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Mijas is not Spain and Spain is not Mijas.

Our host is Dutch, his wife is Irish. The house opposite is owned by Brits. We have been served by Brits, and heard German, Japanese and drawled Andalusian Spanish in bars, cafes and on the street. We’ve discussed pasties with an Argentinian and haggled with a Moroccan selling leather. Americans have been loud and over here. An aged New Yorker, out in the street, discussed with a chap from euroland somewhere, her past living arrangement in Manhattan (she lived on the 6th floor- no lift) and the need to get used to stairs in her home now in Mijas. He was too well dressed to be English. The lady had the air of a retired novelist, or socialite and had presumably come to live the American Dream in Spain. Perhaps she had heard about Trump’s rising popularity and got out before the walls go up, misogyny shamelessly parades itself and US arrogance is matched in bombast only by its nuclear arsenal detonated on middle eastern soil.

I think I saw or heard a Russian lady, extremely well dressed from the spoils no doubt of the oligarchic takeover of State utilities, eyeball with well founded suspicion, one of the donkeys. It may have belched onion and garlic laced straw breath into her Dior and Versace created face. Don’t tell Putin or his ego may require the assassination of the bosses of mule and ass based economies around the globe in retaliation for this slight on the character and dress sense of Russian wives. Don’t laugh, this is not a joke. Just think, we are on the brink of a world in which we have Presidents Trump and Putin waving their dicks around in public, shouting across each other while nuclear warheads slink around the globe in phallic shaped submarines. The fact that these subs look like big willies is not perhaps accidental.

This bit of Spain is coping, seemingly on the surface anyway, with being both Spanish and cosmopolitan. Whereas squabbles about place, race and identity in the US and UK right now seem totally self obsessed and old fashioned. The Tory party is ripping the heart out of itself and a possible cosmopolitan Britain, blind to the divide that already exists between the British, an increasingly entrenched class divide delineated by the old North South Divide. Getting out of the EU will do nothing to address the blind arrogance of the privileged, mainly public school educated so called ‘elite’ and will prove to Europeans that as an Island race we have learned nothing from the history of either Empire or the two world wars and possibly cannot be trusted to engage with other countries unless it business based and willing to laugh at knob jokes. We built the nation’s wealth on accumulation by dispossession, enclosures of the commons, piracy, slavery, misplaced ideas of racial and religious superiority and inbred monarchy. Many of those themes underpin little England mentalities today. As a nation we are still caught between the devil of idealised patriotism and the deep blue sea of xenophobia. This does not apply in Kernow of course. There in God’s country we have pasties and a mining heritage to see us the through the ten cold months of winter. We have a flag and an anthem and Devonians to laugh at with their silly ideas about the order of jam and cream on a scone.

The English are also some of worse dressed tourists in the Western World.Ann and I play spot the nationality while we have coffee by the bullring. Try it yourself, and do so before you hear any language. Russians are blinged, Germans are somehow just ‘tidy’ and ‘neat’, the French sport old fashioned face hair waxed at the ends, their husbands are no better (boom boom). The English are just, on the whole, scruffy bastards. Why? I dunno.
Given our propensity to casual xenophobia, and a history of self imposed self importance we could have been a right old bunch of arseholes. Thankfully we also had the Scottish, Edinburgh based, enlightenment and produced radical thinkers such as Thomas Paine and William Wilberforce as correctives to our baser selves. Our abilities to enjoy and assimilate are also British qualities. We are deeply divided within and between ourselves and unless we can get beyond tired old thinking we will place ourselves on the fringes of not only Europe geographically but also philosophically. Alas we are not alone in this. All over the world democracies are falling foul to populist demagogues while the ravages of globalised ‘free trade’ overturn securities, employment and futures. Men increasingly turn to old patriarchal religions to try to hold on to a status denied them by modernity while women are dragged along three steps behind in masks. What has religion got against a decent cleavage I hear you ask?

Time for another penis reference: At the bottom of the stairs leading out to the garden of this apartment is a cactus. The kind of cactus which used to be photographed and that would be sent into Esther Rantzen’s programmes in the 70’s. Yes it is shaped like a ‘thingy’ and what’s more it is set at an angle that resembles an erect penis (if you can remember what one of those looks like). There are sadly no testicular like protuberances at its base, but do not let that little point detract from the vision in your mind of an erect prickly prick.

So what have the Spanish done for us? Well, we have taken over large swathes of coastal towns and cities and inflated the house prices in the better parts. The locals, as locals do in most places have both benefitted and cursed. There is an English breakfast bar in the square with a sign in English offering the ‘full English’. Try translating that into Spanish and you might get arrested for causing a public nuisance. We have free movement here, we can work here, we have access to their healthcare, we are free to learn their language and eat their food. We can even sleep with some of the prettier ones (women that is, not the donkeys…however if that is your predilection, try it). We can drink their very reasonably priced and decent quality wines. There is public health, aqueducts and vintnery. Their little experiment with Franco’s fascism is over, so we don’t have to do the same.

Oh, and sunshine. There is a lot of that here, and it’s free. You don’t have to queue for it or prove you have residency rights to enjoy it. Any Eastern Europeans that are here can also enjoy it without taking away any of your own enjoyment. It just tumbles down out of the sky every single day. I’m putting some in a box to take home, as I hear it’s brass monkeys in England.

More pasties in paradise

Our morning stroll takes us around the southern ‘ring road’ of Mijas. It’s a one way street, with just enough room for one car and a pavement. It begins at the eastern end of the town where the donkey taxis line up ready for their day of pulling fat Germans, badly dressed Brits and grinning Chinese. The donkeys are harnessed in colourful, er, ‘donkey stuff’, and stand, in the main, awaiting their fate with equanimity, patience and the odd fart. One of them attempts to bray but thinks better of it and flares its nostrils instead. Their thoughtful owners, in view of donkey effort required, have harnessed them to buggies just big enough for one and a half fat Germans, or a hen party from Birmingham or Shanghai. The sort of loads donkeys take in their strides. It beats carrying certain Jewish rabbis into Jerusalem, which although had started promisingly, ended up being a bit of a bother.

I catch the eye of one long suffering ‘burro’ and he looks at me as if to say “yes, mate I know, this is no life for an animal with the brain power of a Hawking, the stomach of a Pavarotti and a python sized penis”. I feel it’s pain, having to stoop so low as to have ferry around pork fed Bavarians with a BMI of a panzer tank. At least the donkey can satisfy itself that Spain can take some comfort in knowing that for half an hour at least, an equine arsehole is being shown to a German and the German is actually paying for the experience. Sometimes there is justice in the world. Sometimes.

Anyway. The road leaves this madness behind and in just a few short metres the hustle and bustle of tourists disappears. We have the road completely to ourselves. I guess a picturesque stroll, taking in huge vistas towards the sea, is not on the itineraries of the organised trip. This would require the expenditure of nothing but energy rather than euros. There are no market stalls, no bars and no seats on this road. Just a very calm walk right under the walls of the old fort as the rock rises up to the right and a vertiginous drop to the left. Just at the start however is a newish hotel/resort called ‘La Ermita’ run by MacDonalds hotels. Not the yellow arches MacDonalds but another UK based outfit. It is carved into the hillside and has of course breathtaking views out to the sea. We decide to have a nose and step into reception to ask for the tariff, a tour of a room and the facilities. A very nice lady obliges. Suffice to say, it is bloody marvellous. We end up down by the pool at the restaurant which is open to non residents and stop for a coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. And a bit of banter with the locals.

The very friendly Argentinian chef is only to happy to chat and asks where we are from. I thought it obvious from our clothes, accents and superior attitude towards all foreigners. When we proffer ‘UK’, he of course accepts this but to our surprise wanted to know where in the UK. Now, in the past I have mentioned ‘Cornwall’ to the enquiring, patient, but also politely disinterested, native and have been greeted with a look that says “I hear your words, but I’ve no idea what they mean”. This look of bafflement continues even when I offer ‘far south west of England’ and wave my hands about in the general direction of 7 o’clock (from my perspective) or 5 o’clock (from theirs) which, now I think about it, means ‘South East’ to them and thus just adds to the confusion. Their mental maps of the UK are obviously not like ours. I can see in my mind’s eye the outline of the UK which takes in Scotland, Wales and the detail of Torbay including Anstey’s cove. They however see ‘London’, the Queen and racism. Not a good start when trying get our minds to meet in the middle. Usually I don’t have a pen and paper, otherwise I would only be too happy to provide an impromptu geography lesson. To think we once had an empire where we taught all of the world, and their wives and ‘piccaninnies’, democracy, how to speak properly and the value of a good forward drive to the covers. A world in which geography lessons about the whereabouts of Truro would be superfluous to the crowds in a crowded bazaar in Benghazi who would know instantly the difference between Redruth, Redcar and Richmond (upon Thames, you peasants).

To my delight the chef, has not only heard of Cornwall but also of the humble ‘pasty’. He has seen it on the Discovery channel and informs me how the pasty has travelled the world (true), should not have boiled beef (true) and the best are now to be found in…wait for it….Canada.

Canada.

Famed for Moose, and…er.

Either he had been at the sangria while watching the telly or someone at the Discovery channel was taking the piss. The former I can envisage easily. Perhaps he heard someone say the best pasties are in ‘Camborne’ and mistakenly thought they said ‘Canada’ being unfamiliar with both the English language and the old Cornish mining town and its inhabitants, some of whom indeed may resemble a moose. Hang around in the Tyacks on a Saturday night and you may spot a few, grazing on jäger bombs and hope, lowing loudly into the night air in search of a booze fuelled coupling and a kebab. The chef was sure the best pasty in the world is now to be found somewhere between St Johns in Newfoundland and Vancouver, British Colombia. A jolly chap no doubt, but he probably still thinks the Falklands are the Malvinas. We do agree however that ’empanadas’ is the Spanish word for a similar (but not the same) foodstuff.

We continue our morning constitutional which takes us to “Plaza de la Constitucion”, Calle Malaga and “Plaza de Jesus de Nazarone” (Translation: ‘Christs’ Square’ – see, not so good in English is it?). Calle Malaga is undergoing what they call “Obras” here, but a “fuck up” in Essex and other counties. The Mijas council and others decided that gas, water, sewerage works needed doing and so the whole street is a ‘men at work’ zone complete with JCBs, dust and procrastination. You can’t move for yellow helmets and “mañana”. It seems that one day they poured concrete and then went home thinking that no one would walk across this freshly and lovingly poured concrete. To the workmen this was art that the local boy, Picasso, would has been proud of. They did not foretell that if the shortest distance between Manuel and his cerveza was fresh concrete, then rather than put an extra 5 minutes walking around the works, Manuel, Jose and Maria would rather wade through ankle deep in fresh concrete than waste precious fiesta time. We watched as they newly chastened workmen had to fill in the 6 inch deep footsteps immortalised in homage to Hollywood’s avenue of fame.

Lunch. Decision was easy. Buy a chicken.

There is a shop whose business model is selling spit roast (no sniggering at the back please) chicken. That’s it. Nothing else. Nada Mas. It is the best chicken you may ever taste. It is probably battery reared and dies to the sound of Nazi marching music (I’m guessing). Ethical considerations aside, and this is why we as a species are fucked, ethics takes a very poor second place to taste. The chap takes the whole roast chicken off the spit, makes various cuts into its flesh so that it then sits in a foil tub, pours gravy….gravy, oh dear…..on top, places the lid on it and off we trot. The spit roast chicken has been prepared with lemon, garlic, onion and rosemary in generous quantities. The gravy is a mix of chicken fat and the above and tickles your tongue like a sexed up night nurse (again I’m guessing). It is moist. Very, very moist (a bit like the night nurse). Falls off the bone like a Camborne maid falls off the kerb outside the Spoons, easily and without too much prompting.

So, a bottle of yer fizz later it is siesta time.

I really can see the point of siesta. We should do it more often in the UK. Seriously. If it is good enough for their Lordships in the upper house it should be good enough for the rest of us.

Our last night in town finds us watching a glorious red sunset before heading back. We stop at a bar for a glass of that which pleases. This leads to tapas of croquettes de jamon Serrano and ‘Sandra’s empanadas’. In English in the menu it says ‘Sandra’s special Cornish pasties’. We have a go, and three perfectly crimped little pasties turn up. They are filled with lamb and the the pastry has been deep fried, and served with what looks like soy sauce. Delicious, and I’m not going to argue the toss. Suitably fortified we have a nightcap: Desarrono for Ann and Drambuie for me. poured into small barrels that pass for glasses. We sing our way home trying not to fall into freshly poured concrete.

Thankfully, there is no donkey poo on the pavement.

Does it get any sweeter?

The sweet scent of Jasmine arrests as it gently carries itself on the breeze. Jacaranda and Bougainvillea are tempting in flower. Pine and woodsmoke rise from chimneys below the white terraces of the old pueblo. The odd dog barks, a cat plays with an old chicken bone on the cobbled street and goldfinches chirrup from their cages set there by the residents in the open windows of the old town. Overhead martins flit in competition with the evening bats for the the last of the flying insects before the sun finally sets. A peregrine patrols in case a pigeon gets complacent and flies too far to the sun. This would be the last error of judgment the hapless fat bird makes, for the falcon will spot it from afar and swoop to end its sorrows. Yellow swallowtail butterflies gather their life spirit from purple flowers. Trees are laden down with lemons and oranges, so plentiful that they are not harvested, left to fall where they will. Makes me think again of Gin.

This is March.

Lest we forget.

Looking out across the valley to Dragon mountain from the terrace, nothing seems to be happening. And that is just fine with me. The scene is still, the air faintly shimmering in the afternoon heat. The sea beyond glowing blue and gold. African mountains are topped with snow in the distant horizon, the whiteness betraying the harsh black and red of the earth below them. A few ships, just specks at this distance, carry their loads to Istanbul, Naples or Cairo.

Coaches leave the town, taking the gawping barbarian selfie hordes back down the road to the coast and to Hades. A million instagrams will be posted around the world to be seen once and then forgotten before the next trip is planned. All that sophisticated software, the gift from far too clever people in Silicon Valley, just to show a donkey’s arse or another lady grinning soul from Shanghai. I too am part of that transient babble come here to marvel, to leave only euros and a broken heart at the thought of such innocence betrayed under an Andalucian sun. For such is our contradiction as visitors, coming to see the authentic and in doing so our own inauthenticity is packaged and sold back to us. It is too late in this era of mass tourism to do but any other.

There is still evidence here of real people living real lives in the quieter back streets that the day trippers never find. The Bar Alencon or the Bar Cadron hide sun soaked sangria fueled treasures, but you’ll need time and a nose to find them. A good few years ago, after a flagon of the local good stuff, we danced back down through Calle Malaga in the hot evening air. No one was arrested, no donkeys were harmed and little children abed slept soundly safe in the knowledge that the moon would still rise. Sangria is a perchance a maligned drink unless you witnessed the real thing being constructed out of fresh oranges, strawberries, red wine and gin (enough to drown an elephant). You might want an ambulance.

Lunch: Tapas again today. Home made.

Clams (Ann says they are cockles) from yesterday, then followed by chorizos in red wine. Fair enough I hear you say. A pretty common dish.

Start with buying chorizo from an Andalusian market. Get your shallots and garlic from the same place. I had previously marinated tomatoes in virgin olive oil, balsamic de Modena and oregano, seasoned with salt and ground black pepper. The little red beauties had bathed in the marinade like olive skinned nubiles soaking up temptation in a hot tub and were now ready to explode on your tongue like an orgasm with the midday sun on your back. This was love on a plate.

Anyway.

Cut the chorizos into pound coin size pieces, put to one side while the shallots and garlic sizzle in butter. Then add the tomatoes and red wine, reducing the liquid before adding the chorizo. Cook until the chorizo oils run into the pan to mix with the marinade. Let sex commence. The pan will resemble the smell of a well perfumed Roman orgy, but without the sweat and halitosis. Add more wine, and if you don’t feel the slightest of long forgotten teenage urges, add some more. Reduce the liquid until the chorizo pieces are coated in heaven sent moistness. Serve with fresh bread, butter and more wine. On a separate plate serve Avocado slices. Don’t mess with the avocado. This helps to cut through the richness of the red wine sauce. Place all the dishes on a table on a sun terrace with an ambient temperature of about 22 degrees, make sure you have a view and time to think.

Eat.

As a post prandial sweetener, nibble on almonds boiled in honey and sugar by Señor in the market square. The almonds are left with a crispy coating of honey soaked sweetness, enough to send shivers down your spine.

You might want a siesta after that, or some other kind of lie down.

The sun will by now be over its zenith and be chasing its own path towards sunset. This will call forth Gin and Tonic time.

Which brings us back to the bats in the evening glow of another glorious sunset.

It’s a new dawn, Sophia Loren and Brigit Bardot

Nothing much happened today.

That, I think, is the point of a break, to let one’s mind wander around aimlessly achieving little. A bit like the Arsenal midfield right now who seem hell bent on sleepwalking into obscurity. For us, the day starts with dawn.

Most days do, but you have to be there when it happens or else it does not happen at all. Our bedroom has floor to ceiling patio doors which look straight out at Dragon mountain, due East, and to the rising sun. I’m usually awake an hour before sunrise, and can catch the rainbow colours behind the black silhouette of the Dragon. The sky at this time is a dark almost purple blue and then all the shades down to the green yellows and oranges of the awakening light over the horizon. The Dragon’s black nose dips into the sea affording a view of black mountain to the left and the deep blue sea to the right. Without a single cloud in the sky, the light becomes, and the colours glow. This is dawn happening, right before our eyes.

It does need a little help. For instance, being high up with an uninterrupted view to the East helps. As does the complete lack of cloud cover. High rise flats, power stations or brick walls are apt to detract from the experience and have been known to cancel sunrise. Dawn rarely occurs in certain countries I could name, due to the grey poly tunnel sky or the sheets of drizzle hanging in obscurantic obstinacy. When dawn does happen, it is well worth watching. The sun rises above the horizon behind Dragon’s nose, sending blue rays heavenward, but of course is obscured from sight until it reaches a certain height. Then like a diamond it sparkles just as it crests the mountain ridge until quite suddenly one is bathed in warmth and light as it invades the room chasing out the shadows of the night.

I lie in bed and think about the heavens and the myths and legends of old, of how Helios’ winged chariot chases across the sky, scattering the night gods before it while sister moon drifts below into the west of the fading night.

I might fart, or worse, if I don’t get up.

Enough reverie. I have an hour’s commute on a busy road/tube/train accompanied by the walking dead whose soulless eyes confirm that there is nothing on earth worth living for. All spirit has been drained, leaving dead carcasses adrift in a sea of melancholy and pointlessness. They aspire to ennui, anomie is their destination and alienation their carriage. They know not of colour, or joy, or spice. Just grey and the bitter, saline, drip, drip, drip of decay and desperation in the full knowledge that salvation is a lie, and heaven a myth.

Sorry. Apologies.

For a moment there I must have dreamt that I was on the A30 from Chiverton Cross to Treliske on a wet Monday morning. Must have nodded off and forgot I’m in Andalucia. The only commute here, is from bed to shower to fresh ground coffee and breakfast while overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean.

Phew.

The main task this morning is a stroll to the market in town to choose lunch. We choose the route that takes us around the rocky outcrop of old Mijas fort, the ‘Alcazaba’. The road winds around just below the old walls and has splendid views way down towards Malaga in the east, through to Benalmadena, Fuengirola, Porto Banus, and Marbella to the West. And there on the skyline across the sea, rise black mountains of Africa. My geography at this point is a bit loose, but I guess it may be Tunisia? There is clearly a sense that the land here is sweeping towards the tip of Spain at Algeciras and the Rock of Gibraltar but both are too far away to make out. I don’t know why but the sight of African mountains is thrilling, romantic even. Daft of course because we all know that North African countries are not to be romanticised as depicted in Boy’s Own fantasies. And yet the sight is magnificent.

We continue our mid morning constitutional and pass a large, battered and rusting, skip full of donkey poo. I know it to be donkey poo because I’ve seen the donkey that created it. Not that I watched the donkey actually lift its tail to make a deposit you understand. That would be weird and probably illegal. I get my kicks elsewhere nowadays. Mijas has lots of donkeys, and therefore has lots of poo, to transport coach loads of gawking (usually Asian) tourists around the town. I fool myself that I am above such nonsense. Donkey poo looks like straw. Don’t be fooled. If you should find yourself tempted to take a nap upon some warm straw, take a good look at it first. You might want to sniff it. That’s a dead give away. Don’t taste it. This stuff is as malodorously pungent and repellant as Donald Trump’s policies on Mexicans. Although I’d rather go face down into a skip of dung than face another of Trump’s speeches. Donkey poo is a metaphor for whatever you want it to be. It is partly digested crap, passing through arseholes, with no need to engage in thought. Just like current Tory party economic policy (boom boom). I thank you.

Prawns.

Fresh from the market. Big juicy and ready for the pan. Calamares, clams and white wine, cooked with shallots and garlic. Easy, quick and delicious with a fresh baguette. Serve with a Tomato salad and olive oil. Pan fry the prawns until they sizzle and pink, dip the Calamares in seasoned flour and add to the hot oil. Butter, garlic, shallots in a separate pan and then toss in the rinsed clams with a cup of white wine. Steam the little beauties and discard those that do not open. If you think it is necessary, pour a glass of wine for yourself as it all cooks. That’s lunch done.

Siesta time. Life is hard.

Henri (our host) has a car. A 1958 MGB, wire wheels and red upholstery. It has recently been resprayed and is now as cream as a tub of Rodda’s. It has a new chrome luggage rack on the boot. It sparkles and gleams in the sunlight. The roof is down. Sophia Loren is sitting in the passenger seat wearing Italian sunglasses and a headscarf. Her lips are painted as red as the car’s interior and her perfume is as heady as the smell of the engine is it starts up. Henri is only too willing to take me for a spin around the town. Sophia hands me her Martini as she makes to get out of the car, swinging her stocking clad legs out of the door. She waves as Henri and I zoom off, the tyres making little clouds of dust as the rubber sticks to the Tarmac.

I’m not dreaming this time. It is all true, except for the Martini.

We zip around town, dodging little parcels of donkey poo and trying not kill selfie taking tourists. The first we succeed in doing, whereas I did hear a whimper at one point, noting in the rear view mirror a selfie stick flying into the air in the dust, it’s owner nowhere to be seen although I suspect his Facebook post will be little more interesting tonight. Henri stops the car at a viewpoint high above the town to take a picture of the street. He tells of a film starring Brigit Bardot made in 1958, filmed in Mijas. His background in cinematography no doubt spurs his interest. The film is called ‘Les bijouteries de la Clare de Lune’. Probably some French art house movie where nothing happens, the dialogue is existential and the subplot is about someone who had sex once, who wants sex now and will think about sex tomorrow. Not with Donkeys though. I don’t think donkeys feature.

Well, tiz late. The Arsenal are probably making a fist of losing to Swansea and there is another glorious dawn happening, tomorrow morning I think it is. Look out for it.