A few days after arriving here I met a very nicely-dressed young man named Jeremy. He had a crisp English accent and nice leather shoes. He, like me, had been here a few days and had already become addicted to steak. He was having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Like me, he was doing this on his own in a furtive manner.)
Jeremy’s adventures with steak have been a little more successful than mine, however, in that he Met Someone on his VERY FIRST RESTAURANT VISIT and now they are in love and making plans to move countries and start a life together. As you know, I haven’t fared quite so well. But nonetheless, he has still found time to hang out with me.
And so it was with great sadness that I waved goodbye to him today. Here I reflect on some of our times together. As you may agree, we are possibly not well-suited as a travelling duo.
1. Our trip to Tigre
Tigre is a town not far out of Buenos Aires where you can jump on a boat and mince around the River Plate delta. This is a lovely way to spend a day when the sun is shining and the weather is warm. Jeremy and I, conversely, chose to go on the coldest day in the world ever. We took a boat with f*ck all idea where it was going and got off somewhere. Who knows where. All we knew was that we were very likely to die of cold and that we needed some steak. We found a shop which, somewhat improbably, served steak, were given a table in amongst the bottles of soap powder and were then assaulted by a load of hungry cats. We drank more red wine than anyone has any business drinking when they are travelling by water. Then we went for a walk, got totally lost and ended up in a bog.
We had to swing our way out of the bog using trees. It wasn’t great. On the way back we passed out drunk on the train.
2. Our visit to Lujan
Lujan is a city near Buenos Aires which contains a very famous cathedral which contains the very famous Virgin of Lujan. One would presume, therefore, that we would have spent the day in silent prayer. It did not work out this way. We went to have lunch with the family of Jeremy’s new love who persuaded me to take my first taste of mate, a bitter and frankly revolting drink with an effect similar to caffeine. It is drunk out of a funny little pot with a metal straw and its consumption is a national pastime. Anyway, amidst much kindly guffawing, the family toned down my mate with cold water and a lot of sweetener and, determined to impress them, I downed the whole thing. They then fell about laughing and announced that any minute now my bowels would explode and I would be stuck to the toilet for a good half an hour.
I was devastated. Doing a number two in someone else’s house is bad enough; doing it repeatedly for thirty minutes is the stuff of nightmares. Why did you not tell me this before? I asked despairingly. Ominous rumbles were beginning in my gut. They just laughed even harder. Then they said that if I was prone to constipation I might be ok. I didn’t really know how to respond to this. So then began a conversation about my bowel habits that lasted for a good twenty minutes. I understood little of it but Jeremy, who speaks Spanish, was scarlet with embarrassment. Every now and then I ventured a yes or a no and clearly chose the wrong answer because each time they looked like they were about to die laughing. I suspect Jeremy wished he had not brought me.
Later on, we took out a boat on the river and, incapable of steering, ended up heading into a sewerage pipe. As we tried to get out – with a great sense of urgency – we splashed each other with brown water repeatedly and became so stressed by it that we started going round and round in circles in the sewerage outlet for a good five minutes. When we finally escaped we were all but mown down by a pleasure boat which had to stop and do an emergency about-turn to avoid killing us.
We finished the day off in style in a Ghost Train in the theme park. It was the usual sort of thing; full of silly bats and ghouls and comically insane noises. But then, as we turned the final corner, we were presented with something which I will probably remember for the rest of my life. Emitting these primal, savage screams and spasming uncontrollably was an totally life-like man who was being put to death in the electric chair. The chair was clearly functioning none too well because the man was being fried alive. I nearly cried and Jeremy nearly fainted. It was the most traumatic thing I have ever seen. I should point out that this is an amusement park aimed at children.
3. Our trip to Zarate
Zarate is a town about two hours out of Buenos Aires about which I can say little because we were only there at night. Our lovely new friends got married there and we somehow bagged an invite to the wedding. Thrilled, we booked a hotel and started planning our outfits. “All booked – very excited,” we texted the bride-to-be.
Her response was a little disheartening. We had apparently managed to book ourselves into a Telo. This is a place where people go for sex on a plastic mattress. Neither of us much fancied sex on a plastic mattress.
After a bit of a panic, I found another hotel who was able to accommodate us. I booked us in, in hesitant Spanish, and then called Jeremy and asked him to phone them to check that I’d done it right. He called. Needless to say they had no record whatsoever of my booking. He booked again. We arrived. They had no record of our booking.
The place was full-on Faulty Towers.
I asked for a pair of scissors with which to cut my fringe; no scissors were available but the owner ran next door to the butcher and brought back a gigantic pair of shears which had been designed solely for slicing through sides of cow. I smiled, thanked her profusely but pointed to my fringe and said “don’t worry, I’ll do without.” Then she came at me with the scissors, obviously thinking that I wanted her to trim my fringe. It was a dark moment. My fringe is looking a bit severe right now.
Then, as I got ready for the wedding, I glanced up at the shutters across my window to see that the bloke in the kitchen was standing peering through them at me. He continued to stare even when it became clear that I could see him. He smiled and waved in a convivial fashion. In the end I had to shut myself in the toilet because he was showing no signs of moving.
I left the reception at 2.30am to go to bed. (I am after all thirty.) I settled down for a delicious long sleep and dreamed of my lovely hairdresser in Highbury, until I was awoken at 5.30am by the sound of someone knocking at my door. My heart sank. That pesky kitchen man!
But no, it was Jeremy, drunk and tearful, announcing that he had somehow lost his lover. They had had an argument and parted ways in a park. Jeremy had hired a remis (private hire taxi thing) and scoured the town but it was to no avail: his lover was lost. I tried, gently, to point out that his lover was simply sulking and would have gone to the nightclub next to the park but poor dear Jeremy was inconsolable and convinced that his lover was dead. I was a very bad friend, I’m afraid, my response to this was to fall asleep in the middle of the conversation. Sorry, Jeremy.
I could write about the day we were thrown out of the MALBA (equivalent of Tate Modern) by a man who looked and sounded like Shrek, I could tell you about the time we went to a ranch to ride horses and Jeremy’s jeans split so that his bottom was visible all day; I could tell you about the time we went to a restaurant and ordered locro (meat and bean casserole) only to be served with a deep-fried banana, but it is making me too sad. I think I should end here and just say that I shall miss him very much.
Adios, Jeremy, you lovely and ridiculous human being.