I am sitting in a courtyard beside a villa on the edge of a costal town in Andalucia, Spain. I am sitting on a wicker chair with my laptop on a wooden slatted table underneath a large canvas umbrella. It is just past 7pm local time and the sun has set so there is no need for an umbrella but I don’t think anybody ever puts it down. The light is filtering out of the doorway of the main building. The light is from the kitchen where eight potatoes are baking in the oven. Well I hope they are. I haven’t used the oven before so I should go and check I suppose. I will go in a minute.
There are two things that are nice here. The first is that there is no rush for the potatoes to cook. The children in the party have been snacking and the other adults are entertaining the said kids in a game of Cluedo. The kids don’t seem to be hungry and if they are, they are too busy thinking to know it. Generally the point is that everybody is on holiday and they are relaxed and happy. This is so different to a normal day at home. People always seem to be doing something, often elsewhere so the number of people for dinner is different than the number living in the house. People have chosen to do other things, to fill their life out with Spanish lessons, orchestra rehearsals, blog writing, Instagramm hashtags or maybe even catching up on a favorite show. Cooking seems to be a timed necessity that comes to feel like a chore. On holiday cooking feels like an opportunity to do something together, it is I guess a more socially focussed event that fits in when it can. No worries, no hassle and a major part of the day rather than something that must be squeezed in.
Potatoes are checked. They need a little longer. There is hilarity from the game group, a massive curve ball has been given apparently.
For me personally, the thing that is nice is just sitting outside and typing away on my laptop. It feels good to be sitting here doing this. This morning was a slow start as the other members of my family were “getting as much sleep as they needed” whilst I contemplated going down to the beach for a swim. I didn’t go due to the issue of what to do with things like keys whilst swimming concluding I needed shore based support. Instead I used my laptop to catch up on some Netflix watching. There was a new episode of Star Trek Discovery last night so what seemed like a rather decadent move, I watched it this morning. Normally I restrain myself to watching the latest episode until Monday night. That is after I have everything done I would rather avoid like washing up after cooking the meal.
In some ways, today really has been a Netflix day. Okay I did go out food shopping with the family. We did negotiate the supermarket, puzzling over unfamiliar names and wishing we knew more Castellano. I even managed to pay for the food despite having that rabbit in headlights feeling when the till guy rattled off a sentence that I suspect on reflection was “do you have a shop loyalty card?”. Returning to the villa and unpacking, we did our own things. I went swimming in the pool though I use that term loosely. The pool is 10m long and so I am restricted to 5 pulls of breast stroke before having to turn around again with no pushing off. I wonder if there is a market for villa holidays for swimmers where there is a 20m pool in the garden which is say 2m wide? Would the pool have to be straight? Would a moat around the house do? The water is too cold to not swim, so I go up and down for as long as I can before I get completely fed up. I really would like to go down to the beach.
Exercise done, I tried to dry off on a sun bed. But there is no sun today, just high cloud. I managed maybe twenty minutes before I head inside to get a t-shirt and then change my shorts. Being inside reminds me that maybe I was a bit too cold outside and so I stay in, grab my laptop, and watch more programmes. We get a text message saying our friends are lost and try to work out how to help them. They arrive eventually having gone to the Calle rather than the Avenue and we sit down, eat lunch and tell tales of our travels. All being here seems rather unbelievable after the stress we have been through. Shame the sun hasn’t greeted them in the same way it greeted us yesterday. People separate and I go back to my laptop, this time to catch up on the Great British Bake Off. The turns out to be a rather tortuous affair. I have to tunnel into the UK to get the programme to play which has a dramatic slowdown of internet speed. It is several hours later before I reach the end of the hour-long programme. The advert breaks were the worst part. Towards the end it was taking over 30seconds to download data for just 2seconds of video. At least now I know that, well I won’t say who got knocked out. I was really impressed how they handled the rejection though.
After putting on the potatoes I decide I need a rest from the computer. What to do? I didn’t bring a book to read for once. Then I remember that I brought my sketch pad. I decide to sit and draw the courtyard iron door that opens onto the back garden. It is absorbingly difficult to draw using just an ink pen but I draw a reasonable resemblance. It reminds me that so much of what we see, is actually just glanced over. Sitting there drawing I can appreciate the symmetry and asymmetry of the design. The standard of work the bricklayer created with his diagonal blocks. How dirty a seemingly white wall actually is. How neat the ironwork is. Another hour goes by and I decide it is okay to go back to my laptop. That is when I start typing this piece.
Looking back I didn’t actually watch that much TV, but what I did, did take rather a long time. It was only later that I realised my daughter was streaming TV at the same time too. But I am on holiday so these things really don’t matter. Sitting outside in the dark, a cold beer beside me, lit only by the streetlights and the glow of my laptop, accompanied by the cicadas and being free to write whatever flows from my mind. These are the things that matter more in this moment. What a luxury to treasure.