Lost in the Basque Country – December 1999 – JUST SAY IT! OUT-TAKE

The final edit of my first born novel, Just Say It, has been ruthless. Sadly, this scene with my MC, Lisa, after bumping into her old flame, Rory, for the first time since he walked out on her eight years ago, has got the chop.

‘How can you possibly think about driving anywhere, let alone in a foreign country, without bringing a map?  We’ve been driving around in the dark for hours now.’  Lisa snapped. Rory shrugged.

‘I assumed the campervan would be fitted with some sort of Sat Nav, so it never crossed my mind, but of course, that was before I left home and had no idea, I was going rescue my feisty damsel in distress old friend whose ancient Land Rover expired on the quayside at Portsmouth Docks, and, out of the kindness of my heart, become her knight in shining armour. She then had four glasses of wine when we got on the ferry and threw up all the way to Santander. I know you are feeling like shit, and I know I promised that you would be languishing in a night hot bath at the B and B, La Balbina, three hours ago, but if it were me, on my own, right now, I would get some sleep in the campervan and find the B and B at dawn.’

‘Well, you could have but, as you say, out of the kindness of your heart, you offered to take me and all my goods and chattels all the way to The Algarve, so there is no room for one person to sleep in the back, let alone two. And, yes, okay, I did a bit of celebrating when I got on the boat.  I’ve finally left the UK for good, and I bumped into you for the first time since you went to work one morning and never came back.  I was just about to report you missing when Finty dropped into conversation that you’d been offered an assignment in Australia.’

‘Well, I was young and feckless in those days, and I did apologise by email.’  Lisa sighed while thinking, ‘as if that made it okay?  It didn’t.’

‘Hang on… somebody’s walking towards us.’ A man with a flashlight was weaving around in the middle of the road.

‘Go on, ask him!’ Lisa suggested.

‘Well, I’m not sure…’

PHOTO CREDIT: BASQUE MURALS

‘What do you mean you’re not sure? What is it about men and asking for directions?  I’ll sort this out.’ Sliding the passenger door open, Lisa got out of the campervan and walked towards the smiling stranger.  He was wearing a check shirt, and a large beret at a kilter, which Lisa assumed was the Basque tradition. He staggered and almost fell, reaching out to grab hold of Lisa’s outstretched arms to steady himself.

‘Oh shit, he’s drunk!’  She thought. ‘Boa Noite, senhor. Estou procurando o B and B La Balbina!’

‘Zer esan zenuen?’ came the slurred response.

‘Li!’  Rory shouted out of the driver’s side campervan window. ‘I think he’s talking Basque, and it sounds like you are talking Portuguese.’

‘I know I am talking bloody Portuguese. I’ve been practising for weeks. The Spanish, I mean the Basque, and the Portuguese are neighbours, so he might speak it unless you happen to have picked up a bit of Basque on your travels. At least I’m trying to sort out this mess we’re in!  B and B… La Balbina. La… Balbina!’

‘Shouting won’t help!’

‘Shut up, Rory! Unless you are going to be a bit more useful. He’s about to say something.’

‘Bai… han up,’ came the response.  He was pointing up a track and taking Lisa by the hand, he led her back to the campervan, climbed in the back and passed out.

‘And then there were three,’ Rory sighed, ‘but anything’s worth a try. In you get. He was pointing up there, I think.’

They stopped outside an unlit Basque farmhouse as several unseen dogs started barking aggressively. There was only one dimly lit window downstairs, and Lisa, having assumed the role of leader, went to have a look inside. An elderly lady stirred from her sleep in an armchair, and a couple of sheep that lay at her feet got unsteadily to theirs.

‘I really don’t think this place is in Alistair Sawday’s book, Rory. This can’t be La Balbina. They’re very animal friendly here, but it doesn’t look like a B and B to me.’

There was a thud as their passenger fell out of the van, letting rip a selection of Basque expletives as he got up, which silenced the dogs and proceeded to swagger towards the front door singing loudly:

‘Abestu gora Euskadi’

Sing up Basque country

‘aintza ta aintza’

glory and glory to its

‘bere goiko Jaun Onari’

Good Lord from above

The heavy wooden door groaned open, and the sheep came thundering out, followed by the old lady, who let rip more colourful Basque expletives from the female perspective.

‘It must be her husband…’ muttered Rory.

‘No shit, Sherlock…’

Wielding the shepherd’s crook she was walking with above her head, she brought it down with a fair amount of force across the man’s shoulders and unleashed a few more heartfelt Basque expletives, which the man thought was hilarious.

‘Ouch!’ said Rory. ‘That’s not very nice!’ And with one last chorus of Abestu gora Euskadi, he turned to flash Lisa and Rory a beaming smile, tipped his beret, and disappeared inside.

The old lady nodded her approval.

‘La Balbina?’ Lisa asked, hopefully.

In broken but perfectly understandable English, the old lady replied, ‘Go back down there, turn left, and then right. La Balbina is the first place you see, and I thank you for bringing home my old mozkortuta.’

Looking at the blank expressions on Lisa and Rory’s faces, she added, ‘My old drunk.’ Then she went back inside, closing the creaking door behind her.

Twenty minutes later, Lisa was languishing in her promised hot bath.