Wine and a cortijo
After the ferry crossing from hell, began the new life from heaven. This could be taken quite literally as the Grimble’s Spanish cortijo was located quite high up a dusty path. From 2 of their 4 terraces, the sea was just visible. Each terrace was in the process of being named. Grimble’s current location was the Tiki Tiki terrace or was it the Beach Terrace: the names had yet to be settled and their christening toasted with wine.
There had been wine. Naturally, as this was Spain and, if Grimble’s memory served her well (though retirement was putting a strain on it), red wine was an essential on the Mediterranean diet. They had contemplated retaining Keto. Then, one of their elderly Spanish neighbours presented them with a large bag of fresh oranges. Grimble spied the juicer. She immediately decided fuck this lack of vitamin C shit, and juiced away. It had served its purpose. A dress size was lost along with her tits. It was now time to modify.
The visit to The supermarkets had presented many new delights. It was salad season. To be fair, it was always salad season. As the area was near to a relatively large ex pat community, in between the display of lettuce and cucumber were Brussels sprouts. Clearly, the Spanish had confused beansprouts with Brussels when scheduling their location. The price relegated this UK farting delicacy to memory. At this point, their diet had become a hybrid of Keto, Paleo and Mediterranean. However, the addition of a very long 12 portion Viennetta ice cream block meant that Grimble renamed their diet: the one meal a day diet.
The wine aisle was like a bargain sweet store for adults. The prices were terrifyingly cheap. They had 2 wine racks that needed something as they looked so forlorn empty. The easiest way to select was to decide a budget and an attractive label. No single bottle was going above 4€. However, where the 70% discount applied to the purchase of a second, there were some encouraging purchases. Their starting budget was a flexible 3€. They did basket 2€ and 2.50€ bottle just to sample with the view that Grimble could always cook with it. As a litre box of cooking Vino tinto was only 99c, this was a bit counter productive.
Their Mediterranean, one meal a day, Paleo diet was working well. They ate their main meals at the relevant Spanish times of 3pm and then a light snack around 10pm. The glasses of wine were largely quaffable though anything less than 3€ was consigned to stock making. The label of Little Red Riding Hood should have been a sign, that just like the wolf in granny’s clothes, the bottle’s contents were not as good as they promised.
They now lived deep within the Spanish community. Theirs was the final house in a hamlet of about 20 homes. Some seemed habitable, some not. However, it was often difficult to discern which was which. The tranquility was breathtaking. In a morning, it was just birds and a fucking annoying cockerel that broke the peace. Oh and their pool filter pump too, regular at 8am, but that was clearly a first world problem. They were in the midst of farms of avocado, olives, mangoes, lemons and oranges.
Jose and Alba, Spanish neighbours, had helped the Grimble’s get the property. Evidently, they’d told the neighbourhood of the arrival of Guiris. They all shyly waved or vaguely nodded as the Grimbles drove their RHD down the steep single file path hoping for no oncoming vehicle. Leonardo, Jose’s dad was uncertain of how to greet Guiris and there was a confused moment when he and Grimble both went in for the double kiss at an awkward angle. On Sunday afternoon, all the families gathered together for a traditional lunch. It was no surprise for the Grimble’s to find a deputation of about 10 Spanish children from about 5 to 13 years old, standing underneath their terrace to observe the new Guiris. And when they drove their car out, the same deputation lined the path to wave at them.
There was something magical here and it wasn’t the cheap red wine or the superbly fast internet. It was a sense of all pressure being gone and the Grimbles loved it.
They’d only gone and done it! They’d left Blighty behind, 3 weeks before the deadline of one of the biggest political changes of their lifetime. Not that this had anything to do with their decision to leave. Their decision had been to leave UK to join Europe. No votes, referendums, meetings required. Just an overwhelming certainty that there was a better life awaiting them in Spain.
As Grimble rocked like a deranged person on her Brittany Ferry cabin bed, she reflected on their last few months. Well, actually, she was attempting not to think about just how fucking choppy the sea was. This ferry, a mere 16 hours late due to inclement conditions, had wildly tossed G and Grimble throughout the night. At one point, when G emerged from the loo, his body movement was akin to flying such was the surge and sway. A naked G missile was not something Grimble expected or needed as her tummy churned like a washing machine.
Their worldly possessions has departed for Spain just after Christmas. Though looking at their car, it seemed that they had possessed themselves of a second set. With an SUV rammed with goodies: patio table and chairs, footstool, cases packed with smaller sized clothes and cushion covers, they had embarked on the crossing from hell. The one night onboard had mutated into two. It was now mid afternoon, 17 hours in and the storm was unrelenting. There was no way that this could ever be conceived as a mini cruise. They’d confined themselves to the cabin.
On the plus, Grimble’s KETO diet was going swimmingly. More due to the fact that she had imposed a nil by mouth fast as to eat anything required leaving the relative safety of her bunk. In addition, she realised that her stomach was not going to readily digest anything she ate and barfing onboard was something she really wanted to avoid.
Bye bye Blighty…
The last few months had seen a few changes in their preparation for departure. The beloved boat had been sold. Thus removing the last possession tie with the land of their birth. Grimble had held a fanciful notion of holidays on the river in the basking British sunshine. However, G had earthed those dreams by pointing out last summer’s sunshine was a fluke and paying a year’s mooring fee, insurance and license for two weeks’ of rainy UK misery wasn’t really a plan. Especially, when they had a sunny villa in Spain to relax in. The boat had been an awesome and spectacular way to enjoy life but it’s time was over. Now, as this ship went into roller coaster mode once more, Grimble felt that her time with things nautical was done.
Dog sitting. This is how Grimble and G had spent the last two months. On paper, another excellent idea. They had lived rent free whilst tending to a pug and Labrador: an incongruous dog partnership for sure. They’d never done anything like this before and probably would never do it again. Well, if there was a next time, Grimble would be sure to ask more probing questions.
As it was, the dog sit was more a decoy to allow the owners to continue their rather lucrative Airbnb business in several reformed barns whilst sunning themselves on a Caribbean beach for two months. The idea was presented as simple enough. Just putting the keys in the four barn doors. What they failed to mention was that paying guests are demanding. Hence, each weekend was punctuated with a series of WhatsApp messages from guests to the Caribbean to G and Grimble in the house next to the Airbnbs for different towels, more heat, no oven working, smoke alarm pinging. It became abundantly clear, that G and Grimble were actually managing the business for free, whilst the owners sunned themselves. At £125 a night per unit, it didn’t require a Maths degree to work out why they were on endless rum punches for two months.
Never trust a pug
Of course, the loving nature of man’s best friend might have compensated for this outrageous use of G and Grimble’s time for nothing. Sadly, this was not the case. Hindsight is wisdom. Clearly, the question should have been asked as to why any dog loving owner could leave their treasures for 2 months with strangers. G and Grimble did get a rent free stay in a 17th farmhouse with no insulation in the depths of winter. The owners got no kennel bills and basked in the Caribbean sunshine. They were canny buggers. They’d even set the heating to a paltry hour a day (soon changed). Like any family with absent key members, the dogs were dysfunctional.
The Labrador was a majestic 18 years old. It had been explained that this right old age had given way to incontinence issues. G and Grimble felt sympathy with this grand dame of the dog world. However, the owners failed to mention that the pug also shitted at will because she was simply an untrained little fat fucker. She had this horrible knack of both eating and shitting simultaneously. After several fraught days, the only solution, given the folds of skin around her overly chubby face meant rubbing her nose in it was not an option, was to place her and bowl in the garden. She still synchronised her shit with troughing but it was marginally less offensive on grass than the kitchen floor.
Not once did the owners ask after the welfare of their dogs. Their act of concern was to dig the Labrador’s grave at the back of the garden before they left. Wickedly, Grimble thought there was more chance of the fat shitting pug being in there when they returned. Unfortunately, and unexpectedly, G and Grimble had to leave just two short hours before the owners arrived back having cleared the last bit of pug poo from the doorstep. The owners had hoped that they’d been back in late autumn to dog sit for another couple of months. Sitting two shitting dogs and managing an Airbnb for nowt or sitting on their terrace in the warm Spanish sun: tough choice.
Thus with half a day of stormy sailing before Spain, the UK ties that mattered: friends were kept and the others were cut forever. Given their age, this was likely to be G and Grimble’s final big adventure and they were determined that it was going to be the best.
They were half way through their holiday. Grimble was pleased. Bags for men had been bought. G had become the proud owner of two from one market visit.
This purchase had not been without some issues. After their trip to the shopping centre and market, there had been an impasse of sorts. This was not due to G being truculent or diffident. It was due to their remote location: Comares.
Comares was stunning. It was originally an Arabic hilltop fort. It’s white village outline could be seen for miles…and miles. In fact, it was approximately a mile and a half in the air. They had observed its stellar height on their first day when Satnav lady was desperate to journey them down some dirt track, seeming in the opposite direction to this lofty hilltop village. Perhaps this was because she was all too aware of the journey to follow.
They travelled the winding, bending, tortuous road ever upwards. They noted the lack of crash barrier at prime hairpin bends and their ears popped. As they arrived at their holiday rental, they felt dizzy from the thinness of the air. Comares could not be denied it’s status as a hilltop fortress. After this hill was sky. There was no other way back than down the treacherous death defying road.
As a result, all road trips had to be evaluated against a day lazing by the pool. Often the pool won outright, without discussion. Any trip taken had to be of value. There was no purposeless ambling from Comares. They might decide to stagger uphill on foot to the square for a coffee, beer or flamenco night. They would not use the car without good reason.
G had set his sights on purchasing bags at Torre del Mar Thursday market which luckily coincided with a trip to Sevilla. Their planned trip to Sevilla was no less barking mad as leaving Comares, with it’s recent August temperature of 47. However, they were not planning to stay in Sevilla. The sole purpose was to collect their amiga, the Emster. Charitably they were releasing her from the hellish Sevillian heat for a week of Comares mountain retreat.
After several hours of morning phaffing and dawdling, they left Comares at 11.30. Grimble knew this was not a good time as they would hit Torre at prime beach and shopping hour, just prior to siesta. Grimble, ever knowledgeable about the vagaries of Spanish life, was not far wrong. There was no where to park despite circling the town several times. Huge 4×4 crammed themselves into spaces where a Fiat 500 would have struggled to negotiate. They could almost smell the scent of leather man bags, they were so close. But, finally, it was not to be.
With limited options available, they decided to quit the seaside and depart immediately for the frying pan of Europe. The motorway journey was uneventful, hot and deserted. This was the joy of travelling at siesta. They briefly discussed a short detour at the Sevilla Airport Outlet Mall. But, as the temperature rose steadily through the 30s and into the low 40s, they swiftly dismissed this ridiculous suggestion.
In theory, they were going to bundle the Emster into the car and drive straight out of Sevilla. It might be a beautiful city at other times off the year but in August it was the epitome of a living hell. However, the Emster was not to be rushed or, usually, even ready. After more than a decade in Spain, she had mastered the slow, steady pace of life that meant nothing was hurried. She had fond farewells to say to her mad dog and evil bird before leaving. Plus she still had to finalise packing, eat lunch and double checking her travel arrangements.
By 6pm, they were finally on their way. Making sure that every journey counted, they called off at the large Torre del Mar supermarket for essentials: milk, eggs, chocolate milk, crab sticks, cava and various other irrelevant items. It was dark when they ascended the steep path to Comares. It was hard to say if this was better or worse. It was simply dark and dangerous.
Planning the purchase of a man bag with other pursuits was not easy. Grimble and G had forsaken shopping trips as they were desperately trying to avoid clutter. They wanted to go on a pedalo on Lake Viñuela not shop til they dropped. This was a great way to spend two hours, pedalling for ten minutes and spending the remaining time jumping off the pedalo and safely floating in a life jacket. It hadn’t required a great deal of exertion. All thoughts of man bags were easily forgotten as they floated aimlessly around the still lake waters.
Again utilising the car away from Comares scenario, they visited a supermarket to replenish cava, which seemed to evaporate in the altitude, buy ice pops and cheese.
Their next trip was Torre to join a group heading to the Malaga Feria. This was an overnighter. They departed Torre at 1pm, in theory, though this was a Spanish trip. The coach finally pulled out 30 minutes late. They left Malaga nine hours later. With G still awaiting his ideal man bag, Grimble found herself laden with an awful lot of stuff to cover a protracted adventure. She muttered and cussed to no avail. She also advised that this would be the last such packing of her bag.
Malaga Feria was fun, busy and sweaty. They were able to drink for free as each caseta enticed them in with free beer, tinto verano and paella. Their group was formed from a salsa bar and they were not afraid to take over any caseta and dance salsa to any music. Despite one dance looking suspiciously like the Hokey Cokey, they were rewarded with tequila shots and lots of applause. By 5pm they were half cut. By 7pm, they were hungry and flagging. At 9pm, G, Emster and Grimble had forsaken the others and were drinking strong coffee outside of the Feria.
The trip back should have been quiet given the exhaustion. However, this was Spain and the return was far from silent. Shouting Spanish ladies conducted full conversations from one end of the coach to the other with barely time to breathe. Staggering through fatigue and tentinitous, they made their way to the B and B and bed.
The next day, there was a halfhearted attempt to buy a man bag. G adorned himself with a decent leather bag, slung gamely over his shoulder but he was too tired to commit. They left Torre vowing to return on Thursday for the market. The market which had become like a holy shrine for all things man bag. It was as if this was the only place a man bag of quality could be found.
And that’s what happened. They set off earlier. They found parking. Within the hour, and after a coffee, two bags were bartered for and bought. One brown leather, the other black. They each had a variety of flaps and pockets.
There was one disconcerting moment when Grimble seemed to be carrying her bag and the carrier bag containing G’s bags. However, another café and coffee later, G’s bag was filled most of his items. Grimble would continue to find odd bits here and there for the next few days. He carried it like a man. Well like a British man. Which meant that there was some self conscious moments, a little grumbling and a defiance that stated that neither bag would be used or even seen in Blighty.
In the intervening days, the bags had a chequered life. G filled them with stuff then decided that he wasn’t taking a bag. This resulted his items of importance, namely toothpicks and tissues, being left behind. Grimble grittily held her position. She would not refill her own bag with G’s clutter. It was a war of attrition. Bag training was even more complex than puppy training, it seemed.
Grimble had to be very careful how she introduced the topic of a man bag to G. If she simply announced it, G would spiral into inconsolable misery. He would refuse to leave the pool or have a siesta that lasted well into the night. All Grimble’s devious wiles would be required to make this search seem fun and worthwhile.
G had shown a level of unexpected cooperation. He had communicated his needs in terms of a hypothetical bag. Grimble worried that his description might result in a fantasy bag. He itemised: pockets that opened easily, not too big or heavy, could carry a phone, iPad and stuff. It had to be in leather. He also said ideally he’d require two.
Grimble had nipped herself to make certain that she wasn’t on siesta or in a drunken haze at this declaration of a double purchase. The bag would be needed in black and brown to allow for maximum accessorising. This was a hopeful sign.
Their first foray into man bag territory was El Ingenio, a monster shopping mall by Velez. This name, roughly translated, meant ingenuity or wit. This seemed apt given Grimble would need both to keep G entertained and focused in a shopping centre. She motivated him with the idea that they needed a fan for the apartment. Air Con used energy insanely and it made them feel like they lived in a freezer. A manly electrical item would be enough to entice G into El Ingenio. Once inside, if there were coffee breaks and gadget shops, he would not complain too much.
G took charge of all things fan like. In the colossal Eroski supermarket, G located a plethora of suitable fans at a good price. However, they had only been in the mall for 10 minutes and, for G, his work here was done. Grimble showed an unnatural interest in large screen TVs in order to prolong this shopping adventure and keep G busy.
In reality, El Ingenio was a bit of a disappointment. The shops had a rebejas of 70% and clothes that no sane person would wear. Dunnes was filled with overpriced tat. Who, in their right mind, would purchase Irish tea at 5€ for 160 bags? Even the coffee shops were far too busy with abandoned men looking forlornly into their third café con leche.
In terms of man bags, the only offering was a discounted PVC one in Zara Man. Grimble showed it to G to assess interest. He grunted disappointment. Unlike a woman shopper who will touch and try on just for the hell of it, he would not even entertain it. Grimble was not certain if he was selective or uncommitted to a man bag.
Grimble realised that, if the current bag ownership remained unchanged, her bags did not have the space needed for a sunbathing trip. This actual trip consisted of a 10m stroll from the apartment to pool. However, it still required a big bag to house all the usual stuff plus two towels, puzzle books to keep G occupied, cool drinks and different factor suncreams. As they were about to depart El Ingenio, Grimble spied a bag shop with a sale. She emerged seconds later with a beach bag of immense proportions and a cheap price.
As the drove up the terrifying mountain pass back to Comares, Grimble pondered on how a hunt for G a man bag resulted in her owning yet another seasonal bag that had no function outside of Spain.
She had higher hopes of the next trip. A local market at Trappiche. It claimed it was artisan and crafty. She convinced G a trip here would give them a taste of local life.
The location was unusual. It was set alongside a disused airstrip: though planes landing and taking off suggested otherwise. The venue housed the market and weddings. As a result, it was a quite ornate affair. There were white cloth draped chairs, marquees and gazebos, chandeliers and artificial grass bedecked with fake rose archways. In between this opulence were a variety of stalls selling anything and everything.
There was the ubiquitous holiday clothing stall where Grimble got more short season wares. A local farmer selling garlic and eggs which Grimble also decided were essential items. Then there was a very animated and jolly man selling funeral plans. G and Grimble rarely went on holiday to be reminded of their own mortality. Next to him was a chap who would advise you on how best he could spend your pension.
Grimble wasn’t sure if there was a route they should follow as clearly pension thieving chap should come before burial bloke. This market was certainly eccentric and clearly not marketed at Spanish folk. There was another offering to set up TVs to provide the best of British. Then, there was another selling miscellaneous manly things: small tools, torches and stuff in metal. He did sell one man bag: a canvas one.
G had shown an interest in the general stuff on display here. Just as Grimble thought she might sneak a man bag into conversation, she was blindsided by a man modelling this very bag. Sadly, this man was not aspirational. He was a lumbering hairy bloke whose breakfast was still clearly visible on both his beard and T shirt. G looked horrified at the combination of man bag and hairy beast man.
This was not good and it would take some effort on Grimble’s part to separate this memory for G. As a temporary solution, she located a nice Irish lady that gave G a decent 20 minute massage. This seemed to have the desired effect and G left Trappiche market slightly less traumatised. This hunt was proving to be more complex than anticipated.
G and Grimble return to Spain
Grimble had been remiss. It had been many months since her last update. Her day job did not help her creative spirit. There was something about an excel spreadsheet that made her soul die. However, work was not the whole story…
The insanely hot UK summer had meant long weekends languishing by the boat with a succession of BBQs and flowing cava. This self induced haze had not helped Grimble’s power with words. Finally, the weather broke and there was the torrential downpour. Gusts of of 50 mph wind made the serenity of the mooring very dangerous.
Grimble had been forced to tackle a low flying wooden table intent on barging her into the Thames. Matrix like, she belted the vicious table from its trajectory as she side swiped a metal chair with her thigh. Sporting several bruises, she realised a UK summer was a dangerous thing. There was a definitive need of an escape to the safety of Spain. The only hazard there was the threat of record breaking heat.
In England, discussions of record breaking heat rarely exceeded a desultory mid 30 range. In Southern Spain an acceptable norm: an almost clement daily temperature. Now, even the BBC reported that Southern Europe was about to get volcano hot into the high 40s. Grimble recalled melting in Sevilla at 44 degrees. She considered these few digits more as almost irrelevant. Anything above 40 was simply fucking hot as hell.
However, G and Grimble had selected their holiday wisely. They had opted for the hills east of Malaga. This was an area they hoped to relocate to. This trip was as much a test of local facilities rather than merely a cava, tapas and sun seeking holiday. Here, temperatures rarely exceeded 33. In England, this would result in a cessation of all public transport, A and E filled to capacity with sunstroke victims and the local CoOp having no ice for the foreseeable future. In Spain, this was functioning weather.
Grimble had taken charge of all the organisation. She had looked at locations en route, documentation and holiday cash.
With almost no time to spare, she had ordered a Halifax infinity card. The lovely, reliable Martin Lewis had advised her to do so. Grimmy loved the advice of Martin Lewis. He was a gem of a man. He took on Facebook, irritating PPI wankers and even looked cross in front of the saintly Philip Scofield and Holly W. Then came a nail biting few days waiting for the card’s arrival. The Halifax taunted G and Grimble with texts to indicate it had been posted and it would arrive within ten days.
It arrived Wednesday morning, two days prior to the EDT of Friday afternoon. So relieved was Grimble that she threw caution to the wind and plans to the recycling. A few deft moments on her iPad and she advised G to gird his loins and sort out his rucksack. They were leaving that afternoon! The were now booked on a lunchtime Le Shuttle on Thursday. Not that this spontaneity was entirely unexpected for Grimble. She had forced G to address his packing on Tuesday night. Ignoring his grumbling of far too fucking early, she had advised him that he would thank her efficiency later.
A note on the packing here. G’s grumbling about being forced to pack was somewhat inaccurate. His packing regime consisted of him lay on the bed as Grimble presented him with various shirts, shorts and other miscellaneous items. He then regally stated yay or nay to these offerings. Whereupon, Grimble rolled and deposited them in a case.
Before the righteous among you demand Grimble cease this level of servitude, consider this. Left to his own devices, G’s packing was unpredictable at best. Briefly, Grimble left the room and then unpacking in Spain discovered irregularities. Neatly tucked in the bottom of the case was a black cashmere jumper and a navy fleece. “Why?” demanded Grimble. “Just on the off chance,” retorted G. The off chance of what thought Grimble. The off chance Satnav lady went temporarily rogue and directed them to Sweden ? Which, incidentally, was also suffering from an unexpected heatwave. Grimble patiently bit her tongue, almost in reality as opposed to literally, at what she had to endure. The winter items remained unpacked in the case.
However, the biggest packing nightmare was the Grimble bag of holiday essentials: documentation, cash in two currencies, cards, licences etc. The Grimble bag had long been a point of contention. Even outside of holiday time, G liked to carry light. Trips to pubs, restaurants or even the boat, consisted of G being item free and Grimble shouldering a bag of epic proportions. At points, so heavy was the bag, that Grimble’s gait resembled Quasimodo. Her chant of the bag, the fucking bag did recall Quasimodo’s bells’ speech.
This year’s bag was particularly stuffed. It exceeded even Grimble’s capacity. Each item that G requested seemed to be located in its Tardis like interior. The usual suspects were present. On request, G was delivered with a toothpick, tissues and loose change. Seemingly, to challenge its never ending contents, G decided that his lips were chapped. A short forage later and a lip balm with SPF factor was located. Rising to the challenge, G then decided his skin was dry. There was a rustling and as if the bag was a magician’s hat, Grimble produced a small tube of extra strength moisturiser.
Ultimately, Grimble knew that this situation was reaching critical bag overload. G continued to pass her more and more items to hold. Lighter, phone, glasses to name a few. She endeavoured to retain bag organisation but the system was imploding. At restaurants, before she could even view a menu, half the insides of her bag had been deposited on the table. Toothpicks, needle and thread, plasters for inevitable blisters cluttered her space before G’s glasses could be located. All his items frustratingly seemed to worm themselves out of Grimble’s hand reach.
There was one request too far and a brave or foolhardy G commented on lack of organisation. At which point, Grimble menacingly looked up from the depths of the bag’s interior. With a darkened and furrowed expression, she revealed her inner thoughts. Bag contents required sharing. They were about to venture to Southern Spain. Everyone knew that here man bags were both de rigueur and on point. In 6 months time, G would need to be adept with such a bag. Therefore, he needed to practice now. She did not expect him to take it truck driving in Swindon. There his rucksack would suffice. But it was going to be the way of all future holidays and, very soon, life.
With this plan firmly entrenched in Grimble’s brain, the hunt for a man bag had begun.