“What do they call that – when everything intersects?”
“The Bermuda triangle.”
(Nora Ephron, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE)
Jonathan’s Blog, with Cassandra’s comments in lady-like pink and Jonathan’s rebuttals in manly blue.
So… Cass and I had scraped together enough money to buy a small plot of land on a Spanish mountainside (the delightful village of Barx in Valencia) and we were going to build a little holiday cottage for ourselves, maybe expand it in time to have an extra bedroom or two. However, no sooner were we congratulating ourselves on the sensibleness of our plan, its sheer unholy grown-upness, than circumstances overtook us. Small plot, cottage, extra rooms, yada yada. I just wanted my own swimming pool!
A couple of unexpectedly large bills, yet another grim UK winter, a favourable exchange rate, and suddenly we decided to take a more adventurous approach: finish the cottage, and move to Spain. At least temporarily. One of the great privileges of living in the twenty-first century (any one else STILL want to say “twentieth century” to mean “up-to-date?” No. Thanks for your support) is that you can do this sort of thing in a way our parents couldn’t; you can work remotely, you can ‘commute’ on cheap (-ish) airlines, Spain is modern and safe, and we’re all now Europeans.
First we had to get our cottage finished; no nightmares there, and certainly no “mañana” attitude from our Spanish builders – it went from mountainside to finished cottage, including pool Yay!, in four months! (Handy tip: give your builder a video camera and get him to send you regular updates – though do expect close-ups of insulating foam, rather than arty sunsets through half-finished brickwork).
There was a downside to not being here while the work went on though – I chose bathroom tiles in powder blue (am very specific about colours more on this later, folks) and found royal blue ones in place instead. I do not care for royal blue. Gulp!
Next it was a question of packing up our stuff, and renting out our flat in London. Life became a blur of council dump (erm, I mean recycling centre), charity shops, eBay, storage units, removals, etc. For three months I never left home without a full car. The storage unit remains full of utterly impractical stuff that we can’t use here in Spain, but can’t give up – fancy wedding gift crockery, boxes of old letters and photos, my famous, black sparkly Astroturf boots…
Then, one July morning in 2011, we set off. Spain, baby! This time the car full of us, our two cocker spaniels Dudley and Dixie, music, snacks, and maps. Couldn’t have told you the last time I’d eaten a wine gum, but a family bag of Maynards seemed essential.
All we remember now of the journey is how hot it was. Words. Cannot. Convey Again, I can’t help feeling that Cass’s aversion to certain extremes of temperature might become a theme in these blogs Our ancient (1992) VW Golf didn’t have anything as sophisticated as air con – in fact we’d got so fed up of it being nicked and stripped in London, that we’d simply left the dashboard as it was: a mess of gaps and loose wires – so somewhere in France we started buying large blocks of ice to keep our dogs cool. It’s fair to say they didn’t completely ‘get it’, but it’s the thought that counts.
Anyway… we arrived, the cottage was perfect, the weather was perfect, the village was perfect, and the mountains were perfect.
And, apart from a few little setbacks – like dropping a sofa on one of our dogs on the first day, and breaking her paw – we settled in quickly. Er, one of us had to learn a new language from scratch actually. Just saying.
So, we’d been here a couple of months, it was still warm and sunny in September, when one morning we stepped outside at first light to let out the dogs. Now Cass will tell you it was she, but this is the real story: I (me! Jonathan!) stepped outside and, in the same way that you can be ‘hit’ by hot, holiday air when you take your first step out of a plane and onto foreign tarmac, I was ‘hit’ by a magical fragrance. Our mountain! Hot limestone, red soil, pine forest, fennel, lavender, sage (I knew none of the specifics back then), all of which grow wild on the mountainside. But something else, too: a soft sweetness that lingered and haunted. The fragrance was transporting. But the funny thing was, it was transporting me to our new mountain home in Spain. We’d arrived.
In my memory, it was both of us (see why we’re happily married? He takes wild artistic license, and I the moral high ground) but the truth is that it’s true! We have our very own magic mountain fragrance.
“The truth is that it’s true”?! I have quite the way with language.