Living in Spain, warts and all

Foreign Bodies

Forgive my extended silence in this hallowed hall of drivel. My excuses are as follow: week one, I had visitors; week two, I visited; week three, I laid me down to die, or so it felt.

Firstly, Ben and his lovely girlfriend Rachel came to stay for their annual pilgrimage to keep Mother happy.

And the Mother thing, I might just point out, is a constant bone of contention with me. When Ben was small, I encouraged him to call me Debbie, which he did quite happily until he started school, at which point I became Mummy. I have fought this tooth and claw throughout, but it has been a lost battle all along.

I have a name, and I do not want to be addressed by my relationship to the addressor. If John were to call me Wife, or (worse still) Wifey, he would probably find himself needing dentures. And I certainly have never addressed Ben as ‘Son’, or Sue as ‘Sister’. My own mother is, of course, a different matter, and she would probably have a complete hissy fit if I called her Jean, but that’s entirely her choice.

Ben has, with age, found it increasingly amusing to labour the Mum thing with me, and so these days I receive birthday cards with as many ‘My Mummy’ references as possible – usually with little Bunnies and Birdies and Teddies and Woof-Woofs thrown in for good measure. Contrary little sod.

However, that aside, I am always delighted to share a little dedicated time with the two of them. There was, on this occasion, a secret to keep, too. Ben had confided that he was about to propose to Rach – they have been together since school days, and he planned to make his grand gesture on their ninth anniversary, on October first. He further planned an evening get-together at their favourite Italian restaurant with close family and friends that same evening.

So I grovelled to our friends Trevor and Linda here in Spain, who are always good enough to step into the breach should I need to disappear, and to carry out in my stead all the duties that usually fall to me with regard to feeding, cleaning and pampering the motley array of furry and feathered parasites that cling tenaciously within my boundaries and insist vociferously on their rights as squatters.

Rachel must have been somewhat surprised, when I dumped them at the airport at the end of their stay, that I did not become a little tearful in my usual manner. Not as surprised, however, as when she walked into the restaurant on the Saturday night, sporting a beautiful new engagement ring and expecting a romantic meal for two, to find fifteen of us already seated and looking at her expectantly.

Ben had, apparently, taken her for a picnic in the park earlier, to pop the question. All extremely romantic – a trait that he clearly did not inherit from his dad – and perhaps a little self-assured, given that he had already arranged the evening celebrations. I did venture to ask what his back-up plans were had she turned him down, and he confessed that her first response had been, “Can I get back to you on that?” (way to go, Rach!) But she followed swiftly with, “Of course I will!”, so all was well in the end, and his face was saved.

I spent just two nights in the UK – the second being the engagement party. The first, having landed mid-afternoon and then caught a bus to the fire station, since John was on day duty, can only be described with a little background first regarding a rather strange mind-set of John’s.

Throughout our entire time together, we have, in common with most people, borrowed money in order to move house, carry out home improvements and so on. I wonder, though, just how many other people at such junctures feel as John always does that an increased burden of debt automatically equals time to buy a different car? It happens every single time – so much so that I only have to hear the golden words “I’ve been thinking….” when juxtapositioned with a large spend event to know that we are about to arm-wrestle again over his wheels.

And so when I bowled into the fire station, dishevelled from travelling, hungry and thirsty and desperate for a shower, I should not have been in the least surprised (given that we are currently haemorrhaging money into the barn-to-kennels project) to be met with a heartfelt plea for a change of vehicle. The current mode of transport, John announced, needed a new clutch and a number of other bits of work to get through the up-coming MOT test, and it wasn’t, he averred, worth the money it would require.

Therefore he had been looking at replacing it and so would I mind very much if we went straight out to look at one he had lined up? Fabulous. My flying visit had, in my mind, involved a gentle and relaxed evening dining out, the two of us, at one of the restaurants I do miss as a Spanish resident. I had not envisaged sitting in his clapped out old rust bucket (with faulty clutch) for an hour driving to see a potential replacement, and then standing about in a draughty garage for another hour while he climbed in and out and under it, caressed and admired it, took it for a run and then haggled over it. Oh, and then bought it.

By the time we reached my restaurant of choice (albeit that we got there in a much smoother ride), it was stupid o’clock and I was feeling grimy and very out of sorts. His only saving grace was that the food was worth the wait and I still had the engagement party to come. And I had to laugh with him in the end, because he spent the whole time thereafter grinning like a kid at Christmas.

Flying back to Spain was horrible. I am about to go out on a limb here and probably set myself up for a heap of abuse, but I feel the need to say this. I was obliged to fly from Spain to the UK with Ryanair – the bucket airline that everybody uses but that everybody abuses – loudly. In their defence, I say this – the flight was on time. The plane was clean and the seats, while not capacious, were roomy enough that my knees were not pressed against the seat in front. The staff were friendly and helpful. I have no issues whatsoever with Michael O’Leary for the money I paid.

I flew back with Monarch, whom I have always held in higher esteem than the true bucket airlines. They were late. Boarding was a shambles. The upholstery was definitely looking tired. And the seats were so close together that I couldn’t even push my extremely modest hand luggage down between them to stash it under the seat in front of me, as is my wont. My knees suffered imprints of the magazine rack in front. The staff had just boarded fresh from a lemon-sucking contest. I was not impressed.

Furthermore, the plane was full and too hot. I, who take for granted the fresh mountain air in which I live, felt as though the air being drawn into my respiratory system was sluggish, viscous and crawling with unpleasant organisms just waiting to take a bite of my tender tissues.

And that’s exactly what happened, as always when I venture forth from my oasis. So my weekend away led to a week of weakness.

Well, those are my excuses, and I’m sticking to them!


Comments on: "Foreign Bodies" (10)

  1. I know exactly what you mean about visitors. I get thoroughly visited-out. They’re on holiday, I’m not. They want to be entertained, I do want to be entertaining. Congratulations to Ben and Rachel. I love a romance. It’s interesting about the Mum thing. I know a 40 something woman who still calls her mother ‘Mummy’ like she was five. Very strange. Liam and I call each other ‘husband’. We do it because it sounds naughty and subversive.

    • Ben and Rach aren’t demanding visitors – they’ll happily get stuck in with us with the project work. Ben has a vested interested, as the only son and heir …

      I’m really pleased he’s decided to make an honest woman of her. They’ve booked the venue today.

      The Mum thing is just not me. I don’t want to be Nanny, either, when the time comes, although I’m sure Ben will take equally great delight in thwarting me there too. Perhaps I’ll just disinherit him and leave it all to a parrot sanctuary, after all.

      I like it that you call each other Husband. God alone knows it’s been a long, hard fight for you to achieve that. But I think you’d be naughty and subversive whatever you called Liam, because it’s part of your persona!

  2. kentgirlinfrance said:

    Congrats to Ben and Rach, and on your new baby (well that’s what husband – that’s what I’m going to call him from now on – treats any new vehicle as). I do sympathise with the need to buy same, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s definitely genetically programmed. Having just sold our house I fear the same subject is about to broached here…
    Hope your feeling OK now after your flight induced ickiness

    • I’ll pass on your felicitations to Ben and Rach.

      As for the new baby, well, that’s nothing to do with me, and is but a bastard born out of a lifelong affair John has had with all things mechanical.

      Well done for selling your house. You must be in a minority of one! (although I have no knowledge of the housing market in France, of course). I wish you luck in your search for a new house (and car) xx

  3. Maureen Dolan said:

    Congrats congrats on a lovely love story though my old Cátlic oopbringin´ means I wonder why it took nine years! As for the car, we´re currently bereaved of one and it´s no joke. Internet shopping has come to my rescue but how am I to get Malassie to theatre class in the small mountains outside Alcalá sans car? We´re looking, but it takes time to get a new or new old one! I wouldn´t have labelled you as a revolutionary or – sharp intake of breath – a feminist, Deb (I don´t really label people or things any more tho I used to) but I admire your insistence on being a person and not a role. I prefer Mamá, Mamita, Mom or Mammy, but I didn´t think I´d ever be a mother so I celebrate being one. (I´m still a feminist tho, the only label I still cling to). I agree with your appraisal of Monarch. The only time I was glad to fly them was leaving Tunisia after THE worst holiday I ever had. We all applauded at take-off but it had nothing to do with the service and everything to do with no longer being in a rat-infested hotel serving food in advanced stages of putrefaction and flying cockroaches the size of piglets as night visitors.

    • The nine year wait is attributable to two things – natural caution (they’ve exceeded many marriages already and are past the seven-year itch!) and lack of funds (still paying off student loans).

      Sorry to hear that you’re carless. It is even more of a burden here than back in the UK, given that everywhere is far-flung and inaccessible without wheels. Luck with that one.

      Feminist? Not really. But individualist, definitely. I don’t like labels (except for the one that says, Deborah Fletcher, excellent writer, of course. Not that I’ve ever come across that one, obviously).

      Your Tunisia experience sounds like brilliant blogging material to me. Or did I miss it?

  4. Maureen Dolan said:

    Gosh, I do go on …..

  5. Ah another rare defender or the punctuality of Ryan Air! I salute you.

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