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 taking a photo was 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 it was, 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.