The Secret Police and the Striptease - El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain, 1972 FOR EBOOK

When people found out that I was moving to El Puerto de Santa Maria in the Province of Cadiz, a region of Spain where 'nobody ever goes', they were more than surprised. Advice flourished as they warned me about the fact that Spain was ruled by a dictator with the name of Francisco Franco, and that it would be far, far better to go to Torremolinos or Lloret de Mar where you get a nice suntan as well as fish and chips.

"Where did you say you are going?!  Never heard of it!"  People's nostrils would flare open when they asked this. It's as if they were chastising me, as if they were utterly appalled.

"You're giving up your teaching job?!" At this stage of the conversation not only did people's nostrils flare open, their eyes opened wide too. I think even their ears burst open. With the flick of the wrist they would increase the volume on their hifi as if to add to the admonishment.

"I hear there's the Secret Police!" The people who said this aren't the same ones whose nostrils flared open. No. The people who mentioned the Secret Police are the ones who know that I'm up for adventure. It's really a major character flaw of mine, to feel bored easily. Secret Police? What do they do?  Why are they secret? Who are they? I wonder what they look like?

Now, I must confess that I have been wondering of late about these Secret Police People. I think I've seen one, at least one. I could be wrong, but there again...

There's a man I've noticed  in the Bar Central. He wears a cape, and looks very dapper and dramatic. He could easily be one of the Three Musketeers.  Any time his garment slips off, even a teeny tiny bit, he grabs it then, with the flick of his wrists places it back on his shoulders. He certainly is in control of his cape. He has a long pointed nose, thick dark hair that seems to float over his ears, and he wears black leather gloves.

I find it quite a performance each time he removes said gloves. It's like a striptease act. He pulls on each finger of the gloves and slowly, seductively reveals naked hands. He then smacks the gloves together and slaps them on the counter.

One of the barmen rushes over to serve him obediently, head bowed, even although it's my turn.

Oye, sunshine. I was here first!  I feel like yelling, but the Secret Police Man who just performed the striptease with his gloves might lock me up in jail, or something.

I've learned to say 'oye' just like the locals do. Then, when nobody pays me any attention, I call out, "Oiga!" I haven't quite mastered snapping my fingers as it does seem a bit rude. Anyhow, usually the barmen pay me too much attention. They love to flirt and leer at me as they lick their lips. They say things that I don't understand. But, as long as I get my cafe solo and bocadillo de jamon york, then I can put up with their preposterous antics.

I glare at the Secret Police Man who's getting served even although it's my turn. I think I'm good at glaring. I glare and glare and try to convey to him that I know he's a Secret Police Man.

Really, doesn't he realise that everyone knows who he is ? Even if he hadn't performed this ritualistic striptease dance with his gloves, the very fact that a barman practically kisses his feet is a dead giveaway. His naked hands are pale compared to his tanned face and neck. That's another giveaway, I have deduced.

There's another man I've noticed hanging around the bars. He's the matador Galloso. He's very dramatic, too. But, you can tell he'd never be accepted into the Secret Police, for he wears his hair in a little ponytail at the back. Ponytails are quite possibly simply not accepted in the secret world of the Secret Police. They're just too ostentatious.

The barmen grin like buffoons any time Galloso swaggers in and glides on to the bar stool. They welcome him with a huge embrace. Galloso's hands are always naked, so they're brown, brown like his eyes. He's never alone. Rather he's always surrounded by a group of people any time he enters the bar. They're the hangers-on, I suppose. I guess he can't manage to order a coffee or sherry on his own? He can kill bulls, but sipping on a drink all by himself is just too scary a thought?!

I think the Secret Police Man with naked hands and I have some things in common.

We are both independent. We can both go into a bar on our own. We don't need to be in a group. Absolutely not. We both stand when we could sit down, and we both observe everyone and everything. His eyes squint as he gazes around him, just like mine as I inhale the strong odours of garlic, olive oil, stale wine,  black coffee and that je ne sais pas aroma of something clean, yet festering.

Gosh, maybe I could become a Secret Police Person? Wouldn't  Franco welcome me to his coterie of spies and sycophants?

I'm certain I could master the art of stripping my hands of black leather gloves. And, I don't mind wearing my coat like a cape. Hmm. It's quite possible that Franco would buy me a real cape! There's probably a budget that he's set aside for his Secret Police. I wouldn't say no to a trip to Madrid to get myself a cape made of the very best of materials and a pair of soft black leather gloves.  I'm one hundred per cent sure that I can learn the skill of removing them seductively.

I think, after all, like many things, it's all in the wrist. Ha ha.