Nine years has seen many changes in Frigiliana, including new apartment blocks and a consequent small increase in population. The previous administration at the town hall put a great deal of effort into promoting the cultural heritage of the village, as well as ensuring that the beauty of our village is promoted nationally and more widely bringing increased tourism revenue to the community. At the moment an extensive program me of work is under way to improve the visual appeal of what I might call the old part of the new village, especially renewing and improving worn out, pot holed road surfaces, but also taking the opportunity of upgrading upgrading infrastructure - electricity and water supplies, drainage and sewerage. Telefonica, the Spanish equivalent of BT, has also brought the benefits of fibre optic telephony to the community.
Over and above all this, the completion of the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in 2008 is now rapidly coming to full fruition. After a painfully slow start following the financial crash of that same year, almost all the ground level units have been fitted out and contribute more restaurants to the already impressive total. Indeed, few if any villages in the area can offer such a wide, high quality selection. You can eat traditional and contemporary Spanish food, including food typical of other regions of Spain, especially northern Spain. But even more varied is the range of international cuisine - Polish, Italian, Indian as well as Asian/Japanese, North African/Middle Eastern and Street food from around the world, especially Mexican. Nor are these simply local franchises of branded chains, but the inspiration of a number of talented and passionate chef-proprietors.
So my parting gift to all those inspired to visit (or better still, make their home in) Frigiliana is the prospect of lots of good eating all at very reasonable prices. I fear that my wife and I will be eating out much less frequently on our return to England. But then again, I'm a keen home cook, so that's not all bad news.
The removal company completed their work yesterday morning and so in the afternoon we checked into the hotel for the remainder of our time in Spain. It's a large room with two large single beds but still lots of space. We have a large balcony facing west, so good for sitting out in the mornings and after sunset. It's too hot during the afternoon to use it with the sun on it, especially as yesterday the first heatwave of the year arrived. However the double glazed doors are super effective and the air conditioning is impressive. We are in the centre of things with everything we want within my restricted walking distance. Unfortunately the bar and restaurant are closed on Wednesday and we have invited friends to drop by the bar next Wednesday evening for a farewell drink, so we have had to switch the venue and hope that an alert on Facebook reaches everyone directly or by sharing.
We had some cartons of juice in the fridge at home, along with a litre bottle of fresh milk. The only trouble is that there is no fridge or minibar in the room. A solution was swiftly found by my wife; fill the bidet with cold water and stand the milk in it!
I didn't sleep at all well last night, nor the night before. Not only that but I don't expect to sleep well tonight or tomorrow niight. Back problems contribute, of course, but there is a more fundamental cause. And it marks another significant difference between British and Spanish culture.
Churches in Britain of the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations are usually dedicated to one of the saints, technically the patron saint of that parish. All saints have their feast day and on the day of their patron saint, there will be a special act of worship, usually a Eucharist. And that's it. In Spain, on the other hand the village church is the church for all the people in the village. In other words the Saint is patron not just of the church, but of the entire village. His or her feast day is celebrated with enthusiasm by the entire village.
Tuesday 13th June is la fiesta (the feast day) of San Antonio de Padua, to whom our church is dedicated. The celebrations are spread over a number of days, and a fairground is set up for the duration. There is a caseta, a huge marquee to host bands, concerts and the nightly disco. On the final day (Tuesday) there is a romeria which is a combination of pilgrimage, picnic and piss-up (Pardon my French). Out come the fiesta outfits - colorful dresses that you also see in flamenco for the girls and women, gleaming white, frilled shirts for the men, teamed with tight black trousers, cummerbund and wide-brimmed, black hats for the boys and men. Horses groomed and dressed to within an inch of their lives provide the transport for many, whilst others are aboard carriages drawn by horses, mules or oxen. The procession begins with Mass in the church and then makes its slow, noisy way right through the village and on to a suitable piece of land out in the local countryside. Eventually everyone returns to the village where an extravagant firework display closes the fiesta for another year.
All very exciting and enjoyable, except for the one fly in the ointment for us oldies; the nightly discos kick off at midnight and keep right on until six o'clock in the morning. There are no side panels on the caseta and so the sound radiates outwards and then ricochets around the surrounding hills. Audible everywhere is the intrusive, insistent thump of the sound system's bass note.
This year, the end of fiesta also marks our last night in the apartment which has been our home for the last eight and a half years. The removal company arrives at eight o'clock on Wednesday morning and we move into the hotel for the final days of the dream we have been so fortunate to live.
The past few weeks have a been time of much activity. The apartment is being sold furnished, so I had to draw up an inventory of the furniture items that are included in the sale. Having signed up a removal company to collect the stuff we want and take it to England, I had a second inventory to draw up for that. That meant that between us we could now identify those items which were not on either inventory; in other words, we weren't leaving them for our buyers but we don't want them in England. Fortunately, my wife volunteers in one of the local charity shops so several loads of clothes, books and assorted bric a brac made their way to Nerja. That task, I'm afraid fell entirely on my wife's shoulders as my back prevents me from doing any meaningful lifting and carrying.
Then there was the little matter of my paintings. Having had the space afforded by a staircase with four flights and two landings, plus a living room and three bedrooms, there has been ample space to hang them all. That's unlikely to be the case in our next home! Savage pruning of the 'portfolio' to a handful of special favourites left sixteen pictures to dispose of. Fortunately this is a Spanish village so there was a simple solution; line them all up propped against the wall out in the street with a notice inviting people to help themselves if they saw something they liked, and within a few hours everything had been carried off to a new home.
The other daunting prospect was cancelling utilities and our mobile phone contracts. The Spanish property transfer procedure works in our favour here. Apparently the utilities change over is done by the buyer's lawyer. The phone contract, I discovered can be dealt with easily by phone and selecting English as the language I want to use. Health care doesn't need anything to be done here. I simply speak to the International Section of the Dept of Health on an English phone number. A meeting with the bank this past Tuesday has clarified the onward transmission of the payment for the apartment to our UK bank account. We go to the gestor on the 15th to formally sell our car to some friends, and then to the Notary on the 20th to complete the sale. We have booked into the big hotel in the village from 14th when the removal company come to pack everything and set it off on its journey to England. We will be there until the 26th, so tomorrow I shall book our flight and then book a taxi from Gatwick to our daughter's home - and flop in a heap!
It was daunting in prospect; it was daunting in the process; now though the great bulk of the hassle is behind us and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. What kind of Britain are we returning to? Well hopefully next Thursday will answer that question.