A Long And Winding Road

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.

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