One way to deal with the August heat of Frigiliana is to go somewhere else. Which is how I come to be sitting in a conservatory in southern Scotland looking out across brilliant green, sheep-dotted fields to the cliff edge and the Irish Sea beyond. The remedy has turned out to be more painful in many ways than the illness, as it were. Instead of a ferocious sun shining out of a cloudless sky and inflicting temperatures of 35 to 40 degrees upon us, it’s heavy, grey clouds cud dins across the sky at breakneck pace, dumping frequent heavy showers on us and driven by winds of 40kph gusting frequently to 80kph. All this to the accompaniment of 14 degree temperatures, and yes I am talking about daytime. And yet…. I’m delighted to be here where the story of Frigiliana began. Back at the beginning of the 1970s we had recently moved from Oxfordshire to Ramsbottom, north of Manchester. WE had two small daughters and an uncomfortably large mortgage, and holidays did not feature on our list of spending priorities. Then my wife’s parents came up with a suggestion; if they rented a suitably large holiday cottage, could we afford the petrol to get to it? We gratefully said yes we could and they rented a cottage on a farm two miles south of Portpatrick in the extreme southwest of Scotland. That cottage is no more than 200 metres from where I am writing this, although I cannot see it as it sits into the side of the hill. The welcome we received from the farmer and his family, the surroundings, the harbour in Portpatrick ensured a fantastic holiday, and as a family of four we came back and back, sometimes with family members, sometimes with friends, and sometimes just the four of us. Then one year we were late booking and the cottage was already let. This was a terrible disappointment because my wife and I had concluded that it would probably be our last visit; the girls were getting to be that bit too old to be happy stuck on a farm two miles from what passed as ‘the action’ in those days. But fate was on our side. We chanced upon an ad for a holiday apartment actually in the village, yards from the harbour and so Portpatrick took on a new life. We also became friendlier with Eric, the farmer who insisted that we should join him at The Old Mill House, a bar restaurant on the edge of the village, popular with locals and with families from the nearby caravan sites. That, in turn, introduced us to Pat and Judy the owners and good friends of Eric. Pat had spent his working life in the advertising industry in the creative departments of several major London agencies. He was also a gifted water colourist and his paintings were displayed throughout the restaurant. My life at the time was in market research and involved a good deal of contact with ad agencies and so we had much in common and became good friends. Then Pat and Judy, who hitherto had spent the winter cruisingg, decided that they would rather invest their money in something that would give them a holiday facility, but would also be an investment. The outcome was that they bought an old village house “La Casa De Los Arcos” in the Andalusian village of Frigiliana. Shortly afterwards they invited my wife and I and our two daughters to visit them in Spain so we could spend proper leisure time together - Portpatrick for us was holiday; for them it was the busiest time of the year, and so they really didn’t have much time to pause and chat. Well, that first visit, back in 1983, worked its magic on us and led eventually to us coming to Frigiliana to live. Portpatrick turned out to be the unknowing progenitor of this blog. I have just been handed a gin and tonic. I shall go and sit with the others in the conservatory, look out across the grey Irish Sea, and raise my glass in gratitude to the place where it all started.
I’ve been writing this blog for six years now, and I’ve covered a lot of ground - local and national fiestas and public holidays, fairs, festivals, and other cultural events. I’ve written about the village, the surrounding countryside, and further afield. I’ve blogged about politics, employment problems. I’ve told you about Spanish food, and wine. All sprinkled with a fair number of photos where I could, to add interest. But there is one hugely important area that I don’t believe I have ever written about. Friends. Well, it’s about time that I put that right. What prompted me to think of this omission was the imminent departure - next Monday - of two of the first people that we got to know when we arrived in 2008. They, like us, have young grandchildren and they miss not seeing them more often than they do. They are aware that young grandchildren don’t stay young for very long and they want to be part of their growing up. So they have sold the house, sold the car, packed up the stuff they want in England and next week they wave goodbye to the August heat and head for the next stage of their life close to family. We shall miss them. If my wife and I were living here in isolation, on nodding terms with our Spanish neighbours,but otherwise just the two of us, I suspect that we would have been off back to England long before our friends. But Frigiliana is not like that. It has a large expat community - around a quarter of the population - with people drawn from the UK, large parts of northern Europe, and further afield; US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Africa. So we have Dutch and Scandinavian friends, as well as English, Irish, Scots and Welsh. Yesterday for instance we went down to the weekly market and then met up with an English friend whom we joined for a coffee and a chat, and then were joined by her Aussie friend, and so stayed chatting longer. On the way home, we came across another group of friends enjoying a drink outside one of the bars, and paused to pass the time of day. That’s the way it works. A couple of weeks ago we arranged to meet up with a friend one evening for tapas and a glass or two of wine. We sat there chatting and then along came two more good friends who sat down and joined us for a really enjoyable evening. Once a week we pop across the road to a local restaurant, and there we always run into a whole crowd of friends. But the friendships I have found here go deeper than that. This time last year I blogged a number of times about my diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer, which I took pretty much in my stride. I couldn’t have done that alone. A number of friends - if they read this they will know who they are - had already trodden the road I was called upon to walk. Their experience, their support, but most of all their concern gave me the strength to know that I could deal with that episode in my life; I couldn’t have done it without them, or without the others who didn’t share the experience but still showed the level of their concern for me and my well-being during that difficult time. I’ve just read this over and corrected a couple of typos. Reading it, I can’t imagine how I’ve managed to blether on for so many years without touching on this subject before. We’re off to England on holiday very soon. I look forward to seeing all these lovely people again on my return.