Must’ve been August 1990 or thereabouts when Lord Tupelo descended upon me again for his 2nd or 3rd writing holiday. I was living in a small village about 15 miles out of Barcelona. It was nice. Up in the forested hills. I’d just bought my first car in Spain – a SEAT 131 Supermirafiori Luxurious in its day.
Perhaps it was having the wheels put us in mind of travel. However, I felt the likelihood of the Seat getting us all the way to Tarragona, let alone Andalusia and beyond, was doubtful. So, we went by bus. An all night drive found us in the sunny south of Spain, hungry and creased but full of that adrenalin rush you always get when approaching an unknown frontier. We lurched off the bus and took the ferry from Algeciras to Ceuta. Ceuta, although located on the continent of Africa is in fact one half of the remains of the ex-Spanish Saharan Empire of bygone Imperial days (The other is Melilla). Anyway, though geographically speaking we were in Africa, politically we were still in Spain. We bought ourselves some Dirhams and struck out on foot for the border.
We got to the Spanish side of the border fence. The Guardia civil let us through with hardly a glance. We hurried across no-man’s land, making for the little kiosks containing the Moroccan border control persons. Just behind them was another fence. Beyond that fence was a swirling mass of people, many of them already yelling and gesticulating to attract our attention. Tupelo went first. The cop checked his passport, stamped the entry visa, and he went through and trod real African sand and was immidiately mobbed by a throng of Moroccans all intent on being his friend. So, it was my turn. I presented my passport to the same cop. He looked at it and seemed unhappy. He gave it back. No you entry visa. I tried to elicit the reason for his refusal to stamp my passport but he only seemed to get agitated. You GO! It was obvious he wasn’t going to let me into the country. I yelled my predicament to Tupelo on the other side of the fence there and after some what looked like strenuous haggling the Moroccan police annulled his 30 minute old entry visa and let him back into Spain.
Back in Algeciras I went to the Moroccan Consulate to complain. The man who attended me gazed vacantly into space until I’d finished. He then shrugged his shoulders. I understood. Such is life.
So, we went to Tarifa