Wednesday, 20 February 2013


In the months that followed Eve’s sister’s tragic death, our guilt at not having argued her sad case more forcefully with her parents could not be shaken off easily. 
 Of the two of us I was naturally less affected and escaped dwelling on the reality by losing myself in work, but Eve took a long time to recover and eventually did so because of two Americans who came unexpectedly into our lives.   
 Alan Tobias, a New York artist, was an arrogant individual with extraordinary charisma. Physically in the same mould as Mick Jagger, though not a look alike, he could be rude, demanding and mean, but appealed to us because of his cynical sense of humour. He had the ability of sensing everyone’s Achilles heel within minutes of meeting them and could be quite cruel if they did not respond to his whims.
 I actually liked his company and found it convenient when I realized that Eve ( who first met him in a local bar )  found him disconcertingly attractive and helpful in making her forget the immediate past.
 While I wrote, she went down to Nerja to sit for hours watching him hurl paint at huge canvasses with extraordinary precision, an action painter whose work would have been successful if he had not been his own worst enemy and alienated possible buyers with his attitude of not suffering fools gladly. 
 Eve and Alan became inseparable. They smoked and drank themselves into stupors most nights and when he was kicked out of his accommodation for failing to pay the rent, she suggested he should come and stay with us. 
 As I had not seen her so happy and animated for a long time. I agreed, aware that if she was having an affair or about to do so it would conveniently negate the guilt of my own past infidelity. 
 Alan moved in. He commandeering the terrace at the top of the house where he could lob streaks of colourful oils at large sheets of hardboard to his heart’s content and sleep on a mattress under the stars. 
 Overnight Eve became a mother to her four boys. Alan, Nicolas, Matthew and myself in that order of importance. She cooked lunches and dinners, no longer went down to Nerja but sat with him and a bottle or two of wine in the moonlight by the pool while I, more often than not, went to bed early to rise at the crack of dawn to keep up my writing discipline.. 
 Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks passed, Alan painted, I wrote, the boys played with their village friends and Eve was at last at peace with herself.
 She washed Alan’s jeans, T-shirts and underwear, albeit along with mine and those of the children, She was in love and I was genuinely happy for her. I had no idea how long such a menage would last nor to where it might lead, but I was very careful not to rock the boat. 
 Then one morning the phone rang. 'Could I speak to Alan Tobias ?' a chirpy, young female voice enquired. 
 'Who is it ?' I asked.
  'Ellen, his wife,' she answered.   
 Alan had married  a 20 year old Danish girl in the States and, when they had decided to live for a while in Europe,  she had gone to see her parents in Copenhagen and he had come straight to Spain not wanting to meet his in-laws. He had told no one about her. She had rung from Malaga airport and was on her way to join him. The news devastated Eve. 
 Faced with this 'fait accompli' we had little option but to receive the young Mrs Tobias on her arrival. She was an undeniably attractive blonde, a little plump perhaps and not very tall. She was highly amused by the fact that her husband had wormed his way into our lives and managed to get his board and lodging free. It was, she claimed, something he was very good at.
 That night the agitated sounds the couple made as they shared  the mattress on the terrace directly above our bedroom kept me awake but completely shattered Eve’s composure. 
 Incensed at Alan’s duplicity and unable to control her rage, she leapt out of bed, dressed, grabbed the car keys and told me she would not be back till ‘they’ had left the house.  
 It took me the best part of the following day to get the Tobiases out of the house. Ellen understood my dilemma perfectly and was helpful, but Alan was not one to be graceful about his requested departure.  
 Eve returned that evening on learning that the coast was clear and, when the boys had gone to bed, we sat in the patio and discussed the future. I was really enjoying my new way of life but things had gone too wrong for her to be content. She needed more diversion than I and wanted to be surrounded by people. She suggested letting the house and renting somewhere down in Nerja for a trial period. She had heard of several  places in the town which were amazingly cheap to rent, the problem was finding suitable people to whom we could let ours.  
 Nicolas and Matthew had however become great friends with two American brothers of their age who often came to swim in our pool. When their parents showed up one day to collect them and looked round the house, they asked if we had ever thought of letting it. The mother was keen to stay in Spain for a few months so that the boys could learn Spanish. An instant decision was made. We would rent it to them for six months.  
 They were a more serious couple than Eve’s usual flower people and when I discreetly enquired about their financial status, the father informed me, very casually, that he was the mayor of New York, John Lindsay, which suggested that payment would be guaranteed and our home more than well looked after. 

Alan Tobias        John Lindsay (mayor of New York in 1969)

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