The last thing I did before leaving
a week ago was to throw away my umbrella. I dropped it into a litter bin on the Belfast Donegal Road with a smirk. Ten minutes later the heavens opened and the smirk had transmuted into a grimace. Not even the last evening in would be rain free. I sighed and trudged onward, gathering my coat to me while trying to be positive about getting soaked. At least, I supposed, the appalling summer weather would make my departure from my home town for a warmer climate slightly less painful. In just 24 hours I would be enjoying clear skies and baking temperatures in Ireland . It was hard to remember what that felt like, to walk along the street without the accompaniment of a chill wind. Spain
In the depths of last winter I took a decision to go and live in
for a year or maybe even more. This is no holiday that I am embarking on. Neither am I retiring. I am getting old and instead of sitting around in my terraced house in Spain waiting for illness and death to catch up with me, I’m going on the run. Old age, and all that comes with it, can catch me on the run, somewhere where benevolent temperatures will soothe, and not aggrieve, my arthritis. Belfast
Unlike Ulysses, I was not bound hand and foot to a ship’s mast, but even so I resisted. Last week I boarded a flight bound for
and precipitated myself into the “madness”. The call of the sirens is still there, fainter, but perceptible. I felt it when I landed in the airport with my two heavy suitcases and later when I heaved them on to the single bed in the spare room of my Catalan friends’ home. Moving from a house into a single room is hard to justify, the sirens whispered, so this experience better be worth it. Barcelona
But I am only here in this single room temporarily. I have begun my search for a place to live, somewhere that is
Mediterranean, exotic, with a hint of Bohemian character; above all it must have a soul.
None of the property ads I have seen so far speak of “soul” and their hard-nosed Catalan owners and estate agents would cringe if I were to mention the word. Instead, the defining factors in my search have become firstly, noise and secondly, light. Too much noise and too little light. In a country where the car reigns supreme and the volume of traffic is both intense and relentless, finding a home where one can sleep undisturbed is equivalent to mission impossible. The hum of traffic is one thing but the stentorian blast of car horns deep into the night is another. Light, or rather the absence of it, in the bedrooms and even in the living rooms of some otherwise “acceptable” flats I have seen so far leave me shaking my head in disappointment. Owners and agents have grandly opened doors into dungeon-like chambers, so dim that the bed was barely discernible until the light was switched on. To wake to permanent gloom in the
Mediterranean would be unforgivable the sirens rebuke. Enough of that in . Now, before a viewing, I ask if the bedroom is exterior, as opposed to interior. But it’s Catch 22 because an exterior bedroom leads me into a head on collision with noise from the street. Belfast
The most tempting abode that I have viewed this far into my search was one of the first in my quest. The bedroom was bathed in “natural light” flooding in through large patio windows leading on to a balcony overlooking an astonishing array of Roman ruins. It was undoubtedly a room with a view. Mentally, I was already unpacked and bestowing my personality on to the apartment, seeking its soul. Then the owner dynamited my reverie sky high.
“You can only have one of the two bedrooms. You choose which, but I need the other.”
I’m a married man, thirty one years married. But I still have my needs.”
Fearful of what was coming next, I gave him my full attention.
“My friend, girlfriend I mean, from
Barcelona, comes down to a couple of times a week and I don’t take her to a hotel. I bring her here. I hope you understand the way these things work.” Tarragona
I nodded, knowing very well how these things work from the bitter experience of a cheating husband. I smiled benignly.
“Of course I understand. That’s life, isn’t it?”
The smile was beginning to wear thin so I dropped it into a neutral expression. Sordid and sleazy, a squalid little arrangement, the sirens hissed. No thanks. I shook his hand anyway and mustering all the sincerity I could, I told him I would give careful consideration to his proposal.
Stepping out into the bright sunlight, I glanced up at the sign on the corner, Calle Gasometro,
Gasmetre Street never would have suited me anyway.