My summer holiday with Golden Staph

Got a big one; just look at the bathers

My former housemate in Montpellier is a washed out, unemployed 47-year-old, who is nearly 2 metres tall and who neighbours call The Ogre. Presumably that means I was his trusty ass.

He’s happy-go-lucky; being an alcoholic, the glass is always half full, as long as the rum bottle is nearly empty. But his humour is infectious and his heart is golden, which is why I fondly refer to him as ‘Golden Staph’.

I hadn’t seen him in a year, so passing through Montpellier last week was a good opportunity to catch up on all that hadn’t happened.

Particularly heartening was the fact the wheelie bin was still in his room. He had hauled it up there 2 years ago as the prototype of his world-beating invention; a wheelie bin with a foot pedal.

This ingenious contraption was just like any other bin, except its lid would be opened via foot pedal.  Unfortunately, while passers-by could now more easily open the bin, the garbage truck no longer could.

Blessed with a sunny weekend, we decided to take a tour on the small fishing boat belonging to a friend of Staph’s that he had been working on.

Arriving at the small jetty, we clambered onboard. Staph disappeared to get some petrol, returning to inform us that there was none to be bought. However, he knew a friend who had a boat in the nearby marina, and more importantly, knew where said friend kept his emergency petrol tank.

In theory we could have converted Staph’s bottle of alcohol into fuel, but with all the messing around, his supply of bootleg alcohol was also now running perilously low.

We chugged up the waterway to the marina. Having first borrowed a friend’s boat, Staph was now about to borrow another friend’s petrol. But, as they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed – and there was no doubting that Staph was always in need.

It was a scary feeling to leave the safety of the marina and head to the open Mediterranean sea, particularly as this meant there was no longer an enforceable speed limit.  I’m familiar with the concept of water being like glass; but as my backbones compressed with every gallant leap through the waves, I felt the water to be more like a jar.

While safety might not have been at the forefront of Captain Staph’s mind, fishing certainly was. Casting 2 rods, he then donned a scuba mask with intention of chasing the fish on to the hooks. The mask one of those oval shaped relics of the 1970s. Not liking the sensation of how it blocked his nose, he placed it in a way that made it as airtight as a pair of reading glasses.

Friends indeed

With an almighty duck dive, he then face-planted the water, surfacing moments later with a question mark hovering over is uncovered eyes, asking not “Where’s the fish?” but “Where’s the mask?”

“It’s sinking,” we told him. “Too bad you lost it, because it would be useful now that you need to dive for it.”

As the level of light got dimmer, so did the plan. We were now hunting squid, we were informed, which required us to charge through the water trailing the distended lines at speed behind us.

He thus accelerated full throttle towards a seagull one nautical mile away, explaining that to find the fish, real fishermen first find the birds.

Pulling up at the buoy that had seemed so seagull-like just moments ago, we noticed both our fishing lines were running taut.

Reeling in the first, we saw that we’d caught 2 small shrimp-like creatures; one of which was attached to the second fishing line, and the other attached to the first. Bravely untangling the two lures, he recast the rod, only to catch on to the shirt collar of Marie, who was sitting barely 2 metres away. Good way to catch birds, but not fish.

This man does not want to be identified.

A flock of flamingos flew over the horizon, marking the fact the sun had now gone down. It was time to head home, and not a moment too soon. Entering the marina, the boat conked out. The end of the petrol. Contemplating how to advance, our eyes were drawn to a strange creature limping through the surface of the water.

It looked like one of Staph’s lures, but was three times larger and covered in a black ink. All the effort to find a squid and we never needed to leave the harbour; but that wouldn’t have been half as fun.


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