The Landlady in waiting…

I had forgotten how slow the process of buying and selling a flat can be. It is, however, far less frustrating when you do not, and never intend to, live in either the flat you are buying or the one you are selling. My offer has been accepted on the flat I’m buying, but I have not yet had an offer on the one I’m selling. I can’t say that I’m bothered about all this non-buying and non-selling, as I’m a fairly patient soul and have had a great deal of practise in the art of ‘waiting’ recently in Cuba.

“If anything ever happens, it happens at the pace of a very elderly gout-ridden snail”

In Cuba, if anything ever happens at all, it happens at the pace of a very elderly gout-ridden snail. During my December trip, I travelled to the southern city of Cienfuegos with a couple of Cuban amigos. When we arrived at our intended casa, we discovered it was fully booked. In the pouring rain, there followed a typical Cuban wild goose chase, which involved a very battered old Lada with only half a windscreen wiper, one operable door and a taxi driver who was exploding with schadenfreude over our room-less situation. We pulled up in front of one casa which, even in the dark, looked like it had recently been fire- bombed.

‘S***’, exclaimed the cab driver, I hope it’s better on the inside than on the outside. It was, but it was also fully-booked. We eventually found somewhere to stay (much to the disappointment of the cab-driver) but not before even my patience had evaporated.

On our last day in Cienfuegos, we set off in search of a hire car, to take us to the beach, then back to Havana. It seemed to me to be a flawed plan from the outset, as we didn’t possess a driving licence between us and hire cars have all the availability of Scotch mist in Cuba at the best of times. This did not daunt my typically optimistic Cuban compadres and in the tropical heat with head-rotting hangovers, we set off on one of the most tortuous shopping trips I’ve ever endured. It involved stopping on many street corners in the baking sun and talking at great length to chain-smoking men for no apparent reason. This pointless banter was peppered with seemingly unnecessary forays into empty shops to buy nothing. It was the consumer equivalent of watching someone else watching paint dry.

Eventually, my amigos had to admit defeat and, having wasted three hours trying to hire a car, we hired a taxi to the beach and got there just as the sun was kissing the beach its final farewell for the evening. Back at the airport a couple of days later and in a bit of a daze, I was verbally attacked by a very red-faced and extremely posh English gent who accused me of ‘pushing into’ the check-in queue – which I most certainly did not. With at least two hours to wait before the departure of the plane, I wondered what his hurry was and, indeed, how he’d managed to contain his anger in the most frustrating country in the world.

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