In Vino Veritas 11

Episode 11

 

100 shades of nothing much.

Never mind the sun being over the yard arm (as I ordered the first rinse of the day) the sun was scarcely over the gunwales when Spiro produced one of several cold beers. Not to forget the wine. The consumption of alcohol as an antidote was not terribly clever. Where have I heard that before?

As for the good reader contemplating a tasty bookstore bodice-ripping romance, disappointment awaits. The blanket of boredom was ubiquitous, even enveloping the morose Latin lovers. My new best friend (aka Ronda, she the Kiwi of table tennis fame) was also a pretty savvy poker player. These were unexpected skills from an infant teacher.
It was 50 years, almost to the day, that I savoured the deep joy of victory in the table tennis endeavour. Meanwhile, other on-board friendships, not quite so predicated on an increasing friendly rivalry, also developed.

The boredom cavalry, cleverly disguised as Tahiti, at last made an appearance.

The island will forever be associated with Gauguin, the French painter. He is, or was, the very embodiment of the truism ‘Death is a great career move’. A concept that his part-time mate Vincent would have also understood. Of course, there was the unfortunate ‘lend an ear’ incident. Oh dear.
I can still imagine Gauguin, in his youth, trying to sell tarpaulins in Copenhagen. He was not aided much in this endeavour by his inability to speak Danish or the Danes did not want to know about his wretched tarpaulins.
His biography has been constructed along the lines of the Russian landscape…
Interminable. Suffice to say, one of his final paintings seemed to encapsulate our sailing predicament. The title is : ‘WHERE DO WE COME FROM? WHAT ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE GOING?’ Amen to that. Somebody less charitable than me has suggested that his work as a painter would have been just as good, if not better, had he stayed in Brittany. Shame on them.
The stopover consisted of a few drinks with the locals in a sort of ethnic watering hole.
The natives were friendly, but they had that sort of posing and world-weariness together with the unspoken assessment of ‘just another sad load of tourists’.

Next stop Panamá, or more precisely, Colon, the city at the other end of the canal, so to speak.
The canal (first considered as a possible goer in the 1500’s) was finally completed in 1916 by the Americans.
A momentous piece of engineering, it’s cost in lives was around 6,000
I imagine some TV gardening guru, with his wheelbarrow and spade, chatting to his allotment audience. With a confident wave of the arm, he announced he was about to shift 150 million cubic metres of soil so as he could start planting next week.
Colon was founded in 1850 as a rail head and faster route for those going to California in the gold rush days. In those days, writing copy for tourist brochures for Colon would have been a nightmare. How would you avoid words like ooze, booze, swamps, alligators, poisonous insects, floating corpses, pimps, prostitutes, hoodlums and dictionaries crammed with notes on tropical diseases. I can just see a gaggle of excited SAGA tourists lining up at the tourist info. office, itching to make a start.

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When we lobbed in, the first thing spotted was lots of pock- marked holes on the Spanish Mission walls. Was this some kind of indigenous insect nesting site? The natives were friendly, if not effusive. We certainly presented no problem, underscored by the fact that they were armed to the teeth. The insects were obviously made of lead.
It seems there had been recent disputes with the Americans over the sovereignty of the canal. At the other end of the canal lies Panamá City, acres of steel and glass, a sort of Central American Dubai. I wonder if there are any air b and b’s in Colon…

Back to the good ship Ellenis. Let’s go! Not l o n g n o w…. . .

Formula Fun 10

Episode 10

Mumbles lobbed into M/Claire land. It was a kind of Late ECO/ early Mother Earth kiddie…loads of hay bales, p.c. Tractor tyres, bunches of sweet smelling plants, peace be with you exhortations and the tea was as herbal as herbal could be. Mumbles had been here the first time around. Never mind.
She gave Mumbles the once over. Seemed impressed. It was rather like an Elysian nymphette gazing at Mount Rushmore. She moved quickly on. ‘Do you need this, that or the other? No?’
‘OK. You do your stuff after the interval. Be half as good as when I heard you and you will slay this lot …don’t screw it up.’ Mumbles gave her the old Clint Eastwood lantern jawed green -eyed gaze… She backed off.

The first few sets gave Mumbles one over-riding feeling… that of calm confidence.
They were OK, but listening to them was rather like wading through freshly laid concrete, which slowly begins to set. Tofu and nuts and raw veg. followed.
An almighty chord on the big guitar announced the new kid on the block. He roared straight into ‘The Fair Dinkum Drongo’ Unexpurgated. Boy, did he pin their ears back.
Mumbles, totally given to his work, did not spot Paul who had slipped in at the back.
The bit about Banjo mistaking a Tassie Devil for a domestic cat and tickling the same had the audience begging for more. Howls of delight. He finished off with some sublime cadenza – like improvisations of all that had gone before… twisting, turning, and, 20 minutes later, resolved on a D major chord that produced a wondrous stunned silence.
The applause was deafening. Encore? You bet.
Paul wanted to catch the last episode of ‘The Stirling Moss story’ so set off, but he WAS impressed.

Mumbles, knackered, left soon after. His progress was slowed by a collision with a mountain of marshmallows. ‘God,’ the marshmallows whispered in unison as their grip became vice-like, ‘you were sensational!!’ Holy ****! It was Mrs. Crusher!! She read Mumbles mind.
‘Stay loose’, she said, He is off on a tractor tyre throwing competition… me tent is bigger than yours, fancy a nightcap?’

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Formula Fun 9

Episode 9

Paul bought Mumbles up to speed on his visitor and her proposal. Mumbles hesitated. ‘I know you have a terrific DVD lined up tonight… I think it was the history of in the shock absorber, but the idea of a paying gig sounds good… not to mention little Marie whatsit… I’ll get togged up and pop down to see her. She sounds a hell of a lot prettier than you.’
Paul twitched a bit. Old Mumbles was ok but not mentally terribly agile. Tended to speak first and get whacked later. There were ominous sounds coming from his tent. No, not booze, more the rustling of a profound costume change. Later, Paul looked up from his ‘Michelin Moments’ mag to be greeted by an incredible metamorphosis. OK, it could have been an oven- ready Crocodile Dundee, but this sight was impressive nonetheless.
Paul had seen the hard bitten cow hands in West Texas and West Queensland. The sweat stained hat, flayed jeans, filigree decorated boots (plus Spurs) leather jacket and a belt that would hold up Santa’s pants ….AND the guitar AND …he smelled so sweet!
‘Right,’ said Mumbles, ‘ready to roll.’

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Paul was enjoying a cold beer from his well- stocked fridge. ‘Fancy a beer before you go?, he suggested. The look on Mumbles face was one of utter incredulity. ‘A BEER?’!
‘That stuff or any kind of stuff is a big no-no! Kiss of death. I have to work. Give all that rubbish the flick. Got any filtered water?’ Paul’s mouth opened and shut like a goldfish on speed. You learn something every day, he mused.
‘I’ll see you down there’, said Paul, I think Drop Dead Darling wants you to strut your stuff on the second half …’I hope she won’t be disappointed.’
‘Not bloody likely’, came the confident reply.

Formula Fun 8

Episode 8

Paul has a visitor

Qualifying session full on. No quarter given. Live speeds 10 times what you get on TV. Noise sublime. Paul foraged for a mocha for Mumbles. Nectar. Teensy tribulations forgotten. Paul’s tactical expertise was invaluable, sometimes Mumbles could easily cope with being treated as a chop short of the barbie.
About mid afternoon they returned to tent land. Mumbles felt a zzzzz coming on, Paul suddenly got domesticated…..

Later. Paul was running the Dyson over his shag pile carpet, closely following the printed track of the Monaco street circuit. This was cleverly woven into the fabric.
Was that somebody calling to him? Turned off the Dyson, chucked his Fangio apron behind the Aspidistra and looked outside. This wasn’t any old somebody, this was a Drop Dead Darling and no mistake. ‘Hi’, she trilled, coming from a countenance that would launch a thousand battle cruisers. ‘Sorry to trouble you, my name is Marie Claire.
I came by this morning and heard some fab singing. I mean FAB. Who was this guy who did that old Tassie Classic, you know the one, ‘Banjo Barry, the bastard from the bush.’ … This was a revelation. He must be Tasmanian. Her doe- like eyes widened. ‘Was it you?’ Paul a bit thrown by this. ‘No, no,’ he said, ‘He’s a friend of mine’.

As he said that, he spotted an empty Islay single malt bottle poking out of the bottom of Mumbles tent. What happens if our boy emerged from his boudoir and tripped over the guy ropes yet AGAIN? Little Darling pressed on. ‘Look, I run the Frisco Folk Club down by the Eateries. We are doing our last gig tonight and my top of the bill have got a better offer. Can you friend help us out? What’s his name, by the way. Paul hesitated. He dumped the Mumbles. ‘Mojo Makepiece, Mojo for short. He is doing a bit of choir practice at the moment for tomorrow’s church service. Shall I send him down to you?’
‘PLEASE DO,’ she pleaded, ‘I would so love to meet him.’
The sweet smell of Givenchy wafted through the air as she headed off. ‘We will pay him’, she called back.

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Paul finished the dusting, re- arranged the flowers, and settled down to read ‘The Complete Technical Guide to the maintenance of the F 1 gearbox’. Great stuff!

Next: Mumbles meets MC!

Formula Fun 7

Episode 7

Mumbles’ mojo seemed to be working. Weary after a day’s racing he contemplated a good nights sleep in his ‘got you figured out’ cocoon.
And thus it proved. Almost. About seven in the morning, still pretty dark in the tent, he decided to investigate some small object that had been digging into his back. What the hell was it?
Now a tentophile of considerable organisational skills, he reached for his specs that he had hung on a ceiling hook. He grabbed handfuls of air. Strange. So he looked again at the object. A LENS. Terrific. Where was the rest of his eye-wear? Under the air bed! They now looked like mangled costume jewellery or those evil wire sculptures one sees in open studio exhibitions. Couldn’t see a bloody thing without them. A job for Paul.

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Paul had three great skills. He was deeply intuitive, did not stand on ceremony and was not patronising …usually.
‘Alright, what have you done now?’ (He could also be long suffering and non- judgmental at the same time.) He studied the evidence.
‘Did you leave these in the pit lane?’ Convulsed at his own wit, his shoulders shook.
He then glided to the boot of his car, snapped it open and produced on of those Mega telescopic tool boxes, about 2 metres high at full stretch. Socket spinners, ring spanners, adjustable….and on and on and on. With this kit he could do anything from changing a gearbox to a hysterectomy. Mumbles hovered. Paul decisive.
‘Look sweetie,’ said Paul, ‘why don’t you go and sit over there, put on your ‘howdy folks, I’m aimin to sing’ hat, get out your guitar and the rest of your microwave stash and stay really loose?’ That came to pass. Mumbles drifted Into his world, Paul stayed four square in his. Later…..
Mumbles hit the final chord on his Tassie Troubadour set and felt good. He then glanced down and saw his re-built specs. ‘No problem’, said Paul ‘thank God I had some 5 amp fuse wire.’ While I was about it, he went on, I changed the brake pads and a wheel bearing on our limo. A CVJ looked dodgy but will get us home. My welding kit is giving me grief’ Mumbles had no grasp of this language whatsoever.
‘Qualifying starts soon, let’s go.’ Said Paul. ‘Don’t forget your specs.’

Episode 8: Paul has a visitor.

Formula Fun 6

Episode 6

On his way back home, so to speak, Mumbles came to an abrupt halt. ‘What the….’
He gazed at the far pavilions… or, more accurately, the chaste ivory- tinted beauty of a series of conical buildings. ‘Bastards!’ he hissed, ‘let’s hope they have a lovely time GLAMPING in their sylvan slums. ‘See if I care’.   He did.   But worse,  by now he had lost his way. Not difficult with about 50 square hectares of tented terrain to navigate. Where was the bloody flag?
Calling Paul on the mob was the last card to play. This episode would go into buddy mythology and be wheeled out at every opportunity. NO, he will search. After passing the same fire hydrant 5 times he had to summon help. Pulled out mobile, and there, reflected in the screen in the distance was a tiny flash of canary yellow. Deo Gracias! It was a beautifully restored Lotus Elan with German plates. He had passed it on his way to seeing his Eastern European chums. A re- creation of his original position was required… a real test for his Malbec and Shiraz soaked neurones. A sigh of relief was matched by a lengthening stride.
Paul had his dinky little chef’s hat on when Mumbles arrived.
He was putting the fishing touches to some bacon baps which had been cooked on his small gas stove. Of course he had his microwave and his ‘CampAGA,’ but he liked to blend in with his fellow campers in the great outdoors. Things got a bit difficult when it came to hot drinks. ‘All the rooibos you can drink’ he announced cheerily. Mumbles eyes ablaze with apathy. One of the  jewels of his liquid  iconography was a 50cl mug of piping hot Ethiopian Arabica, just thin enough to drink but not thick enough to plough. Baps great.
After breakfast F1 practice beckoned. A huge column of humanity shuffled towards the entrance gates. Very young, young, middle, old, male, female, infirm.
A Petronas pilgrimage. Reminiscent of Lourdes or the Camino de Santiago.
Practising terrific. On the limit. An ear-splitting world. Pauls response was measured, expert. Mumbles embraced every bit of this alien culture, so wished his 10 year old grandson could have been with him. Stunning. 

Next… Another teensy tent problem….

In Vino Veritas

Chapter 6

Meanwhile, still back at the theatre, painting scenery continued. By now I was familiar with the whole set-up . In a long narrow-ish studio, the huge back- cloths were attached to stout wooden stretchers. A gap between the floor and the wall, (together with the aid of an electric motor), meant they could be raised and lowered as and when. Painting the flats and other props was very straightforward.
If one imagines about 200 ice-cream cartons filled with every tint, tone and high colour imaginable, the whole approximating the range of a High street DIY paint retailer, then they were occupying a central table. They were maintained, in exemplary fashion by Steve, the splodger… hardly a flash job description. All water-based, of course. …the colours, not Steve.
Work proceeded well on the Viennese hell. Endless drop shadows, highlights, reflected lights, marbling, wood graining, cast shadows, all the usual old tricks of trompe l’oeil orthodoxy cascaded down. Rather similar to sucking boiled sweets.
BUT WAIT. I was admiring the job I had done on some alcove encased temptress and then became aware of a fellow admirer. A delicious exchange followed.

‘Look’, said our leader, ‘um…hmmmm…this is rather good….ummm ..’
He glanced at his watch…’could you do a few more?’ I glanced at his efforts. Rather me do them than him, I thought.
‘No problem , I said, you go and have a rinse or 3 with your mates and leave the alcoves and little darlings to me.’
Not a lot was said, but it was hugely significant.
Theatre mythology is also huge; Quasimodo, phantoms, ghosts, creaking woodwork, strange meanings, wobbly stairs, all of that.
I usually arrived first in the morning to get the studio opened up.
Up the creaking stairs. I grabbed the handle of the ancient door. Resistance. Push then came to shove.
The door opened a bit to reveal a pair of shoes stuck underneath.
Why the hell would somebody?….. A closer look. There were legs in those shoes.
According to the coroner, the death must have been agonising. Huddled in the foetal position, Steve had tried several exit stratagems, but lethal photographic chemicals had been most effective, at God knows what agony.
To complete the theatrical… because of rigor mortis and the narrowness of the stairwell, his body had to be put in a sling and lowered down on a rope.

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One reflected upon previous conversations with Steve, but there was no indication of what he was thinking. More entry into the world.