Mickey Salmon, another Frederick Archer driver, on his first trip to Spain, had the misfortune to come up against the nightmare of Spanish red tape. His load of sports goods was imported with the paperwork marked “Made in Britain” but on inspection, it turned out that most of the golf clubs were made in Taiwan. The load, the truck and the trailer were promptly impounded, with Mickey only escaping incarceration by the skin of his teeth. Archie’s driver was spending his seventh day at the Zona Franca in Barcelona, waiting for the duty, taxes and fines to be paid, when I arrived. Mickey was flat broke, not due so much to his Customs delay, but mainly because he visited the Ramblas every night where he had something going on with an Argentinean bar girl. All the spare cash I had on me was in Italian lira, but Mickey had no hesitation in relieving me of 250,000 and ordering a taxi to take us downtown.
In the Ramblas bar, I had no trouble picking out Mickey’s girl. As we came through the door, she turned towards us, as if holding an imaginary machine gun:
“Huh, huh, huh, huh, huh, huh!” went the Argentinean in a hoarse staccato laugh.
Mickey did the same, then they shouted out in turn,
Slowly, they closed in on each other, still shouting, circling in the space in front of the bar, before embracing passionately - much to the amusement of all the other patrons.
Mickey introduced me to Suzannah, as a good friend who had just given him a quarter of a million lira. I do not know if the hostess made a mistake in her exchange rate calculations, but she got straight on the telephone to her sister and told her to come over for a drink. Suzannah was certainly the most stunning Argentinean girl I had ever met – even if she was the first Argentinean girl I had met. With her long black hair and long brown legs, if Mickey had told me she was a former Miss Beuno Aires, I would not have disputed it. Suzannah was about three inches taller than Mickey. When Maria, the sister, turned up, she was three inches shorter than Mickey. As I was three inches taller than Suzannah, I thought things should have been the other way around, but as the machine gunners got on so well, I did not mention it.
In fact, Mickey got on well with everybody, with his ready smile and cheery “hello”, he soon made friends, even without the slightest command of any language except English. The stocky north Londoner, with his happy-go-lucky attitude seemed to handle himself well in all foreign situations, without having to think about it. A welcome change from many hard drinking Brit lorry drivers who could be a real embarrassment when they had sunk a few beers.
Size did not matter when the four of us sat on our bar stools. While Mickey and I drank San Miguel, the girls were served with the Hostess Special, which was expensive, but probably not very potent. Maria sat close with her hand on my knee, as we talked about the price of land in various parts of Argentina. The younger sister wore a black mini skirt and pink lambswool vee-nick sweater with no blouse underneath. With a bit more meat on her than the pencil slim Suzannah, it was difficult not to keep looking down Maria’s top and at the little crucifix that hung in her cleavage. I was just thinking what a sure thing I was onto and wondering how much it was going to cost, when this guy in a cream suit came in. He shook my hand before whispering something Spanish in Maria’s ear. Then, with a quick squeeze of my leg and a kiss on the cheek, Maria left the bar with the cream suited guy. Mickey and Suzannah were so wrapped up in each other that they did not see Maria leave. Without interrupting them, I finished my beer and got a taxi back to the lorry, leaving Mickey to pick up the tab. I had done from just south of Limoges to Barcelona in one day, so I was looking forward to my bed with or without a sexy little Argentinean for company.
Having spent a week hanging around the Zona Franca, Mickey was a great help the next morning when it came to getting my paperwork through Customs. Almost everyone called him by his first name as they shook hands, but they all shrugged their shoulders when Mickey asked how long it would be before he finally got going again. For a change of scene, the stranded driver came for the short ride across town so that he could help me tip my part load for Barcelona.
“Maria was a bit upset that you left before she got back last night,” said Mickey, as we stripped out the side of the tilt.
“She didn’t say she was coming back, how was I to know? Anyway, I’d had a long day, I was knackered,” I replied.
“They’ll both be down there again tonight. I told ‘em we’d be back,” continued Mickey.
“Yeah, but I’ll be tipped here by 1.00 o’clock. I should be getting down to Valencia so I can get this other stuff off,” I protested.
“Don’t you fancy yours or summat?” queried Mickey.
“It’s not that. I just can’t afford it. How much did you spend last night?” I asked.
“Oh, about half of them lira. The way I see it, our boys went down the Falklands in ’82 and fucked them Argies. Now we’ve got a chance to fuck two for ourselves. With that Suzannah, I give it to her as hard and as fast as I can. She loves it,” bragged Mickey.
“What sort of war is that? When she loves it” Do you expect somebody to give you a medal when you get back to the UK? I’ll tell you, when Fred finds out what you’ve been spending his running money on, you’ll be facing a firing squad,” I warned.
For the rest of the time we were unloading, Mickey carried on trying to persuade me to go down the Ramblas that night. I was tempted by the thought of seeing Maria’s tight-fitting woolly top come off over her head, but in the end I drove Mickey back to his lorry and went straight down to Valencia.