27 May, 2012 @ 13:00
2 mins read

Meet the neighbours

CLEARING the old furniture out of our house was hard work.

The sun was hot, the sofa heavy and the street uphill.

Sweating and panting, we rested halfway, settling ourselves on the sofa awhile, to regain our breath and admire the view.

And that was how we first met Paco and his wife.

About our age, short, and dressed in working clothes, Paco rounded the corner and stopped in astonishment.

Then his swarthy face split into a huge grin.

We jumped up off the sofa and shook hands.

“Soy Paco,” he announced, pointing at himself with a horny finger.

Then, poking his wife, “Bethina!”

In case he thought English people usually relaxed on sofas in the middle of the street, we explained using a mixture of bad Spanish and hand signals.

Our Spanish lessons hadn’t prepared us for situations like this but Paco seemed to grasp that we were carrying the sofa out to be dumped. He nodded, but cut us short.

“Come with me,” he said, and dismissed the sofa with a wave of his hand.

The sofa was abandoned in the middle of the road.

Joe was frog-marched back down the street while Bethina and I followed, my arm clamped in a vice-like grip.

We were herded into their little house, and what a contrast!

Where our house was dusty and damp, their house smelled of herbs and the white walls gleamed.

“You will have something to eat and drink, no?” said Paco and pressed us into chairs. “Here, I have something for you to try.”

“Thank you…” we said, watching him wrestle with an unlabelled bottle. He puffed and blew until the cork surrendered with a satisfying pop.

“Home-made,” he said, smacking his lips. “Taste the Andalucian grapes! Taste the Spanish sun!”

“Delicioso,” I said, taking a sip. “This is delicious!” And it was.

“Last year was a very good year. Plenty of rain in spring, then a long hot summer.

“In September, I will show you how we make the wine, no? You will come with me to my cortijo; you will see how wine should be made.”

“Thank you that will be lovely.”

“And now you must try this one, too.” His face turned red from the effort as he uncorked bottle Number Two.

“This is from the year before, also a very good year.”

We quickly drained our glasses and held them out to be refilled. I couldn’t taste the difference, but it was very nice.

“Now you must taste this one! Tell me what you think… ”

He battled with a third bottle and finally won.

Joe and I obediently drained our second glass and waited. Paco splashed red wine Number Three into our glasses. We tasted it and nodded at Paco.

“Delicioso,” I said again. It tasted the same as the other two.

“Delicioso?” said Paco, outraged.

“Delicioso? This is the wine of my friend, Juan Pedro. It is rubbish wine! See how clear my wine is! Now look at Juan Pedro’s wine! His wine is cloudy, no?”

Alarmed, Joe and I stared at the three bottles, comparing them. They all looked identical.

“Pah!” His fist slammed down on the table making me jump and the glasses rattle. “That Juan Pedro has no idea! He should take a lesson from me! I try to teach him how to make good wine, but does he listen? No!”

“Yes, I can see the difference,” said Joe, betraying me utterly. “Your wine is much clearer, and tastes much better.”

Paco beamed again, his outrage forgotten.

“Women!” he said, putting his arm round Joe’s shoulders. “What do they know about good wine?”

Bethina clattered around her tiny kitchen while the red wine flowed freely. She put plates of smoked ham, tomato, cheese and bread on the plastic tablecloth then joined us to sit at the table.

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