I’d just finished unloading our second trailer of the day when I received the call.
“Hey Andy. I know this is short notice, but we’ve had someone drop out from a project in Portugal and thought you’d be interested.”
Hmm. Go on.
“Would you be able to get on a coach from Edinburgh to Manchester at nine o’clock tonight and fly to Lisbon at seven thirty tomorrow morning?”
Possibly being one of the most understanding bosses to work for, my supervisor knows I’m not about to let this opportunity pass – a jobs just a job after all- he wishes me luck and awaits my return.
Eating my dinner in the car while my Dad rally’s through the streets of Edinburgh we catch my bus just in time, I hop on board and sleep until Manchester.
Making no attempt to blend with the locals I stroll from Lisbon airport dressed to the nines in my purple kilt, sporran, knee high white socks, boots and Iron Maiden vest as if to say “Here’s your tourist. Come n’ get me!” Three hours I spend lost in Lisbon before finding the bus to Leirea -my home for the coming month- yet my mind still fails to completely take in the fact that I’m now on foreign soil. Springing to life from time to time I think to myself “Look where I am. How did this happen!?”
Introductions should always be made while in a kilt. After meeting the other volunteers in my hostel and with ice well broken I look to have a much needed wash. Before undressing I stretch an arm towards the shower twisting the handle just to gauge the temperature and withdraw my hand, still grasping the tap. Fuck, I’ve broken it! I jump in the shower, press the tap back on only to find it’s a push tap – not a twist- and I’m soaked head to foot by a jet of freezing water. I take off my wet kilt and finish my shower.
My project’s great. Cycling patrols through the countryside covering forest tracks around the coast, sellIing T-shirts at the beach and giving information to locals about preserving the area isn’t really work I reckon, more of a long holiday really. I borrow a bike from the organization and spend some weekends with my Polish friend exploring and getting lost. I tire of sitting around drinking in the evenings and seek out a swimming pool on the other side of town eventually getting my time down to a respectable sixty two lengths in one hour.
Before I know it my last night’s upon us and I’m reminded of a promise I’d made my first night here. “Before I leave I’ll dance naked in the city centre’s fountain.” Now being a man of my word -when it suits me- I leave my clothes in my room and armed with a towel around my waist we enter the city square.
Using my camera phone, a friend records the whole show. Thirty plus spectators gather to witness this nut dance around before taking my towel and retreating homeward.
After twenty minutes of banging on the door I sit on the curb and consider my situation. It’s two am, I have a bus to catch in four hours, my suitcase and passport lie in a hostel that’s locked me out and I’m on the street naked. I enter another volunteer’s house I’m glad to see has been left open, explain my situation then spend ten minutes running around a room trying to retrieve my towel that ‘Funny Man’ swiped from me.
Unable to escape the fact that I have to get into that room I march towards my hostel to try again. This time a familiar face appears from the next door down and I realize that all along I’ve been rattling the wrong door. I pack my bags and lie down for an hour. An hour and a half later I check my watch and jump with alarm to find my bus leaves in ten minutes! I run, just catching it and set sail for Scotland.. By plane.
With plans in motion to go for a holiday in the South of Poland with my friend and her family where I spend two weeks sleeping in a barn -which was really cool appart from that big fucking chicken every morning-. I confront my boss and explain I’m back for two days then off again. He’s OK about it, but refuses to give me a full-time contract again which I understand.
On meeting my friends Dad and two younger brothers in Poland I’m asked to hand over my phone while she searches for a particular video. “This is Andy..and this is Andy naked!”
. . .
I’d not be surprised if during my time Death himself had paid a little visit just to watch a young Andrew slip through his fingers while bouncing a fire extinguisher of rocks in a bid to blow it up. Or watch that same boy in his late teens on a snowboard fly like a bullet backwards and into a sign ironically promoting ‘Give blood’.
It would however, be my unscheduled flight head first from a small cliff of about fifteen meters during my time here in Poland that that would really make me appreciate my own mortality from now on -excluding when it comes to snakes and bulls, but more on that later. I missed the rocks by inches, landed on the side of my face, twisted a finger and felt physically sick afterwards with that impact. To this day my finger still feels a little funny on cold days and I’m not the greatest fan of heights anymore.
We spend half a month walking through the National parks surrounding Krakow, climb one of the highest of the Tatra mountains where we get a little too close to a bear with cubs on our way down then cycle to Slovakia a few days later. In keeping with this recent whirlwind of activity of late I find myself invited back to Poland for an experience of a much different sort.