Irishman squeezed my hand lovingly. This was it, our baptism of fire. Our initiation into Spanish village life was about to begin. We parted the beaded curtain and walked into the dimly lit bar. There were some men sat playing cards but they were too engrossed in their game to notice us. Not so the men stood drinking at the bar; they put down their glasses and watched with interest as the two strangers made their way across the room towards them.
‘Paco!’ shouted out one of the men ‘you have some visitors, they look thirsty!’ (I think that’s what he said but I may be wrong. Remember that my command of the Spanish language is still very much in its infancy, most of the time I am having to guess what it is that people are saying) Paco appeared from out the back with a case of beer. When he recognised me, his face broke in to a broad smile ‘Hola! Lottie sí? Bienvenido!’ He called to Antonia. She’d been cooking and had her apron on. She greeted me warmly and we hugged. ‘Uno momento’ I said, scrabbling around for the piece of paper in my pocket. On it were written my own greetings plus a load of questions that I wanted to ask them both. Suddenly the bar went very quiet, all eyes and ears were on me as I started to read it out loud. When I had finished there was a round of applause and clapping. Paco congratulated me on my magnificent Spanish and gave me a hearty slap on the back. It was pointless trying to tell him that it was all copied from Google Translate, he seemed convinced that I’d managed to master his language in the three months since I’d been away.
His supreme confidence in my linguistic abilities were further confirmed when Esteban walked into the bar. ‘Esteban, you fool!’ Paco laughed as he poured an eye-wateringly large amount of Bacardi into a glass and handed it to him ‘Lottie here, has just arrived in the village and she speaks almost fluent Spanish, you my friend, have been here 9 years and can hardly string a sentence together! Not yet formally introduced, I reached out to shake Esteban’s hand ‘Don’t you listen to him’ I said laughing, he’s convinced that I speak Spanish because I’ve cobbled some sentences off Google Translate, he’s in for a shock when he realizes how poor my Spanish really is.
(I found out much later that Paco had telephoned Esteban shortly after our arrival at the bar and had asked him to come up and meet us. This thoughtful gesture is typical of our new neighbours. Apparently they had wanted us to feel welcome and thought that we might like some Inglés company on our first evening. Either that or they were already bored rigid by our company)
As it happened Esteban was not only extremely good company, but also a lifesaver when it came to acting as translator between us, and Paco and Antonia. Before we left the bar, I went to check out Antonia’s shop. I bought some tomatoes, onions, white beans, bread, olive oil, cheese and some jamon – enough to make a feast for our first meal in the house.
We finished our drinks, scoffed down the last of Antonia’s delicious tapas and picked up our keys. ‘Bienvenido Lottie Y Pedro, estamos felices son nuestros vecinos’ we returned Antonia’s kind words as best we could, said our goodbyes and thank yous and walked all of the 30 seconds that it takes to get round the corner to our house. I was excited but also a little nervous. What if Irishman hated it? What if he thought I’d made a hideous mistake buying it? ‘What if went mad when he saw how much work there was to do?
The large fig tree at the front of the house had left a deep carpet of its fruits where they had fallen over-ripe on to the cobbles. We squelched our way through them towards the large blue double doors that lead into the courtyard. I watched Irishman’s expression out of the corner of my eye. ‘What do you think, Lover?’ I asked him, itching to know what his first impressions were. ‘I love it, Lottie, I absolutely love it!’ he said giving me a big hug. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. We spent some time exploring all there was to see outside and then went to open the front door. ‘Here’ I said to Irishman, handing him over one of the buckets, ‘I’m far too fat for you to carry me over the threshold, but you can carry one of these over instead, you’re going to be needing it later!’ Irishman was not in the least amused ‘Lottieness, if you think I’m going to be using one of those as a toilet, you’ve got another thing coming. I’ve already asked Paco if he’d mind my using the bar servicio’s’ ‘You wimp, Irishman, You softie!’ I cried as we chased each other up the stone stairs and went to see if Antonio had remembered to leave us the bed.