Friday, 3 November 2017

Jake, the toilet, the cockerel and the moon.

When we stayed at Almuñécar about a year ago I wrote a piece reflecting upon what was meant by the term 'quirky' when used in site reviews. Was it, I pondered, simply a polite way of saying somewhere was crap? It is true that last year, in the event, the campsite in question proved as quirky as the review suggested. After all, it is not everyday that you end up sharing your hot shower water with a German woman you have never met before. To understand that this was not quite so a racy as you might imagine, and in fact was quirky, you would need to read the post.

The reason why I bring this up now is that the site we are staying on - The Figueira Caravan Park - attracts effusive praise from the users of Campercontacts app and an unusually high score of 7.8 including lots of straight 10s; 'perfect', 'amazing', 'beautiful' among the adjectives lavished on the place. From our perspective however the kindest thing I could say is that it's quirky.

Access to the place is down a ramshackle track lined with wrecked vans on one side and hastily nailed together chicken coops on the other. The sharp turning off the road is too acute for a 7m van to manage without doing a three point turn, none of these things are eluded to at all in reviews. Nor is the fact that a full size seated effigy of Jake from the Blues Brothers relaxes at a table in front of the shack that doubles as reception. This alone surely justifies the tag 'quirky'.

Dead van alley

leading to chicken coop lane.

On the positive side the place is cheap at €7 euros per night and, as the reviews frequently assert, the owners are very friendly and helpful. The west of the Algarve is strikingly different to the tourist sprawl around Albufiera and Portmão. It has a wild, slightly end of the world feel that attracts a more alternative crowd, twenty something surfers, crusties, shoe-string escapees and the like. By way of illustration, one person seemed to be living in a blue striped Leyland double-decker which appeared to have been converted into a playbus at some point in its former existence. In the corner was an ancient blue Merc conversion. Written in tiny letters above the cab were the words 'living the dream'. I could not decide if the dissonance between the text and the venerable object they adorned was a little sad or inadvertently hilarious, both probably.

The village of Figueira looks impoverished. As we hunted for the village shop every stray dog in the place befriended us. Conversely, the elderly residents returned my friendly nod and smile with a baleful glare. I realise there is a school of thought which interprets rural deprivation as sign of authenticity and regards it as refreshingly anti-materialistic. Personally I dislike poverty as much as wealth. It's a sense of plenitude and well-being that I admire, but here local people, especially the elderly seemed struggling to get by.

The forecast thundery showers arrived with a vengeance. Big clouds scudded across the sky; it grew dark, then rain hammered down for half an hour, followed by a brief sunny spell. As night fell the rain became more protracted. Really you need to ignore the weather and get on with stuff, but after six weeks of mainly sunshine I decided that emptying the Thetford in a downpour was not an attractive option.

In the event this proved to be a bad move. Sometime after midnight I was woken by a manic cockerel and the village's baying stray dogs. I was not going to drop off again any time soon. It also became clear that neither I nor the Thetford was destined to last the night. So I had no option but to roll out of bed, stick on some clothes and head for the chemical toilet emptying point.

It was only a few yards distant at the service point next to reception. I stepped outside into a fabulous night, the rain had stopped and the starry sky was half hidden by banks of thunder clouds illuminated by an almost full moon. The landscape, bathed in spectral light, seemed etched on tarnished pewter. As I stood gazing in wonder my blood froze; out of the corner of my eye l sensed a dark figure watching me. Then I stifled a laugh. Jake! it was his bloody statue! It's an odd existence we lead I thought to myself, as I stood empty Thetford cassette in hand, beneath the magnificent moon, staring at uncanny clouds as dogs howled and a cock crowed mistaking moonlight for dawn, just me and a Blues Brothers effigy. What lies beyond the quirky - the absurd, the uncanny, the surreal? Note to self, just empty the Thetford when it needs it, life will be simpler, you have no need to court the quirky, normal life is odd enough anyway.

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