Outside one of our favourite shops. It was closed but the shop cat was still there to welcome us
Lovely day today, even though England appears to have closed down at the first hint of a snowflake. We'd already decided to walk along the beach to our favourite café and use the free wifi. We’d only walked about a hundred yards when I remembered I needed to buy some cherimoya, they are a fruit and look like a green hand-grenade, and they were on offer at one of the supermarkets so we would need to take the car.
G just said ‘okay,’ but I could tell he was wondering why it was so urgent and didn't like to tell him I’d been thinking about them all night after seeing the Spanish people grabbing them off the shelf yesterday and wondering why they were so popular. I said ‘they're very good for you’ instead.
We set off for the supermarket and guess what? The whole lot of cherimoya had gone. G didn't look very bothered at not getting any fruit that was supposed to be good for him, but he said ‘shall we go off for the day instead?’ So that's what we did.
I wanted to go to San Pedro as it was such a nice day, but when we got there almost all the shops were shut and it was deserted. Friday the 13th must be thought unlucky for shop owners here. The woman who sells jewellery on the beach was there and I had a browse. There were some nice earrings but she was very pushy and kept telling me ‘they will last for ever because I made them very strong.’ She yanked at a necklace to demonstrate and the clasp fell off which wasn't much of a recommendation.
Some of the earrings looked very like the ones they sell in the Bazaar for a Euro, but I must be mistaken because she insisted she had made everything by hand. She showed us a tattoo on her back, just pulled her top up, and said her friend who did it also made jewellery. It wasn't a very good tattoo, couldn't make out what it was supposed to be, and she was more than a bit grubby so I said no thanks. I might have bought something if she hadn't been so pushy. G had walked off when she started removing her clothes and said ‘bet you didn't buy anything’ when I caught him up.
We went on to Los Negros after a walk along the beach. Above where we usually park there were about a dozen camper-vans and we walked up to look as they were all very, very old. Vintage really and very nice. The owners were all Vintage too and also very nice. G would stay and talk camper van stuff all day, but managed to get him away by saying ‘am sure I can smell tapas.’ We walked down a different way along a steep path above the beach after we’d looked around a bit more.
The beach was almost deserted. Just a lad, about twenty or so in red shorts, no top, and his girlfriend who was snogging his face off. Nice day, empty beach, so what, oh did I not mention she had no clothes on? I told G to watch where he was walking, not look down at the beach, as he could easily stub his toe (again) and he muttered something that I didn't catch but sounded very like ‘I’ll risk one toe.’
Forgot to say, we went in a café on the way to Los Negros, as we still hadn't found any wifi and it was absolutely crammed with weird people. I’ll ask G to describe them as ‘weird’ is about all I can manage.
The beach had a JCB on it clearing away piles of palm tree branches and a man smoking an enormous joint who was sitting on the wall watching the JCB man said they had come across from Morocco on a very rough sea.
(First I wrote ‘a man waving his enormous joint about’ but G read it and said that could be misunderstood. I read it again and it is a bit ooh er missus so I changed it to 'smoking an enormous joint instead.')
We had tapas, which were lovely, and sat on the terrace watching a group of lads from the hippie beach load up their boat. The beach is not far away by sea but is a really long walk across country with no roads or shade at all and as we sat there two bearded men came and sat down. They had walked in as there was no room on the boat and looked exhausted. G talked to them while I went to look in the knickknack shop on the corner where I always go and browse but never buy anything as it's really, really expensive.
When I got back G was still chatting away to the two hippies and there was another young couple there with a white cat in a cat basket and they were waiting to go back to the hippie beach as well. The cat had been to the vets in town, but lived with them in a hut on the beach. There was another man waiting for the boat and he had a gas cylinder, a stepladder, dozens of cases of beer, loads of grow - bags and some trees in pots. Call themselves hippies? I wondered why they had a boat with an engine and shouldn't they be rowing across, not using fossil fuels, but didn't say it aloud.
Oh and the very friendly girl and the boy in red shorts who were frolicking on the beach are here too now, waiting for the next boat. She's even got dressed so people can eat their tapas without being distracted. G looks a bit disappointed.
Just as we were leaving there was a huge commotion as the man with dreadlocks took a swing at one of his friends, missed and fell head first off the wall about ten feet onto the beach. They all laughed and he climbed up again and opened another beer. He was at least 60 so there's something to be said for being an old hippie, even if only letting you fall off high walls and get straight back up again like nothing had happened. Might have something to do with that massive joint.
Wonder what G would look like with dreadlocks? Hmm!
We set off a bit later than planned today, mid morning, and as we passed the chemists shop the temperature read 25 degrees. If you're reading this in freezing England, I’m really sorry I mentioned it. Weather here has been gorgeous for the last few days and is expected to carry on like this for a while.
We forgot to have a coffee and use wifi until we were well on the way so stopped at one of those towns we see quite often in Spain where it appears nobody lives there or has ever lived there. We went into Paco’s Bar, it was the only one actually, and were happy to find a good wifi signal. The coffee was excellent as well so all good.
Well, all except our fellow customers. ‘Adams Family’ Marigold whispered and so they were. The couple next to us were the only ones I suspected of being ‘foreigners’ like ourselves. Turned out to be wrong as they spoke fluently to the other customers who all seemed to know them. The odd couple were dressed in identical matching shell-suits; those shiny nylon creations of the type last seen in the 1970s. They were both fat, making their choice of clothing even more unsuitable, every seam stretched to breaking point. If it’s true that dog owners come to resemble their pets, this pair must have a bulldog waiting at home. They were startlingly alike, with hanging jowls and misery etched into their features, although the man had marginally the better moustache.
‘Cafes con leche,’ the barman said, placing our drinks on cardboard coasters he’d brought with him. Nobody else had a coaster. Was this because we were ‘special’ as honoured guests or because Paco imagined we were likely to be messy? I couldn't decide. He shouted across the room to Mrs Paco, we presumed, behind the bar. His voice grated like a slipping fan belt.
Mrs Paco turned up with a (very) small saucer containing about ten peanuts. Nobody else had them either and I sensed the teeth of our chubby neighbours grinding in jealous rage.
A man sitting on his own glared at me as I was innocently sipping my coffee. One of those glares best expressed in words as ‘wanna fight?’ Not unusual in a bar, but at eleven o’clock in the morning?
The myriad disappointments of a lifetime were etched into the seams and hollows of his features. A hard road travelled and many miles behind him. Deep shadows below his eyes imparted a melancholy appearance. Dark, purple shadows, hinting at great sadness or long-endured pain. His prominent nose was undamaged which I found surprising considering his aggressive manner. I sipped my coffee, looked away, thought pure thoughts for a bit and when I looked back a few minutes later he was glaring villainously at someone else.
The only other people in my direct line of sight were the people who’d prompted Marigold’s remark about the ‘Adams Family.’ The man was a walking skeleton. A really miserable skeleton too. Hunched over, a sense of impending doom clung to him like an insecure girlfriend. His companion did not have the look of being girlfriend material. She was a big woman. Not particularly tall, but seriously obese. Three stages beyond morbidly obese. Even her shadow had stretch marks. Her unfortunate appearance was compounded manyfold by her ugliness. The poor lass appeared to possess no redeeming feature at all and was all too well aware of the fact.
‘Gorgeous,’ Marigold muttered. I suspect she was being ironic. If not a trip to Specsavers is called for.
‘I bet her pillow cries itself to sleep at night when it sees that face arriving,’ I said, wincing inwardly at our judgemental remarks and yet unable to stop thinking of them. What must life be like in this town for the young people? Maybe there are no young people here. We didn't see any.
Paco turned up again as I was starting to read the emails on my iPad and stood behind me, and was obviously reading over my shoulder. It's never pleasant this, is it? I turned round hoping to shame him into going away and found him engrossed in changing a light bulb and not giving me or my emails a second thought. Oops!
The man with the obese companion brushed past us on his way to the bar. His skin tones had bleached away leaving a pasty complexion heavily scored with deep lines and he wore a weary, defeated expression. As he shuffled away like a walking corpse I wondered if he’d find his way back to his seat again. Actually, the walking corpse reference was unfair; I’ve seen dead people and they’d all looked better than him. A lot better.
Marigold was shuffling ominously, obviously wishing to leave. ‘I must reply to these,’ I said, indicating the new emails.
‘Yes, I know, but my bum’s gone to sleep,’ she said.
All the chairs in the bar were identical and all were equally ill-suited to the purpose for which they’d been designed. An aching bum was the inevitable result.
‘I’ll be quick,’ I said.
In the small room opposite a man sat on his own with an expression of intense boredom etched on his face and no sign of a drink in front of him.
The gloomy expression on his thin face appeared common to everyone else in this village, but his had had a distinct air of permanence. Seated, his legs appeared awkward, almost as if they belonged to someone else. A wide gap between trouser and sock revealed a slice of pale white skin, mottled like the dead flesh of a plucked goose. Thin to the point of emaciation he crossed one ankle over a knee and jiggled his foot nervously. He studiously avoided eye contact, obviously settling down for a long wait.
All was explained when a door banged loudly and a woman appeared studiously rubbing her hands. We’d been in the bar for at least twenty minutes and he’d been sitting there alone for all of that time. Even the most patient of men would be hard pressed to cope with his companion spending so much ‘washing her hands’ and I offered a sympathetic glance at him as he left.
We ended up at one of our favourite places: Los Negros. It was busy as there were many of the hippies from San Pedro in town.The cove of San Pedro has a small community of people who live there all year making a subsistence living by selling jewellery and items made from leather, shells or driftwood.
There are no roads to San Pedro, but you can walk there if you're pretty fit and wearing the right shoes or you can go by small boat from Los Negros. There's a commune of ‘proper’ hippies there, living the simple life and bothering no one. In summer, life is very different when the casual visitors and backpackers arrive with their tents. The cove has fresh water, a 16th century ruined castle and that much prized asset, isolation.
We met two men from Holland, permanent residents of the commune and they told me it had taken them well over an hour to walk into town. They looked absolutely knackered, but it was a very warm day, so a walk across rough terrain over the cliffs in the height in summer must be daunting. Think I’d rather wait for a boat.
The Dutch men weren't too keen on the summer visitors and moaned about them playing loud music all night, having wild parties and never wearing any clothes. I pretended to be shocked at such carryings-on in a hippie commune. Perhaps smoking so much pot makes you become grumpy old men sooner than the rest of us.
Earlier, Marigold had ‘browsed’ a jewellery stall. The woman who ran it – dreadlocked, fuzzy tattoos, not very clean and inclined to go on a bit – leapt from her hiding place and pounced. As soon as she started the ‘hard sell’ I knew her chances of a sale had evaporated. Marigold is polite, kind and unwilling to offend, but the die was cast. Even though that kindness will not allow her to just walk away every word of encouragement to buy makes a sale impossible. ‘If only they'd leave me alone I might buy something’ Marigold has said, many times.
We went through the same routine only a few weeks back.
‘Just tell her to go away.’ My lovely wife, usually an affable soul was red in the face and seething with annoyance. Her ire was provoked by a middle-aged Spanish woman whose ‘crime’ was to hang around the changing cubicle and try to push her way through the curtain. I was outside, keeping my distance and trying not to look at anything on the rails in case an assistant asked me if I wanted to try it on. They have to cater for all tastes these days or be taken to court so I was trying hard to be invisible.
‘Can I help you?’ is such a simple question, yet it annoys us both. We’re adults. We can look through rails of clothes or peruse shelves, with ease. We don’t need any help. I know the questioner very often isn’t actually trying to be helpful. It’s just a sales patter they’re taught on training days. Their concern may be for their commission and I can understand the pressures this brings. If only they knew how much more likely a sale would be if they cleared off to buff their nails by the till and left us alone to make up our minds. We can do this shopping lark. Alone and unaided. If we ever find ourselves in need of help, we’ll ask for it.
Our recent trip to Morocco provided a very different experience. One is expected to barter and it’s insulting not to do so. A very different culture. We wanted a bread knife. We don’t need a bread knife. Well, we do, actually, but it didn’t have to be this particular one. A knife capable of cutting bread was required and I’d seen the very thing on a stall in a souk. I’ve forgotten the original pasking price, in Dirhams, but the conversation went on for quite a while.
‘Twenty-Five,’ I said, tapping the knife in question.
‘Oh, my family, my poor family will starve,’ was the reply. As you may have gathered, this was not a branch of Boots. ‘Seventy-Five, good sir and no less.’
I pursed my lips. Involving the family, children no less, after no more than five minutes negotiation, was a clear escalation.
I frowned. ‘Perhaps thirty, oh why not? I’ll pay thirty and we can get on our way.’
‘Thirty?’ The voice cracked with emotion. ’I pay much more for these fine knives. Even at sixty-five I shall be ruined.’
You get the picture? Another ten minutes during which I walked away shaking my head twice only to be recalled and we shook hands at fifty. Where we’d both known we’d settle ten minutes ago. My wife returned from wherever she goes to when I start haggling. She’d pay whatever was asked, every time and probably double it if he happened to mention his starving family.
‘A very fine knife,’ my Moroccan friend said later that night. ‘How much did you pay?’
‘Pah, I could have bought this knife for thirty,’ he said. I didn’t doubt it. My friend has limitless patience and is well schooled in the fine arts of barter, but both buyer and seller were happy with the deal in my knife purchase and that counts for a great deal.
Back where barter is not ingrained in the culture we find the hard sell offensive. We walk away. Even when we may actually want the article in question. Perhaps the word ‘want’ is the key. Wanting and needing are very different. I want a great many things. Many of them are made by the Apple Corporation. I don’t actually ‘need’ very much. I’m trying to adapt to needing rather than wanting as part of the long process of scaling down. Downsizing. It’s not easy.
‘I help you?’ It was the woman in the dress shop again, standing outside the cubicle and sliding the curtain apart. My wife, in bra and knickers, handed her the dress. ‘No thank you,’ she said and two minutes later we were outside again.
‘You liked it, didn’t you?’
Marigold nodded. ‘Yes, but not enough to be badgered about it. I don’t really need it, do I?’
I shrugged. I’d have done exactly the same.