Category Archives: Alqueria
Some three hundred years ago a wise and learned man resided in Alqueria. That is to say he was wise and learned compared to the norm in the village. He mastered joined-up writing and could walk and talk at the same time. El Creído was his name and this relatively erudite individual was universally disliked. The simple folk of the Pueblo didn’t understand him and therefore feared him. He was hounded out of his home and his town. As he left a comet was seen bright in the night sky. El Creído prophesied that when the comet returned to Alqueria a catastrophe of biblical proportions would engulf the village.
The comet is now known as the Grungbucket Comet. Named after Sidney Grungbucket of Penge. He catalogued the comet when it was first seen over southern Britain twenty or so years ago. According to his calculations the periodic body is due over southern Spain within the week.
Word spread quickly through the village. The population attempted to abandon their homes and cross the border into Spain. The Spanish authorities, being alive to the situation closed all crossing points. Unable to leave they settled for partying. Partying as if the end was nigh. Manuela was in her element and moved from one shindig to another. If anyone says they remember the parties of that night then it’s a certain bet they weren’t there. For months the village priest struggled to convert the drunkenness and copulation of the ‘night of the comet’ into the more sedately forms of heavy drinking and mild fore-play.
The Grungbucket Comet duly appeared bright and big in the northern sky. Clouds gathered and gave vent to a storm of Wagnerian proportions. Rain, lightning, and thunder shook the windows and rattled the walls of Alquerian homes. The comet shone brightly through the black cloud as if mocking the Alquerian people below. The village trembled as the tempest raged. It lasted until the first spears of the morning sun found their way through the valleys of the high sierra.
The population tentatively examined their village, their homes and themselves. All was well apart from everything being extremely wet. If there isn’t such a thing as a collective consciousness then the reality became obvious to all simultaneously.
The horrible truth is that no catastrophe of whatever proportions could do any damage to Alqueria. The village with its perma-fog, perma-pong and evil smelling Río Verde is such a disagreeable place that any modification no matter how caused would probably be an improvement.
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.
The Strange Case of The Hurting Feet
“My feet hurt Antonio, I have much discomfort from these shoes”
“Look at the height of these heels Manuela, these aren’t walking shoes, these aren’t shoes. Oh why do you wear them Manuela?”
“I have to Antonio, because I’m a girl”
“Yes I did spot that Manuela. But there is no law to say you have to wear them”
“Ahh but there is Antonio! It comes into force when we are in the vicinity of handsome men”
“So you think I am good looking Manuela?”
“Not you Antonio, Ohh. The waiter at the bar we just left”
“Sit on this large, round,warm rock Manuela. Take your shoes off”
“Sí Antonio your idea is good”
“There, that’s better I’ll rub your feet”
“Ooohh por favor Antonio. But rub nothing above the ankle!”
“Sí Manuela I know the rules”
“Why are we here Antonio?”
“Because your feet hurt Manuela”
“Not on this large, round, warm rock Antonio. On earth! Why do we exist on earth?”
“We all have to be somewhere Manuela”
“Do we Antonio? Do we?”
“If you didn’t exist you wouldn’t be able to ask whether or not you exist. Besides if you didn’t exist what would I do with these ridiculous shoes with the heels so high. What I mean Manuela is that you exist relative to not existing. If nothing existed then your question would be invalid and therefore wouldn’t exist?”
“Have you stopped taking your medication again Antonio? So if nothing existed, would my shoes still exist?”
“Probably Manuela, I think they have a reality all of their own”
“But how do I know I exist Antonio?”
“Because Manuela, you occupy a physical space which cannot be occupied simultaneously by anyone or anything else”
“Suppose the ‘physical space’ doesn’t exist Antonio?”
“Then you have a problem Manuela. But you do exist Manuela, you are capable of conscious thought”
“But they are not very good thoughts Antonio, they are mainly about shoes”
“But you still think, therefore you are”
“If my thoughts were deeper, more profound, would I exist more Antonio?”
“I don’t think there are levels of existence Manuela. I thinks its either on or off”
“So I exist on the same level as a deep thinker such as Sherlock Holmes Antonio?”
“Sherlock Holmes never existed Manuela”
“But my shoes do Antonio?”
“Yes Manuela your shoes do”
“Antonio? I exist to you but do I exist to someone I haven’t met?”
“You still exist Manuela, they are just not aware that you exist”
“But if they are not aware of me then I don’t exist to them?”
“In a way Manuela but you still physically exist”
“Like my shoes Antonio?”
“Sí Manuela, like your shoes”
“Antonio do you think there is a plan behind the universe?”
“If your shoes are anything to go by, No Manuela”
“Do you think there is a guiding hand, a hand that placed this large, round,warm rock here for us to sit on for example?”
“If there is Manuela his guidance isn’t all that good considering the state of the world”
“I suppose he must have to sleep sometime Antonio”
“It may not be a man Manuela. The guiding hand may be a woman”
“If it’s a woman Antonio, will she wear shoes like mine?”
“Not if she’s an intelligent being Manuela”
“Why did she create the universe, what’s the plan Antonio?”
“It may not even be a woman Manuela. It may be neither male nor female”
“If that’s the case Antonio, then what kind of shoes would it wear?”
“I don’t think the creator of the universe would have much interest in shoes Manuela”
“Then why did it make my shoes exist?”
“I don’t think anything could stop your shoes existing Manuela”
“Who created the creator Antonio?”
“The creator must have always existed”
“Sí Antonio, but what was before ‘always’?”
“You have asked many profound questions today Manuela, why?”
“My feet hurt Antonio”
“I will rub them Manuela”
“Gracias, but not above the ankle Antonio”
Remitroot: Its Origins and Uses.
Remitroot is a difficult plant to cultivate, many have tried but few succeed however the rewards for successfully growing this singular shrub are many. Products derived from Remitroot fetch premium prices the world over. The plant’s botanical name is Remitus Radix, it grows to a maximum height of one metre and produces a crop of bright red berries. When in flower it is of a light orange colour which opens during the night and remains tightly closed in the shape of a small pine-cone during the day.
Although Remitroot is tolerant to wide temperature variations and will survive equally in bright sunlight as well as total darkness it is the nutrient requirements that make it so difficult to grow. The soil must contain the correct mix of proteins, phosphates, nitrates and saturated fats. Only one location contains this ‘correct mix’ naturally, that is a one hectare area in Alqueria, a pueblo at the foot of the Sierra Alhamilla in the Province of Almería. The Remitroot field of Alqueria is naturally watered from the outflow of the antiquated domestic drainage system of the town. It is from this disgusting mixture of rotting vegetables, discarded meats and human effluent that the Remitroot plant thrives.
The seeds are of particular interest, they are black, spherical and extremely hard, indeed one has never been opened and they will even resist the attentions of diamond tipped drills. Some years ago a Remitroot seed was subjected to intense radiation, this was achieved by driving it through Palomares in an open car. The seed was then planted where it germinated immediately and grew to a height of two metres. When a mathematical problem was read out to it, it supplied the correct answer by dipping its leaves, the plant could also dance the Lambada.
When the juice obtained from the berries is distilled it produces a potent whisky and when fermented an intoxicating wine. The worryingly pink tubular roots can baked into a nourishing meat substitute, one serving can sustain a healthy man for a week. The leaves can be mashed and used as a rust retardant in the ballast tanks of oil tankers.
The only draw back is the aphrodisiac effect associated with all of these products. The Romans knew of Remitroot and it was much prized by Caligula who is said to have some of his best nights on the stuff.
So if you want to know more of Remitroot and Alqueria then visit http://www.alqueria.eu.
The Monks of Alqueria
Alquerian society is seen as godless, debauched and anarchic by the more sanctimonious observer. While most would agree it sounds like terrific fun the Monks of the order of St Jude the Daft, decided to save our wayward Pueblo.
The people of Alqueria, seizing their chance sold the Monks, who were blinded by religious fervour two overpriced dilapidated houses on the Calle Mirador. The Monks set to with a will and soon the Monastery of St. Jude the Daft (Alqueria) opened its doors for business. The Monks waited, and waited, and waited. The only taker was Loco Paco who mistook the Monks for a rare antipodean marsupial and tried to lasso the Abbot.
The people of Alqueria gave the monastery a wide berth. Monks in penance covered themselves, their clothes and anything in reach with a mixture of cow dung, goat’s droppings and pomegranate flesh. Accompanied with a shrill wail punctuated by nasal grunts it gave rise to a totally nauseating spectacle. Their foul smelling clothes were undoubtedly responsible for some dirty habits.
As for the spiritual salvation of the populace little headway was made. The Abbot summoned Sacerdote del Semblante Lánguido, the Village Priest on a consultative basis. Now these Monks in fact very few monks anywhere have had dealings with an existentialist priest. The monastic fraternity has been well shielded from this kind of thinking. The more the priest hammered home the meaninglessness of the universe and the contingency of all life the more the Monks became electrified. The credo of living for today and the understanding that tomorrow is just an unreachable hypothetical point in free space hit home.
The Abbot tried to quell this philosophical uprising, but the choice between ritual bathing in manure and of abstinence came a poor second to the Priest’s hedonistic view of life. The Abbot was a trier however and had faith, misplaced perhaps in his flock, he suggested a trial. It was to be the old struggle between perceived good and perceived evil. Which is which depended on your viewpoint. The Abbot armed the Monks with their faith but the Priest introduced them to Manuela. Consequently the Monks were led into a trial of temptation, they all failed miserably.
Red-eyed and dissipated the Monks began reinventing their order. The Abbot fled to Britain where he now councils prime ministers who have been rejected by their Parliament. The Monks’ habits are now sequined and thigh length. The Monastery renamed ‘St. Jude the Daft a Go Go’.
“Antonio? It’s now two thousand and eighteen isn’t it?”
“It looks much like two thousand and seventeen, Antonio”
“Sí, the same Manuela”
“If it’s two thousand and eighteen Antonio, that means I’ve had a hangover all year”
“Sí Manuela the same as last year”
“Sí Antonio, mucho…..Have you made a New Year’s resolution?”
“Sí Manuela, to stop having stupid conversations with you”
“Will you keep it Antonio?”
“I broke it two minutes ago, Manuela”
“Have you made a resolution Manuela?”
“Sí Antonio two. To give up drinking Remitroot and to give up men”
“Will you keep them Manuela?”
“I broke them two hours ago Antonio”
“Both of them Manuela?”
“Sí, he was delivering the Remitroot”
“So this year is the same as last Manuela?”
“Sí Antonio mucho…….Loco Paco said the town hall is short of funds so they are just rerunning last year, is that true Antonio?”
“Loco Paco’s insane Manuela, as mad as the maracas of Machin, Doolally, Netley fodder, daft as a brush, he has inputs floating Manuela!…….. Yes OK yes it’s true, in fact they have been doing it for years, this is really two thousand and nine, they just keep rewinding it every New Year’s Eve”
“Oh, what was I doing in two thousand and nine Antonio?”
“Remitroot and men, Manuela”
“No change than Antonio?”
“No change Manuela”
“Antonio? It’s now two thousand and eighteen isn’t it?”
“Opinions differ Manuela”
Armas and the Pit
The first tunnel of the Alquerian Metro was progressing at an acceptable pace. Acceptable for Alqueria that is. It isn’t a question of how much progress is being made but why a village of eight hundred souls requires an underground system in the first place. The requirement is tied to European grants designed to overhaul transport infrastructures. After some very creative accounting and downright lies regarding the logistical needs of Alqueria, grants were duly awarded. Unfortunately in these days of financial crises the issuing agency insisted on site visits, they wanted to know exactly where their cash was going.
The elders of the Village had hoped that the sheer unpleasantness of Alqueria would dissuade any potential inspector from putting in an appearance. The ploy had worked in the past. This time however, Alqueria’s bluff had been called. This is why Felipe Armas was bravely digging his way to a cardiac arrest while being watched by Loco Paco. Paco looked anything but loco to the exhausted Armas.
The plan submitted with the grant application called for two lines with an intersection and nine stations. The total length of the network was to be 22km. Armas’s excavation was to such a depth that an individual of average height could, when standing upright see over the edge of the hole. At the present rate of progress it would take 546 years to complete the digging. One might reasonably expect Alqueria’s transport requirements to have changed somewhat during this time. It was however satisfactory progress for Alqueria.
With the inspectors on their way Armas was digging with a will. He was given the job by default as no one else answered the job application. Armas only answered it as he thought he was applying for a subscription to ‘Naughty Nun Monthly’ which he read purely for the articles. It soon became obvious that the inspectors weren’t going to be fooled. Instead of a network of tunnels they were going to find nothing more than a hole in the ground that any self respecting boyscout on latrine duty could have dug.
Many inventive schemes to foil the inspectors were mooted. These ranged from backdrops painted with tunnel scenes to rendering the inspectors unconscious by applying Remitroot Whisky in vast quantities.
The solution came in the form of Antonio Poyato’s newly acquired and as yet uninstalled septic tank. By simply glueing on cardboard fins and stencilling the words ‘1000KG RDX’ it was possible to create the illusion of a very large bomb. Lowering it into the semi-darkness of Armas’s pit completed the deception.
The inspectors arrived promptly and peered into the void. The sight of Armas about to strike the ‘bomb’ with a hefty shovel tested their mettle. With remarkable agility for men of their age they clambered into their vehicles and sped away with doors slamming. The whole scene looked like a bungled kidnap attempt.
They were in such haste they reached Murcia before they realised they were out of petrol.
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.
Alqueria. The climatic aberrations
The Alquerian micro climate has baffled scientists for decades if not hundreds of years. A group of three learned men from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research spent some days in the village interviewing the population. It offered a unique opportunity to study a singular climate and the resultant dysfunctional population. Their research was sadly never finished. Two of the researchers suffered severe depression brought about by stress in turn caused by the constant bickering of the two population groups in Alqueria. The third became enamoured with Manuela. He still lives in the village stalking and worshipping her dark soul.
There are three aspects to the climate of Alqueria. Temperature inversion, the omnipresent strange green mist and the pong.
The cold air racing down from the Sierra Alhamilla pushes below the warm air of the valley causing the ground temperature to drop significantly. Strange weather conditions can occur including super cooled rain. Below freezing but still a liquid it solidifies by contact with the ground and the unfortunate inhabitants of the village. This phenomenon is so cold and unpleasant that in 1978 the Russian Embassy in Madrid asked if the Kremlin could send political prisoners to Alqueria.
The green mist which occasionally and without any particular reason obscures Alqueria is extremely puzzling. It is not damp as any self-respecting mist should be but is powdery, dry and worryingly clammy. On one particularly dense day it was visible from the International Space Station. The Ejército del Aire flew a helicopter through it, it didn’t emerge the other side and no amount of investigation has thrown light on its fate. The town’s wind turbine does have a strangely aerodynamic blade however.
Alqueria is famous for its unique odour, offensive to some, fragrant almost sensual to others. It is a whiff of all smells to all men. During the Roman Occupation Alqueria was known as Foetor Colossaeus reflecting its municipal body odour. It doesn’t remind one of the drains, although they are in need of overhaul. It is more reminiscent of a roof space into which an Indian restaurant vents, mixed with diesel fuel. Oriental spices tinged with a processed carbohydron.
The Tourist Office in Alqueria has tried various ways of turning these perverse atmospheric conditions to their advantage with variable success. There is only a limited number of people who want to be bombarded by freezing water droplets, while stumbling blindly in a green mist and having their nostril assaulted by an unidentifiable stench. However the people of Alqueria manage to live with it. Perhaps herein lies a clue.
Loca Pepa and the Hot Clothes
Loca Pepa needed an income as her partner, Loco Paco had been made redundant at the Goat Shirling Pit where he worked sharpening the Shirling Grunduks. Pepa, by some aberration of the Gods had successfully set up an international smuggling syndicate covering two continents. Loca Pepa wasn’t however known as ‘Loca’ for nothing, she was planning to smuggle underwear, Manuela’s in particular from Alqueria into Guatamala. Just where she got the idea that underwear was in demand in the Caribbean is a mystery, but then most things regarding Pepa are mysteries. The cartel which was due to receive the ‘goods’ in Guatamala offered premium prices as they believed the word ‘underwear’ was code for ‘Remitroot the Aphrodisiac’.
Pepa’s ‘modus operandi’ was to arfinch the items from Manuela’s washing line, where they hung like erotic semaphore flags, in the early hours of the morning. Manuela, of course blamed Antonio Poyato for the loss as he was an habitual purloiner of her undergarments. In fact a court order had banned him from being within fifty metres of her washing line, this didn’t however stop him from continually trying to get into her knickers.
Once Pepa had collected enough of the lacy intimate apparel she hid them in a specially constructed false bottom of her suitcase and headed for the airport. The Spanish customs at the Alquerian border became extremely suspicious as Pepa, never a good actress and being guilt ridden, suffered an acute attack of nerves. They searched the case, found the false bottom and searched the underwear. The custom officers recognised the underwear as Manuela’s, as they had all at one time or another come in close contact with it but as her frillies aren’t classed as contraband they continued searching. After two hours they gave up, chalked a mark on Pepa’s case and allowed her to pass. Pepa was in high glee as she boarded her Guatemalan bound flight.
Pepa was met in Guatamala by a sinister black limousine filled with blue-chinned bandits brandished semi-automatic pistols and speaking out of the corners of their mouths. They seemed somewhat confused as Pepa attempted to exchange a gross of alluring but unpractical knickers for a wad of U.S. Dollars. To put things mildly, they were somewhat miffed and Pepa was unceremoniously thrown from the moving car landing among the baggage of an itinerant Morris Dancing team from Somerset. The trip was not a total disaster however as the men of the Morris Dancing team enthusiastically purchased the underwear, Pepa didn’t ask any questions.
“Antonio, are you sure you didn’t take my knickers, but, they are no good to you unless I am in them, are they?” said Manuela.
With Manuela and Antonio Poyato Safely back in Alqueria it may be remembered that Abigail returned with them, just why shall be revealed soon.
“Where’s Antonio Manuela?”.
“He’s with the Uggabian girl Abigail Pepa”.
“Ahh! Manuela, why did she come back to Alqueria with you?”.
“Ohhh Antonio needed something to play with during the long Winter evenings”.
“Yes Manuela he’s been playing with his new toy a lot hasn’t he?”.
“Yes Pepa, a lot, I’m not sure I like it”.
“Are you jealous Manuela?”
“No, no, noooooo, I don’t think so. Ohhh Pepa let’s talk of different things”.
“Vale Manuela. What was Uggaby like?”.
“Bleak, smelly with a sticky green mist and full of objectionable, dysfunctional malcontented people, Pepa”.
“OOOHHH, just like Alqueria then Manuela”.
“Manuela here comes Antonio, I will leave you to talk, I have to prepare the stirrups and Swarfega for when Paco comes home from the Abyssinian Goat Shirling”.
“I didn’t want to know that Pepa”.
“Hola Antonio, you look pale and your hands shake like the leaf of the Aspen tree. What have you been doing?”.
“You don’t want to know Manuela”.
“I just said that to Pepa”.
“Nada Antonio. Abigail is the cause of this isn’t she. She must be very creative Antinio”.
“Sí Manuela very she can do wonders with a ………”.
“Now I really don’t want to know that. Is she prettier than me Antonio?”.
“That question is a trap isn’t it Manuela?”.
“You learn well Antonio”.
Later that night at the Bar La Casa Devante, Manuela, Abigail and Antonio sit at a table. The table is strewn with glasses and Remitroot wine bottles. Antonio plays with something under the table.
“Don’t do that Antonio, Abigail doesn’t like it………… Ooooooooh she does like it”.
“Sí Manuela much”.
“Yes Antonio I can see ……. OOHHHH! Antonio you have gone too far, that’s disgusting, absolutely disgusting……………….Antonio you never did that to me”.
“I tried in the Summer of 2016, you broke two of my fingers and said many bad words to me”.
“Yes, Antonio, perhaps I was wrong”.
Even later that night, Manuela alone in her bedroom muses to herself.
“That Abigail has to go”.
The next morning.
“Manuela have you seen Abigail, I can’t find her, the equipment for her hair is still in the bathroom, bedroom and kitchen but she is not, it is very suspicious”.
“Why would I know anything about it Antonio, me ha ha ha. Noooooo haven’t seen her, lovely morning Antonio”.
Abigail hasn’t been seen since that day, nothing has been heard from her apart for a garbled telephone call from a Baffin Island number which sounded like an Uggabian girl being molested by an amorous Polar Bear.
Alqueria, the personage (Los Recién Llegados)
Of the gentle and not-so-gentle folk of Alqueria, Los Recién Llegados are the most favoured. Their swimming pooled villas sit amidst well manicured lawns and high walls. These luxury abodes occupy the east of the Village between the Río Verde and the Calle Límite.
The wealth of Alqueria, like many other villages of southern Spain derives from its olive co-operative. Olivarera de Alqueria, owned, operated and generally neglected by one Señor Fernando Rodriguez. One could say Rodriguez is a benevolent, even tempered scholar. One would be wrong. He is an obese, foul mouthed illiterate bully his only redeeming feature being wealth and even that was inherited from his Father.
Rodriguez’s had a weakness for Remitroot liquor. A potent drink made from a root which grows only within the ‘El Gente del Cerro’ area of the Village. The last time he partook of the spirit he was unconscious for three days, when he came to he was driving a refrigerated lorry to Düsseldorf.
Olivarera de Alqueria is a desperate place. Once the pride of the Denominacion de Origen Consejo Regulador, now a third rate product from a crumbling olive mill. Rodriguez has squandered his fortune and his energies. Trying in vain to produce his own Remitroots and to pay for his love of Abyssinian Mountain Goat Shirling, an expensive sport.
More and more of the everyday running of the olive mill fell to his second in command, Roberto Robles. If one accepts that one never employs someone of superior intellect to be one’s deputy then Roberto Robles is indeed paddling in a very shallow gene pool. His management style consisting entirely of shouting while his physique was entirely obese. He modelled himself on Rodriguez. He was the sycophant of all sycophants.
The work force, mainly made up of El Gente del Cerro viewed their duties as secondary to misappropriating anything remotely serviceable. The atmosphere in the mill was one of badly concealed hostility, as it was in the Village. Robles has had several nervous breakdowns, unbeknown to him, at the hands of Manuela. This young lady was the heroine of El Gente del Cerro, a girl worthy of the title.
More of her later.
Alqueria, an introduction
Eight kilometres south from Turrillas in the province of Almería sits the whitewashed village of Alqueria. Like many others villages in the Sierra Alhamilla it has Moorish origins. However unlike most other towns in the area Alqueria squats in a valley. In AD932 the village was indeed on a hill top, overlooking the Sierra with wonderful views southward towards the coast. The scented evening breeze drifted up the cliff side carrying the aroma of honeysuckle and wild gladioli. Fragments of Roman ‘black burnished wear’ lay scattered around the hillside along with terracotta roof tiles. Occupied since Mesolithic times, this was indeed a favoured position.
What occurred during the fateful year of AD932 is not on record. Compelling archaeological evidence suggests that the village underwent a complete but precise dissection and a later reconstruction in the valley below. Local legend suggests that the Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III ordered the village moved after one of the inhabitants upset the venerable gentleman. A sheep’s bladder, an amphora of olive oil and one of the Caliph’s wives formed the basis of the tale.
Precisely following the original layout the builders faithfully reconstructed the village including the mirador and castle. The views from the mirador allow for scrutiny of the cliff face. While the village boasts the only castle which can be attacked from above making it useless as a piece of military architecture. Since its displacement, the village has expanded to the east the only direction available. The population of Alqueria is a divided one. Los Recién Llegados or the newcomers are descendants of those who settled the village after its rebuilding. It is they who have the smart villas and disposable wealth. El Gente del Cerro, the hill people are the ancestors of the original inhabitants. Set in their ways, they occupy less grand terraced properties.
This demarcation represents a real division in the village, a source of perpetual antagonism and rivalry. The two factions will take a contrary position on any issue as a matter of principle. All public bodies are equally split making the smallest decision a hotly debated matter. Day to day life in the village is one of constant strife and amusement, each undermining the best efforts of the other. From local elections to their fiestas nothing is straightforward or predictable.
Don Miguel El Sabio carefully loaded the Remitroot seed into the business end of his particle accelerator. Actually it was a modified washing machine. A Little Gem Wonder Wash Model A34/6. A turn of the control dial to ‘Quick Spin’ and the contraption started to shake. It then produced a low whine rising in frequency to shrill whistle. It then promptly exploded taking half the building with it.
The Don emerged from the wreckage bruised and blooded. By some remarkable stroke of luck the Remitroot seed lay embedded in his left cheek. On examination the seed appeared to pulsate and Sabio was certain it was getting bigger. Finding an undamaged part of the building he put the precious kernel in a pot and added compost. As he sprinkled on water the seed grew before his eyes. Twenty millimetres, fifty, a hundred, until it was the standard height for a fully grown Remitroot plant, just over a metre. Another shoot then appeared. Soon a dozen healthy fully grown plants stood erect in the pot.
Don Miguel El Sabio was astounded “They need more water” he said to himself.
He thought he saw the plants nod.
“Plant food” he said and again they nodded.
“A holiday on the north east coast of England.”
The plants shook their orange petals.
“two plus two.”
The plants nodded fours times in quick succession.
Rational intelligence he thought, about double the IQ of a Cabinet Minister Sabio calculated.
He needed to find someone to keep an eye on the plants while he went to tell Poyato the news. Loco Paco was put in charge. Paco wouldn’t question the plant’s odd behaviour. After all he never questions the tangibility of the five foot rodent which is his constant companion.
Poyato was at his usual table in the Bar La Casa Devante. His evening libation was important to him as it was important to all Alquerians. To have it interrupted by an overexcited Don Miguel El Sabio caused Poyato to use some colourful language. The Don was deeply hurt, he hadn’t been insulted like that since he was last at the mixed sauna session.
Humouring Sabio, Poyato accompanied him to the now partially destroyed test shed. Poyato expected the plants to be gently swaying in response to some draught or other. As the building now had only two walls instead of the customary four, there was plenty of through air.
Neither of them were prepared for the sight that greeted them. Loco Paco was dancing the Lambada with each plant in turn, thrusting and gyrating like native Brazilians.
One can only wonder what Loco Paco’s five foot rodent thought of it all.
Don Miguel El Sabio and the Particle Accelerator
At seventy-nine percent the Alquerian unemployment figure was the highest in the western world. Manuela made passionate pleas for a state sponsored project to get the people back to work. Everyone in the Alquerian establishment took it upon themselves to apply to various international bodies for funding. Purely from a sense of community spirit. None thought of personal gain, at least that’s what they said publicly. The replies soon came in, all starting with the line ‘In the present economic climate …..’ One however, from the United Nations Scientific Development Council guaranteed funding for a project put forward by Don Miguel El Sabio. Alqueria’s only intellectual, well he had mastered joined-up writing.
The Don’s proposal?
Alqueria’s very own particle accelerator.
While Sabio had confidence in his abilities, no-one else did. Most thought it was just an elaborate ploy to defraud the UN of vast quantities of cash. A true Alquerian project. The Government applauded in admiration.
As the Alquerian Treasury Minister counted the cash from the UN, the Don marshalled the unemployed of the village. He took over the old television studio off the Calle Generalissimo and closed the steel doors behind. What he was doing was of no interest to the rest of the village. They viewed him with suspicion at the best of times and as he was keeping the rebellious youth of Alqueria occupied they thought it best to leave him alone. He did however seem to be using a great deal of double sided sticky tape and the inners from paper towel rolls which raised a few eyebrows. However in the eyes of the simple villagers intelligence went hand in hand with eccentricity.
Then the fateful day. Representatives from the UN appeared at the border demanding to see the results of their investment. Rodriquez went into hiding and Manuela put on a false moustache and pretended to be a member of the Women’s Institute on holiday from Britain. Don Miguel El Sabio stood alone to face his inquisitors. The Don didn’t seem perturbed in the slightest and joyfully led the team to the old studio where he triumphantly swung open the doors.
Lurking in the shadows was a contraption consisting of an old Remitroot barrel connected via verdigris encrusted copper pipes to an old washing machine. The silence was tangible. To cover their embarrassment the UN team submitted an interim report which simply stated, ‘Valuable and ongoing work.’
Don Miguel El Sabio was elated and moved to the next stage. The acceleration of a particle, but he needed a particle to accelerate. To the Don’s befuddled mind a particle is a particle and so is a Remitroot seed.
How would the particle accelerator effect the Remitroot seed?
What mutations will occur within its kernel?
We await the result of the first experiment.
The Return to Alqueria
The Alquerian pair, Manuela and Antonio Poyato sit listening to a speech of welcome at the Uggabian town-hall given by the mayor of Uggaby, Silly Sid.
Silly Sid: “Bla …… bla …………..blaaaaaa…bla..bla………bla.ba”
Three hours later…………
Silly Sid: “Bla …… bla …………..blaaaaaa…bla..bla………bla.ba..big..bla..hand…bla our…bla..bla..visitors”
“They are clapping Antonio, what did he say, was it the sandwiches again?”.
“No idea Manuela I don’t speak English. I think we should stand and smile though”.
“Look Antonio! That blonde girl is making a sign to you, at least I hope it’s to you”
“Sí Manuela, I’ll go and see what she wants”
The girl making the sign is one Abigail, tall, blond, blue eyes, the spitting image of Manuela except in negative. She has taken a liking to Antonio.
“What did she want Antonio?”.
“She wanted to show me something Manuela”.
“What Antonio, what…….what was it?”.
“Ahhhh, ahhh, it was very nice Manuela”.
“Oh was it Antonio! She has much liking for you, I’m not sure I like that Antonio”.
“Look Manuela it is the one who will interpret for us, his name is Spanish Spike, he was born in Sevilla under mysterious circumstances”.
“I can believe that Antonio, he looks much mysterious”.
So saying Spanish Spike duly translated the documents presented to Manuela and Antonio upon their arrival in Uggaby.
“So Antonio, they want to form an alliance with us, the ‘Federation of Unaligned Countries and the Union of Principalities”.
“That spells FUCUP Manuela”.
“Why does that surprise you Antonio? They also want to combine our armies so we can be a force to reckon with”.
“Manuela combining our armed forces would bring the total number of men under arms to five and one of those has a limp”.
“It’s a start Antonio! Spike says we are to take Abigail back to Alqueria with us to cement the alliance. You smile much Antonio”.
“Sí Manuela I will do the cementing with Abigail, not too worry”.
“This new development gives me many butterflies in my tummy, why Antonio?”.
The question went unanswered as the three took their leave of Uggaby and boarded the plane back to Spain and then on to Alqueria.
“Antonio you spend much time fastening the seat belt of Abigail…….Antonio don’t do that, that is disgusting and Abigail doesn’t like it…………..Ooooohhhhhh she does like it………………Antonio I told you not to do that!”.
Our gallant heroes settle in the back of their limousine, well, limousine by Uggabian standards a ‘Reliant Robin’ with a heater, for their trip from an airport somewhere in southern England to Uggaby.
“Antonio, this car only has three wheels, should I tell the driver?”.
“I think he knows Manuela. The steering wheel is on the wrong side as well”.
“Do you think he know that also Antonio?”.
“Yes Manuela I’m sure he does”.
“I have much hunger Antonio, We missed dinner on the plane”.
“You missed dinner Manuela! They served it while you danced the Tango with the steward”.
“OHHHH I didn’t did I?…….Tango Antonio? It’s usually the Lambada”.
“You are very versatile”.
“No Antonio, I think I’m just getting old”.
“Tell the driver you have much hunger Manuela”.
“I can’t speak English Antonio, I know I will point to my stomach…………….He has a strange look on his face Antonio, I do not like it”.
“Manuela! That is not your stomach you are pointing to……………That’s better, he has the message, he’s pulling in at this building called ‘The Hanging Monkey’ apparently………… Oh Manuela this is an English ‘pub’”.
“What’s a pub Antonio?”.
“They are like our bars Manuela, except the beer is warm, you stand while drinking and they close every time you have a thirst”.
“OHH as long as they serve food, my stomach makes much noise”.
“Sí Manuela it’s like your very own ‘surround sound’”.
Our travellers enter the pub and having gone through the ‘English Pub Initiation’ of getting wet elbows while leaning on the bar, order the ‘Chef’s special’. They then sit down and wait expectantly.
“How long do we have to ‘wait expectantly’ Antonio?”.
“Here it comes now Manuela”.
“What is it Antonio?”.
“This is not a meal Antonio this is an assault with a deadly weapon. Antonio! FOOD DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THIS!”.
“Tranquila Manuela, here drink your gin and tonic”.
“Muchas Gracias Antonio……………….Antonio! where’s the gin?…………There is more alcohol in my mouth wash”.
“English measures Manuela”.
“OHHH Antonio let’s just go to Uggaby, it must be better than here………Antonio what’s that noise?”.
“Ooooooohhhhhh Antonio I have much depression”.
Will Manuela and Antonio ever reach Uggaby?
What happened to Abigail?
Our intrepid travellers, Manuela and Antonio Poyato stand in the departure hall of an airport somewhere in southern Spain. They await boarding information for their flight to Britain.
Airport Tannoy: “Ping **** bla blas ******* siiifffffft ********* eeeeeeeee Ping”
“What did it say Antonio?”.
“Difficult to say Manuela. It sounded like ‘The green Orangutan won’t eat the sandwiches of my Mother-in-law’”.
“That’s because they are made from ‘cold shoulder’ and ‘tongue’ Antonio”.
“Ehh yes of course Manuela. You seem preoccupied, what is wrong?”
“I hate flying Antonio. Up in the clouds, fear of falling, light headed. Just like drinking Remitroot but without the erotic side-effects, hmmmmm Remitroot”.
“Oh Manuela, don’t start there are many people about and this is Spain we don’t want a public scandal do we?”.
Airport Tannoy: “Ping*****Shhhhhh, pphhhhiiitttttt **********whirrrrrlllyyyPing”
“Was that about the sandwiches of your Mother-in-law Antonio?”.
“No Manuela, they are ‘calling’ our flight”.
“Will security search me again?”.
“They usually do Manuela”.
“I know Antonio, the last one that searched me was only supposed to be serving the coffee. He had very warm hands Antonio”.
“Why don’t you complain to the airport authorities Manuela?”.
“Oh no Antonio, I don’t want to cause a fuss and after all we are guests in Spain. Is it their custom to grope every woman in sight?”.
“No Manuela, just you”.
“Oh I have much luck today Antonio, Errr I think”.
Our two heroes board the aeroplane and take their seats, Antonio reaches over Manuela.
“Let me fix the belt around you Manuela”.
“No Antonio not here people are wa…….. Oh I see the seat belt”.
“Yes Manuela the seat belt. You really must cut down on the Remitroot wine “.
“Ohhhhh I know Antonio”.
“Did they search you again?”.
“Sí, they said they were looking for explosives, but if I had explosives I wouldn’t keep them where they were looking, that would cause me much worry Antonio”.
Aeroplane Tannoy: Ping********phhhhhhhhhhhittttt*******bla, bla, bla phhhhittPing”.
“No not about the sandwiches Manuela we are taking off”.
“There is much shaking and banging Antonio, are we going by road? Oh no there we go, airborne. I’ll have a gin and tonic”.
Aeroplane Tannoy: Ping********phhhhhhhhhhhitttttyyyyyyyyy*******bla, bla, bla phhhhittehhhheeePing”.
“We are landing Manuela”.
“That was quick Antonio, did we go many kilometres an hour?”.
“No Manuela you went many gin and tonics an hour”.
“Ohh, ‘hic’. Sí many, but I feel a bit ill, I think one of the gin and tonics was bad Antonio”.
“Sí Manuela, por supuesto!”.
“So this is England Antonio? Why is the sky so low?”
Next week Uggaby, Manuela meets Abigail.
“I’m bored Antonio.”
“There’s a dance in the Plaza Mayor tonight Manuela! Shall we go?”
“They banned me last week Antonio.”
“Why, what DID you do?”
“Oh nothing Antonio, they said I danced the Lambada EVERY DANCE.”
“You did Manuela, the Paso Doble, the Waltz, the Fox Trot, you even danced it during the band’s interval, that’s why the ‘PornoFlicks-R-Us’ camera crew were there.”
“Oh not them again Antonio? Their director, Alonso Sorendo follows me around with a clipboard ….. I know Antonio, we can cross the border into Spain, they are always dancing in Spain!”
“You’re banned from Spain Manuela! Your photograph is on the wall in the border station”
Yes, I forgot Antonio, they have my photographs. How did they get them? And aren’t they just supposed to be head and shoulders? Antonio, did you sell them to the border guards?”
“Me Manuela? I’m your friend, would I do a thing like that?”
“Yes Antonio you bloody well would ….. I know let’s cross the border in disguise, those outfits we wore to the last parade.”
“Manuela you went as ‘Mata Hari’ and I as ‘Rasputin’, I think the border guards will ask some question when that pair turn up.”
“Sí Antonio, it was a bad choice for the Easter parade wasn’t it?”
“Sí Manuela much ….. Do you remember Uggaby in England? That republic within the borders of the UK, whose history is suspiciously like our own. We have an open invitation to go there. Shall we pack a bag, buy an umbrella and go Manuela?”
“But Antonio we would have to get to an airport and that means going through Spain.”
“But Manuela the Spanish authorities said we could pass through Spain if we were leaving the country. As long as we went straight through and didn’t touch anything on the way.”
“Oh yes Antonio I’ll pack while you book the flight.”
So saying our would-be travellers prepared to leave their native land for the distant shores of Great Britain and Uggaby, that republic whose history is suspiciously like that of Alqueria. There was jubilation and much partying in Madrid when news of the pair’s departure became public. The merrymaking was short lived however when it was pointed out that return tickets had been purchased.
Next week, ‘At the Airport’.
“Antonio do they dance the Lambada in England?”
Remitbrick. The fallout
Of the countries vying to pour money into the Alquerian Remitbrick and Remitbright project the bulging pockets of the United States won the day. Russia couldn’t justify the same sustained level of investment. Britain supplied the pencil sharpeners which became scarce, a situation which was promptly exploited by unscrupulous stationary traders. ‘A good deal for Britain’ the Prime Minister said as she sharpened her pencil with a ‘Swiss Army Knife’.
Remitbrick and Remitbright were manufactured under license in the United States and a showcase village built. Remitbrick with its integral climate control, heating in cool conditions and cooling in the warm weather alleviated the necessity for air-conditioning. Remitbright with the capacity to emit photons during the hours of darkness kept a permanent glow in the house’s reception rooms.
Trouble was however brewing. The greed of Poyato and others in Alqueria led to a falsifying of test results from the trials of Remitbrick and Remitbright. Underdevelopment was inevitable as the Alquerian Government eagerly anticipated the arrival of 10,000,000 U.S. Dollars for the production rights.
Connedborough County in the deep west of the United States was the chosen site for the showcase village, Remitville. Completed and occupied during the Autumn, several months before the cold winter weather took hold. It was the cold weather that produced the first unfortunate side-effect of the new building material.
Remitbright the photon emitting ceiling covering was never tested below 0C. At -1C it emitted fumes which when inhaled caused the unlucky tenants to forget their names and have unscheduled bowel movements. The village was evacuated. It was still empty as the summer sun caressed Remitville, which was fortunate for at a temperature of 31C Remitbrick, the thermal wonder spontaneously explodes. If one was ready for the sight of an entire village exploding it would be awe inspiring. If one was not ready it would cause even more bowels to move.
The United States asked for their money back. Unable to justify a 10,000,000 Dollar hole in the ground they sought recompense. The good folk of Alqueria briefly refused. Only briefly as a U.S. Warship was deployed within missile range. To the casual observer it may seem that a cruise missile strike on Alqueria would cause much needed improvements. The Alquerian people however are not noted for their valour, the threat did the trick. They reluctantly handed over the cash. Rodriquez the olive mill owner was particularly upset owing to him having to cancel the purchase of a solid gold combined back scratcher and garlic press.
With Alqueria off the United State’s Christmas card list and the import of Remitroot products banned, events had taken a distinctly unpleasant turn.
Remitbrick and Remitbright
Investment in the ‘Poyato Institute for the Furtherance of Remitroot and Associated Products’ comes from many countries. Financial support from the United States and Russia while Britain supplies the pencil sharpeners. “A good deal for Britain” the Prime Minister declared when she broke the news of British involvement in the scheme. These countries energetically compete for a foothold in the Remitroot crop and an interest in the amazing potential of the plant.
The swelling of Alquerian coffers via this fund meant the Villagers can while away their time doing absolutely no work, drinking themselves silly and eating off the fat of the land. A front was made to give the Institute legitimacy and Poyato spent his time in a tiny laboratory on his small-holding. It was a commonly held belief that he was pursuing some hedonistic and possibly illegal pastime in the confines of the lab. Antonio Poyato was however beavering away with test tube and centrifuge mixing and decanting extracts from his precious Remitroot.
Remitroot or Remitus Radix as it was known to the Romans has many uses. Distilled into a potent spirit, fermented into a full-bodied wine or crushed to make a corrosion preventative for the ballast tanks of oil-tankers. It possesses medicinal and combustible qualities and is renowned as an aphrodisiac. It cures Peruvian Toe Rot, detonates at seven kilometres a second and was used to fuel many of Caligula’s best nights. Now Poyato had pushed the boundaries of Remitroot even further.
Remitbrick and Remitbright are the results of this research. Remitbrick is a building material made from Alquerian Clay, a distinctive clay modified by bad drainage and processed Remitroot stalks. The resultant brick has inverse thermal qualities. As the ambient temperature rises so the brick cools and as the temperature drops so it warms. A house constructed from these bricks has an internal temperature of 21.75 degrees centigrade irrespective of outside conditions. No need for heating in the Winter or air-conditioning in the Summer.
Remitbright is a paint made from Alquerian Newt urine and crushed Remitroot berries. This emulsion emits photons inversely proportional to the light falling on it. The darker the night so the more photons are emitted causing a daylight balanced glow which alleviates the necessity for lighting in reception rooms etc.
The announcement of these two products caused a sensation in the benefactor countries. Cash flowed in, while Britain started supplying the pencils as well as the sharpeners. All wanted a piece of this new Remitroot action.
How will the power companies and others with similar vested interests welcome these new products?
Is this a watershed in Alquerian fortunes?
We shall see.
A Novia for Paco
As may be recalled the illustrious Loco Paco had a ‘crush’ on the lovely Manuela, in fact our little deranged hero was in love, unrequited as it turned out. Paco wasn’t one to brood however, he soon moved on, whether this was a measure of strength of character or the fact that his attention span was akin to that of a not too bright goldfish is difficult to tell. Paco’s ‘moving on’ involved starting a collection of ear wax from Abyssinian Goat Shirling champions of the twentieth century. A hobby which set him apart from his peers and also anyone with an elementary knowledge of hygiene.
Paco passed his days surrounded by photographs from the Goat Shirling hall of fame. He carefully catalogued rows of phials containing the disgusting lumps of ear discharge. Just where he sourced the raw material is a mystery and perhaps it is best kept that way. Paco started to worry people, his behaviour became increasingly odd which is saying something considering he was a loony long before he started his singular collection. But, as has happened countless times before fate interceded and pulled this particularly troubled individual from the brink. The redeeming angel in this instant was Loca Pepa. Pepa was demure and not unattractive, she had recently escaped from a mental institution to the south of Madrid. The authorities followed her until she crossed into Alqueria, here she left Spanish jurisdiction and with Alqueria being a de-facto institution without bars they joyfully closed her case file.
Paco and Pepa found each other.
Whether telepathy or some other mysterious mechanism was at work is academic, they found each other and Paco’s life was complete. Pepa was fascinated by Paco’s hideous collection of ear wax and delighted in shaping the slimy substance into stylised heart shapes with a ‘P’ inscribed in the centre. Whether this was a display of egotism or a measure of affection for Paco is difficult to say. Life was idyllic or as idyllic as possible for a brace of loonies.
Paco, as has been mentioned before had a pet Saharan Dung Beetle named Bengy and Pepa arrived fully equipped with a female Brazilian Treehopper called Benjamina. Benjy and Benjamina gambolled barefoot through the wheat fields of Alqueria in the fundamental ecstasy of true love. Paco and Pepa watched as their charges were swept away on a tidal wave of emotion and pure sexual attraction, an attraction that only exotic beetles can know.
We know by now the mental state of our hero Loco Paco and one can make an accurate assumption as to the stability of the newcomer Pepa, after the above text however the sanity of the author must also be brought into question.
‘Los Dias de Las Dos Chicas’
With Alqueria and its Remitroot crop back in Alquerian hands and Manuela and Pepa back in, well we’re not sure in whose hands they are in, celebrations were defiantly in order. The day was to be remembered and celebrated annually as ‘Los Dias de Las Dos Chicas’ to commemorate Manuela and Pepa leading the invaders away from Alqueria.
The town plaza waited in anticipation of the night’s festivities, resplendent in bunting, coloured lights and portraits of the duo. Statues of Manuela and Pepa were to be paraded through the streets, the highest of all honours, as the high-spot of the night. The Fissile Ensemble of Palomares supplied the music and started the evening’s entertainment by playing a ‘Paso Doble’. Unfortunately it was unrecognisable as a Paso Doble but succeeded in starting the Town’s dogs barking and bringing death threats from music lovers. They were eventually silenced by waves of airborne Remitroot bottles, empty of course and the ‘musicians’ had to be smuggled out of the Pueblo.
The night continued in true Alquerian style. Remitroot, consumed at an alarming rate led to fist-fights and copulating couples vying for position in the crowded Plaza. At midnight the church bells rang, echoing through Alqueria, they signalled the opening of the church’s heavy wooden doors and the first glimpses of the statues of Manuela and Pepa. Lines of straining youths slowly manoeuvred them into the moonlit streets.
First Pepa’s effigy emerged, lifelike and complete with the inane grin that led to her epithet ‘Loca’. The crowd were subdued however as they waited for Manuela’s likeness. As it emerged a cry shattered the night air, ‘Manuela, Manuela, Manuela’. Unfortunately the effigy was pornographic, the sculptor used his imagination to the full. The story of Manuela’s accidental shooting by Antonio Poyato had led to an interesting interpretation showing a worryingly detailed and hideously cratered bottom. The crowd went silent at the sight of this abomination, and an abomination it was to the minds of Alquerians, Manuela’s bottom was sacred. At the sight of this disfigurement the collective morale of the Village hung in the balance, Manuela had to act.
Unknown to everyone Manuela had been applying a Remitroot poultice to her culito with the result that it was now back in pristine condition and again ready to be the pride of the Hill People’s barrio.
She mounted the statue, that is she climbed on the plinth on which the statue stood she didn’t actually engage in…….Oh dear, enough of that. Once on the plinth she bared he culito to all revealing it’s smooth textured roundness. ‘Vive Manuela, Vive Manuela’ the crowd chanted and she was carried bodily through the jubilant streets.
“Antonio, will you please shoot me in the culito?” said an envious Pepa.
Waiting for Paco
(With apologies to Samuel Beckett)
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 Pied Pipers of Alqueria
I will reiterate.
I do this as the sort of mentality required to read this piece is perhaps the sort that is unable to retain knowledge for any length of time. The ‘Alqueria Four’ consisting of the lovely, shapely and vivacious Manuela, Loca Pepa, Antonio Poyato and Loco Paco have been exiled from Alqueria by an unnamed invading power who coveted the Remitroot crop. The Four had dammed a stream feeding the crop in the hope of destroying the said crop. Pepa had watched the lovely Manuela swimming naked and had decided to ‘bat for the other side’. Two new volunteers had arrived at the cave where the four are exiled, Manuela and Pepa are therefore forced to share a room as the ‘Alqueria Four’ are now the ‘Alqueria Six’.
It is morning.
“Pepa? Is that your hand?” asked a sleepy Manuela.
“Sorry Manuela I, I Just thought I …..” stammered an embarrassed Pepa.
“Not to worry Pepa, just leave it where it is, we’ll sleep a little longer”
It is the morning after the blocking of the stream and our heroes are to venture into Alqueria to see if their plan has been successful. With no stream water mingling with the town’s effluent the unnamed power would be forced to water the Crop with fresh water, which in turn would render the Crop impotent.
What could go wrong?
What went wrong was in the assumption that without the stream-water mingling with the effluent no nutrients would reach the Crop. In fact without the stream-water only the effluent reached the Crop which, as it wasn’t diluted with the stream-water was richer in its disgusting solids which endowed the Remitroot with incredible potency.
The Remitroot Whisky was over one-hundred percent alcohol by volume, impossible I know but this is Alqueria, and the aphrodisiac produced from the plant turned those who partook into oversexed Rasputins of Olympic proportions.
The above mentioned oversexed Rasputins having seen Manuela and Pepa immediately took chase. Manuela and Pepa took to their heels.
“Lead them out of Alqueria” shouted Poyato.
“Why is it always the women that suffer” Manuela shouted back but added to Pepa “Run Pepa, but not too fast, we don’t want them tired when they catch us”
The borders were closed behind them and Alqueria once more belonged to Alquerians. The stream flowed again and the Remitroot crop flourished normally.
Manuela and Pepa returned some two weeks later to a heroes welcome, they were tired but happy.
“That was fun” said Pepa and added “I think I’ll bat for both sides”
“Sí Pepa, keep your options open, it’s what I do”
After the ‘Alqueria Four’ blocked the stream and Manuela took her impromptu naked plunge into the cool water behind the dam, she lay drying in the hot afternoon sun. She remembered Alqueria in happier times ……………..
(With apologies to Dylan Thomas)
A velvet star spangled night in late Spring. A little Spanish pueblo, snugged down, reja windowed and whitewashed, sleeps silent. The Castle turreted and blind reaches into the night sky, the fountain below bubbles and flows, unseen. La Bar la Casa Devante shuttered and still, gaining strength for the coming horde of thirsty patrons pushing and elbowing, swallowing and spilling.
The babies are sleeping, the mill-owner and the Remitroot grower. Manuela late into bed and Paco confused as ever, all sleep. Would-be brides dream of their novios actual or pretend, the young men sleep unaware of these feminine designs. Village boys are dreaming of the Plaza where tomorrow they will be rip-roaring pirates or holstered cowboys, racing car drivers and spacemen.
Late evening cooking odours still linger on the still air, the afternoon heat subsides. Cool, fragrant, night descends. You can hear the air cooling as Alqueria contracts, the night quenching the heat of the day.
Olive drab and olive green Fernándo Rodriquez dreams of olives galore earning money, making wealth. Keeping the Hill People low, subservient, crushed. He will prevail. Alqueria will be his.
The Newcomer’s Barrio forever. Deport them, Manuela and the others. The ruined olive mill. Not my fault, others conspire. I was right I am always right. Not my fault. Alqueria is mine. Don’t listen to Poyato or the girl Manuela, I am always right.
Antonio Poyato dreams of Remitroot, drink it, rub it in, use it to lag your pipes. Brings power and influence. Use it wisely for the good of the Hill People. Don’t get addicted. And Manuela whom he worships from afar, snug in her bed in the Calle del Siniestra.
Manuela, Manuela Oh Manuela. Remitroot, Remitroot Oh Remitroot.
Gruntmore the resident Englishman and Geordie, dreams of his Tyneside home. Damp paved and beer sodden, nostalgic and grey. He’ll do anything for his home-town, except live there.
Newcastle Brown Ale and fog, through arch bridges and cold north-east winds. Dominoes in the snug of the Hanging Monkey. Rheumatism and memories. Better off in Alqueria.
Loco Paco, do you dream?
Yes, of giant rodents and Don Quixote’s windmills. Psychiatrists and paella. Keep reality away, it hurts!
Manuela dreams of …..
The boys and men, with or without Remitroot, I dream of the evening to be alone with them. Of the hated Rodriquez of men and boys. I dream of …….
As the avid reader will be aware the ‘Alqueria Four’ had left Matas’s cave with the intention of damming the source of the stream that fed Alqueria’s Remitroot crop but were sucked into a dense fog that moved against the wind. We join the four and the fog as they try to rationalise their predicament.
“The fog is clearing Antonio” said Manuela as she peered into the green mist.
“Sí Manuela but it seems more dense around Loco Paco”.
“Everything’s more dense around Paco”.
“No Manuela he seems to be attracting the fog, that’s why it’s moving against the wind”.
“No Antonio he’s not attracting it, he’s CAUSING IT!”
It certainly seemed that the fog was at its thickest around the unfortunate Paco. Manuela, Poyato and Loca Pepa stared in astonishment as he radiated the green, smelly and worryingly sticky green mist.
“What! What!” said Paco “It’s not my fault” he continued “I haven’t been able to take a shower since we escaped from Alqueria.”
“Oh Paco! That was five weeks ago in episode 277, Oh Paco.” Manuela was disgusted but as Paco explained, the cave only had one small waterfall which serves as a shower. The cave also has two women, Manuela and Pepa and these women have hair. This hair has to be washed, combed, curled, straightened and the rest of the hundred and one things women find to do with their hair. The chances of Paco or Poyato getting a ‘look in’, Matas hasn’t washed since nineteen fifty-seven and then only by accident, are very remote.
“Then why aren’t YOU generating a mist Antonio?” Manuela inquired.
“I use Remitroot liquor Manuela. It kills bacteria but it does have some strange effects in some strange places” Antonio confided.
“I have seen the strange effects Antonio and I don’t even want to think about your strange places, NO ANTONIO DON’T SHOW ME” pleaded Manuela.
“Look Manuela, the stream” said Poyato re-buttoning his trousers. “We must block the source and stop it irrigating the Remitroot fields” he continued.
“No first throw Paco in, then we will block it” Manuela added.
The three of them, Paco had drifted off down stream, laboured long and hard but eventually the stream was effectively blocked and a refreshing pool formed behind the dam. Manuela had worked hard and small drops of perspiration formed on her forehead and shoulders. A small trickle of moisture run down her cleavage dampening her blouse and making it semi-transparent. She threw caution and her clothes to the wind and dived naked into the clean, clear water. Poyato and Paco stared open mouthed, drooling at the spectacle.
Pepa looked at Poyato and then Paco, she turned and watched the graceful shape of Manuela as she gambolled in the water. “I may just change sides” she said to herself.
Will the unnamed power quit the Remitroot fields and leave Alqueria?
Will Pepa change sides?
Will Poyato and Paco ever be the same again?
Watch next week!
“Pepa, why are you looking at me like that?” said Manuela.
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.
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.
A photo journey
Patricia Díaz Pereda.
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