7 April 2008

From Nottingham, England, to the Co-Principality of Andorra in a Morris Minor Traveller

Well, OK, this was in the 1970s and I was teaching in France at the time (Lycée Technique d'Etat Louis Rascol, Albi, in the Tarn), but I just couldn't let this shot go away. This was taken as the Moggie touched Andorran snow, and (just about) shows the French Pyrenees in the background with my ex-wife Sylvia in the passenger seat and a Welsh teacher called Steve in the back. I took it after we'd crossed the Pyrenees the most difficult way – although the details are a haze – after hours of negotiating treacherous steep hairpin bends without snow chains. I remember that not too long afterwards we bought three two-litre plastic bottles (two of coconut liqueur and one of strawberry) from a huge off-licence for a ridiculously low price in the capital, Andorra la Vella. We were shattered after the terrifying journey, and the samples tasted wonderful. Too tired to go down to the hotel bar that night, we just drank some of the liqueur in Steve's room. The next day we noticed with horror that the (unwashed) plastic camping mugs were burned by the alcohol. Was this just regular firewater? My gut did somersaults as I drove through the rest of Andorra late the following afternoon.

Back at the lycée, we tried a sip of the liqueur but it tasted vile: we were still living, so we figured it was not a great crime to take the rest of it to the next party we were invited to. Unsurprisingly, after a few drinks no one noticed that they were drinking what probably amounted to flavoured paraffin.

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