Saturday, October 13, 2007


bikers' haven


I haven't slept too well. Today I must ride the bike back from Dakar Moto to the city centre. The autopista scares me. I can deal with the traffic ahead. I am scared of a truck or a car smashing into my rear. Rain threatens which doesn't help. I imagine slippery road surfaces and being unable to see clearly through fogged spectacles.
I take the metro and suburban train out to Florida. Eight of us eat a great assado in the workshop at Dakar Moto.The meat is cooked by Javier. Preparing the salad is more time consuming - women's work, no applause.
Is that nit picking?
Yes, I know...Get on with the story.
An Argentine rose grower drives us to the pizza parlor to watch the England-France rugby match. The rose grower helps run his family's nursery in Ecuador. He hopes that he remains a biker but carries a thick scent of inevitable marriage, four wheels, four kids, an expanding paunch and executive desk . That's the way it goes and he knows it.
The match is a breath-taker right to the final whistle.
Lots of hugs and I saddle up and head for the city.
The clouds have cleared. I ride in evening sunshine. Drivers on the motorway imagine that they are competing in a Selectric race.
They weave, overtake on the inside, flash lights, not as a warning, but to express ill temper.
I survive.
Little by little, my confidence returns. No implication here that I am comfortable in the saddle, merely nervous rather than scared witless.
The motorway becomes a fourteen lane avenue. The Gran Hotel Espana is one block off to the left. I park on the sidewalk, take the elevator up to my floor, lie on my bed and call Sandra and Javier. They are part of my Pantheon of Argentine saints, Argentinians who came to my aid when I was badly down and helped resurrect both me and the Baby Honda.
I am deeply grateful...Yes, and a little jealous of Sandra's new gleaming-black Honda 250 trail bike.
Though not really.
I am not a true biker.
The Baby Honda does me very well.
Only forty thousand kilometres separates us from our destination.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I have enjoyed a celebratory lunch of tripe a la Madrilleno and a big glass of excellent red wine (US$3.80). The celebration? I have sorted all the photographs of last year's journey and sent those that are relevant to my publisher. I have completed the final editing on a piece for Elli Cobb at Lonely Planet for an antholgy to be published in August and I have emailed my column to 50 Connect. I expect to see a halo when looking in the mirror. I am sure the halo exists, maybe a little dimmed. Global Warming is a worry to the Creator. He is conserving Power.


I have been avoiding newspapers. Local politics is too depressing. Had I read the newspapers I would have known that this is a holiday weekend. I dropped by the Bouquebus ticket office yesterday for ferry passage tomorrow to Colonia in Uruguay. Sunday at 10 a.m. is the first available space! Frankly I am glad. I can ride to the City centre from Dakar Moto on Saturday evening: traffic should be minimal. Sunday, truck traffic will be nonexistent. Good! I don't like trucks, particularly the Argentine variety.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007



My leg is an excellent excuse for giving the tango a miss. Instead I take breakfast in the most famous of Tango cafes, CAFE TORTONI.


Dakar Motos is in the suburbs. Lunch hour in the rain is a good time for my first ride since the smash. I am nervous as I ride the baby Honda slowly down almost deserted suburban streets. I fear being ambushed. The commissioning editor at Lonely Planet emailed me this morning with some minor suggestions to a piece. The editing is a respectable excuse for delaying my departure. And my book publishers want thirty photographs - a further excuse. My cousins suggest that I stop at their estancia in Uruguay. They go for the weekend. The road is paved bar the last ten kilometres and little used. Maybe my confidence will return after a good run.


Bar a miracle, the present President's wife will be Argentina's next President. A weekend opinion poll reports the two greatest concerns of the voters are economic instability and corruption. The same poll reports that only 2.7% of voters will vote for the President's wife because they believe her to be honest. Meanwhile newspapers report that the equivalent of sixteen-hundred-million US dollars has been spent by the President without Parliamentary permission or oversight. Much of the funds are reputed (by the newspapers) to have been channeled through the Minister closest to the President, a Senor de Vido. I, a foreigner, have no reason to believe the reports are other than scurilous. People make jokes about Un nacion devido. Here are two photographs to accompany the pun.


dinner & Carmensita being considerate of an old man in his cups
Javier at Dakar Motos reports that the baby Honda is finally ready. Am I?
My cousins, Carmen and Brian, give a small family dinner for me. I am deeply touched that Tony came. He is not well and the three flights of stairs up to the open-plan living room demanded great determination. My cousins have a young daughter studying film. My youngest son, Jed, studies film. He also speaks Spanish, though of the Cuban variety. I would love for them to meet and keep this sense of family alive for a further generation.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


As a novelist, I hide my beliefs and emotions within an undergrowth of invented detail. My characters suffer. I remain invulnerable. Reporting is more complicated. I have to raise my own head above the parapet. I have been in Buenos Aires a fortnight. I have been occupied mainly with meeting family. Writing of family is both difficult and embarrassing. What do I include? What do I exclude?
Tony Deane was my introduction to these Argentine relatives. I am the younger by a few years (very few).
An outsider might take a quick glance at Tony and recognise a bluff Brit of the old school, rancher, polo player, a Conservative, something of a Blimp.
The same outsider might presume that I, an Old Lefty, must step carefully in Tony's presence.
Ah, well...
On my last visit, Tony gave me a book of naval history, Neslon's Favourite. The book relates the life of the 64 gun Agamemnon and is published by Chatham House in England. Many of the illustrations come from the British Maritime Museum in Greenwich. It is a fascinating and beautifully written account, meticulously researched. The writer shows a remarkable understanding of both officers and sailors. Tony is the author. The book betrays much of who he really is: his openness of mind, his warmth and sincerity, his commitment to his work and his determination and courage in carrying a tough task through to its conclusion.
I suspect that Tony will be embarrassed by this description. It is no more than he deserves. I read his book late into the night and have sent it home for my wife, Bernadette, to enjoy. In my dotage, I will take it down from the shelf and stroke the cover as book lovers do. I will think myself privileged to have known the author. I will think how very fortunate he was to discover a wife in his later years who cares so well and deeply for him.
Dangerous stuff, this raising my head above the parapet...


I have written previously that my very distant Argentine cousin, Tony Deane, used to visit England regularly to play polo and buy pedigree Hereford cattle. He sold a polo pony to my elder brother (another Antony) some thirty years ago. Tony's younger brother, Brian and his wife, Carmen, have shown me extraordinary hospitality over the past days here in Buenos Aires. At their home I have met many of the younger generation. They are a very varied bunch in what they do. One is an immensely successful banker. Another is in Government service and entrusted with the integrity of the coming elections.
Why, I ask: Government salaries are small by any standard; he is a highly qualified lawyer?
He replies that his countrymen deserve better. A better future demands that people of integrity serve the country.
Integrity is a dangerous quality.
He is a brave and honourable young man.
He is also very fortunate. He has the support of a charming and intelligent wife.