Most of the Deadly Sins
The idea of spending two weeks of the Costa del Sol with three friends sharing my passion for bridge sounded delightful. Of similar age, I assumed that we would get along and that it would be a glorious fortnight of shopping, suntans, smiles and slams.
It didn't take long for me to change my mind. In fact before we left the airport at Malaga the tension had already set in. (My friends agreed to let me write this story, but only if I changed their names.) Stella, our hostess who owned the two week time share in Calhonda, had also planned on driving the hire car we were renting for the period but she specified that she was only happy driving a small car, like her Polo at home. Hilary, our only other insured driver had ordered the car, thinking that with four lots of luggage, big was beautiful. When we got to the car rental section of the airport, the conversation went something like this:
“That's huge. I can't drive that. I won't drive that.”
“We need it for our comfort and luggage space.”
“You can drive it then. I won't be driving it at all.”
“I'm sure you'll change your mind later.”
“I won't and you will have to drive everywhere.”
“I won't go anywhere I don't want to go, and I have come for the sun, Sunshine.”
“You chose it, you drive, and we can walk or take the bus while we're there.”
“All right, Sunshine, somebody has to drive it so I guess it will have to be me.”
So we settled in our luxurious car (which was returned at the end with half a tank of the original petrol which cost 70 euros) and with all our luggage stowed with space to spare. The first hurdle was trying to find the way out of the car park. After three loops, and having to wait while a car with a clapped out clutch was removed along with its dreadful stink, we finally found the exit and immediately took the wrong turn. Luckily a policeman allowed us to carry on down the wrong road until we found the right one. From then on, each turn was wrong. Stella, who was suppose to be the guide, shouted left and right but often in the wrong order or too late and “that way” which Hilary didn't feel was much help at all since she had her eyes on the road, not her neighbour's finger. We did get on a road going in the right direction, but it was the wrong road as far as Stella was concerned. Her directions and the way she had travelled on her previous 15 years at her time share said we should be on a different road. Hilary said, “What does it matter as long as we get to the same place in the end?”
“I don't want to go through the main streets of all these little coastal towns. I want to go on the motorway.”
“Is Calhonda on the coast?”
“So if we continue on the coast road, will we run into it?”
“So what's the problem, Sunshine?”
“The problem, Luv, is that it's not the right road!!”
Eventually after several false tries and even more emergency stops, we found the right road, and of course it did merge with the coast road, so Hilary was right, and it didn't matter at all. We took an hour doing what would have taken half an hour if we had gone the right way in the first place. But not a big deal, right?
“Never again. Never again.”
The apartment was not ready for us to take over until 5, so having time to kill, and a hunger upon us (we'd been up since 4) we made for the café nearest the office.
We agree (for probably the first and only time) on having tuna sandwiches with chips, salad and white wine (Daphne by this time had sloped off to the bar to watch the football match (Liverpool won) but we made sure she had her share of the food and drink.
The apartment was very pleasant and adequate to our needs. I'm afraid the expression when I saw the huge room with the double bed which was to the home of Hilary said quite a lot about how I felt when I realised that I would be sleeping on the couch in the living area.
But Hilary generously offered to let me have the room for the second half of our stay. (She later bitterly regretted her offer as she didn't get much sleep for the second week.) Daphne and Stella shared the twin bedded room, and for the most part got along.
We went out to eat that first evening, to a restaurant recommended by Stella, across the road and away from the local alley of eating places which seemed mostly to be served by men with tattoos and string vests. Again the meal was quite a success, but the bill was far greater than anticipated, and it was quite a worry to me to realise that our food and drink for the first day (shared kitty) had almost wiped out half the money I had brought with me.
So with the others reluctant agreement, we went shopping at the supermarket the next day, and I agreed to be cook for the fortnight, although in the end some of the others did do some of the cooking.
“We need a case of red wine.”
“I only drink white.”
“I only drink sweet white.”
“Yuck, I couldn't possibly drink that.”
“We need to get three six packs of beer.”
“I don't drink beer.”
“That doesn't matter, Sunshine, because I do.”
“You picked up UHT milk. I won't drink that.”
“It does for me at home.”
“It doesn't do for me anywhere. I will only drink fresh.”
“Let's get sliced cheese – easier for sandwiches.”
“No way will I eat sliced cheese."
“I want soft blue cheese.”
“I want mild cheddar.”
“I want soft sliced bread.”
“I want hard crusty bread with seeds."
"Let's get soft margarine, as it spreads so much easier.”
“I will only use butter.”
On and on it went. So in the end we bought something to please everyone and in the end pleased no one. Two weeks later we left behind four cans of beer, two bottles of vinegar – nearly full (balsmaic and white malt) yoghurts, half an onion, ¾ pack of butter, a whole lemon, lots of bits of hard bread, and half a jar of pate. My friends for some reason, thought the maids would be please at these leftovers which they would be able to claim in lieu of a tip. I think there's a sin in there somewhere, but can't really think where to place it.
On the first morning (I got up early and had three cups of coffee on the patio watching the mist rise from the sea before the others got up) I came up with idea of trying to see how we did on the seven deadly sins. The others though it would be fun as well, and we quickly decided that we had already sinned quite a lot.
The evening before, after our huge meal out, we had sat down for three rounds of Chicago bridge and having had three bottle of wine already that day opened another and having had two large meals, opened both the cashews and the peanuts and scoffed the lot. Sure that was gluttony by anybody's reckoning.
Two of our group had firm intentions of spending every sunny hour worshipping the sun at the pool, interspersed with the odd swim (for the sake of exercise and good health). On my reckoning, that was sloth. Those of us who were not sunworshippers got our exercise walking along the beaches to the next villages. Maybe as a result of not having as much sun as the others, we were somewhat envious, as their tans deepened and they look very healthy indeed. More than one of us envied Hilary's long brown legs which had somehow escaped the problems of veins (walking up and down the hills of home as a child, she said.) Some of us also envied the others' size 12 figures especially when we spent our third day there shopping.
I needed to buy a suit to wear to an August very posh wedding in Scotland. So my friends offered to guide me. But the saleswoman would not even let me try on some of my items of choice, “Not your size, Ducky,” she said, although she was several sizes bigger than me and I am very good with a sewing machine and scissors and regularly buy anything which I consider a bargin between a size 12 and 16 and alter it accordingly. My friends however, tried on the size 12's that I would have liked to buy – and showed me what the clothes would have looked like if I had not managed somehow to accumulate my somewhat larger girth. Pride from them, envy from me.
“Here try on this lavender outfit.”
“I don't like lavender.”
“The colour suits you. You will see it will take off 10 years and 20 pounds.”
“I don't like lavender.”
“There you see. It suits you perfectly.”
“I don't like it.”
“Well, if you don't want my advice, don't ask for it.”
But I did buy a suit – brick red and a great bargain. Not quite such a bargain when I got it into the outside light and saw it had a long sun-bleached mark down the skirt. “Never mind. It was a bargain and I can cut the mark out and sew it up again. And it suits me." Pride.
Wrath was the one we hoped to avoid, but it certainly came. We really were a mismatched bunch. Stella was the least educated ("I have a commendation for flower arranging.”) and considered by Daphne to be somewhat coarse in her language “Rough as a bag of daggers springs to mind.” And “I do hope you won't put her exact words in your story.” Hilary was highly intellectual and well travelled. Daphne was also well educated and a sort of a snob. “I would only be interested in a man if he had a degree, and a first class one, preferably” which eliminated 97% of the men on the Costa del Sol. Hilary and Daphne both enjoyed doing the crosswords, but Hilary would only do the cryptic ones and she was very condescending towards the rest of us for not getting any of her clues right. Daphne also enjoyed the easier crossword, but on one occasion, Hilary wouldn't share her paper, as she hadn't finished with it (or so she said). And we were forever being reminded of how dumb we were by Hilary – true probably, but not a good way to keep friends. One afternoon she watched a foreign movie, so the rest of us were more or less excluded from that part of the house. “You mean you can't understand the French programmes on TV, Jean? I am surprised at that.”
It all erupted on the first Sunday – much later than anticipated. Daphne threw her bridge cards down, shouted and swore at Hilary and slammed into her room refusing to have more to do with us.
Much of the wrath stayed under wraps, but it was there.
“Who does she think she is?”
“She's ruined it all, yet again.”
“If I had known what this would be like, I would never have come.”
“Never again. Never again.”
Despair means lack of hope, and we spent quite a lot of time talking about “going to Switzerland” since three of the women have no current husband and two have no children, and felt that they would prefer an arrangement which would assure them a dignified end. However, I don't think they would have described their points of view as being in despair, but more as being practical and sensible.
Stella and I went to the international bridge club in the town. It was a great escape from the tension and friction of our foursome. The others weren't confident enough to take on the experts who came from Germany, Holland, Britain, Spain, Russia and France (all now resident in Spain.) The best bridge players we thought were the Germans, but we didn’t disgrace ourselves. We improved our position on each new occasion and ended up fourth out of 24 couples. Considering our bridge was not a high standard, I think we did okay. There is it, pride again.
So there we have it: sloth, gluttony, envy, greed, wrath, pride and maybe despair. The only one we couldn't manage was lust.
We talked about lust in great detail - so we had lust remembered. Some of us had hopes of lust on our return too that was lust anticipated. And most of our books covered the subject most adequately – second hand lust. But as far as first hand, hands on lust for the fortnight, we failed miserably.
We did practice a few virtues while we were at it, but we weren't really trying for those. Daphne very kindly bathed my blisters in white wine. I would rather have drunk it, but it did seem to do the trick.
None of us went topless. Do you think we can call that chastity?
Stella gave money to the man who stood outside the supermarket begging for victims of Aids – surely that must be charity and we double tipped the porters who took our heavy luggage down the three flights of stairs.
The prize for patience had to go to Stella who suffered our pettiness the entire time, and continued to smile despite wondering what in the world had possessed her to invite us to share her time share.
Forgiveness - well I think that is still to come. The words that I heard from each in turn, and they heard from me, “Never again, never again.”