Thursday, October 19, 2017

Bédar, Revisited

A friend wanted me to take him up to Bédar to eat a leg of lamb at the Miramar. Now that's a reasonable ambition to have on a warm autumn day, so we went. Yesterday, the views were perfect following the rains on Wednesday. The sky was full of fluffy clouds and the countryside gleamed in the clean light.
We arrived in the village, parked, and found the Miramar was shut - they were on holiday said the sign.
Let's walk around, said Andrew.
I wasn't keen.
My dad had bought a house in Bédar - well three houses - for the 1966 equivalent of £60. The story goes that dad wasn't absolutely sure if he'd just had a remarkably expensive meal at Pedro's or whether he was the new owner of three connecting ruins in the Calle Virgen, up above the church.
The houses had electric, two stories each, and around seventeen rooms between them. For some reason, my dad put them in my name.
Some time later, I was living there, now in my mid twenties. Bédar by about 1975 was still a wreck, but could boast a few more foreigners. In my establishment - the three houses had been clumsily knocked into one - there lived me and my girl, a Chinese guy and his girlfriend (man, could he cook!), a German friend with a guitar, and a copious supply of pot.
Not much happened that year. We listened to Dollar Brand, Randy Newman and, when the mood took him, Mick on the guitar. On the large terrace, Fritz the painter was finishing his masterpieces, usually with guffaws and large hits of brandy and spliffs.
The views from there: with the rest of Bédar falling gently below, Mojácar shimmering in the distance, the dried-out countryside and the mountains tumbling down towards the Blue Mediterranean. Pedro's remained open if we felt social.
Not bad for a season.
But life goes on. I eventually fixed the house - briefly as a bar (El Aguila, beer with tapa: ten pesetas) and later made a proper conversion, slimming the property into twelve rooms, with a roof terrace and a picture window upstairs.
The town hall went electric and put one of its innumerable new orange sodium lights on the wall just outside the same window, making the move towards heavy curtains and suburbia inevitable.
I left the house to my girl, moved away, started a newspaper and, fifteen years later, after mortgaging my house in Mojácar for a vast sum to pay old printing bills, I sold the newspaper to some agressive employees. They never paid me (it's a long story) and I was forced to sell the Bédar property to satisfy the bank. I gave my girl some money to finish off her own ruin in the hills, and life limped onwards.
Meanwhile, I was married and my beautiful wife was ill. We had no money then - it was 2002 - and we spent that Christmas in a hospital in Madrid where an operation went wrong, disfiguring her for life.
I never went back to Bédar.
So, yesterday, here I am. Back in the village. I recognise a few of the bedarenses. I get some hugs and some saludos. 'Napia', they say, 'how's it going?'.
We walk past my old house, now sold, fixed up and resold. A woman peers at us from over the fancy new upper balcony.  She's probably British - there are now a lot of Brits in Bédar.
Despite myself, the village looks very pretty. The home-owners seem proud of their properties and everything is sparkling white, with plenty of decorative plants. The streets have been fixed at some point, now tiled rather than lumpy flagstones. Apart from an ugly electric sign outside the town hall and a truly awful marble statue of a miner in the upper square, the place looks great. If I had have come for the first time and had some money...
Bédar compares well with Mojácar. The later has suffered greatly at the hands of the local population, which has taken the village and turned it into an obscene Disneyville, loaded with souvenir shops waiting, like spiders, for the tourists to come. Mojácar was demolished and raped. Bédar - which has no knick-knack shops, no underground parking and no large ruined hotels to complement the view - is now the better place.
But, I'm not going back there again.

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