So a dear friend of mine has come over to visit me in Southern Spain. When asked how long we’ve been friends for our standard reply in unison is ‘too long’. It’s been that kind of trip.
This is not to underplay the fact that it’s nice to see him. Life in Spain is glorious and I love my job but the thrill and joy of seeing people who truly know you can’t be overstated.
But anyway, we’ve been friends for too long. We’ve caused trouble and been in trouble in equal measure and our stories have regaled and offended most people at some point.
This is not to create some false melodrama or drive home sentimentality. We are what we are and, by the unusual virtue that we’ve been friends from a young age, and can only equate the endurance of our association to the fact we have been so many different people over the years. It’s like a Doctor Who: same faces, give or take, but changing tastes and personalities with only a handful of constants.
Nevertheless, and the point of this little note, is to say that after all this time I think divine signs do happen. Coincidence seldom works alone because it always needs a muse to freak people as it did to us last weekend.
You see some people might say that us being together is dangerous. We are too alike but too polar. Our personalities are such that whether by circumstance or by time we seem to temper the other’s worst features and bring out the best. Most of the time.
Apply drink to the equation and before you know it you have an explosive combination of personality, memory and the innately shared problem that we both are arrogant, self-righteous, conceited and vindictive in equal measure. Like a good government, we defend our homeland when it’s under siege and spend the rest of the time ripping each other to shreds on the home front. We’re petty, pedantic and occasionally principled and operate under the presumption that the only person that can stop us is the other.
Anyway, that’s a bit of context for this little tale because over the years my friend and I have pissed off most of the Gods above and below and so I was not surprised – and actually calmly embracing of – seeing strangely Biblical forebodings from the Friday before Halloween right up to the Sunday evening he arrived.
Firstly, there was a locust spotted on my balcony sitting there looking proud of itself for making me think the end was nigh. Secondly, and something I’ve never seen in these parts before, a herd of goats just appears out of nowhere getting shepherded through the nature reserve behind my flat. I don’t know if they were a warning per se but it seems a bit Old Testament and compounded the feeling that sinister warnings were at play.
Halloween brings with it strange perceptions of what is going on around you, and even the most logical and dogmatic soul can break to the idea that there are hauntings and demonic signs at play, but this was ridiculous. Did I also mention that for Halloween I went dressed as a priest? Perhaps I invited it on for my insolence against whatever God(s) may be.
To complete this triptych of shit, the best bit: it seldom rains here. When it does it is sharp and short and tends to leave modest destruction because, for a city that exists by the sea, it seems to have no idea of what to do with water.
Now this is fine and expected. However, after a particularly heavy evening where we ate and drank like two prisoners expecting to be shot at dawn, hurricane season appears from nowhere and the awning of the restaurant we’re in starts tearing. Naturally, we continue to eat and drink and while putting the world to rights with our customary offensiveness and casual disregard for humanity and thought no more about it.
At one in the morning when it’s time to leave the sky opens to unleash a torrent of disapproval. These weren’t rain pellets. They were about as much like rain pellets as bullets are to tank shells. Thunder, lighting and an entire pyrotechnics display as the boats along the marina begin to crash into each other as widespread pandemonium erupts: bushes are being ripped up, trees are falling down and the streets are literally beginning to flood.
Jesting and joking we laugh off the warnings of the restauranteur and his suggestion to get a taxi. Off we go into the night, zig-zagging from building to building trying to keep cover. It gets progressively worse before the streets are flooded to such an extent that we are forced into cover underneath a supermarket. Almerimar is by the sea and there are long roads and paths between flats with a marina and a connecting square. There was, in short, not much by way of shelter if you weren’t too keen on drowning or hypothermia.
So here we are, hiding in a corner, sea/street levels rising out of control, thunder giving us background music with lightning creeping dangerously closer. Of course, we had the street lights but this, after my suggestion it looked like the weather was getting better, flickered out.
I cannot begin to tell you how unpleasant it was. Not least (did I mention this?) I was in shorts and a hoody and my friend was in a light shirt and khakis. It’s been hotter than the heart of Hell for so long over here that it seemed like it would never lessen beyond a mere soothing chill. Oops.
Naturally, we discuss this in a calm and reasoned away and decided that death was near imminent. We elected not to embrace because if we were to meet our maker it would be with the same contempt that we had held each other in for so long. And heroic deaths are much more dignified.
We also decided, after great discussion, that death by drowning was preferable to full-blown hypothermia after trying to run home. This would, of course, be providing we weren’t hit by lightning (first dismissed by me as nonsense and then an increasing likelihood).
So here we are. There were few cars. There were no people. And it was 2am in the morning at this point. It was genuinely bad. Thank God we kept our heads (we didn’t at all, hyperbole and drama and laughing off trouble has been the silent third partner to our duo for over 13 years).
I suppose the long and short of this little reminisce is this: If you too are (un)fortunate enough to have a close personal friend, one with whom you’ve had many adventures, good and bad, and have gotten to the stage where you believe that your lives have been misspent, that you should change, that you should slow down, that you should be anything other than what you’ve been all along, take heed of the fact that the God(s) sent locusts, Abrahamic goats and a tropical storm as a message to us.
But then again, I don’t think it was to kill or to punish us. Life will do that in the end all on its own. Personally, I think it was a very stark and very apparent reminder that good times can be disguised as bad and bad times as good and sharing them is part of the fun of living.