|Hugo being greeted by his mate Fidel|
Well a few months ago Mrs Fellbound came in from work and announced that she was fed up with the British weather, and that she felt we ought to book some summer sunshine. “I’ve looked in the glossies” she announced, “and it’s Cuba for us this July”. “Excellent”, says I, “I’ll ring up Branson and book us a couple of Economy Class tickets to Miami, followed by a night time speed boat crossing of the Straits of Florida. We can land in the Bay of Pigs just before dawn, then a fast car to Havana and a backstreet old colonial style hotel”. Mrs Fellbound wasn’t impressed. "Bay of Pigs? That would be a complete fiasco. It’s Thomas Cook Airlines from Manchester to Jardines del Rey for us, followed by a spot of all inclusive, with a nice pool and a beach lined with palm trees”.
Fast forward, and we arrived at Jardines del Rey, cleared passport control and waited for our cases. And waited. And waited. Mrs F’s bag came soon enough. So did those of the rest of our fellow Thomas Cookers. And eventually there was just poor old Fellbound staring at an empty baggage carousel. Then suddenly it appeared all on its lonesome. As I grabbed it off the conveyor, a man in a brown uniform said “Your name ees Fellbound? That is your luggage? You allow anyone to tamper with it? No? You follow me please”. You explain the metal box in there to us please.”
So now I am at a table with my clean pants, flip flops and floral print shirts spread all around and I am trying to explain that the small retro style painted metal box, filled with various little bits and pieces from Boots, and which had been beautifully gift wrapped, was a present for Mrs F, who had a birthday in a few days time. I hadn’t bought her main present with me but wanted to make sure she had a little something to open on her special day.
“You put it eet on the floor please. My dog want to have a sniff”. And with that, a lovely little spaniel was sent to sniff at the tin box. Well the spaniel had a super time and was wagging his tail and barking at the box as if someone had just said it was walkies time. Just as I was about to do my very excellent Bruce Forsyth impersonation and say to the spaniel “good game, good game” Mrs F caught me with that very communicative eye of hers that said "do you really want to find yourself being marched off to that back room by a grinning man pulling on a pair of Marigolds". So I took the hint and sense got the better of me. I was, however, pretty indignant by now, and told Mrs F, possibly rather too loudly, that it was a lot of fuss over a tin box filled with little bath bombs. Well I can see now why saying that might have caused me some further difficulties, the Cubans not, apparently, being keen on a bit of bath time fun.
Well eventually the unfortunate misunderstanding was cleared up, I was allowed to stroke the spaniel and was then put on the coach to take us to the hotel. I think the rest of the passengers were rather unkind hissing me and giving me severe looks, as if it was my fault that they had been kept waiting in the sweltering heat for an hour or so but they did.
Mrs F and I had expected a room to ourselves at the hotel but we found we were sharing with a little crab, but he was friendly enough, and from then on we had a splendid time. One day, on our way to a catamaran and snorkelling trip we passed beautiful flamingoes standing in the saltwater mangroves. Our guide explained that they were pink because of the keratin in the shrimps they live on. "Well that explains it", I said to Mrs F, "I eat lots of carrots. Carrots contain keratin. That's why I have gone all pink". Mrs F was not impressed with my theory. She pointed out, none too kindly in my view, that perhaps two days lying on a sun lounger in the tropical sun might be the cause. "You will have to face it", she added, " your experiment using Primula Cheese with Chives as a sun screen just isn't working. You need to slap on some of my Boots own brand factor 30 tomorrow".
|Not a bad beach this, at our hotel|
Well after the exciting welcome the Cubans gave us a lovely time and tried hard to ensure we enjoyed ourselves and spent our pounds sterling. This is much needed. The petty, narrow minded boycott of trade and other links, enforced by the Yankee capitalist imperialists pointlessly damages this country. Each year the UN condemns the USA for this in a vote for being a breach of international law. In this vote only the USA and Israel support the embargo. The USA always ignores the result, so preventing Cuba getting hold of the basic necessities it needs. The land of the free also prevents its own citizens from holidaying or doing business there, despite it being only 90 miles from Florida, although some do, and the Cubans agree not to stamp their passports in return so as not to cause trouble back home. Since that nice Mr Gorbachev allowed the Soviet Union to break up, Cuba has become very reliant on China for its manufactured goods. So is the Amercian policy short sighted? Get yourself to Specsavers, Mr President. Is Cuba's regime really any worse than many other countries that you do business with? The shops have little to sell, but on the plus side Cuba has the best health care and education systems in South America, free to all. The irony in that is it churns out good quality graduates who can’t get the jobs they want, and they can earn most by working in hotels and getting tips from the tourists. Our resort rep was a former Professor of English who now earns three times his old university salary.
But this isn’t a political blog. Beautiful, interesting country, nice people, great weather if you like lying in the sun turning pink. Well worth a holiday. I will leave you with few photos of some of the locals and some of the sights. As I said, consumer goods are hard to get, and I had trouble purchasing colour films for my Kodak Instamatic Box Brownie so I used black and white for my snaps of the locals as it captures their personalities so much better.
|The man on the right was a real rough diamond. He was called Che.|
|Three more of the locals. From left to right, Fidel, Che (after a wash and brush up), and Raul|
|Some of the Cuban women are very beautiful - but best not to mess with them|
|Cuban entry for the next Isle of Man TT races|
|Who wants a Porsche when you can have style like this?|
|The Theatre at Moron|
|Spanish colonial splendour has seen better days|