'Those hills? No they don't have any particular name.' A geographic land mass with no name? The Spanish may be famed for their manha attitude but they do have enough energy to name great expanses of green mountains. Their real name is in fact the Sierra Crestellina, for its spikey tooth-like peaks which are home to magnificent floating birds of prey and vultures. They glow purple in the sunset and are black Moors at night hiding a hundred runaway bandits (once upon a time).
This was one of Ron’s parting gifts of ignorance. Other gems from the North London Jewish implant included advising us that we could never make a 20 minute walk alone, that UHT milk is superior to cows, that he owns apartments in every place your gaze should fall and that people with dementia are ‘old bats’. Thanks Ron for the most agonising hour long car journey in history.
The holiday apartment complex outside of Cesares in the Costa Del Sol is an eerily quiet executive estate of peach coloured apartments which look like the set if The Flintstones movie cloistered around a circular pool and verdant with well feed grasses and bright hibiscus shrubs.
The pool is guarded by one of those señoritas you envy for their waist length black hair, aviators, walnut skin and can’t be arsed attitude. She kicks back on a white plastic chair to squeals of ‘Brooklyn, cum ‘ere an putcha arm bands on’ yelled to a thin child decked out in a Woody from Toy Story swimsuit, or a constant supply of ball throwing dads and the crash and plop of belly flops all day long.
This portion of the Spanish coast has been besieged by British who either love their emigre lives or else want out but can’t sell the homes they’ve bought so wander about moaning about Spanish people and drinking whilst wearing baseball caps and sportswear.
Of course it’s usual to bring your culture with you but here it’s been packed up and shipped out wholesale. No better example than Tuesday night’s Lola Boys show at a beach bar named Floria.
Upon the approach to Floria you see a multitude of bobbing blonde heads, it’s gringo town. Table after table of Brits at an all you can eat BBQ, sloshing sangria and waiting for the camp act to start. The table next to us is accommodated by a mix of maybe three well to do English families. They love to holiday en mass. Presumably to swap wives, have golfing partners and someone to constantly impress. The women of the table are mostly bleached blonde with tired, tanned faces and too many gin and tonics, while the men wear Joules polo shirts and luxuriate over golf course discussions and smoke. Names like George, David and Bert. Chinos for boys, maybe one of those gap year beaded necklaces. Tiny shorts and giggles for the sporty girls. One dad in a long sleeved blue stripped shirt.
Then out comes the act. Paul and Andrew who announce that they were once the belles of London’s West End and continue to reiterate that frequently during the show. ‘Do we have any Lola virgins here tonight? Don’t worry, we are not Rolf Harris!’
Paul has fantastic curly hair and an aged face that has a ghost of the beauty that surely would have captivated on a Shaftesbury Avenue stage 20 years ago. He is the camp showman with a silver trilby and multicolored feather boa and shiny black satin pants. Andrew is more serious, more slick with plenty of jabbing arm actions in time to the drums on the big numbers and a sweeter, more principal actor voice. He is the fallen star who laments the stage lights, to him they are forever just out of reach.
They struggle through an Evita medley ‘oh well I won’t be doing that one again’ and bastardized ‘Besame Mucho’ to ridicule the Spanish by changing the verse to ‘batatas bravas, supersol, San Miguel’ and other Spanish words or brands read out in a Brits Abroad accent. Their ‘satirical act’ includes changing the words to ‘if they could see me now’ to reflect their suplantation to Spain through the eyes of their former West End colleagues (one of whom, Wikipedia tells me, is that great star of stage and screen Leticia Dean from Eastenders) and a criticism of President Putin of Russia to the tune of You Made Me Love You. It is actually wryly written in places. Nice one Paul.
The hillside town of Cesares is one out of the picture books. It’s a crescent of white fronts and red roofs in a valley. Houses have plastic fringes over the threshold to stop flies, they look like twists of liquorice and inside they’re dark and cool, in one I see a poster of McCauley Culkin in Home Alone and a cartoon about friendship on the wall. Old men in grandpa caps and slacks sitting outside talking, women only spotted in shops or cleaning outside or in the tiny chapel which has alcoves for icons painted yellow and terracotta, the colours of some Mediterranean Baden Powell Brownie troop. Winding paths all head northward to the big town hall which is now a museum of ancient agricultural instruments and old stones and a tumbling ruin of a tower. You pass fragrant flowers in pinks, blue and fuchsia on the way, more of which cling to the stacks of tombs in the cemeterio. Names like Ocana, de la Carmen, Lopez Lopez, Piña lie one on top of the other like a celestially still game of Sardines with a backdrop of dry sloping hills and Cypresses. An eccentrically hirsute artist named David sells naïf paintings of couples with angels on their heads, or cartoon featured portraits and wants us to buy them ‘Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt bought from me. They’re not much, your friends can help you take it home and fit it in their suitcase.’
We eat lunch overlooking the cerveca drinking men and buy sweets and ice creams.
At the pool it’s the late afternoon shift which means kid time. There’s two Irish families and the dad’s swap tips of local places to visit while the kids make big splashes in their tyre shaped inflatables. Gorgeous Laura, a Portuguese tot, is constantly beckoned into the grown up pool by two grown men of her family desperate to play with her ‘Anda Laura! Bomba!!’ She squeaks ‘não’ and wiggles off in her blue bikini with her pretty short curls bouncing to the baby pool. One Spanish boy of about six is incredibly physical. He bounces a football on his heels, the front of his foot, flicks it. ‘Eu gosto’ he says when I ask if he likes to play. He has a cleft palette which has been restored. He has an intensity which is odd for someone so small. I watch him climb into a Spider-man dingey like he has sailed the ocean in one. He speeds over the water stretching his shoulders in preparation. There is a glamourous mother I watch. She is perhaps 40, maybe Bulgarian or some place Adriatic. He hair looks heavy, thick and back combed with an Alice band pushing it back. She reads in the afternoon shade with glasses on and watches her children play quietly, but with great adventure, in the pool. As it cools she joins them and they swim around her like ducklings all smiling together and chatting. The dad brings her out a Bloody Mary which fascinates the children and he explains what is in it as she beatifically sips from a green straw. I’d like to be just like them one day.
I like to race myself in the water and set little challenges. I swim a length under water till my lungs might not make it. It brings me great pleasure to stretch backwards and feel the sun come through the water and onto my submerged skin.
At night my sister commandeers the kitchen to make delicious spreads. I’ve not eaten this many cooked meals in the last two months. We light candles and mix lemonade into wine and play a few music tracks or talk or compare tans and thinness and then watch the Kardashians and talk about them and their tans and their thinness. And that’s it. Then it’s home.