I KNOW WHAT YOU ALL THINK
You think I’m swanning around having a lovely time. I know this because this is the exact phrase my friend Fabienne just used, and she didn’t want me to disabuse her with facts. And it’s true that, for a fair whack of the time, I am swanning around as much as is humanly possible.
Take Almerimar, for instance. This location is idyllic. The Aire is located on the road up to the lighthouse, with the beach on one side, the marina on the other, and all the cafes and shops bringing up the rear. Don’t believe it’s that nice? Here’s the view out of our windscreen.
And – on a sunny day – I can wander up to the charity shop, or the supermarket, or the Chinese shop, and I pass dogs being promenaded and families chattering and small boys fishing for….. something, the way that small boys do.
I watch Razorbills dive for fish, and Cormorants perch on anchor ropes, and it’s all blissful and lovely.
But that’s on a sunny day.
Because, even though it’s Spain, it’s still February.
And it’s mostly bloody windy. We tried flying a kite on the beach, but just ended up dragging gravel from one side of it to the other. The force of the gale was so strong that Steve opened the door and it slammed into the van, knocking a ceramic tile halfway across the floor, breaking the hold-the-door-open-thingy, and wedging the rubber ‘stop’ into the side of the van.
Our little pot of plastic stuff that needs fixing is growing apace. So, not so much swanning on days like that. Hey ho.
If you travel to this part of Spain, then Hippie-watching is a thing. They all live in Orgiva, in a settlement in the Sierra Nevada mountains that was set up some twenty-odd years ago. They live in tents, and yurts, and huts, and vans, and anything really. Until recently, the kids were all home-educated, but now they have to attend the local school. But some things die hard, and whilst we were there a chap in a rainbow tie-dye T-shirt called all the little ones out for ‘parachute games’. Oh yes.
It felt a bit odd going there just to ‘look’. Like that scene in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World where they all go out to the reservation to watch the ‘savages’. But no-one seemed available to talk to us, so we couldn’t pretend we were genuinely interested in adopting their life-style. We headed further into the mountains, instead.
Climbing higher and higher, we passed though two pretty little white-washed villages (Pampaneira and Bubion) and up to the third (Capileira). We stopped here, intending to walk around, then get a coffee and some lunch. Well, the walk around was quite short as it was bloomin’ steep and Steve’s angina was playing up. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.
We found a great little cafe with views over the entire valley. The sun was beating down, but the snow on the mountain tops was close and clear. We drank wine and ate weird mushroom tapas. I closed my eyes and found my bliss. A single lady on the next table struck up a conversation. She turned out to be from New York, but was currently working as a photography teacher in Qatar. She’d come to Capileira for a Flamenco course and a few day’s break. She was nice. We had a lovely chat. Then she pootled off to the loo and never came back. After a while, Steve went to pay the bill.
Now, a nice thing I’ve noticed about the Spanish, is that they won’t halt a good conversation just because a queue is forming that reaches halfway to India. And when I’d waited a reasonable amount of time, I went looking for him. He was in the bar, and so was the New Yorker and another couple (she from Britain and he from Australia), all chatting away to the cafe owner. The couple had come for the same Flamenco course – which is pretty famous, apparently – and they’d all got talking.
But when I arrived, the bar owner – who’d clearly been something of a sex-goddess in her day – was saying to the couple, ‘Oh yes, I know him – he was once my lover’.
British lady – ‘Did you know his last girlfriend? Only she’s my best friend.’
Cafe-Goddess – ‘Oh yes, I know her too. But he and I – it could not work – always flying from here to Bali and back again.’
And now the Australian joins in. He’s from Fremantle. My niece lives in Fremantle. He thinks he’s heard of her. (She’s fighting some fairly pivotal ecological issues and is regularly arrested whilst protesting up trees).
Steve’s mum comes from Geraldton and his sister lived there for a while. British lady thinks she knows her too. ‘Roxy, right?’ ‘Er, yes.’At this point I’m wondering if there’s anybody that British lady doesn’t know.
Cafe-Goddess is going into details about the affair to New Yorker. We are still waiting to pay the bill. Isn’t this great?
MEETING MORE PEOPLE
It has come to our attention that there are certain rituals attached to the life of a motorhome dweller. Our current location has the waste dump point right in the middle of the tarmac. Each morning, a steady stream of chaps bring grey plastic containers to empty into it. It’s like watching wildebeest gathering at a watering hole. Same look of concentration. Same measured gait.
Then, before the mass sitting-on-chairs begins, there is cleaning to do. I saw a lady sweeping her roof! I honestly had no idea that this might be expected of me.
There was a nice Dutch couple in the van next to us, and he busily cleaned his van until it sparkled. I joked that he was putting me to shame and he said that, no, it was man’s work. Which is good. So I told Steve. Two days later, Steve got his new (and unused) hose-broom out and started clearing all the sand off Georgie’s windscreen. Dutch guy and all his sitting-in-chairs mates broke into spontaneous applause. Ha.
We met a nice couple called Peter and Joy in one of the local cafes. She’d recently had an accident and sliced her wrist, so they were full of praise for the local hospital where they’d basically saved her life. The best thing about it, though, was that the Chapel of Rest had a Tapas Bar in it, so you could go and have a pint and some prawns whilst paying your respects!
Then we meet the wonderful Peter and Beryl. They’ve been full-timing for years and currently occupy an American RV that is even bigger than ours and has two slide-outs. They are also a mine of invaluable information. And they have a parrot. Need I say more.
Well, yes. Peter is a damn fine cook, counts topping up your drinks as an Olympic speed sport, and is an avuncular host. Beryl is an absolute charmer, and I can see why Peter fell for her – legs up to my chin, kind and thoughtful, with a very slight – and sweet – speech impediment. She’s been teaching the parrot to count but has been unable to get him to say the number 3. ‘He goes 1,2…. 4, 5,’ she says, ‘he can’t seem to say the number free.’ Aw, bless, neither can you Beryl, and it is enchanting, there’s no other word.
ENOUGH OF THAT, BECAUSE, NOW….. THE HEAD-BOARD (dun, dun, duuuuuh !!!!!)
We have something called an east-west bed, which means it goes sideways across the van instead of head on. This allows for much more room to get around the bed and a far, far superior wardrobe space.
…..the head of our bed is beneath a window, which doubles as our escape hatch should the van roll. So we sit up in bed, watching Project Runway (don’t judge us), and lean on half a side pelmet, some crumpled blind, and a large metal handle each. Not comfortable and, in colder weather, bloody draughty.
What to do? Remove the pelmets and blinds and insert a head-board, of course. It will fit the space, block out the noise, light, and draughts and still be easily removable in an emergency. So I tell Steve to keep an eye out for some foam. He has other jobs to do – fixing leaks and creating a kitchen cubby-hole (because I can’t be doing with wasted space) – and he discovers some thick, insulating foam in a hardware store. I promptly dismantle all the existing window coverings.
We buy two 1×2 metre sheets, an inch thick, figuring that one on its own won’t be stiff enough to stay upright, but that if we put two together….you see my thinking here? Then I pin some temporary fabric around them (OK, a sheet), prop them up behind the pillows and we go to bed.
Most of the night, the foam falls on my head.
The next day Pete says, ‘What you need is a sheet of hardboard that you could stick some foam-backed leatherette on. Put a shelf there,’ he says, pointing at the pillow end of my bed, ‘and sit it on top.’
So I give it a good think, and although I can’t quite bring myself to embrace the leatherette, I reckon he’s got some good ideas that I can work around. We beggar off back to the hardware store and buy a sheet of hardboard and some other bits and bobs.
The board is cut to fit the space. It is not, however, cut to fit inside a Smart car.
We take the roof down, bend the passenger seat forward and cram it in. I ride all the way home, bent double, with a frozen hand sticking out the top of the van holding on to the board because of the hurricane force winds that have suddenly shot up again.
And then comes the bit where I am really glad that we bought a new kitchen knife, and that I packed both my glue and staple guns, and a sewing machine.
Long story short, it only took me three days, mostly because the window turned out to be slightly crooked. And – as I was cutting out a piece to fit exactly inside it, and another to fit outside it (stopping all the draughts and light) – this was a bit of a mission. I glued these onto the board, then glued the other piece of foam onto the other side to act as a soft surface to lean on.
Put up the shelf for it to rest on. Covered it in fabric. Made pull-it-to-escape-handles. Loads of velcro on the back and on the wall. And it works a treat. Beryl reckons it looks like it’s always been there.
And, having done all that, it is now time for us to start wending our way back to the UK in order to M.O.T. both the vehicles. So we are trogging on towards Barcelona, intending to cut across the Pyrenees at the business end, whip up through France to Dieppe, and then trolley back over the channel for the end of March. See you then, peeps. Much love.