The printer jokingly suggested I travel by donkey to collect the first print run of the cookbook. So, wearing the traditional costume of 200 years ago, I rode sixteen kilometres over the mountains from Montejaque to Ronda. Now that is one sore ass … and my bum is hurting, too
SINCE the beginning of March, I have been compiling a bilingual (Spanish and English) cookbook and village guide (Libro de Cocina y Guía del Pueblo) for our ‘pueblo blanco’, Montejaque.
For the past two weeks, we have been waiting for the ISBN and ‘deposito legal’ numbers, so that the last pages of the book could be printed. Once these numbers had been obtained, the printer estimated he could generate approximately 100 books per day – i.e. it would take 10 days to collate, cut and coil-bind the 1,000 copies of the 142-page book that we had produced. I said I would travel to Ronda every few days to pick up the books, and the printer laughingly suggested that I travel by ‘burro’ (donkey) to collect them.
In an inebriated moment, I told this to the owner, Nino, of Montejaque’s donkey-riding business. He was very keen to oblige; before I knew it, I had agreed to ride a donkey over the mountains from Montejaque to Ronda to pick up the first 100 copies of the cookbook. Over the next couple of days, I was able to beg and borrow some appropriate vintage clothing – a bit constrictive, and definitely not flattering to my skin tone, but I looked the part.
At 8:15 a.m. on Thursday morning, July 26, we set off from the village: girlfriend Nancy Heyman, tourism office manager Juan de Castro and I climbed onto our three burros and headed east into the sun towards Ronda. Our donkeys definitely had different characters: Juan’s was willing to trot ahead; Nancy’s kept stopping for no reason at all; and mine (Shrek) was a bit of a plodder. It didn’t matter how much I said ‘vamos’, made ‘chuck, chuck chuck’ and ‘gee up’ noises or beat him on the ass with my fan .. he plodded. Nino had estimated our journey to Ronda would take one-and-a-half hours; I had guessed at two. By 10:50 a.m., we were still only just on the outskirts of the town.
We had advised the local newspapers, radio and TV stations that we would be arriving at the printers’ offices at 10:00 a.m. Fortunately, an ‘advance guard’ had met the press there at 10:00 a.m. to advise them of the delay, and to make arrangements for a different meeting place an hour later.
It was unnerving but exciting to be faced with a barrage of paparazzi. Juan fielded most of the questions from the TV interviewers, and conducted a radio talk over the ‘phone; I simply read out, in my best Spanish accent, my introduction to the cookbook and village guide.
The TV interview can be watched on YouTube link … starting at 22:45 minutes into the programme:
After the interview, we ‘hauled ass’ to the printers. It would not have been a wise move to actually ride the donkeys through the streets and up to the door, particularly as Shrek generally took no notice of my tugging on the rein to go in the direction I wanted. Even when he was being led, he refused to get up onto the pavement, digging his heels in as I tried to pull him up. (Was this actually a donkey, or really a stubborn mule?) Most of the drivers were quite patient about waiting behind us as we wended our way through the streets – although some were also quite rude; but Juan was able to respond to their swear words with some of his own. (I had thought that writing the cookbook had been a great help in improving my language skills, but this seemed even better!)
At the printer’s, we loaded more than 100 cookbooks into Juan’s donkey’s panniers … and then we cheated a little bit. Less than two kilometres further on (after a welcome break for beer and tapas), we re-loaded the books into the back of a car, to be transported to the village in a more modern way.
We rode the donkeys back towards Montejaque for a further hour or so, and then met up with Nino, who was willing to take and lead them over the mountains for the last couple of hours; meanwhile, we were chauffeured back to the village in the car that contained the cookbooks.
Twenty-four hours later, I am still a little tired, still very happy, and still rather sore.
My biggest regret is that my Spanish collaborator on the book, María Victoria Naranjo Hiraldo, could not be with us. So I’ve suggested to her that we do it again next week!
Watch this space …