Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Colin The Caterpillar, Sapphire, Andre and Me



I had walked through the scanner without causing a beep but I knew it wasn’t a good sign when I saw that my rucksack was reversed back through the Airport Security X Ray machine and the girl had called her supervisor “ Did you pack your case yourself Sir” she asked with an accusing stare, I can explain “Its a Colin the Caterpillar Cake from Marks and Spencer’s” for my Girlfriends, Daughters 21st Birthday Party in Prague, It wasnt a good explanation and I doubt I could have raised anymore eyebrows if I had said it was a bomb.

I'd had my reservations when I was packing it in my hand luggage, my girlfriend had told me that you could transport food between the UK and Prague (coincidently, she couldn’t fit it in her case) I had read the list of ingredients and satisfied myself that it didnt contain any Marzipan which is what Semtex smells like so I thought I would be OK, unfortunately Colin the Caterpillar portrayed a rather sinister outline on the X Ray Machine, the Security staff made me empty my bag and then they swabbed the inside of it to satisfy themselves that there had been no explosives in it, Colin was taken to the Supervisor for further examination.
We were on route to Prague where my girlfriends Daughter Rebecca is studying, It was her 21st Birthday and ever since she was a little girl she'd had a Colin the Caterpillar even though this year she would be getting the key to the door it had become tradition, it was also a tradition (for me) that when the cake was cut I would do my best ventriloquism and make noises like Colin had just been stabbed and was in pain, (Ok so Alison was right I havent grown up !) Rebecca was upset that the cake was not available in the Czech Marks and Spencer's, but despite my concerns her Mother had still decided the tradition would be continued so en route to the Airport we drove miles out of our way to get Colin from Preston M & S and would transport it from England.


Those of you who know me will also know that I don’t particularly like children, however  Rebecca was an exception and she had won me over 15 years ago when she was just 6, I am pretty certain that her Mother never considered me as ideal boyfriend or surrogate Father material, I hadnt come with glowing references from previous Girlfriends and apparently she thought I was an arrogant shit who had never grown up and assumed that I would be a bad influence on her Children if they were ever to meet me, on the other hand she must have also thought that I was fun to go out with and OK to practice on till she met someone decent. She had imposed a kind curfew on my visiting hours I wasn’t allowed to go round to her house until the kids had done their homework and were in bed fast asleep, and she had tidied the house, apart from the photographs dotted around the house there was very little evidence she had children, the fact that she didnt want to introduce me didnt do much for my ego but I was working long hours in the Motor Trade so the arrangement suited me.

Alison is a great cook and one particular night she had invited me for a home cooked meal, we had known each other for a few months and she was in her kitchen toiling over a hot stove, I never understood why she thought I was arrogant though looking back one of my favourite jokes at the time was "Why do women have smaller feet than Men? so they can get nearer the sink!" and despite all the Male TV Chefs  I did consider cooking to be Women’s work so I had left her to it and was sitting in the front room with a glass of wine when the door slowly opened, it was too late for me to hide and in walked Rebecca clutching her Teddy Bear, to my surprise she didn’t scream she came and sat down right next to me, before long we were both chuckling away at the antics of the Red Dwarf crew who were on TV, Rebecca was 6 years old but going on 25.

I must confess that I was perplexed by her total lack of surprise when confronted with a strange man in their front room, I began thinking that It could be a regular occurrence and that I was “Uncle Tuesday” in a long list of Alisons suitors, but by the time my Dinner was ready I had forged a Parental like bond with Rebecca and she had felt so comfortable in my presence that when she had gotten tired of interogating me she had cuddled up and fallen fast asleep on my knee ever since that moment I was under her spell and she has been able to twist me round her little finger, from then on I was also allowed to go round to the house earlier. I learned more from trying to help Bex with her Homework than I did when I was at school

This Birthday Cake incident wasn’t the first tricky situation that Rebecca had gotten me into over the years and while I waited to learn the fate of Colin the Caterpillar, would he be returned to me to continue our journey to Prague, would the Security staff keep him and eat him later or would I be arrested and Colin blown up in a controlled explosion?  my mind began to wander and i started to reminisce about just one of the many other times Bex had indirectly contributed to my rapidly greying hair.

In the early days of my relationship with her Mum I had to leave their house like a Ninja before Rebecca woke up and as I crept down the stairs at 6.00 am one morning quietly closing the front door behind me I heard a tapping on the upstairs window, I looked up and there was Rebecca waving at me with a big smile on her face, I had been well and truly busted! But at least I would also be able to have a lie in from then on.

Shortly after Rebecca had learned of my existence her Mum had booked a holiday to Spain, Alison had chosen a lovely family resort so that the facilities and catering were nice for us, and there would be plenty of activities to keep Rebecca occupied, she would be able to meet new friends and play till her heart was content. It was my Birthday shortly before we went away and Rebecca had used her pocket money to buy me 2 friend ship bands this went even further to cement the bond I felt for her. I still have have the bands and have carried them with me on every holiday I have been on since, I still get a lump in my throat when I'm packing my suitcase and I see them and remember the time she gave them to me.

The hotel we were going to had also been chosen by the people who were in charge of a group of teenagers, who had histories of disruptive behaviour, non conformance, violence, and trouble making, the teenagers must have managed to go for 20 minutes without mugging someone and their do-gooder behavioural therapy counsellors had decided to reward them by taking them on Holiday. I realise that they are entitled to go on holiday too but to take them to a family resort was just asking for trouble and they had no right to spoil other peoples enjoyment which they seemed intent on doing, Andre was the leader of the troubled teens gang and unbeknown to me Andre and I were now on a collision course this was going to be the holiday from hell.

The first time I became aware of Andre and his gang of yobs was when I was relaxing on a sun lounger, Rebecca hadn’t wanted to join in the Hotels “Groovy Gang” Children’s club she didnt want to play until her heart was content, seemingly she wanted to play till my heart gave out. All morning without a respite we had played “Torpedo’s”  I was the launcher she was the torpedo and I had to push her through the water with all my might and see if her momentum would carry her to the other side of the pool, I was so knackered that eventually I had needed to lie down.

Its not just Kids that I'm not keen on I don’t particularly like other holiday makers either, Over the years I have perfected a way that makes it clear to others that I don’t want to be bothered, chat or tell them where I’ve come from and how long I’m staying for, Many decades ago when I realised that I that I was antisocial I had bought a Cowboy hat  I  pull the brim down to my nose, people think I am asleep and they leave me alone but I can actually see everything that is going on through the perforations in the leather, My girlfriend calls it my “Scan Mode” I'm sure she thought It was perhaps my way of eyeing up the Totty but it was actually my over protective nature which doesn’t have an off switch or a snooze button and I was watching Rebecca like a hawk whilst pretending to be asleep to my fellow holidaymakers.

I was still blissfully unaware that there was also a party of thugs staying at the hotel but there were 2 lads in the pool they were a lot bigger than the rest they were making a nuisance of themselves and they had caught my attention, one in particular had a truly evil face that I would never tire of punching and I somehow knew that sooner or later they would get up to no good, it wasn’t long before my suspicions were confirmed, they were playing catch with a tennis ball, they looked innocent enough at first until one of them threw it and the lad who I would later discover was called “Andre”  failed to catch it, the ball missed Rebecca by a few feet, but as I watched I could see an idea dawning on Andre’s face and I knew what he was thinking, as his mate went to retrieve the ball I slipped into the pool and swam underwater surfacing directly behind Andre.

I was just in time to hear him say to his Co Conspirator “We’ll move round the pool so that I’m in front of that girl, You throw the ball as hard as you can at her and I will pretend I was trying to catch it but couldn’t and it hit her by accident”.  Rebecca was tiny and being hit by a wet tennis ball thrown at full force could have seriously hurt her, these youths were scum bags and although I was tempted to give Andre his very own torpedo ride with my fist, I restrained myself and slapped him on the shoulder instead, he nearly jumped out of his skin, I spoke firmly but menacingly trying my best not to create a scene and frighten the other children in the pool but to make my intentions clear and not open to misinterpretation “If that ball goes within 50 feet of her, you 2 will not get out of this swimming pool alive, Do you understand? “ WELL DO YOU? I was hoping that would be the end of the matter but sadly it wasn’t.

As we were walking through the local town that night Rebecca saw an inflatable toy in a shop window, it was a blow up Sea Lion which was big enough for a child to sit on, Rebecca fluttered her eyes at me “I’d really like that” she said and the next thing I knew I was paying for it, Rebecca, “Sapphire” as it was to be christened, and I spent the whole of the next morning in the pool, she sat on it and I had to swim underwater and try to tip her up, I managed to do it on a couple of occasions, but on a couple more Rebecca saw me coming and managed to repel my attack by kicking wildly with her feet to paddle away, sometimes accidently connecting with my skull, on another occasion a French Woman who hadn’t realised that it was a game slapped me across the face for knocking Rebecca off Sapphire.


When you provoke an attack from the French you know its time to quit, I decided that the game had become too dangerous for me and I retired to the relative safety of my sun lounger to recover, although I was still slightly dazed by the French Woman’s formidable slap I continued to scan for Andre through my observation hat, He emerged from the Hotel and I watched his every move as he edged round the perimeter of the pool I knew he had clocked me and he had also seen Rebecca playing on Sapphire in the corner of the pool, again I could tell by his body language that he was up to “Mischief” he had a few trial runs seemingly to build up courage or to bait me into confronting him, when he was satisfied that I must be asleep he got braver and moved in closer to Rebecca, as he got within a few feet he reached into his pocket and pulled out an object which I saw glint in the sun, Rebecca saw it too she screamed and recoiled in horror hugging her beloved Sapphire the Sea Lion and protecting it from Andre.

Andre turned back to look at me to make sure that Rebeccas scream hadnt awoken me from my slumber and I was still “Fast Asleep” but it wasn’t his lucky day and I was already hurdling the  sun loungers and deck chairs which covered the space between me and him.

He had managed to put the object back in his pocket when I crashed into him sending him sprawling into a wall, I had his arm twisted behind his back with my left hand on his throat before he could recover, I could see the hate in his eyes as he stared back defiantly, The Red Mist had well and truly descended on me I wasn’t in control and I shouted “What was that in your hand” at the top of my voice, He Said it was nothing, Forcing his face into the wall, and making sure that his arm would break if he tried to move I went to Pat him down, One of the Holiday Makers from behind me said “It was a Knife, he Had a Knife !” My Girlfriend was behind me now trying to calm me down, she was telling me to let him go but she hadnt seen what happened if she had, she would have had him by the throat too.

Andre’s Do-gooder counsellor who wasnt fit to be in charge of them, had been alerted and he had arrived on the scene demanding to know why I had one of his Young Offenders in a Half Nelson and what all the commotion was about. I retrieved the Knife from Andre’s pocket and held it up for everyone to see, then I spun him round, all reason had gone from my mind, and I forced him into the wall again, My Face was touching his and was contorted with rage as I screamed at him “ If I see you come anywhere near her again I swear I will  Fu***** Kill You”, throttling him slightly to emphasise that hed worked on my last nerve and that I wasnt kidding, Andre then got more of a “Surface to Air Missile Ride” as I threw him  towards his counsellor and repeated my oath , “As for You If you want to go home with everyone you came here with, you better keep your mob under control and keep them well away from me and my “Family” that was the first time I had used that word to describe me Alison and Rebecca collectively.

As I turned to walk back to my sun lounger  I became aware that everyone round the pool was watching me, I'm pretty sure that there was even a ripple of applause, apparently Andre had been making a nuisance of himself since his arrival and had been terrorising some of the other guests who were either older than me and couldnt fight back or didn’t have as short a fuse as I had,  one of them said to me “You should have killed him, he had it coming”

My heart was pounding and I couldn’t get to sleep that night, I knew from now on I couldn’t let my guard down even for a second, the next morning at Breakfast I had tried to take Rebecca's mind off the incident by tearing Croissants in half, putting them between my knuckles and pretending that I was turning into a Werewolf, as i remember this was much to Alisons disgust and I got a lecture about playing with my food, she was right about the bad influence thing too!

We had decided to try not to inflame the situation any further and were just going to show our faces by the pool and then walk into town avoiding any further confrontation, but as soon as we walked out Andre’s counsellor came rushing over, It was clear that he had been waiting for us and I could tell he was studying my face looking for any give away signs that I already knew what he was about to tell us  “Andre got jumped last night and  got badly beaten up, he’s in Hospital” he blurted out. “Good, It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, if you find out who did it let me know as I would like to buy them a drink” I replied (Alison was right I was arrogant, and we discovered another one of my shortfalls, I wasnt very good at feigning sympathy either )

As soon as the councillor was out of earshot Rebecca and Alison both turned to me and said in unison “Well was it you ?”, I tried to make light of it by saying, “of course it wasn’t me,  he’s still alive isn’t he” but I knew that Andre had about 200 witnesses round the pool who had seen and heard me threaten to kill him, I doubted that any of them would help the Police with their enquiries but you never can tell so I spent the next few days on Tenterhooks  “ Ultra Scan Mode Engaged” waiting for reprisals from the rest of Andre’s gang or to be arrested and taken in for questioning by the Spanish Cops.

Neither Andre or the Police bothered us for the rest of the holiday and i breathed a sigh of releif when I was convinced that our plane was past the point of no return on the way home but when Rebecca related the "Andre" incident to her new boyfriend the other day as we all celebrated her Birthday it became quite apparent that she and her Mum are still not totally convinced of my innocence, they wouldn’t have made good witnesses for the defence, and I think I  was very lucky not to have been starring in an episode of “Banged Up Abroad”

Was there a bright side to my story? hopefully for One thing, Rebecca’s new boyfriend will think twice before doing anything that may upset her in the future, which would then in turn upset me. :-)

Barrie Crampton

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