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Light in Andalucia
by R L Tilley

There is a wind from the north blowing across the land and it is not hard to wish myself back to those places recently departed where the buildings are white and the earth is red. Images rush across my mind, psychic photographs.

We follow an old man along the coast path in Tarifa. He is going to feed the cats with the remnants of today’s catch of fish. They prowl and eat hungrily under a bush. A little later we encounter him feeding kittens on the sea wall and talking to tourists, a man and a woman. The woman is intrigued by the cats. There was a dog following. I never saw the going of the dog.

Later we walk to the Playa De Los Lances, a white sand beach which stretches, seemingly, for miles. The winds, east and west vie for control, perpetually blowing. Sand whips into our faces. I sit on the beach as Caroline, my wife swims. Walking back, our shoes fill with sand. There are few people on this magnificent dream of a beach, presumably because of the winds. Out there the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet. The boats of tuna fisherman are anchored offshore. We walk back through the yard of a cannery and an old man cleaning fish hails us.

‘Buenos tardes,’ he says.

We are here for a day. We come from Algeciras and before that, Ronda.

Driving back along the road over the Sierra del Cabrito we look across the straits to the coast of Africa. The Rif Mountains rise from Morocco’s shore and Tangier nestles, white in the sunlight, in its bay. Not so long ago I looked at the coast of Spain and the Rock of Gibraltar from Tangier.

We came back here to go to Ronda. We flew to Gibraltar and walked across the border at La Linea. Unwittingly I passed a queue of Spaniards who were also waiting on a taxi and hailed the first one to show. There were indignation and protests apparently and Caroline drew my attention to these. The driver put our bags in the back and remonstrated with the protesters.

‘No problem,’ he said in English.

We stayed a night in an hotel in Algeciras and took the train up to Ronda the following day.

There was an English family at the hotel, an extended family. They had rooms by the pool and a table was reserved for them on the terrace. Caroline swam in the afternoon and I went down to Algeciras and wandered around the Plaza Alta. When I got back we lounged in the sun awhile, took tea, and then it was time for dinner. There is a crazy golf course at the hotel and a son of the family who had rooms by the pool, who wore a ‘Fly Emirates’ tee-shirt and was called Liam had had some kind of a dispute with his sister. They all sat around their reserved table arbitrating. A little girl, the youngest, clearly the terrorist of the family, kept running in and out of the dining room shouting ‘Oi!’

We went to Ronda.

We were almost an hour early for the train.

So much for guide books. The one I read advised early arrival in case of queues. The Renfe agent in the UK had said there will be no problem getting seats on the day. There was no queue. The train, the Andalucian Express, was in.

I sat on a bench on the platform next to an old man. He pointed at the train and said something in Spanish.

‘Habla usted Inglese?’ I asked.


It seems he was telling us we could board. He sat and he hailed and talked to his friends. Caroline theorised that he would prefer us on the train so that his friends could then sit down.

I like that in this country. In Ronda one would see old men meeting in the Alameda del Tajo morning and evening, to chew the fat. A southern thing. I have seen it in Sicily and Italy also.