Well, this is all going a bit Finnegan's Wake. I know I am only up to Day Three of my new life in Valencia, and I really am trying to get to the point. My muse, Joanna Faulhabaer is getting a little annoyed with me, telling me to get to the point. But there is no point. Not, really. “We are born in the pain of others and we die in our own”, and the whole of life is really just one of existential angst. If we can share, love and inspire along the way, so much the better.
Which is another way of saying, if I wanna be all Tristram Shandy and digress, I surely can. So tonight I am freestyling and going off-piste again. Because I can.
One thing that annoys my daddy is that I give my money away. There have been times when I have had financial problems and turned to friends to help, wealthy friends. To little avail. It was humiliating, and I vowed I would never be that person. Neither do I wish to be a mug. Today has been a good case in point, but let me go back a little first. I was always thus.
Last year, a few days after we cremated my beloved younger brother, I went to Cuba for a press trip and to stay on for a few days with my hermano de otra madre, Richard Simpson. We had a blast. In the last couple of days of staying in a five-star European hotel in Havana, I met a beautiful woman, una camarera de habitación. (It's a story for another day, children.)
She fell immediately in love with me. I was crazy as fuck, full of grief and madness over my poor brother, and had no head-space for love. How could I love when my dearest treasure had been robbed from me, yes, and from my poor elderly parents, his wife, his kids, my other brother?
But it was a diversion, and company and, yes, sex, were good for losing myself, away from my grief that was tormenting me. When I left a week later, she was distraught, crying her eyes out.
And so it was. In short, after I returned to the UK, we spoke every day, I was so happy to be loved with this intensity and it seemed that some good was heading my way finally after a rotten year. If she occasionally asked for a few things, what did it matter? I had money that I could not give less of a tom tit about and she lived in poverty.
In short, I returned to Cuba a few months later. She was not the person I believed her to be. She said, “I can no longer continue to do this, you are a good person, and I cannot continue with this fantasia.”
When I relocated to Valencia in latter February, I was lucky enough to have two weeks in El Barrio before I had to go to London, then Anguilla on a press trip. When I returned, it was on the second last flight back to Valencia, and I was delighted. It was late on a Sunday night. I was overjoyed.
I slept. Then on Monday morning, I learnt what lockdown – El Encierro – meant. I wasn’t allowed to leave my flat, except to go to the local pharmacy, or the nearest shop. Everything else was shut. Parks, public spaces, everything. Never mind bars, cafés, restaurants. It has driven me to the far side of lunacy (but, with luck, back again).
I miss my parents so much. I miss eating dinner off trays, watching many episodes of Nordic Noir box sets, or Inspector Molbano and the like. I never thought I would say that. A note about my dad. Mum has a touch of dementia, to a small degree. She copes with it well. In fact, the main change is that she seems happier, somehow. She recently said to me, “I love you, Eugene.” I believe it was the first time she said it. Now she is like someone with Tourette’s Syndrome, she cannot stop saying it… Anyway, Daddy is Mummy’s full-time carer, 24/7, even at the age of 86. It is an act of true love.
So my default setting is to try to help. If it is occasionally abused and exploited, as with the woman in Cuba, what of it? I’d rather remain good and kind than to become mistrustful and closed-minded. It’s how my brother rolled. #WWDD? What Would Derm Do?
I tried to resign from a role the other day. I wrote to the chief exec:
“I have lots of work, I turn work down for the simple reason I am not driven by money. I give most of my money away, to poor families in Cuba, poor people here in Spain. I am an old-fashioned socialist but I would never, ever inflict my views upon anyone else. Everyone is free to do as they choose or see fit.”
In any case, in recent weeks, it has undone me but twice. One was a woman who claimed to be French and contacted me via a dating site. She had an interesting version of the Nigerian scam – the 419 scam – that showed great ingenuity. She wrote to me in Spanish, clearly not realising that I was an Irish-Londoner.
Her husband had died a year earlier, a man of great wealth. She needed to go to Denmark to consult with her lawyer to get round the problems of him dying intestate. After a few conversations, she asked for €50 to help. (Honey, I’ve been to Scandinavia many times. €50 would basically cover a burger meal for two at the airport.)
Despite my misgivings, I sent it to ‘her’ (aka Sonny from Lagos).
She then sent me a long request for €650, now that I had taken the bait. The only problem was, it was in German. I said, “I believe you have confused me with another one of your ‘marks’, love.”
‘She’ became angry, saying, “I chose the wrong language in the dropdown on Google Translate, are you calling me a liar?”
I said, “I rather think you are yourself, no?”
Then blocked her.
Another woman who approached me was a young, very beautiful, very sexy Rifeña – a Moroccan Berber – living in Gran Canaria.
(Daddy, please do not read this next section. She would send me videos or live webcams of herself doing unspeakable things to herself, while stating my name, presumably to prove that they were for my eyes only. Being a cynical journalist, this simply served to make me think she was a canny professional.)
In any case, she wanted to come to Valencia for two weeks and had chosen me as the person with whom she wished to spend her life. I am a 52-year-old bald man. She is a gloriously beautiful, sexy 29-year-old. There is no fool like an old fool, but even I can see a problem here. I put this to her, and she said (I translate), “Sexy is nothing to do with age. The men of my age are just boys who do not know how to treat a lady. You do. That is really sexy.” (Klaxon alert.)
In any case, I had a journalistic job that would take me to Gran Canaria. I had the use of a beautiful 5-star hotel and had hired an Audi A3 coupé. So I invited her to join me. She would be delighted, apparently.
Then we had El Encierro.
Gran Can was off.
Unperturbed, she continued her video master classes. It wasn’t everything. But “that’ll do, Shep”, I thought to myself.
Then the requests for money, €100 here, €50 there.
I weighed it up. I earn OK money. She had little, if she were to be believed. I didn’t object. But I don’t know her IRL, as the kids say, and I need to choose where I distribute my money. I am not sure that online sex ought to be the hill upon which I choose to die…
I have a familia segunda in Cuba (above). Me adoran al tamaño, y me apoyan muchísimo, sin espera de recompense. I support them financially, life in Cuba is extremely difficult.
I have lent them a few thousand, have spent a few thousand visiting them, renting places to share (four of them live in a one-bed flat, quite typical in Cuba), taking them out for dinner and drinks that they could not afford in a fit and, yesterday and today, have spent the day on sites that deliver groceries to Cuba. The shops there, with paucity, scarcity and massively over-priced at the best of times, are bare in this time of Encierro.
I have been struggling with it, though, so I am going to send them my credit card details since I completely trust them. They would never abuse my trust. (Please don’t tell my credit card company, it is probably illegal.)
Yesterday, my cleaner messaged me, as she does many times each day. Actually, to be precise, this time, she video-called me.
She said, “Who cut your hair?” I told her that it had been my friend from Cuba who had been over.
She said, “Did she stay the night?”
She said, “Fine, why don’t you marry her? I wish you good day.”
And hung up. Crikey. Fiery lot, these Latinas.
Later, I spoke to her. I said, “Listen, love, I am a single man, I like company. It’s normal, no?”
She said, “Yes darling. I am so sorry. I have had a horrible day.”
I asked, “Why? What happened?”
She said, “My cooker packed up. I had to leave my son with my niece and come to my friend’s to use hers and made lots of portions to put in fridge boxes but I am crazy with fear about what I am going to do. Padre Santo, save me.”
I said, “Never mind Padre Santo, Santo Eugenio will save you. Get a taxi over here. We will find something online that can be delivered.”
She came over, started crying (as usual) and praying to God to thank him for sending her an angel – aunque sea un angel feo, blanco y loco de mierda (as usual, nice).
I showed her some I had found online. She said, “They are too expensive, amor, how can I ever repay them? And they are electric, you should look for ones that work from butane, they are cheaper to use and cheaper to buy.”
So we found one.
She cried a little more, and said, “How will I repay this? I can’t clean for free, you are my only client during esta pesadilla.”
I said, “It’s a gift, Tontina.”
She said, “I cannot accept it.”
I said, “Too late, I have bought it.”
She kissed my hands repeatedly, and said, “After this nightmare, I will find a way to repay you, I swear to God. You are the best person I have ever known.”
I said, “Buddhists say thank you to the person who accepts the gift, not to the one giving it.”
She glared at me and said, “You are crazy as shit”, and kicked me in los huevos.
Later, the mother of another friend here, La Cubana, asked her daughter for permission to connect with me via WhatApp. La Cubana asked me; I, naturally, said, “Por supuesto. Porque yo diría q no, Tontina?”
We (I and la mama) had a long chat. She is en El Encierro con una otra hija q vive en Mejico.
She asked me if I would send her some books, mainly self-help ones and a copy of the Bible because her atheist daughter doesn’t have one there, and her copy is at home in Cuba.
I had problems doing so on Amazon Mejico so I told her. She asked if I would be comfortable sending her cash to buy them there?
Le dije, “Claro q sí.”
So that is how I have spent the last two days, más o menos.
Like the Buddhists, I derive far greater pleasure from giving than from receiving.
So, what is the point of this post?
To say, I am a great chap? Clearly not, especially when I know my daddy and possibly employers shall be reading it. It’s a little X-rated, to be fair.
To say, there are cheaters (and cheetahs) out there? I am guessing you already knew that.
To say I don’t really give a tom tit about money? Hello – have we met?
So. To conclude. I live my life as I wish my brother would be proud of. I live my life how I would be proud of.
I live my life how I believe decent people would be proud of.
If anyone has a problem with this, please do feel free to get in touch….