by R L Tilley
There is a
wind from the north blowing across the land and
it is not hard to wish myself back to those
places recently departed where the buildings are
white and the earth is red. Images rush across my
mind, psychic photographs.
We follow an
old man along the coast path in Tarifa. He is
going to feed the cats with the remnants of
todays catch of fish. They prowl and eat
hungrily under a bush. A little later we
encounter him feeding kittens on the sea wall and
talking to tourists, a man and a woman. The woman
is intrigued by the cats. There was a dog
following. I never saw the going of the dog.
Later we walk
to the Playa De Los Lances, a white sand beach
which stretches, seemingly, for miles. The winds,
east and west vie for control, perpetually
blowing. Sand whips into our faces. I sit on the
beach as Caroline, my wife swims. Walking back,
our shoes fill with sand. There are few people on
this magnificent dream of a beach, presumably
because of the winds. Out there the Atlantic and
the Mediterranean meet. The boats of tuna
fisherman are anchored offshore. We walk back
through the yard of a cannery and an old man
cleaning fish hails us.
tardes, he says.
We are here
for a day. We come from Algeciras and before that,
along the road over the Sierra del Cabrito we
look across the straits to the coast of Africa.
The Rif Mountains rise from Moroccos shore
and Tangier nestles, white in the sunlight, in
its bay. Not so long ago I looked at the coast of
Spain and the Rock of Gibraltar from Tangier.
We came back
here to go to Ronda. We flew to Gibraltar and
walked across the border at La Linea. Unwittingly
I passed a queue of Spaniards who were also
waiting on a taxi and hailed the first one to
show. There were indignation and protests
apparently and Caroline drew my attention to
these. The driver put our bags in the back and
remonstrated with the protesters.
problem, he said in English.
We stayed a
night in an hotel in Algeciras and took the train
up to Ronda the following day.
There was an
English family at the hotel, an extended family.
They had rooms by the pool and a table was
reserved for them on the terrace. Caroline swam
in the afternoon and I went down to Algeciras and
wandered around the Plaza Alta. When I got back
we lounged in the sun awhile, took tea, and then
it was time for dinner. There is a crazy golf
course at the hotel and a son of the family who
had rooms by the pool, who wore a Fly
Emirates tee-shirt and was called Liam had
had some kind of a dispute with his sister. They
all sat around their reserved table arbitrating.
A little girl, the youngest, clearly the
terrorist of the family, kept running in and out
of the dining room shouting Oi!
We went to
We were almost
an hour early for the train.
So much for
guide books. The one I read advised early arrival
in case of queues. The Renfe agent in the UK had
said there will be no problem getting seats on
the day. There was no queue. The train, the
Andalucian Express, was in.
I sat on a
bench on the platform next to an old man. He
pointed at the train and said something in
usted Inglese? I asked.
It seems he
was telling us we could board. He sat and he
hailed and talked to his friends. Caroline
theorised that he would prefer us on the train so
that his friends could then sit down.
I like that in
this country. In Ronda one would see old men
meeting in the Alameda del Tajo morning and
evening, to chew the fat. A southern thing. I
have seen it in Sicily and Italy also.