Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

Actually, it was Friday Morning, 4 A.M., but try telling that to Paul Simon. Besides, you get my point: nobody in their right mind should be up and about at such an unearthly hour, should they? Unfortunately for yours truly, however, my son had been accepted for this year’s Erasmus Programme at Howest University in Belgium, and what seemed like a good idea at the time felt like an altogether different proposition when the Big Day finally reared its ugly head. 

Rehearsing for the early morning airport run. Please note actual size and weight of cases may vary considerably

And so it was that last Friday we found ourselves racing through the beautiful Basque countryside at the dead of night, headed for Bilbao airport where my son’s 6 o’clock flight to Brussels awaited him. (Or so we thought, but that’s another story.) As it turned out, we had a wonderful journey: the roads were quiet; the cyclists were still in bed; the police had taken the night off; and there were no kamikaze cats to be seen or flattened anywhere.

That said, the main reason why I say we had a great journey is that we talked to each other non-stop for the best part of an hour. We covered all those topics that only we modern men of the world can fully relate to: the weather – did you pack an umbrella? I asked ... beer – this is not the year to go teetotal , we agreed ... football – did you see the match last night? I wondered ... girlfriends – I no longer have the time or energy for them, I confessed ... geography – do you know where you’re going,  Daddy? ... drivers – did you see that idiot? ... money – it doesn’t grow on trees, we concluded ... break-ins – where are the police when you genuinely need them? ... music – I expect they have guitars in Belgium, I speculated  ... breakfast – I’m feeling a bit peckish, he said ... endless lists – any list is better than no list, I argued ... And so on and so forth, I wrote.

Having deposited my son at the airport and wished him a safe flight to Brussels (via Barcelona, a heated chicken check-in and an overnight hotel, I discovered later), I returned to the car, though not before paying €1,05 for my hour’s parking. Now that’s what I call a bargain! Is Bilbao the only airport in the world that doesn’t rip off its clients? But I digress. And not for the first time. Nor will it be the last, I fear. But where was I?

I soon found my car. It was in parking space 1361, between parking spaces 1360 and 1362, exactly where I had left it. (Tip for chauffeurs: make a note of your parking space before you enter the departures lounge. Tip for daughters: it’s also a good idea to remember what your car looked like.) I put on Rattle That Lock – the first track being 5.A.M. by a happy coincidence –, and drove a ridiculously long lap of honour around the car park, obediently following the direction of the arrows. My law-deriding wife would have been furious had she been there to witness my momentary lapse of reason.

Eventually, I chanced upon an exit barrier. I thought long and hard about smashing through it at three kilometres per hour, but I’d already paid, so there didn’t seem much point. And as I drove home,  rattling that lock and racking my brain, it struck me that I hadn’t had such a good conversation with my son since ... since when we’d bought him that blasted iPhone! In a rare moment of enlightenment, the penny dropped: my son’s friends have got better things to do than send smiley icons and thumbs up to each other at four o’clock in the morning.

In the absence of anybody else to chat to, my son decided, reluctantly or otherwise, to give me his full undivided attention.  Had we been travelling at any other time during the day, I would doubtless have had a zombie for company. No disrespect to zombies intended.

‘Did you see the match?’
‘I said, Did you see the match?’
‘The match. Did you see it?’
‘What match?’
‘Sorry, Daddy, I’m chatting to Mikel.’
‘Which Mikel is that?’
‘Eh?’ ...

‘Thank goodness for meal times!’ I hear you exclaim.
‘If only we had them!’ you hear me complain.

Personally, I blame the parents for letting things come to this. Well, parents and the inventors of WhatsApp, let’s say. Especially the latter. Either way, the conclusion is clear, at least as far as my own family is concerned: we need more of these early wake-up calls if we are ever going to defeat the dreaded iPhone Zombie Syndrome. I wonder if my daughter fancies a trip to the coast tomorrow to see the sunrise? 

I’ll let you know how I get on.

One of the advantages of getting up at an ungodly hour is you can enjoy a full Basque breakfast before crawling into work.
Freshly squeezed orange juice, toast, tomato and coffee for a very reasonable €3.50.


‘Daddy, you have to give me ninety-seven euros.’
‘I don't have to give you anything.’
‘Yes, you do.’
‘What for?’
‘Sixty euros for the ticket, seven euros for—’
‘What ticket?’
‘For the concert. Social Distension. Don't you remember?’
‘Are they any good?’
‘Of course. All my friends are going.’
‘All five hundred of them? And the tickets cost sixty euros?’
‘That's a good price, Daddy.’
‘Where is it?’
‘Bilbao. That's why you've got to give me seven euros for the bus.’
‘I don't have to give you anything.’
‘Yes, you do.’
‘Anyway, that still only makes sixty-seven, not ninety-seven.’
‘Plus twenty-five for the sweatshirt.’
‘What sweatshirt?’
‘A Social Distension sweatshirt. All my friends are buying one.’
‘Why don't you buy a T-shirt?’
‘I've already got the T-shirt.’
‘Did you ask Mummy?’
‘What did she say?’
‘ “No way. Try Daddy.” ’
‘Look, I'll think about it. OK?’
‘OK, but I need the money tomorrow morning, so don't think too much.’
‘Right. So that’s sixty euros for the concert – they had better be good –, seven for the bus, twenty-five for the silly sweatshirt—’
‘It's not silly, Daddy.’
‘That's ninety-two, not ninety-seven.’
‘You're forgetting my pocket money, Daddy.’

fifty shades of Spain, chapter 15, "Father And Son"

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