It all began promisingly enough.
“Aksprosimately seex days, Meester Crème…ees for in-ars training. De bonk send eets members to the bitch for some good lessons.”
Well, lucky members, thought I. Now that’s what I call a bank that cares. For a young fresh thing straight out of university, and one who was having only moderate success in his attempts to get o-layed through the power of dance (see Lesson Four), Sr d’Avila’s description of the annual bank symposium sounded almost too good to be true. And I, for one, was only too willing to experience the kind of lesson he described. Unfortunately, it was indeed too good to be true – I was not to be on the receiving end.
“If joo come, joo wuld titch to us ingleesh for internashunul bonking. Joo know, iikschange rats, creedit trunsfers, and similar trensactions.”
Someone at the bank head office in Madrid, with momentary – but blinding – insight into personnel mis-management, had decided to promote the digestively-challenged Sr. D’Avila (see Lesson Two) to what he proudly referred to as “Ched of Stuff” of the six Granadinian branches which had “Bureaux de change“. The appointment had clearly gone straight to his head. Some days earlier I had been lucky enough to preview (and halt prior to mass printing) a copy of the English visiting card he had somewhat hastily drafted, which read “Sr. Jesús Mª. d’Avila. Stuffing Manager and Head of Change“. It transpired that, from those he currently “stuffed”, would proceed to be chosen ten persons to accompany him for a week of Business English lessons in a rented villa on the Costa del Sol. Jesús had graciously decided to offer me the contract first. He was not in the slightest put off by my total lack of knowledge of the banking world:
“Ees nothing for to worry about it. Joo have a great times pooting suncreems on de bitch and make also a fart buck,” he assured me. “Joo are a cooker, no?”
“Eh?” I eyed him with curiosity, bordering on bewilderment. However, at times like this, experience had now taught me that when confronted by this kind of stabbing at my language, I should hastily go through my now well-learnt gamut of choice Manolo & Co. mistakes trying rapidly to fathom what he might be getting at. On this occasion, however, I remained beaten.
“Ees slafe-catering. Itch day another cooks heemself for de others. Joo can?”
“Er…perdón…por favor…” I was flabbering again. Enough for Jesús, anyway:
“Dat is sittled den. Joo stand on de corner at nine on Freeday and joo get peecked up by Maria Teresa. She ees my secret area.”
Well, there you go, I thought, there was something positive coming out of it, anyway. Up till then, the only thing I had picked up regularly on street corners was dust.
There is (or was), I firmly believe, a number of situations in life for which the solitary British male is rarely well-prepared. If he does attempt to prepare himself, he is doomed to failure. A seaside romp is just one such occasion. One stands facing the suitcase, late for one’s encounter with Sr. d’Avila’s significant other area, and pestered by gnawing doubts which strike at the very soul of one’s untainted Englishness:
You might be hot, Graeme. Better take some T-shirts.
I pack six. One for each day.
They are bankers, Graeme – serious students who want to learn.
I take out the two red and yellow-striped t-shirts and hide the “Barclays imprisoned Mandela” one in my tracksuit top.
You have excess body hair, Graeme.
I remove the remaining three white t-shirts, chuck in my pocket “Clip-‘n’-Go” nose-hair remover, and add the five M&S long-sleeved Oxford Style I’d picked up in the sale (dangling label worryingly reads “Nearly perfect” – I agonise for minutes before opting to keep these visible for extra sex appeal).
There’s bound to be some girl there you’ll fancy, Graeme.
I chuck in my Duty Free bottle of Aramis and the two free phials of YSL Jazz I got in the airport bag.
They are Spanish girls, Graeme. They’ll like ’em hirsute.
I reluctantly remove the nose-hair remover from my Boots toilet bag.
Maria Teresa turned out to be a redoubtable “secret area”, indeed. She was that rare breed of English student in Granada who actually had something of a grasp on English. This tended to slip at key moments, however, revealing her balder linguistic areas. She eyed me suspiciously at the pick-up point.
“Ten minutes have gone. You are late to come. And I am expecting.”
Her comments were undeniably correct, if biologically questionable. On our drive down to the coast I had enough time to check her out and come to the sensible conclusion that she might be as good as it was going to get down there so, having deftly managed to open up one of the Jazz phials with one hand in my pocket and dowse the left side of my scalp during a rather aggressive piece of cornering, I made an opening gambit, based on a potent combination of considerable scrutiny of Latin seduction techniques, careful experience-based comparisons of similar past opportunities, and many years of studying the Spanish female psyche:
“So, Maria Teresa, tell me, got a boyfriend, have you?”
“Juan, from Sevilla. A big man. He likes doing his Gym.”
“Ooo…lucky Jim, eh?” No response to humour so I quickly popped the top back on the phial and decided to fix my gaze on the fast-approaching glistening seas. This was my first, and as it turned out, my last bank symposium. To this day, I know not whether it was my cooking or teaching which let me down. I doubt the latter, for I decided to go for an avant-garde methodology whereby class input was followed by class practice on the street, taking advantage of the (patience of) innocent British tourists who abound on the Costa at this time of year. The first two classes concentrated on the requesting of personal information and details in English. However, I failed to take into account just who was being sent out on these sorties. Thus, I would like to end by taking the opportunity offered me by this column of apologising to the Thomson Holidays Sing-and-Swingalonga Over-Seventies group who happened to be on the wrong beach at the wrong time and, in particular, to Harry Wolfowitz, who I do hope by now has learnt to pardon the Deputy Exchange Manager’s (Málaga) opening request to his wife, Dot, which came out as “Can I take down joora dress for more contacts?”. It was only the second class and he was only obeying orders.