2 years ago
Saturday, July 17, 2010
My Big Bang
For some people, the Big Bang is a theory about the beginning of the universe. For other people, it's all about 27th October 1986, when the London Stock Exchange changed its rules and embraced the electronic age. But for me, my Big Bang was a quite different event; one that changed my life forever.
I’d just finished my first year at University, and what a hard year that had been. My step-father had committed suicide because of mounting gambling debts, leaving my Mum as our main breadwinner. Her stepmother had become unwell and had come to live with us. And I’d been working evenings and weekends as a factory delivery driver to help put food on our table.
So I was astonished when Freddie, an extremely wealthy fellow student, asked me if I’d be his co-driver on a journey to Madrid. The deal was that we’d share the driving in his car, he’d pay all expenses, after which we’d part company. He was planning to spend the summer with his fiancée, who lived in Madrid. I’d be left to make my own way home.
Well, the prospect of a free ride to Madrid was irresistible, especially as Freddie wanted us to start the journey when the factory that I worked for was closing down for a fortnight. I reckoned I could hitchhike my way back home easily enough. So I accepted.
The drive was fun. And so was Freddie. Yes, he’d been born with a dozen silver spoons in his mouth; he was rich, intelligent, good-looking, debonair, multilingual, and a brilliant raconteur. He certainly kept me amused on that drive. I guess it was all the laughter that made us miss a turning somewhere outside of Pamplona, and we got hopelessly lost in miles of winding tracks, with not a building in sight.
It was quite late in the evening when we spotted a grand-looking Hacienda high up on a hill. Freddie was driving at the time, and made a beeline for it. I stayed in the car whilst Freddie knocked at the door to ask for directions. After ten minutes or so of conversation with a lady who opened the door, he returned to the car with the good news that we were invited to stay the night.
Freddie explained that the lady had recently been widowed, and could not allow us to stay in the main house. But she had given him a set of keys for a nearby caballeriza – an empty stable block with extremely comfortable overhead staff sleeping quarters, and a hot and cold water supply. That’s where we stayed the night, before continuing our journey to Madrid the following morning.
It must have been around nine months later when I received the letter. It was written in Spanish, from an Attorney in Navarra. I got the general gist of the letter with the help of a Spanish-English dictionary, but just to make sure, I had it professionally translated. It took me a couple of days of quiet reflection to work out what had happened.
I met Freddie at College shortly afterwards, and asked him if he remembered the young widow at the Hacienda. And I asked him if he’d popped back to the Hacienda during the night to thank her for her hospitality. He grinned, and confessed he had.
But what really amazed him was when I asked if he had given her my name and address, instead of his. He turned bright red with embarrassment, and said “How on earth do you know that?”
All I could do was smile.
You see, the letter had informed me that a certain widow in Spain, the Condesa Maria Echeverria Corriente Delgado, had died. And she had left me her considerable fortune in her will.
Posted by Canary Islander at 2:41 PM