By Gerry Moran
So, while the Irish were battling bedbugs and the All Blacks in Paris yours truly was battling the ‘invisible enemy’ in the tourist resort of Nerja in Southern Spain. Nerja, population 25,000, is a charming little town about 30 miles from Malaga. My wife and I visited Nerja about 25 years ago. We’d never heard of the place but availed of a last-minute deal (one of the few deals we’ve ever chanced upon).
When I returned home and the boys in the pub asked where I’d been I told them: “Nerja”. “Ah, Nerja,” said one of them, “I was at my cousin’s wedding there about a year ago.”
Nerja, which back then we had never heard of, is, apparently, a popular spot with the Irish, not least for Irish couples getting married as there is a beautiful church and picturesque plaza there – ideal for wedding photographs. Indeed we popped into the church and I lit a candle, or rather I put a euro in the slot but the candle never lit! I also gave a euro to the guy begging outside the door (think Jesus would be happier with that).
Back to bedbugs and the All Blacks – not a pleasant scenario and for sure not a pleasant result. I watched the game in a pub called El Fuego, meaning The Fire; I arrived a bit late and was immediately engulfed by fired-up Irish fans chanting the renowned, clichéd, but wonderful refrain: Olé, Olé, Olé Olé. And for sure there was no shortage of Irish fire in the packed-to-the-rafters bar that night. I settled down with a pint of Cruzcampo, the local brew, to steady the nerves for the onslaught ahead. Come half time, however, the nerves were far from steady, they were frazzled and the chanting had ceased. In fact there wa an eerie silence hovering over the crowded El Fuego and I could hear myself gulping down my third pint.
Second half and the tension was mounting. Mounting. Mounting. Mounting. As the game neared its end the tension was unbearable. One try. One simple touch of that ball over, or even on, the line and we were in sporting ecstasy. Sporting history. But it wasn’t to be. Heartbreak. And the fire of enthusiasm, of optimism, in El Fuego turned to ash.
Rugby aside, my wife and I were walking through the streets of Nerja towards a particular restaurant when I was suddenly unsure of where I was. I stopped a lady and graciously asked if we were going in the right direction. We were. Noticing her Irish accent I asked where she’s from? “Dublin,” she replied.
“I’m from Kilkenny myself’, “I said. “I know you,” she said and I was totally dumbfounded. “You’re Gerry Moran,” she said. “I know you from your voice on Sunday Miscellany.”
She was Orla Hickey who worked in Seville Lodge in Kilkenny for many years, a place where I participated in many an interesting course (not least my pre-marriage course) A small world for sure.
And boy have I digressed. Back to the ‘invisible enemy’. I’ve been travelling abroad for more than half a century now and have learned to pack fairly smartly. I spread the clothes I think I’ll need on the bed, then put half of them back in the wardrobe, roll my shorts and t-shirts in the case (saves on space) and place all medicines (which have accumulated over the years) in a ‘compartment’ of their own. Tickets and credit cards accounted for – I am ready to fly, convinced I haven’t forgotten anything. But I have.
And I don’t discover what it is until I wake up the first morning in our hotel – bruised, blotched and almost bloodied. I have been ‘eaten alive’ as my mother used to say by the ‘invisible enemy’ – mosquitoes. The tiny feckers feasted on my fresh, virgin blood all night. The Irish in El Fuego may not have partied but these Spanish mosquitoes partied on this unfortunate Irish man. Now I’m not into tattoos but by God my arms and legs were rightly tattooed by the pesky mosquitoes.
And so, my first outing in Nerja was to the pharmacy for lotions, potions and sprays which should have been top of my travelling list.
Meanwhile, bedbugs and being beaten by the All Blacks paled into insignificance compared to the Nerja Mosquito Massacre!