Friday, June 11, 2021

We Are Getting Old, My Dear


I was once with my parents in a bar in Tangier. Those were the times when Harold Wilson had decided that travellers were only allowed to take with them £50 per year – a sum which had to be stamped into the back page of their passport by the bank. 

There was no ferry that particular day, as some expatriate explained breathlessly to my father, ‘…because it’s having its bottom scraped’. The owner of the bar, another expat (and evidently a close friend of the first one), overheard as he wafted past at that moment and said ‘Oh, the lucky thing’.

The stuff one remembers half a century later...

Fifty pounds wasn’t a small sum in Spain in 1968, but even so, it only took you through to about February.

The solution was to head off down to Gibraltar and take out a wad of pounds from the local Lloyds bank. Walk back into Spain looking nonchalant and look for a sign that said Change, Exchange, Wechsel.

Franco had inadvertently put a stop to that by closing the Gibraltarian border with Spain, to the inconvenience of the people living on both sides of the frontier, and the smaller hindrance to those Brits who were living here (as extranjeros, there was no EU to worry about). We needed our cash. So, we would take the ferry to Tangier, have a drink in the rather odd bar mentioned above, then cross to Gibraltar and zip once again into the Lloyds bank. An elderly Indian would then take our cash and have the pesetas, less his bite, delivered to a bar in Estepona.

Many years on, my computer, while not suffering unduly from barnacles, was certainly slowing down, and so it duly went to the local dealer to have its bottom scraped.

And here we are with a new hard drive. I’m trying to find the old stuff which is in there somewhere, plus work around some new programs, and try and remember my long list of Internet ‘favourites’. Let me know if you can’t open this (well, if you can’t, of course you won’t have read this essay). 

The four grandchildren and their mom had arrived from America – about the first flight into Madrid – and were settled in at my Mojácar daughter’s place. I had dropped off the PC and then gone to spend a few days with the family to eat macaroni cheese and visit water parks and other uncomfortable venues. Granddaddy stuff.

I learned these days that while I am evidently somewhat confused about computers, the last twenty years of tech has generally passed me by. In the rent-a-car, one of the kids had some truly ghastly music on their mobile phone, which, by the miracles of invention, wirelessly connected itself to the car’s entertainment system and allowed us all to share the joys of the latest rap music which goes mumble mumble mumble BEEP. The BEEP being an expletive and the only word that I understood. As it were.

So much for the Top Cuarenta.

My daughter showed me another thing which my protected life had previously missed. She could turn her TV from bad Spanish TV channels to cable, to Netflix, to games, to Internet. She could write on a handy keyboard and have it show up on the gigantic TV on the wall in front of the sofa.

And here’s me back home and crouched over my elderly albeit newly repaired computer in my little den looking to find the pound sign. 

And maybe a photograph of some barnacles.     

1 comment:

Colin Davies said...

I still have my old passport with the 50 quid stamped in the back. From 1971, I believe.