a small glass of Ibicencan Hierbas
‘Hola, Buenas Dias senor,’ I replied.
He scratched his head, frowning, looking me up and down. ‘English?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
He smiled. ‘It’s not often that English people bother to speak other folk’s language.’
‘I think you’re out of date senor. Nowadays, many people from Britain make an attempt to learn a few words in the language of the country they are visiting. Particularly hello: goodbye: please, and thank you.’
‘That’s not my experience.’ He looked down at the dog, then back to me. ‘You’re staying at Cas’ Catalá?’
‘How do you know that?’
‘I recognisze the dog, hola Lucy.’ He bent and tickled her behind her ear. ‘She’s the only three legged dog in Sanata Eulalia. The proprietor of the hotel brings her up to the church from time to time. She often rests here, puts her front foot on the wall, and looks down into the valley.’
I smiled, at the dog and then at the small, wiry, moustached man who had begun the conversation.
‘You speak good English?’ I queried.
‘I spent some time in England, in Devon; I worked on the boats.’
‘No, in a boatyard. I fitted out the cabins and particularly the galleys, which was my specialty, making kitchen units fit into confined spaces.’
‘So how long have you been back?’
‘Back? I’m not Ibicenc, I was born in the north of Spain, but in 1935, my family moved to the south, near Malaga.’
I was about to ask further questions, then recognized the clues that told me his family had probably left the Basque country, round about the start of the civil war.
‘So how long were you in Devon?’
He hitched up his trousers and rubbed the bristles on his chin. ‘Twelve years, no, thirteen, but my wife was unhappy. She became ill, and we were advised by the hospital to move to a warmer, drier climate.’
It was my turn to frown. ‘You didn’t return to the Costa del Sol?’
‘No, I was offered a job here, working in the marina. My boss in England had contacts, he arranged it for me.’
‘And now you are retired, and live opposite the famous church Puig en Misa?’
He looked up at the bell tower of the white painted building and nodded. ‘But only the last two years, since my wife died. Before that we lived down in the town. I had fitted out the priest’s kitchen, and when Mercedes came up here, Padre Antonio asked if I would like to move into this little cottage.’
When he added no more, I thought to move on, and was about to offer my hand and bid him adieu, when he spoke again.
‘I enjoyed my time in your country; people were kind and welcoming. I learned a lot, not only about boats. We used to visit, Lyme Regis. You know, many children were evacuated from the north of Spain to Dorset … after Guernica.’ He looked away, stared down the valley and was imitated by Lucy.
There was silence between us, but when he made no suggestion that he wished us to part, I asked gently.
‘Have you ever been back, to the north?’
‘No,’ and he let out a sigh that seemed to go on forever. ‘I’ve never wanted to return, but my grandson, David; he says I must visit before I die. He’s going to take me, later in the year. I am to spend the day of my seventieth birthday, during this millennium, in Euskal Herria, that’s Basque for …’
‘Yes, I know. Are you looking forward to the visit?’
‘No,” he shook his head furiously. 'I’m scared shitless!’
I laughed out loud.
‘I’m sorry,’ I quickly added, ‘I was surprised by your expression.’
He shrugged, grinned, and then offered his hand.
‘It was nice to meet you senor, thank you for your conversation.’
I took his hand in both of mine.
‘No, thank you, and I wish you luck with your pil …. journey.’
He grinned again as our hands separated.
‘My name is Robert, may I ask yours?’
‘Xavier,’ he said. ‘Xavier Elizondo; it means new house … by the church’. He shouted ‘adios Lucy,’ as we walked down the path.
Having spent the best part of thirty five years writing reports on such subjects as ‘Provision of Caravan Sites for Travellers’ and ’Aspects of Pest Control in the Urban Environment’, Roger Noons began even more creative writing in 2006, when he completed a screenplay for a friend who is an amateur film maker. After the film was made, he wrote further scripts and having become addicted, began to pen short stories and poems. He occasionally produces memoirs and other non fiction. He has begun to perform his poems, and has just published ’An A to Z by RLN’, an anthology of 26 short stories. He intends by the end of the year to have followed that up with a novella.
He is a member of two Writers Groups and tries his hardest to write something every day. As well as CafeLit, he has had credits in West Midlands newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, Paragraph Planet, Raw Edge and a number of Anthologies.