Moving House by Barbara Compton

I’m moving to Spain tomorrow, to Marbella. I’ve bought a stunning two-bedroom second-floor apartment close to the city centre. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. There’s a lift, so, I won’t be troubled carrying my shopping upstairs. It’s in a complex which has a gym, a sauna and a jacuzzi. I can picture myself luxuriating in the hot tub, relaxing in the bubbles, savouring its whirling jets of water as they massage my muscles and joints. The estate agent’s brochure boasts of a Turkish bath and an indoor heated swimming pool as well as a communal outdoor pool. I’ve treated myself to a new bath towel. It’s blue and white striped and looks classy. I’ll put it on one of the poolside wicker sunbeds and sunbathe lounging on squashy cushions. There are umbrellas to provide shade on sweltering days when the sun gets too hot. The development is set in luscious tropical gardens. There are palm and orange trees everywhere and borders filled with geraniums, birds of paradise and pomegranate flowers. 

My apartment is open plan. It has a huge living area with French doors leading out to the private terrace with views of the pool. The kitchen is shiny white with granite worktops. It’s got two ovens, a dishwasher, an icemaker, and a wine cooler. The master bedroom is en suite. It holds a queen-sized bed dressed in white Egyptian cotton. The bathroom has gold taps shaped like fish, a full-length mirror and bevelled petal pink tiles. There’s a walk-in wardrobe. I’ve got another smaller bedroom for guests. It all comes fully furnished; fashioned by a famous Italian interior designer. In the living area, there are two large cream leather sofas, a chandelier, and a low Rococo style coffee table. Framed prints of old Spanish travel posters decorate the walls. There’s a dining area with a glass table and chairs. The floors are gleaming marble, set off by scatter rugs in bright colours. I can imagine how I’ll sit, looking out to sea, holding a champagne flute filled with Cava nibbling on crisps and peanuts. I will have found friends and their jaws will drop when they see my show-home. I’m going to lead a glamorous life and I can’t wait. 

There’s a restaurant five minutes’ walk away. It has an outside patio area. In the evening it’s lit up with strings of coloured fairy lights. They specialise in fish. I like fish, a piece of haddock, sole or cod. I’m looking forward to trying some barbequed sea bass or dorado. They do cocktails; their Mojitos are famous. The tables are set ready for dinner with candles, pink damask tablecloths and wine glasses polished to perfection. Some evenings they have a floor show of flamenco dancers. Tall, elegant women in colourful Sevillana dresses wearing mantillas and flowers in their hair. Adorned with earrings, necklaces, and bracelets and holding decorated fans. They’ll be accompanied by a live singer and a guitar player. I’ll watch them swish their skirts and stamp their heels. They’ll click their castanets and I’ll clap my hands in time to the music. 

I’ll love wandering around Marbella’s narrow streets; lanes filled with white-washed houses and balconies decorated with tubs of flowers. I’ll take a stroll down the city’s famous boardwalk; the Paseo Maritimo and stop at a tiny cafe down a side street. A waiter wearing a long apron will bring me a cup of thick hot chocolate and I’ll dip churros in it, making a pig of myself as I watch the world go by. I’ve learnt a few words of Spanish; enough to wish people good morning or ask them how they are. I’ve time to improve when I get there. I can sign-up for lessons. On a Thursday I’ll go to the market at the San Pedro de Alcántara fairground to mooch around the stalls and pick up some bargains. I love a new handbag or a pair of shoes. 

I packed up last week. I’m not taking much; one suitcase filled with clothes, including my best stuff; a pair of yellow trousers from Marks and Sparks, a much-admired fancy red T-shirt trimmed with lace and a special shape-enhancing swimsuit I got reduced in a sale. There’s my make-up, over thirty different bottles of nail varnish and a collection of costume jewellery I keep in a musical box which plays ‘Blue Spanish Eyes’. I’ve put a few books in an old duffle bag; some romances, the prized copy of ‘Black Beauty’ I’ve had since I was nine and a Spanish English Dictionary I found in a charity shop ten years ago. I’m only taking ornaments of sentimental value; a model of Blackpool Tower I bought on a school trip, an empty bottle of Chanel Number Five I keep in the bathroom and a biscuit tin with a picture of Prince Harry and Megan Markle on the front. 

Tomorrow will be a busy day. I have an early night, but I cannot sleep. I’ve been here in my present home for two months. It’s a studio flat which has a balding carpet, an Artex ceiling and a funny smell. I lie awake until the sound of the traffic on the ring road outside gets louder and tells me it’s time to get up. I’m ready for the taxi half an hour before it’s due. I’m watching from the window clutching my handbag which contains all my paperwork and cash. It arrives ten minutes late. The driver’s called Tony. He’s close to my age and has the look of a retired lounge lizard. His long dyed black hair is tied back in a ponytail and I suspect his whitened teeth glow in the dark. It’s a short drive across town: 

‘Hello, I’m Hazel, I’m the warden.’ 

She’s wearing a thick brown cable cardigan which I’d bet ten pounds she’s knitted herself. ‘I’ll show you to your flat,’ she says. 

She’s pencilled in her eyebrows; they look like she should have used a mirror. 

‘We have a game of bingo on Tuesday. There’s a quiz night on a Friday and a man comes in and plays hymns on his electric piano on a Sunday.’ 

Her court shoes are made of hard black patent leather and make a noisy clatter on the concrete floor. Her face radiates with smugness as she opens the door to the flat: 

‘Here we are then. We’ve found you some furniture from that charity on the industrial estate that takes stuff people no longer want. My hubby took them a bookcase last year, they were ever so grateful. It must be awful becoming homeless. We see it all the time. Landlords sell up and the council helps out. Were you in temporary accommodation for long?’ 

I step inside my new home and close the door on Hazel. It smells of newly painted walls. The living room overlooks a housing estate. Red-brick terraces with unloved gardens and overflowing wheelie bins outside the front doors. It doesn’t take long to unpack my things. I settle down on my new well-worn green uncut-moquette sofa and start the search for my next apartment in Spain. I quite fancy somewhere in Estepona. 

Published in Issue #20

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