Chris Stewart ponders the impact of his quirky tales of life in Andulucia on the previously little-known region he now calls home
“Had a good day at school, then?” I asked Chloë as I fetched her from the school bus.
“No. It started badly and got worse – matematica exam...”
“And what about the bad start?”
“They started by being rude about you...”
“Me? They don’t even know who I am.”
“Yes, they do. A German boy in my class said there was someone writing books about the Alpujarras telling how nice it is here and so lots and lots of English come here and now there’s nowhere left for the people who were born here to live.”
“I think, quite apart from the atrocious grammatical construction of the sentence you’ve just used, that is something of an oversimplification, no?”
“Then the maestra said he shouldn’t say such things, because the man writing the books is Chloë’s father.”
It did make me wonder a bit, though. I heard the other day that 55,000 Brits move to Spain every year – that’s a lot of Brits. I think it hardly fair, though, to lay the blame for all of them at my door – or at any rate, they certainly aren’t all buying my books (a memo to the marketing department here).
Also, amongst that Anglo-Saxon horde there will be many who will be culturally and spiritually enriched by the move, and many who will similarly enrich their new neighbours and surroundings. It can’t be all bad, but it would be wrong if I didn’t allow myself the odd moment of anguish.
Not long ago I spied two figures struggling up to the farm on a hot summer morning.
“We’ve come,” panted Miguel, who is a lawyer and local notable, “to acknowledge your efforts on behalf of tourism and convivencia.”
Rafael is the photographer for a local newspaper, and he slithered hither and thither snapping shots of my bafflement and discomfiture.
“I wasn’t aware,” I stuttered, “that I actually have made any efforts on behalf of tourism and convivencia.”
“Well, you have,” they said, “and we hope you’ll accept this token of recognition.”
I couldn’t see a token of recognition and wondered what it might be. If it fitted in a pocket then it might be money, which is always handy.
“Well, if you really think so,” I said modestly, “then it would be churlish of me to decline. Just what exactly did you have in mind?”
“We thought perhaps just a little ceremony in this chicken-shed I’m restoring in the town. It’s only a chicken-shed but it’s really quite nice. I’ve had a tin sculpture of a manzanilla (camomile) plant knocked up by a local sculptor, and I thought it might be nice if we could persuade Eduardo López to present it to you.”
“It might be nice,” I mused,“and then it might not.”
I happen to know Eduardo López; he’s a desperate character and the likelihood of keeping him sober enough to present me with a tin manzanilla plant after even the tiniest ceremony is, to say the least, slim.
But such was their earnestness, and such my susceptibility to flattery, that we decided to go ahead with the thing anyway.
Later I mentioned it to a friend.
“I think,” she said after a moment’s deliberation, “that you ought to be strung up!”
Ah, well – I suppose you can’t please all the people all the time.