Two At Large in Spain 2006-7

December 25th


We slept for 12 hours! Wonderful!

After beginning-of-holiday sex and brunch of olive paté on filling-station bread, we wandered out into Cómpeta to make a quick reconnoitre in the warm winter sunshine.

It is a very pleasant place, at this time of year more Spanish than touristy, though there are plenty of us about... The streets vary from ultra narrow and steep to just about wide enough for a car and a scooter to pass, to boulevards where two cars can inch past each other by breathing in. There are potted geraniums and succulents everywhere, and an occasional surviving olive tree. Cats laze in patches of sunlight, and dogs lean against garage doors. Dry stream beds lance through the town, and arid hills lean above it.

When we woke up it was absolutely quiet apart from a distant chatter of neighbours. Later a few scooters buzzed through the streets, and church bells rang, and Christmas music was piped from loudspeakers on the church tower.

Cómpeta has that characteristic present-day Spain mix of white-painted houses, half-finished holiday home developments (all naked reinforced concrete, chewed at the edges as if by some hungry giant), weed- and rubbis- strewn vacant lots, newly-chiselled scars in the hillside, ready for foundations, and building sites over which hover silent (today) tower cranes. Old ladies hang out clothes on terraces. Old men lean on balcony edges, watching the day pass gently by. Teenagers grunt in small groups in the shade. The bar cafés are busy. We buy bread at one of the few pastellarias that are open, and are handed delicious almond cookies by the shopkeeper, who explains that it is a traditional Christmas gift.

After an aimless wander about the town, we headed back to our holiday home to relax and read on the top terrace (of two, the lower is mostly shaded at this time of year). We'd managed to chance on a comfortable and convenient base. As we sat in the sunshine the aromas of cooking fish emerged from a couple of nearby chimneys (so intermingled are the houses that each terrace has someone else's kitchen chimney protuding through it!).

Today I devoured Graham Greene's Ministry of Fear, a battered copy of which I picked up in a secondhand bookshop last week, in pretty well a single sitting. It's a great read, not only because of the darkly-weird plot, but also its depiction of a period my parents lived through...the early WW2 and the London Blitz. Life, normal and abnormal, carrying on against a background of almost random destruction and death of innocent and not-so-innocent.

The view from our terrace