MONDAY, OCTOBER 16
Posted by Simon Gandolfi at October 26, 2006 01:30 AM GMT
I sit with the owner of the Hotel Andalucia at the front table beneath the TV. In his mid-sixties, he is a short man, thickset, square hands. He wears a flat cap with a worn peak, blue suit, white shirt, no tie. Enter any café in Andalucia and you will find his twins playing dominoes or cards. He owned land near Granada. He worked the land with mules. A hard life…so he sold up and emigrated. He was back recently, after thirty-five years. His childhood friends now use tractors on the land and employ workers. They’ve built new houses, own two or three cars. A health card gives them free medical treatment in a modern hospital. They draw comfortable State pensions. The local café has central heating. He stayed three months. He wanted to stay for ever. He is a proud man and doing so would have been an admittance of his mistake. He rises from the table and goes outside and unlocks his new Ford 4X4. He sits in the car a while before driving off round the block. I watch part of a football match on TV. The owner returns and sits in his same chair. He doesn’t speak to me. Speaking with me would remind him of where he is. His wife sits at the table in the kitchen. Open their skulls and you would uncover dreams of a village of whitewashed houses and cobbled streets, of olive trees and fresh figs and wind-cured ham – and of friendships and enmities that endure through generations.