Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Tortured in Tangier

‘Why not relax on the balcony and enjoy a glass of wine and a spectacular view of the sea’ says the blurb on the apartment we’re renting in Tangier. I’ll tell you why not - because there is no balcony, there aren’t any bloody wine glasses and the sea is obscured by torrential rain and gale force winds. “No wonder we’re freezing” I say excitedly, “the window’s open” but my triumph is short lived when I find that sliding it shut only forces open a similar gap on the next window. They are right about it being a spacious apartment though – it’s so big in fact that the one tiny heater in the bedroom doesn’t make the slightest impression on the icy temperature.

It does at least keep its promise on accommodating four people as far as beds and seats go, but they’ll need to take it in turns to hang up clothes and stir coffee. Fortunately, there being only two of us, we have the luxury of all six coat hangers, two teaspoons and three towels, but it looks as though we’ll have to give up crunching our breakfast toast in bed, since a change of bed linen hasn’t been provided for our three-week stay.

I walk into the kitchen, where a picturesque spray of water from a leak in the boiler above the sink is falling gently onto the crockery that’s been left to drain. The landlord sends a man round, who quickly fixes the leak, but the moment he turns the water back on, the boiler springs another leak and this time a less gentle spray is directed onto the floor. Our ‘plumber’ turns the water off again and promises to return with a suitable replacement part.

It’s evening, we’re still waiting for our plumber and a sudden power cut plunges the whole neighbourhood into darkness and we abandon any hope of water for today. But to our overwhelming joy and astonishment, a little miracle occurs in the shape of our plumber standing at the door, bathed in candlelight and clutching the vital part to fix the leak.

We’re three days into our stay and the rain and wind are relentless. There’s a constant pool of water under the leaking windows, the dust from the damaged ceiling plaster in the kitchen covers the cooker and the writing my loved one planned on doing proves impossible because our only priority now is getting warm. Tangier doesn’t seem quite as interesting and cosmopolitan as Paul Bowles and his pals found it – it’s time to cut our losses and move further south. The landlord very honourably refunds two thirds of the rent and we buy tickets for the five hour train ride to Rabat the following day.

Only there is no train to Rabat the next day. Overnight the railway lines have been flooded and there are no trains running, but we can apparently catch a bus. As we pile into a taxi to take us to the bus station, my loved one’s patience with lugging luggage has worn a bit thin and he tells me that if anyone tries to make off with it I’m to let them. So I do. Well, it’s pandemonium with hundreds of people and dozens of buses milling about and we seem to be the only ones who don’t know the rules, so when a man in an official looking jacket grabs our luggage, asks where we’re going and makes off at a run, the only sensible thing seems to be to follow him. A few minutes later we’re off. We look at each other and say together “did you see any sign of where this bus is going?” Neither of us did, but at this point we agree that we don’t care.

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