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Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Hunt For Blue Monday

Dohar Delights   
“I`ve done it, I booked my flight, I am flying to Qatar next week. I can`t wait! Do you think you and your fella will get a chance to come out and visit once I am settled?”
“I dunno Frankie. I will try and speak to Phill soon. We could do with a holiday, he works too hard nowadays.” Mo replied. I often asked the advice of my big sister Mo. She knows me better than I know myself. Click here
“You and Phill will love it there fantastic weather, a private pool, 5-star hotel. No pubs mind you but your other half could do with a few weeks of the beer anyway.”
“I `ll run it by him but I can't promise anything. I must admit I fancy a few weeks in the sun away from London.”
I didn't stay chatting with my sister long on the phone. I still had so much to sort out. She would only try and talk me out of it anyway. She has always been the sensible one in our family.
Here I am now sitting by the pool in Dohar, Qatar, with a cold fruit juice in my hand and the sound of wailing in the distance. The sky is a gorgeous clear blue as it is always and it is incredibly hot even at 8.30 in the evening. “What am I doing here anyway?” I reflected for about the tenth time that day. I had lived in a hot climate before in Spain but this was another level. I was starting to have serious doubts about my decision to emigrate to the Middle East and leave my secure job in a college in London behind. It wasn`t like I even had a definite job lined up. The agency just promised me three months work teaching English with the accommodation included in the package. It is my first day tomorrow in the school and I don`t know anyone there and I can`t speak a word of Arabic. How bad can it be?
I walked into the spotless classroom expecting to be greeted with a chorus of friendly greetings and fake smiles from disgruntled teachers. They are usually too busy marking or preparing lessons that they hardly have time to even look up. It somehow seemed different here. I was actually made to feel welcome and respected right away.
After the trauma of my first English lesson on Qatar soil, I retreated to the comfort of the staff room to re-group and get my lunch. As I approached the room a dark haired attractive lady smiled and spoke to me in perfect English.
"I know you from somewhere don`t I ?"
"No, I doubt it. This is my first day here I only arrived in the country two days ago," I replied. "My name`s Frankie"
"Hi Frankie, I`m Maria. Hope you enjoy working here, don`t worry it is not as scary as you think."
"I`m just going to lunch. Where does everyone usually go?"I asked.
Maria walked with me down a few corridors and showed me into an impressive looking dining area.
"I am busy now," she said, maybe catch up later,"
As I sat in the corner of the cafe area eating my pizza I reflected back on our short conversation earlier. She has got a slight Spanish accent from the Catalan region. She must be in her mid-fifties, a good figure still, she must be teaching English here too. It was turning into a very interesting first day at the Dohar School of English.
I waited around after my lessons in the staff room but I didn`t get to see Maria again that day. In fact, I didn`t see her again for the rest of the week. I wanted to find out why she had not been in school so I made some enquiries with some of the other staff. It transpired she had suddenly resigned last Wednesday and no one at Oxford English Academy had heard from her since then. I discreetly asked her best friend, Anna, if she had spoken to Maria and if she knew why she had left. She didn`t mention anything to me Anna said. I even called to her flat. The couple in the flat next door told me that they saw her moving out on Wednesday morning.
Leaving London  
Waiting for me in the warm cosy cafe in Gerard's Cross was Julie. She sat alone in the corner staring out of the window at the busy lunchtime traffic. It had been six months since my trip to Qatar. I felt like I was losing the plot the last few weeks back in London. I was sure someone was following me. I had a similar situation coming back from holiday once. Everywhere I went I kept seeing policemen. Waiting outside the tube station on my way home, walking around the roads where I lived and even in the pub a few times. At first, I ignored the truth but after getting warned in the pub by two blokes to stay away and threatened with getting a beating I became more frightened.
Will she even want to hear what I have to say after what happened the last time we met, I wondered? Julie is not one to hold a grudge I'm sure she will help me this one last time.
"Hi you look great, "I said. "Can I get you another coffee?"
"No thanks Frankie, I can't stay long, "Julie replied. "Long time no see how are you and what's with the late night phone calls? Norman is starting to suspect I'm up to something."
"Look! Julie, as I told you I know we are over but I need your help. I have to get far away from here and quickly," I pleaded.
Julie was my first real girlfriend we used to be flatmates in a big shared house in Chiswick when we were both working in London. We were only together about 6 months but we remained good friends until she married Norman last year.
"Why you in such a rush to get away? she asked. "I thought you hated flying"
"I can't explain the full story now but I need your help I have to lie low for a while. Can I move in with your brother in Turkey?"
"I'm in big trouble Julie can you get me on a flight today?" I begged.
Ankara Arrivals                                            
Julie wasn't impressed with my behaviour but I managed to convince her that I was deadly serious and she knew I wouldn't contact her out of the blue unless it was extremely important. Julie was wise enough to not quiz me too much for more information. She paid for a flight and arranged for her brother to meet me in a bar in Ankara, Turkey later that night. While waiting for her brother, Harry, I tried to get my thoughts in order. I had to get rid off my mobile phone and only use the local currency. This secret spy lark was all new to me. If they find me out here I've had it, they won't rest until they get the truth out of me.
Harry kept his part of the deal and before long I was in his truck climbing the steep tracks to his place in the hills.
I was too tired to make much conversation and before long I drifted off to sleep. The next thing I knew I was being woken up outside Harry`s home, which was to become my place of refuge from the madness that was taking over my life.
Harry and I had only ever met once before, briefly at a friend of Julie`s wedding four years ago. Thankfully he isn`t the chatty type so I kept my explanation to the bare minimum as to why I was suddenly coming to stay, without any luggage and no idea of how long I intended staying. He gave me some manual work to do for his building firm the next day, so I was able to live with him without the need to use what money was left in my bank account. I was determined not to reveal my whereabouts to anyone. It was not going to be easy I knew that much. After a few weeks, I was anxious to discover if anyone had tried to contact my friends to try and discover where I`d disappeared to. There was no point in calling anyone it would only lead to one thing...someone kicking in my door when I`m asleep in bed.
The weeks turned into months and I was starting to feel that maybe this new life in Turkey was going to be OK. I had a job, somewhere to live and the weather was a lot better than back in London. It was the first time since I was a student that I felt physically strong and fit. Working for Harry every day was demanding and most nights I collapsed into bed exhausted after hours of moving furniture, loading up skips and digging foundations.
Julie sent me a message one day via Harry`s email. She just wanted to let me know that if I needed more money she could send me some. I thanked her but told her I was fine for the time being. That was my first big mistake I should not have pressed send on Harry`s laptop!
“There is a pretty lady at the door who wants to speak to you. What shall I tell her, she won`t go away?" She told me her name is Maria from Zaragoza,” Harry informed me while shaking his head despondently.
I knew this day would come, it only took her three days to find me from the time I emailed Julie. There was no point in trying to run again. She will have all the exits covered.
“Hello, Maria long time no see,” I tried to keep my tone light and friendly. “You look great!”
“Thank you, "she replied, "I think you know why I am here. You recognised me in the school didn't you?”
“I don't get it. Why did you completely ignore me?” I said.
“Let's go somewhere private and I'll explain everything,” she insisted.
Sexy Boots        
     I went with Maria to the empty cafe on the corner. I knew the owner quite well and he would at least let somebody know if I suddenly disappeared. I had spent many relaxing hours in the same cafe reading and watching the world go by. The music was always popular Turkish songs played, thankfully, at a low volume. We could hear two students in the far corner discussing the latest news and gossip.
“Look Frankie!" explained Maria, "I will come clean with you. I'm in way above my head and I really did not want to drag you into this mess. Ever since you taught me English all those years ago, back in Spain I have wanted to tell you the truth. I am an ETA political activist or terrorist as you call it.”
“What the hell are you talking about? I don't get it?” I stared into her deep brown eyes trying to find answers.
“I was in Love with you Frankie. You must have spotted the signs?”
“Well, we did wonder why you always turned up for classes in skin-tight leather trousers and sexy boots. My mates just said a lot of Spanish women liked to dress up like that, to show off their strong skiers legs.”
Maria went on to explain to me the full story. How she had become obsessed with me and as a result, her jealous husband began to suspect there was someone else involved in their marriage break up. She tried to warn me about her crazy partner but I had returned to London suddenly, for a family funeral. My flatmates in Zaragoza wouldn't pass on my telephone number. She only tracked me down when I flew to Turkey and I started working in the language school. I did not want to hear any more. It was getting very uncomfortable in the cafe now. I noticed Maria getting more and more animated as she explained her actions as if it was all perfectly reasonable. While she continued to explain things from her viewpoint I started to think how I was going to extricate myself from this nightmare. I would have to keep her on-side for now while I came up with some kind of plan.
Well what do you want from me and why the fuck are you having me followed all over Europe!" I demanded to know, I couldn't just sit back and let her call the shots.
“You know I'm not interested in you. Other than that one night of drinking when we ended up in your flat together, it has been just business only."I told her.
"You said you were starting to fall for me and you love the way that my mind works." Maria was raising her voice too now and the old guys in the corner were taking more of an interest in our conversation.
"I say that to all the women I meet when I'm drunk. I didn't mean it." In fact, I didn't even remember what I said to her that night. I was in a blackout I think after drinking at least eight pints of strong Spanish beer.
I needed to start using my nut. I was in deep trouble here and she was not the type of women you messed with.
I suggested we go to another cafe nearby where we could order a decent pasta and salad. After the meal and a few glasses of wine, she opened up to me a bit more about her past. Her ex-husband was serving time in a Spanish jail and would not be out anytime soon. She had left him anyway two years ago, for someone else only for that man to tell her, just two weeks into her second marriage, that he was gay. Maria explained how she upped and left him the following day. She wouldn't tell me any more details and frankly, I didn't want to know what happened to her homosexual second husband.
Later that afternoon we walked around the town for a bit, like two young lovers. I kept the sweet talk up for ages. Thank God for my Irish parents and the gift of the gab. I knew she loved to hear my English accent and my unusual turn of phrase.
My plan seemed to be working. We now found ourselves in a department store restaurant. After walking around the women's clothing department for what seemed like hours, we sat down for another drink.
"I could never give up my life and live with you, Maria. I am an honest man and I wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing what you've done in the past and the people that you associate with."
"I have walked away from that I told you! "Maria cried. "I had to turn informer for the police, grass as you English say, I am employed by the Spanish government now. That is why I've been trying to find you for so long!"
"I don't care, I said, "it is not right what you have done."
Maria began crying again...."I love you, Frankie."
"Dry your eyes,” I told her. I knew how vain she could be. "Your makeup is running."
She went into the bathroom to clean up. The second she did, I jumped up, put my package on the table and ran.
I glanced back through the store window to see Maria read my note attached to my gift, of a beautiful doll, dressed to kill.
The note read...
"To my Sexy Spanish Sweetheart.
I saw this gorgeous little lady with sexy boots and I had to buy it for you. Sorry, I must return to England alone! "
Frankie….. X