Tony Bell - Diary of a Gossip week 2

"What has Elton John got to do with Propeller?"

"What has Elton John got to do with Propeller?"

I've still got it. My mojo that is. My voice is another matter, but we won't go into that now. Let's accentuate the positive. After a great week in Guildford it's all chocolate and roses in Girona, or anchovies and figs, actually.

That's what we had for breakfast at the Hotel Ultonia, in Girona, in Espana - a lot of a's in Spanish don't you find? I haven't had a fig before, at least not one that wasn't in a roll, though weirdly I had anchovies last night, before jet lag let me sleep (can you have jet lag after a two hour flight?) The first lot of anchovies I brought with me in a tupperware. They were £7.50 from the Dulwich deli and at that price I didn't want them rotting in the fridge. The second lot came with breakfast with chorizo, stinky cheese and the aforementioned figs. Chris Myles reckons figs are fantastic roasted in the oven with brandy and brown sugar, though I don't remember those on Buckingham's Christmas do last year. I do remember Chris' wife's alcohol free mince pies, however. Now I know where the brandy went.

We've got a day off today, and after two Spanish shows, there's another week off. Life's not boring though, far from it. Richmond, and Edward, haven't arrived yet, since they're both played by Robert Hands. Was it an identity crisis that made Robert arrive four hours early at Stansted, then shop for five? We're not worried, though, it's not the first time we've travelled light. Last time, I walked into the toilet at the departure gate, passport poking seductively from pocket, and unzipped next to a man with a moustache, who relieved me of more than the contents of my bladder. My wallet must have gone down the same black hole as my passport, because while the Propeller company walked onto the plane I walked to East Dulwich, despite my 'damsel in distress' impro to the men in uniform.

Next morning, with ink still drying on my new passport, I jumped on the back of a motorbike, and screamed all the way down the M25 to Heathrow. I roared into Business Class, grabbed a bottle of Dom Perignon, jumped into a Cortina, made a "No Country for Old Men" dash across Spanish desert (it's not actually set in Spain is it, it's just got a smoky Spaniard in the lead?), arriving just in time to knock Catalonia dead with a wonderfully windswept Tranio. That's the way I remember it, anyhow. In truth, the company was more interested in rehearsing the understudy for Tam Williams, who had dashed in the other direction for the birth of his second child. There's never a dull moment when Propellers come to Spain.

Actually, there's never a dull moment, wherever we go. Touring is when the company really bonds. We're living in each other's pockets you see, just like a real family. Take last night when we arrived at the hotel, hot, sweaty, and very rock and roll:

Interior. Hotel Ultonia. 10pm
Ratcliffe: How's your room Dave?
Catesby: Bloody awful. Some Spanish throwback's playing Elton John at full volume. And some other inconsiderate, 'scuse my Spanish, bastardo, is running a bath, sounds like Niagra bloody Falls.
Margaret: Er Dave, that's me, I'm afraid. I always take a bath when I'm travelling, you see it helps me relax, soaks out the tension.
Catesby:  I'm glad you're relaxed Tone, that's pukka, sweet as, but can you tense up again and explain those crimes to music? I really need to know this, mate, am I sharing walls with an Elton freak?
Margaret: Er, yes, actually, but only the early stuff, before fame ruined his talent.
Catesby: It was "Candle in the Wind" mate.
Margaret: "Don't let the Sun go down" actually, and it was George Michael not Elton, although Elton does duet on the chorus.
Catesby: That's it, I'm changing rooms, I've got my girlfriend coming over, no offence, mate...

In truth, Dave speaks nothing like Ray Winstone, he's a softly spoken boy from Lincoln, but the rest is exactly as it happened. Honest.

Seriously, though, what could be better? A day off in sunny Spain, while London snows to a standstill. A day exploring the history of one of Catalonia's oldest towns. There's the cathedral, dating from, oh, ages ago, and the castle from medieval times (did they have that in Spain?), and the gloriously evocative city walls, that you can walk on top of, and feel the stone under your feet from, from, look, I can't help it if I'm stuck in my room like Stig of the Danube (wrong country, sorry). It's not my fault, I've a sodding blog to write. I'll be out there culture-vulturing soon, I promise.

Alright, I'll come clean. There are those in Propeller who do that sort of thing, and those that don't. Traditionally, I'm one of those that don't. I haven't got the measure of who is in the culture camp this time. Chris Myles for sure, he of the figs. I spent a fascinating day in Mexico looking around old houses for signs of Communist habitation. I believe Trotsky may have been shot in one, certainly the artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived in several, in a famously open marriage, which meant he slept around and she didn't, from what I can google. But I digress.

Let me set out the alternative, non-educational, options on offer to those travelling with Propeller back in the day. If you wanted sport you went with Ratcliffe, alias Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, to one of the expat country clubs and got thrashed at Squash, or swam with other more buff actors like Dougie himself, or the humpback before he got the hump. If you wanted to eat you went with Emilio Doorgarsingh, sadly no longer with us (he's not dead, he's in Los Angeles, so right first time actually). Emilio wouldn't take you to a Michelin starred restaurants, only Michelin priced ones. Whether it was Italy, Greece or Asia, you spent a lot, drank a lot, then shopped a lot, drunk, in Prada, or Versace, or Zara, for sweaters, or tight trousers. He even gave me a whole new wardrobe in Mexico, which sadly all shrank. Even the stuff I didn't wash.

Okay, I know you're dying to ask, what options did I chose? Well, I kind of floated, and I also did my own 'off the cuff' options. In Mexico I was arrested for drinking in the street. This involved armed police wrestling with my yoga pants  (from Sri Lanka, I think) which seemed to have an inordinately long elastic because they stretched for at least 20 feet while I shouted, "I am English, get off my trousers!" In Bangladesh, I spent a day attached to a saline drip after food poisoning, and was rather gently assaulted by the house boy, who rested his hand rather high up my thigh while the doctor went for supplies. After a moment of indecision I said sotto voce "not today thank you, I'm a bit under the weather," whereupon he withdrew contact and padded barefoot back to his room. In the Philippines I spent an evening locked in a nightclub toilet with three exuberant transsexuals, but that's another story.

The phone just rang in my room, conveniently. It's Chris, he's asking, do I want to come with him to see the Cathedral? Actually, I will, it's never too late to educate oneself is it? And with Chris things tend to be safer. He's Councilor for Hackney, and a father of two for Pete's sake. There'll be no kind of dodgy 'off the cuff' stuff there. Which is a good thing isn't it. I'm older now, more mature. It's about time I found different ways to keep myself amused. Isn't it?

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