Granada, southern Spain, campsite ‘Sierra Nevada’.
‘Sierra Nevada’, Grade ‘A’ Camping, has retained its original 1950s look and boasts an enormous pool filled with mineral water from the eponymous mountains above the city.
We’re in our red, ex-post office, camper. I’ve twisted a rope of blue neon lights around a lamp-post on our pitch and I bought a lovely desert blooming plant with a mass of multi-coloured flowers in the supermarket over the road. I’ve made a little home here and I’m happy.
My (male) partner is away for the evening and I am content; goat’s cheese salad and super-cold Yllera sauvignon-blanc (recommended, under 5 euros a bottle)…
But camping, it seems, has not worked out so well for our immediate female neighbours.
To our left, a young, relaxed and good-looking pair from Italy arrived earlier. Having erected their tent, they slung a stripey hammock between the trees. Later, we saw them at the pool; she like a young Audrey Hepburn with a cat-like face, dark bob and shades. He, handsome with a beard.
On our return from the pool to our pitch and in the course of a long lunch, we saw the young Italians entwined in the hammock. He had attached a special string so that he could control its rocking motion. Soon the bearded Roman was deeply asleep and Audrey Hepburn, who had been resting on his chest, gracefully disentagled herself from his embrace with a fond smile, and lightly disembarked. That was 3pm.
At 6pm, having had an hour’s siesta, we were surprised to observe that the Roman was still sound asleep in the stripey hammock. Girlfriend was nowhere to be seen. Good for her, I thought…why should she be hanging round waiting for him to wake up, she’s gone off somewhere on her own.
At 8pm, I was getting my stuff together go to the campsite cafe to check my emails. The Roman’s girlfriend had returned and she was not happy. Beardy was still snoozing. She started unpacking the shopping she’d done over the road at the hypermarket, making as much noise as possible…bang with the potatoes on the table, clank with the beer bottles into the cool box, smash with everything else… but to no avail. On he slumbered.
I was working on my writing but was greatly distracted at 8.30pm when shouting broke out from the Italian camp. Beardy, from his hammock and still half-asleep, had enquired whether the girlfriend had bought any meat for his dinner.
Fantastic Italian fireworks ensued. Shouting, crying, wildly dramatic gesticulations….In my experience, nobody does freaking out better than the Italians.
However, even under such intense fire, this Hirsute knob still did not extricate himself from his stripey haven.
He shifted his position instead, stationing himself across, rather than along, the stripes, so that his folded wrists and pointed feet flopped over the edges of the hammock… but still spelled ‘spoilt’.
Girlfriend’s operatic fury became more intense and, according to my limited grasp of Italian, she shouted, most passionately, ‘I’m off’; and good for you I thought. She started to pack her bag.
In the ladies’, I saw the Roman girlfriend repairing the damage tears had done to her make-up, I saw she had a couple of carrier bags on the shelf.
Now, it is 11pm and the Italian pitch, having recently echoed with the sounds of passion, purrs with low, reasoned voices, male and female on chairs around their table…and the smell of seared steak fills the air.
The French triumvirate to our right presented a more complex social scenario. The two men and one woman party have left now, but her misery remains frozen in the air around the tent she shared with her boyfriend.
This French woman was, forgive the generalization but according to my many years’ observation this is true, typically French: petite, well turned out in suitable attire (a strappy sundress and sandals) and very particular that everything should be in good order.
Her partner was quiet, in his early to mid-thirties, greying, dressed in neutral-coloured shorts and T-shirt, and I didn’t hear him say a word the whole time they stayed just across a little hedge from us.
Her partner’s friend, however, from the minute they arrived at 11 in the morning, was keen to demonstrate his credentials as a top class ‘voyou’ (a social group immortalized by Georges Brassens in his marvelous song ‘je suis un voyou’ and whose nearest equivalent in English is ‘hooligan’ ).
The friend, for easy reference I will call him the voyou, in his twenties, had a shaved head, was wearing a glaringly yellow football shirt (I am not sure which team), and started swilling lager as soon as he had pitched his tent which towered over his companions’ abode.
The Voyou immediately demonstrated his regularly-repeated habit of bursting into enthusiastic, football hooligan-type song, accompanied by an upward movement of the fist and laughter (only his). He also liked to whistle in a playful but aggressive manner whenever he felt he was being ignored. His piece de resistance was ferocious belching punctuated with donkey-like braying.
A little later, I was in the ladies’ bathroom brushing my teeth and putting on some make-up prior to going out for the evening, when I felt I was being observed. Turning to the entrance, which is neighboured by the Mens’ toilets, I was surprised to see said voyou staring unabashedly into the ladies and directly at me. I looked at him, he looked at me. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked. He continued to stare. Then the male companion came out of the Mens’ and they went off.
At 2 am, with the whole camp site asleep, the voyou was still loudly proclaiming his presence with outbursts of aggressive laughter and song; I wondered how the French woman could bear such an inconsiderate traveling companion.
In the morning they were dismantling their camp. Voyou went off to the Mens’ on his own and French woman finally cracked in an outburst of high velocity temper. ‘How can you expect me to to bear this idiot?’ she asked. ‘When we get back to Paris it’s me or him…and that’s final.’ Her partner looked amazed, studied his nails, and said nothing. The unhappy threesome left in silence, the voyou in the back seat.
It is past midnight now. People are switching off their lights and crawling into tents and sleeping bags or closing campervan doors.
To our North, Germans, who arrived late this evening and who switched off their loud conversation abruptly at the stroke of twelve. Not so the two Austrian girls to our South who are in their tent chatting and giggling.
Large strides over the dust from the German camp and stop beside the girls’ tent. ‘Hello?’ The girls screams pierce the night and they cling to each other in terror. ‘It is after midnight,’ says the German. ‘It is the regulations. You will be silent pliz.’