Monday, 7 January 2013


 I didn’t.... Dig, that is.
 I wasn’t allowed to.
 In England, in Somerset for example, when I called in some builders to convert our little chapel room into an antique shop, I helped them with a bit of cementing here, a bit of painting there and made them lots of cups of tea.
 Not in Spain. Not in Andalucia. I was the owner of the property, a señor, a caballero, an hildalgo, so I was not to lift a finger, let alone dirty my hands. My job, if any, was to watch and approve and, though I had a state of the art wind-up measuring tape in a rather smart leather case, Manolo, the builder in charge, was a professional and preferred the well tried method of the stride, or his foreman’s feet - size 48. He did, however, appreciate the fact that I wanted to be of some use and, as I had a car, occasionally asked me to go down to Nerja on vital errands.. Thus I learned the Spanish for a length of string, half a kilo of nails, a pick axe handle and a packet of lethal black cigarettes. If you want to learn a foreign language there is no better way than to do so by acting as goffer to a native builder.
 I was content and so was Eve despite the major hiccough caused by my talking too much. The gamble we had taken was proving beneficial. We arranged for the boys to have private Spanish lessons and they got the hang of the language quickly, learning more from the children they played with than from the retired professor who was more often than not lost in a cloud of brandy fumes and heavy cigar smoke.
 When the pool was finished and the village kids heard about it,  they came knocking at the door, some in swimsuits, most in underpants. One girl of twelve who claimed she could swim, leapt excitedly into the deep end, thrashed the surface, gurgled and blew bubbles to the great amusement of her friends, and after a few seconds Nicolas anxiously gripped my arm and said he thought she was drowning. A second look at the floundering girl confirmed his fears, I dived in fully clothed and effected a dramatic rescue, after which I reluctantly decided that the joyous naivety of the villagers might sometimes be simple ignorance..

 Without a telephone and little contact with the U.K, no bills and very few letters bothering us ,we were able to relax like never before and enjoy the fact that we were now on holiday for ever. 
 August was our first taste of real heat. We discarded clothes, learned to close all windows and shutters to keep the house cool, remain motionless if not asleep between 2pm and 6 pm, and mainly live by night. It was wonderful.
 Most days we went down to the Nerja beaches favouring one which had a mile of sand and a single merendero ( beach café ) that excelled in fried eggs and chips and the inevitable paella. There were very few tourists then due to a lack off entertainment in the town other than one quite sophisticated bar, run by a couple of gay Australians, where we met a number of long haired Americans, young men who were escaping the Vietnam call-up and claimed to be artists but didn’t seem to paint, or writers who didn’t seem to write. With my strict discipline of completing at least three thousand words a day , I found Eve’s apparent admiration of their laid back, pot smoking way of life somewhat irritating, and I caught myself wishing that she might be tempted into a liaison with one of them which would annul my misbehaviour.
 They were an odd bunch, these Americans, and they made me feel  more staid than I believed myself to be. Their wide travelling experiences in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and the Far East, made me realize how ignorant I was of the world. Their language was peppered with rude expletives which surprisingly shocked me. Only a year before, Kenneth Tynan had offended millions of British viewers by uttering 'fuck' on television and I had thought this repressed reaction ridiculously naive, but now found that I too was being sniffily reserved. I put it down to my public school upbringing where, I realized, I had obviously been more brainwashed than I cared to believe..       
  I was also surprised that I didn’t miss London at all and relieved that I no longer had to compete with the more successful authors whose portraits had sneered at me from the pages of the Sunday supplements. I felt guilty that I had no desire to review other people’s books for the literary pages of the broad sheets, which my publishers would have welcomed as it was a sure way of getting reviewed oneself, but I disliked the necessary cow towing to the whims of agents, Fleet Street editors and PR executives. In short,  I had successfully quit the rat race and, right then, I was extremely happy in the company of the children all day, and peacefully writing outlines of brilliant ideas which might or might not bear fruit. Besides, at the back of my mind, in case we spent all our money too quickly, there was always the possibility of finding work in Almeria, a hundred kilometres East along the coast, the land of the Spaghetti Western where, rumour had it, film studios might soon be built and maybe a second Hollywood would be on my doorstep.
 As it happened, I learned that a famous film director was to shoot an epic story in and around Frigiliana that autumn, starring two famous British actors. In case I managed to corner one of them, I fished out my file of  'Unpublished Material' and stapled a few of the superlative storylines which might be turned into an Oscar winning movie.

1.  Supervising the digging of the pool
2.  The finished pool
  The patio of the house

No comments:

Post a Comment