A COUPLE of years ago I had what could be euphemistically called a ‘lifestyle’ change and, as part of a process that involved clean living, regular meditation on life’s big questions (which for once didn’t involve Eva Longoria) and more self help books than are probably healthy for one man, took the opportunity of moving away from the bright lights and various temptations of the coast.
At the time I was living on street known to my friends as desperate lane, as it contained all the distractions that a (not so young) man could desire. They included a gym, corner mini market, Indian restaurant, Chinese restaurant, mechanic, a bank with cash machine (perfect for making late night withdrawls) and two ‘alternative clubs’
So when the chance came to move into a friend’s lakeside cottage near the pueblo blanco of Istan came along, I leapt at it. Reached by a two kilometre track that runs down the side of Marbella’s emblematic La Concha mountain – and I do mean down, in a Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom kind of way – the Casita del Lago sits in splendid isolation.
And I do mean isolated – as the house is off the electric grid (I use a generator) and pumps water from its own deposito. I also have no internet at the Casita, which often has visitors staring at me with blank incomprehension. “How can you survive with no wifi’” they ask.
Well, it’s quite simple. I first started working in media in the late 80s when desktop publishing was the hot new thing and we sent copy to newspapers via fax machines. I even dimly remember using a Telex to file a story to London on one occasion.
And while I may not have wifi at home, I do have a fancy new smartphone that has more bells, whistles and computing power than was used in the Apollo Moon shots, which means that I can check my emails. Admittedly I have to check them from my terrace as those old Spanish walls are built about eight foot thick to deflect the ferocious summer heat. But it does mean that I can stay in contact with the outside world (I can hear the editor snorting at that last sentence by the way).
Although my location may be seen as idylic, a good friend pointed out that as a single guy the Casita had one drawback. “You live 11 kilometres up the twisting Istan road, down a track on the side of a mountain, to a house on its own, by a lake. You’ll never get a girl back to yours. Or if you do she might not be the type you want to stay over”.
He had a fair point, but a few weeks later in December I received a call from a girl I was somewhat keen on. “I’m at an office bash in a Santa outfit and I’m getting a little typsy. Do you want to meet up for a little ho ho ho?”
I was down from the lake in a shot.
Collecting the young lady – resplendent in her Santa outfit – I hurried back up the road. When we turned onto the track, she looked at the Casita, glinting in the moonlight, on its own several hundred feet below and miles from the nearest neighbour. Then she looked a me, and uttered the immortal line.
“You know. I don’t really know you that well, do I?”
Mind you, it’s not just female guests who can get the willies up at the lake. A few years ago I was a judge at the Marbella Film Festival, which entailed watching about 12 films over a weekend. The last movie was called Warhouse, which I assumed would be a boy’s own style shoot ’em up flick. I therefore wasn’t really prepared for an army of demons to appear – scaring the whatzits out of me. I then had to walk out across the gardens to turn the generator in the pitch black. Which was when the cat decided to launch a surprise attack on me…
Then there have been the various run ins with other flora and fauna. I’ve had the neighbour’s guard dog leapt through the patio windows to say hello (I was chopping onions at the time and almost lost a finger). Plus there was the time I ran over a wild boar at some ungodly hour of the morning. My Spanish friends asked me why I didn’t go back, fling it the Freelander, and have the mother of all BBQ’s the next day. I explained that it wasn’t that big a boar and I didn’t want to come face to face with an enraged Daddy boar at 4am. I had enough of that in my teenage years dating in Marbella.
But my biggest bugbear – excuse the pun – has been wasps. I received the most painful sting even in the history of mankind (well it felt like it) when one of the little bxxxxds got me on the inside of the big toe. My cries of pain caused the local wildlife to stampede. And only last week I indulged in a spot of total fear and head slapping when another wasp flew into my hoodie while I was enjoying a little winter BBQ. A friend remarked tha I must have looked like a ninja, but ninjas are meant to be as silent as the melting snow on Mount Fuji. I certainly wasn’t…
Despite the ‘unique’ challenges that the house presents at this time of year, with the cool crisp mornings and the log fire blazing merrily away, I won’t really want to live anywhere else. Although I might rename the house to Casita del Loco…