Broken bone

***Thanks to the bloke for writing this down for me through the power of dictation. Hopefully I'll be back in action soon

It was one of the most dramatic things I can remember happening when I was a child. And I can still remember the sound Carl's leg made when he smacked into the wall, scrambling over to the other side in a flurry of arms and legs. Me and his little sister Emma just stood and stared, mouths gaping, like a couple of kids watching a really good fireworks display. One minute he was running, the next he was jumping. But he didn't quite make it. His shin knew all about it.

It wasn't till he started screaming in pain that we started to run towards him. Past the wall and there he was, rolling around the floor and clutching his leg, face in a horrible grimace. Just like a football player trying to get a free kick out of the ref, but this time for real.

"Get mum. Hurry up," he instructed. So we took off running again. I was taller and faster, so Emma ate my dust. I was the one to deliver the important message: "Carl fell over trying to jump the wall up by the Spar. He's hurt his leg. He wants you to come."

By the time we'd got back there, there was already an ambulance. The man from the pizza shop had called. Looks like he's got a broken leg, they told us. We need to take him to hospital. I snuck a look inside the ambulance, at all the tubes and wires and just stuff. Wow, this is like something that only happens on telly, I thought. It was even cooler than when a boy got run over in front of our house because I actually knew Carl, and I got to see into the ambulance.

He came home much later with a plaster cast on his leg which we all signed. I wonder if I'll ever break a bone, I thought, as I drew a big swirly pattern around my name.

Well, I finally did, 20 or so years later. And what an anticlimax. There was no ride in an ambulance, no accident, no drama. I went to the hospital finally as an afterthought, five days later. A tiny bone in my wrist is broken, somewhere close to my thumb. And I'm not even sure how I did it. I think I bumped it sometime on holiday, then crunched it bending my hand too far backwards during a yoga move.

Now, with a plaster cast from my thumb to my elbow, I've entered the realm of the one-armed man. I can't do up my shoes, chop an onion, or get my metro ticket out of its plastic wallet. Typing one handed, I feel like I'm approaching carpal tunnel syndrome at the speed of light. And the plaster feels like it's slowly shrinking. Constricting round my arm like a python squeezing the life out of it's prey. I'm even too old to have anyone sign it, so where's the fun in all this?

But then again I know I'm going to get my left arm back. Not like the girl I saw at the zebra crossing. Her arm, hanging down from her sleeveless denim shirt, stopped at the elbow. As we stood on opposite sides of the road waiting to cross and go about our days, she saw me. Took in my arm in a sling, and gave me a half smile.

What was she thinking? You think you've got it bad but you haven't got a clue? Or was she wondering if I was sympathising with her because of my predicament. And how did that make her feel?

The green man appeared and she went on her way, probably forgot all about me. But I remember her sometimes when I can't manage to do the everyday things I took for granted with two working hands. What would this be like if it was permanent? I really hope I never ever find out.



Some days are worse than others. That's the way it's got to be. They can't all be ten out of ten for fun. Like Christmas or the last day of the school term, the day you finally rode your bike without stabilizers, or even just one brightened with a nice detail like the delivery of a crop of new movies fresh from Amazon.

Those are the gems. But some of them are just plain crap. And nothing takes the Oscar for downright rubbishness like the first day back at work after your summer holiday.

When the alarm goes off at 7am, first you don't remember where you are. Then you do, and the dread sinks in like paintbrush colour into the water jar of despair.

This is an outrage, you think. It's still dark outside. Just a day ago at this exact moment in time, I woke up, took a piss, then went back to sleep for another four hours.

Marbella to me is heaven on earth. You go from your bed to the pool – via breakfast – then to Las Sardinales for lunch. Eating coquinas or on an extra special day Arroz con bogavante (Rice with lobster) which the bloke manages to get down his front and over half the pristine white tablecloth. All of this with the sea breeze in your face and the thick sound of the waves lapping gently on the shore.

Then it's back home for a siesta, movie, more pool action, or if you're feeling extra energetic – a trip 400 metres down the road to the beach. After the sun has set – if you're lucky making a pink and purple mess of the sky – it's either a nice dinner at home, swapping stories with the family – or one out, where you might get to try something completely new, like rabo de toro (bulls tail) And this deserves a blog all to itself!

Repeat this sequence on every day of your holiday. Does it get boring? Not for me, and not in this lifetime.

And it's all just a memory when you rip yourself from your womb-like bed come Monday morning. The clinking of glasses around a round table by candlelight. The smell of la dama de noche in the garden while you dangle your legs over the wicker furniature and loose yourself in a book. The warm soft skin of the bloke's little nephew as he gives you a hug at bedtime.

Gone gone gone.

And in the real world your morning tea is too hot, the radio too loud. Your key feels alien when you turn it to leave the house. Your beloved little dog rubs your nerves up with sandpaper when she lingers too far behind.

The bus driver's: "buenas dias" is loaded with fakeness. The air con is on too strong and everything is slightly wrong, tiled 30 degrees off centre. The final stretch of pavement to those glass double doors of the office feels like a walk towards the GCSE maths classroom.

It's all, one, big, laboured, sigh.

But really, it's not that bad is it? Well not for me anyway. I have no business complaining really.
"Welcome back," says my boss. "How was it?"
"Oh it was great. Amazing, in fact. I can't believe it's over now, though."
"Ah come on, It's hardly a big chore, is it," he says raising his palms upward and outward. "Imagine if you had to go back to England"

Mood lifts by 50 feet immediately. He's right. My "back in real life" scenario is not rain, cold, sky to floor grey concrete and a job I hate. Post holiday blues have no place in my heart or my head. I need to remember that.


The Spanish crusaders (five drunk Spaniards)

A crash in the bathroom wrenches me from sleep. Groggy-eyed, I reach for my mobile and check out the time: 7.40am. Brilliant. "I dropped it," says the bloke - emerging from the bathroom, swaying, with pieces of the porcelain soap dish spilling from his fingers.

How the hell did he manage that? It was glued to the wall!

I groan and pull the covers over my head. This is not one of those Saturday mornings he will spring out of bed and go fishing. He's just on his way to collapse into a rum-induced coma after a night out with the Spanish crusaders.

Most people who meet my boyfriend for the first time probably don't know what to make of him. He's a bit of a strong character whose mouth moves a gear ahead of his brain. And he likes a drink or ten, after which he turns into a firing on all cylinders pub hobgoblin. But then if you think that's hard going, god you should see him when he gets together with his friends.

They're all at least five years older than him, though you'd never know it. In fact by their behavior you'd be hard pressed to pin an age on any of them. Their friendship goes back to the Eighties, when they took the bloke under their wing and let him hang about with the older kids cos he used to swap computer games with one of their gang.

The most of them are there when we rock up to el Maison del Puerto at about 10pm. I was hoping at least one other wife or girlfriend would be there, but no, it's just the boys. Oh and me. Sticking out like a sore thumb and also wearing a dress, just to make the difference even more obvious.

There's el Gordo (fatty) who "isn't allowed out that much any more" since his wife had a kid. He's not fat at all since he got seriously into rock climbing, but the name stuck like a wellie in the mud. He's like a big brother to the bloke, who always listens to his advice.

A few feet above the rest is el Largo (the Large). I've never seen a man so tall - especially a Spaniard, which I usually pip in the height department. He talks so fast that I find him impossible to understand most of the time. Though I've never spoken to him about it he has an unusual job - he is a creative responsible for coming up for ideas for TV commercials.

It's curious, I've never spoken to any of them about their careers - I don't know what most of them do. The conversation here is just not about all that 'real life' boring stuff. I do know that Luisito (little Luis) runs a bar, though. at the moment he has longish hair and a beard but I don't know how long that'll last. He's dyed his hair pink in the past, and one time he wet shaved his hair off completely for a friend's wedding. I was talking to him for ten minutes before I realized who he was.

The last one here this evening is Miguelito (little Miguel). He's obsessed with football (He's the one who took me to el Classico not that long ago).

Together they seem like a herd of characters from a Almodovar film, all trying to be heard at once, and gesticulating wildly. (Bloke says: "You have to scream to be heard in this group" and don't I know it)

Amazingly, the fist hour of the night (and perhaps more) is taken up by bitching. Bitching! like a group of old abuelas (grandmothers) About how they weren't treated right at one bar or another, how another one serves garrafon (fake alcohol) About the correct etiquette of how to treat your friends if you own a bars.

Alcohol is a reoccurring theme. Would you think it's possible to talk about whisky for 30 minutes solid? Well it is. And not only that, these boys can really put it away. i thought I'd known big drinkers in my time but nothing compares to this group. In the two or so hours we're stood having tapas the bill lists 12 beers and 24 copas.

And they're truly eye watering measures, which keep getting bigger as the night goes on. Gordo is drinking neat whisky - in the final drink at this bar his measure reaches the top of the glass.

By the time we leave El Maison the barmen are crying with laughter at the bloke's imitation of the local San Martin accent: "Que paha tio?" And Miguel is doing football-style commentary of the barmen clearing up for the evening. Everyone apart from the bloke - who amazingly quit smoking two weeks ago - is chuffing on cigars, filling the bar with acrid smoke.

Before we leave, Largo tells me in his broken English that having a baby doesn't need to change your life. You can still to go out, you can still have fun. You can still go on holiday. His girlfriend had a baby three weeks ago and he certainly still looks like he's having fun. He admits his other half is staying home with the new arrival at the moment, but assures me that as soon as she feels up to going out with her friends he'll be happy to stay in with the baby. Sounds like a fair enough deal.

At that point I leave them, going home while they head off into Pelayos to tear up the town. Definitely five men on a mission.

When the bloke gets up the next afternoon he has to ring the others to piece together the night before. At least there were no fights this time. Two weekends ago the bloke got slapped in the face after he grabbed a girl by the arm to bring her to talk to Luisito. He thought this girl had been making eyes at Luis all night. But it had been another girl - this one had a boyfriend, who did the slapping. It was all smoothed over in the end though - and for some reason the bloke hugged the guy who had slapped him. He spent the next day beating himself up over it though.

Oh and the best thing was that Luisito was oblivious to the whole thing. "That's the last time I try and help him get a girlfriend," says the bloke afterwards.

What the bloke can remember is falling straight backwards, flat on his back, Charlie Chaplin style in the middle of a bar. And no-one coming to see if he was all right afterwards, apart from Luisito. "At least you didn't spill the drinks though," Luis tells him the next day.

And they can remember jumping over the chairs in their local bar 'If', and the other "normal" people sitting outside the bar waiting for them to leave before they came in.

The bloke apparently left the bar at 6.30am but didn't get home till a good hour later. Apparently Miguelito had to talk him out of going swimming in the lake.

Poor Gordo seems to have come off the worst, though. After telling the rest of the group to take it easy he ended up in the worst state, and has hurt his hand and wrist, though doesn't know how. The next day he has to go to A&E and ends up with a plaster cast, going all the way up to his elbow.

"Oh dear," says the bloke. "I don't think we'll be seeing him out for a while." I think he could be right.

I'm amazed they've got home in one piece. And i'm even more amazed, that the next day we all meet up again to go over the night's events (with the women in tow this time) they're all sitting round sipping on tinto de veranos, and not one of them has even the a sniff of a hangover. How is that possible? how is that fair?

Must be something in the Spanish blood. Either that or they've got livers of steel.


Things I like part five - Daniella

With Daniella it was love at first sight. Which sounds ridiculous, but it's true.

Long before the bloke and I got back together he would send me the occasional email telling me bits about his life. And I would do the same. But of course it was only the good parts - the bits that made me sound extra fun and just that little bit wild.

After all you don't want to tell the person who once made your stomach tie up in knots (and still did a little) about your moments of self doubt. The times when you really scratched your head and looked at the years stretching off ahead, wondering where they would take you.

One of these emails came with a picture attachment. "I've got a cocker Spaniard," wrote the bloke. "Take a look at my bitch Daniella."

After I'd had a little chortle to myself about the Spaniard/Spaniel confusion I opened the attachment. The bloke's brown eyes hit me like a brick. But before I could start to dwell to much on the ghost of relationships past, I looked at what he was holding in his arms - the cutest white little dog I'd ever seen.

After I'd decided that she seemed to be smiling, I stopped to check out the bloke's messy Seventies-style kitchen. Then I started to think about who would have taken the picture. Not for one minute did I ever think that I would one day make dinner in that kitchen. That I would effectively walk right into that photo.

But I did, and Daniella was part of the bargain. All of a sudden I was part of a ready made family of three. Constantly picking white hairs off my clothes, out of my shoes, and even out of my own hair.

By rights, she should have hated me, an intruder stealing away attention. Because of me she was instantly demoted from sleeping in the bed to her own basket on the floor, and was banished from the furniture. But she didn't.

Maybe it was because I took her on nice long walks, unlike her master. Or maybe it was because I made said master happy just by being around. Or maybe it's because - for all I love her - she's really not that bright and couldn't connect my arrival to her new rules.

There were new rules for all of us, after all. I couldn't play the radio really loud in the morning - you can't really do that in a duplex apartment to your poor sleeping partner at 5.30am. He couldn't play the TV really loud till the early hours of the morning - you can't really do that in a duplex your partner who needs to get up at 5.30am.

Deep fat fried anything wasn't on my menu. Salad wasn't on his. We found a middle ground - as eventually did, both habitually and culturally I think. And Daniella was there through all of it.

I like her for this and more. How she barks in her sleep when she'd never dare do that in real life. For the way she'll bustle happily up to any living creature she finds in the street - where it's a rotweiller or an angry mangy cat. How she's so loving with the bloke's nephews, even when they pull her ears and poke her in the eyes.

There is nothing bad about my dog and all the memories I have connected with her are good ones. How many things or people can you say that about?