Wednesday, 27 February 2013


When the John Lindsay family took over our Frigiliana house, we moved down to Nerja and rented an old three storey town house opposite a beautiful little fisherman’s beach. Eve commandeered the attic as her sleep-in studio and furnished it with a mattress and cushions on the floor but little else, while Nicolas, Matthew and I occupied rooms overlooking the street which proved noisier than expected. Our new way of life was, however, ideal for the boys. Wearing nothing but swimming trunks all day, they were in and out of the sea from the moment they woke up till nightfall, only coming back to the house when they were hungry.  
 Though I was determined to finish my novel by the end of May, I found it impossible to work in my new quarters because of the incessant din and shouting from below, Spaniards, with their strong vocal chords and loud voices, not known for respecting decibels. I tentatively mentioned to Eve that I might rent a little apartment on the outskirts of the town where things might be more peaceful and the joy that lit up her face when I suggested this told me that my presence in her life had become a much greater burden than I had imagined.
 The next day I found myself a perfect two-bedroom flat in a modern block, well away from the centre of town. It was fully furnished so the boys could come and stay whenever they wanted. 
  I did not, at first, see the move as a wrench from family life, but soon realized that I had never lived alone. From parental homes to boarding school to shared flats and married life, during my forty years I had spent my whole life with others. Solitude and complete peace was an odd experience, I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and, overnight, I grew up into further adulthood coming to the conclusion that never being quite alone from birth tends to blunt maturity.   
 After a few days, Nicolas and Matthew turned up, each with a little suitcase in hand. They would come to stay with Daddy every weekend, Eve’s idea which struck me as being close to a divorce arrangement. When I settled them in their beds that night, I asked them if they thought Mummy would be alright alone by herself and they yawningly informed me that she wasn’t...alone that is. 
 'Easy Rider’s moved in,' one of them said.
 'Ahhh.....' I managed without showing too much surprise, and switched off the light. 
 Easy Rider was one of the flower power people and so named because he owned a Harley Davidson Chopper and had modelled himself on Peter Fonda’s character in the film of that name. He wore a sweatband round his forehead, had long sticky hair, sported small round sun glasses even at night, a leather waistcoat over a bare chest, jeans torn at the knees and buttoned up boots. He was from Cleveland Ohio, had served in the US army in Vietnam, but never talked about it, indeed he hardly ever talked at all. On the few occasions that I had sat with him and others at a cafĂ©, he had struck me as a quite comical figure, but now I had doubts whether I would find him that amusing. 
    I was surprised that he had replaced me and Alan Tobias in Eve’s life so quickly and felt a certain unease at the thought of him becoming a hero in my son's eyes because he gave them pillion rides on his wretched machine. I went to bed and tried to pretend that I didn’t care.  
  I now concentrated hard on finishing my novel ( The Girl with a Peppermint Taste ). I sent it off to Triton Books and was amazed to learn by return that it was not only accepted but would be published in the autumn to catch the Christmas market. Within a couple of weeks phone calls started to plague Eve at the house and telegrams found me in my hide away. 'Come soonest - stop - Booking press interviews - stop - You will be on London Transport buses - stop.'
 I had no idea what the last bit was about, but I packed my bags and got on a plane to Heathrow.
 On arrival at the publishers I was informed that The Sun newspaper was to serialize the novel, an episode every day from the first week in September and that an interview with one of their journalists had been arranged for the next day.   
 'The Sun, serializing the book ?' I made a face. 'Do we want that ?'
  'You’ll be able to live for a year in Spain on what they’re paying. They’ll also be promoting the serialization and book on buses all over London and with 60-second dramatization spots on television.  I can’t tell you what that’s worth !'
It wasn’t what I had hoped for at all. I had never thought of a serialization in a daily newspaper, they weren’t that common, and The Sun wasn’t exactly an intellectual medium nor the sort of tabloid I particularly wanted to be associated with. The Observer or Sunday Times supplements would have been preferable, but I wasn’t a dilettante author. I was writing for money, earning a living by putting pen to paper and not dreaming of the Pulitzer Prize, so I didn’t argue.                         

 The following morning I waited in the Triton office for the Sun journalist. I had expected a man, but was mistaken. A young woman  arrived at eleven precisely and my first impression was of a prim, extremely serious academic who might grant me ten minutes of her valuable time if I listened to her questions.
  The second impression was of an attractive female, dark haired, early thirties, wearing a long Laura Ashley dress because she would have preferred to be a pert Victorian miss than a 20th century tabloid reporter.. I was not instantly smitten, but very nearly, which got me into a great deal of trouble. 

Nerja in the 60's and Easy Rider

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