and her fellow exiles prepared for their first sortie into enemy territory and the liberation of Benjy, Paco’s pet Saharan dung beetle. Old man Matas had been persuaded to handover his arsenal of antiquated weapons for the common good. At least it was believed it was for the ‘common good’ or it may have had something to do with Manuela’s morning shower that persuaded him.
Manuela was mounted on Matas’s grey hack, a stallion half as old as Matas himself and unwilling, before now to do any work whatsoever, but Manuela had the ‘touch’. Just how Manuela’s touch was applied to the stallion is perhaps something we should keep veiled for the purpose of this narrative. Manuela’s eyes glowed with that inborn fire of feminine determination while a rifle slung over her shoulder confirmed her intentions. Antonio Poyato carried a shotgun and rode a particularly obstinate donkey which preferred walking backwards rather than forwards forcing Poyato to ride facing the creatures tail end. Poyato’s grinning face surmounting a donkey’s rear end while in full charge would most likely strike fear into the stoutest of hearts. Loco Paco carried a plastic ‘dirty Harry’ special water pistol and rode a skateboard. Pepa carried the first-aid kit consisting of a ‘sticking plaster’, a packet of senna pods and a bottle of Remitroot whisky. Matas stayed in reserve at the cave in case the enemy tried to assault Manuela’s rear. It was force to be reckoned with.
Our brave partisans set out in the early hours of Sunday morning. A full moon required them to avoid the crests of hills as they made their way to the outskirts of Alqueria. Manuela dismounted, much to the displeasure of the stallion and led the four along pathways and tunnels known only to her. Pathways and tunnels used by Manuela for quite different purposes other than clandestine military operations.
Antonio Poyato pushed away a large rounded boulder which sealed the entrance of the tunnel through which they were crawling. The moonlit Village square lay before them, the castle clearly visible. It was in the castle that Benjy was imprisoned.
A note had been secretly passed to Benjy telling him to be ready but not to raise the suspicion of his jailers. It is obviously absurd to think that a Saharan dung beetle can read, whether it be Alquerian, Spanish or English. Manuela, being aware of the illiteracy of dung beetles, Saharan or otherwise drew a series of ideograms depicting the rescue attempt which the soon to be emancipated Benjy had no trouble in deciphering.
The Alquerian four moved stealthily towards the castle dungeon, Benjy lay quiet in his cell, alert, waiting for the sounds that would signal his release.
Will the attempt be successful?
Will the plot be discovered?
Tune in next week.
Manuela and Antonio Poyato sit in the Bar of Pongy Pedro on the Spanish side of the Alquerian border. They are in exile and in disguise. Manuela as a Lebanese belly dancer and Antonio Poyato as an itinerant salamander sexer. Their conversation is being recorded by a clandestine microphone floating in a bottle of olive oil. Below is a transcript of the conversion certified correct by Pongy Pedro.
“We must rescue the dung beetle of Paco which is being held ransom against our surrender by the forces of the unnamed country which has invaded Alqueria, Antonio.”
“That was a very concise evaluation of last week’s article Manuela. But there will be much trouble and I will get hurt. It is only a dung beetle Manuela”
“Bengy is not just a dung beetle Antonio. Remember how magnificent he was over hurdles last season, you won much money with your bet.”
“But I will get hurt, can’t we just Whatsapp them?”
“No Antonio, we can’t. Is that your hand Antonio?”
“Sí Manuela, in truth.”
“Move it Antonio! ……….. Not like that, on the table, both of them, where I can see them. Now Antonio!”
“How will we rescue him? What is your plan Manuela?”
“We will go to the border crossing at night. I will keep the guard busy and you will hit him from behind. We will then go to the town hall where Benjy is imprisoned, I will keep the guard busy and you will hit him from behind, we then go to the jail, I will keep the jailer busy………”
“I can see a pattern emerging Manuela.”
“We all must do what we are expert in Antonio.”
“Since when are you expert in keeping guards busy Manuela?”
“Since I was eleven Antonio.”
“You are much woman Manuela.”
“Sí Antonio, don’t forget it!”
“Will you do a Lebanese belly dance for me Manuela?”
“It’s a disguise Antonio! I am in disguise! You have much trouble with fact and fantasy, are you sure you’re still taking the medication?”
“What is that floating in the olive oil bottle Manuela?”
“It is a clandestine microphone or how else could this transcript be produced. How quick you lose the plot Antonio, you give me much worry.”
“Not to worry Antonio. Oh Antonio! You may put your hand back if you wish.”
The Alqueria Four
An unnamed power had invaded Alqueria and the prized Remitroot crop was now under foreign control. Those loyal to the Republic sought refuge in the high sierra. The government in exile consisting of Manuela, Antonio Poyato, Loco Paco and Loca Pepa continued to operate from the cave of old man Matas. Matas was somewhat confused to have these uninvited guests billeted upon him but seemed to enjoy Manuela’s company although this wasn’t reciprocated and Manuela was forced to reinforce her underwear with thirty amp fuse wire. Matas bought a stout pair of wire cutters and went on the offensive until Manuela gave him an unscheduled colonoscopy with his own 1897 smooth bore Mauser.
The occupying power was justly worried about theses fugitives and their ability to make nuisances of themselves and decided to act decisively striking at the soft underbelly of the ‘Alqueria Four’. In the early hours a strike force flown in by helicopter shimmied down ropes and following a succession of exploding stun grenades crashed through the upper story windows of Loco Paco’s Alquerian home. Their objective was the brightly coloured kennel where ‘Bengy’, Loco Paco’s pet Saharan dung beetle slumbered, dreaming of pushing his large ball of excrement through the desert waste. Bengy was taken to the town hall where he was held as ransom against the surrender of the Alqueria Four.
The ransom note was carefully constructed from letters cut from issue sixty nine of ‘Naughty Nun Monthly’, in which Manuela featured so prominently, it was however a waste of time as everyone knew who sent it, it was fun though. Paco was beside himself with grief and try as she may Loca Pepa couldn’t cheer him up even though she prepared his favourite food, Alqueria Tree-Toed Newt in the Hole. Manuela thought about cheering him up with a suggestion which sounded similar but was in practice completely different. She erred on the side of sanity however and simply told him to ‘get a grip’ of himself and applied liberal quantities of Remitroot wine which Paco proceeded to dilute with his profuse tears.
The lights, or rather light burned late in the cave of old man Matas as the four decided upon their response. They must rescue Bengy and return matters to how they were before the unnamed power played their trump card. Old Man Matas was still under the illusion that the Civil War was in progress and had a stock of antiquated but serviceable weapons.
Are things going to ‘hot up’ in Alqueria?
Manuela certainly hopes so but perhaps with different connotations.
A foreign power, which must remain nameless began casting proprietary glances in Alqueria’s direction. The leader of this unnamed power wasn’t too bright nor could he be described as stable, in fact he was barking mad. The only way his administration could bear to be within a hundred metres of him was to consume vast quantities of Remitroot alcohol. Under the influence of Remitroot President ‘X’ became tolerable, still an idiot but a tolerable idiot. As President X became more and more unstable so more and more Remitroot became necessary. Finally President X became so crazy that an entire Remitroot plantation was all that would suffice, it became clear that this unnamed foreign power must have control of the Remitroot crop, hence their proprietary glances.
Manuela threw open her shutters letting the morning sun cleanse her bedroom from the exertions of the night before. She drew a lung full of sweet morning air and almost choked, her eyes watering profusely as she gasped for breath. She stared in horror at the town hall, for the flag fluttering above was not the red, white and green tricolour, with a bottle of Remitroot Whisky rampant but a banner hideously spangled with tiny white stars. Manuela dressed hurriedly, a novelty for her where the reverse is the norm and made her way to Antonio Poyato’s small-holding only to find it fenced off with barbed wire.
Alqueria had been invaded and its precious Remitroot in the hands of an unnamed foreign power with a star spangled banner and an insane president!
A clandestine meeting in a back room of the Bar La Casa Devante was hurriedly arranged. All those still loyal to the Republic met to discuss the actions necessary to liberate the Pueblo. It was decided that all members of the People’s Front for the Liberation of Alqueria, as it was named were to go underground. Unfortunately Loco Paco took this literally and almost suffocated as he burrowed under his patio herb garden. The PFLA was to be let by Manuela and they moved into the foothills of the Sierra Alhamilla making themselves at home in Old Matas’s cave. Matas was delighted to find Manuela waiting for him when he returned and immediately made a dozen improper suggestions which at his age were wishful thinking and gross exaggeration. Matas wasn’t very happy however when Poyato, Loco Paco and score of assorted degenerates, drunkards and malcontents hove into view.
What will become of Alqueria?
Will Manuela lead her people to liberty?
Will Matas keep his promises to Manuela?
Tune in next week.
The Essential Alqueria: A holiday guide.
Firstly, congratulations on choosing Alqueria for your next holiday experience and secondly well done with the purchase of this travel guide which will enhance your stay in our wonderful country.
OK let’s get the numbers out of the way before we tell you of the wonders you have in store. Alqueria is an independent republic situated on the Iberian Peninsular and is completely encircled by mainland Spain. It is a village of some eight hundred souls. It sits in the Alquerian Valley at the foot of the Sierra Alhamilla. The currency is the Raro. At the time of going to press there are 25,478 Raros to the Euro. It isn’t however necessary to buy the local currency as Euros, Dollars, Pounds Stirling, gold and prescription drugs are readily accepted.
The climate of Alqueria is as warm as its people. Potential visitors suffering from respiratory problems should however consult their physicians before travelling. A further note regarding the warmth of the people. Manuela is especially warm and wives are recommended to keep at least a hundred metres separation between her and their respective husbands.
Night life in Alqueria is second to none. Whether you dance to the Syncopation Four with Sanchez Malnota at the Bar La Casa Devante or bop the night away to the pulsating sound of the Constipation Five at the La Golondrina Verde you won’t be disappointed. One legal rider to Alqueria’s night life. Being on the streets after ten invalidates any duty of care owed to the traveller by the Alquerian Government, travel agents, couriers, in fact everyone really.
The cuisine of the Village is singular to say the least. One particular dish, ‘The Alquerian Plato’ has defied analysis by the world’s health authorities despite many years of trying. People who have enjoyed the meal report minimal psychological change and only a moderate loss of stomach lining. So go on give it a go! It’s worth it, honest!
The delightful Río Verde offers the visitor a chance to unwind on its shaded banks or take a dip in its buoyant and wonderfully translucent water. The variety of wildlife is astonishing and specialised species abound in the refreshing depths of the River. Please note that cases of Polydactyly have never definitely been traced to swimming in the Río Verde.
Regular ferias take place in Alqueria and due to high spirits and the sheer exuberance of life they can get a little boisterous. Brick throwing and fire bombing are charming elements of these celebrations. These festivals can be viewed in complete safety from one of the many concrete bunkers built for that very purpose.
So have we whetted your appetite for a holiday in Alqueria?
Come soon and we hope you return many times.
Manuela and Don Perfecto
Manuela is depressed! Her foray into the world of online dating was a disaster. Antonio Poyato faked his profile, which didn’t fool Manuela and she ended up with Pongy Pedro the only man to pass from kinder-garden via puberty into middle age without taking a shower. She used him to rid her house of vermin, rats and mice that is not would be suitors reluctant to leave. Antonio Poyato, who had been forgiven for his deception had fallen into the role of confidant to Manuela, although he did tend to fall asleep during her more lengthy ramblings and took notes with trembling hands during her juicier and more colourful confessions. Antonio in his role as ‘advisor’ tried to dissuade her from her proposed course of action, she intended to consult Alqueria’s very own witch Sanchia Sústomore.
Poyato argued that she wasn’t a very good witch citing the fact that she had training wheels on her broomstick and had recently collided with Iberia’s evening flight from Madrid to Cape Town causing her to lose her no-claims bonus. Manuela being a headstrong girl would have none of it so on a particularly dark night they set out for Sanchia’s lair.
Manuela was no stranger to the world of witchcraft having studied at the Witches, Wizards and Allied Trades Training College but was expelled for using the Warlock’s wand for immoral purposes. She pointed out the various potions and books of spells that Sanchia consulted and stopped Antonio from sampling the contents of large bubbling cauldron which contained and evil mixture which included the vital organs of various reptiles and the body fluids of the more disgusting quadruped mammals.
Sanchia was rather taken aback by Manuela’s request for a potion to bring her a man believing she already had a plentiful supply. Manuela explained it wasn’t the quantity she was looking to rectify but the quality. Manuela then listed the attributes she required for the man she wanted Sanchia to conjure up. He was of course every women’s ideal. Loyal, sharing his thoughts, listened to her emotional ramblings, caring for her needs etc. etc. During this discourse Antonio and Sanchia fell into a profound sleep such was the banality of the speech.
Sanchia prescribed potion ’69’ for Manuela, the name didn’t surprise her but the extortionate price did. It was to be taken twice a day for two weeks.
After the two week period no man made an appearance and Manuela began to become suspicious and had the last remaining drops of ‘potion 69’ analysed. It was Poyato’s Remitroot Grappa that Sanchia had given her.
You see Sanchia knew that no potion could do what Manuela had asked, a man like that simply doesn’t exist!
The BBQ and Other Hazardous Pursuits
When Summer arrives in Alqueria life goes through a fundamental change. Living becomes easier, the Remitroot crop ripens in the fields, girls suddenly become pretty and desirable, birds sing and the trees’ blossom undergoes its miraculous transition into succulent fruit. But as with all things in life there’s always a foil, something to bring one back down to earth with a bump. Perhaps nothing can strike fear and dread into the heart than the simple line “We’re having a BBQ at the weekend”. A BBQ, Alquerian style is not for the sensitive, faint hearted or those who hold life and limb dear. It would be worth while to describe such an event.
The venue is important and an area containing long grass is preferred in which snakes, ticks and mine shafts can be hidden from view. This ploy should guarantee the loss of some of the more adventurous guests thus freeing up more Remitroot wine and beer for the remaining guests. Chairs and tables should be placed on uneven ground or better still on soft ground. It’s good sport to watch some unfortunate slowly sinking into the disgusting Alquerian mud.
But food is the essential part of any BBQ and the Alquerian variety is no exception. Cooking should be performed on a grill which has been exposed to the elements and hopeful carnivores throughout the winter. Grilled Alquerian Newt just isn’t the same without the congealed saliva of some feral cat being thermally bonded into the meat.
The cooking method is an art-form.
The outside should be incinerated and the centre raw. Preferably cook from frozen so the core still retains some ice which wonderfully complements the fierce heat of the cindered exterior. For the more advanced chefs the technique of actually setting light the food is a wonderful spectacle and will liven any gathering. Ex-US Army Napalm is excellent to achieve this and can be bought at Potty Paca’s Heath-food Tienda in the Calle Horno, show this article for a 20% discount.
Food may be the essential but the soul of any BBQ is the guests. Here the host can reach new heights in entertainment. Its important to ‘balance’ the guests. If you know a timid underachiever who faints after two beers, then pair him with the village ‘soak’. This happened to Alonso Noboozo who, after being paired with Pedro Mudgutso became a raving alcoholic, it was the making of him and he never looked back. Try mixing political affiliations, the religiously pious with existentialists the possibilities are endless. But remember be creative.
Alqueria has been a member of the European Union for some years now, it was however the result of a spelling mistake. Ballsakia in the Balkans had applied for membership but a defective mainframe processor in Brussels misspelt the country’s name and a letter duly dropped onto the doormat of the Ayuntamiento in Alqueria welcoming them into the fold. Ballsakia was too involved with invading its neighbour Ponsienegro to notice, when they finally did it was too late to reverse. Alqueria had applied for and received E.U. funding for everything from new sanitation in the town hall to the building of a Remitroot powered particle accelerator.
Some five years has passed since Alqueria became part of Europe during which time our Pueblo had thrived. Manuela and Antonio Poyato, who were the closest thing to a government Alqueria had pondered the political awareness of their constituents. Poyato said it was ninety-five percent apathy, Manuela argued for one hundred percent inertia. A bet was made with a month’s supply of Remitroot Wine to the winner. The issue would be decided by referendum. The issue E.U. membership, the question, ‘out’ yes or no. With only three hundred people eligible to vote it was easy to arrange.
Only one person voted.
Daft Diego thought E.U. stood for ‘Erotic Union’ and so obviously voted ‘yes’. The result failed to settle the bet with Manuela and Poyato sharing the wine during an evening which they both want to forget but Rodriguez has the photographs and won’t let them forget. The photographs are changing hands for five hundred Euros a print in the side streets off Madrid’s Grand Via. The referendum however attracted the notice of the international press. It was for this reason that Manuela and Antonio Poyato wrote to Brussels with the wonderful news that Alqueria had decided to remain in the European Union.
Brussels was quick to reply. In a passionate and lengthy letter they pleaded with Alqueria to leave. Member nations had ‘chipped in’ to pay into Alquerian coffers a large annual retainer if they left the E.U. Manuela and Antonio Poyato agreed the terms on the behalf of the Republic of Alqueria and promptly went on an extended holiday to the Caribbean. The Alquerian passport retained its red cover and the reference to the E.U. however, otherwise the Alquerian Government website would need changing. Visit it at www.alqueria.eu and apply for citizenship.
Alqueria once more stands along, a nation of individuals gazing at a hostile world through Remitroot glazed eyes.
All the Alqueria radio plays are archived at www.alqueria.eu.
The people of Alqueria were facing a crisis. There was no outside aggression, no one threatened their borders or imposed economic sanctions. It was a crisis of inertia. People have simply stopped caring. The zest for life which had sustained Alqueria through the centuries had been sapped by over organisation, conformity and a loss of individuality. In fact all the requisites which are ‘part and parcel’ of a modern integrated European nation. These are the very elements that turned Alqueria from a dysfunctional vital community who would take to the streets in celebration, remembrance or a spate barricade building at the least opportunity, into a modern responsible state taking it’s place among the society of nations. In short it became boring, mundane and passionless.
Loco Paco had stopped caring for Benjy, his pet Saharan dung beetle, which had taking to stealing from kitchens and busking on the Madrid Metro to survive. Antonio Poyato had stopped drinking Remitroot Wine and most surprising of all Manuela had taken a vow of chastity. The men of Alqueria were going blind, something had to done, but who was to do it?
The Pueblo’s saviour certainly wasn’t born great nor did she achieve greatness so we must assume she had it thrust upon her, something that normally happened to Manuela. Loca Pepa was oblivious to the mark she made on history but like all great events it happened with a whimper rather than the proverbial ‘bang’.
Loca Pepa had conformed, cut her hair short and starting having ‘Tupperware’ parties. She brought Paco his slippers and drove the neighbour’s children to school. She slaved away in the kitchen preparing Paco’s favourite meals, never refused his strange nocturnal requests and never even grumbled when Paco came home after a mere eight hours at work claiming to be exhausted. Loca Pepa became shining example of northern European womanhood. Things were bad.
Manuela, who was in the second week of chastity had by this time a visible twitch, started to stammer and was walking bent double. She wasn’t at her most receptive but noticed Pepa’s change. The implications, if carried through to their logical conclusion had dire consequences and put all things into perspective for Manuela.
Introducing raw Remitroot spirit into the water supply was the solution, although Antonio Poyato had started taking it intravenously by this time. Loca Pepa started once more treating Paco like the idiot he his and retired to bed with a hogshead of Remitroot brandy and a dozen pre-cooked pizzas. Loco Paco himself had a tearful reunion with Benjy. The sound of stone throwing and breaking glass again drifted reassuringly through the streets.
What of Manuela?
She stopped walking double and the men of the Village started smiling and regained their eyesight.
Un Hombre para Pilar
Pilar had made a serious mistake. She was looking for love on the internet. That however wasn’t the mistake. The mistake was allowing Manuela to find out. For those who haven’t been paying attention, Manuela is the ‘femme fatale’ of Alqueria and Pilar her understudy and Pilar hated Manuela with a hatred that was almost tangible. Manuela now saw the opportunity of making a nuisance of herself and set about creating the perfect profile with which to bait the soon to be unfortunate Pilar.
George Clooney ‘Photoshopped’ produced the perfect image and a paragraph plagiarised from ‘The perfect Man Monthly’, a fictional magazine, completed the perfect profile. Manuela was in high glee as she posted it on ‘B2gether.com’ the website for the terminally lonely in answer Pilar’s pitiful plea for a life’s partner. With a self-satisfied smile Manuela sipped a chilled Remitroot piña colada as she waited for events to unfold. As she waited for Pilar to respond she occupied herself by putting her own profile online, just as a ‘distraction’ she told herself. It was to be her own petard which would, in due course to hoist her.
Fate is fickle and Manuela was due a full helping of ‘karma’. Karma in shape of Antonio Poyato who lusted after Manuela like a Berber hungers for sherbet. Seeing Manuela’s profile online he set about preparing the ‘perfect’ profile. George, once again came in for editing, this time with a goatee beard and duelling scar while the profile was completed with an extract from the end paper of ‘Biggles Flies Undone’. Antonio Poyato duly responded to Manuela’s post and waited.
The situation is thus. Pilar, in a state of high sexual agitation responded to Manuela’s bogus profile. Manuela had bribed Pongy Pedro to meet Pilar on her fake profile’s behalf. To explain Pedro’s epithet, he has a rare fungal condition that effects the groin with an aroma of a decaying halibut, a ginger tabby cat has been following him about for the past two weeks. Manuela, in a similar state of agitation had responded to Anotonio’s Poyato´s fake profile. Meetings had been arranged.
Both couples were to meet at the same time at the Bar La Casa Devante and both couples were to wear the flower of the early Remitroot plant, this being a traditional symbol of fertility. Not that the ladies in question needed any help in that direction. What could possible go wrong?
Antonio Poyato met Pilar instead of Manuela, they enjoyed a brief but vigorous relationship. This was fortunate as Manuela’s reaction at being presented with poyato instead of a Clooney lookalike could have proved fatal for the lovelorn Antonio. Manuela cut her losses and took Pongy Pedro home for vermin control purposes.
This of course was never spoken of again.
El Mono Colgante
Blythe Gruntmore, Alqueria’s very own Englishman resident and Geordie made one of those decisions that arrive with a flash of inspirational brilliance. The flash however wasn’t inspiration but the effect of downing a large glass of Remitroot Liquor. The idea, simply induced sentimentality born from melancholy brought about by the after effects of downing a large glass of Remitroot liqueur.
Blythe’s grand plan, to build an English pub in Alqueria. It was to be built on waste ground to the east of the Río Verde. It was to be called El Mono Colgante, The Hanging Monkey. This was in honour of a brave and gallant act performed by his forebears in the north-east of England during the Napoleonic Wars. Every detail was to be faithfully followed, even the depressing red brick was imported.
One very important aspect of an English pub is the beer. Blythe, however failed to grasp the fact that beer at room temperature in England is quite different from beer at room temperature in southern Spain. Most who drank the tepid liquid thought it was a treatment for Pharyngitis.
The subtleties of another British tradition were also overlooked by Gruntmore. Puddles of beer on the bar. In the cool climate of Britain people wear long sleeves, when one leans on the bar these sleeves soak up beer. Wet elbows are an integral part of the ‘Pub’ experience. In southern Spain people mostly wear short sleeves, bare elbows are not absorbent and therefore do not diminish the amount of beer on the bar counter. At the end of the first evening there was so much liquid on the bar it had developed its own tidal system. People were being treated for alcohol poisoning of the elbow, it was costing the Alquerian Heath Service thousands.
Food consisted of pickled eggs, pickled onions and what Gruntmore described as ‘Mushy peas and a grunter’. This delicacy consists of Marrowfat Peas, presumably with indigestion as they are treated with bicarbonate of soda, then generally mistreated until they become a green amorphous mass. The ‘peas’ are then served with a barely warm pork pie. The sight of a Spaniard trying to decide what to do with this dish is an interesting one. Some simply opted for bouncing it off the ceiling.
British pubs do not offer a table service and Gruntmore followed this tradition. Poor old Alfonso Delgado sat expectantly for four hours before being rushed off to Alqueria General Hospital by paramedics suffering from severe dehydration.
Once the unpleasantness of an English pub outweighed its novelty value Gruntmore’s clientele diminished to a critical level. El Mono Colgante soon became another statistic in the list of pubs closed and up for sale. And there’s no sadder sight than a closed and bolted pub.
Listen to Episode eight of Alqueria the radio show at www.alqueria.eu.
Alqueria de Golf
Alqueria is a paradise for golfers. Well that’s the advertising blurb, in fact no one in Alqueria can even play the game. But complete ignorance has never stopped anyone from doing anything. The world’s politicians are testimony to the fact that the bigger the country the bigger the level of ignorance at the top.
The topography of Alqueria’s golf course was interesting to say the least. Built on waste ground to the east of the Río Verde, where so many failed Alquerian projects had been situated, it was mainly swamp strewn with semi-submerged and ruined buildings. The turf floated on a soup of disgusting black ‘Río Verde’ slime. Golfers balanced on small rafts of artificial grass as they tried to hit golf balls that slowly sank into the foul smelling ooze. Respirators had to be worn to avoid the fumes rendering one unconscious.
The greens were more solid but had to be arrived at by negotiating the convoluted Río Verde which meanders its disgusting way around, through and under the golf course. Many a daring golfer met his end trying to cross the River which can only be traversed at certain times of the day due to the feeding habits of some of its larger inhabitants. All holes on the greens are attached via a network of plastic tubing which allows the balls to be collected at the club house and sold back to the golfers. One individual has bought the same ball two hundred and forty six times.
Antonio Poyato, alive to the needs of the modern golfer decided to invent a device which would render the bag full of clubs that golfers lugs about redundant. He developed the ‘Swiss Army’ golf club. Instead of the twelve or fourteen clubs required for various obscure purposes, Poyato only required one. It weighed nine and a half kilograms however and was festooned with levers, buttons and knobs which controlled the deployment of a multitude of heads. Unfortunately it malfunctioned pole-axing half a dozen golfers, destroying Alqueria’s newly built public urinal and causing the Spanish Navy to deploy an aircraft carrier off the nearby coast.
But why did the golfers come to Alqueria in the first place?
They came after being lured by video footage of legitimate courses on the Costa del Sol with badly edited superimposed images of Alqueria. The promises made by Manuela also had something to do with the male contingent arriving, while the wives wisely tagged along to keep an eye on their potentially wayward husbands. Once in Alqueria their passports, ready cash and dignity were confiscated and only returned when their bank accounts were emptied. They were then deposited over the Alquerian border in Spain where the Spanish authorities were left to repatriate these unfortunates.
The golf course has now been closed under threat of Spanish military action.
The New Bridge
After the destruction of the northern bridge by old man Matas, life became decidedly difficult for the people of Alqueria. The southerly bridge is on the Camino de Alqueria, a busy road with many prying eyes. Contraband in the form of illicit Remitroot alcohol, banned by a United Nation’s resolution needed to be moved by a more covert route. Rodriquez was also having problems moving waste from his olive mill. To do it openly would mean paying the exorbitant fees charged by industrial waste management companies.
A crisis meeting was held. A new bridge had to be built quickly. The money was forthcoming in the form of a European Union Infrastructure Redevelopment Grant. Certain officials in the finance department at Brussels had a weakness for Remitroot liquor. It was only necessary to interrupt their supply and minds became suitably concentrated. It was to be a joint project, with the Newcomer’s half starting on the west bank of the Río Verde and the Hill People’s on the east.
The half built by El Gente del Cerro was an elegant affair. Structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. The Art Nouveau façade veneered with the best Albamiel sandstone. Its foundations sunk deep into the mud of the Río Verde. This eastern section successfully completed on time and well before construction had even started on the western half.
The half built by Los Recién Llegados consisted of a surplus pontoon bridge purchased from a crooked storeman at the Army Engineer’s depot in Castrillo del Val. It was erected in the dead of night by a group of itinerant knife grinders from Guadix. Rodriquez handled this part of the operation and had complete control of the finances. The cash residue from the western half of the project has never been traced. Rodriquez however, has ordered another new gleaming white Mercedes S-Class Roadster.
When knife grinders turn their hand to bridge construction, they don’t always take it for granted that the two halves should meet in the middle.
Rodriquez was in jovial mood. He was returning from Alicante where he had just collected his gleaming new white Mercedes S-Class Roadster. He decided to take the northerly route into Alqueria. The new bridge came into view. The car’s suspension gently yielded as he drove onto the structure. Rodriquez then noticed that the bridge’s other half was twenty metres down steam. He tried desperately to stop. The car skidded and toppled into the green oily water of the Río Verde. The River’s flow took him and his gleaming new white Mercedes S-Class Roadster down stream and into the Mediterranean.
For the second time Rodriquez found himself the illegal immigrant. A guest of the Servicio Marítimo de la Guardia Civil arguing his nationality and discussing his rights of abode on Spanish soil.
The New Bridge
Matas eased himself back into the cave. His midnight sortie into Alqueria had been successful. He had ‘liberated’ a cask of Remitroot liquor a small barrel of olives and a copy of ‘Maxim en Español’. Matas still lurked in his cave overlooking the village. Believing the Civil War still to be on he did what he could for the Republic with his limited resources.
Buoyed by a belief in his cause and half a cask of Remitroot liquor he foraged through his meagre arsenal of weapons. After discarding some corroding cartridges, a collection of highly unstable pyrotechnics he came across an innocuous looking brown canvas parcel. Cleaning the accumulated dirt of decades from the package he examined the label. ‘Demolition block-D7. RDX. TNT’. Further rummaging brought to light a detonator, a reel of wire and an old but functional car battery. He had all the prerequisites for making a nuisance of himself and wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass.
Waiting until nightfall our erstwhile commando slipped down the easy slope from his cave and into the Río Verde. Up to his waist in the stinking green water he made for the bridge leading from the Huella Vieja, the northerly route into Alqueria. He forced the explosive between the stonework of the structure and ran the wire back to the entrance of his cave.
Rodriquez was in jovial mood. He was returning from Alicante where he had just collected his new gleaming white Mercedes S-Class Roadster. He decided to take the northerly route into Alqueria. The bridge was narrow and he made a mental note to drive carefully he didn’t want to scratch his new machine.
Matas touched the bare wires to the battery terminals. The explosion wasn’t overly loud nor was it overly dramatic. A lot of smoke and debris and the bridge had no centre. He thought he heard a scream and wondered what the white object was disappearing into the river. Matas danced around the living chamber of his cave in a state of high glee. Around and around he danced before the combination of over exuberance and over indulgence in the juice of the Remitroot caused him to collapse in an untidy pile on the dirt floor.
The sight of a white Mercedes floating down river with an obese mill owner leaping about in a blind rage on its roof attracted little attention. This is Alqueria after all. Rodriquez shouted for a line to be thrown. Blythe Gruntmore, the only one in earshot was confused. His bad Spanish had construed the shouted request as something to-do with Rodriquez’s loins. Blythe had suspicions about Rodriquez’s loins for sometime and pretended not to hear. Rodriquez and his Mercedes drifted down river and into the Mediterranean. He was detained by the Servicio Marítimo de la Guardia Civil as an illegal immigrant.
Alqueria needed a new bridge.
Day of El Raro’s Awakening
Andalucía has over three hundred fiestas a year which is mere child’s play compared to Alqueria which has six hundred and fifty three or seven hundred and forty two on a leap year. Now those readers with a grasp of higher mathematics will realise that this equates to more than one a day as most years only have have three hundred and sixty five days. The inference is that there must be more than one fiesta on some days. This is obviously so, in fact on the ‘Day of El Raro’s Awakening’ there are fifteen fiestas, seven of which have parades, all of which include the consumption of alarming quantities of Remitroot liquor in all its forms.
Of the seven parades two are magnificent affairs full of pomp and ceremony. The other five are little more than belligerent bands of petty criminals roaming the streets bent on mischievous, rather like any Saturday night in Alqueria. The two main parades start in opposing barrios. Leaving from the Hill People’s barrio and led by Manuela we have a procession celebrating the day freedom was granted for Alquerian women to consume Remitroot wine, swear and belch ‘Whistling Rufus’ in public. From the other end of the Village the Newcomer’s procession commemorates the day when Pepe Pervertio, a citizen of that barrio achieved international fame by being arrested by the Vice Squad for using a Remitroot dibber for immoral purposes. Rodriquez, who leads the Newcomer’s parade is Manuela’s sworn enemy, in fact the hate for each other is almost tangible. Antonio Poyato managed to harness the waves of hate thus illuminating a sixty watt light bulb, unfortunately the glow had a strange black tinge and seemed to herald a sense of foreboding. Poyato had planned to aggravate their hostility and so power the whole Village by hate but the Madrid Government got wind of the scheme and promptly taxed it.
The parades start simultaneously from their respective barrios and meet head on in the Calle Horno. Manuela and Rodriquez would glare at each other, neither giving way. The glaring has become part of the festivities with partisan cardboard ‘glaring’ masks worn by the procession’s participants. Manuela always has the advantage however. Her feminine wiles of curly hair tossing and the fire her almond eyes produce always wear Rodriquez down. As he starts to drool and shake Manuela leads her procession forward sweeping the humiliated Newcomers aside. These events are usually followed by the traditional riot and a good time is had by all.
Just what the ‘Day of El Raro’s Awakening’ signifies or what he was awaking from is unknown. Perhaps he was surfacing from an overindulgence of Remitroot liquor.
Dr. Careless Carlos had been hard at work, his first task, to train a medical team ‘par excellence ‘. In Alquerian terms that meant being able to differentiate between an intravenous drip and a bedpan, getting to this standard proved exhaustive and tested Carlos’s reserves to their utmost.
Carlos THEN opened an ‘ozone treatment clinic’ in Alqueria’s Calle Generalissimo next to ‘Cod Pieces R Us’, Barmy Bartoli’s extremely popular emporium. ‘Ozone therapy’ is an alternative treatment that increases the amount of oxygen in the body through the introduction of ozone usually by intravenous drip. It purports to cure many ills and gives the beneficiary increased vigour and a feeling of well-being. Carlos, ever interested in pioneering new treatments, some of which he is still under investigation for, intended to cash in.
Manuela was given the treatment free so she could act as a reference for the procedure and thus bring in clients. Manuela however needed an anaesthetic before she would let Carlos anywhere near her and questioned why, when she woke up his hands were on her shoulders and he was breathing heavy. However customers duly booked and the treatments began, surprising without incident, initially.
The treatment involves taking of blood via a drip, injecting ozone in gas form and letting it drip back in, this is when problems started. Carlos’s assistant, Pablo Daftio decided to celebrate Alqueria’s win in the ‘Murcia Under Fives Rugby Union knock Out Challenge Cup’. Alqueria’s team was made up of ex-convicts shanghaied from the Locemallup Prison near Minsk. Pablo in his intoxicated state started getting the blood mixed up which led to a fleet of ambulances ferrying clients to the main hospitals in Spain. Pablo decimated Carlos’s patient list and Carlos dropped his prices. The suppliers of the ozone used in the treatment, afraid of bad publicity stopped supplying Carlos’s clinic giving our worthy medico a serious problem.
Antonio Poyato the owner of Alqueria’s world renown Remitroot crop came to the rescue with Remitroot gas. As both Remitroot and Ozone gases are colourless it was easy to substitute the former for the latter. To those who are familiar with Remitroot the results should have been predictable.
The effects were similar as Remitroot when taken orally but they were immediate. Patients became completely intoxicated as soon as the blood flowed back into their systems. Likewise with the aphrodisiac effect, many patients didn’t make it out of the clinic. The treatment became popular with elderly gentlemen. Alqueria’s streets became thronged with semi-clad drunken old men in various states of sexual readiness.
Something had to be done. In true Alquerian style it was decided to close the clinic and never mention it again.
The Brain Shift
Loco Paco was concerned about Benjy his pet Saharan Dung Beetle and his performance for the up and coming season. Benjy was OK over hurdles, on the flat and quick enough out of the stalls but he laboured in wet conditions. Paco took to taking him out during inclement weather to improve his technique in the wet. It was during a thunderstorm of Wagnerian proportions and while Benjy was on his third lap ‘IT’ happened. A flash of lighting and Loco Paco hit the ground, hair smouldering and eyeballs oscillating in their sockets. He clambered to his feet and ‘WHACK’ he was hit again. Paco staggered to his feet once more, smoke issued from his ears and his legs appeared to have lost the value of teamwork.
Staggering into the Bar La Casa Devante Paco emitted a strange blue glow. The bar’s customers were quick to cash in on Paco’s condition. Several warmed there hand over him and Alfonso Delgado used the unfortunate Paco to charge his mobile phone. Just where Alfonso plugged in his charger is something we should perhaps not pursue.
Paco however, after the initial shock started to scribble on pieces of paper, walls and table-tops. The first thing to emerge were the blueprints for a viable fission nuclear reactor. The solution to ‘Global Warming’ was soon clear as Paco became more and more productive. His fame spread as documents, blueprints and thesis mounted. They soon filled a sizeable briefcase and covered every major ill that presently befell mankind.
Manuela was of course sceptical and went to talk to our electrically induced intellectual giant. Manuela said she didn’t believe any of it and asked Paco if he thought she was a ‘fool’. Paco replied that he thought she was a narcissist with psychotic delusions of grandeur and a tendency towards nymphomania. Manuela crossed him off her Christmas card list.
The United Nations soon got to hear about not so Loco Paco and duly summoned him to appear before a special committee to present his work. It was while the limousine was negotiating the New York traffic that it swerved to avoid an itinerant Lama. Paco shot forward rendering himself unconscious as his head hit the walnut trim. “You dropped your briefcase Paco” Pepa informed him when he came around. “What’s a briefcase, ooooh aren’t the buildings tall, Pepa I think your head’s on back to front”.
Alqueria and Pepa had their Loco Paco back at his insane best. The world may never know how to build an economical fission reactor or stop the icecaps from melting but Benjy won the Duke of Berksville Cup by three lengths.
The Alquerian Table
As the people of Alqueria are unique so is its cuisine. The climatic conditions, singular soil type and strange consistency of the water in the Río Verde combine to produce the most unusual foodstuffs in all Spain. Alquerian cuisine is based around Remitroot, local truffles and the freshwater fish from the Río Verde. The term freshwater is used advisedly.
Fermented Remitroot berries and Río Verde water provide the basis for the local wine. Antonio Poyato, who brews the wine applied for Denominación de Origen certification, however the regulatory body returned his sample with a note simply saying ‘Not bloody likely’. Distilled Remitroot has recently attracted the attention of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.
Alqueria Pudding is a traditional meal enjoyed on festive occasions particularly weddings. The basis is again Remitroot, but pulped into a dough. Not unlike suet, the puddings can contain a variety of fillings. Because the dough is an aggressive aphrodisiac, very few are completely consumed. It is advisable to check with one’s doctor before eating one. It might also be polite to check with one’s partner.
Alquerian Truffles may not be as sought after as the Motovun Forest variety but they are distinctive. Black with variable blue markings they have a pungent aroma slightly reminiscent of the drainage problems associated with Egyptian port towns. A top French chef described them as having the consistency of Balsa Wood and the taste of hydrocortisoneskin cream. Highly trained Mongolian Gerbils locate the delicacy on the southern slopes of the Sierra Alhamilla beneath fallen and rotting foliage.
The Río Verde begins life as a sparkling stream high in the Sierra. By the time it flows past Alqueria it is a slow moving malodorous green watery stew containing only the most resilient of life. Strange catfish and freshwater Lampreys lurk in its murky depths the only edible fish is the Alquerian Trout. Considered a separate species owing to its survival in the River, a task few other Salmoninae varieties have managed. Distinguished from other trout by large dilated eyes and a confused expression they need careful preparation. Nestor Clacketo ate one only partially cooked and it had the most terrible side-effects. He was in such a state of mental disorientation he entered and was welcomed into politics. A Sturgeon reputedly caught in the Río Verde is on display over the bar of La Casa Devante. It is in fact a rather badly preserved pike. The cardboard spines stapled to its back and markings fashioned with a black felt-tip pen fool few.
Alqueria’s food and drink are perhaps only for the educated palate, acquired tastes, not for the faint hearted. If one is tempted to enjoy a repast of local delicacies, an open mind and good medical insurance are recommended.
The Flu Epidemic
Doctor Enzo Matanzamas reported the first case of Alquerian Flu to the Ministerio de Sanidad y Política Social at the beginning of the week. Influenzavirus B (Alquerian mutation) as it is officially known is a notifiable disease. It has all of the usual flu symptoms plus depression, fits of uncontrollable weeping and a large blue boil on the nose. Depression and fits of uncontrollable weeping are common in the healthy population of Alqueria so these symptoms can be misdiagnosed.
Manuela was the first confirmed case. She didn’t like visiting Dr. Matanzamas. He didn’t always take her temperature the way she expected. Her usual method of fighting colds was to take to her bed and place a large Sevillano Hat at the foot. She would then drink whisky mixed with lemon juice from a Cruzcampo Beer glass held in her gloved hand. She would continue drinking until the hat began moving on its own accord. She would then be cured or at least feel a great deal better. This was Alquerian Flu and not a common cold however.
Manuela was a fighter and was determined to carry on as usual, which she did. By the end of the week every man under forty had the virus. The olive mill came to a standstill. With no labour available the presses stopped and no Alquerian olives entered the national market. Shares in olive related companies rocketed. A spokesman for ENAC the accreditation body said it was the best news for the industry in fifty years.
Only one person in the village was immune. Antonio Poyato. His exposure to the precious Remitroot he cultivated was the likely key. Antonio experimented on Nestor Clacketo and sure enough he was cured. Poyato was in high glee, a cure for influenza. He would be a rich man. How to administer it? He couldn’t give the whole village Remitroot wine, they were awkward enough sober. He dried the leaves and crushed them with olives to form a paste. Distributing this balsam free to the villagers he was sure he would make a fortune selling the recipe to the world’s pharmaceutical companies.
There was however a hitch.
Remitroot balsam cures only the Alquerian mutation and the Alquerian mutation kills all other forms of influenza. So to be cured one has to come to Alqueria and catch the local strain which kills the normal type. Then one has to take the balsam curing the Alquerian mutation. The Alquerian mutation is debilitating so a period of convalescence is required. If no rest is taken the immune system is so weak, reinfection takes place. The choice was clear, spend three week in Alqueria or suffer with the flu. Most people preferred the latter.
Poyato was heart broken, but Alqueria was back to its usual dysfunctional self and free to continue making a nuisance of itself once more.
Manuela looked Antonio Poyato straight in the eyes, jutted out her chin and let forth a heartfelt stream of abuse. Antonio staggered backwards under the force of her words, he was sure he didn’t deserve such an outburst but replied with the same venom as he received. Manuela changed tactics and instead of hurling verbal abuse hurled something more tangible in the form of a ornamental paperweight containing a not very convincing model of the Eiffel Tower. It was however sufficient to floor Poyato and render him unconscious. The rest of Alqueria were equally at each others’ throats but this was not the usual barrio rivalry, a bad moon had risen and chaos reigned.
Those who were once close friends were no longer on speaking terms and hostilities between the two barrios escalated to a state of overt warfare. The situation was such that a barrier had to be built separating the two factions. Even this was fraught with disagreement and violence, so much so that neither side would cooperate in the building of the ‘wall’. The only solution was to build two walls some hundred millimetres apart but following exactly the same course. Construction was slow as flak jackets and hard hats made mobility difficult.
As the stone and fist throwing was at their peak an apparition appeared in the midst of the turmoil. It was in the form of a woman, Maria, no overly tall but very, very pretty and appealing, Antonio Poyato fell immediately in love her. Her presence seemed to reassure the wayward people of Alqueria. She assembled the entire village and spoke of compassion and fraternity, she spoke with reason and understanding and she touched the very souls of every Alquerian.
Friends became friends once more and the bar La Casa Devante started admitting those from the Newcomers’ Barrio. Manuela apologised to Poyato and Loco Paco allowed little boys to take Bengy, his pet dung beetle for walks. The walls were de-assembled and a pretty pink picket fence with plenty of flowers was erected with gates ever fifty metres. A miracle had happened with peace and harmony the order of the day. People smiled and slapped one another on the back, even the evil Rodriquez gave sweets to little children and stopped trying to murder Manuela. The Village slept soundly under the new regime.
Morning dawned with stones breaking the freshly repaired windows, Manuela once more stalked Poyato with sharpened machete and the picket fence was trampled under foot by energetic rioters.
Maria had to return to Madrid on domestic business. She never returned to Alqueria nor did peace and harmony which was never mentioned again.
The Great Snowstorm of 17
It snowed in Alqueria for the first time in living memory. If anyone wishes to check the metrological records of our Village Republic they will see that this is so. Normally a cynical temperature inversion keeps Alqueria warm and balmy but covered in a worryingly sticky, green and foul smelling mist while the rest of the Iberian Peninsular freezes. This system however has failed for whatever reason and Alqueria is up to its nether regions in the freezing result of sublimation. Loco Paco put it down to divine intervention aimed at punishing the people of Alqueria for not recognising his imaginary five foot rodent friend ‘Bert’ as a living entity and worthy of housing benefit and a Winter fuel allowance. Whatever the reason Alqueria was isolated by a wall of snow making a change from it being isolated by apathy and high powered inertia.
Rodriquez who had never stepped foot outside Alqueria, mainly because when he did gentlemen in green uniforms and blue lights on their cars escorted him back again tried to bottle it and sell it. He was very disappointed when he discovered it had no street value and went back to manufacturing counterfeit Remitroot codpieces which sold well among certain members of the British House of Lords.
Manuela knew all about snow and the frost bite it can cause to exposed regions of the body. Suffice it to say Manuela has suffered greatly from this particular malady and has ceased all alfresco pursuits until the milder weather arrives. Antonio Poyato’s first though was to test the snow for alcohol content in case it was a competitor for his Remitroot Wine, Whisky and Beer. It was of great relief that the analysis only showed heavy metals, hydrocarbons and a strange strain of bacteria that is usually only present between the toes of Afghan camels drivers over the age of fifty-five.
Communications between Alqueria and the outside world ceased to function and no vehicles could enter of leave the Pueblo. On this news stock markets reached record highs and foreign currencies surged. The Spanish parliament mooted the idea of keeping Alqueria permanently filled with artificial snow diverted from the Sierra Nevada but a corrupt politician had already sold it to The House of Lords to pack codpieces.
The snow didn’t linger long however, by next morning it was gone. The general feeling is that it became depressed by the ambiance of Alqueria and by same strange mechanism elevated it own temperature and melted. Loco Paco spent the rest of the day looking for it, he felt sure it was a case of theft and notified the authorities.
El combate de lucha libre
There was to be a grand wrestling match in Alqueria. A combatant from each of the barrios would contend for the title of Alquerian All Comers Champion. To organise such an event in a town with a potent barrio divide and intolerant hatred for the opposing faction may seem like a well planned disaster waiting to happen. The powers that be thought it would allow barrio rivalry to be confined to the ring and away from the streets. The naïve fools.
The Alquerian weapons of choice tended to be cobblestones, bricks, bottles and fire-bombs. Hand to hand combat was considered too dangerous so outside wrestlers had to be recruited. Only the meanest and fittest fighters were head-hunted by the respective barrios. They were given Alquerian citizenship, something which can be purchased reasonably cheaply and briefed in the ways of the Pueblo. Manuela took an active part in the selection of the Hill People’s champion. She spent quite a time interviewing each personally. She was very thorough and enthusiastic in her singular selection technique.
Santiago ‘Spleen Ripper’ Gonzales was to represent the Hill People while Ángel ‘Granny Masher’ Tierno was the chosen one of the Newcomers. Both wrestlers left a grisly reputation of broken limbs and chewed ears in their wake. Loco Paco regarded the two fighters with an academic interest and threw morsels of food to them. It wasn’t until he heard them speak that he realised they weren’t some exotic variety of hairless Ouran-Utang but human. Paco was rightly disappointed and turned his attention once more to his imaginary rodent friend, Bert.
Come the day of the contest and the Town’s Plaza was packed with what seems like the entire population of Alqueria. The square was regaled in garlands and bunting. The wrestling ring stands ready and the crowd have already started exchanging jibes and insults. Enter the protagonists, lumbering, knuckles scraping the flagstones. The crowd goes wild. Things more tangible than insults are now thrown, a number of supporters are felled by well aimed projectiles. The ring was torn apart and its planking used as weapons. All in all it was a well planned disaster that had an inevitability Nostradamus would have found easy meat.
The two wrestlers took refuge in the Bar la Casa Devante where they discovered they were once close friends. They had shared the same room while on an advanced grunting course organised by the World Wrestling Council. They sat chatting while bedlam reigned outside.
The irony of the situation seemed somehow quite normal in Alqueria.
The spiritual well-being of Alqueria is in the hands of the Sacerdote del Semblante Lánguido which is rather unfortunate as the good Priest is an atheist and an ardent follower of Sartre. He was once conscientious, full of vitality and pious but after hearing a Manuela confession he is now religiously bankrupt, lethargic and a drunkard. Preaching Existentialism from the pulpit brought him to the attention of a rather fierce bishop who in turn notified the Vatican. To complicate matters further Lánguido rather liked the life of a priest and even more so now as he has dispensed with the formality of chastity. In order to maintain his lifestyle the good Father decided to form his own religion, that of ‘Cuthbertism’. He felt it necessary to include the rudiments of Christianity, especially the festivals which are much liked by the people of Alqueria as they mean a day off work and an excuse to consume vast amounts of Remitroot alcohol. By skilfully altering the Christian protocols and customs he was able to produce a religion which well matched the Alquerian temperament and indeed anyone who was slightly hedonistic in nature.
Christmas Eve was replaced with Barmynoches, which is when the prophet Cuthbert left the Golondrina Verde and staggered to the Bar La Casa Devante and received enlightenment. This ‘enlightenment’ came as a brilliant flash travelling laterally through the upper reaches of his cerebral passageways. However many have experienced this phenomenon especially after drinking alarming quantities of Remitroot Grapa, indeed it is a documented side effect.
But Lánguido was no longer happy!
Cuthbertism became a victim of its own success. Followers from far and wide invaded Alqueria, causing a logistical nightmare and what is worse involving our worthy Priest in extra work which is against all the teachings of Cuthbertism. In order to solve this paradox Lánguido decreed that all followers not born and permanently resident in Alqueria should pay an enlightenment penance which included a very uncomfortable robe made from dried and woven goat droppings and a litre of Remitroot Grapa. This ploy wasn’t however successful and simply filled Alqueria with devout foul smelling drunkards who scratched themselves a lot.
Lánguido was at a loss as what to do do and seriously considered giving up religion and work for a living. Then it stuck him.
Reintroduce the vows of chastity for the followers but not the priest or the indigenous devotees. The foreigners departed Alqueria with much haste in search of a new religion and a new guru.
The Thoughts of Loco Paco
Loco Paco put down his copy of ‘Alqueria Hoy’, Alqueria’s daily newspaper and walked to the window. He had been reading about the crisis in the Remitroot Industry and its fiscal implications. He wondered why they didn’t save money by cancelling the new year and simply rerunning the old one. It made sense to Paco but then many things made sense to him that didn’t to others. While in reality nothing really made sense at all, why should it, there is no logic or rhythm in life. Paco’s view of reality is just as valid as anyone else’s.
As he looked through his window at the dawn of a what should be a new year he wondered if he should wake Pepa but as he didn’t want to die he decided against it. Last night they had celebrated as survivors and today they would remember those who didn’t make it into 2017, just to drink a simple toast to those who are no longer. Paco’s mind then wondered to the new Saharan Dung Beetle racing season and whether Bengy would perform up to expectations. He had been in intensive training lately and was showing promise even though he was a little slow out of the stalls.
The racing season brought Paco happiness as did Loca Pepa, she understood him, most didn’t. Opinions were divided in Alqueria over his sanity but Paco knew what made him happy, something most ‘sane’ people couldn’t grasp. He understood that happiness wasn’t a right, it wasn’t something he was entitled to, if he could snatch the occasional ‘day trip to paradise’ he would be happy. Paco’s family were a mystery to everyone including Paco. He didn’t know who the are or where they could be, they certainly aren’t in the Pueblo. He didn’t even know which continent he sprung from. He didn’t even mind being called ‘Loco Paco’ it was a better epithet than some and gave people advance warning as to his mental state which made things easier during first encounters. It also gave him a freedom of action not open to ‘saner’ people who had to conform to an artificial norm.
Living in Alqueria brought Paco comfort and security as did living with Pepa, both were familiar to him, both allowed him leeway, the leeway a mind like his needed. Perhaps Alqueria is nothing but one large institution for the mentally challenged but the question is, who has the problem and who is sane?
Alqueria in Song and Dance
Of the three traditional folk cultures of the Iberian continent perhaps Alqueria’s is the least known. It could be due to its highbrow content, its sophistication or it could be due to it being ruddy awful. Spain has the Flamenco which has the audience stamping and clapping, Portugal has the Fado in the most melancholy of moods and Alqueria has the ‘Ohno’ making people wonder why the hell they even bothered. The name Ohno is an abbreviation of the ovation that precedes every performance, which is ‘Oh no not that caga again!’
The two most celebrated exponents of song and dance in Alqueria are Pilar del Redondorodillas on vocal and Ernesto Muyinstable on foot. I use the singular as poor Ernesto has only one leg. He is in fact a uniped which may appear at first sight to be somewhat of a drawback for a Flamenco type dancer, in fact it is a great drawback, Señor Muyinstable falls over a lot.
Pilar sings the Ono with gusto which doesn’t however distract from the awfulness of the performance. The traditional Ono is a song of varying tempos. It starts with high pitch wailing, followed by a series of low frequency and drawn-out grunts. The grunt is followed by a period of sobbing which is supposed to show emotion, this impression is reinforced by the performer holding the heart. It was during this part of the performance that an itinerant doctor in the audience thought Pilar was having a coronary and advanced intent on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. When he was close enough to Pilar to see her in all her glory he opted for sending a ‘get well soon’ card. The much welcomed conclusion is accompanied with the revolving of eyeballs, a remarkable feat of musclier control when performed properly. Unfortunately Pilar has a glass eye which on her last performance shot out like a sabot anti-tank round, pole-axed the cat, ricocheted off the ceiling and landed down the cleavage of Carmen the barmaid where it was retrieved by a grateful and grinning Loco Paco.
Ernesto Muyinstable, on the other hand is always sure of warm applause. Not because of his act, which can only be described as ‘sad’, this is what one would expect from a performer who is supposed to gyrate and twirl putting any self respecting Dervish to shame, having only one leg. The applause is one of sympathy. Ernesto however, believes it is for his hoofing prowess and is prompted to ever more complicated routines causing him to fall over even more. This attracts more sympathy which leads to ever more complicated routines causing, etc etc. etc.
So why not visit Alqueria and enjoy the song and dance or one could simply paddle in boiling fat, perhaps a more worthwhile alternative.
Alquerian custom, epithets and dining
Epithets can be a means of implying esteem or in Alqueria’s case the reverse. In Spain generally it is impolite to use one’s nickname to one’s face. Using them openly is however the norm in Alqueria, especially during one of the many heated verbal exchanges that take place nightly after the bars close. The obese olive mill owner Rodriquez, has many such names. These range from the obvious, El Gordo through the sycophantic El Jefe to the unprintable. Manuela has a vast array of names for him all of which fall into the unprintable category.
Epithets applied to Manuela are in the main complementary. La Guapa, La Preciosa and even La Lujuria by the young men of the village who know her well. It is the village girls who are less pretty than Manuela who call her La Siniestra. Unkind, true perhaps but unkind. Blythe Gruntmore alone is immune from this onslaught of derogatory titles. He cannot understand a word of the Alquerian dialect and Alquerians are mystified by his Geordie utterances. He is known as El Triste, The Sad One, meant to show sympathy. The villagers think his Geordie accent is a horrific speech impediment.
Dining can be a purely functional exercise or it can be a formal ritual. Whichever it is the rite of breaking bread is centuries old.
Enjoying a communal bowl of Alquerian Bagre Estofado is an informal affair but still etiquette applies. The bowl’s contents are segmented as in the traditional Spanish way with each person eating almost to their divide. It is not polite to eat to the dividing line but to leave a small layer of food adjacent to it. The Alquerian method has been modified in as much as mining of the adjacent portion is much practised. When the person next to you is distracted for whatever reason a diligent excavator can dig into his neighbours portion. If he possesses the necessary dexterity, he can leave nothing but a thin crust for the unwary diner. This can lead to arguments and spoon fights often break out. Those who practise this method of food reclamation often have their spoons specially sharpened on oil-stones to aid swifter hollowing and to help defend themselves.
On formal occasions it is necessary to show your appreciation of the cuisine. Simple exclamations of praise are considered vulgar in Alqueria so the ‘belch’ is employed. Probably based on an old Moorish custom of the region, it is exploited with relish in the village.
The belch, after or during dinner must resonate and be audible to all. When members of the opposing barrio are present, sectarian rivalry comes into play and the belches become progressively louder and more robust. On such occasions the noise and emitted gases eventually render the dining-room uninhabitable. All naked flames have to be extinguished to avoid explosion. This is a condition on all Alquerian insurance policies.
Dinner invitations to those outside the village are rarely accepted.
Smile, your in Alqueria
The air in the tunnel was dangerously low in oxygen, methane was building up at an alarming rate. At least the removal of excavated earth was progressing well. The final breakthrough was approaching. One last thrust with the improvised shovel, a small avalanche of dry earth and then sunlight, fresh air and freedom. This is how one group of tourists managed to get out of Alqueria with at least some cash still in their possession.
The new tourist initiative by the Alquerian establishment was built on a firm foundation of fantastic fabrications and outright lies. On paper Alqueria appeared to be the French Riviera with free beer and dancing girls, in reality it was Scunthorpe on a wet Sunday.
Holidaymakers were lured to the village republic with false promises and rigged climatic data. Once there the borders were closed, prices trebled and the unfortunate visitors relieved of their cash and all portable wealth.
The system was simple, pick them up from a charter flight at Murcía airport. Drive them into Alqueria. Keep them there until their wallets and tempers had been exhausted. Then drive them back to the airport where the expected return flight never materialises. The Spanish authorities didn’t mind Alquerians passing through their country as long as they didn’t touch anything on the way.
Keeping the holiday makers occupied while their cash was being surgically removed was simple enough. Remitroot whisky rendered most of them incapable of logical thought while rigged gaming machines accounted for the rest. Manuela was the main attraction as tourist hostess, she was certainly worth a second look. She brought a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘package holiday’.
As far as complaints were concerned Loco Paco was given the job of Customer Relations Representative. He refused to answer any query without first consulting his imaginary five foot tall pet rodent, Bert. Complainees went away confused, bewildered and in some cases sorry for Paco, but they went away which was the object of the exercise.
Visitors soon began begging in the streets, some formed escape committees. Tunnels were started. One group was seen using a vaulting horse, but Rodriquez had already seen that film. A glider was found in an attic and one couple tried to cross the border disguised as a female alpaca. Unfortunately a male alpaca in quizzical mood was roaming on the other side. The couple are still receiving counselling. Those that made it out of Alqueria were forced to commit petty crime in order to pay their way home.
The summer tourist season ended with bumper profits for Alqueria. Alqueria now headed the international blacklist for tourist destinations. Some countries were so outraged at the treatment of their nationals they threatened military action.
Mata Mata Poyato Mata
Antonio Poyato lives on a smallholding to the west of Alqueria’s Hill People’s Barrio. The Huerta Pongo, as Poyato’s smallholding is called, produces a fine crop of Remitroot in fact it is the only site in the entire world known to produce the plant. The properties of Remitroot are well known and will be familiar to students of Alquerian flora and fauna. Just why the plant grows here and no where else is something of a mystery but the soil conditions and the subterranean water, which naturally irrigates the Remitroot fields undoubtedly have something to do with it.
The original Huerta Pongo was constructed, in post Roman times, on the site of a legionary fort. Waste water from the fort was allowed to drain into what are now the Remitroot fields, this produced a soil rich in nitrates and the contents of Roman squaddies bowels and bladders for some five-hundred years, this being the length of the Roman occupation of Alqueria. The bad drainage of present day Alqueria adds a richness and lumpiness to the water as it rises from the depths of the earth to bring life, albeit foul smelling to the Remitroot crop.
Poyato has a wife, Mata Mata Poyato Mata. Both of her parents where called Mata, so armed with a sense of humour and natural stupidity they gave her the given names Mata Mata. She was supposed to marry a not too distant cousin so she hurriedly married Antonio to stop herself being a Mata cubed. Married life appeared to suit and she grew more and more contented as her marriage to Antonio Poyato matured. It wasn’t until she visited Dr. Deepo Cuto with a case of Río Verde foot rot, a common complaint in the Village, and had blood taken for analysis. The results showed a high level of a rare sedative in her bloodstream. Antonio knew of no medication his wife was taking and so kept on eye on here in case she had an addiction.
Poyato discovered the cause, Mata had long used crushed Remitroot leaves as a cosmetic. This kept her skin young and smooth, so much so that she kept it a secret, not wanting other women of the Pueblo competing in the youthfulness stakes.
However, and I hope ladies reading this are paying attention, it mixes with the natural feminine body oils and produces the sedative. Poyato was in high glee having discovered another use to add to the already ubiquitous uses of the plant.
Mata was oblivious to the sedative effect, but Poyato cashed in, selling the cosmetic to male customers who had the more wilful of wives.
Alqueria’s borders are under siege. Prospective immigrants from a certain north American country are queuing, begging for asylum. They tell terrible stories of the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping into view and taking control of their country. They fear for the future, some do not believe they even have a future. Many entered before the authorities could act. They tried to impose their strange and foreign customs on the quiet, friendly folk of Alqueria. Strange food called hot-dogs and hamburgers appeared. Alquerians examined this fare with suspicion They could think of many things to do with it but eating the things wasn’t one of them. They brought their own entertainment. DVDs full of endless episodes involving sanitised teenagers trying desperately to look cute and propounding a sickening sentimentality which they expecting the folk of Alqueria to embrace and couldn’t understand their reluctance to sit for hours watching the drivel.
The very essence of the Alquerian character was at stake. Manuela, Loco Paco, Antonio poyato and Rodriquez where for the first time in Alquerian history as one. They stood firm to face this tidal wave of foreigners besieging their borders. They differed regarding the solution. Manuela suggested a way of testing the male contingent of would be immigrants, but this was thought to be counter production and would probably make Alqueria even more attractive. Poyato suggested paying them to settle in Australia, Rodriquez was for intergalactic deportation and Loco Paco thought is was Easter Sunday. After much debate however, a wall was decided upon.
Manuela was given charge of its construction and ended up with a two foot high picket fence with plenty of flowers. It was a joy to behold but completely useless as an instrument of demarcation. Once more our dynamic quartet put their heads together, this has sometimes been know to cause a fire but on this occasion they came up with the idea of a ‘Test of Suitability’.
The potential settlers from across the ‘Pond’ would be asked to spend three minutes in original thought and to write that thought down, in legible and joined-up ‘big person’ writing. The task was beyond them. All thoughts were plagiarists form popular TV programs. The entire population of this particular country from across the ‘Pond’ appear to live their lives by proxy. The whole country thought they were in a ‘soap opera’, judging by recent events a nightmare possibly a better description.
All events and characters depicted in Alqueria are completely fictitious, honest.
‘Trabajo’ is a four letter word
Mentioning work in Alqueria is akin to screening a Ken Loach film at the Conservative Party conference. The Alquerian understanding of the work ethic is just as alien to the Pueblo’s inhabitants as Loach’s ideas of social equality are to the Tories. But work has to be done in Alqueria, the Village has to be financed. Angela Merkel has suggested that all Europeans should work until they are sixty-seven, you can’t get Alquerians to work after Lunch, before is difficult enough but after, no chance.
Apart from the usual retail establishments the only real wealth producers in Alqueria are Poyato’s Remitroot plant and Rodriquez’s olive mill. The latter was once a thriving concern producing olive oil of the finest quality and richness of flavour. With the demise of its owner, Roque Rodriquez the Mill fell into the hands of Roque’s son, known simply as Rodriquez or ‘That B******’. Under his careful management the concern is now losing money and its very fabric derelict. Rodriquez has a passion, Abyssinian Goat Shirling. People familiar with the sport will know it is very expensive, a new set of gullion skrunging prongs can cost upwards of thirty-thousand Euros. Rodriquez diverted every penny of the Mill’s profits and when these stopped rolling in he disappeared the pension fund and then sold off the assets that were still standing.
The work force, once a conscientious committed group of professionals dissolved into a collection of purloining malcontents. They looting the place. The last large investment made was in a complex computer system. This was taken piecemeal, most of it under coats, jerseys and shirts. Rodriquez couldn’t understand why ninety percent of his workforce, female and male appeared pregnant, but he never was one to pry.
Not many Alquerians have worked outside the Pueblo, their services aren’t exactly sought after. Loco Paco did once work for a large hotel in Madrid, if only for a very short time. He was engaged to clean the lifts. Now, lifts simply don’t exist in Alqueria.
The shoddy method of civil construction won’t tolerate buildings above two stories high. Paco wasn’t sure what a ‘lift’ was. He thought they were those convoluted brassieres that enhance the female form. So quite naturally he was looking forward to starting his new job. Poor Paco was to be disappointed and to add insult to injury it took him a whole six days to clean the ‘ascensores’. When asked why it took so long he replied that there were two on each floor and sometimes they had completely disappeared, he had to wait ages for them to re-materialise.
Of Poyato’s Remitroot plant later.
José Cabrasilbido listened intently to Manuela’s story. The girl was out of breath. She had run all the way from the banks of the Río Verde. It was two in the morning. The policeman was in no mood for sectarian tricks but Manuela was not prone to hysterics and she was certainly shaken. She was interrupted during some nocturnal activity of which she was vague but it appeared to involve two local lads and a tub of Remitroot degreasing gel. An unearthly howling ‘aymelaysheengang‘ had echoed through the village. Manuela’s two companions had taken to their heels. They were last seen passing through Mojácar white faced, sweating and trouser-less.
Now José, Alqueria’s local policeman is not the wisest of men. He had mastered joined-up writing but was still baffled by his car’s gear-lever. The Mayor had confiscated the bullets from his ‘glock’ after he accidentally shot the Inspector Jefe in the foot. At least it is assumed it was an accident. José was however tenacious and set about dragging the river. He feared the howling was the last desperate gasps of a drowning man or woman.
The dragging turned up a stone plinth inscribed ‘Atlantis’, an earthenware amphorae containing the fleece of a winged ram, gold in colour and a suitcase with ‘Property of Lord Lucan’ etched across the handle. “Nothing of interest here” he muttered as he threw the items back. Finding no tangible cause he began looking for a more unworldly solution. The gallant policeman set about an all night vigil. A lonely watch over the village and its people.
Settling himself in Manuela’s much used clearing, he waited and listened. Darkness fell and the bars emptied. Giggling couples and arguing youths made their way home. A fragile tranquillity fell upon Alqueria as it prepared for slumber.
José could feel those troublesome neck hairs start to rise. ‘Aymelaysheengang‘ pierced the still night. The terrible wailing continued ‘weeepastfooorkupradstannning’. José plucked up whatever courage he could muster and headed in the direction of the lament. ‘It is human’ he thought ‘but either in great pain or greatly demented’. ‘Horweslotsoadsanassesallwlingaces’ it continued. Along the Calle Horne José walked. Not looking back, nor right, nor left but grimly straight on. The light from an open window attracted the policeman. He wondered what sights would greet him. What carnage must await discovery.
Blythe Gruntmore the village’s resident Englishman, stood knee deep in empty Newcastle Brown Ale bottles, afloat on a sea of nostalgia. He pined for the Tyne and its fog shrouded banks. He raised his head and burst into song.
“Ah me lads, ye shud only seen us gannin’,
We pass’d the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin’;
Thor wes lots o’ lads an’ lasses there, all wi’ smiling faces,
Gawn alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races.”
José, not wanting the night to be a complete waste decided to pay Manuela a visit, he was sure he could find a suitable pretext.
Loco Paco and Loca Pepa are to be wed.
Pepa wanted a white wedding with all the trimmings, carriages drawn by horses, a retinue of bridesmaids, clouds of confetti and a full church service. Paco wanted to watch the football. Pepa had ‘popped’ the question, “Do you want to marry me?” But this was a sentence of some six words and Paco lost concentration after the fourth. To his confused and permanently dazed mind the fifth and sixth words were “watch football” something people with diminished intelligence can do, in fact it is a requirement.
The day was set, preparations made and Pepa waiting in anticipation. Loco Paco didn’t know if it was his wedding Day, Christmas Day or the anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate, quite frankly he didn’t much care as his pet Saharan Dung Beetle, Benjy was in training.
Alqueria’s existentialist Priest, Sacerdote del Semblante Lánguido performed the ceremony in front of a packed church. He was patience personified as Paco stopped the proceeding several times to discuss the U.S. Presidential Elections with Bert, his imaginary five foot rodent friend. The worthy Priest did however snigger when he came to the promise of fidelity in the service, thinking it the biggest work of fiction since the Tories promised to properly fund the NHS. But then Sacerdote del Semblante Lánguido had heard Manuela’s confession which had driven him into the arms of Sartre and existentialism.
Paco had some vague idea why this woman in white was standing next to him making absurd promises which even in his confused state knew couldn’t and wouldn’t be kept, but then this applies to most wedding services. The ‘happy’ or perhaps bewildered couple left the church and began an idyllic honeymoon. Idyllic because Loca Pepa spent two weeks in the Bar La Casa Devante where Remitroot Wine was only at an arms length away and Paco went to Zamora for a Dung Beetle Race meeting. Anselmo Adamso, the photographer raced to his studio to print and mount the wedding pictures before the couple could file for divorce, seventy-two hours was where the smart money was going.
Pepa finally sobered from her Remitroot induced coma and couldn’t remember the wedding, Loco Paco or her name. Paco, flush with success after Bengy his dung beetle won the Duke of Chinless Stakes, although Paco is being investigated for doping, all else then paled into insignificance causing him to totally forget his marital status.
In fact the marriage was never spoken of again.
The Origins of Conflict
Students of Alquerian history will be well aware of its turbulent past. They will be familiar with the forces and pressures which have shaped the Pueblo, moulding it into the modern Alqueria we see today.
Alqueria’s Roman past should have perhaps laid the roots for a calm, stable and happy community. A Centurion by the name of Bonkkus Alldiaus discovered that by drying and pressing Remitroot leaves, known then as Remitus Radix, it was possible to produce a potent and long lasting aphrodisiac. This variation of the plant became known as Remitus Randius and its consumption was enjoyed without any major complication until Alqueria became annexed to the lands of the Caliph Abdul Mustavafag in AD758.The over indulgence of Remitus Randius by one Pedro Chicorudo along with an amphorae of olive oil, the Caliph’s favourite wife and a turkey baster brought about a series of events which had a profound effect on the Village.
The Caliph wasn’t too happy when heard about his wayward ‘missus’ and swore vengeance on the very fabric of Alqueria. He had the Village dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt on the valley below its once favoured hilltop position. This naturally angered the population who dubbed themselves ‘The Hill People’ in remembrance of Alqueria’s erstwhile geographical location. A new barrio began to be built to the east of the Village, these people where called the Newcomer’s and a handy target for the Hill People to vent their anger brought about by their forced relocation.
Over the years this hostility turned into undeclared Civil War broken only by prolonged periods of civil unrest, in fact it became know as ‘The Alquerian Pastime’. When the Hill People felt they had been wronged, it didn’t matter by whom they simply erred on the side of knocking the living daylights out of the Newcomers barrio. Arms dealer’s queued to sell their weapons but most were improvised. The Hill People even tried psychological warfare. They dressed Loco Paco to resemble as closely as possible a rational human being and tried to in-bed him into the Newcomers barrio. His presence it was hoped would not only depress the barrio’s inhabitants but Paco’s inherent insanity would somehow be contagious. The Newcomers were however alive to the situation and returned him with a note suggesting they think of another way of disposing of their surplus idiots.
The Alqueria Pastime is practised with gusto by both barrios, each bringing a new level of sophistication to their rioting and clandestine attacks. The situation is recognised by the major foreign powers who, it is said send members of their special forces to Alqueria for valuable field training.
Famous for Fifteen Minutes
Jóse Prataña was on the prowl for copy. His newspaper, El Trapo Nacional was at a low ebb, not much news and all the improvised stories had led to legal action.
Jóse was on the lookout for a good story and Alqueria usually obliged. However the Village was temporarily out of rioting and disorder due to a general lethargy and seemed almost peaceful, in its own quirky sort of way. Jóse sat forlornly at a table outside the Bar La Casa Devante wondering where his next story would come from. He had been to Alqueria before and developed a love of Remitroot Whisky which he drank in alarming quantities and with alarming speed.
Loco Paco had a habit of engaging people at random in some inane conversation or other. Jóse Prataña was Paco’s target for that evening. Paco’s confused and fanciful utterings seemed quite credible to Jóse. After a bottle of Remitroot Whisky the Tory Party’s welfare plans would seem compassionate or perhaps that is going a bit too far. Paco was talking about Benjy his pet Saharan Dung Beetle which he had raised from a pup and Bert, his one and a half metre tall rodent which accompanied him everywhere. Bert of course was imaginary. Jóse somehow got the impression he was real.
The locals sensing some good sport backed Loco Paco’s story to the hilt. How he was a reclusive genetic scientist and had successfully created this one and a half metre tall rodent called ‘Bert’. To add a bit of colour they suggested that Paco was teaching Bert the rudiments of playing the saxophone.
Jóse made numerous notes, drank more Remitroot Whisky and believed everything he was told. Loco Paco became famous. His fatuous grin adorned the front pages of all the national newspapers. He was hailed as a ‘genetic scientist of colossal proportions’. Some even tipped him for the Noble Prize. Most people who knew Loco Paco however would say that his greatest achievement was riding a bicycle, not well be adequately.
Paco was booked to appear on a TV talk show. Other guests included the inventor of the intergalactic pulse motor with integral cheese board and Pedro Alverez the Abyssinian Goat Shirling champion of southern Spain.
If the presenter, studio crew and viewers had all been heavily sedated with Remitroot Whisky things may have gone smoothly. However when Paco suggested that the presenter’s head may be on back-to-front the plug was pulled, the researcher fired and Paco send packing back to Alqueria.
Stranger on the Shore
He, she, or perhaps even it appeared one fine Winter morning. Wrapped in a long black frock-coat to keep the early chills at bay the apparition stalked the byways of Alqueria. People watched through half open shutters as the spectral figure sauntered to and fro. It appeared to be looking for something or worse, at least to the culpable minds of Alquerians, someone. Whether the figure had powers of arrest or censure it was impossible to tell. From its easy movement and upright stance however an age of thirty to forty would have been appropriate.
For whom had it come?
For whom had the bell tolled?
The younger folk examined their consciences and the older their diaries. Manuela’s first thought was that of a jilted lover. She tried to remember the suitors she had wronged but they were so numerous it would have taken a bookkeeper of some renown to recall all the petty details such as names etc. If the figure is female then it is perhaps a wife bent on revenge or it could still be a jilted lover of course. Manuela decided on discretion and took a supply of food, three bottles of Cava and the Village’s senior firefighter into the sanctuary of her roof-space.
Rodriquez was quite beside himself, his enemies were more numerous than a politician’s evasions and he feared for his very life. Suppose the stranger was armed or worse, suppose he wanted money? Rodriquez disguised himself with false elbows and joined a band of itinerant donkey-thratchers.
Antonio Poyato had never paid a cent in customs duty or any other form of tax on his international Remitroot sales. Was this an evidence gathering operation on the part of some fiscal bureau? Officials had always turned a blind eye in exchange for some of the precious Remitroot liquid. Suppose the blind eye had suddenly regained sight.
Poyato made a mental calculation of the customs duty he could possibly owe. He packed a suitcase and headed for Morocco.
Blythe Gruntmore thought it might be his Spanish teacher from Newcastle. The last time he had seen him he was a gibbering wreck crouched in a corner cowering in the fetal position after listening to some gem of pronunciation from Blythe. The teacher had sworn revenge over Gruntmore’s systematic destruction of the poetic Spanish language. Blythe could contain himself no more and confronted the intruder.
The stranger was Loco Paco’s brother, Daft Diego. He intended to pay a surprise visit on Paco but had unfortunately lost his address. He had resigned himself to a life of aimlessly wandering the streets of Alqueria.
Radio Alqueria is once more preparing to assault the airwaves. Jammed and forced to close down by an electronic countermeasures unit of the Spanish army two years ago, the station is now servicing its generator and polishing its lecher lines in readiness for its return.
The station is to field a host of well known names including Pulsating Pedro the controversial DJ from Ollantaytambo, Peru. He is known for his rapid repartee and his ability to geld lamas with his teeth. Unfortunately after years of exposure to the beasts he has, by some strange mechanism acquired their aroma. He is universally avoided in the hot confines of the studio where he has been known to steam.
Banned from the station is El Sacerdote del Semblante Lánguido, the Village priest. As an Existentialist his ministrations have the potential to cause mass depression on a scale greater than a wet Sunday in Bolton. To avoid any chance of lemming like behaviour the most cheerful person in Alqueria was given the task of presenting ‘Thought for Today’, unfortunately this is Loco Paco.
The signing of Miguel Pez the well known meteorologist was a particular triumph for the Radio Station. However funding only ran to one analysis. So the same weather report is broadcast three times a day, seven days a week, Winter and Summer. No one seems to mind however. It does beg the question though, does anyone actually listen to Radio Alqueria?
The first day of broadcasting started with a children’s programme. Everyone knew it was a children’s programme from the mass hysteria and screams. Some badly prepared, patronising fairy tale was dished up to the poor little souls. A survey later showed that the only person listening was Amalia Vega. She thought it was real and reported the existence of a man eating, or rather little girl in red eating Eurasian Wolf to the Guardia Civil.
Today in Parliament was a masterpiece and consisted of a badly recorded episode of the Goon Show. Most listeners thought Alquerian politics were coming along in leaps and bounds. Some even commented that they were now on a par with Westminster.
Sport was dominated by Rodriquez and his Abyssinian Goat Shirling. This received many complaints as the process of ‘shirling’ was misinterpreted by many and led to Rodriquez having to sign a sex offenders register.
The highlight of the day’s broadcasting was undoubtedly ‘Manuela On Toast’. It wasn’t as the womenfolk, producers and censors thought a culinary programme. It was thirty minutes of Manuela at her most bawdy and inventive. Many are waiting for the screen play while other hopefuls are demanding audience participation.
The first day of transmission finished with Loco Paco’s ‘Thought for Today’, it was deeply disturbing.
‘The Also Ran’
Much has been said about the high and mighty in Alqueria, the dynamic Manuela, the studious Poyato and that intellectual giant Loco Paco, but what of the ordinary souls of the Pueblo.
Sacerdote del Semblante Lánguido is the Village priest. He arrived in Alqueria full of hope and a joyous wonder that filled the heart with delight. He had the best interests of the people at the very centre of his very sensitive heart. He laid awake at night worrying about his parishioners and counselled them with wisdom during the daylight hours. Then one fateful day he took Manuela’s confession. His hair greyed, his faith evaporated, he turned to drink. It was the making of him. He now sleeps the sleep of the intoxicant. He couldn’t give a ‘damn’ about those whose spiritual well-being he is entrusted with and he has embraced Existentialism. He is now for the first time in his life a happy and rounded individual. He does suffer from the occasional flashback to Manuela’s outpourings which leaves him sweating, trembling and in a state of intense sexual frustration but it is a small price to pay for happiness.
Ernesto Muyinestable is one of those individuals who has devoted his life to his art. Ernesto lives for his flamenco, he twirls and stomps morning, noon and night as he practises new and ever more complicated steps. To say he is one of the best flamenco dancers currently practising would be an overstatement. He isn’t good, he isn’t even bad, he is terrible. The main and very obvious reason for this is that Ernesto is a uniped. He lost his right leg while playing ‘Ludo’ during the ‘Great Tournament of 87’. Now he falls over a lot. Every time he performs he receives a storm of sympathetic applause. He believes this is reward for his prowess in the art of flamenco dancing and so inspires him to perform more complicated routines. He then receives more sympathetic applause, so on and so forth. It will probably all end in death or serious injury but like our worthy Priest, Ernesto is happy.
Don Sageo has a lot to answer for. He is Alqueria’s intellectual. At least is the only individual in the Village who can read at an adult level and is capable of joined-up writing. It was the Don who discovered, through his archaeological research that Alqueria wasn’t included in the Christian Reconquest and was therefore not technically part of Spain. In fact it was Sageo who is responsible for the Alqueria of today.
It goes to demonstrate that every person, no matter how humble can have a profound effect on their own and others lives. Especially in Alqueria.
A family lunch in Spain, to the uninitiated can sound rather like a drunken fist-fight while a family luncheon in Alqueria has been known to mobilise the army. The Alquerian variety is full of contradictions. Certainly anarchy prevails, but it is anarchy with a protocol.
Unlike the northern European counterpart one must arrive early for lunch. It isn’t a matter of politeness it is the Alquerian penchant for malevolent gossip. To arrive early makes one a gossiper, to arrive late one becomes the ‘gossipee’. The traditional gossip will have an initial nucleus of truth but by the time the individual in question arrives he or she will be held responsible for every global misfortune from the Black Death to the Tory Party. Many victims have had to leave Alqueria and live in Spanish exile. Amalia Culogrande who arrived very late now lives incognito in a large paper bag behind Loco Paco’s dung beetle stables.
The most important rule when attending any sort of occasion in Alqueria where food is involved is, you mustn’t eat anything. This is not a matter of protocol or politeness it is a matter of survival. The astute among you will ask the question. ‘Why attend the luncheon party in the first place?’ In answer to this I will draw the reader’s attention to the above paragraph.
One has to develop the technique of pretending to eat. Politicians are good at this as they are highly trained in the art of ‘pretending to tell the truth’ which gives them the edge. Would be diners must learn to masticate thin air and swallow imaginary morsels of imaginary food. To reinforce the impression of eating one can pretend to have indigestion, a bout of flatulence will add that finishing touch.
Not actually eating the food does leave one with a problem, mainly the food remains on the plate. A small hungry rodent such as the Alquerian Three Toed Stenchrat can be smuggled in and surreptitiously feed but animal rights groups are against this practice. A better solution can be had at Pepe Malaropa’s Clothing Emporium where suits and party frocks can be bought with hidden waterproof pockets especially constructed for the hiding of food.
One may however consume the liquid refreshment. Remitroot, whether in the form of beer, wine or spirits is the jewel in the crown of Alquerian cuisine. While I was carrying out my research in Alqueria I had my first taste if Remitroot Whisky. After my third glass I passed out, when I regained consciousness I was driving a refrigerated lorry to Düsseldorf.
So armed with the above advice one can accept that luncheon invitation with confidence and dine like only an Alqueria can.
The Río Verde rises somewhere in the heart of the barren Sierra Alhamilla and winds its convoluted way via Alqueria into the Mediterranean. From its source to the Alquerian border it is a thing of wonder, clear and fresh, with proven therapeutic qualities and by far the finest bottled water available anywhere. After it leaves it has the consistency of old sump oil, the smell of putrefying carcasses and an indescribable colour which contains every offensive hue in the spectrum. Alqueria is very proud of its River. Aquatic animals and the many varieties of fish that live in and around the upper reaches of the Río Verde have the ability to detect the Alquerian border performing u-turns and heading back into the Sierra.
Just why the River changes from an idyllic waterway into the hideous thing that oozes its way through Alqueria is difficult to quantify. It is as if it just gives up when it is within the Village’s boundaries, something many people also do. Certainly the bad drainage has a lot to answer for. Poyato’s Remitroot waste drains into the River and perhaps some chemical reaction occurs with the naturally occurring algae and bacteria. Just what effect the aphrodisiac qualities of the plant have on animal and fish life isn’t however on record.
Mutations of all sorts have been reported by startled onlookers but as the Alquerian Tourist Board point out, ‘one person’s mutated species is another’s form of unique fauna’. Strange creatures abound in the River. The Alqueria Trout has no gills but instead a type of snorkel which protrudes through the disgusting liquid and allows the fish to breath fresh air. It also has rudimentary feet, these are however waning and it is believed that after leaving the water in antiquity it found that the obnoxious Río Verde preferable to life on the streets of Alqueria.
The surface tension of the Río Verde, due to its viscosity supports a surprising array of plant life giving the River the appearance of firm soil which has fooled many and is possibly responsible for the occasional missing person. Many animals such as the Alqueria Newt are able to walk on the surface. A mysterious resident of the River, called ‘Nigel’ has never been seen, just whirl pools, strange currents and large bubbles rising to the surface, possible indicating a digestive problem indicate his presence. Nigel is probably responsible for the remainder of the missing person reports.
The River is indeed unique and worthy of protection so please lobby your MP so the Río Verde can be declared a ‘World Heritage Site’.
The Holiday Season
There is a huge movement of holiday hungry people during July and August fanning out from central Spain, heading in all directions looking for seas to swim, mountains to climb and rivers to fish. Parking in Madrid suddenly becomes not only free but possible while coastal towns fill to bursting.
But what of Alqueria?
Not many people come to Alqueria on purpose. The total income from tourism last year was 2,897,434 Raros which at today’s exchange rate equates to 9.25 Euros. This was due to one unfortunate individual who somehow accidentally crossed the border into Alqueria, an enterprising local sold him the directions back to Spain. The individual concerned would however have paid ten times the asking price. Those that live in Alqueria attempt to get away en masse. A sign at the Alquerian side of the border crossing with Spain simply says ‘Last one to leave turn the lights out’. The foul green and worryingly sticky mist which makes unwelcome visits does so more frequently in July and August while the infernal heat and resultant pong from the overstretched drainage makes continuous habitation undesirable to say the least. Those that can leave Alqueria do so. Spain refuses to issue visas to Alquerian citizens judging them to be persona non grata however they can pass through Spain to other destinations as long as they do so quickly and don’t touch anything on the way.
So where and what do prominent Alquerians do on their holidays?
Loco Paco spent three glorious weeks with the International Saharan Dung Beetle Breeders Club. Just how one breeds with a dung beetle remained a mystery to Paco even after three weeks.
Antonio Poyato spent his time unconscious after perfecting a new blend of Remitroot Whisky. His masterpiece was a potent liquor with an alcohol content of over one hundred per cent by volume which of course is impossible unless you you are a very skilled idiot living in Alqueria and have a extremely questionable narrator.
No one knows what Manuela did on vacation or where she went. On her return however it took a team of highly trained plastic surgeons especially flown in from New York three weeks to get the smile off her face.
The evil Rodriquez travelled to Nuremberg to attend the bi-annual Cads, Bounders and the Emotionally Retarded Seminar. He was unanimously elected the ‘man of the conference’.
But what of the ordinary folk of the Pueblo. One group booked a two week package tour to Lowestoft but returned after three days suffering from profound depression. Another group went to the backstreets and dives of Cairo, however the authorities deported them as being unreliable.
After the most exciting and invigorating holiday there is nothing like returning home, honest.
We will leave the ‘tranquil’ whitewashed streets of Alqueria for a moment and venture into the Sierra Alhamilla. The dramatic landscape peculiar to this part of Spain offers a unique opportunity for those who seek solitude. Solitude to meditate, solitude to avoid detection or perhaps simply seeking solitude out of an acute sense of stupidity. For Galeno Matas solitude was a combination of all these things. He had time enough to dwell on the injustice of living rough in the hills while his political opponents lived off ‘the fat of the land’ in Alqueria.
Matas, still believing the Civil War to be raging hid from his imaginary enemy. He saw Franco’s troops behind every rock. Matas spent his days dodging his insubstantial adversaries, foraging for food and maintaining his ageing arsenal of weapons. What he would do if he came face to face with these erstwhile belligerents he wasn’t quite sure, something heroic no doubt.
Matas still does his bit for Spain’s defunct Second Republic. Every fourteenth of April, the day the Republic was proclaimed in 1931, Matas fires a shot at the gable-end of Alqueria’s church. The church because of all the evil it represented to Republicans, also because it was the only ruddy thing big enough for him to hit and still remain undercover. The ancient projectile would cause a little ‘pock’ mark to appear and a puff of whitewash to momentarily materialise as it harmlessly struck the wall.
Womenfolk of the Village would gather on every fifteenth of April below the gable-end and stare in wonder at the new pock mark. It was surely a divine sign and offerings in the form of bread, cheese, jamón and wine were duly prepared. Just why these worthy ladies thought that an absolute being would make his presence known in such a fashion is a mystery. They marched in a solemn line-ahead to the Village’s shrine north of Alqueria. With prayers and many gesticulations they placed their offerings at the foot of the rough stone cross.
On every sixteenth of April Matas would scramble down from the cave he called home. Making his way from tree to tree, from rock to rock, carefully, head low he would sprint to the stone cross. There he would find the ‘banquet’ left by the villagers. Surely he thought this was a sign that the Village was still loyal to the Republic. Matas appreciated their supply of rations, especially the Remitroot Wine of which he was very fond.
He only wished it would happen more than once a year.
RemitEx: The Exhibition
Alqueria was the scene of frantic endeavour, marquees were being erected, streets steam-cleaned, litter collected and houses painted. Everyone in the Village was putting their ‘shoulders to the grindstone’ for the mutual good of the Republic. Some people even worked three of four hours a week, it was humbling to watch. Manuela wiped a tear from her eye as she surveyed the exertions of her fellow countrymen.
RemitEx the exhibition, designed to restore confidence in Remitroot and its associated products after the evil Rodriquez had all but destroyed the goodwill built up over two millennia. Tents had been erected to demonstrate its important uses and downplay the side-effects. These included severe and lifelong addiction, swelling of the male organ, and a strange fungal foot-rot that turns the toes bright green and smells like the putrefying carcass of a estuarine crocodile.
‘Remitroot the alcohol’ naturally had the biggest tent. The whisky, rum, wine and beer derived from the Root were potent beverages and had enhanced effects on those whose mental state was in any way impaired. This guaranteed that the population of Alqueria lived their daily lives in a perpetual state of intoxication.
‘Remitroot the aphrodisiac’ was a sound proofed, pink quilted affair organised, operated and jealously guarded by the lovely Manuela.
‘Remitroot the corrosion retardant’ This was a small not very interesting tent but highly lucrative, it was shared by ‘Remitroot the pipe lagger’. Customers to this venue would be directed to the first two tents and therefore be in no fit state to question inflated prices and vague delivery promises. Potential customers for all Remitroot products were promised free beer and dancing girls.
Came the opening day of RemitEx and, rather unusually for Alqueria it went like a piece of Swiss clockwork. The beverage tent soon needed to send for resupply and the samples, free at first attracted rising prices proportional to the degree of intoxication of the would be customers. A veil should be perhaps drawn over the activities in ‘Remitroot the aphrodisiac’ tent, suffices to say those leaving were but a shadow of themselves on entering.
Come the evening and fights had broken out in every venue. An alcohol induced free for all was in full swing in the beverage tent while a fist fight among those waiting to enter the aphrodisiac tent started when drunken queue jumpers tried to push themselves in. Sheer boredom in the anti-corrosion tent led to a mêlée of biting and kicking which seemed a more exciting alternative to the world of rust retardants.
Manuela was well pleased.
Remitroot once more took its rightful place as the world’s leading product offering immediate and intense intoxication, disturbing mind alteration and stimulation a stud stallion would be proud of. Alqueria was once more a going concern.
Rodriguez was on the run. Having declared himself ‘perpetual dictator’ and renamed Remitroot, ‘Roddyroot100’ he managed to destroy the product’s goodwill built up over two millennia. Alqueria was on the brink of ruin. Rodriquez had now ‘legged it’ to the dark side of the Sierra Nevada where he works as ‘Artificial Inseminator’ for the ‘La Alpujarra and District Ant Farm’. It fell once more to Manuela, Antonio Poyato and Loco Paco to sort out Rodriquez’s handiwork. To be more precise Manuela. Poyato was totally absorbed in restoring his beloved Remitroot plants to the healthy specimens they once were. Loco Paco was attending a Saharan Dung Beetle convention in Albacete. He was booked to address the conference on the contributions made by the North African Scarab to our understanding of quantum physics.
Now Alqueria’s Manuela had three great passions in life. Firstly, the desire for a fair deal for all. The sharing of Alqueria’s wealth by all in the community. To each according to their needs, and a belief in the dignity of man. Secondly Men and thirdly, her hair. If Manuela didn’t spend so long long messing about with her hair she could have won the Nobel Peace Prize and conquered every male on the Peninsular. Manuela was Alquerian which meant Spanish with Moorish blood in her veins. Her olive skin, almond eyes and raven hair gave testament to this. Like all Spanish women hair came in for a great deal of attention, it’s a high maintenance item. Now however, fallen on her pleasantly chiselled shoulders is the task of restoring the Republic and its fortunes to pre-Rodriquez days.
Manuela allowed Rodriquez to rot in the foothills of the Nevada. She didn’t believe in the adage that friends should be kept close and enemies closer. To be closer then her male friends, he would have to marry her, a terrible thought for both concerned. Manuela is resourceful and innovative, one can ask any man in the Pueblo under the age of seventy for verification of this. She began at once to clear up the mess.
The Republican Constitution of Alqueria was once more put in place together with its grand ideals which is the hallmark of the proud people of Village State. It’s written on the back of a ‘fag’ packet and propping up the wonky leg of a table in the Bar La Casa Devante.
As for Remitroot Manuela needed to re-establish its name in the international community of drunkards and debauchers. She excelled herself with the creation of RemitEx, a Remitroot exhibition to be held in the Village. The plants various properties would be publicly demonstrated with abundant free samples of its various products to all.
What could go wrong?
Manuela, Antonio Poyato and Loco Paco sweated as they ‘burnt the midnight oil’ searching for ways to wrest control of Alqueria back from the evil dictator Rodriquez.
Rodriquez had lost no time in stamping his mark on Alqueria. The income from the first quarter’s Remitroot crop had been spent of a twice life sized statute of Rodriquez in bronze sculpted by the renowned Catalan artist ‘Crazy Chisel’ Pepe. Rodriquez is depicted mounted on a large well endowed stallion with raised sword, Rodriquez not the stallion At the horse’s feet a plaque simply reads, ‘Rodriquez: liberator of Alqueria’.
Street names had been changed. A confused postman tried to cross reference the old names to a mystifying collection of Calle Rodriquez, Avenida Rodriquez, El Plaza Rodriquez and for some inexplicable but fitting reason La Alcantarilla Rodriquez. Rodriquez was becoming more unstable by the hour his delusions of grandeur knew no bounds. He took to wearing a beribboned nineteenth century field marshal’s uniform complete with sword and spurs. He even implied that he had spoken to God. When asked to show his telephone bill as proof he replied that God had phoned him.
On hearing that Rodriquez had declared himself to be immortal, Manuela suggested she could prove him wrong very quickly and in a very messy fashion with the aid of a ‘Waiters Friend’ cork screw. The man had to be stopped and surely only Manuela, Antonio Poyato and Loco Paco could stop the unbalanced tyrant.
Rodriquez was to be his own undoing however. For Rodriquez was not very bright. He thought he was exceedingly clever but in fact he had only one neuron and that had a pronounced limp. His downfall came as he reached the peak of his self obsession. With control of the Remitroot crop and its resultant products Rodriquez had a ‘copper bottomed’ product. It was known worldwide, only grown in Alqueria and a large proportion of the World’s politicians were addicted to it, hence it flowed easily and freely across borders and trade zones. Rodriquez in his misguided wisdom renamed it ‘Roddyroot100’, why ‘100’ no one knows but there were precedents. (Those in a certain carpet town of East Devon will understand).
Remitroot had been known since Roman times and Rodriquez had destroyed two thousand years of goodwill overnight. People simply didn’t know what Roddyroot100 was nor did they care. Sales slumped. The Alquerian coffers emptied at an alarming rate and Rodriquez failed to keep up the leasing arrangements on his field marshal’s uniform, he was last seen wearing a brown paper bag.
Who will save Alqueria?
Wait and see.
Manuela’s head was clearing from the excesses of the night before. She knew she needed to do something but her head still wasn’t functioning properly. The analytical side of her brain seemed to be doing its job but her memory was still malfunctioning. A protection mechanism perhaps but she knew whatever it was she had forgotten shouldn’t have been forgotten. She checked her purse, all her credit cards were there, she checked her clothing, all correct, she hadn’t left any where she shouldn’t have. ‘What had she forgotten?’.
A powerful jet of steamy hot water hit Manuela as she showered. She luxuriated in the sensation of water pressure and heat, the ill effects of her ‘night out’ were being exorcised. As she became ‘normal’ once more the terrible truth struck her. The monthly Cabinet Meeting, where Rodriquez would table his usual motion. Manuela grabbed a towel and raced to the Cabinet Office. Passers-by paid little attention to her, a semi naked Manuela making near dawn departures was not an uncommon sight in Alqueria. The sight that met Manuela as she opened the Office doors was however a rare sight indeed. The Office was populated by obese balding men, smoking cigars, and belching. Rodriquez and his cronies. Manuela was too late. Her missing vote had allowed Rodriquez to dissolve the Republic and declare himself, perpetual and total dictator of what was the Village Republic of Alqueria.
The first act of the new Dictatorship was to tear up the constitution, fortunately they couldn’t find the ‘fag’ packet on which it was written so had settled for tearing up Rodriquez’s parking fines which he never paid anyway. In fact no one in the Pueblo paid them but it kept the Village Policeman, José Cabrasilbido occupied. They then transferred the Remitroot crop into state ownership, a euphemism for Rodriquez´s ownership. Poyato was evicted from his small holding on which the Crop grew and now he wanders the streets of Alqueria swearing vengeance and drinking Flemitcroot Whisky, a cheap alternative to Remitroot distilled in southern Iraq using war surplus napalm.
Manuela lost no time in setting up a provisional government in exile. Somewhere in the backstreets of Vera Pueblo Manuela, Loco Paco and Poyato considered their options. Manuela favoured an all out assault on the town using hired mercenaries. She had contacts with Red John Begone, the soldier-of-fortune who liberated Central Uhandup from the evil dictator Mad Big-belly Maluugy. Poyato wanted to send a strongly worded text message. Loco Paco wanted to play hopscotch with a group of athletic fairies he had recently met.
Will it be all out war, nasty test messages or playing hopscotch with energetic sprites?
We will see.
The beat of a butterfly’s wing will, in time affect the whole of mankind. Alqueria is about to suffer from its very own ‘Butterfly Affect’ set in motion by one Loco Paco idiot of the Parish.
Manuela had had a hard night, just why it was so hard perhaps should be left well and truly veiled for the purpose of this discussion. She was completely ’empanada’. Her breakfast preparations never changed and therefore could be attended to without the need for conscious thought. As her neurons had clumped together for safety severely retarding her metal processes, conscious thought was not possible at the moment.
Bearing the above in mind, we turn to Loco Paco who had been despatched from the Alquerian seat of power to summon Manuela to the monthly meeting of the Alquerian Cabinet. The Cabinet Office, that great think-tank at the heart of the Village Republic, guardian of the democratic principles for which it stands located in a back room just above ‘Dusty’ Pepe’s baker’s shop in the Calle Horno. Now Loco Paco was a simple lad, both in deeds and thought and after knocking on Manuela’s front door was taken aback at her appearance. Even the slow witted Paco could see that her head wasn’t working properly. Having dutifully passed on the request for her presence she answered with, after translating into English what sounded like “Oooomeeeead, who are you? Bloody hell, who am I? Ooooohhhhh”. Paco decided she needed sleep so off he toddled back to the Cabinet Office bent on doing Manuela a good turn, something most of the Village lads have already done.
Now we move our attention to the Cabinet Office where Paco had just informed Poyato and Rodriquez that Manuela had moved to Portugal where, listening to Fado had so depressed her that she had disguised herself as an itinerant cucaracha gelder and moved to Alaska. Manuela in fact was simply hungover. This was a wonderful oratory from Paco who could fantasize with gusto it was reality which caused him problems.
Now two items were on the agenda, one: Whether or not to place a no parking sign outside the town hall and two: The Republic should be dissolved and Rodriquez declared perpetual dictator. Rodriquez tabled this proposal every month and every month it was outvoted.
But to today, thanks to Paco’s white lie Manuela was absent. After approving the no parking sign, which was irreverent as the dysfunctional folk of the Pueblo will take no notice of it whatsoever, Rodriquez’s motion was voted upon with Poyato against and Rodriquez for. Both men looked at Paco who is dimmer than a environmentally friendly light bulb. Paco was wondering why the two men kept staring, it unnerved him and prompted an unscheduled bladder contraction. He raised his hand to leave the room and Rodriquez was jubilant two votes to one.
The Republic was duly abolished.
Will Manuela take it laying down, an unfortunate choice of phrase perhaps but we will see.
Antonio Poyato, sitting on a low mound is trying to take off his boot. He pulls at it with both hands, panting. He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again.
Loco Paco arrives, dust covered and footsore.
Paco: Still a long way to go. Shall we travel together?
Poyato: Yes, as soon as I take this ruddy boot off and put it on again.
Paco surveys the countryside, the Castle of Alqueria is in the far distance.
Paco: It’s a vast wilderness out there, completely devoid of humanity.
Poyato: Reminds me of my first wife, although she was a very attractive lady but unfortunately not from the front.
Loco Paco stares blankly at Poyato, as if someone has forgotten to plug him in.
Poyato: Can you smell burning?
Paco: Sorry, indigestion.
Poyato: Well? Shall we go?
Paco: Yes, let’s go.
They do not move.
Poyato pulls a hip-flask from his pocket, he offers it to Paco.
Poyato: Remitroot Whisky Paco? It keeps the demons at bay.
Paco looks around for demons with a worried frown.
Paco: I don’t like demons. They are always where you don’t expect them.
Poyato: How do those people who don’t drink keep their demons at bay Paco?
There are people who don’t drink you know!
Paco: I know, I remember reading about them somewhere.
Poyato: I don’t like sitting on this mound, nature has a habit of making a mad dash up your trouser leg.
Paco: That’s why I wear gaiters and drink Remitroot whisky.
Poyato: Well? Shall we go?
Paco: Yes, let’s go.
They do not move.
Poyato: Do you understand life Paco?
Paco: Enough to get by, enough to appear sane if I need anymore I ad-lib.
Poyato: That doesn’t make sense Paco.
Paco: No nothing does.
Paco sighs, a long long sigh.
Poyato: You can make a sigh last longer than a Mother-in-Law’s visit.
Paco: How long were you married Antonio?
Poyato: Four hundred and nine years. Can you remember your first love Paco.
Paco: Yes, I still have the receipt.
Poyato shielded his eyes and scanned the blueness of the morning sky.
Poyato: There is intelligent life out there in space Paco. What do you think?
Paco: Well they haven’t bothered to visit us, that must demonstrate a reasonable level of intelligence.
Poyato: We aren’t alone you know!
Paco: I know, I have my Saharan Dung Beetle, Benjy.
Poyato stares blankly at Loco Paco, as if someone has forgotten to plug him in.
Poyato: Back to Alqueria then?
Well? Shall we go?
Paco: Yes, let’s go.
They do not move.
The Riverside Holiday Village, Alqueria
The mood in the village was ugly. The Rattlebag family of Rotherham had failed to return from a pony trek in the Sierra Alhamilla. Their relations in Yorkshire had received a ransom note from El Tonto, a local petty criminal demanding a ridiculous amount of money for their freedom. True to his name he had put a return address on the envelope. The Guardia Civil swooped on his hideout arresting him and freeing the family. The Rattlebags said they preferred life as a captive rather than in the Riverside Holiday Village and thanked El Tonto as he was led away.
To try and avert an uprising amongst the holiday makers Manuela was ordered to bring some fun into their daily lives. Unfortunately, she took this entirely the wrong way and was arrested for corrupting morals. The Río Verde situation was desperate. Of the eight children that entered the ‘Little Dolphins’ Fun Race’ only two left the water unscathed. Three had to be rescued from the River’s evil slow moving slime. Two developed a disgusting foot fungus with the most foul odour and one barely survived a tug-of-war between his Mother and some unidentified amphibious creature unknown to science.
Ambulances ferried the sick, injured and chronically depressed to the Hospital Santa Maria Magdalena in Almería thinning out the residents of the Holiday Village. One of the holiday chalets collapsed putting a further four in the casualty department. The weight of a glider they were constructing in the roof space was the cause. Other bids for freedom included a tunnel which accidentally came out under the main drain and four people who almost asphyxiated after climbing inside a vaulting horse. Then the beer ran out. Unable to pay the wholesaler all supplies were stopped. The holiday makers took over the camp driving out the staff. This was counterproductive as the only beer within ten miles was in the bar La Casa Devante and the Golondrina Verde both in Alqueria.
As dawn broke it was obvious that The Riverside Holiday Village, Alqueria was empty, completely deserted. Where the holiday makers went is a complete mystery. No enquiries have ever been made into their fate, no one has complained about missing kith and kin. The SPLAT charter-flight never made the UK bound leg of its journey.
In yet another unusual show of village unity it was decided never to mention the enterprise again. Rodriquez piled kindling against the chalets’ walls and set fire to the complex. He successfully claimed the insurance making five Euros and 45 cents profit on the venture.
The telephone in the Oficina de Turismo never stopped ringing, well it rang four times in the last week, in itself a record. The advertising campaign had certainly paid off. Over one hundred places out of the two hundred available at the Riverside Holiday Village booked. The consultant Alvaro Spineto had advised them to use a fraudulent approach to their advertising. Promise them everything but get them here. Then get their cash before they realise that as a holiday resort it ranks very close to a wet weekend in Chernobyl. Anselmo Adamso, the village photographer got the interesting commission to photograph the young ladies of the village, perhaps the only viable asset Alqueria has. They posed with lascivious grins and very little else. Anselmo Adamso also had a lascivious grin. The session went on longer than anticipated and the last dozen shots were not fit for publication. Adamso kept these for his own uses however.
The charter-flight operated by Spanish Peninsular Logistical Air Transport or SPLAT which they have blazoned across the fuselage in bright red lettering was booked and filling fast. Their only aircraft is rather old but they are able to operate in European airspace provided it can keep below Air Traffic Control radar. The Riverside Holiday Village itself was as ready as it was going to be. Accommodation for two hundred, two dining halls, a games room and twenty bars. The philosophy being, if they drink enough they will lose all feeling in their lower limbs and won’t notice their surroundings. The only problematic area was the Río Verde. Billed as a swimmers’ paradise, it was in fact lethal. The strange mutant fish were capable of carrying off anyone under seven and the algae caused an aggressive fungal growth which hasn’t as yet been categorised by the World Health Organisation. A powerful poison had been introduced into the water but the river life seemed to thrive on it. The bizarre assortment of waterborne creatures are now even more robust.
Everything has to be ready as today is the Grand Opening of the Riverside Holiday Village, Alqueria. The charter flight had landed safely at Almería Airport, a fact duly celebrated in the airline’s office. A fleet of four coaches approached the Comino de Alqueria crossed the old stone and drove into the resort. The disembarked visitors stared in disbelief at the ramshackle accommodation, the steaming malodorous river all surrounded by a black effervescing swamp. Events could have turned nasty if the holiday makers had had time to organise themselves and select a leader. Blythe sensing trouble spoke the only words guaranteed to pacify any British holiday maker.
“Free beeah at the boozah bonny lads”.
Will beer be enough?
Are the holiday makers revolting?
We will see.
The Riverside Holiday Village, Alqueria
The decision had been taken to build the Holiday Village east of the Río Verde. The natural barrier afforded by the River would separate Alqueria from the holiday makers. Rodriguez sensing money to be made wanted the lion’s share of the new venture. He put his full weight behind the project and raised the necessary capital. The sale of eighty hectares of land to a Middle-Eastern gentleman financed the project. The land measured two hundred and seventy kilometres long and three metres wide. It was the disused Alqueria to Valencia railway line. The line became uneconomical ten years ago. This was chiefly due to the trains arriving at Alqueria always being empty and those leaving suffering considerable delay while they were thoroughly searched for illicit Remitroot liquor. The ownership of the land, already in dispute became further confused when Rodriquez sold it without the slightest claim to title.
The land to the east of the River was wet, swampy and unfit for human habitation. This was a worry but as they were to target British tourists it was thought they would feel at home there. The Río Verde itself is a stagnant green soup, with strange genetically altered fish and villainous looking amphibians blundering around in its murky depths. The risk of infection is always prevalent if one enters the water and clothing has been known to disintegrate on contact with the it. A plan had been hatched to introduce antibiotics into the food to counter the worst of the River’s effects, but the cost proved prohibitive.
Rodriquez bought twenty prefabricated buildings from the now defunct Ispravitelno-trudovoi lager in Siberia, which he sold to the project at an exorbitant price. The Building Committee did question the suitability of ex-Siberian prison buildings, however the assembly instructions caused more of a concern. Written in Russian, the hieroglyphics meant nothing to the insular Alquerians . When completed instead of resembling the supplied illustrations they took the shape of fanciful Disneyland type structures with no two alike. They would not have disgraced Goudí himself. Staffing the resort was easy. Unemployed from Alqueria, of which there are many, would be trained and given a smattering of English. Unfortunately the only person in the village with grasp of English is Blythe Gruntmore and as a Geordie this grasp is somewhat tenuous, his Spanish is also abysmal. Many happy, hilarious and alcohol soaked nights passed as Blythe passed on his linguistic gems. The sound of an Alquerian Spaniard trying to say “ Welcome te wor village the booza is tha wa bonny lad“ is a wonder to behold.
In these troubled times it is indeed a bold venture. Alquerians have always been given to bold gestures, stupid ones but bold none the less.
We can only see how the first inmates, or rather guests react to the resort.
The Bank of Alqueria Alqueria's currency, as all avid readers will remember is the 'Raro'. It is not linked to the gold standard nor is there a buoyant stock market. This is reflected in the exchange rate which at the time of writing stands at 35, 376,298.76 Raros to the Euro. The currency is simply waste paper and only used by the Bank of Alqueria in its foreign dealings, Remitroot in its various forms is the coinage of choice within the Pueblo. Alqueria's state bank has extremely interesting fiscal policies many of which are subject to investigation making them 'sub judice'. It is the only international financial institution which can make inefficiency, ineptitude and total inertia actually pay, making the Bank the only profitable establishment in Alqueria. The head of the Bank is one 'Briefcase Carlos' who is ably assisted by 'Blackmask Alberto' both giants in the fields of drunkenness and womanising but totally out of their depths regarding economics. They are obviously well qualified when compared to their international counterparts. The Bank's offices are in the Calle Horno an ideal place for book cooking, a discipline that Carlos and Alberto excel. The illustrious pair, due to a typing error once gave a loan, the equivalent of over 2,000,00.00 Euros to a stray dog. The remedy was simple, print more money to significantly increase inflation thus devaluing the loan to the tune of 25 cents. A new arrival in Alqueria foolishly thought the currency was negotiable and had his savings paid into the bank, it was never seen again but Briefcase Carlos and Blackmask Alberto spent two drunken weeks on the Costa del Sol. Loco Paco once drew his forty Euro Stupidity Disability Allowance, known affectionately as the 'Maracas de Machín Fondo', in Raros. This amounted to over 100,000,000 Raros which gave Paco a hernia while transporting it, this increased his disability to forty-five Euros. Alberto and Carlos were naturally upset at this extra financial burden and subsequently paid Paco in Neotropic Cormorant droppings, Paco seemed quite happy though. Alberto and Carlos did try their hand at the well practised art of corruption but being inept and not having the slightest clue when it came to finance legal or otherwise ended up out-of-pocket and the Bank actually went into profit. Blackmask Alberto had to repossess his own home while Briefcase Carlos arranged a 'bridging loan' for himself but as he considered himself a bad risk charged an excessively high rate of interest and went bankrupt. The Bank of Alqueria is an institution which reflects the very essence of the Pueblo and its people, badly run, fulfilling no useful function whatsoever and fundamentally anarchistic.
The Population Explosion Alqueria's has a falling population. Those that pass away are not being replaced, the birthrate is zero. This is not because the process of human procreation isn't practised, it is practised with 'gusto', the Pueblo's national sport in fact. The problem is Remitroot, both an aphrodisiac and strong intoxicant. It leaves the male seed so disorientated it doesn't know if it is Accession Day, Midsummer's Day or the anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate and they often head off in the wrong direction. Also individuals seemed to prefer dying than actually living in Alqueria. Something had to be done and Alqueria opened its doors to controlled immigration. Those readers whose memory hasn't been totally destroyed by their consumption of Remitroot liquor may remember that only two immigrants satisfied the qualification process. Tonto Tomás and Crazy Carmen. As their names suggest some people paddle in very shallow gene pools. They seemed perfectly suited for life in Alqueria. It would perhaps be interesting to describe these two additions to the population in some detail. Crazy Carmen is a singular lady to say the least. Whether or not the term 'lady' applies to Carmen is open to some debate but we will go with the biological definition until we have official confirmation. She filled in the immigration form by accident believing it to be a subscription to the 'The Crazy Bitch Gazette: The magazine for the terminally flaky'. She has two major claims to fame. She can belch 'A Las Barricadas' after eight glasses of Remitroot beer and spit further that Soggy Sosima the 'All Comers Alqueria and District Phlegm Champion'. But she has a kind heart, at least we hope she has, she definitely needs a redeeming feature. Tonto Tomás is the virtual opposite of Carmen, his spitting prowess is on a par with that of an asthmatic Drain Fly. As for belching, after two of the required eight glasses of Remitroot beer Tomás is inclined to faint. Tomás is in a perpetual state of distraction with the attention span of a confused sardine. His distraction is such that he is distracted by distraction itself and has never completed a single task in his life. Tonto Tomás and Crazy Carmen are well matched however. Carmen's physique has little in the way of femininity and that includes breasts. Tomás however has a very confused body, all the muscles seem to be in the wrong places and his limbs don't know the value of team work. While Carmen is flat chested, Tonto Tomás has man breasts, but this isn't a problem as after all someone in any relationship has to have a pair of tits.
Residencia Alqueria has decided to open its doors to immigration. The rationale behind this brainwave is as follows. The Alquerian people are dysfunctional with the result that the two barrios which make up the Pueblo are in a constant state of open warfare. Each blames the other for any misfortune, an unexpected rainfall can bring on the energetic oiling of rifles. If foreign blood is brought into Alqueria it would dilute the original population with a proportional dilution of hostility. What could go wrong? Of course the right sort of people would be needed, so some sort of vetting procedure would be required. The immigration requirements of various countries were studied but as Alqueria is a singular country to say the least none of the procedures examined fitted the singular bill. It was therefore decided to put prospective candidates through a series of tests to establish their suitability for 'residencia'. One would think that the ability to walk and talk simultaneously would be qualification enough for residence in Alqueria. If one could also adequately ride a bike it would suggest an intellect of gigantic proportion when compared to the mental capability of the present incumbent Alquerian population. The Alquerian Government however wanted the 'creme de la creme' of immigrants and 'set the bar high'. Test number one: The prospective candidate had to demonstrate that they called a local plumber who attended an emergency within seven hours. Some candidates naively simply phoned, another offered wine and tapas and one enterprising individual offered his wife. None were unsuccessful. One plumber, the one offered wine and tapas did turn up but after consuming the repast suddenly remembered he had left his tool bag at home and was never seen again. Test number two: To order a meal at the Restaurante Grasiento Gabino. It isn't the restaurant that is the problem but the waiter Roberto. He talks and talks describing the menu in minute detail, it's what he was born to do. A family of three tried, Mother went into a coma through hunger, husband went into a catatonic trance through boredom and the child missed his fifth birthday. Roberto spends so long in his descriptive oratory that no food has been served for three years, the kitchen is closed and deserted. Test number three: To successfully notify the British Pension Office of a change of address. No one even attempted this task. The bar was indeed too high and no candidates emerged successful. It was then decided to issue residence to those who managed to spell their name correctly on the application form. Two were accepted, two rather strange individuals, more of them later.
Ana: The Alquerian Herbalist
In Alqueria’s Calle Siniestro lives Ana the herbalist. In her little shop she mixes herbs, spices, extracts and resins into potions for every conceivable condition known to man and several still unknown. Occasionally through neglect or tiredness she would mix substances of a volatile nature resulting in small, noisy and very smelly explosions. She would emerge after such an explosion, face blackened, hair smouldering into the sunlit street, muttering and clutching a still burning pestle. Passers-by pay little attention, a singed Ana is a common sight in Alqueria.
Ana also practises ‘Magnetic Therapy’. She can’t afford the equipment however so uses an old bar magnet from a motorbike magneto. She doesn’t actually cure anybody, in fact the only positive results of the treatment are the poor patient’s watches stopping and small metallic objects clinging to them like chainmail. It was easy to tell who had the Magnetic Therapy as they are always late for buses, appointments and meals and rust up when it Rains.
The herbalist of Alqueria was happy though and practised her remedies on herself. Her breakfast was akin to a chemistry experiment and she would often surface from the meal stained by the colours of her mixtures. Sometimes green, sometimes a bright yellow and once a deep brown which was strangely worrying. Now Ana’s only source of income is from her shop and unfortunately her home-made medicines are rather ineffectual which was somewhat of a handicap to trade. But being an enterprising girl she made all her concoctions utterly addictive by adding the most potent Remitroot powder available.
Some thought Ana’s concoctions were responsible for the menfolk of Alqueria only possessing two neurons, but this of course is untrue as men in general have always only possessed two neurons. Women clamoured for her cosmetic range of products believing that Ana’s good looks and shapely bottom were a result of their regular use.
Of course they weren’t, Ana inherited her appearance and culito but somehow failed to mention this to her customers. The women folk of Alqueria spend a great deal of their time in her shop. It could be said that being speaking quietly is an act of great self control for any Spaniard male or female, for an Alquerian it is a ruddy miracle. Up to eight women can be seen in the herbal shop carrying on eight separate conversations. Each one of the eight involved in each conversation both understanding and contributing, the multitasking is phenomenal and the permeations numerous.
Ana continues to operate her little shop in Alqueria and can be seen at regular intervals blackened by explosions and twitching from the side effects of her treatments. So, when in Alqueria pay her shop a visit in the Calle Siniestro just off the Calle Horno.
El Día de la Constitución
Defining the fundamental rights of the Alquerian people became the next challenge for the fledgling Republic. After their expulsion from Spain the people of Alqueria began setting up business for themselves. With the two barrios of the village constantly engaged in a state of undeclared warfare the task looked formidable.
The Constitution of the Republic of Alqueria was however drafted with little or no dissent. It is a two page document. One page compiled by the Hill People and the other by the Newcomers. The clauses on page one contradicted those on page two but that didn’t seem to matter in fact it was the strength of the document. If something was deemed as unconstitutional on one page, simply referring to the relevant clause on the other made it permissible. Nothing was unconstitutional, it meant all things to all villagers, everything and anything was legal and therefore possible.
A new impetus was given to the Government. Manuela, the Minister of Culture began taking her duties seriously. To assess the cultural needs of her people she personally interviewed a section of the population. This section however turned out to be the younger and fitter men of the village. The consultations took place on her settee, giving the phrase ‘reproduction furniture’ a whole new meaning.
The people of Alqueria were so pleased with their handiwork they declared a public holiday, ‘El Día de la Constitución’. At least one half of the village did. The other half were to have their Día de la Constitución six months hence. They still celebrated the day though, calling it ‘No El Día de la Constitución’.
A fiesta was organised with tables laden with food and drink erected in the village plaza. El Enveneno, the town’s gourmet chef prepared a pig roast. He could do some surprising things with a pig, at least they surprised the pig. The fiesta soon degenerated into the usual sectarian brawl. The Hill People, defending the Bar La Casa Devante launched fusillades of bread rolls, olives and rocks at the Newcomers who lay siege to the Plaza. The overturned tables acted as barricades as the alcohol soaked belligerents exchanged volleys.
José Cabrasilbido, who was both the local and national policeman was powerless to act. According to the constitution the fracas was both legal and illegal, depending on which page one referred to. The state of constitutional anarchy offered a degree of freedom unknown in the more traditional democracies.
Is this level of emancipation envied by more conservative peoples? Would they follow the Alquerian example? Are they even remotely interested?
Luncheon of the Boating Party
Today was the annual riparian luncheon. The vision behind the idea was a relaxed waterborne journey down a meandering waterway then partaking in a luxurious and well watered repast on the river bank. Alqueria’s Rio Verde isn’t quite the Isis stretch of the Thames and some argue that the slimy green amorphous mass that flows in it isn’t technically water but it is the only venue in Alqueria for water-sport.
The craft, ‘The Saucy Sue’, leaked, smelt, and always listed alarmingly to port, but it did float which was more than any other Alquerian registered vessel did. Progress was slow down the Rio Verde due to its viscosity, like green lumpy discarded engine oil it impeded progress and clogged the cooling systems.
Instead of the expected relaxed party of would-be diners partaking of leisurely aperitifs, we had a wide-eyed life jacket wearing mass of humanity huddling together for safety, some prayed while others wept openly. Judging by expressions and body language one would think they were freshly shanghaied to serve on some ‘Yankee Blood Boat’ never again to set foot on ‘terra firma’.
A fatalistic depression descended on the ‘passengers’ and, unfortunately Loca Pepa was having an off day. She had decided to ‘end it all’ by throwing herself into the Rio Verde. The crew would ‘fish’ her out only for her to throw herself in again. It became great sport to wait until she submerged for the third time before dragging her on board. The crew warmed to their task and took it in turns to perform the rescue. Pepa was overjoyed as she played the victim with an audience, the fish however objected, it was bad enough having to live in the Rio Verde without having the sudden, unwelcome and repeated appearance Loca Pepa.
By some miracle of navigation or sheer good luck the Saucy Sue tied up at ‘Dodgy Pedro’s Wharf’ close to the border with Spain. Their lunch awaited, spread over white starched linen with the best EPNS cutlery at the ready. At Loca Pepa’s place a plastic knife and fork waited, the Sanity Court had not yet agreed to her using sharp objects.
It was with relief that the luncheon party scrambled ashore, some kissed the ground, risking a dose of tetanus to show their surprise at having survived the Saucy Sue. The Alquerian Trout which had to be boiled for three hours in order to render it non-toxic was only toyed with. The Lemming Stew was left uneaten, the trauma of the boat trip had dissolved all appetites. It was a sullen and traumatised group that gratefully gulped their Remitroot chupito.
The luncheon party walked home as the Saucy Sue rose vertically, bow to the sky before plunging stern first into the sticky green depths of the Rio Verde.
The Alquerian Infrastructure
Local taxes are non-existent in Alqueria. Which is just as well as the chance of anyone actually paying is extremely remote. The services required to protect and keep the Village operating are paid for from the Remitroot Surplus Fund. Many prominent financial institutions have tried to unravel the intricacies of this fund but none have succeeded. It operates on the principle that the Remitroot Surplus Fund gives A a loan, A pays B for services rendered. B then pays C for goods and services who then pays A for its utility bills. A then repays the Remitroot Surplus Fund. All outstanding bills are paid and the Remitroot Surplus Fund isn’t out of pocket. There must be a flaw somewhere but the system works so well no-one in Alqueria has looked too closely. It is advisable not to try this at home though.
Of all of the Alquerian public services perhaps the Fire and Rescue Service is the hardest worked. With the Alquerian liking for civil disorder fires and collapsed masonry are common place. One drawback with this fire service is that in true Alquerian tradition it is inept. It is necessary to have two fire engines, one to put out the fire and the second to put out the firemen. If the fire is any distance from the station it has been known for them to stop for lunch.
José Cabrasilbido, Alqueria’s policeman has a difficult task. As there are no laws in the Village republic he has nothing to enforce. He can’t even manage traffic or issue parking tickets All the road markings have worn off long ago. He spends a great deal of time posting notices that announce the cancellation of road closures that were never scheduled in the first place. He struts the Village, holster open so his side-arm can be brought into play at a moments notice. He lets his right hand hover just above the grip. José isn’t going to be surprised. If one looks closely at this weapon one can make out the legend etched on the barrel, ‘Dirty Harry Special-Recommended for children over five.’
Alqueria has one ambulance and Enzo Matanzamas the local doctor has four beds in the Village’s cottage hospital. Not that the populace has any faith in either the good Doctor or his method of transporting his would-be patients. In fact it is a common sight to see the paramedic chasing some poor causality who has hobbled off in the hope of avoiding both the ambulance and one of Dr. Enzo Matanzamas’s beds.
To survive for any length of time in Alqueria it is necessary to avoid playing with matches and to eat the proverbial daily apple.
The Cunning Plan
To say that the Alquerian Parliament was a hotbed of intellectual excellence would be somewhat of an overstatement. Indeed the collective wisdom of the whole village is rather like a forty watt bulb, when glowing at its best the room gets darker. They had however surpassed themselves this time. Alqueria was going to war.
The cunning plan involves declaring war on Spain, losing and letting Spain rebuild Alqueria, investing millions in its reconstruction. A latter day ‘Marshall Plan’. To the casual observer this strategy may seem rather risky but the state of the Alquerian economy demanded desperate action.
Spain had long since closed its borders with Alqueria, fearing the dysfunctionality of its inhabitants may be contagious. They only way an Alquerian could get a visas was to pass straight through Spain and not touch anything on the way. The border closure issue was just the excuse needed. A telephone call was made to the Palace of Monaco in Madrid expressing Alquerian outrage at the closure of its borders. Unfortunately ‘expressing outrage’ wasn’t one of the numbered options of the automatic answering system, the nearest was “Press two if you are the Catalan President requiring independence”. A letter was sent instead.
Intelligence isn’t the only Alquerian attribute in short supply, courage is also conspicuous by its absence in the collective breast. It was decided in the interest of discretion to evacuate the Village during hostilities. The entire population took to the road disguised as a touring Abyssinian Goat Shirling extravaganza. Loco Paco was left behind however and told to ‘hold the fort’, he spent the next two weeks looking for a suitable fort to hold.
The plan appeared to work well with the Spanish Army invading after the Air Force dropped a couple of bombs which resulted in two thousand Euros worth of improvements. All seemed to be going remarkably well, a plan for the rebuilding of Alqueria was discussed, agreed and duly signed. But it was all going too well. When it came to actually transferring the cash needed for the restoration it was discovered that some enterprising Spanish politician had purloined the funds and diverted them to a certain central American country with a canal running through it.
They say that ‘The Devil looks after his own’ and this held true. The bombing had destroyed the drainage system of Alqueria which leaked its foul smelling contents into the Alquerian earth producing the conditions ideal for the maturing of the Remitroot crop. The result was a bumper harvest, full Alquerian coffers and the drunks of the Pueblo could once more drink themselves into insensibility.
The Roman Legacy
Alqueria had yielded to international pressure. The UNHSHP (United Nations High Commission for Hostile Pongs) demanded that Alqueria sort out its drainage problem. It was not a new problem, it was something that had evolved along with the Village. The problem is so old that Roman effluent often makes an unwelcome appearance along with the even more unwelcome appearance of today’s effluent. The result is a strain of effluent bacteria that is as dysfunctional as present day Alqueria but with the lust for power, glory and empire that so characterised the Romans. In short it was a danger to public health on an international scale. It is said that on a bad day the smell could make astronauts eyes water in the International Space Station.
The Villages coffers and villager’s ‘piggy banks’ were emptied so the firm of ‘Reeking Pedro, Pong Eliminators Extraordinaire’ could be commissioned to overhaul the drainage system. The work was given the highest priority due to the approach of the ‘Iberian Curry and Guinness Festival’ which was soon to be held in Alqueria. Contrary to expectations and precedent the work was completed efficiently and on time. Some thought there must be catch. The work was so well carried out that people lost confidence in the system and travelled daily to the public facilities in a neighbouring Spanish village.
The flaw in the scheme was soon realised. Remitroot, the singular plant which the income of Alqueria totally relies gets it amazing properties from various agrarian phenomenon peculiar to the Pueblo. The main one being the bad drainage, this is vital for the ripening of the crop and to give it the enhanced potency for wine making and its outstandingly quality as an aphrodisiac.
The first crop of the season was a disaster. Taking Remitroot the aphrodisiac produced the sex drive of a Giant Panda while Remitroot the wine was distributed at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Sales slumped, income stopped and drunks sobered. Alqueria was bankrupt. Alquerian air quality improved and became a delight to breath, although some said without Remitroot Whisky at it full potency breathing was hardly worth the effort. The lights burnt late in the town-hall as an emergency meeting of the Alquerian cabinet discussed the available options to return Alqueria to solvency.
Such ideas as selling Loco Paco for scientific research were mooted but dismissed as not being sufficiently lucrative, besides the people of Alqueria had become strangely attached to Paco.
What plan will be acted upon?
How will the coffers be refilled.
¡The Sanity Board!
Loco Paco’s behaviour had been giving cause for concern. Manuela, Antonio Poyato and Rodriquez, the remaining three incumbents of the Alquerian Government decided to seek professional help. Well Manuela and Poyato were. Rodriquez was all for driving him to a small village just outside Reykjavik, leaving him on the doorstep of the first bar they came to and heading south at great speed.
Poor Loco Paco’s grip on reality has always been a trifle tenuous. He once mistook a Benedictine Monk for an itinerant kangaroo and tried to force feed him eucalyptus leaves. Paco’s knowledge of the dietary habits of antipodean fauna was sketchy to say the least. On another occasion he hid in the basement of the town hall for three weeks simply because someone told him that Poyato had aimed a kick at his friend Bert. Bert is an imaginary five foot tall rodent with whom Paco converses at depth with on a variety of topical and esoteric subjects.
A psychiatrist was duly commissioned to visit Paco and prepare a report as to his mental state. The interview was an awe inspiring experience for Carmen Daftajobba, never had she met anyone like Paco. She was mesmerised by his ramblings and phobias. She likened being in his presence to being in a cage full of semi-literate monkeys with persecution complexes and ‘Walter Mitty’ fantasies. Carmen was asked to keep the report simple and to use layman’s terms. She was true to her word, it simply read ‘As crazy as the maracas of Machin’.
It was decided to test his sanity once and for all in front of a judge from the European Committee for the Terminally Balmy with Alquerian citizens from both barrios invited to give evidence.
What could go wrong?
The hearing started with due formality and reverence, apart from Paco wishing everyone ‘Happy first of May’ and signing The International, everyone joined in however apart from the judge who took numerous notes.
During the course of the hearing it became apparent that the evidence from each barrio differed. The Hill People were sympathetic to Paco’s needs while the Newcomers saw their chance of removing one of the opposition. People began challenging the evidence of others and arguments broke out, the judge made more notes. Fights started and missiles started to fly. The worthy judge took refuge under his desk while frantically making further notes.
The ‘courtroom’ was total Bedlam with unconscious citizens strewn among the debris. Some semblance of order was eventually restored and the verdict delivered. Loco Paco, who took no part part in the affray was declared sane and issued with a certificate to that effect. The judge implied that it was in fact the remaining dysfunctional inhabitants of Alqueria who needed professional help.
Loco Paco is now the only officially sane person in Alqueria. His certificate hangs proudly over the cage of his pet Saharan Dung Beetle Bengy.
The Road to Anarchy
During Alqueria’s turbulent transition from small Spanish village to independent sovereign Republic one trapping of statehood was overlooked. The legal system. When the laws of Spain applied, it wasn’t so much which laws to obey but which could be disobeyed with impunity. When people went too far the Guardia Civil would turn up. Driving around the village in a 4×4, elbows out of windows and mirrored sunshades, it was their attempt to intimidate. The occasional discarded piece of fruit or well aimed root vegetable bouncing off the car’s bodywork demonstrated that the people of Alqueria remained unmoved.
Now they had set up housekeeping on their own some semblance of law and order had to be maintained. Alqueria was however in an unusual and unique position. The Village had its Remitroot crop which meant self-sufficiency, dignity and autonomy. A reversion to the golden days of eighteenth century Andalucía. The dream of every atavistic Anarchist. Alqueria had emerged from an insignificant Spanish backwater to the closest thing to paradise in the northern hemisphere. It’s a pity the population didn’t realise it. Relevant political ideologies usually imply that to get from Alqueria’s initial state to its present a total destruction of society is required. Alqueria managed the transformation without this intermediary step.
This is the crux of the problem the people of Alqueria felt cheated. The occasional bout of wanton destruction always appeals to the good folk of the pueblo. Lawbreaking is almost second nature for the population. Do the law-makers create laws so they can be broken and therefore have to be enforced? Do they leave the Village Republic without statute and therefore retain a law abiding society?
There was to be a public meeting in the plaza in front of the Bar la Casa Devante. The question would be voted upon by the entire village. This, the politicians will tell you is an exercise in pure democracy. The sceptics will say it is simply an attempt by those in power to abdicate responsibility and cover their hindquarters against failure.
The Bar la Casa Devante was a bad choice of venue.
Horacio Stranglardeganso, landlord of the Bar used the opportunity to introduce a ‘Happy Hour’, eight drinks for the price of seven.
Rodriquez, while putting the case for legislation received a direct hit from a flying Remitroot bottle and was rendered unconscious. Manuela while putting her case for a lawless and therefore law abiding society was interrupted by five separate proposals, and they certainly weren’t marriage. Manuela’s passionate plea won the day by an overwhelming majority. The village-folk were duly put on their honour and asked to look to their consciences before they acted, spoke or even got out of bed.
That night the bank was robbed.
The Alquerian Plumber
Getting a plumber in Madrid or Bilbao is a relatively simply affair. The plumbers are reliable and courteous. In other parts of Spain it is more difficult, in Almería, forget it and wash it in the nearest stream. In Alqueria just hope for miracles.
There are many plumbers listed in the Alquerian Tradesman Directory unfortunately a phone call to one goes something like this. (Translated from the original Alquerian into English by Pedro Barmyescrito).
Frantic housewife. “Hello is that ???????? the plumber”
Frantic housewife. “My cellar is flooding, my children are treading water and the electrics have fused. The water is causing the house to subside and a very large and ugly fish is swimming around my dining room table”.
Plumber. “Not to worry, it’ll be fine, you’ll see”.
Frantic housewife. “Will you come at once”.
Plumber. “Yes, not to worry”.
‘Click’, end of conversation. It is only then that ‘Frantic Housewife’ has realised that the plumber hasn’t asked for an address. The phrase ‘Not to worry’ when translated from the original Alquerian into English has a second meaning which is ‘Not a bloody chance’. At least not when there is wine and tapas on offer and it is always on offer.
One plumber however defies convention and always attends when a speed and alacrity which is touching. The reason is simple, he is a complete idiot. Manuel Tuboroto has flooded more homes than a tsunami. He has the ability to inspire confidence, he knows all the keywords that plumbers use, he hasn’t got the faintest idea what they mean but he knows them.
His Great-grandfather was in charge of the plumbing system on the ‘Titanic’. Contrary to popular belief it wasn’t an iceberg that let in all that water in was a simple leak in the third-engineers loo. Manuel’s Great-grandfather attended the call.
When called he usually arrives within the hour, the poor unsuspecting householder is impressed and amazed at the speed of response. Grinning Manuel will then be led to the troublesome piece of plumbing. Here the householder gets an inkling as to the ineptitude of our worthy fontanero as he usually fails to recognise such things as valves, stopcocks, baths and sinks. He once ‘fixed’ the boiler in the town hall. The council are still filling in the hole.
His speciality is looking for gas leaks with a cigarette lighter. Manuel favours the ‘Zippo’ lighter for this task as the flames is bigger which makes it easier to find the leak. He always finds it necessary to talk to himself in a light hearted and jolly fashion. Even the occasional explosion can’t dampen his good humour and he can often be seen leaving burning and partially destroyed buildings with a song on his lips and joy in his heart.
This above is based on a real occurrence, the names have however been changed.
To be continued ………………..
The green mist hung heavy in the morning air. Its ability to offend the nostrils and severely erode the epidermis keeps the local inhabitants behind closed doors. The return of the Alquerian Mist was unheralded due to the complex nature of its origin. The bad drainage coupled with a temperature inversion which occurs from time to time in the Alquerian Valley are considered the main causes. This time it was thick, foul smelling and particularly irritating to the exposed parts.
The timing of this meteorological phenomenon was unfortunate. A television unit from the BBC, led by that celebrated director Gordon Gigglemoor was in the process of producing a documentary. ‘Utopia’ was to be a programme investigating why so many Britons choose to settle on the southern Iberian Continent. Alqueria had been chosen as the venue. Why? Perhaps bribery by the Pueblo’s leaders. Perhaps research had selected Alqueria from its many rivals or perhaps it was just sheer bad luck on the part of the BBC. Whatever the reason Gordon and his worthy crew coughed and scratched their way through the disgusting green mist. The cultured presenter’s voice of Preston Melove permeated through the chocking haze. He waxed lyrical about the wonderful climate before collapsing in a paroxysm of coughing.
Preston is a man with two great loves, himself and food. His opinion of Alquerian food was to regard it as a weapon of war rather than something one would voluntarily digest. His forced smile as he sampled the Alquerian Newt Pie said it all but in the true tradition of the BBC Preston put on his professional face. Describing the delicacy as unique and delicious before moving out of shot and vomiting for five full minutes. The smell of the pie lingered causing Preston to be followed by a herd of meowing cats.
It was with some trepidation that the film crew setup their equipment with the intent of capturing a typical evening’s entertainment at the Bar La Casa Devante. Ernesto Muyinestable, the one-legged flamenco dancer was first up or rather down, his performance alternating between the two. The applause which greeted Ernesto at the end of his act was one of pity and embarrassment. Ernesto viewed it differently and vowed to increase his repertoire with more complicated routines. A recipe for disaster. Manuela followed with her ‘gran espectáculo’. This involved Manuela, a root vegetable, a side-arm truncheon and a volunteer from the audience. Even the hardened locals felt nauseas as Manuela performed feats of amazing dexterity and ingenuity.
At this point Preston was seen to weep openly. Sobbing into his microphone which expired with a puff of blue smoke and a muted crackle.
The Uggabian Connection
Those who have been paying attention and for those who have travelled to Alqueria for what ever purpose will probably remember that our Village Republic is twinned with the village republic of Uggaby. Uggaby lays in a bend of the River Waveney in the East Anglian area of England. It was noticed on ancient maps that the Waveney actuary splits flowing both north and south of Uggaby. As the River forms a natural boundary between Norfolk and Suffolk, which county the Village was in became somewhat hazy. As Uggaby, like its twin Alqueria is a dysfunctional and troublesome place both counties ‘washed their hands’ of the village and Uggaby duly declared itself to be a republic.
It was perhaps natural that the two places should form a bond and the time was now considered right for a closer union to be forged. Monetary union, with the Alquerian Raro and the Uggabian Groat being replaced by the Bitcon. Two hours after its launch the Bitcon fell in value and was trading at 10 x 106 Bitcon to the Euro. The share price of the paper mill supplying the paper for the currency rocketed. Both the Alquerian and Uggabian establishments had invested heavily in the mill a day before the currency was launched the respective coffers were filled to overflowing upon the selling of the shares. The original currencies were restored after the sale, the manoeuvre adding a new meaning to the phrase monetary union.
The main purpose was to establish a non-aggression pact however and this was realised with the setting up of PRATNAP , the joint commanders of the spearhead regiment were Loco Paco representing Alqueria and Barmy Barry for Uggaby. NATO were rightly worried by this move believing it could shift the balance of power within Europe and so undermine the peace of the region. The United States began photographing both countries looking for newly built missile sites, something they are quite fond of doing. Russia dispatched an atomic submarine and a hasty meeting of world leaders was arranged, Britain supplied the tea and biscuits.
Remitroot, produced in Alqueria and shipped to Uggaby has many uses including military. The USA and Russia knew that Remitroot weapons were theoretically possible and couldn’t rule out the possibility that they were already in the joint arsenals of PRATNAP. Whether a feasible delivery system existed was not known but the chance couldn’t be taken. Appeals were made by the world community for restraint as the crisis escalated with the deployment of B52 bombers over Alqueria.
It was however a Spanish political initiative which solved the crisis. A backhand payment from the UN ‘slush’ did the trick. A simply solution from those well versed in the technique. Strangely after the cash arrived in Alqueria and Uggaby PRATNAP was dissolved and never mentioned again.
Alqueria and the Arts
The income from the export of Remitroot, in all its forms provides the bulk of the finance which keeps Alqueria ticking over. More or less everyone takes part in the production, sales and shipping. Some are involved in more imaginative ways such as Pepe Lopéz better known as El Hígado de Cuero who is a self appointed taster for Remitroot Whisky and wine. Now and again the Village coffers demand more cash and a creative approach to Village finances is called for. One method of bringing in cash was simply to do more works but this was rejected out of hand.
The solution arrived at by the Government of Alqueria was to approach the International Arts Council for a huge grant. Accorded to the application, Alqueria is a hotbed of culture with aspiring writers, Painters and sculptures waiting for nothing more than hard cash to realise their full potential. In fact the only talent in the Village is the talent for total inertia. But the application had all the correct boxes ticked and the cheque duly arrived, it was cashed and spent in the same afternoon.
The International Arts Council, very unreasonably in the eyes of the Alquerian Government sent a delegation of five ‘experts’ to the Village to see how their money was being spent. This could have been a bit of a problem for those who completed the application but being experts in this sort of deception an exhibition was duly organised to showcase the very best of Alquerian art.
Held, as most events are in Alqueria in the bar of the La Casa Devante the exhibition was advertised as the greatest artistic event of the century. It was thought that the hype might muddy the waters as far as quality is concerned and hopefully cloud the judgement of the visiting critics. The three ‘exhibits’ were a literary piece, a sculpture in granite and a water colour. The literary piece was plagiarised from a work by Ivan Bogeroff, a little known Siberian Haiku Poet. The work was translated from the original Siberian Turkic into Alquerian Spanish by Nester Clacketo who has no knowledge of the former language. The sculpture resembled the corner stone of the Bar La Golondrina Verde, which coincidently went missing just before the exhibition opened. The water colour looked like the bottom of an aviary, which it was.
The Arts Council weren’t fooled and asked for their money back. What offended them the most was the claim that the literary work and the sculpture could be likened to the works of Hemingway and Henry Moore. But as the organisers pointed out, Henry Moore was lousy writer and Hemingway couldn’t sculpt to save his life.
The Bar La Casa Devante
The Bar La Casa Devante is one of two bars in Alqueria, the other being La Golondrina Verde which is frequented by the Newcomers. There has probably been a ‘watering hole’ on the spot of the Casa Devante ever since some ‘ancient’ tried to soften his bread by soaking it in water accidentally causing fermentation. An act which received no reward nor recognition, an act which however millions are grateful.
The Hill People who drink, play and plot in the bar are rightly proud of their taberna. Covering the walls are the framed photographs of the bar’s drunks through the ages. One faded sepia print shows ‘Botella Pedro’ who in 1932 drank sixteen bottles of cheap Ribera, two flagons of Remitroot Whisky and a glass of a well known cola. He holds the record for an evening’s consumption and was awarded a certificate entitling him to free drinks for life. This didn’t turn out to be too much of an expense as Pedro died the next morning. The then landlord blamed the cola claiming it was ‘corked’. The doctor who examined Pedro said it was the first time in medical history that both kidneys and liver had voluntarily removed themselves, they had simply ‘left home’.
The Republic of Alqueria was formally inaugurated in the bar when the constitution was drafted on the back of an empty twenty pack of ‘FagsRUs’ cigarettes, thus steeping the hostelry in history. The ‘Hero of Alqueria’, El Raro was said to have hid at the La Casa Devante while on the run from the French during the War of Independence. It was said he was disguised as an itinerant Asturian washer woman wearing false breasts and a moustache. Strangely though he continued to dress in this manner for three years after the French gave up the search, he could be seen frolicking and giggling most evenings during the summer months.
The Bar La Casa Devante is the premier venue for the supply and consumption of Remitroot Wine, Whisky and associated products. Antonio Poyato, who produces the beverages uses the Bar as a testing ground for new Remitroot based products, the clientele are his ‘Guinea pigs‘ albeit unwittingly. This had led to some strange side effects including watery bowels, rashes, hair loss, toe nails turning bright orange and uncontrollable urges to join the Conservative party. The side effects became so alarming Poyato had to curtail his experiments. He gets a multinational pharmaceutical companies to do the trails for him now.
When one visits the Village Republic of Alqueria the Bar La Casa Devante is a ‘must see’. Just feel the atmosphere, taste the Remitroot beverages on offer and hurl abuse at the defenceless resident drunks. The Bar guarantees a fun packed evening for young and old.
Politics in Alqueria: An overview
Alqueria’s political system evolved out of necessity. Documentary and archaeological evidence suggested that Alqueria was completely bypassed by the Christian Reconquest of Isabella and Ferdinand. The Spanish state used this opportunity to wash their hands of the dysfunctional village with the result that Alqueria became stateless. The Republic of Alqueria came into being and a political system suited to the unique needs of the community developed.
It has been said that all Spaniards are born anarchists and the State brings them more in less into a condition of conformity albeit grudgingly. In Alqueria this conversion never happened and these anarchistic tendencies have become more acute. To form a political system from ‘scratch’ and with these tendencies at the fore wasn’t so much a challenge but a ‘labour of love’ or as some said a ‘labour of lunacy’.
The first principle of the anarchists is ‘life without authority’, which means no laws and no control. The people of the Village Republic were left to behave according to their own moral code. Considering the inherent hatred shown by the opposing barrios this did not bode well. In fact a state of undeclared warfare exists punctuated by rioting and general civil unrest. José Cabrasilbido, the Village policeman is in a difficult position. If there are no laws he has no authority and is powerless during these periods of strife. He decided his best course of action is to join in the affrays by hurling the cobblestones of Alqueria which are the projectiles of choice. He is issued with a side-arm but as this is plastic and has ´Dirty Harry Special´ written on the barrel it doesn’t pose a threat.
Rodriquez alone wants a dictatorship but he is always outvoted. He would have liked to have created all sorts of statutes where the rights of the individual are restricted and controlled. He has however to satisfy himself with cancelling laws that were never enacted in the first place. He would issue pompous statements suggesting that in the best interests of the citizens of Alqueria this or that piece of legislation would be struck from the statute book. In fact the statute book doesn’t exist and even the constitution is written on the back of a cigarette packet with one of Manuela’s eyeliner pencils.
The income from Remitroot sales is shared between the population according to need with a small retention for the maintenance of the pueblo and José Cabrasilbido’s wage, the only paid official in Alqueria. How the ruling coalition of Manuela, Antonio Poyato and Loco Paco spend their time is a mystery but the sounds of merriment coming from the town-hall is perhaps a clue.
Considering this brief description of the Alquerian political structure one wonders what the role of the government of Alqueria actually is but surely the same question can be asked of all governments.
The Great Alquerian Snow Storm
Unusual weather conditions are well known in Alqueria. A temperature inversion occurs seemingly at random. South-east Spain can broil in forty degree heat while Alqueria can be down to a dismal fifteen degrees centigrade. A strange green and worryingly sticky mist can spring from nowhere and almost suffocate the Pueblo. Unusual odours are no stranger to the Village while the poor drainage is legend. This time however it is snow.
Alqueria is located in an area of the Iberian Peninsular that never sees snow. In fact if it even rains people stay away from work and eat Mijas. On this day however Snowflakes the size of Alquerian banknotes, and probably of greater value started falling and fell for four days and four nights. Even with this fresh white covering Alqueria was still a dirty grey, nothing it seems could improve the cosmetics of the Village Republic. Normally if snow fell in the region people would travel miles to look, play and freeze in the stuff. The horror of visiting Alqueria however far outweighed the novelty value of snow, much to the disgust of the residents who were quite prepared to exploit this natural phenomenon.
Alqueria came to a complete stop, what is remarkable however is that people noticed, high powered inertia being the norm in the Village. Certainly car accidents occurred due to the weather but then many more occurred from the overindulgence in Remitroot liquor. The animals of Alqueria tentatively tested the substance with hesitant paws before retiring to the safely of warm baskets. The snow also confused Loco Paco, but as his IQ was reckoned to be lower than that of the local animal population it was expected. Viewed from neighbouring villages Alqueria was totally obscured, this was seen as a definite plus. Estate agents were out in force extolling the wonders of the landscape to perspective buyers and many wished the veil of snowflakes could somehow be made permanent.
The Remitroot crop of Alqueria, which is the mainstay of the Village undergoes a remarkable transformation when its roots go below two degrees centigrade. The wine produced from its berries becomes more potent and produces an hallucinogenic effect. Many ‘witches’ were burned during the middle ages after drinking the Remitroot vintage following cold Winters. The value of this ‘Cryo Vintage’ as it has become known is tenfold to that of a normal year. Many cases of the wine are smuggled to the hippy communities of Órgiva and the sourrounding areas resulting in wild Remitroot induced ‘happenings’.
This particular vintage is also delivered to the British House of Commons where it is much savoured by MPs, this of course explains a great deal.