I was in our local cemetery, where the foreigners at last lie in peace with their Spanish neighbours. Walking around slowly: looking out for my parents, for old friends and for people I knew. Here is the British bullfighter; there the Air-Vice Marshall. Here is my dad. There is my mum. Here's Fritz the artist, who's headstone claims he was born on November 31st, a month with only thirty days. Old Pfeiffer, whose apfelstrudel was all the rage in Vienna, is there: dead these forty years. And then I saw the stone for Eve Steinhauser, who despite her name, was an Englishwoman who worked for Horizon Holidays.
I had also worked
for them, briefly, when I was 17; taking tourists round the sites (the
sights) in Crete, the old Minoan Civilization. A posh accent describing
the Minotaur to retired doctors, bank-managers and their wives. I was at
the top end of the tour-operator's offer, a subsidiary of the
holiday-company called Wings.
Eve had been sent to Mojácar by
Horizon to see if it was worth bringing their holidaymakers to the small
resort. Mojácar doesn't really work as a tour destination - it is a
pretty village two kilometres away from the sea on a high hill, with
beautiful views, and with a long coastline (for all practical purposes)
of a dozen kilometres. From your hotel to wherever you wish to walk...
is a long pull. There was no bus then although there was a couple of old taxis - we are in the
early seventies; but there wasn't much to do after a hot walk, besides
take the inevitable tour to the cowboy town in Tabernas an hour away in a
coach (cue some Morricone music) or see some dodgy Flamenco in the hotel disco.
So Eve, conscious of the fact
that a man who works in a toothpaste factory wants a holiday that won't
stop, knew that Mojácar wasn't the right place. There was just one hotel
in the village that could work and nothing of any size on the beach.
But then she met my mother.
had suffered from encephalitis some years before she came with my dad
and myself to Mojácar in 1966. The scars in her mind were slight, but
she had no spacial memory, no recent memory, and she had somehow lost
the bit that stops you from being rude to strangers.
One night in the bar:
Eve - I'm here to see if Mojácar is the right place for a tour operator.
Mother - Don't you fucking dare to bring in those arseholes to our town you horrible (and frankly, really quite hideous) woman.
would tell the story (since my mother forgot) - I had quite decided to
tell Horizon against coming to Mojácar, until Heather changed my mind.
the company came to the village, to turn it into a resort. They bought a
second hotel on the hill, a hulk which they were forced to demolish,
before rebuilding it alarmingly over-budget. With the new hotel, the
Moresco, and the other place above it, the Hotel Mojácar (built with
public money by Roberto Puig - a Valencian who couldn't bear the thought
of customers in his hotel), Horizon Holidays opened Mojácar, as my
mother would say, to the fucking trippers.
Horizon was bringing in
tourists, the Mojácar people reacted accordingly. The foreign
residents, who had brought in money, bought houses and opened bars, were
quickly dropped in favour of the trippers. Nicknack shops opened, and
Old Jacinto the mayor changed the name of the main street up to the
village from the Generalísimo to Avenida Horizon.
Clarksons came and went, as did other tour-companies of the
era. Mojácar attempted to sell the tourists (here on a shoe-string
holiday) small and squashed-together apartments. No one was buying
villas any more.
With an ever-larger presence of Britons in the
town, whether living here or merely visiting, it was only a matter of
time before we twinned with a tourist town, and where more appropriate
than Encamp, the Andorran town famous for its banks with no questions
asked. The Avenida Horizon became the Avenida Encamp. The Hotel Mojacar
was rebuilt as apartments, the Hotel el Moresco has been closed for
several years (never to reopen). The Hotel Indalo is now the Hotel Best
and the beach is full of bars, ice cream joints and of course, an
unending supply of nicknack shops selling Chinese-made goods.
Benidorm, meanwhile, continues to grow.