Whilst waiting for the sea container to arrive and clear customs I flew down to Argentina to see Jessica. She had recently moved out of her mother’s apartment into a studio of her own and was now a third year medical student at University of Buenos Aires Medical School. Of the 6000 undergraduates who enrolled in her first year less than 250 would qualify as doctors six years later. She would be one of them.
In 2002, Argentina was in chaos with the banks collapsing, inflation out of control and the peso worthless. I toyed with the idea of buying a property for next to nothing and living there on my UK pension but soon rejected it on seeing the increasing levels of violence and social disorder. I decided instead to return to London, load up the Blue Beast and travel through France to a new life in La Rioja, the premier wine-growing region of Spain.
Ted suggested lunch. I suggested the Northgate in Islington. He turned up with DouDou, his sister. I turned up with the Persian Rug. Lunch was a long, boozy afternoon which ended with the Persian Rug flat out on the floor and DouDou rejecting my advances. She was still recovering from the celebrations following Pencil Dick’s departure for Florida and flying school. Over the next few weeks I persisted, she resisted, I insisted, she untwisted and we finally hit it off just as I was about to take the Blue Beast on the ferry to Calais.
So it was with a heavy heart that on a glorious May Day morning I said goodbye and set off across the Channel to France. I intended to follow the slowest route via the best vineyards, cheapest hotels and tiniest restaurants to Spain. I kept a sort of journal of my travels which I emailed her regularly and here follows a selection of my posts.