"Nice one of Harold, but I don't like me. Why not just use photos?"

Harold and Claudia

"It's doing something with the hands. Couldn't really draw at first; started at school when I did this poster for the war effort, a man driving a tractor. Didn't win any prizes but it marked my entry into the world of fine art. Well, at least my dad thought it was fine art. He did a pencil drawing of a lion which he did at his school in Derby and which hung on our sitting-room wall for as long as I remember. Mine was called 'Sowing for Victory' or something. Us kids also dug potatoes helping out the land girls and stacked the stooks of corn and bales of the second mowing - for you could get two crops of grass for the animals."

"That's what's called the aftermath. Well, it is actually Harold as such: he just looks so infinitely superior. He did actually go to Art college, then he went all square and technical, and ended up as a magistrate. But then, the poor lad always does look superior."

"That's why we call him 'The Bench' behind his back. Alas, I didn't go to Art college so please forgive amateur imperfections."

"So you don't just draw it, then?"

"Good God, no! It's all measured from the photo just to get the proportions. Can't do it by eye. I'm not that good! You should see the first drawings I did - total rubbish."

Joan and Barrie

"Harold's the same with right-angles and slide rule. Don't like the one of Barrie. I think there's more to Barrie than meets the eye! Do like Joan though, a veritable forest fairy, believes all that stuff about maxios."

"A bit on the big side for a fairy, but she plays tennis like she means it!"


"And just look at Manfred, a veritable lion of learning! And where are the Bees?"

"You know something of the Bees' background?"

"Mixed up with ETA, I believe."

"I'll get Petal to explain."

It never occurred to me that there might be a problem. There was that incident in 1985 when the police called at Bloque D and knocked on the Bees' door by mistake and Bernardo locked himself in the shower room. Eventually he calmed down and humbly explained:

"I know how to manage new business but the ETA people were armed. I just gave them the money and they left."

But the last time the police were waiting and there was noise and violence. He didn't tell the police: "I mean, how could I? It was a surprise visit!" but ETA had Bernardo down as an informer and it was then he applied for early retirement.

The police allowed the liberation group GAL who tortured and assassinated ETA people in the name of patriotismo and even persuaded Bernardo not to enter the Banco de Bilbao here in Los Cristianos with its wide-open counters and ledgers and no security. Only when computers were installed and bullet-proof screens that would fly up on the slightest provocation was his fear placated. Sometimes the screens or the computers didn't work and it was a big laugh, back to square one until they fixed it. By the time ETA had twigged it opportunity had long departed, even so great temeroso returned in case ETA had an open line to the Banco de Bilbao and knew when the newly installed computers were due to fail. "They have this long line of communication, my friend. They know when to strike. There is not the calm of the English, there is venganza with this long line will come for me."

Supportive as always Berenca stays close. In tears and almost incoherent Spanish; Lizzie hurries forward struggling with translation: "this will go on the computer - yes?"

We nod, dumbfounded by her distress.

"Not for my man, please. He is in fear for ETA people. And this picture will go everywhere - yes? Everywhere they hunt for killing peoples they hate. There was the wife of the assistant police chief. And I knew her. They burn her feets."

It was hard to break into the tangle of Spanish. Lizzie gave up and clutched Berenca by the wrists until she quietened down. "Hang about Renca, sweetie - we don't have a website. Claudia does, so let's - " there's enough to worry about when computers are part of the equation and she is quite able to visualize Claudia's web site being world-wide like most others - "Okay. Listen love: tell you what!" - And they still do it. Hundreds of people associated with ETA and with GAL are still tortured and killed - "Okay. Listen to me, love: tell you what... No, listen to me please..."

On Claudia's newly acquired website which is available to all including the terrorist world, will be the drawing of Bernardo and Berenca that can be seen from Iceland in the north to New Zealand in the south - as I have often remarked in amazement about web sites and the miracles of communication science - and poor Berenca has picked it up and they will put a bomb in the sewer and wait for her Bernardo to pass over and kill him, verosimil to the Jose Luis Alvarez Santacristina who was found only last year by computer search for killing people with bombs in sewers and arrested by the police.

"They find the begins of terror and the final vengeance - there is no secret from these peoples. They know who does and who is done to."

I pick up her hand wet with weeping and gently assure her that nobody will recognize Bernardo, the drawing will not be given to Claudia. I shall burn it.

She is trying to strike an attitude between security and boldness. She wants to be included in our group discussion. "Tell you what, Renca, duck, alternatively I could put the drawing in unfinished."

A vigorous head shake follows: "It is not safe with these peoples. The next big work is to sink a ferry bound for England with a car bomb and these people are catolico like the Irish."

Not all, we hastily assure her, some are protestante and in England the public eye bends to law and order, only the private eye welcomes vengeance, for even the stupid English can give way to the medieval practice of revenge on people who don't worship as they do. The brutalities of religion and politics are still with us.

Now we hear the story of the stabbing up by Repsol filling station and the family vengeance brought upon the youth with a knife that stopped just short of killing him. Enough, she doesn't want to hear any more of violence. In all the world's space there must be somewhere for her Bernardo to hide.

"Where are the true minds, Bernardo?" The drawing of Bernardo and Berenca I tear into small pieces and put them down the loo.

"Thank you, my friend," says Bernardo.

Next: Death Comes Ashore >>

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Text & paintings © Alan Mann 2006 - 2012