Blog 59 - On The Edge



I promised there would be a follow up to my story about THE ITALIAN JOB Blog 37. I have watched that old movie again when Michael Caine cheekily says “Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea!” The vehicle carrying the gold bullion was hanging over a precipice and he was in it. There was never a sequel made. I wonder why?


Well life has progressed since I wrote that piece. SCOOPY, my silver Mini Cooper S has been spending his Covid holidays in the country and has had his own series of adventures coming to the rescue of another broken down vehicle, scaring his driver with warning lights coming on, gobbling fuel but still looking pretty perky. I doubt whether he will ever want city life again. I don’t know how Michael Caine has spent the past months in lockdown. I guess he drives something other than a Mini and it’s hardly worth doing a bullion robbery these days. Now a touch of the plastic or iPhone is all that is required to spend. You need a QR code these days, not coins. I have had to learn anew how to shop in a store, push a supermarket trolley, sanitising as one goes along, and keeping my distance from others. Having so much practice as a masked woman, and with the added asset of losing my fingerprints on my right hand, I could present a very interesting CV if any gangs are advertising for future bullion robber assistants. I am not sure if I have shared my lost fingerprint story with you. That would need an unusual scarf for another day.


Enough of this nonsense. So where does that leave me with a scarf memory this week and my promised Andorran connection with the Italian Job?



The scarf is black and white, the finest silk chiffon and patterned with meadow blooms, poppies and another small headed wild flower. In summer, the Pyrenees are covered with wonderful wild flowers. I always wonder how they survive the long winters under a thick blanket of snow. My first thought inspired by this gossamer like scarf is a of a small Andorran meadow half way down the mountain, full of such wild flowers. We were returning from our usual lunch out at a humble borda high in the mountains for the afternoon siesta in our home in La Massana. The meadow beckoned, or was it that extra glass of Carlos brandy following a barbecued trout and Crema Catalana which prompted a snooze? The Country and Western music cassette was switched off, the Red Lady, our BMW convertible was carelessly abandoned, we crossed the little Romanesque stone bridge over the mountain stream and my husband stretched out on the sweet bed of grass. I remembered my childhood and gathered tiny wild strawberries, yellow and red raspberries and chewed on red and white clover as we had done as children. I too then succumbed to slumber. We must have both slept for a long time. Nature extracted some revenge for our plunder and disturbance to the bees in the clover. We got very sunburnt and bitten by other wee beasties.


The summer memories were carefree but the winter ones for me were always fraught with anxiety about the journey over the Pass to leave Andorra for France and the drive back to England. Inevitably a blizzard would blow up, the snow chains had to be put on the wheels, a task in itself. Then, the worry whether the Pass would be open or would we have to drive an hour back to Andorra La Vella, take the lower route through Spain and a much longer journey home……to say nothing about having to face the tough French customs over the border waiting to pounce on that extra bottle….or two of the aforementioned brandy and cheap cigarettes for naughty family smokers. Just when one thought one was through safely, on some lonely part of the road the roving French Customs officers would pull one over and search the car for booty. They always seemed to wear dark glasses and look menacing. Yet there was certainly nothing to worry about on this particular late summer day as we started our journey back to England. Sun shining, nothing much to declare if we were stopped at the border; my husband was an Andorran resident, papers all in order, and a nice dinner to anticipate on our meander through France. No snow chains or shovels to dig our way out of drifts, just many bottles of local Arinsal water (the water from our taps was always rust coloured but we were assured it was full of minerals - the water from the small Arinsal river opposite our home was bottled and sold.) We had a picnic lunch and a Ruth Rendell thriller on cassettes. It was a long time ago - technology has now advanced. Happy….until we turned the last hairpin bend at the top of the Pass…..and nearly rammed the car in front. A little way ahead was a huge oil tanker hanging over the sheer drop of the mountain edge, just like Michael Caine’s bullion lorry. Fortunately the car following us stopped in time so we were not hit from behind. I have no idea how many kilometres of back up were behind us as the hours passed. There was no way of turning round on that narrow road with barely room for two way traffic. It was a hot day and fuel not an easy cargo to jettison from a stranded tanker hanging perilously ahead. Much easier, had it been full of imported red skinned Edam cheeses. Imagine them rolling down the mountain scaring the goats and cows with their tinkling bells grazing on summer pasture. We ate our picnic lunch, raided some of the goodies destined for England, my husband had an early siesta and guess what I did? I found some old paper and wrote my annual Christmas tale, albeit a few months early.


I don’t think my Catalan language was good enough to shout encouragement to the poor drivers of the tanker…..Hang on a minute lads. I’ve got a great idea! I am not even very sure if the Christmas fiction had such a great story line, but I got it finished. After a few hours, the tanker was rescued from its grizzly fate at an altitude of 7,900 ft and we got on our way. On the edge again…… recalculate where we would have that Kir Royale prior to dinner further south in France than originally planned! Today there is a tunnel through the mountains and our home, the view from which was painted by a guest, was sold a long time ago. I now live by a bigger river, The Thames, whose water I wouldn’t fancy drinking, but the h2o from my taps is clear.



Busy Bee, Scarf Face!

Series 2, Blog 59.

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