Saturday, 20 February 2010

Tango in the Night

It's rare I visit a place more than once, but today Buenos Aries has the pleasure of my company for the 'fourth' time. My opinion of one of the finest cities in the world is formed by the fantastic culture, a chequered but interesting history, the splendid architecture and lashings of excellent beef & wine. Another chilled start as I knew the buses were regular and often, and by 08-00 I was underway (again) but to my final destination. Along the way, despite only 50Km, there was lots to see in the lush fields, plentiful woodlands and flooded, redundant gravel pits. There were many dozens of Crested Caracara, Southern Lapwing and Snowy Egret and even a Black-necked Swan which is an addition to the Trip List.

Arriving at Centro 09-30 gave me plenty of daylight to explore even more of the city, and as I had, in the past, paid scant attention to the Airport, given the time available considered I could do both 'departures' and 'arrivals'. At this early hour the hordes of tourist coaches had not yet arrived, but just as got to one of the most interesting parts, the 'self check-in machines', I heard a familiar voice behind me. I turned to find Jim the (Flippin') Medic and Liz, his long suffering Lady Friend, him shouting "Bagsy, I've missed you on the rig, and couldn't get down to Weymouth, so decided to track you down in South America". Now, that's all I need at this stage of the game, and just know he'll insist on paying for everything, demand the finest food & wines and taxi everywhere. You can just do without friends like that. It looks like my last 4 days are going to be marred by me having to try and dodge them, as I know they'll want me to go to the Costanera Sur all the time! Anyway, he said he had taken the libity of booking me a suit at the Hotel Raco de Buenos Aries, so under sufferance I've had to accept, and if you believe any of that old Blarney, then more fool you!

In reality, one of the finest human beings I have had the pleasure to meet, I'm sure the 3 of us WILL have a whale of a time as we have so often. One of my fondest memories of Jim was in a dirty run down town in the Himalaya foothills where, we had just enjoyed a very good Indian meal (considering the locale) and at at 01-00 were taking a Tuk Tuk back to the hovel. Jim noticed a small light blinking down a narrow dark street, and the driver told us it was the local Shebeen, the chance of a nightcap being just too much for him. In his usual brave manner he luffed me in to go and suss it, and returned to report that it was probably the most inhospitable, dark, dingy, dump I had ever seen. "Ideal", suggested my compardre, "but they're eating hand grenades and picking their teeth with bayonets" said I. So, obviously in we went. Already more than a couple of pints brave, Jim deftly produced a coin from behind the ear of the barman, much to his amazement, and that really was 'game on'. A couple more magic tricks, that he just happened to bring along, and a couple of Beatle's songs from yours truly and it was as if we were locals.

There, what did I tell you, straight to the cash dispenser! Jim has drawn a 'full' £2.50 and announced we're going ashore tonight and not going 'back onboard' until we've spent the lot. I don't know if I'm ready for this.

Great to shake this man's hand again, hope I feel the same in the morning. Liz is a Tango addict so it's obvious where we'll be heading, after a juicy lump of beef and maybe I'll weaken and have my first alcohol of the trip? Jim isn't fully looking forward to the dancing, but Liz put up with a week of building Elephant walls in Namibia last year to please him, so now it's his turn to suffer.


As I was writing this in the hotel lobby, an English couple arrived and we had a short chat. It turned out that Peter Mannering was a Sub Lieutenant in the Submarine Service during the same period as myself. While we have no recollection of each other, there were many names that were well known to us both. One of those was the distinguished submarine Commander, Captain Sam Salt, who, I was surprised to learn, only passed away last week. Despite his prowess in 'boats' (as we referred to them) his career ended on a sad note when he lost HMS Sheffield in San Carlos Water, during the Falkland's conflict. RiP Sir!