Nice Paul came round to spend the evening with us. He’d had what we using the vernacular would describe as a pretty shit day. The boats had all gone out and headed south but he headed north. They all came back loaded to the gunnels with fish and he caught bugger all.
Marcia thought it was not so much the lack of fish and all to do with his girlfriend not coming to see him immediately he got back from his trip down to the bottom end of Angola so he could get his leg over, but I knew it was far more than that. Comes a time in a man’s life and he realizes it is nearly over. Some guys do well and are scooting about in private jets or being rocked to sleep on a super yacht. Others are lying in the sand underneath a car trying to swap out a bust differential having realized that some bastard has nicked all the tools out of the box. This was the kind of day Paul was having and he is my mate. Little Alex loves him and I am sure Marcia is fonder of him than I should really accept but there is no question that he is a really nice bloke. He is built like a brick shithouse and at 63 can still hold an engine block steady while someone gets the bell housing bolts in place.
So Paul and I had some G&T´s. Actually, I had one and left the rest to him so I could revert to whisky. I had never seen Paul smashed out of his head before and explained to a worried Marcia that occasionally a chap just needs to blow it out of his system. Now Paul is a big bloke. Even Alex, taking my cue calls him a ‘Horse of a Man!’ so, having seen him nod off on the sofa, I was pretty bloody alarmed when he suddenly leapt to his very unsteady feet and declared he was going home. Clearly, he wasn’t going to make it ten yards. In fact he never made it past the coffee table before tumbling over.
‘I’ll do this myself’, he said peeling himself off the snacks Marcia had just laid out.
Normally, he takes the short cut back to Rico’s place along the river bank but I suggested with the utmost sincerity that if he wished to walk back, he should take the high and dry road. This, he assured me he would do and off he set. I hurried off to find a torch.
I found him lying in the prone position on the beach. It may sound romantic sleeping under a tropical sky on an Atlantic beach but what W Somerset Maugham doesn’t mention in his novels are the sand fleas, sand flies and the mosquitoes, any one of which can do you for a few weeks of fever followed by a White Man’s Death. I have the utmost respect for this man. He has fought in some of the shittiest places in Africa so when he tells me to fuck off and leave him alone, what should one do?
I understood why he was on the beach (and amazed he had covered so much of it). In his state it would have been unseemly for the guards to have seen him so rather than return to his scratcher using the easy route down Rico’s drive, Nice Paul had evidently tried to reach the beach (despite my earlier nervousness of him staggering anywhere near water), do a right flanking maneuver and attack his bed from the unexpected direction of the sea.
Nice Paul is a big bloke as I have already pointed out. He stands a good half foot taller than me and while only ten or so kilograms heavier than I, his weight is all muscle and sturdy bone rather than my milk and fat. I tried to encourage him to his feet but the most I achieved was to raise his arm whereupon he decided he did not want his arm lifted and put it back on the sand towing me down with it. As we lay there, the surf crashing onto the beach and hissing back, I knew I needed some serious reinforcements so I staggered to my feet and fetched Marcia.
I have always been impressed with the Girl From Uige and still cannot understand why she hooked up with me. I realize I no longer wear the trousers in my household but she does let me wear shorts allowing me to feel a little bit involved. She even gives me pocket money. So when Marcia tells you to get up, you get up and that’s exactly what Nice Paul did. Having tossed him into a bunk we all went to bed.
Now chaps don’t subsequently talk about this sort of thing but Marcia did, laying it on as thick as the butter she was spreading over our breakfast toast (the sight of which turned both of us green), telling us exactly where, in her opinion, we were going wrong. Evidently we were taking life too seriously. We were allowing little things, such as being jilted by a lover and not catching any fish as in Paul’s case (as if the two were comparable, a fruitless fishing trip is truly heartbreaking) and in my case discovering that the new shop needed to be rewired and my residency application process had gone adrift in immigration for the third time, to get us down. In her delightfully lighthearted way she compared us to children bereft over a misplaced toy. She went on to say that I needed to keep myself occupied and suggested that I might like to fit the kitchen in the new house. I muttered something about me wanting to do this but Nice Paul hadn’t lent me the floor sander yet. She suggested that Nice Paul should get himself a nice girlfriend and Paul muttered something about me promising to introduce him to B which I hadn’t done yet. If that isn’t behaving like children, I don’t know what is and all the more laughable considering our combined age is 116 years. Marcia thought it amusing too.
‘Do you know what your problem is?’ she asked us both, obviously tickled pink at the thought, ‘It’s like that film, isn’t it? You are just two Grumpy Old Men!’ and off she went leaving only the fading notes of her dainty laughter.