Whenever you move anywhere new, it is important to feel that you belong.
You may not have seen the film, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. It is a slightly cliched tale based on the story of an American author who, on impulse, bought a wreck in Tuscany and restored it, changing her life for the better in the process. In the film, there are frequent shots of a little old villager who passes by the American’s house every day to leave flowers at a memorial to his dead wife. Every day, the American tries to catch his eye to say ‘hello’ and he resolutely ignores her. At the end of the film, we return to that same scene and this time, as the old boy starts to walk away, he stops, pauses and looks back at the American, and touches the brim of his hat - the slightest indication that he knows she is there and that she belongs.
This past week has, for me, presented signs that this is our home and that we belong. They may only be small signs, but signs they definitely are.
Firstly, we have become regulars at one or two cafes in Granada.
In our first haunt, the staff welcome us with smiles and chat, and share jokes; meet our eyes as we approach. In our small, mid-morning cafe, as we enter the door, the waiter is already laying out the saucers for our glasses of cafe con leche as he knows what we like and what we will order. These may sound like little things but, believe me, they are significant. We are by no means fluent in their language, but these people recognise that we are not holidaymakers who may only make one appearance before disappearing forever; we are regulars.
This weekend, my daughter came to stay and on the Sunday and Monday, despite morning and evening falls in temperature, the weather was crystal clear and sunny, so perfect for walks in the valley. Our first walk took us down to El embalse de Béznar in the neighbouring village of Melegís, and from there we did a fairly short circular trot through orange and olive groves, but somewhere along the way, we must have missed the signs for the path, as we were passed by two farmers in their pickup truck who stopped to inform us that we were off the beaten track and in the middle of their finca. Far from being in any way rude, they were hugely friendly and pointed us in the right direction to get back on our route. When they started to get crates from the back of their truck, I asked what they were doing and they explained that they were harvesting their pomegranates, upon which one of the farmers grabbed his hooked stick to pick fruit for us, while his father neatly opened each pomegranate before handing them out. We had managed to cut through the slightly circumspect exterior of the locals, something we are still finding hard to do in our own village. A moment shared over a pomegranate, and these fruits taste so much better when taken straight from the tree!
Finally, and sadly. I had to drive to Malaga today to drop my daughter off at the airport and saying goodbye never gets any easier, for either of us. However, as I drove back along the Autovia del Sol towards the valley, I realised that this, Spain, was our home. My daughter was off back to London: a place that no longer registers as being my home. I was driving back to our lovely home, in the sun-drenched valley, surrounded by gorgeous scenery and rich vegetation, and felt elated to be doing so.
These little moments are giant steps for us, as they are the glimmers of being accepted and welcomed, and they make us feel as if we belong.