How pleasant to unexpectedly spend time in the company of extended family. The Sunday before last we drove east and north along the coast, past Almería and the Cabo de Gata to Mojacar Playa. Past the Cabo de Gata the landscape changed and the bare orange hills of the Costa del Sol on Spain’s south coast gave way to more lush green hills on the southeast Costa Blanca. We drove only 90km, but the change effected by turning Spain’s southeast corner, so to speak, was dramatic.
We were told to look out for some catamaran dinghies, so we drove along the road adjacent to Mojacar beach until two sets of dinghy sails appeared, bobbing in the water close to shore. We parked the car on the rough sand.
There we met Julian’s uncle Ian, Ian’s wife Cordie, two of their five children, and Cordie’s parents, Frank and Lindy, who live along this stretch of coast. Ian, Cordie and the kids were spending the UK school half-term visiting Spain in an attempt to soak up some late winter sun.
I last saw Ian, Cordie, Frank and Lindy when they visited Almería shortly before Christmas, but Lily and Katie had the much more recent experience of playing with their cousins only a few weeks ago at the boy’s home in the UK Midlands. The girls were delighted to see the boys again (Joe, 15, and Ollie, nearly 8). The girls quickly changed into their swimsuits and for the rest of the afternoon the children played on the beach, chasing each other, building sandcastles, and eventually constructing an elaborate ‘relaxation suite’ – a hole dug in the sand, into which they poured water. Ollie was clearly the brains behind the project; Lily and Katie the cheap labour!!
As soon as we arrived on the beach, Ian went in for a swim. Despite insisting earlier in the day that he had no intention of swimming, Julian was not to be outdone by his uncle, and leaped in like he was Ian Thorpe. Barry, my father-in-law, was next in. While the three Scott men swam way out from shore, the children played in the foam, Frank sailed a dinghy with his friends, and Cordie and I lay on the beach, both agreeing that try as we might, relaxing isn’t really our thing!
When hunger inevitably caught up with us we shared two picnics of tortilla, chorizo, ham rolls, more ham rolls and a few more ham rolls! Occasionally a cloud rolled across the sun, rendering us temporarily cold, but when the sun inevitably reappeared we luxuriated like cats on hot concrete.
Late in the afternoon we retired to Frank and Lindy’s local pub, run by an English-man and frequented by the many Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh retiree expats who live around here. It was all a rather surreal experience, watching a Six Nations rugby match on a giant TV, the men drinking beers from the UK and Ireland, and those of us not interested in the rugby playing darts and pool.
Lily and Katie continued to enjoy playing with their cousins – especially Ollie, who is closer in age to them. When the clientele at the pub all got up en masse to move on to a local restaurant, and the barman said he was closing up because he was going to the restaurant too, we contemplated saying our goodbyes and driving back home to Aguadulce. But Lily started to cry, because she wasn’t yet ready to say goodbye to Ollie. That, combined with the prospect of an all-you-can-eat meat feast swayed us, and we trundled down the road with all the others. Our party took up half the restaurant. The children sat together, feeling very grown up as they decided which meat courses to accept or reject.
The food was exceptional – I think I ate half a cow! But what made it all the more wonderful was that it was a meal shared with family, at the end of a glorious day spent together. Living the life we do, we don’t often have opportunities to spend time with our extended family. I grew up surrounded by a vast number of cousins, aunts and uncles. Because of our lifestyle choices, Lily and Katie don’t see their extended family so much. So to spend a hot Sunday afternoon and evening on the beach with their cousins, aunt and uncle, granddad and extended grandparents through marriage, was a wonderful and precious thing.