Paul Whitelock gave up his part-time job as a paper boy in Devon when he was just 14. Little did he think he would become one again in Andalucía 45 years later!
“DO YOU fancy delivering a few papers?” asked the editor. “Sure,” said I.
Mug! Six hours later I began to question my sanity.
“Never mind,” I thought, “next time it won’t take as long…”
Well, it took five hours the second time round!
Now into my eighth such delivery, I’ve got it down to a fine art. Now I’m only out for 10 to 12 hours on delivery day!
Why so long? Well, instead of rushing from drop-off point to drop-off point as quickly as possible, I now linger here and tarry there, accepting offers of a cup of coffee or a cold drink and chatting to the people I meet along the way.
After an early morning coffee with Andy, Pauline or Paco at the delightful Hotel Molino del Santo in Benaoján Estación, I then squeeze my increasingly battered right-hand drive British car through the narrow streets of Benaoján proper and drive the pleasant 20 minutes to Jimera de Líbar and a second coffee with Synnøve or Paul at the Bar Allioli by the station. Sometimes avid readers of the paper are waiting to ambush me to pick up their copy and to lavish praise on the paper. Very good for morale.
A quick dash up to Cortes de la Frontera and several drops; Bar Acuarios and Bar Los Amigos followed by my regular natter with Mary Beker at the Estate Agents. Then it’s off to Hotel Los Almendros where the friendly Belgian owner Ben offers you a drink and something from his kitchen that he’s preparing for lunch. Last time it was berenjenas con miel, deep fried slices of aubergine drizzled with honey. Mmmm!
Via the petrol station and a brief how-do-you-do with any folk sitting at the cafe there, and it’s on to Sarah and Alex at the tranquil Hostal el Gecko, down by the station, before the long but stunning climb up the mountain to the Algeciras road and gentle drop down to Gaucín, the balcony of the Serranía, and views to die for. On a clear day, Gibraltar lies brooding off the coast in the distance and hints of Morocco beyond tantalise the viewer.
It’s now getting on for two o’clock, so after dropping papers at the petrol station and the Hotel Caballo Andaluz, where owner Mari Ángeles is always up for a chat, it’s time for a visit to the bubbly Rosa at Pura Vida, the health food shop, and the multi-lingual catalana-vasca, María Luisa, at the Bonassim Delicatessen.
Quick drops at the two banks and it’s time to refuel – my starving body, not the car! I have a choice of eating places. There are three English-run restaurants, La Fuente, with Lisa and “Huggie”, La Casita, hosted by Darren and Julie, and Don Martín, run by Ginny and her stunning waitress, the 20-year-old Ellie. Nice food at all three.
Bar Paco Pepe in the little square with the fountain, is a good spot, too. Lots of ex-pats congregate here, so it’s a great place to meet the newspaper’s public. Susie and Carl of Bar Otrolao, Murphy the organic gardener, Clive and Rosie, interesting characters all. Not to mention the Spanish workmen and sundry tourists who assemble there for Paco’s reasonably priced and wholesome food.
Casa Antonia in the main square is another must. On my first visit there I corrected the English translation of a notice in the loo. José Luis was happy to be rid of his Google-translated nonsense and I enjoyed the free beer I got in return!
After my leisurely lunch I amble down the windy road towards Jimena de la Frontera, where I call in to the gorgeous casas rurales at Cortijo Román to see Fiona and Maggie. I leave a huge pile of papers for the Sunday market. Rumour has it that people only go to pick up the paper, not to buy anything from the stallholders!
Another big pile gets left at the filling station, before I get into Jimena itself just as the shops are re-opening after the siesta. The smiling Eva at Papelería Los Garabatos seems pleased to see me and there are always one or two ‘friends’ at Bar Cuenca for an early evening drink. Regulars Andy and Wendy usually fill me in on the latest gossip.
Now, I find a parking place in the square and go for a wander through the beautiful narrow and flower-bedecked streets of the old village, dropping off more papers at Bar La Tasca and Hostal El Anon before my final call at Bar Bistro La Oba.
It’s approaching 8 o’clock by now and time to knock off and enjoy myself at the weekly quiz run there by Simon and Iris. Time too for a natter with the vivacious owner Caroline and her beautiful daughter Brogan, before taking on the locals in a battle of the brain cells.
I play with anyone who’ll have me in their team. So far played two, won one! The second time we were only runners up – we didn’t know our Sharon Stones from our Faye Dunaways or our Keira Knightleys from our Kate Winslets! Great fun, though.
A bite to eat, for example a selection of tapas or a tortilla wrap, and I’m fortified for the long climb back up the hill to Ronda, and a nightcap in one of my locals in the Barrio San Francisco, before going to bed and wondering why I’ve become a paper boy again so late in life.
Well, the answer’s obvious, isn’t it?