Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Golden Years

A large number of people have joined a Facebook page called 'Mojacar Golden Years', where they post photographs of the times when the pueblo was still either 'interesting' or 'beautiful' (take your pick). You will find all the old 'characters' there, or maybe you can add your own.

Friday, 28 June 2013

The Milk Tooth

Barbara with her milk-tooth. Eating an ice cream many years ago on the Costa del Sol. Lenox' favourite picture.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Do You Want Grated Cheese With That?

It was a warm summer evening about fifteen years ago and Lenox had decided to take two new employees out to dinner. The couple evidently came from a deprived background, wore matching outfits and spoke a rather hard to understand English.
We arrived at the particular restaurant, a smart looking place with a terrace run by a Spanish couple. The husband is a great cook; although rather keen on fancy and peculiar combinations – the kind of food that no one in their right mind would ever think of preparing at home. The owners seated us and gave us our menus in Spanish and withdrew. We had never been there before (although we slightly knew the owners) and cast our eyes over the various peculiar dishes available. I forget now, but the simplest one was along the lines of lark’s breast stuffed with an olive. The faces of our guests fell as we translated the choices and it became clear they were more at home with the meat and two veg school of refection. To save ourselves from further discomfort, we launched into a melodrama of a forgotten child and an emergency with the baby sitter, all duly translated to Rocío, the owner’s wife; and with that, we left for the MacDonald’s around the corner.
Oddly, far from remaining under our wing, these days they eat lobster.
Two points more about this story. The first is that Rocío’s command of English is as good as or better than my own. The second is that our guests soon picked up a few pointers about expatriate life in Spain and shortly after, relieved us of a great deal of money. 

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Our Romantic Trip

I was writing a special for our newspaper on romantic get-aways and contacted the head of tourism for the small town of Lanjarón, Granada. Lanjarón is a beautiful village, high in the Alpujarras and famous for its natural spring water and hot springs and old Moorish baths. After speaking with the head of tourism, he invited me and a guest to stay in his hotel and spend a weekend taking in all of the wonders of Lanjarón. It was late November and Lenox’s birthday so I thought it would be a wonderful surprise that would normally be out of my price range. We arrived at the hotel, having driven that day from Granada south over the top of the Sierra Nevada on an alarming and stony track, through little villages and hamlets at the very top of the Alpurrajas. Arriving in the town made famous from its bottled water, we found the hotel to our surprise to be chained, locked and bolted. The neighbors said maybe the manager (and acknowledged expert on tourism) had gone into Granada to go shopping. We spent the day wandering around the town and finally decided to take a room, at our expense, in the only hotel that was open. It turned out to be a hotel for senior citizens where the Spanish Social Security system brought elderly people by the bus-load. We checked into our room and were told that dinner was at seven. Our room was large, freezing and filthy. The view from our bedroom window was of snow; not a beautiful snowy landscape but of packed snow up against the window. We went to the dining room around 7:15 only to find that, in a most un-Spanish way, they meant dinner was served at seven not started around seven. Every course was a type of purée; soup, vegetable, meat and pudding. After a rather disgusting dinner we went out to find a bar and something to eat but along the main and indeed practically only street, everything was firmly shut; so we returned to the hotel bar. The only beverage on the shelf behind the bar was an elderly bottle of Licor 43, so Lenox ordered one and, to his gratification, was given a huge water glass full of this sticky liqueur. I asked for a coke and the bar tender had to leave the building and ten minutes later returned with a can of coke he must have got out of a friend’s refrigerator. Some of the other guests were gloomily playing dominoes while others were watching the TV. We decided to retire to our room. We were wearing every piece of clothing we had packed while all of the blankets and towels were spread on the bed and yet we were still freezing. Lenox suggested adding the rug on the floor but it was covered with heavy clumps of what appeared to be human hair.
After an unsatisfying breakfast of purée and with our hitherto benevolent opinion about Lanjarón firmly in retreat, we decided to leave the town, as even the hot springs and baths were closed for the season. We drove down the mountains towards the coast looking for somewhere beautiful and interesting. To our surprise, we came across a place called Orgiva – looking like the Santa Cruz Mountains of California wrenched directly from the 60s, with long-haired hippies wearing outsize velvet caps, a reek of patchouli oil, painted VW buses, the lot, all apparently moved in woozy bulk to the Alpujarras of Granada. We broke out trip briefly in another notable village, Yegen, where Gerald Brennan had lived for many years. Our conclusion? Don’t visit it in November. As we were arriving at the bottom of the mountains, still in search of a nice hotel, we coasted into Trevélez and came across a restaurant apparently famous for its trout so we pulled in to the parking only to find three bus loads of German tourists parking in mathematical precision in behind us. That would be a lot of trouts for one day, we thought, so we left. The only rooms we could find in the town – tourism evidently still not being a strong point from Lanjarón onwards – was above a gas station, so we decided to go home. When we regained the coast we chose not to let our romantic weekend be completely ruined so we went to a hotel on the beach in Aguadulce, Almeria. It was full of English and German tourists and, by chance, it was “Dress in Drag Night”. Nice to see the two nations coinciding for once – if only in complete idiocy. I have never been so happy to return to the beauty and comfort of Mojácar in my life, and until now, twenty years on, I never wrote the article about Lanjarón.
Note to the Lanjarón Tourist Board – please feel free to use this essay.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


December and January are probably two of the nicest months in Mojácar. The weather is beautiful and warm. You can immediately distinguish the tourists from the local residents. The tourists are all in shorts and flip-flops and we are all bundled up. Mojácar has never been properly promoted as a winter area yet we boast the best weather in Europe at this time of year. I see that our town hall has done a brilliant job on their promotional campaign and actually come up with a rather effective advert. But WHY ARE ALL OF THE ADVERTS IN MOJACAR????? We are flooded with the best campaign we have ever had but it is aimed at us and we already live here and love the place. It should be all over Norway and Germany and England; where they are all freezing and soaking wet. We would know that they had spent the advertising budget properly when we started seeing northern Europeans coming to visit, fill the hotels and restaurants and buying houses. No, we didn’t even get one advert placed in Turre, the town next door. While I am on the subject why don’t you listen to Bernard Cribbins' version of “Hole in the Ground” I think it is very appropriate considering what is happening in our village.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Escargot and a peach juice, PLEASE

When Megan arrived in Mojácar, I took her up to see the old village which towers over our house. We walked up the hill then up some stairs, through a narrow passageway which led to the shop of one of our daughters, Peque: I guess you have to be from around here to understand the family relationship. Anyway while Megan enjoyed the wonders of Peque’s shop, I played with my granddaughter, Luz. Upon leaving, Luz said she wanted to go with me, Mima. Peque said she would only stay a few seconds and would then want to come straight back. Luz had just turned three years old. Well, not only did she not want to go back, she wanted to buy things in all of the shops that we visited. Finally exhausted, after swinging her in the air all around town, I took her back to her mom. The sneaky little girl let me intentionally walk right passed her mom’s shop and told me she couldn’t find it. I knew better and tried to return her to her mother, but no deal, she was staying with Mima. We ended up spending a lot of time at Pasha’s Moroccan shop, next to the Taberna, smelling all sorts of incense and little blocks in colored bags. Megan, Pasha and I were all speaking sign language so Luz zipped her mouth and just started moving her hands all around and didn’t utter another word until we went to the Taberna for a drink. This tiny tot, climbed onto a bar stool, ordered Escargot with garlic and parsley with a peach juice; please, then she zipped her mouth again and watched herself signing in the mirror. Megan said “what did she order’” when I told her she was shocked because for an American two amazing things happened; one a three year old felt comfortable enough in a bar to sit and order a drink and second that she ordered something that to an American, only rich French people eat. We had a short conversation with the cook and then convinced Luz that upside down mushrooms with garlic and parsley were giant snails and she was content. Luz went home with a bag full of presents for her mother and left a big impression on Megan. I had lots of fun with all of them.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Charlie and Ric

I was clearing out an old box of junk (anyone want to buy some pre-revolution Russian railway shares?) and came across this photo of Charlie Braun and Ric Davies. Charlie arrived in Mojácar in around 1969 after a brief career as a stunt-skier and later an actor in spaghetti westerns. He was German, although claimed Swiss nationality when confronted by my mother, and was born, he claimed, in Japan at the Second World War's end.
Ric originally came to the area, drafted in by the American Government after the events in Palomares in 1966 (a B52 crashed with four thermonuclear devices) when it was thought to be a good idea to build a desalination plant for the locals. Ric was the engineer but quit to start a new life as a layabout.
He took over the El Patio beach-bar and ran it for many years.
Both of them are dead now. We won't see their like again!