Many years ago – it seems today

A LITTLE BIT back I wrote about Franco’s Fascist Spain – I enjoyed getting out of Spain and into Morocco. It was an adventure.

In Ceuta, in Ceuta and the mighty bats flew and the little claque of hitch hikers quivered and quavered on the beach all night, worried that the Guardia Civil would carry out their threats and machine gun us to our deaths before we’d hardly start living.

The brave band of 20 year olds decided to park on the beach and maintain an all night vigil against the possibility – we were ready to repulse any Fascist threats, if necessary we would die for the cause like the anarchists did in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.

We survived the night for several reasons. One, we were obviously paranoid kids that weren’t even threatened with intelligence and two we were young kids that liked to sit on the beach and hear the waves beat against the North African sand.

But we survived the day to be able to go to the Ceuta bus station and pass through Spanish emigration into French Morocco. My school kid French held me well once we’d crossed the border – this was French Morocco I’d passed into it. There were strange things on the road to Tetuan – we got stopped quite often and the Moroccan police sailed into the bus to inspect the chickens people were carrying and to cast a kindly eye on our British and German passports. And the Moroccan people were so hospitable and friendly. The bus played Moroccan music and the Moroccan music was good and we all loved it.

To Tetuan. You could hear the guns firing in what was then called the Spanish West Sahara.

My colleagues wanted to score the best Moroccan hash, but I’d already learned of the draconian Moroccan laws. You could get thrown into a Tangier jail forever if you scored. Plus les flics were complicit in the deal. The deal being that some western kid scored hash and paid a fortune for it, the dealer and the cop were in cahoots, and once money had passed hands you found yourself in jail, the dealer got his hash back to re-sell and the cop got his payoff. A simple circle, simply completed.

In Morocco in 1969 you did not buy from the dealers. You met the locals who would give the European and American kids a pipe full of the freshest kif from the mountains, show them hospitality, give them a mint tea, and fare us well on our way.

The Danish guy with a German boyfriend who found himself conscripted went native in Tetuan – a delightful little city in those days but so small that everyone knew everyone else’s business. I particularly liked Coca Cola written in Arabic and beautiful mint tea in the very beautiful square.  Met a couple of Brits there – I don’t think they were looking after themselves very well – one had sores on his legs with maggots as garnish – probably just as well he got the maggots, they were probably eating away the rubbish on his leg.

I met the most beautiful Glaswegian lass who had been convinced that it would be a great idea if these guys took her down to Marrakesh. We tried to persuade her this probably wasn’t a great idea, but off she went. She was skint, she was young, and she was going to risk it for a frisket. She was probably all right. I’ll never know.

Never saw the Danish guy again or his German girlfriend – me and my companions went to the Tetuan bus station en route for Tangier, or Tanger as the French called it. A rather beautiful city full of kids trying to earn a crust and who addressed you in what they thought was your native language. I largely escaped detection because I was said I was from Island (Iceland).

The gendarmerie spoke French then – my schoolboy French did pretty well. Years later, I found myself in Tangier but couldn’t track down Barbara Hutton’s palace, complete with Nubian slaves with drawn scimitars. Otherwise the city remained much as it was when I was there in the 1960s. After a few weeks in Tanger, we took the boat back to Algeciras – Gibraltar was still out of bounds from Spain. I’d run out of money. I was waiting for my daddy at the Tanger post restante and had to catch a plane from Malaga back to the UK.

I had to say goodbye to my friends that had been with me during our Spanish and Moroccan time – apart from the great Dane, of course. He was still in Morocco.

As I said in my previous piece, Malaga Airport was tricky to stay in for a couple of days before I caught a British Airways fright back to Heathrow.  It was the first time in my life that I’d flown. It was pretty exciting. At Heathrow, I was lucky. I walked along the tunnel and hitch hiked all the way back to Leeds on only two thumbs up.  My dad wasn’t very happy with me, all told. 

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