A place to call our own. For three weeks at least. We only had to share it with Coco, Derecha and Maisie.
‘We’re in the campo’, Jackie told us. We’d imagined Alora as a quaint little village, cobbled streets falling down a hillside. Don’t know where we got that idea from. Must have been the mention of ‘pueblo blanco’ that did it. In reality, Alora was a bog-standard, modern town, with nothing much to recommend it. ‘El campo’ turned out to be a drive down a dry river-bed to a villa, sandwiched between the industrial estate and a train-track.
But Coco and Derecha seemed please to see us. Derecha – ‘I only found out later that people were calling ‘to the right, to the right – I thought that was his name’, Jackie told me – is a dog with attitude. Feisty and very funny. We walk him on a lead as he cannot be trusted with other dogs. ‘The red mist comes down, and he’ll be away’, Dave said. The sight, smell or sound of anything canine leads to furious barking, spinning in circles and straining as far as the leash allows. In frustration he’ll scratch the earth, kicking his back legs and grumbling, covering anything nearby – my legs, Jim’s trousers, poor Coco’s face. He’ll bark extra loud at dogs behind fences – dog-speak, I imagine, for ‘Thank your lucky stars you’re on the other side, mate’, and then he’ll trot on, pleased with himself, literally top dog. Jim tells him ‘There’s something seriously wrong with you, you’re nuts’, and he ‘grins’ lopsidedly and barks as if to say ‘Up yours!’. Coco – or Coco Pops – ‘because he looks like a coconut’, Jackie said, is timid and follows me about like a lost lamb. He sits on the bed while I have a shower, and on or under my sun-lounger by the pool. He’s always there, like a second shadow.
Here we perfect the Spanish art of siesta – not actually sleeping, but slowing down to snail’s pace. In the afternoons it’s too hot to be outside, so we all – us and the dogs – barricade ourselves into the air-conditioned TV room. Derecha sits on one side of me, snorting and snoring, and Coco on the other, going through his ritual paw-washing and leaving big wet patches on the covers. Every now and again, they struggle off the couch to lay full out on the cool tiles; Derecha making a right meal of it, placing his front paws on the ground and then indulging in a diva-like stretching of hind legs, extended to the last milimeter before they touch terra firma. Poor Maisie, the cat, can’t be coaxed in when the dogs are around, and takes refuge in the garage or the conservatory.
We only go out to the supermarket. We pootle. Swim. Read. Write. Dream. My sister visits during the second week, and we become a bit more lively, rousing ourselves to visit Ronda and Malaga, but mostly we stay home and chat, cook, drink a glass of wine or two, and play ball games in the pool. ‘This is the life’, she says often, as we lounge by the pool.
Once she leaves we easily slip back into our ‘do-nothing’ routine. A perfect ending to our Andalucian sojourn.