Posted in Writing

MUSIC AND MEMORIES

It was quite by chance that a David Bowie track on the radio the other day got me thinking about writing a new post…maybe a series of posts depending on how well this one turns out.

So what is this new post about? Well as the heading says above, it’s about music and memories. And the David Bowie track? Let’s Dance, taken from his 1983 album of the same name. Why is it so special? Because in September 1983 we were spending a fortnight in Spain with friends. It was a month before we were due to get married, and we were staying up in the hills just outside Calpe on the Costa Blanca. The joke was were were having the honeymoon first. I think if that had been the case, we definitely would not have had friends tagging along. At the time CDs did not exist. Instead cassettes were the alternative to vinyl. I remember we took two albums on that holiday: Bowie’s Let’s Dance and Elton John’s Too Low For Zero. By the time we left for home I probably knew every song by heart.

The holiday didn’t get off to a very good start. Landing at Alicante, we were met by an English courier. She had lived in Spain for many years, working as a district nurse in the area we were staying. We boarded the coach which would take us to a central dropping off point where our hire cars could be collected. During the journey she checked everyone on her clipboard and handed out sets of keys. Except when she came to us, there was no record of our booking. So when the coach arrived at its destination we were instead, driven to our villa by one of the sons of a local restaurant owner. The courier apologised and told us she would be back the next morning to sort out a car for us.

With the car organised, our holiday began. Days spent by the pool, or sightseeing and evenings eating out in the local restaurants. A wonderfully relaxing fortnight. CDs weren’t the only things not around at the time. There were no digital cameras. We were still using rolls of film. Our friend was a keen amateur photographer and on occasions, taking a photo was often something he rarely rushed. He’d brought a tripod and I particularly remember in Guadalest, one of the mountain villages we visited, how he took time in setting up his shots there. When we arrived home he told us he wound back the film but the camera mechanism jammed. He took it into the bathroom when it was dark, pulled down the blind and managed to get the back of the camera case off. Only to find there was no film in the camera! I’m still not sure how that happened to someone as thorough as him, but it obviously did.

As far as food went we were spoilt for choice, particularly when it came to fish. It was great to have our evening meals outside sitting on a restaurant terrace or in a garden with a chorus of cicadas in the background. A friend had recommended an Indonesian restaurant in Benidorm where you could order 4, 8, 12 or 14 course meals. Not as much of a gastronomic challenge as you might think though, as the larger the number of courses, the smaller the portions of each dish became. I think I got as far as the 12 course, (sharing with my OH) and that was my limit. In the village near the villa there was a family run café/restaurant where we occasionally dropped down for morning coffee, or lunch. One of the sons was a doppelganger for Bryan Ferry. The first time he arrived at the table to take our drinks order, we did a double take. We got chatting and learned he was a real fan, had been to all Bryan’s concerts, including one in Madrid the previous year, and had every one of his albums.

We had one scary and rather mysterious moment during our stay at the villa. The area was known as Little Belgium as many Belgians had holiday homes there or had relocated permanently. One early morning while it was still dark, dogs began to bark. Then outside our bedroom window there was a strange throaty snuffling noise. It moved away and moments later we heard cats yowling. And then all hell let loose. I heard cane furniture on the veranda being knocked over as whatever was out there seemed to be having a set to with several felines. By the time we had pulled on clothes and the men had gone outside to see what was going on, it was all over. Two cats were prowling around the pool, hackles raised, still in fight mode. There were tufts of fur everywhere, including on the surface of the water To this day, what happened still remains a mystery. We did, however, remember on that first evening when we were given a lift up to the villa, the headlights of the car lit up the eyes of an animal partially hidden on the side of the road. It quickly disappeared and we heard the driver say ‘ah lupo‘, which is wolf. The location of the villa was on the edge of open ground and scrubland which led into the mountain and one of Spain’s national parks. Who knows, maybe our early morning visitor was a wolf or some kind of wild dog, come down to scavenge. Whatever the creature’s identity, the cats soon saw it off.

I guess the memory of this holiday has always lingered in my mind because it preceded our wedding and the start of our new life together. I’ve been back to the Spanish mainland many times since and enjoyed holidaying there at other locations. But over the years urbanization has crept along the coast, bringing with it more shops, bars and inevitably, tourists. That capsule of time in 1983, reminds me how different it had been then. Relaxed, less commercialised; where the local postman would call in to that family run café each morning and stay for a while to chat with the owner over a coffee. That time may have gone for ever, but it’s something I’ll always remember. And who knows? One day, that backdrop just might end up in my latest book.

Posted in Writing

FEBRUARY UPDATE – A LITTLE LATE…

I’m late with my February update. That’s because I have been plagued with back problems – old age does not come alone as my grandmother used to say! This is historic from when we travelled down to Cornwall in a friend’s car back in 2000. Stopping off to stretch our legs before travelling on to the farmhouse B & B we had booked, I stepped from the pavement into the road and a pain shot from the base of my spine up to my waist. Since then, despite physio and chiropractor appointments, it surfaces now and then, and at the most inconvenient times! I had been clear for a couple of years, but once a weakness opens up in your back, it’s there for ever, lying in wait, ready to cause chaos. The irony is, I can bend, kneel and stretch for 99% of the time without anything happening. But then there is that one day, and when I’m least expecting it, that the pain strikes. At its best it lasts a few days, at its worst – as in this last bout – nearly a fortnight. During that time sitting at the PC was fine, but only for very short amounts of time before my back locked up. That meant writing had to be abandoned completely.  Walking about I was fine, but even sitting to watch TV could cause problems.  Sleeping too was difficult. I had to roll out of bed and on some nights it was almost impossible to move without experiencing this awful sharp grabbing pain. A steady application of ice cold compresses, anti-inflammatory rubs and Ibuprofen eased but failed to shift it – and yes, I do use the Ibuprofen very sparingly. I have a booklet of physio exercises tailored to help lower back pain and these have proved a godsend. During the years I have lived with this, I’m aware that the onset is swift and unexpected, as is its departure. Last Saturday morning I woke up and there was no pain, no difficulty moving. I am now wondering whether I might be dealing with a trapped nerve – maybe I need another trip to the chiropractor? At least it means for the moment (crossing fingers and toes) I’m back to normal and the writing is back on track.

So what other news is there for February? Well we had our Covid shots mid-Feb. The vaccine centre had been set up in The Pavilion, a local events venue. The date coincided with that very cold spell we had. Our appointments were 5.10 and 5.20. We actually got our shots at 6.15. It was absolutely freezing outside and normally we would have gone into the building, but there were around ten people in front of us, more inside and the queue didn’t move very quickly. Once we got through the doors, however,  there was a radiator near the bar which we made the most of when we reached it – and thankfully the queue inside moved much quicker. The actual shot was painless. My only reaction was a swollen  aching arm and OH said he felt a little shivery but the next day we were both fine.  

Yesterday (Thursday) I had an optician appointment and caught the bus into the city. I had not been on public transport for nearly a year and apart from the Covid shot at the Pavilion, had not been into the city either. Typically getting public transport to work in with the appointment time was not easy. But, it did give me a little time to wander and have a look around. There were queues outside M & S and the Apple Store and Boots was open, but other than that, just a handful of people walking about. Of course the weather didn’t help. Heavy showers and blustery winds; the sort of days that will keep people away from city centres, especially when they is no access to shops or tourist attractions. It was strange to see a place, normally filled with people, so ghostly and quiet. I hope we get back to some form of normality back later in the year. I’ve missed just about everything to do with life as I knew it, although meeting friends face to face must be one of the biggest, as I know it is for most people. I’m looking forward to the end of this month when we can at least meet outside (weather permitting). 

As far as writing is concerned, my back problems sadly brought everything to a temporary halt. Very frustrating when you have scenes and dialogue demanding to be written. Looking at it in a positive way, it gave me a chance to step back for a moment and take stock of what I had already done. I’m almost at the end of the first draft. It’s then that the real hard work begins.

I not only write, I read and review as well. I am currently on my Goodreads 2021 reading challenge of 40 books, I have completed 16 so far, which means I am well ahead of my target. There are so many good titles, I’m spoilt for choice. I’m usually a committed romance reader, but recently my reading preference has moved to psychological thrillers. And there ae some amazing ones out there!¬

So that is it for another month. I live in a world where currently the Sainsbury’s delivery is one of the week’s highlights – yes I know, very sad. However, I’m hoping by the end of the month things will be slightly better. It’s all about getting those Covid figures down to as low a level as possible. Then maybe we can break out the bubbly!

Take care, all of you,  I’ll be back soon.

 

Jo