Monday, 11 May 2020

My Novel - Logic Park

 I am writing a novel but it is slow work! So I thought I would publish the first chapter here to see if there is any reaction! So far, I have written about 20k words (here, there are 2480 words) but a regular paperback is about 5 times that. This is only a draft, of course. And I need to format the dialogue.

In theory, I should  be writing a lot because I am in lockdown but I miss the stimulation of real life, people-watching is a great source for a novel!



A Grey November afternoon at 4pm in Carcassonne, for one particular Englishman was reminiscent of London because it is much the same but maybe a little warmer. At 4pm most people are hoping that the night will arrive rapidly, then at least it’s dark on account of there being no sun rather than its being obscured by a thick mantel of cloud with spray of fine drizzle beneath it. It almost had a Dickensian feel about it, one almost expected to see a lamp-lighter wandering among the street-lights.

It was a Sunday which accounted for the absence of traffic. The road glistened. What traffic that did pass along Avenue General Leclerc, did so silently or with a strange symphony (or maybe a cacophony) of musical sounds on account of this being 2030 and the internal combustion engine being history in most major cities.  Most people these days sampled their car sounds from the internet rather in the same way that people used to download ring-tones for their phones. For sure the air was cleaner but it didn’t lift the oppressive feeling of doom. The bare trees seemed to be weeping.

A dark electric blue BRM i4 pulled up at the kerb. Or a dark blue electric BRM i4 pulled up at the kerb, take your choice. It also emanated a strange ethereal sound reducing in pitch as it came to a stop, but very dated, as if from a computer movie in the 1980s. Thomas Leadsom was in his 60s so it was either nostalgia or that he hadn’t yet mastered how to do it. He took a few moments to check that he had the right location and then looked up the nearest available parking on his screen. Naturally, his car could make all the decisions for him but he still preferred to impose his wish to park off-road. He addressed his car in a firm and authoritative voice, “Park in Parking Gambetta, it’s back across the bridge”. The car replied with a cheery “OK” and a waving emoji on the screen.

When he first bought the car in 2022, he would never have dared send it off to some parking lot, but on account of his growing fame it had been updated free of charge by BRM with new sensors and, of course, the software had been updated on a regular basis. Then two years ago, his battery was replaced with one of the new Plasform power-packs (the word “battery” by that time had a very dated feel about it). With the new power-pack, he could charge the car almost as quickly as one used to take to refill a car with gasoline, and it had a range of 300km. But many people worried about these new power-packs. After all, they still contained the same energy as a tank full of gasoline, they were physically smaller than the old lithium batteries and rapid charging put great stress on the whole system.

He reached behind his seat for a small folder of papers and eased himself out of the car. He shut the door and immediately it moved off towards its parking space, humming in an ascending scale to itself as it went. He was casually dressed, jeans and a shirt with a thick sweater and a bomber jacket to keep out the damp cold air. The Prison, Maison d’Arrêt lay towards la Cité outside the centre of the town, Thomas thought how similar in appearance it was to Wormwood Scrubs which he knew well from visiting clients. Maybe the prison featured in movies and TV series as was the case with The Scrubs. As he approached the gates to the prison, he realised, of course that numerous cameras were now plotting his progress and analysing who he was. Thomas Alvarez Lendsom, 62, British, lawyer, married with two children, lives in Hampstead, London. In the UK, ID cards had finally been accepted so the trawling of information was even easier. People realised that they had given so much about themselves in social media and online that there was really very little more that they could give away. But the research on this visitor went further. From his profile in Silicon Valley, the prison was able to create a complete picture of the man. And because he had been in all the newspapers and TV outside the law courts, le Cour d’Assises, on Friday, the prison quickly came to the conclusion that he had come to visit his client. Or “ex-client” because they had parted acrimoniously as he was led down to start his sentence and as Thomas went out to attempt to explain to the press why his client had had a “James Ratner” moment, an act of hari-kari. Norman Prensel had destroyed his case in a few short moments giving the judges an early start to their weekend, for which they were thankful because the case had already dragged on for 15 days.

Thomas had hoped to visit his client, his ex-, without anyone knowing but some hope of that. There was a small group of people outside the jail wall, some he supposed were friends or family of inmates but one or two looked suspiciously like journalists. He walked up briskly to the police officer at the gate and explained who he was and the purpose of his visit, although that was hardly necessary. It was possible that the policeman knew more about him than he knew himself. Was his wife having an affair which he was spending so much time in France? It was the hour of normal visiting and he had already checked with Norman’s family to see if they planned on visiting him.The policeman at the entrance gave Thomas an ID on a lanyard, the photo it took from their own database, and a wristband. He gave up his mobile phone.

He was led to a small room by a prison warder where he found a motley bunch of sad looking people waiting to see their loved ones (or maybe their confederates to ask where they hid the money). Thomas took a seat next to a very large woman in a floral dress. He picked up a copy of Paris Match and there at page 4 was a report on the court case, the trial of Norman Prensel, world-famous entrepreneur and bon viveur, now brought low, not by the law which his lawyer was skillfully manipulating but by a seemingly rash statement at his trial. That was why Thomas was at the jail rather than heading for home, that would have to wait. But then he doubted what would happen. Their conversation would not be direct but via an electronic link and any sound or unusual actions would immediately be picked up by the artificial intelligence. His face, his emotions would be picked up by the software. In public, face recognition was still a controversial subject, more so as it became more sophisticated. But in a prison, anything goes!

He imagined Norman being brought from his cell to the meeting room, maybe he wouldn’t want to see him and what could they talk about anyway. The weather? But, yes, Norman was happy to meet, after about 15 minutes, a warder called his name and took him down a dark corridor to the meeting room. As he opened the door, Thomas saw Norman but not as he was accustomed to seeing him. Of course, now, he was wearing a prison uniform but previously he was always impeccably dressed in a dark suit, tie and white shirt. He walked up to the screen where Norman was seated, he said “Hello” and Norman responded. Then followed a little small talk before Thomas put the big question, “Why did he do it?”. Not the crime itself but the virtual confession when Thomas had almost got him off the charges. This was the question on everyone’s lips. But he knew that Norman could not reply as it would have been picked up immediately and for sure leaked to the press. Norman looked back at him with a blank look on his face and a Gallic shrug of the shoulders. But then he smiled, this was not expected. And his smile cautiously drew Thomas’s eyes down to his hands which were clasped on the table in front of him. And then Thomas saw it. From the wrist up to the first knuckle of his right hand was a string of letters and numbers, about 12 in all. He reached in his wallet as if to consult his documents but drew out a sheet of paper and a pen and casually wrote down the string of letters. He had to write it down although he had no idea what it meant, maybe some kind of code that he could present to his clever mathematical friends in the UK. The vigilance in that room was so tight that he feared that at any moment his writing would be discovered. Norman looked back at him blankly and gave him one or two phone numbers which were obviously bogus just to camouflage the vital text.
 

Then, out of the blue, Norman said, “My penis is tiny”. Just that. Well, Thomas had never had the opportunity to judge that, either flaccid or erect. Norman, he knew was gay but he was happily married so there was no question of anything happening between them. And then he said, “You are lawyer”. Not “You are a lawyer” which would make more sense and the former was not English in any case. But he was smart enough to realise that this was also a coded message. He didn’t even risk winking his eye, he just looked blankly back across the screen and continued to chat about the weather. And so they continued, just chatting but obviously Norman had passed something important to Thomas. The time came for him to leave, they said their goodbyes and as Thomas reached the door, he looked back to see Norman surreptitiously wiping the letters from his hand, making out that he was wringing his hands in sadness. And that was the last time either of them saw each other for a number of reasons but one in particular.


Thomas retrieved his phone and escaped out into the street again, it was 5.30pm and he checked for messages. There were very many, most of which he ignored. There were several which noted that he had visited the prison and which were requesting an interview. And the crowd had certainly increased in number, and they were not all visiting friends and relatives, that was for sure. There were two large and powerful motorbikes at the kerb and several guys hanging around with expensive looking cameras. A microphone was thrust into his face, “What did he say?” He felt vulnerable without his car so he started walking briskly in the direction of the main boulevard where he had sent his car. The press pack followed and jostled him. “You had your day on Friday, leave me alone!” he cried. He called up his car and it responded, “I will pay with the disk on the windscreen”, it replied, “Don’t worry”. Somehow his own car had caught wind of the pressure he was under, he supposed it was the tone of his voice unless the car watches TV. Maybe it was, inanimate objects, all connected to the internet-of-everything have been getting uncomfortably smart. He cursed at the journalists and paparazzi in the most vulgar French he could think of and continued walking. When he reached the bridge which crossed the River Aude, he saw a familiar blue car approaching slowly as if looking out for someone. He flung the folder in behind the driver’s seat, slammed the door shut and gratefully drove away in the direction of the autoroute which would take him to Toulouse. But he had not shaken off the two motorcyclists and he also became aware of a black Mercedes which he had seen parked by the prison, He had dismissed it as obviously not being press. He couldn’t make out the registration mark but it was neither French nor British, he thought he saw a blue and yellow stripe next to the number.

After just over 10 minutes, he arrived at the A61 autoroute. Naturally the traffic was very “fluide” as the gantry signs told him, but he was still being harassed by the two motorcycles. And the Mercedes was still there as well. He tried changing lanes but apart from increasing speed which would obviously have attracted a ticket, this was the only thing he could do. This motley little convoy continued to Toulouse where the number became A62, this was his target for getting out of France and heading for home. The two motorcycles had given up, it was obvious that he was heading back to Calais so there was no point in chasing him any further. About 5km out of Toulouse, he pulled off to recharge the power-pack and visit the toilet. As he got back into the car, he remembered the coded letters that Norman had given him. He took the paper out of the wallet and sat thinking. Tiny penis, tiny, tiny. What is the clue there? And, “you are lawyer”. He wrote the words on the paper, folded it and put it in his top pocket. He would have to work that out later or during the boring hours of travel ahead. He didn’t see the Mercedes slip out of the lay-by 50m behind him.

Very soon he was passing the airport, he was tired but his spirits were lifting. He was happy to be going home. After about 10km, when he was close to the maximum of 120kph, something strange happened. There was a shock and a loud bang in the front of the car and suddenly he was upside down about 2m above the central reservation, at high speed. The car dropped rapidly to the ground onto its roof, spinning twice, in the fast lane of the opposing traffic and the collision with the camper-van was unavoidable. There was silence. All traffic stopped with the exception of a black Mercedes which slipped by unnoticed as it headed towards Calais. People jumped out of their cars and attempted to drag Thomas out of the car. He was obviously seriously hurt but, even in these electric day, people still feared a fire. They laid him on the road and within a few seconds, the power pack, punctured by the armco exploded sending fire and a plume of smoke into the night. When the medics arrived, there was very little they could do. At first, they didn’t even put him in the ambulance, it was obvious that by now he was dead.


Saturday, 28 March 2020

A life online

This leads on for my previous post about Instagram. Now, I can do only one operation per day before I am blocked for another 24 hours. I can't even join an artist who has "liked" me before getting the dreaded message about protecting the community. So today, I put up my 5 new pictures of Cadaqués and Port Lligat which I painted at the request of Josep at Ad Mundi, the gift shop in Girona Train Station. Of course, the shop is closed and I will have little opportunity to sell my cards for quite some time. And, being my first action today, the pictures have "stuck". One artist commented on my profile that the same thing happened to her when she joined and she said just to be patient. I can see that what I did was slightly different from the majority of people who join Instagram.

Well I am in no great hurry. I wanted to put some of my existing photos on Instagram, which I have now done, but my main objective was to paint with the theme of the coronavirus, so I will let the annoying algorithm at Instagram calm down a bit. It obviously thinks I am a robot of some kind. Obviously it is not a very smart algorithm because it is obvious that I am a genuine artist. But I guess they get thousands of bogus entries every day on account of it being so huge. I did write a note to them but what hope of a human actually reading it?

So where are my ideas going? As I said before, I want to paint positive images, to show the coronavirus being defeated. I have lots of ideas but one idea came to mind as I was doodling with images of weird machines producing an antidote. I have two books of pictures by two famous artists of the 20th Century, Rowland Emett and Heath Robinson. I actually joined the Rowland Emett Society in the UK a couple of years ago. I have, "The Early Morning Milk Train" by Emett and "Wonderful Contraptions and Extraordinary Inventions" by Heath Robinson, both of which I bought on Amazon. Of course, Emett went on to build many of his machines, and the trains which carried people around The Festival of Britain in 1951 were his designs.

So, one of my ideas is to paint wonderful machines to defeat the virus. But I have many other ideas. I joined Pinterst too.

My life is online now! I actually feel calmer these days. Maybe social interaction is stressful for me, I often thought so. Staying for an extra beer at the bar, and then not sleeping well. Meeting people and talking is actually an effort for me. It is enjoyable most of the the time but it doesn't come naturally. To create words, even in my own language, requires an effort of concentration and I am sure it is not like that for everyone.


As a reminder, my account at Instagram is http://www.instagram.com/steve.meza.es
 
My online name normally is steve.meza but that was already taken on Instagram, so I added the .es!

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Attempting to join Instagram

When I got back, I decided what to do next, faced with many hours at home. I am an artist now, previously an electronics engineer - I often joke about "changing the chip in my head". I thought it would be a wonderful idea to create positive images about the coronavirus in art, about defeating it rather than being trapped by it. I did a search in Google, looking for other artists with the same ideas but to no avail. I tweaked the keywords. I came across an American, David Goodsell who is a scientist but also an artist. Here is his website. He paints wonderfully detailed pictures of viruses.

https://ccsb.scripps.edu/goodsell/

I wrote to him with my ideas about bringing together artists to create positive images about the pandemic but, so far, I haven't received a reply. But I did write that, if he thought that my ideas were a little crazy, then there was no need to reply.
I went back to Google and finally found this. Exactly what I was looking for!

https://www.politico.eu/interactive/drawing-our-new-normal/

Most of the artists are professional graphic designers, I guess that Politico looked up a database. I opened up an account in Instagram and loaded the artists as contacts. Then I hit lots of problems. It is strange, I guess my brain must be wired differently. Billions of people sign up to Instagram and also Facebook without problems but I really cannot get on well with either of them. To me, they are like bossy schoolteachers. I guess I made two mistakes. One was to log in with my computer because my screen is much larger, but Instagram is really organised around the phone (although it does allow log-in from a PC). The other mistake was to start off by uploading about 10 or 11 of my paintings in order to get started. Every time I logged in with my computer, I got the same warning email message that "..someone is logging in from Girona...". But they could see that it was the same computer each time. I created a second account to test the system. After uploading my 10 pictures, later in the day, I tried uploading a further single picture. Every time, after about 10 minutes, it was removed, either by a person or by some fiendish algorithm.

This morning, I tried again. The image stayed for about an hour, a record! So I tried to edit it by writing a commentary. This was refused, but this time I received  a message saying that my account was blocked for 24 hours to prevent damage to the users of Instagram. It was a painting of a cathedral! And then the image was taken down again.

My account is at http://www.instagram.com/steve.meza.es

I always knew that I was a little weird but not that weird. For much of my professional life, I wrote software and the part that took the most time was taking account of the the person who was using the software and the mistakes they could make. It is called "error-trapping". Making software function was relatively easy if one discounted the human element. But It appears to me that there is little or no error-trapping in the software of Instagram. If you make a mistake, your only recourse is to go to Google and do a search for, "why is Instagram deleting my posts?" because one gets dumped with no message to say what went wrong. And there are very many such links!

To me, this is lazy programming. I will wait 24 hours because my project is to paint new pictures and that will take more than 24 hours. But, really... I suppose I am on a different planet. When I wrote software, it attempted to have good manners! If the user did something wrong, it always gave them a way back. But to be really honest, sometimes it was the Reset button!


Update, 27th March. I managed to upload the image of Rainy Day in Girona after the block was lifted. I tried to add a description and was immediately blocked again for 24 hours.The question now is whether the image remains (with its original caption which is simply the title of the painting). Why are they so convinced that I am a bot? Or, more to the point, why are they being so thoroughly unpleasant?

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Trapped in Fuerteventura by the Coronavirus

I guess it is about a month ago that I came on holiday here in Fuerteventura with my friend Orlinda. She had 2 weeks holiday and was very keen on coming to the Canary Islands. I looked at flights between 11th and 21st Feburary (or 10th to 20th). Even at this time there were rumblings of problems in Europe about the coronavirus, a single case in La Gomera. I made a chart showing flights to various islands, some were cheap to go but expensive to return. In the end I decided on Fuerteventura and bought the flights - outgoing on Ryanair and returning with Vueling. I booked the whole period in Caleta Fuste because I thought it would make a good central base, I had seen the resort publicised in the RENFE rail magazine but in fact it was full of English tourists. Many of the people working in the bars were English and in fact some of them only spoke English.

I wanted to add a photo of Orlinda but I can't find a decent one from the holiday.
Here she is in the Rambla in Girona.

I booked a "casita" which is the normal type of holiday residence here, a chalet. It was excellent value for money at €40 a night, but later I found casitas even cheaper. The weather was not brilliant, especially when we went to Coralejo which is right in the north of the island. The sky was cloudy with a  brisk north wind. Worst, we argued about something or other which made for an unhappy day. Things looked up when we decided to take the bus to Morro Jable in the far south of the island. When the time came to take the bus back at 3.45pm, neither of us wanted to return to windy Caleta Fuste so I looked up hotels and found Blue Sea at €60 for the night. But we were not prepared to stay the night, nether of us had our passports and I had my NIE which doesn't include a photo, so it is not a real ID. A NIE is my certificate to show that I am resident in Spain. But this was not acceptable to the rather scholl-mistressy receptionist. So she phoned the Guarda Civil. She asked us to wait for a few moments, I though that it was in order to prepare the rooms but all of a sudden, two police arrived on motor-bikes, went up to reception and then came over to speak to us. We had a pleasant conversation, I explained how we liked Morro Jable so much and finally they relented and allowed us to check-in on the strength of my NIE. A few seconds later, a police car pulled up but I guess their colleagues explained that all had been settled.

The following night, I offered to go back to Caleta Fuste to collect our essential items, incluing our passports of course and Orlinda could stay in Morro Jable if she paid for her room. I lent her €100. I guess Blue Sea was fully booked for the second night but Orlinda was busy chatting on her phone to a pension just up the road. I took the last bus back at 3.45 and when I got back, we chatted on WhatsApp. She was on the beach and very happy. Next morning I went back at 9.15, arriving around 11. Orlinda had slept very badly but it was not a surprise, the pension was very cheap! Some of the time, Blue Sea was fully booked so we ended up in a huge luxurious hotel slightly out of the centre beyond the lighthouse. Again, it did not comprise rooms but lots of small casitas on a hill. In the evening we had supper in the restaurant which was excellent. We went to the terrace at the top of Robinson Hotel and took loads of photos. I walked into the pool because it was not lit. But it was only 10cm deep so I didn't fall in, but it was a shock all the same! (You can see a photo of that pool later in this post). We spent happy times on the beach, I discovered a section of beach which was more "free" than the main section but since most tourists were German, we often saw people nude. Orlinda didn't join me. But Caleta Fuste was strictly not nude, very English!  But here is the link to my second holiday. And the second link was that, in a way, we had discovered "Colombia" but only three hours away. Maybe I could buy a small flat here. I have left out many details of our holiday because I wanted to tell you about how the coronavirus gradually took over my second visit to Fuerteventura and how I almost ended up living in the street. I am writing this section before I actually return to the Peninsula so I will write about that when I am back home which hopefully will be tomorrow. But I am getting ahead of myself.

When we returned to Girona, Orlinda went back to work and I sent €70 to a company in Italy to place an order for paper for my greetings cards but they were slow in seeing the payment and, by the time they told me to send the shipping agent, it was too late because I had booked a flight to go back to Fuerteventura on the 7th March. So I told them to hang onto the paper until I got back. But by this time the storm was brewing, especially in Italy. In a way, I was foolish to go away but I felt safe in that the Canary Islands are part of Spain, I wasn't going abroad. But little did I know how huge the crisis would become and how that the islands of Spain were effectively cast off from the Peninsula as if they were a foreign country. As you can possibly gather, I will have a long wait for that paper and in any case, I now have little opportunity to sell my cards as the shops are now closed of course.

But I have always been a little gung-ho! I had been depressed and bored for several months. I took many weeks to complete new designs for Ad Mundi, the shop in Girona Railway Station. I thought that if I went away again, I would get more inspiration. So on Saturday 7th March I went back to Fuerteventura on a cheap one-way ticket. The photo below is in Fuerteventura Beach Club in Caleta Fuste. This was the first time I wore a dress in public, it was lots of fun. Many people think that I am gay but it is not so. There is a big difference between how one feels inside and the people one is attracted to. I love women, I guess that makes me lesbian!




I spent 2 nights in Caleta Fuste before heading for my true destination, Morro Jable. I had taken a light dress to experiment with, meaning I would try wearing it in public. I took one or two photos by the pool but gradually gained courage and started walking around in it. It gave me a great sense of freedom. Those of you who know me know that a large part inside me is female. Often I wear all-female clothes but it is not obvious because they would be trousers and a top. In the summer I can wear female sandals because they fit perfectly. Obviously I never attempt to pass myself off as a woman. That is not important.



On the second day, I took the bus to Morro Jable where I had already reserved an apartment at Blue Sea. I will call it an apartment because there is a small kitchen and a living area in addition to the bedroom. I had a wonderful few days there, I went to my favourite beach every day, I went swimming. 








I took this photo as I thought it would make an interesting painting. 

Twice in the evening I went to "Sundowner" at the roof bar of Robinson wearing a dress. It is a popular event. The first time I went, when I was with Orlinda, I only had short trousers as we were not expecting to stay the night and they insisted on long trousers which I went out and bought. But no problem if I am wearing a dress, the gate-keeper let me in without hesitation! When I went with Orlinda it was later and dark and all the people were having their supper.

I met some German tourists, Robinson was 100% German-occupied I think, and they invited me back the following night. I was a little bit cheeky because after everyone had gone down to supper, I wandered into the pool area at ground level. There was music and young girls smartly dressed offering champagne and tapas. They beckoned to me to enter but of course I was not resident in the hotel. But I like music, it was great fun, so I went in. Afterwards I wandered into the restaurant. The buffet was huge and spectacular. Hehe, I was tempted for a moment..... Noo, not really, I went back to Blue Sea for my more modest supper.






But then Pedro Sanchez made the declaration of emergency and all of that stopped. The staff in the hotel wore face-masks and, of course, we could only go out to the supermarket or pharmacy. I don't use a face-mask, I have studied in detail how they can help and in a normal environment for a person who is not infected, there is little danger. The dangers as I understand it are either droplets directly from an infected person, or from surfaces where the virus can exist for quite some time. So I became very careful about keeping my distance and regularly washing my hands if I had been touching public spaces. The normal open air does not pose a risk as I understand it. In any case, now I am at home all day and go out maybe every other day.

It was 10th March that I thought that I should book a flight home. It wasn't really about the virus, I was still quite relaxed in the knowledge that I was in Spain and all the flights appeared to be normal. I booked the regular Vueling flight on Wednesday 18th March. On 14th March the State of Emergency was declared. On the 16th, Vueling cancelled my flight on 18th. It offered me 19th, this quickly changed to 21st, then to next Wednesday. But the State of Emergency didn't prohibit flights to and from the Canary Islands. So I assumed it was for economical motives. They still continued to fly to Gran Canaria. Then I booked a flight with Ryanair for Friday 20th but on the 18th, that was cancelled. As at the time of writing, I have been unable to obtain a refund or a response from Ryanair. Vueling have given me a credit note to be used later in the year if things relax a bit. Well, it will be next winter before I can travel again, for sure. (I added this later..... from home, I just found a page on the Ryanair website where I could request a refund and it accepted both my claims and I printed out the subsequent forms.)

On the morning of Thursday 19th I woke early in a panic. I was still in Morro Jable, people were leaving the hotel in droves and they were talking about closing. All the staff were wearing face masks which made the situation even more scary. I checked out at 6am and walked to the bus stop in a raging storm. But fortunately at that point it was not raining but it was sure blowing! The bus came at 6.30, there were two other passengers. The driver was a young woman but she was driving very fast and I could feel the bus being pushed around by the wind. It was dark. I connected my seat-belt. I decided to go to the airport but obviously I had no flight. Technically this was breaking the law. But I was very fortunate to do so. It was early, around 8am and the large crowds were to come later for their return flights on package tours. I sat in the airport dejected. In total, my flights had been cancelled 6 times. One couple in the hotel in Morro Jable had taken the ferry to Gran Canaria and had booked the Vueling flight from there. I though of doing the same but much later, I heard that the  Vueling flight had been cancelled. I kept my faith with Fuerteventura. 

I was wandering around the airport aimlessly watching the huge queues building at the check-ins for flights to the UK and Germany. I looked at the departure board. The only flight showing cancelled was the daily Vueling flight. And then I passed a group of young people speaking Spanish. OK, I know this is Spain but most people travelling were Brits or Germans... a few French. No flights to the Peninsula of Spain. I joined the group because I was very conscious of being alone. They had created a WhatsApp group called "Españoles sin retorno", and were obviously in the same boat as me. 


I quickly supplied my phone number. Most had either been let down by Vueling or Ryanair (in my case, both). It is not fair that an airline can simply cancel a flight with no consideration for its clients who are on an island with no alternative way to get home. Our mantra was, We want to return home. Or maybe it is the responsibility of the government. This group was my life-saver. Some of them were sleeping in the airport but I couldn't face that, so after chatting for a while and my promising to stay in touch, I headed back to Caleta Fuste to find a roof for the night. I found a hotel in Booking.com and stayed just one night. They have a super restaurant, normally full of British tourists, so I had my supper there rather than attempt to cook in the casita. Next day I went back to the airport early because the group were being interviewed on local TV and they wanted as many people there to back up our claim. Some of them had bought a huge strip of paper and a can of spray-paint for the camera. Again, technically I was not travelling home as there was no hope of a flight and I was getting very anxious. One or two people were making their own arrangements, for example going to Gran Canaria. I found a flight with Iberia Express for the following Thursday and booked that. Iberia was the only airline allowed to fly into Fuerteventura from the Peninsula. 

I went back to Caleta Fuste again and found another hotel made up of casitas which, after much pushing, agreed to rent me a casita until Thursday. I was on the point of paying for the rental when I received a phone call from the tourist office. They had organised a charter flight for Sunday at €185, was I interested? "Of course", I replied, cursing that I had so little faith and had booked the Iberia flight on Thursday. But one has to appreciate the permanent state of anxiety I had been in for the past few days, with the real threat of having no roof over my head. I rapidly changed my booking in the casita to 2 days. The Iberia flight cost me €180 and is non-refundable but they will give me a credit note for use, up to a year in the future. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a credit note for the whole of my last period of 7 days in Blue Sea which amounted to €350 which I can spend in any of their hotels in Spain. I left  in a hurry after 3 days but the credit was for 7 days. 



So I sent an email to El Corte Inglés in Puerto del Rosario as instructed by the tourist office and in return I received a link to a payment page. A few hours later I received a  form online, a bono, as my ticket. 


This was the programme recorded by the local TV station.
The group also got exposure on national TV.

The casita was very nice but one of the hot-plates in the kitchen tripped the electrical supply so my cooking possibilities were very limited. I was hungry, so I went back to the super restaurant and asked if I could eat there despite not being resident. As it happens, I left quite a generous tip the previous night and they welcomed me the second time. They had a huge buffet counter and probably threw away a lot of it after they closed. It was €18 including unlimited beer and wine. This particular evening was a real low point because at the end  of my meal, one of the waiters introduced me to two Spanish guys and a young woman. I told them about the group and the charter flight. I suggested they joined the group. I did ask in a way whether they could join but I let them anyway. Maybe I broke the protocol of WhatsApp groups, I don't know. But he was full of false news. He said that Madrid would be completely blocked (which of course was not true). He wrote various things on the group and then, before I knew it, he had left the group. So... not a nice person. I felt bad. Then the manager of the hotel came up behind me and remonstrated with me for using his precious restaurant when I was not a resident. He said that he would be liable to a fine (as would I). I said that I had asked permission. Technically he was right of course, but I wanted some decent food. So, by now, I felt doubly bad. But as I left, the waiter who I had spoken to before waved me on with a big smile. I didn't have to pay. But I slept very badly that night, all on account of the false news from this guy and feeling rather guilty about using the restaurant.

The following day, Saturday I didn't go to the airport. I went to the bank to get some cash and visited the supermarket. I had a really nice supper with wine, it was a chilled chicken curry which I heated in the microwave oven. It was rather like a good airline meal. I went to bed really early in excitement about the next day. Was I really going home? 

I am writing this last part on the high-speed train back to Girona so everything has worked out well. I arrived at the airport at about 7.30. I rescued a damsel in distress. I helped a young Italian woman who was at risk of missing the flight. She was asking people in a panic at about 9am about the link to pay for the flight! Wow, that was a little late. The group she was talking to drifted off to check in at the other end of the airport. She went to the Information desk but they did not know about it. Somehow by magic, the page appeared on her phone. But now she wasn't sure if she had enough money in her account. "I have the cash", she said. The web-page rejected her card. So we used mine and she gave me €185 in cash. She still had a lot of difficulty checking in because it was so late and they didn't have her name but, finally she got through. In fact she was taking an onward flight to Italy, I have forgotten where. But she said the same as me, there is no more secure place in the whole of Europe than Fuerteventura. She was staying in an Airbnb residence and the proprietor suggested that she stayed longer. But in the end, she came to the same conclusion as me, that we had to get out.

The flight left about 25 minutes early. Of course, when the plane arrived in Fuerteventura - it was an Iberia Express A320 - it was empty, it had come to take us home. Obviously on the plane were many people who were not part of the group, who had seen the announcement from the tourist office. I hope I would have done the same. As you can imagine, there was a huge cheer as the aircraft started rolling down the runway and there was a count-down and cheer as we touched down in Madrid.


We were all together at the back as you can see.

I had already booked a train at 4.30 but I could see in the RENFE app that there was one at 2.30. I wasted a lot of time at the airport looking for trains when I should have gone straight for the taxi rank, although the taxi fare was €30. The flight was well under 3 hours and we had left early but I didn't really know how long it would take to get to the train station of Puerta de Atocha. Finally I took a taxi and the driver flew along the motorways at high speed, obviously there was very little traffic. I hesitated changing my ticket on my phone till I was sure we would make it, which we did with 10 minutes to spare. So, that is where I am now, somewhere between Zarragoza and Barcelona, due to arrive in Girona at 6.15.

 I added some photos at home and now it is published!