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April 1998 Issue
Place Your Bets, Senors Y Senoritas
by Krafty
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British weather is notoriously unpredictable. That's why we talk about it so much. There's always something new and unexpected to comment on.

Take last week, for instance. The sun blazed through the windscreen as I drove to work, and when I arrived I left my coat in the car, wondering why I had bothered to bring it. I was due to go out on foot for most of the morning, and as the day looked promising I thought no more about it. At lunch time I returned with red nose and frozen feet, trying to pretend that pain was an illusion. By mid-afternoon there was a howling gale hammering sleet against the side of the building . . . and then it stopped. Just like that. The sun came out again as strong as in the morning. It was on the way home, as I gripped the steering wheel to prevent the car being blown off the road, that I remembered my recent visit to Menorca, Spain.

We can't afford holidays, certainly not holidays in Spain. We are usually sleep on an airbed on a floor in the house of some friends, surrounded by backpacks and a week's worth of food. Good food, good company, good scenery - good gracious what more could we want. I'll tell you. We could have wanted to take these friends with us to Spain.

But you can't look a gift horse in the mouth, and this horse was only built for two. The holiday came out of the blue, and it was free! Yes, free! Let me tell you how it happened.

We received a telephone call from a holiday promotion company, and before Pete, my partner, could say "Not today, thank you", he heard himself answering three easy question (like, "Where's Rome?"), and being invited to a free lunch and a talk about Time Share. He was about to try again with the "Not today . . .", and they said we would get a free holiday out of it. Now, consider that we are middle-aged and not silly. We didn't believe it. But there was a free lunch at stake, and he accepted.

So, off we went on the appointed day, to be told that we didn't qualify for the Time Share because we couldn't afford it. We had already told them that, but you couldn't blame them for trying. They smiled, and we smiled, and they gave us the holiday we were not expecting anyway.

I started looking for my passport, which I hadn't used for seven years. I didn't look very hard, because I didn't believe we would actually go. Pete started arranging for a new passport and relevant visas. We talked about it to friends and colleagues, and laughed about it. Partly we laughed because we were excited, and partly we laughed at our gullibility.

Then we began to hear tail ends of stories about people who had actually been on these holidays. We were beginning to believe it.

But this sort of thing didn't happen to us. Did it?

It was nearly six months before we heard where and when we would be going, and even then we didn't quite believe it. "The tickets would be available at the airport", they said. "Oh, yes?", I said.

I eventually found my passport, in the home filing system where I least expected to find it, and I am the only person I know whose passport photograph looks better than the real thing. Well, it is seven years old. Pete had a little more trouble but his documents arrived ten days before we were due to depart. In that ten days, I had my case packed ten times. In my head. You see, I still didn't quite believe it.

And Saturday came, and a friend took us to the airport, and there were the tickets, and . . . now I was nervous. So nervous I nearly bought out the Duty Free shop.

We had a wait of nearly five hours. Five hours of crosswords and coffee, people watching and coffee, and toilets and coffee. But it was worth the wait. They actually called our flight. Now I believed it.

The flight was good, Menorca wonderful, the apartment amazing. We were 100 yards from the beach, 20 yards from the bar, we had a well equipped kitchen and our own balcony, we fell asleep and woke to the sound of lapping waves, ate and drank ourselves silly, and generally recommend not looking a gift horse in the mouth - if you ever get the chance.

As it turns out, this gift horse was a horse of a very different colour to those which have made us the suspicious, cynical people we are today. We don't recommend gambling as a rule, but I think you can see that, for us, what started as a rank outsider finished well ahead of the field, and we were winners for a week.

And in the cold and wet of these early months of the year, we have over 100 photographs to keep us warm.



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