Rural life in Shaftesbury, Dorset – the farming is milk, cheese and meat. Rural life in Colmenar, Málaga – the farming is almonds, olives, lemons, oranges, sunflowers, avocados, and honey.
A good long stint in Colmenar enabled me to participate, discover and explore, near and far. The Jerez horse-fair was an opportunity to stay a couple of nights at Vejer de la Frontera, a lovely town south of Jerez, ideally placed for the superb Cadiz beaches plus easy access to Jerez (where the hotels were fully-booked nine months ahead of the horse-fair).
Closer to home, exploration around the Montes de Málaga has been an eye-opener. You really wouldn’t take the mountain road from Colmenar to Málaga if the intention was simply to get to Málaga – but for a slow meander through superb scenery, with lots of opportunities for woodland walking and spring flowers, it’s an absolute cracker of a road. The Venta del Pinar for probably the best coffee for miles, the Eco-Museo out in the tree-covered hills, then on to the Hotel Humaina half way to Málaga, a fabulous place to stop, meet friends, enjoy the gardens and the interesting old building five kilometres off the mountain road.
La Semana de Cultura (culture week) in Colmenar was packed with large and small events, the art competition, a craft display, flamenco in the Casa Cultura, a theatre production, and an evening for the children to participate in 21st-century jousting, riding their bicycles as fast as possible and trying to hook a ribbon as they whizz past the rope, the ribbons streaming out like medieval knights’ favours for the successful riders. No prizes, just the glow of participation for all and the glory of achievement for some.
Then a flight to England. Some time in Dorset. Packed with sociable coffees and girlie lunches. Planned walks in the Blackmore Vale curtailed by rain. Hours at the cottage table working through the heaps of post and admin. Trying to come off mailing lists is so much harder than getting onto them. Really, I am not interested in a private viewing of fire-damaged furniture and cannot work out how they got my name.
Sorting the details of closing down my business – a crucial step towards moving to Spain. HMRC (the tax department) turn out to be hugely helpful and manage to avoid patronising me. My accountant is retiring due to ill-health but has offered to keep me on for my final accounts and self-employed tax submission this summer.
Two days in London. The David Bowie exhibition at the V&A. Good coffee at a kiosk where I could reassure two Turkish Man City fans about Manuel Pellegrini (much to their surprise). Drinks at the newly-revamped St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Dinner at Searcy’s at the St Pancras Grand. Lovely to see old friends, but I really don’t miss London. A good place to visit, but it’s a relief to leave behind the crowds and the pressure and the apparent lack of consideration.
Back to Dorset. All around Shaftesbury the preparations are in full swing for the Shaftesbury Festival of Local Food, which I originally founded in 2005. Since I handed the reins over to Charlie Turnbull of Turnbull’s Café & Delicatessen, the local food festival has grown, and now merged with the music and arts festival and moved from the first May Bank Holiday to the second one to be bigger and better than ever – www.shaftesburyfestival.co.uk.
Signboards for the festival’s edge-of-town car-parking and the Park’n’Ride are lost, searched for, and finally found in my shed. I contribute at a meeting about an ill-thought-through piece of art in the town centre. I see the recently re-elected County Councillor for Shaftesbury and congratulate him without sincerity – I voted by proxy but not for him. Small, local issues that bind you to a place, make it home. A home, not the only place to be called home.
The visits to England are brief. I worry that I expect my friends to adjust their timetables to fit in time with me. They reassure me. So far it seems to be working. Two lives, quite different, yet very much the same. In one, a town’s culture week, a horse-fair, paella and flamenco dancers. In the other a town’s music and art festival, a food quiz, local cheese-tasting and the David Bowie V&A exhibition. Both good. It’s all about the balance between the two, and that will come right with time. Is slowly coming right.
© Tamara Essex 2013
This Week’s Language Learning Point:
Why accents are so important, even from the very beginning …..
Mi papá tiene 47 años = My father is 47 years old.
Mi papa tiene 47 anos = My potato has 47 anuses.
And some teachers tell you accents don’t matter? Pffffff.