White Van Chronicles.... An Afternoon in Nicaragua...

Published by: OFP on 13th Aug 2017 | View all blogs by OFP

The White Van Chronicles


Friday night.  I had just returned home after a quick dirty few pints. An early start on Saturday in Weston loomed. I contemplated the mountain of growing paperwork and opted for procrastination. We are rammed with work. Most crews working short handed so we can cover our extended commitments and weekends now only mean a better pay rate instead of recovery and admin time.

Alexis-The-Ice-Queen office manager is sending me enough threatening emails and texts about overdue paperwork that she qualifies as a stalker.

The phone rang and an automatic sigh eminated from me as I lifted it.

‘Fat Bloke,  I need you to return the panel key to the Bristol site on your way back from Weston. I fucking forgot to hand it in and they are screaming about getting the HSE to shut the site down if we don’t secure that panel’ Mallory commanded. It was commonly known that he was made up to ops manager because he was too stupid to stay on the tools and he had married the old director’s sister so was unsackable.

‘You asshole! Getting from Weston to Bristol will take a fucking month. It’s the Balloon Festival and everyone crashes their cars while looking out of their windows. I’m going by train and let AJ to take the crew home. And while you’re on the phone, you can tell Alexis to stop calling me. Her-indoors thinks we are shacking up and wants to send her a sympathy card’’

‘She is doing  her job. And trains are expensive. I haven’t priced in a jolly for you on the trains....’

‘Do it your-fuckin-self then’,  and I hung up.

My phone pinged and the text said ‘Ok, go by train. Key is on my desk’

I replied, ‘2x trains. I’m telling Her-indoors to meet me there and you’re paying... ’

‘OK... bastard’


I ditched AJ in Weston after morning coffee and caught the train up to Temple Meads. The train was full and the station was buzzing. I had arranged to meet her in St Nicholas Street after dropping the key off so we could have some lunch in the amazing food stalls near All Saints lane.   

After a heated 43 minute phone call with Ice Queen who wanted everyone to know that she-was-working-on-Saturday-morning-because-we-are-all-selfish-incompetent-bastards, I had 12% power on my phone.  I knew that an average phone call coordinating directions and meeting places with Her-indoors was well beyond the existing endurance of my phone.

She sent a text as she arrived at Temple Meads station.  ‘I’m here. Do I turn left or right when I leave the station?’

‘Depends which exit. Go out the main exit and turn RIGHT. Walk to a bridge and cross it. There is a park across the street to your LEFT. There will be signs on the pathway. Meet me at the Crown.’ 9% power. 



‘I can’t find the main exit. Is that the one near the ticket machines?’


‘Ask a train person where the taxi rank is and get one to the CROWN. ALL SAINTS LANE IN ST PHILLIPS’ 7% power. Panic now authorized.


I met her in the Crown. She looked relieved to see me. A good sign. She handed me a phone charger and I plugged it in. I pondered what we did before phones and thought probably stressed a lot less.

We did lunch in the stalls. She had Moroccan which had more colours in it that a Dulux paint chart. I stole a bite of her merquez and dipped it in a puddle of harrisa. It set off that agreeable mouth numbing sensation that your taste buds give off as they shut down and die. The burn continued up and loosened my sinuses a bit and produced a tear in my left eye.

She ate remarkable fast for her and we only saw two changes of people who shared our table while we ate. I had a small plate of sludgy lasagne. Carbs are always a good bed for beer. The ciders in Bristol are dryer than fish turds in a sandstorm and not suitable for an afternoon walk about.

She finished and nodded her approval at her half-eaten lunch. I did a quick scan of the remains and determined a zero factor of interesting bits remaining and we got up and left.

And so began the great people show which is Bristol on a summer afternoon in St Phillips. Outside on the high street, several homeless people had taken up strategic positions around the choke points near the Tesco Express as well as next to the cash point.  Some were honest broken people who carried that leathery quality to their completions that comes from living rough. Too many were obvious chancers.

One guy was sat on a bath towel in clean clothes and wearing £130 Nike Airs. He seemed to be doing better than the broken guys, probably because he looked less threatening and scary.  I asked Her-indoors to go into Tesco for a small bottle of water and I dropped a quid on a mat in front of a dirty guy in old combats. I don’t think he noticed.

We moved on and walked down to the Harbour. The place was filling up with stag and hen parties and the asshole factor was increasing as prosseco and lager took hold on those who don’t drink often and for good reason.  I moved my hand up to her shoulder in order to fend off the reeling drunks who occasionally rolled into our path.  I was hoping for a zero confrontation day.

After a few drinks along the quayside at a table by the water,  I began watching the throng of people moving by and I pondered the commercial viability of setting up a tour group and charging punters for watching other punters. “FREAK SHOW... 50p”

We spent the afternoon drinking slowly and letting conversations flow to digressions. Future plans were mulled, past trips were fondly recollected and it was as good an afternoon that we had shared in too long a time.

The people watching was extraordinary and I had that perfect mix of a good meal, a bit of alcohol and great company to put my mind in that self amused and observational state to get the most from observing the various variations and mutations of mankind.

I noticed patterns. If you watch a younger woman walking behind another group of younger women, they are constantly surveying. Their eyes don’t go tracking men but in looking at the clothes, ass, boobs and makeup of other women.

I contemplated the possibilities, including the variations of gender preference, self confidence, and appreciation of trending fashion patterns.  But I think it was mostly instinctive and primitive.  Something as basic as sizing up the competiion. 

By early evening , the ambience of the place was changing to a more aggressive tone as alcohol and the first day footy results became known. With the help of alcohol, tarts had transformed themselves to sluts on their hen doos, and dicks on stag doos had made the step to cunts with the help of too many pints. The bouncers began to drag a steady stream of human effluent out of the bars. It was time to go.


 We moved on across the river to the wonderful and eclectic area of Spike Island. There are a dozen small places offering ethical and vegan food and we found a small place in a side street which offered Caribbean food.  

We drank Green Label Rum from Nicaragua and she ate banana cake. The food we saw being delivered to the tables around us looked incredible. The staff were friendly. I ordered a small starter of ribs. I honked to Her-indoors after ten minutes waiting and she told me to shut up as they make it fresh in places like this. It arrived and I briefly remember a flash across my tastebuds as it disappeared. About six different and distinct flavours. I wondered how they kept them from mixing. Magnificant.

We shared the smells from nearby diners and Her-indoors took a business card as we left.  I felt a pull and had a sensation that I was going against a pre ordained fate by not going back and ordering the shrimp gumbo with peas and rice....

The thing is, these wonderful little places open and close in a blink of a worm hole in time.

Her-indoors fell asleep on my shoulder on the train on the way home. I googled Green Label rum and discovered that it is very strong at 46% and very expensive at £48 a bottle.

I looked at the slight smile on her face as the train bumped into Bath Station.


Cheap at half the price.



  • stephenterry
    by stephenterry 10 days ago
    Great blog. I spent a week in Managua - was invited to a restaurant (by a drop-dead gorgeous Nicaraguan work lady) that resided by a lake where visitors could take a boat upstream - and maybe back downstream. My UK colleague, an adventurist sort by going to bed at 7pm, decided to treat himself to lobster as it was dirt cheap by UK standards.

    I ordered the local version of mushy peas and chips. We spent a pleasant thirty minutes discussing how Einstein had got it wrong as the restaurant seemed to float about on stilts before (with a drum crescendo) the meal of the day arrived. A whole lobster, must have beaten the world record, and a pair of nut-crackers on a metal platter.

    Lobster watching is fascinating - particularly when it's taken apart piece by piece - and we (by then I had struck up a good working relationship with my Nicky) moved on to discussing the topic of Santa Domingo where I would go next.

    But I digress - keep on posting, it's magic.
  • Hilly
    by Hilly 9 days ago
    I love the way you write, Prop. It's brilliant, dry and wry. I always look forward to your blogs or posts. Thanks again for this one.
  • Tony
    by Tony 9 days ago
    Lovely read - on the gentler side.
  • Kate
    by Kate 9 days ago
    Another great blog. Always fascinating to see life through a very different pair of eyes. Much enjoyed.
  • Sandra
    by Sandra 9 days ago
    Lovely description of lovely day. I've a long-standing friend near there and last time we me we had coffee, lunch, and catch-up chats.
    Agree with what Hilly says above too, thank you.
  • Squidge
    by Squidge 8 days ago
    Lovely read, Prop.
  • OFP
    by OFP 8 days ago
    Thank you all for reading and enjoying this. I wrote it instead of another risk assessment. 77 days to down tools....
  • Clytemnestra
    by Clytemnestra 8 days ago
    'Down Tools' Does that mean you are 77 days from retirement, Prop?
  • Seagreen
    by Seagreen 8 days ago
    Nice one, Prop ;-)
  • Mezz
    by Mezz 8 days ago
    You conjure up lovely images and there's always a wryness, which I like. Nice read.
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