Flamenco Sketches: Day 1

22 Jun

If it’s June, it must be the Spanish Open once more. Let me qualify that. The annual trip to Mijas, Andalusia for the South London Artisans Golf Society, taxi drivers all. This year we consist of three brothers of Spanish parents, one Anglo-Greek and three mongrels reflecting and representing cosmopolitan London.

 

We immediately settle into this Iberian corner that is forever England. Mine guest Carlos (or Rigsby as my roomy Tony Two Dinners calls him) is as gracious as ever—bed turned back, towels out and a fine food selection always bought in. Two Dinners and I will be driven everywhere by him at increasingly greater speeds as his repressed machismo emerges further with every passing hour. And, thanks to his fluent inspiration, my basic Spanish For Idiots pays me a brief, annual and frustrating return.

 
Taking in the landscape as we head south on the coast road, my beloved Spain rises  in silent pride above the excesses of Lakerisation. I remind myself that between this southbound coastal racetrack and the sea closely below once lived Pablo Picasso and Andres Segovia. The former’s most abstract work would in parts today reflect the concrete chaos in the worst places and the latter’s soothing music would surely defy any hedonist to stop, reflect and, well, just be.

 

My first experience of the cultural clash comes quickly. Alighting from our hire car in Mijas Riviera, I’m greeted by a white van with “English Painters” displayed on the side. Not a gallery selling the works of Turner or Constable alas, but another Brit earning a crust down here in the southern tip of Europe. But over the roof of El Del’s van rise the majestic white Moorish towers, domes and imitation minarets that atop the roofs here and I once more embrace Andalusia.

Looking out to sea beyond these I may only think I can see North Africa on the horizon but I can certainly feel the constant warm southerly Levante breeze coming from there and sense an awareness of coastal communities who must stare out to their opposing neighbours across the Mediterranean, separated by water but united by similar cuisines and common invaders.

 

Did someone say food? We later ascend to Fellini’s restaurant, sit at the best al fresco table, admiring the sky as the angry sun sinks in the west and cosy lights start to glow out from the surrounding whitewashed houses. Our waitress tells us she’s from Bilbao in the Basque country whence the three brothers’ mother came to England. I look into their faces and I can see that proud, beautiful “I’m home” look and I’m emotional and happy for them.

 
The cold white wine and water arrives, followed by the customary fresh bread and olives. We raise a toast to absent friends—one tragically and recently deceased and the rest otherwise detained—then look at us all healthy, well dressed, content and concur with our deceased friend’s constant belief that we live like kings. We’re all a year older this trip and sensibility sets in, a relatively early night.

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