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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I’ve no chance of giving up smoking now until about May. I’ve been on what they call a tobacco run, which means you flirt over to Belgium on the overnight ferry from Hull in the far North of England and are back the next day with about three kilos of the stuff.

It costs a little more than it would in Ibiza, even allowing for the fact that Spain is the only country to have Golden Virginia in 40g rather than 50g packs sold everywhere else in Europe. It’s 3.75€ in Bruges and what a lovely medieval town that is.

Apparently they make mighty fine beer too, but I’ve sniffed a barmaid’s apron and that was quite enough for me.

I’ll just have to digress here to explain how I got that € sign in there.

I had to get a new Apple keyboard some months ago because mine insisted in putting spaces where spaces shouldn’t be. The € sign disappeared from where it had been before (Alt+2) and I had to ring the Apple helpline which is in Cork in the South of Ireland. It took them ten minutes and no doubt it cost me a tenner (say, 6€) for the telephone call to find that my new Apple Pro keyboard was American and it was now concealing the € sign on Alt+shift+2 and I was ringing an Irish girl in Cork to find out how to extract the thing for your delectation.

I couldn’t help noticing that the European flag was proudly flying on some of the beautiful civic buildings in Bruges and even over a tobacco shop. I don’t know about this, but I’ve never seen a Euro flag anywhere in the UK and we pay about £9 for the same packets of tobacco. (Finding the £ sign was a dream; it’s Alt+3).

The people on the ferry were amusing and I think it would make a wonderful TV sitcom. There were lots of tattooed truck drivers who were quite obviously taking home a lot more tobacco than me, but the customs and immigration people seemed to be interested only in a Korean couple having trouble finding their passports. I was having trouble finding a decent cup of espresso though and I think it’s another cultural divide.

Just down the road from the Hull terminal was a proper smugglers’ pub and we stopped there for what turned out to be a most pleasant cup of coffee and I think you could have got anything you wanted to smoke, never mind the tobacco.

Up the road I spotted a lay-by full of trucks and the drivers were swapping everything from stories about their overseas conquests to washing machines and fridges.

You know, there’s a real world out there where people don’t do their shopping in Tesco and you would have had to read my column a few weeks ago to discover that they are moving into Ibiza big time.

No doubt the tobacco barons are moving in on Ibiza, too. Do you realise you can pay for a week’s holiday with the amount of cheap tobacco they’ll let you take home.

And now I have to tell you that my 82-year-old mother slipped and fell and broke a bone in her hip while I was away. I drove back from Hull like a maniac and straight to the hospital. My heart was pounding and I think I was more petrified than I’ve ever been in my life and certainly more than a tobacco smuggler must feel as he goes through customs.

But she’s all right. They’ve operated and put a steel plate in there with two nails. She apparently had what they call an epidural and I thought that was something they gave you when you were having a Caesarean. She’ll be in hospital over Christmas and that’ll make a change with Carol singers and hospital turkey. What an image that conjures up. I, of course, will be having a rib of beef and if she’s a good girl I’ll even take her a sandwich with horseradish and proper mustard for her tea.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas, even if your Santa is rowed ashore and mine has just operated on my Mum? We might even join you and eat a dozen grapes in Ward Two of Tameside General Hospital on New Year’s Eve as the bells ring out.

It’s also the time to tell you that we’re taking a break from our Electronic Pages each week. But don’t despair because the archive of more than 500 articles we have carried over the past 95 weeks is still here. We’re calling it The Electronic Ibiza History Culture Archive and that’s exactly what it is.

Personally I cannot think of a better way of spending the winter, whatever country you are in, going back through the Ibiza History Culture archive.

Go back and re-read Emily articles bring the History of Ibiza to life.

Have another look at Kirk’s devastating writing about the anthropology of the Ibicencan way of life, especially his series on how they make the soberasano sausages.

Have another look at Jose’s pieces on bees and honey and the way he brings ancestral voices into the twenty first century.

Re-read Martin’s brilliant stories about stories that have been written based in Ibiza and Harold on how he found Ibiza in the early sixties before the hippies did.

And just let Gary’s pictures speak for themselves.

You could always have another look at some of the Sober Life columns, too.

Sinclair Newton