Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Spain ... and home

Having started our trip in Dubai, where our close friend Pauline lived before her final year with us in London, it seemed somehow right to be ending it in Andalucia, former home of the other important figure in our lives who died last year. The photo shows me standing in the garden of my mother's lovely old farmhouse, Finca la Noria, just outside Mijas. Those of you who visited her any time during her 30 years in Spain will be glad to learn it's been spared the redevelopment that has obliterated almost everything else that was once lovely and old down there. The Spanish architect who bought it when my Mum moved to S. Africa nine years ago wasn't around when Alison and I dropped by, but his maid let us through the gate. Rumours that the roof had fallen in the moment she left appear to have been unfounded. The only visible change is that the garden is more luxuriantly overgrown than ever (a bit like the one we've just come back to in Hackney, but more of that later). You could almost hear my mum's voice floating down from the patio saying "I MUST do something about that vine" as she lit another cigarette and resumed her tale about the Swedish model and the local Guardia Civil chief cavorting in her pool with a bunch of grapes.

We spent a great evening in Mijas with Jeff and Lilli, who sadly are almost the only members of the old gang still left there. Many a glass of rioja was raised to Lavinia ... and then the waiters kept insisting we have more brandies on the house, as they too had so many good memories of her. They weren't the only ones. The face of the barman at the Mijas Hotel unwrinkled into a huge grin when I mentioned her name. I thought he was going to ask me to settle all her unpaid bills. But he just wanted to reminisce about the days when foreigners were people you said hello to rather than tourists in swimming trunks demanding more chips.

For most of our nine days in Spain we stayed with Anne and David at THEIR lovely old farmhouse -- on the other side of Malaga, near the village of Periana. It was feria time, so we partied in the village (eating tapas and failing to dodge each other on the dodgems) , went to the odd lunch party (with BBQ by the pool and much talk of property prices) and took the dogs for walks among the olive groves. But perhaps best was sitting out on the terrace in the evening sun with a gin and tonic (with Spanish measures and lemon fresh from the tree) (but still no cigarettes, we're proudly amazed to say) gently wondering once again if the vine needed cutting back. We toured about a bit, seeing pretty hilltop villages like Camores and wondering if this would be the sort of place for us....no decisions yet!

After almost thirty flights (sorry Brian), we'd become so casual that we were strolling onto the Heathrow plane at Malaga when a BA stewardess came running up the gangway to say we should have been on the Gatwick one. The fact that we ended up flying into a different London airport to the one from which we left in January meant we didn't complete our round-the-world journey till we drew up at a very balmy-looking Middleton Road. Andy had got the sausages on for us, and after expressing surprise that we weren't a bit browner he proudly showed off his sun-drenched garden.
The climbing rose and almost everything else had come out to welcome us -- though we haven't yet seen the foxcubs, one of whom Andy had to chase frantically round the house for an hour last week.

We now have a week or so to get used to things like having a whole wardrobe of shirts to choose from every day ( very time-consuming, like buying a coffee in America), before we head off to Hal and Lorna's wedding in St Andrews. I've been putting off writing the speech I'm supposed to be giving, on the assumption that I'd suddenly be full of great ideas and insights once back from our travels. But maybe it's a case of the more you see the less you know. The only thing we've definitely learned about the world after four and a half months is that everything everywhere is made in China. And almost everything almost everywhere can be described as awesome (and often was). But I never did have time to learn the harmonica.

The places along the way, old and new, have been wonderful -- the people we've met, and re-met after many years, even more so. So, many thanks for putting us up and/or putting up with us, either in person or via this blog. We've enjoyed your comments and e-mails along the way!
We'll leave you with a few lines culled from the mountain of mail that awaited us -- a rewrite by Harry (winner of the New Blogger of the Year award) of that Arlo Guthrie song, which I can have another go at now I've got my guitar back (and yes, Fred, I did remember to take my plectrum along -- it was almost the only thing I didn't lose):

"Coming in from Los Angeleeze
No room in my rucksack for a couple of keys,
Department of home security man don't search my bag pleeze
The stained underwear and smelly socks might well give you a diseaseeze "

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Tim and Alison,
Welcome home! I've loved reading your amazing and colourful blog, and hearing all your wonderful stories. You must be exhausted! Or do you want to do it all over again?

I hope I'll see you over a london summer

lots of love Kate (Hoyland/Liang) xxx