I recently returned from a short trip to my native land to visit my Elderly Aunt, who lives in Stratford upon Avon. Exciting as it is to travel even to familiar places and marvellous as it was listening to my Super Aunt’s tales of her 96 years on this planet, I was happy to come home to Cartajima. It constantly surprises me that, even for a rolling stone like me, there is no place like home. And why?
1. There are no jam doughnuts or toasted teacakes in Cartajima. This is a Good Thing.
2. The blue skies and clean, dry mountain air make everything, even my airplane cold, seem better. Of course it rains – how else would the wonderful fruits in the valley survive – so we must have clouds but the skies never seem to be solid grey for days.
3. Living in a place where nobody speaks your language, one can make idle comments of a personal nature about one’s neighbours – sounds mean but who wouldn’t if they could get away with it? It is particularly satisfying to use Mr and Mrs Grumpy Guts’ well-earned moniker in their presence.
4. I am not likely to get run over. Apart from the fact that there is no traffic in Cartajima, people tend to drive on the right side of the road.
5. There is a horizon! Staying in a town is a lovely change from a small village but I found myself trying to see through the houses to the horizon. Our mountain vistas are majestic, constantly changing colour, seriously inspirational.
6. Hola! Buenas dias! Despite our global reputation for reserve, I find the folk in my native land friendly enough. But perhaps it is the North American bit of me that loves the wide open approach of the Andalucians. They don’t hold back. Wide smiles, big arms, loud greetings.
7. The supermarkets in UK are amazing entertainment. Shelf after neatly arranged shelf of multi-ethnic food from around the world. Food is one of my passions so I loved visiting the latest addition to Stratford shopping – a Waitrose. However, in Cartajima we eat what is local and in season and there is a simplicity in that that I love and respect. At the moment we are poised, waiting for the cherries to ripen. We gorge for a few weeks and then they are gone for another year. That feels right.
8. Being intrinsically partially English, I tune in immediately to what’s going on when I am with English people. One understands every facial expression and gesture and body language. Nothing escapes. By natural extention, other English people can figure me out. So perhaps that is why I have always lived in a foreign country. There is an anonymity. Whatever the underlying rationale, I feel comfortable back in Cartajima where nobody speaks my language or understands my point of view. I feel like I really fit in!
9. The sun gets up much later. It is one of those odd man-made anomalies: although Cartajima is west of Greenwich, we are on European time so our celestial bodies are not aligned properly with our clock. Which suits Andalucia just fine!
10. It is peaceful. Not that Stratford is a war zone. But Cartajima has a small community with no crime, no threats, no guns. The outside world and its problems are distant. It is a true escape.
I hope you will come and experience this paradise!