Camioneta Dreaming, Part 2

IMG_0784Central Belt Shuffler and Dr D are back at the side of the road, waiting for the camioneta home. The light is starting to fade.

We stand a few paces away from three men, two older, fatter ones, wearing straw cowboy hats, and a younger, thinner one. They drink from beer cans, their language slurred. They’re doing a sum, ’17 and 17 is 42’, says one. ‘Oh God,’ says Dr D. ‘I hope they’re not getting on the camioneta with us. If a taxi arrives, let’s take it.’

A taxi comes, but it’s headed in the opposite direction from where we want to go.

A camioneta arrives, also heading in the opposite direction. The drunk men ask the driver something, then, as the camioneta heads off, swear at its retreating exhaust.

Walking down the road comes a small group of Mexicans, accompanying a tall, thin black man, smartly dressed with a calm demeanor. A visiting preacher from Paraguay. The drunks recognise one of the women walking with him, and say hello. She replies, nervously. The preacher calmly greets them, ‘Buenas tardes.’

Another camioneta arrives, heading in the right direction. It’s already quite full, and we get on quickly, making our way to the front. The three men also get on, causing a commotion on the camioneta. A few of the Mexicans look at them in disapproval, and shift around to give them space to sit together. A little girl is carrying a tiny puppy, which a woman then takes on her lap as the camioneta sways with the number of people on it. Several men are standing on the back bumper.

The drunks fall asleep. One lets fall an unopened beer can, which the younger man picks up. A family starts singing, the young boy repeating the words, to everyone’s delight. Then, the clear strong voice of the grandma singing by herself. Most of the camioneta join in for a moment, and laugh together at the end of the song.

An older woman, large in frame, gets on. One of the drunk men wakes up and tries to give her his seat. The woman, quickly assessing the situation, tries to dissuade his alcohol-fuelled courtesy, but he is insistent. She sits down, and he stands, swaying.

I reach my stop, and struggle to make my way through the throng to the back of the bus. The other passengers helpfully shout so that the driver knows to wait, and to the drunk, so he gets out of the way.

I squeeze my way out, then reach into my purse, counting out my 6 pesos, handing it to the driver. The camioneta continues onwards, passengers still clinging to the back. I hope Dr D manages to get out in due course. I head for some shopping, and a cooling margarita.

Dr D later reports on the continuation of this journey. The drunks start swearing, and she tells them off, reminding them there are children in the camioneta. When she reaches her stop, she climbs down. ‘Suerte,’ (Good luck), she says to those passengers continuing the journey.

They laugh.

 

A Mexican Proposal

IMG_0773[1]Central Belt Shuffler is far from home, waiting at the top of a steep dirt track with Dr D for a ride on the camioneta.

The sun is hot, and we gather in the shade, breathing heavily from the steep route up the track. We look towards the bright blue of the Pacific ocean, and gather our breath.

A taxi rounds the hill, and the front-seat passenger shouts out.

‘Colectivo?’ replies Dr D. (Some taxis are exclusively hired, whereas others will take multiple fares heading in the same direction.)

The taxi halts. The passenger, hanging out of the window, beckons in agreement, ‘Zipolite’.

We get in. There are two young male passengers, drinking beer. The taxi driver, older, is passive, driving quietly. The passenger in the front seat, who introduces himself as Oz, wants to chat. They’ve travelled through from a surf venue up the coast, one fetching the other to his home town. The back seat passenger is a famous surfer, we are told.

The famous surfer is quieter than his companion, but halfway through the 10-minute journey interjects that his friend is looking for a girlfriend. ‘It’s been too long that I’ve been alone,’ he confirms, in playful melodrama. ‘Yes, the time is right for me. I want to get married. A family.’

He directs his attention to me. ‘Yes,’ he repeats, ‘the time is right.’ I nod, and laugh. ‘You Claaaar, I like your look. Will you be my wife?’*

We reach the turn-off for our destination. They are keen to take us all the way to the beach, that there’s a shorter route, but Dr Dr knows this isn’t true. We jump out, and ask the driver how much. The front passenger shakes his head. This wasn’t a collective, but a free ride.

‘If you want a beer later?’ asks the front-seat passenger.

‘Quizas,’ I say, ‘perhaps.’

* this is an updated version of this post, with the wording of the proposal provided by Dr D (26 February 2016).

 

Going Abroad

photoCentral Belt Shuffler has been away for the weekend, celebrating that very non-Central Belt Shuffling American tradition of Thanksgiving. The weekend was spent in Yorkshire, and as well as liberal doses of turkey, potatoes both roast and mashed, parsnips, carrots, stuffing, succotash, Yorkshire puddings (for a local twist), mashed sweet potato topped with marshmallow, pumpkin pie, wine, whisky, rum and coke, there was a lot of weather. Wind, rain. Rain, and rain. And then some more rain.

Undaunted, we headed out into the countryside for a big walk before tucking into our dinner, and then (for this group of celebrants) the obligatory game of ‘Who’s in the Bag?’ (aka The Name Game). (As a travelling aside, Philip Pullman was explained as a kind of railway carriage, rather than a children’s writer.)

The following day, Central Belt Shuffler boarded the train back from Gargrave to Glasgow. The route was not that taken on the way down (the Carlisle to Settle route), but on a local train through to Morecambe. As Central Belt Shuffler prepared to step out of the train, gazing apprehensively at the horizontal rain heading down the Lancaster platform, the following interchange took place:

Yorkshire train guard, to Central Belt Shuffler and another woman who is getting off: It doesn’t look very nice out there.

Central Belt Shuffler: No, it doesn’t.

Yorkshire train guard: That’s what happens, if you go abroad.

A warning indeed to travellers daring to go outside of God’s Own Country, Yorkshire.

The train guard’s warnings proved prophetic. At Lancaster, all the trains north were cancelled due to fallen trees on the track beyond Oxenholme. The likelihood of getting back to the Central Belt looked slim (confirmed by a later message on the National Rail website, to the effect that, ‘Buses have been requested to run between Preston and Carlisle however Virgin Trains are currently unable to source any.’). Using a bit of local Lake District knowledge I headed for the local bus service over to Kendal, where I bedded down for the night (and got my underwear speed-washed by my mother). The following conversation took place:

French mother: What I don’t understand is why they have trees so close to the train line anyway. You think they’d cut them down.

English daughter: This isn’t France, mum.

French mother: They do that when they built the TGV lines.

English daughter: As I said, this isn’t France, mum.

The next morning, I set off from Kendal to Edinburgh, for a morning meeting. Two middle-aged female passengers who boarded at Carlisle discussed the pressing matter of chips.

Cumbrian lady 1: I don’t mind oven chips.

Cumbrian lady 2: I really prefer them in fat.

Cumbrian lady 1: Yes. In lard.

As the train pulled through the snow-topped hills to Edinburgh, I reflected that travelling the North of England – be it Yorkshire, Lancashire, or Cumbria – is every bit as rewarding as Central Belt Shuffling.

Central Belt Shuffler makes an admission

Shuffling, and records of shuffling, have been a little thin on the ground in the past month.

An admission needs to be made. Central Belt Shuffler has a new car. It’s nippy, has a great sound system, and it’s cold outside. So, despite previous avowals to the contrary, the past month’s transport of choice has been the car.

In the last few weeks, the allure of the warm interior and the digital radio have been keeping me away from the train. There are some advantages to this (the occasional 35-minute door-to-door commute), and obvious downsides (no public transport banter or serendipities; no drinking at work).

Roll on spring.

Architectural Shuffle

'All Greatness Stands Firm in the Storm' - Ian Hamilton Finlay's inscription in the granite of the columns of the disused Caledonian railway bridge

‘All Greatness Stands Firm in the Storm’ – Ian Hamilton Finlay’s inscription in the granite columns of the disused Caledonian railway bridge over the Clyde

Yesterday saw Central Belt Shuffler set off on a Glasgow Doors Open Day SubCrawl.

The architectural and cultural tour promised more than the normal drinking circuit (although a pint or two were downed at various points along the way and, as we squeezed through railings to look at abandoned dry docks, we were welcomed to Govan by local drinkers, who suggested that next time we bring wine glasses for our Buckfast).

The tour also took in the new cloister at the Catholic cathedral, commemorating the deaths of Scottish-Italian POWs in WW2, the Futurist Govan subway station, Cessnock station embedded within an Alexander Greek Thomson crescent, and, of course, Glasgow School of Art buildings old and new.

Oh, and quite a bit of pub design.

(More information on the Dress for the Weather Subcrawl is available here.)

Coastal Shuffle

Piran CoachCentral Belt Shuffler has returned to her normal terrain, but – before the summer is over – would like fondly to report on another Slovene shuffle, though not on the train, but on the bus from Ljubljana to Piran.

Although the bus looks full of holiday-makers headed for the Slovenian and Croatian coastal destinations of Piran, Portoroz, Rovinj, and Pula (indeed it is), for Central Belt Shuffler, this was a work trip. This time, to interview a writer, former publisher and cultural policy-maker.

Piran vistaHe had invited me to the beautiful coastal town for lunch, and for an interview on his third-floor terrace, facing the shimmering seas of the Adriatic. Children played on the rocks below, a gentle breeze refreshed us (as did a glass of wine), and yachts and speedboats passed by. Nice work, if you can get it.

After a simple but delicious lunch (ending with fresh figs bought from an Albanian stall holder who asked that I bring him a Glasgow Rangers shirt next time I visit), I had some time to climb the old city walls, which afforded an even more stunning Museumvista over the town. The Museum of Underwater Activities lured me in, with the promise of Team Zissou-style adventure (though the reality was somewhat more prosaic).

Then, back to the bus station to wait in the hot early evening sun, ice-cream in hand, for the journey back to my temporary home.

Bus home

Common sense is being applied

The Flask of Invisibility?

The Flask of Invisibility?

An announcement from the train manager on the morning commute:

‘Any alcohol carried must not be visible’.

In July 2012, ScotRail introduced a ban on alcohol on trains between 9pm and 10am. ScotRail’s website reassures that ‘Common sense is being applied’, and that no bag searches are taking place.

Invisibility is all.

Weapon of War

Travelling by bike and train has its charms. And its occasional challenges.

Particularly when catching a Friday evening train some hours into its journey south from Aberdeen.

Not long started on the Central Belt Shuffle, and boarding a busy train one evening, I had to ask someone to get up from a tip-up seat by the bike storage area so I could get my bike in. The two of us were then standing for the rest of the journey.

Another, prematurely elderly, tin-drinking man took offence. He started snarling at me, if you can both slur and snarl. I’ve no idea what he was saying, and smiled as best I could.

Five or so minutes later, out came a small set of pipes, with black* velvet bag.

I’d heard that bagpipes were a weapon of war. In a packed train carriage, with 20 minutes journey-time remaining, that was confirmed.

*This post was previously entitled The Black Piper, until my PC-checker suggested I might change it to avoid any confusion. Good call, Miss J.

Wine and Hearts

February 13th.

Boarded the evening train and sat opposite a blinged-up lady of a certain age. She looked a bit perturbed and said her friend was joining the train. I politely pointed out that there were still two free seats at the table.

Friend arrived, sat down. Lady 1 got out tablecloth (actually a napkin), forks, pre-packed salad (crayfish), sushi, Doritos, a bottle of white wine.

They fed me crisps and offered me wine (I was being abstemious). I got a bit of sushi.

Then it was pudding: chocolate hearts in white, milk and dark chocolate.

We had by this time been chatting quite a bit. I said, ‘I did worry that I’d interrupted an early Valentine’s.’

They shrieked with laughter.

Apparently they’re in an all-ladies samba band, most of whom (but not them) are lesbians. (‘We’re not gay’; drumroll.)