The Adventures of Dr.Burlap


Granada: A sequel

With an itinerary set not to overtax Dr.Burlap, we took in the Alhambra, which, even with a cocktail of pharma on board, overtaxed the Doctor. Sitting in a regal chair against a backdrop of exquisite geometric tiles in an ornate courtyard by a pool bathed in evening sunshine was a cure, plus the promise of a fine Spanish brandy. The cultural visits continued: austere and gold clad church interiors, modern art galleries, the university, street market, tapas bars and that Spanish brandy. Of that trip to Granada two events are note worthy and set the scene for what follows.

As we strolled back of a late evening to our garret in the Pension, in danger of collapse from the weight of icons and students, a figure slipped form a doorway at some distance. He descended the steps looking furtively in both directions while clutching a rectangular object wrapped in a bin bag, crossed to the street-side dumpster, dropped the bin bag in and hastily retraced his steps. The door closed.

“That was a bit suspect, no?”

“Ho Ho. Do we have an artwork in the bag?”

“Might just check this out Doc, what do you think?”

Maybe it was the fine Spanish brandy or an over active thyroid, whatever, we’d created an international art thief dropping priceless works for an accomplice to retrieve before the cleansing department arrived. We sidestepped into the alternative reality with the greatest of ease, brandy included, and rescued the cleverly concealed art and took the bootie back to the garret, as Holmes and Watson would, to inspect content,

“We were not wrong, Doctor, this is pure gold.”

“ And there are two canvases, excellent one each.”

We removed the oiled canvases of distinctly Spanish origin from the School of Twentieth Century Naïve Art. T.Corovetto you are a true master of the hobbyist movement, or was that caginess to conceal your abhorrence for the work of Senora Corovetto as you trashed it?

The fast moving drama was followed by the fast removal of our rental car. Was it the revenge of the International art theft syndicate? No. In the clear light of a piercing morning hangover the realisation dawned that the car had been scooped by the clampers. The evidence: a curbside sticker with details of a fine and a location for recovering. Arguing with the urban authorities about injustice and damage to tourism is stressful with a hangover and a language deficit, that raised finger and raised voice were as naïve as the art. The fine was paid and we fucked off in the rental for a hangover cure and breakfast.

But revenge was ours. We kept the canvases in the bin bag. We put them through the scanner at Malaga Airport. We carried them through security at Belfast International. We’re discussing a visit to the Prada in Madrid with a couple of bin bags.


To Nathan


Driven to distraction


After an abandoned attempt to drive to Albayzin we drove west on the N432 to Cordoba. We had spent the previous days in Granada with a visit to the Alhambra to see its magnificent tiles and reliefs. The complexity of the Moorish geometry and designs has been effectively replicated in the baffling traffic system of Granada, which had my heart rate hit levels only achievable on skunk. Ergo: a hasty retreat.

The N432 , a switchback, passes through towns and villages that bear names like Castro del Rio and a built history to match, where Castillo’s and churches hold the high ground, no change there then. These edifice are replicated by watchtowers, sentinels strung across the landscape on pinnacles of rock, a reminder of the many cultures who at one time or other ruled this landscape, now ruled by olive groves and oil production

As we drove a weather system swept the landscape with bouts of torrential rain, the wipers on the rental stuttered to keep apace. Like dragging a finger nail on chalk the squawk and screech was wearing me thin and I can’t afford no more thin. Tea break. Climbing the next bends a sign offered food and fuel stop at 1km. At the summit a post apocalyptic, stone strewn and fenced compound confined a line of pumps backed up by a one-story block building. We parked alongside the other car.

The line of glazed customers at table watched our approach. On entry the inside reflected the ambience of the outside, with the added soundtrack of cutlery on delft and low volume conversation. The counter displays included handwritten signs in English; ‘flatten cartons before binning; keep bottles and cans separate’, I ordered in my rudimentary Spanish

“Dos café y..’

“Milk in the coffee?”

Ah, English voices! In response the soundtracks vocals seemed to rise in pitch and were distinctly English. A dawning realisation, as the clock and my brain start to tick in sync, that we had landed in middle England in middle Spain. A white van, English reg., sprayed gravel as it pulled into the compound. Now that’s syncronicity! It’s arrival got a less than enthused reaction as did it’s occupants . England? Fuck! This is The Rovers Return* and we are placed centre stage with toasties and coffee, one black, one con leche.


Scene 1.  Vanman begins a dressing down of the table sloths indulgence while he has been breaking his back unloading goods. He now unloads his spleen.

Entire cast in motion: between counter and office, making coffee, discussing unresolved email glitches, the plumbing issue which needed attention yesterday.

Vanman bemoans his back pain. Spanish co-driver sidesteps the skirmish, lifts his beer and leaves. Mother retreats to kitchen, Father, as he passes, asks us if everything is ok, while Daughter conducts an in-depth conversation in Spanish on her mobile. We wonder how the Hobbits have produced such a good looking child. Trannie, more cross than dress, flits between office and table. Granny mops up egg yoke with a piece of Mothers Pride, oblivious.

As extras in the final scene we pay the bill and exchange pleasantries. Vanman takes this opening as an opportunity to reveal the mystery of the abundant  packets of Typhoo Tea, Mc Vities Digestives, Rowntrees Pastels, and all the other desirable English comestibles on the shelves. A Sir Galahad in a White Ford Transit transits a supply of familiar products to the ex-pats from England’s green and pleasant land. His back has been the undertone in the conversation and suddenly it gives vent to the sacrifice it makes on these journeys for the greater good.

“ Maybe you should give your back a rest. Driving is definitely not a remedy”, I suggest

“ Couldn’t give up the driving, lord no, I love driving”. Scene ends

It would seem the local’s love driving too. The ram-raid bollards at the front door suggest they think this place is a drive-in.

For the uninitiated: The Rovers Return is the hub of activity in the immutable soap ‘Coronation Street’, an offering on British Television since Britain was an Empire.