After an abandoned attempt to drive to Albayzin we drove west on the N432 to Cordoba. We had spent the previous days in Granada with a visit to the Alhambra to see its magnificent tiles and reliefs. The complexity of the Moorish geometry and designs has been effectively replicated in the baffling traffic system of Granada, which had my heart rate hit levels only achievable on skunk. Ergo: a hasty retreat.
The N432 , a switchback, passes through towns and villages that bear names like Castro del Rio and a built history to match, where Castillo’s and churches hold the high ground, no change there then. These edifice are replicated by watchtowers, sentinels strung across the landscape on pinnacles of rock, a reminder of the many cultures who at one time or other ruled this landscape, now ruled by olive groves and oil production
As we drove a weather system swept the landscape with bouts of torrential rain, the wipers on the rental stuttered to keep apace. Like dragging a finger nail on chalk the squawk and screech was wearing me thin and I can’t afford no more thin. Tea break. Climbing the next bends a sign offered food and fuel stop at 1km. At the summit a post apocalyptic, stone strewn and fenced compound confined a line of pumps backed up by a one-story block building. We parked alongside the other car.
The line of glazed customers at table watched our approach. On entry the inside reflected the ambience of the outside, with the added soundtrack of cutlery on delft and low volume conversation. The counter displays included handwritten signs in English; ‘flatten cartons before binning; keep bottles and cans separate’, I ordered in my rudimentary Spanish
“Dos café y..’
“Milk in the coffee?”
Ah, English voices! In response the soundtracks vocals seemed to rise in pitch and were distinctly English. A dawning realisation, as the clock and my brain start to tick in sync, that we had landed in middle England in middle Spain. A white van, English reg., sprayed gravel as it pulled into the compound. Now that’s syncronicity! It’s arrival got a less than enthused reaction as did it’s occupants . England? Fuck! This is The Rovers Return* and we are placed centre stage with toasties and coffee, one black, one con leche.
Scene 1. Vanman begins a dressing down of the table sloths indulgence while he has been breaking his back unloading goods. He now unloads his spleen.
Entire cast in motion: between counter and office, making coffee, discussing unresolved email glitches, the plumbing issue which needed attention yesterday.
Vanman bemoans his back pain. Spanish co-driver sidesteps the skirmish, lifts his beer and leaves. Mother retreats to kitchen, Father, as he passes, asks us if everything is ok, while Daughter conducts an in-depth conversation in Spanish on her mobile. We wonder how the Hobbits have produced such a good looking child. Trannie, more cross than dress, flits between office and table. Granny mops up egg yoke with a piece of Mothers Pride, oblivious.
As extras in the final scene we pay the bill and exchange pleasantries. Vanman takes this opening as an opportunity to reveal the mystery of the abundant packets of Typhoo Tea, Mc Vities Digestives, Rowntrees Pastels, and all the other desirable English comestibles on the shelves. A Sir Galahad in a White Ford Transit transits a supply of familiar products to the ex-pats from England’s green and pleasant land. His back has been the undertone in the conversation and suddenly it gives vent to the sacrifice it makes on these journeys for the greater good.
“ Maybe you should give your back a rest. Driving is definitely not a remedy”, I suggest
“ Couldn’t give up the driving, lord no, I love driving”. Scene ends
It would seem the local’s love driving too. The ram-raid bollards at the front door suggest they think this place is a drive-in.
For the uninitiated: The Rovers Return is the hub of activity in the immutable soap ‘Coronation Street’, an offering on British Television since Britain was an Empire.