Home » On Holiday in the Shadow of the Volcano

I’m on holiday, and you can read all about it…


I’ve struggled out of the creaking bed, bladder full to bursting point at some god-forsaken hour. I checked the time prior to baling out – 07:33. Not that bad really. Perhaps my wife won’t mind too much after all. Especially when I take the consoling cup of tea through after the 20 minutes it’ll take the kettle to put the healing boiling therapy together, enabling creation of the glorious first cup of the day. But I’ll have to remember that I’m to make it with once-used tea bags, and this might affect its efficacy. My wife drinks decaffeinated tea, and here in Southern Spain we’ve had some difficulty in pinning down a suitable source of this frankly, in my opinion, excuse for a good brew. Let’s hope she think it tastes good anyway.

She needs consoling because this is the 3rd day a cloud of volcanic ash has pinned us to the ground, flat on the floor of the Andalucian coast. Due to fly home last Saturday, we discovered that in common with all holiday-makers who had been sunning it up offshore, our return had been forbidden by who else but an angry Icelandic god, probably taking the side of the country’s shamed bankers and angry tax payers.

After relieving myself of my burden, I realise that the familiar sound of the dwarf trapped in the kitchen wall who bangs regularly against the inside of the plaster whenever anyone in the apartment below uses water for any purpose at all, hasn’t woken up yet. He usually starts to raise hell around 8:00am.

Blinking I make my way towards the pale light coming through the shuttered blind of the apartment’s living room window, fighting my way through the chairs, to the Persian blind’s strap. We moved the table and chairs to the right, so we could easily get to the window, but it’s blocked the right side making life difficult over there. I reach up and pull, as the clattering banging blind lifts, the early morning, now more than half-light, streams in. A flat mosaic of Spanish houses in all colours meets me. A bird flails up, looking momentarily like a phoenix, and lands on one of the many TV aerials in front of our window.

A necklace of headlights gather pace along Avenida Juan Sebastian Elcano as the early Monday morning, headlong rush to work begins for some good folks. Over the flats on the left of my view, a warm orange glow heralds the mounting sun’s ascendancy into the sky. A tapestry of still sea hosts a number of smallish plastic buoys, and a fishing boat putters about, keen to scoop up any somnolent skate. It could be a good day in downtown Pedregalejo, a suburb of Malaga, where the only tourists are those who actually want and in some cases would like to speak Spanish. A number of language schools eke out a good existence here.

There are no fish and chips and no burgers. Only tapas, and sea food are available. Pedregalejo was once a fishing village, and whilst the place has grown into a small town, it still retains the fish restaurants strung along the shore, hung between high stands which light up the promenade at evening time.

Obviously the monster in the wall thinks it’s going to be gorgeous anyway. He’s got up earlier than usual this morning and starts off with some gusto. At least my wife has had some time to come round before he started his daily grind. He’s especially mad he can’t get out of the wall today, as it’s rained the previous 2, with wild tormentas (storms to you) thundering and lightning the bejabus out of us holidaymakers. Bejabus – that’s Irish, not a Spanish autobus by the way.

I switch the gas on in the kitchen and begin the tea-making process, convinced as I am that my wife will rise before I can chalk up the brownie points.

I look out of the window again and see the familiar angular lines of the Saturn V space rocket and its supporting scaffolding perched atop the horizon. Except it’s not. A friend visiting from Gibraltar drove us over to see the massive structure that’s lit up like a Christmas tree at night. Sadly as we came nearer, the European space race became a distant memory. The dusting of grey powder around the immediate area, revealed a cement factory tower. Another Iberian dream shattered.

Our original flight home has been cancelled and we’ve rebooked for Friday 23 April 2010. Every day we listen to internet radio in the hope that flights home have started, but with increasingly little confidence, from past experience, that they actually have.

Yesterday was a hellish day. I identified a Spanish coach service that operates buses to London from Malaga and spent 7 increasingly frustrating hours trying to book 2 seats. The website kept throwing up reasons for me to pick up my netbook and hurl it at the wall. I resisted the temptation at this destruction of my Oracle, in spite of the creaking website that was obviously protesting at the increasing numbers of people attempting to reserve seats on the same coach.

Miraculously I got to the pay page on 2 occasions but each time was told that an error had occurred as my (2 different) banks had refused to make the payment. I telephoned one of the banks and was told there were no refusals on my account. There may have been a fault with the internet connection that prevented payment.

Checking my email last night I saw that a well known client for making safe and secure payments over the internet had stopped possible unauthorised use of my bank card.

On a daily basis I become angrier and angrier with the bodies I entrust to guard my meagre funds. They appear to delight in telling me that the reason they haven’t granted me access is entirely for my own good. They think I don’t know that if an unauthorised transaction of my money does occur, it’s not usually me who is liable, but themselves. That’s why they’re so mean with my money, I berate my innocent wife.

Eventually I found a way through the maze of barbed wire tactics these companies use to prevent us from actually having the temerity to make a complaint about them on their websites, and told them they were no Pal of mine in preventing me landing 2 tickets on a coach home. Much good it will do me, I know, but if complain is all I can do, by golly I’m gonna complain.

Fortunately another American company who are kind enough to loan me one of their credit cards, have allowed their Global Assist team to try and get us booked aboard the Spanish coach today. The coach travel is insurance against the failure of the plane taking off, and if necessary its cost can be offset by a refund from the air company I’ve calculated.

While I wait for the call from the Global Assist team, I’ll spend the day cursing the dwarf who I was prepared to put up with for 10 days on our first surprised meeting. Frankly he’s wearing a bit thin 4 days later.

We might potter down to the supermercado and pick up some bread, cheese and olives and a few bottles of cerveza, and some of that funny pink stuff my wife calls wine, oh and a couple of those delicious cakes from the bakery in the meantime.

And we’ll try and keep it together while the Navy chiefs and the government mutter about bringing us Brits back home. Who knows maybe they just might do it. But I suppose there’s no rush. Not while the sun’s shining anyway.

© adewils 2010

Ash crisis over? Sadly it looks likely, as confirmation of our homeward flight comes through from the airline. Part 2 of this story is available here !…