It’s not often my great friends are here when I am, but yesterday two of my dearest ones and their son were in Malaga for a couple of days. We met at the beach, at a beachside restaurant and sat and ate, drank and swam. R is like a child-man, although tall and exceptionally handsome, he is wild and enthusiastic, with mad uncombed hair and shoes in shreds, with a spontaneity I have rarely seen.. B is beautiful, empathetic, fiery, loving and makes me laugh til i cry. On the beach, R went on a giant inflatable bouncy thing with his son for an hour, bought beer from every passing African salesman, and a massage from a Chinese masseuse.
I drove them back to their B and B near the airport and got lost in an industrial estate for half an hour. It was dark by now, so when i found the Autovia, I took the one sign-posted Cordoba Granada Seville, as in my haste to return to my mountains and self-imposed semi exile, I thought that would surely be right. It wasn’t. I drove through high mountains for a very long time but gradually Granada drew nearer. I stopped at a services to go to the loo and buy water. When i got out of the car a whole family of muslims were sleeping on cardboard on the ground, with a huge tarpaulin roof rack with all their possessions. I looked at the mother and little children laying there and the mother had her arm outstretched on the floor, palm upturned. I wasn’t sure if she was silently asking me for money as the gesture was so subtle. In the restaurant loo were beautiful teenage girls with their mother in traditional dress, with bare feet and uncombed hair. The dresses were colourful silks and long to their ankles. I couldn’t place their clothes, but could only think perhaps Afghanistani. I emptied my purse of change and thought I would give the money to the family by the car, but when i returned they were no longer looking at me, and the mother’s palm not upturned, and i was not sure if giving them money unmprompted would offend, so I didn’t give. I now wish i had as no doubt they were refugees and the awkwardness was only a typical British fear on my part of doing the wrong thing. The night was hot and still, filled with a peace and sadness of displacement and resignation. By the time i got to my car, another Muslim family were laying down mats on the ground. In my weary state I assembled the image slowly and realised they were praying. Spain seemed even more mysterious and full of people moving slowly through the landscape, to a hoped-for new life, laying down to pray and sleep in a service station car park somewhere in the mountains of a hot night at 11 pm. More longing and belonging. Or longing to belong. I missed my son and daughter and the constancy of N, whose intransigence sometimes frustrates me, but he knows the value and importance of home.