Bocadillos on the Beach
Last night, while we were eating our dinner on the little terrace outside the studio, we witnessed the most glorious sunset. Every minute that went past revealed more dramatic colours as the sun lowered towards the horizon and the golden rays reflected off the light, candy floss clouds. Despite trying to concentrate on the food on our plates, we kept having to jump up to photograph another vibrant change - silhouettes of trees and the castle stark against a rich amber sky.
This has been a warm and languid summer, with the occasional threat of a heatwave with temperatures topping 40 degrees. We concede that there have been frequent days where we have had to retire to a coolish bedroom for a siesta simply because there is no respite elsewhere from the relentless heat. Our friends in the village know that from 15th July until mid August is the very hottest period in Moclín, and a silence descends every afternoon when the population disappears indoors until the sun’s heat begins to abate.
Last year, we sought solace on the nearby Pantano de Colomera, to paddle around in our kayak, or drift listlessly with our hands and feet in the cooling water. This year, with one thing and another, we don’t seem to have found the time to get out with the kayak much. However, we think we will over the coming weeks.
This week, we managed to get away to the coast for a day trip. Yes, we had a few days on the coast last week, as a mini-break, but the weekend that followed was such a struggle that it was rather a relief to have something else to look forward to.
This trip was organised by the village for the villagers. Having been on such a coach jaunt before, we were looking forward to a day out with our neighbours. The coach was to take us to the beach at Rincon de la Victoria, a stretch of coastline to the east of Málaga. When you are driving on the motorway in any direction along the coast from Málaga, it is difficult to see beyond the motorway itself, and even more difficult to imagine that there is anything lovely waiting to be discovered. The town of Rincon de la Victoria may not win any prizes for ‘Most Attractive Resort’, but the beach was a surprise.
We had an early start, as the coach was collecting us at 08:00. We have learned, throughout our first year here in Moclín, that the villagers are indefatigable. They appear to be chirpy in the morning and their energy rarely wavers throughout the day. This was a family affair, and our fabulous neighbour, Mari-Petra, was joined by her grandson, David, and our local pastry-maker extraordinaire, Montse, had her son Ivan with her. Cold boxes, sun umbrellas, folding chairs were all stashed in the coach’s hold, and we boarded for a drive filled with chat. Our neighbours are unbelievably good-natured, welcoming and great company, so a 3 hour drive (slowed by village pick-ups and a 30 minute breakfast break) went by in something of a flash. Entering the town of Rincon de la Victoria there was much chat about the large number of Chinese Bazaars lining the roads, all displaying inflatable chairs, and lilos to lure in the summer visitor. As it happened, one of these Bazaars came in very handy when we found we had an emergency need for some sunbeds.
When we got to the beach, we filtered off in different directions, looking for beach umbrellas or sunbeds. Both Mari-Petra and I had had bad backs that week, so didn’t relish the thought of lying on bumpy, hard sand, so we headed towards a group of empty pay-by-the-day sunbeds beneath straw parasols. Sadly, the beds were all chained up, but we were reassured by a local couple that the chiringuito responsible for the rental of the beds would be opening soon.
It transpired later that our chiringuito did not open on Tuesdays, so the sunbeds remained under lock and chain.
It was for that reason we decided to hang the expense and go in search of three folding sunbeds from the nearest Chinese Bazaar.
The beach at Rincon de la Victoria was surprisingly lovely. It was separated from the busy main road by a line of attractive beach bars and a promenade for pedestrians and cyclists. As with any beach in August, it was not devoid of people, but the stretch of sand is so long that people do spread out and it certainly didn’t feel overcrowded. The water was warm; much warmer than the sea along our favourite parts of the Costa Tropical, where the depth just off the shoreline keeps the water cool. The water and sands were spotlessly clean, and there were plenty of showers to rinse off seawater after a refreshing dip. It was very easy to relax, and we both managed to escape into our books for a while. It’s interesting that, in high summer, without fail, there comes a moment in the day when the temperature suddenly ramps up over the course of about 15 minutes! The mornings are pleasantly warm, and the rays of the sun are tolerable and then, shortly after midday, someone turns up the gauge and the heat of the sun thumps you in the solar plexus.
We retired beneath the shade of the straw umbrella for a snooze.
Mari-Petra had been up since 5.00 am, primarily because it has been too hot for her to sleep, but she took the opportunity to make bocadillos (filled rolls). Lots and lots of bocadillos, filled with salchichon, tortilla and lomo (pork loin), so we didn’t need to worry about lunch. In fact, Mari-Petra had sufficient bocadillos for lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day! Once the sun had done it’s best to fry us to a crisp, we left the shade of our little spot and joined the rest of our village party, all huddled beneath the typical makeshift encampment of beach umbrellas draped with brightly coloured cotton throws, clamped together to block out any penetrating beams of sun.
Time didn’t matter; we strolled off to a nearby bar for a quick Tinto de Verano and watched the beach world go by. We wandered along the shore, with the gentle waves washing over our feet and commented on the great atmosphere that prevailed - Spanish families on their annual holidays, often three generations together en masse. For that day, all stresses associated with bellicose builders and our own elderly relatives faded away.
We were due to catch the coach home at 19:00, so as soon as the time felt right, we gathered our belongings and headed back to the nearest bar for a gin and tonic or two. There were feisty, and I certainly felt even more euphoric when we headed back around the corner to board our charabanc.
Any thought that a day by the beach might encourage a snooze on the way home was quickly dispelled. At the rear of the coach, the villagers from Puerto Lope, our village neighbours, had either had their own fix of gin or they just found something to tickle them but they laughed for almost the entire journey home.
It is difficult to describe the pleasure that is derived from spending time with our friends and neighbours. Moving from London, where we didn’t really enjoy a ‘neighbourhood’, it has come as something of a delightful surprise, particularly to Andrew. When I was a teenager, and my family lived in Suffolk, there still remained a strong sense of community in the small village where we lived, but here that sense of community is so strong and supportive and familial. I think we are incredibly lucky to live where we do, as we know that not every village is the same. The kindness demonstrated here fosters kindness. It is not done with one eye on a reciprocal kindness; it is done out of genuine care for others, and a generosity of spirit that sadly is disappearing too fast elsewhere. Reading the news and the bitter readiness to blame everyone else for the world’s woes often makes that world seem so far away from our little corner of Spain. Here, any such problems are diluted by the gift of a bucket of plums, and a collection of plants for the garden. Exchanging titbits with our neighbour via Whatsapp, or passing plates of food back and forth across our pretty little street rather puts life back into perspective. Sod the world, have a slice of cake or a plate of huevos rellenos. Oh, and just watch the sublime colours that cover the skies when the sun goes down on another gorgeous day.