I don’t even know if I feel much like writing at the moment, besides keeping the tradition alive of posting something – at least – once a month here on the Shilling. My Darling Barbara died less than two weeks ago on June 4th, victim of a long-term and horrible illness, named after the concentration camp doctor who apparently first identified it: Wegener’s Granulomatosis.
We buried her in the Mojácar cemetery on the Thursday, surrounded by the usual group of fascinating and occasionally rather odd friends that one finds if he lives here long enough: indeed, I just wanted to rush home and tell Barbara who was there to say goodbye – which was pretty much everyone except for an estranged brother of hers who thunders aimlessly about Mojácar on a Harley all day long.
But that’s over now: I’ll write about Barbara a bit later on...
I flew out the next day, Friday 6th, to California, where my younger daughter lives. I have always liked America and, over the years, I’ve visited or stayed there better than a dozen times, including lengthy stays in San Francisco in the mid-seventies and in southern Los Angeles a decade later. This time, I’m staying in Laguna Beach, further south and not so far from the Mexican frontier. Laguna Beach is a small resort overlooked by some spectacularly expensive homes (5 to 10 million dollars or more). The Pacific Coast Highway runs through it, furnished with more expensive and exotic cars than I’ve ever seen before. I saw an antique British sports three-wheeler yesterday. Stretch limos, Maseratis and souped-up golf carts roll past as I walk along the coast, with the beach on one side and an amazing 180 art galleries (!) on the other. Unlike Mojácar, Laguna Beach really is an artist’s destination – although few of them live in those big six million dollar mansions above the bay.
I have walked around the resort a few times – it’s tasteful, with no large hotels or signs of vulgarity – no wally-trolleys, neon signs or Banderas Azules to reassure the doubtful of the efforts made by the local authorities to keep their citizens happy. The architecture, a mixture of wood and brick, is much more varied than we are used to. No doubt the teeming hordes live elsewhere. As expected, the streets are crammed with beautiful, skinny blond girls.
The bus has a ramp on the front for bicycles, and the post office sells greeting cards. The local restaurants seem healthier than I might expect – there’s no evidence of French fries, or fast-food outlets. It’s an expensive town, with Thai, Mexican, suchi, and fancy places, together with some good (large) bars with live music and capable staff. Parking is expensive, with parking metres, but free to residents (who, presumably, have bought a permit off the town hall). But why not – tourists should not be able to take all the parking spots, don’t you think?
One of the things that is expensive is health care. An old case of sciatica returned to pain my leg, severely. I couldn’t walk more than a few steps. I tried a Thai masseuse (I would have tried one anyway) and then a chiropractor. I had my feet done over at the Chinese pedicure. I then found a local sports-injury centre with machines, weights, some rather nasty vitamin supplements and some friendly staffers who joyously twisted me into knots for two days (all I could afford).
I’m staying with my daughter and her Spanish husband, so I am speaking rather more Spanish here, between home life and visits to bars and restaurants where the staff are slightly surprised-looking Mexicans, than I do at home in Spain. Each morning, I even get to see a re-transmission of the news from Madrid on the frankly gigantic TV they have here. So, I’m keeping up with things at home.