Bye bye maybe

Many's the time that Spanish friends of mine have looked on, aghast at my behaviour. One of my favourites was about fifteen years ago when, after some social occasion or other, I bade farewell to the assembled mob and left. A few days later I was with two of the people present at another engagement.

"Why were you so rude the other day?"

"Eh?" (Thinking that could be most days.)

"When you left the restaurant so abruptly. Had someone offended you?"

"No, I haven't been offended since I was about six. I just wanted to go home, said goodbye and left."

"Come on, you were annoyed about something."


"You were."


"There you go again - so abrupt."

To be honest, it took about another five years and various upbraidings, mainly by incredulous girlfriends, for me to cotton on to the root of the problem - you can't just say goodbye and leave in Malaga; there's a ritual which goes something like this:

1. "I'll have to be off shortly." (To first be muttered about two hours before departure).

2. "I need to be going soon." (To be stated every fifteen minutes thereafter).

3. Get car keys/house keys/any keys out and fiddle with them for twenty minutes.

4. Rise to feet stating your intentions (see steps one 1 and 2.)

5. Sit down again.

6. Stand up again.

Now this is where things get really interesting. A hearty wave to all concerned and bolting for the door is tantamount to insulting everyone's mother (my classic mistake). So, you need to say goodbye individually to everybody. Before Covid, this involved myriad kisses and handshakes which, depending on the number of people present, could take from half an hour to six weeks to perform and it's not over yet.

According to the rules of the game, any one of the people you're saying goodbye to is now perfectly entitled to detain you to ask about the welfare of your pets, even if you haven't got any. Or your cousin in Madrid, or the state of your privet hedge. This phase of proceedings can last decades, or that's how it feels.

Anyway, at least by now you can slink off to your car/bus/taxi/psychiatrist and heave a huge sigh of relief. Or can you?

"Peter!" A disembodied voice rises from the ether and your blood turns cold.

"Are you angry? It's just that you didn't spend three hours saying goodbye to that woman in the big hat that you've only just met."

"No, I'm not at all angry but I was actually hoping to get home before The End Of Days and maybe catch a bit of the snooker."

"Oh, ok. By the way, how's your goldfish..?"