Last year I spent five days in remote bliss, staying with my dad in the Spanish mountains. He’s lived in that country on and off for the past three decades or so – happiest in craggy sunshine, away from people, where he can walk and write in peace.
After a decade or so in Amsterdam, and a taste of true population density, he moved back to Spain last year to a tiny place called Sedella (described on the web as a town, but really… no!). Life is critically slow. Two small shops open at random moments, nobody locks doors, weathered village elders gather on worn wooden chairs in the narrow alleys to bitch loudly. There’s an old church, its tower of Moorish origin, where a bell tolls when someone in the village dies. It rings a different note for each gender and tolled twice during the five days I was there. Reflective of the average age-range, I think.
Even this tiny place was too much for my dad. Since my visit he’s moved into the mountains proper and is now isolated from all life bar that of dusk crickets in the dry shrubbery, the tinkling bells of goats passing on their way up/down the cattle paths, and the occasional human visitor breaking free from the Noise of life for a taste of sanity.
The photo above is a very rare shot of us together. He hates having his photo taken (hence the closed eyes) and I have hardly any shots of us together from my childhood (from which he was primarily absent). Here’s one taken in 1977 (check that collar!). Yeah, I was still quite sweet, my future undetermined – all the potential of Life ahead…
The title of this blog post is a line from an email he sent prior to my visit. I’d assumed we would be doing some serious walking but the temperature was rising to dangerous levels. And I think, too, he realised what I needed was the peace, not rabid exercise. Strangely enough, given his absence from my upbringing, he’s perhaps the only person in existence who really understands me. Genetics, I guess, combined perhaps with that very absence – a lack of the sort of habitual negative judgement that lengthy close proximity can induce. It’s interesting. We’re alike in many ways… both positive and negative.
Whatever. We did walk. Easy routes. Two hours each day, in blistering heat. It was enough. The rest of the time we read, dozed, stared at the mountains. Later we’d eat; drink appalling amounts of beer and wine; talk and argue crap until dawn. It was Just The Thing.
And if I could be anywhere right now, I’d be there.
Snug in quiet mountains where the internet struggles to reach. Where a person can detach from all that shit to talk at length about ancient religious buildings, Crusades fought centuries ago, God, man, space, time… the very smallness of life… about books, theories, poetry, and all things solid. Until too tired or drunk to be coherent. Until too tied up in belligerence to ever reach agreement. And then, as the sky slowly lightens, talk some more regardless…
12 Replies to “Wine chilling, walking boots not required…”
A hermit, just like my dad. Yours resembles Anthony Hopkins. Mine is a healthy 93 and resembles the present Pope 🙂
Ha ha… mine is looking pretty good for 74 or whatever he is now (we don't do birthdays). Healthier than me too.
74–just the right age.
He's my hero.
What a beautiful place, Sandie, and how fortunate you are to have this time with your father. It sounds like the perfect place to me too–walk, wine, and talk. Does your father accept weekend guests :-)?
Ha! I have plenty of photographs of my father, he can smell a camera at 50 paces and unconsciously slips into (very photogenic) photograph pose. More recently as he has become older he has begun to let me take more informal photographs. These I cherish.
Lovely, Sandie. How wonderful you could simply go and stay with your dad for five days and how even more wonderful that you can talk crap and argue with him. A slight word out of place with my dad and silence ensues for months.It's great that you treasure what you have.
Came across your blog `Wine chilling, walking boots not required …` quite by accident and think I know your dad, if, that is, he is to one with claims to have found the `truth` concerning matters of biblical and ancient history that scholars and experts have over the past centuries missed.How anyone with his background as the nerve to tilt at such windmills is beyond me. Surely even he must be aware of the number of books that have been written on these subjects! And what sort of a father is it that takes his daughter – straight from the UK – out walking in temperatures rising to dangerous levels? To say nothing of encouraging excessive amount of drinking. I think you need to take your rose-coloured specs off and realise that any father place should be at home during the formidable years of his children looking after their welfare and not wandering the face of the Earth professing to search for the `truth`. (I could tell you a few tales of what he was actually searching for, whilst in the merchant navy prowling the nightspots in West Africa and it was more with the lower regions then cerebral.) So whilst you give him a plus for a lack of `negative judgement` – no wonder he is so understanding. Just hope the next time you meet you see his warts and all.
Nothing brings out the Miss Marple in me quite so much as an angry Anonymous poster. It was no accident that you found this post, of course. And as you are most likely family – or at least the sort of once-close-family-friend who counts – I'll keep this polite. I've had more than 40 years to study my dad's warts. If anyone has the right to be angry about the way he's chosen to live his life, it is the little girl inside me who lost out to the lure of impossible mountains and fast-moving rapids.As to the merchant navy days… ha ha, yes I've heard some of those stories – first hand, too – so what?? Enjoying the pleasures of the flesh is a healthy facet of human existence, not to mention a normal aspect of sea-faring life! I'd think it more worrying if he hadn't joined in.Anyway, enough – washing the family linen in public is not the way to go. But you're right, tilting windmills does take nerve. And without such windmill tilters, it could be argued man and his time on earth would have come to a halt long since.If it is rose-tinted specs that cause me to see this world as I see it, and I am happy to see it that way – what purpose would be served in taking them off??Beyond satisfying someone else's (too)long-held grudge, that is…
Woops! The embarrassment of having to pick a joke up from the floor. It was just a change encounter that I came across your blog and, not thinking, could not resist. Yes, you are right, I am a `family member` so have to own up otherwise you might have dark thoughts as to who it actually was that made the comments. Sorry, Dad
Ha ha… funnily enough I re-read the comment, noticed the bloody mess of typos and was suddenly struck by the thought it might be you…Ah, it gave me a good excuse to vent a bit of inner angst, so I'm all mellow now.x
Ha, ha, I wished my dad was that funny. Unfortunately he was (I think, I hope) war damaged, still doesn't own up to his faults and wants to be someone else.