Some of my earliest memories – so early that I can’t tell if I remembered it from my dad’s home movies or from real life – are of being on holiday in Spain. My sister and I dressed in identical blue and white stripy swimsuits – which lasted us years, chlorine rot or not, with bath hats on our heads to keep out the sand, making sandcastles on the beach. I can’t remember much about the hotels or the restaurants we ate in, except my dad was inevitably frustrated that the bread always arrived without butter and we had to order it separately. That and my sister and I, despite being a year apart and looking nothing like each other, were always being mistaken for twins by smiling, ever playful, ice-cream producing, cheek-pinching waiters.
So here we are again, decades later, flying not driving this time, but arriving at the same coast with my own brood to be collected by Julio, dressed impeccably for the sun in a long sleeved shirt and khaki cotton trousers as he scoops us all up, waits happily while we scurry about buying water, taking pictures and generally cooing over the palm trees and delivers us safely into the hands of Sylvia who shows us round our magnificent marble-floored three-bathroomed, three balconied house a stone’s throw from beach and pool.
It’s a palace but Sylvia is mortified that we don’t have a car and insists on giving Ella and me a lift in her jalopy to the supermarket. Her car is rammed to the roof with the essentials for her work – clean sheets, not so clean sheets, towels, hoovers spare kettles, but she squeezes us in and off we zoom for the five minute drive to the supermarket. Ella and I are beside ourselves with the exotica of it all and cruise the aisles like the food tourists we are, scooping up water melons, tiny pumpkin shaped peaches, whitebait, prawns, hard cheeses, soft cheeses, snowy white onions so fresh they haven’t had time to grow skins and a magnificent strawberry covered cake. We pause at the dairy counter, bewildered by the range of cheeses yoghurts and margarine, looking for the butter. “Here it is,” says Ella, reaching for a likely shaped pot, decorated with a churn. “Nah,” I say, “That’s cream cheese” as a folk memory kicks in and I reach for an almost identical pot with my dad’s faltering Spanish ringing in my ears, “Mantequilla por favor”.
Just as we near the checkout (where I forget the pin to my laboriously loaded pre-paid Card o’ Euros) a wilted Sylvia, fading in the heat, comes to meet us and wedges us into back into the car, filling every gap beneath our feet, on our knees, behind our backs, with straining carrier bags.
Just as well we found the butter, I thought, we’ll need it to prise ourselves out…
Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn