I had just discovered that the editor had pushed his fine paper up from biweekly to weekly and this meant that I would need to write something quickly. But what could I write about? There’s only one place where a man can think about these things, look for inspiration and admire at the same time Mother Nature’s wonderful design and symmetry, and that is while having a refreshing pee off the side of the terrace.
We have the good fortune to live in a country house, surrounded by either lush vegetation or a scorched and arid landscape – depending of course on the time of the year and whether we have had any really good brush fires in the recent past. My dad bought the house years ago, attracted I think, as much by the terrace and its pissing opportunities as by the house itself and its austere marble bathroom.
I learnt from an early age about the advantages of emptying one’s bladder while contemplating the sunset and considering a knotty scientific problem or remembering a bit of poetry from school. It certainly beats staring towards a white tile finish or a vandalised french letter machine where speed seems to be the only concern, while the mind is disengaged and quiet. I know that this is a man’s thing – which explains why we are so good at building cathedrals – but there is always room for company I suppose. At least, behind that bush over there.
I don’t think there was any formality to this habit of emptying one’s bladder outside until my dad’s second wife took to planting mint in a garden just below the kitchen window. Until then, any part of the terrace, or even the big eucalyptus would do for a whiz. But from that time until now, the spot outside the kitchen window has always been my favourite.
As for my step-mother, she wasn’t as sharp as my mum and it took her a year or two before she discovered why the mint never did very well and why the rest of the family never wanted any in our gin.
We are, as I have said, far away in the deepest country and it is rare to see anyone while going about my morning’s ablution. The first of the day. Today I was lucky to spot our snooty neighbour go past (looking firmly the other way) riding on his roan stallion and trailed by his greyhounds three. I waved cheerily at him, without letting go, but it was probably a wasted gesture. What on earth can I write about for The Reader, I asked myself, idly spelling my name in the dirt below.
My dad would tell a story of drinking in some French bar, now long disappeared, on the playa. It, too, had a terrace. At some point, round about the fifth brandy, my dad zoomed in on this feature of the building and decided to take a leak as the barman was otherwise engaged, adding up his bill. It was night time and the terrace looked awfully inviting and anyway, my dad thought, it might help remind him where he’d left the car and also, come to think of it, what sort of car it was. He stepped over to the terrace and, to his momentary surprise, lurched off the edge towards the garden, some five metres below. He landed, as he recalled later, in a cactus. Convinced that he’d been pushed by the barman (a story denied later by a very amused Frenchman who presented himself at our house the next morning in search of his twenty five pesetas) and picking spines from his chest, my dad decided to walk home, straight over the hills and navigating by the stars.
The oddest part of this tale, told sometimes late at night around the fire, was when my dad got part way home, fairly lost but with the scent of ruined mint faintly playing in his nostril, he found that he had to give that same organ a good blowing. Normally he would carry a handkerchief (and a very bloodstained one was indeed offered by the Frenchman in evidence) but – since no one was present – my dad sat down, took off his trousers and then his underwear, and luxuriantly blew his nose on this patient and forbearing undergarment.
Much, apparently, to the surprise of an old peasant pissing against a nearby algarrobo tree.
So many silly stories from the good old days, before we were obliged to behave ourselves.
Ahhh: a beer from my wife to bring inspiration. Little does she know where I’ll get it. So the other day, a school friend and sometimes writer came over to stay from London. Over his duty-free scotch, we remembered the names of the masters and imitated their accents, we recalled the nicknames of the other boys (I kindly refrained from reminding my old friend of his) and we talked of our lives since.
I eventually went outside for a pee and my friend joined me as a shooting star fizzed its way across the heavens. ‘Gor’, he said, ‘It’s marvellous here. I haven’t done this since I was a kid’.
‘You’ll remember the words to the school song now’, I told him. They were in Latin, a bloody useless language they taught us there. He did, too, and soon we were both bellowing out the old song ‘Floreat, floreat, floreat Rugbeia’!
So there we are; a deadline to beat and nothing to write about. I think I’ll go and have a pee on the terrace and see if inspiration strikes.