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THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Round and round


Al Gilkes

THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Round and round

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Have you experienced the new traffic configuration at what is commonly known as the Simpson Motors Roundabout? If you haven’t, take it from me and find an alternative route to wherever it is that you want to go.
It’s madness and confusion of a magnitude that I had last experienced one night 30-something years ago in Madrid, Spain, while on my first overseas assignment for the then newly-established weekly NATION. I was there to take a train to the city of Bilbao in the north to await the arrival of a ship at the nearby seaport town of Santurce.
Legendary Barbadian seafarer and former Government minister Captain George Fergusson had been missing at sea for some ten days and had been presumed dead until, miraculously, he and his company were rescued alive and well by a freighter. The ship had no ports of call in the region so he and his friend were forced to continue to Santurce, where I would be waiting for the big scoop.
So, in Madrid on my first night on Spanish soil, with nothing to do, I went for a stroll. Along the way I admired the architecture of centuries-old buildings and enjoyed real finger-licking pollo (chicken) cooked the Spanish way, washed down by several bottles of Spanish brew.
Approaching midnight, it was time to get back to my hotel and I was doing well on my way until I reached the largest roundabout you could ever imagine. Not only was it huge but it sprouted about six different streets, each with two lanes of heavy traffic.
My headache was not so much as getting from one street to the other, but trying to find which was the one with my hotel because I didn’t have a clue and there was nothing familiar in sight, building or otherwise.
So why not use my smattering of Spanish and ask somebody for directions? I could not because I could not remember – more correctly, I didn’t know – the name of the hotel to which the taxi driver had taken me where I had left the big brass key for my room.
So, in a state of panic, I decided to walk a certain distance along each street praying for a sign, a hotel sign. The first, second and third yielded no such sign and each time I returned to the roundabout my heart sunk deeper in despair that turned to acute fear of the unknown in this strange city.
Eventually, after more than an hour’s frustration, on the fourth street I saw a building I recognised by its unusual design and 200 or so yards away was, great relief, my hotel.
Since then I have not found myself in such a state of panic in any part of the world until last Tuesday night when I reached that roundabout at Warrens and discovered at the very last moment that it had grown to what looked like twice its size overnight, and with a new road going to, around and from it.
After some nervous moments of indecision, I finally saw an opening to the lane to take me around and towards Redman’s Village when, out of the darkness on my right, flew a car from the H&B Hardware area on a road that I never knew existed.
I was truly like a fish out of water, not knowing my head from my feet and praying for a real sign.

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