|Aye Caramba etc|
Let's just tick all the boxes shall we?
Sombrero - check
Pencil thin moustache... or is it a beard? - check
Two tone green skin - er...
There are rumours that he was even available in a little gift set, replete with mini wire cutters, false documents and years of second class citizen status, but that may have just been made up... by me... just now...
Ironically, the story of how this little fella came to be in my collection does indeed involve clashes with authority and border crossings.
Let me take you back to 1986 (again). I'm in my first term at secondary school and, as was customary at the time, us first years get the chance of a day trip to France. I believe these trips were known amongst the teachers as 'booze cruises', whereas for the kids, it represented the chance to buy all manner of contraband.
The day before we're due to leave for foreign shores, we're informed that our destination has changed. Far from the Gallic adventure we'd anticipated, we were instead bound for Belgium. To this day I have no idea why this last minute change took place; the only possible explanation must be that one of the teachers was a huge fan of Enzo Scifo...
'Twas a misty morn and as we boarded the coach to take us to the delights of the local hypermarket (because that's what you do the first time you set foot outside of your home country, go to a Tesco Extra), the heavens opened... a sign of things to come? Or just a cold front moving in from the east?
Finally, we arrived at the hypermarket and what a huge place it was too... full of... well, the same sort of stuff you could get over in Blighty, really, just with funny packaging and strange prices (remember Francs anyone?) I made a sweep of the place and while my friends were busy hoovering up all the bangers they could find, I was occupied trying, with my limited resources, to find presents for my family. If you've ever tried to find souvenirs in your local supermarket, you'll perhaps empathise with my predicament and understand why my relatives ended up with mostly stationery-based gifts.
Having made my purchases, I was then wandering round the shop trying to find my friends when my eyes fell upon Pique. His little sucker attachment indicated he was clearly designed as a car ornament, but, being 11, I possessed no such mode of transport. That was not going to deter me from owning a rather ropey piece of Mexico 86 and so back to the checkout I headed.
Upon arrival at the checkout, the woman behind the desk eyed me with xenophobic suspicion, though it could have been mainly because I was with a group of schoolchildren who seemed to be trying to fill their pockets gratis at every opportunity. It probably was that. After I had completed the financial transaction involving my little mascot friend, she (the checkout woman, not Pique, who was, after all, clearly a male chilli) pointed at the bag containing my earlier purchases and demanded I show her proof that I had paid for them... or at least I assume that's what she said. She wasn't speaking English... how very insular! I searched frantically for my receipts, but to no avail. What had I done with them? I'd only purchased them a few minutes previous.
She handed the bag to what I assume was a manager who looked at the contents and probably decided that any 11-year-old prepared to 'steal' some notebooks and a few pencils probably wasn't worth dealing with, so he handed me back the bag and ordered me from the shop.
The ferry journey back may have been fun for my friends as they hurled their bangers at every possible surface and watched as one of our number sleep-walked into the decks below and tried to get into someone's cabin, but for me, it was a journey of shame for I had been branded (incorrectly, remember) a criminal. I would forever be known as The Pencil Thief and my slow descent into full on criminality was as inevitable as it was imaginary.
But still... Pique!