Narrow road to the beach

Narrow road to the beach

Photo courtesy of Fred Shively. See more at:

Here’s a poem I wrote earlier this summer, Before the Fall. Late June, that time of year when I still enjoy a beach day despite the flaff of getting there, still cherish hopes of becoming a slimmer, bronzer me, at ease in this here Málaga life.

Narrow road to the beach

Stuff my bag with sun-safe
stuff. Squeeze
sweaty flesh into too-
tight swimsuit and
cram hot feet into sandals that
bind like pastry strips over fruit-pie filling

Crowd on to the beach-bound bus,
fight my way off, catch
another. Find the
backstreets to the beach.
Start to wonder why I bother.

Tug off street clothes fall
exhausted on to grubby sunbed,
writhe to get the balance right between
sunburn and
sunban. Sweat.

Lie still. Eyes close.

Listen to water.

Listen to Spanish voices, my beach family of grannies, sisters,
cousins noisy kids I fall

And wake with the sea-breeze on my face, and peace.

All day I have been travelling to this:
half-hidden in sand, the chip of pure light.
For the space of a breath, loving my life.


Common Sense Sunday

Surveying new horizins in the Paseo del Parque, Malaga, 16 August

Surveying new horizins in the Paseo del Parque, Malaga, 16 August

The sun and I both emerged from our haze of obscurity at around the same time last week. It’s still hot, it’s still August, but the difference between the clagging heat and sullen skies of the past several weeks and this ‘proper summer’ have to be felt to be understood.

Since my ankle was unstapled a week ago last Friday, I’ve noticed a gradual improvement in mobility and weight-bearing with hardly any pain. I’ve even been out a few times, and late last week I left my crutches at home and trusted to the CAM walker boot to keep me out of trouble.

Today I clomped down the road with Fred and got on a bus for the first time in almost a month.  Just two or three stops on the Linea 1 brought us to the Paseo del Parque, the  ribbon of semi-tropical gardens that extends from the main Alameda Principal. And from then on, this Sunday morning was a feast for my long-deprived senses.

In the park: hibiscus – scarlet, lilac, sunshine yellow. Blue flowers of wild onion nodding in the gentle breeze, lime green parakeets carrying on their never-ending hen weekend high up  in the black-green palms. The pure primary colours of the Pompidou Centre walls at Muelle Uno. Pools of shade on the damp earth paths that crisscross the gardens, the sweet hothouse scent. Clean light.

At Galopain, the delightful French café/patisserie under the Hotel Maestranza, we met a girlfriend (all my friends are coming back from hols, yay!) sat in the benevolent shade, drank excellent coffee and ate Danish pastry set with tiny amber apricots. I saw a family and their pet dog in a horse-drawn carriage, and feria-goers flounced past in dotty dresses. Simple pleasures made sweeter by absence.

Even when I glanced at My Big Left Foot, I felt gratitude when I thought how much worse it could have been (my leg! my back! my HEAD!) and how far I have come in less than four weeks.


Shoot up, shower and shave: my noo booty rootine


Anti-coagulant in a very nice red and grey, my favourite.

Anti-coagulant in a very nice red and grey, my favourite.

I recently sent my Spanish accountant the following text message:

“Are you nearly home? If so, I will defer my toilette until your return.”

This should give Sr. Armando something to think about besides my tardy quarterly tax returns. Blame the painkiller fairy; she brings me night-time oblivion but the price is morning brain fog.

I once told an incredulous Fred that my ‘toilette’, my daily face, hair and bodycare routine ‘took such bloody ages’ because it comprised  no less than 28 separate operations and unguents. (You’re right, but imagine how I’d look if I didn’t).

By comparison, two weeks after The Fall, my ‘toilette’ has been pared down to a monastic simplicity.  Now I can prop myself up at the sink just long enough to wash and dry my face, dab Eucerin cream on my atopic forehead, pump two globs of Clinique’s pale yellow custard over my cheeks and chin, flutter eye gel on with fingertips.

After crashing back into my handy office chair for a rest, it’s time for hair:  Stand up again, head in sink, one go with the shampoo. Towel dry and spritz with John Frieda conditioner. Comb and leave to dry, though nature is not the savviest stylist, plus it’s three weeks overdue for colour and yes I look like a bearded collie, but I really don’t right now care.

Bless my bidet! A strategic lather and rinse, and I can heave myself off and straight on to the toilet opposite to towel dry. Depile if necessary, deodorise, dress.

My sister Sosi, who has often wondered aloud at ‘what on earth I do in there?’ will be impressed to know that I have cut down my routine from her (overgenerous) estimate of ‘over an hour’ to about 15 mins flat.

Finally, with Fred and Ed safely out the door for their morning walk, it’s time for my favourite part of the day: injecting myself with anti-coagulant.  Find and pinch a new bit of flesh around my stomach for the wicked little needle to bite, sink it in and press the plunger. It always leaves a waspish sting as a parting gift, and sometimes a dramatic purple bruise. I have got better at this, the plums are more like grape pips now. Delightful!

Damn…I’ve just lost another acrylic nail, will have to go and saw my finger off.  Hasta next time!






Day 16: Going for bold


With my new CAM Walker Boot, I can ‘Just (About) Do It’

There was so much riding on Day 16: I was going to have my stitches out. I was going to track down, buy and wear a CAM walker boot. I was going to wobbly-walk my talk about getting back to full mobility by mid-September and join the (partial) weight bearing masses once again.  And I was going to do all this in Spanish, in Málaga, in August.

My worst-case scenario was: they don’t take out the stitches, they don’t advise the boot, I re-enter the flat no more mobile than when I limped out. My best case was: they take the stitches out; somewhere in Málaga I find the right boot to buy.  I return able to navigate our apartment on one and a half feet, and go out for an hour a day.

And today, life obliged. Not without a certain evil twin personality change on my part, but still.  You see, Sanitas, my health insurer, paid for the surgery and two nights at their clinic. But (as I’ve heard said before) aftercare advice was minimal to nil.

One day after surgery, I barely managed to commandeer a wheelchair to get me from reception to the cab. No-one explained how I should give myself the delightful anti-coagulant injection in my stomach every day. I have had to be proactive while prone, chasing the clinic, ensuring that things happen as dictated by the surgeon in my ‘alta’ or discharge note. I had to find my inner bitch, and I did.

I raised my voice and talked over the nurse and receptionist who were interrupting me. I asked them every question on my obsessive list, and poured bad Spanish into their ears at high decibels.  I still didn’t get to see a doctor or get an x-ray, but felt better anyway.  The nurse got her revenge by unstapling my surgery wound with a firm hand. Then I guilted her into adjusting my crutches three or four times until they were right.

Fred and I celebrated with my first outdoor café con leche and pitufo roll in two weeks, then took a cab to the huge ‘orthopaedic pharmacy’ in Alameda Principal. Where again, I had to stare down the indifferent assistants, loudly make my requests, and beat a queue-jumper to get to the technician who would adjust the boot.  I Just Did It.

Leave aside the fact that I shouldn’t have been allowed to buy the boot at all; that no doctor saw me or pronounced me fit to go that stage, that the boot cost me €130, that it weighs a ton and hurts a bit. I clomped out of that infirmacy feeling like Six Million Dollars (does anyone remember that epic series)?

Now I am dizzy with possibilities. Get my hair and nails done at my lovely Aveda salon round the corner; go to Carrefour supermarket with Fred tomorrow and CHOOSE stuff; plonk down at the nearest café with a friend. Can’t wait.

Will report back on real life en la calle soon.  What about you? Do you have simple pleasures that you take for granted – what would you miss most? Hope to hear from you!


Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever

Another August day indoors,

with crutch and castor crossing floors.

Two weeks unwashed and unadorned,

don’t know who I am anymore.

Morning afternoon and night,

artificial light and air.

My hair let go, and hollow-eyed,

In darkened rooms I dream of sky.

Still playing with those naughty rhymes! Our task was to write couplets in full rhyme, near-rhyme and no rhyme. I smooshed them all together and this was the result.


Into thick air

Today I left the apartment for the first time in 12 days. On crutches, I crossed the landing, got into the lift and descended to the garage, where I loaded myself into the passenger seat next to Fred. “I’m not getting out of the car anyway,” I said.

The garage doors folded open and we glided up the ramp into the dazzling light. I noticed how bright blue the sky was (I only see a small square from one window indoors); how deep the green of palm trees, how the hibiscus splashed the hedges with scarlet, lipstick pink and pure sunshine yellow.

Driving along the frondy fringes of the Paseo del Parque, I didn’t know where to look. So many people and cars and shops – so much movement and colour. And for a moment, I was surprised to be in Spain. I looked at it all and thought: “what have you to do with me?

We were taking the car for its first ITV (MOT check) in Guadalhorce, a Málaga suburb. In the end I had to go into the office, wait in line to present paperwork and then find a toilet – so I bounced in and out of the car like the Easter bunny and it wasn’t as exhausting or scary as I had imagined after all these days in shelter.

We stopped at a Burger King. I climbed out and stood in the sun holding on to the passenger door; the heat was close like an animal’s breath; the first unconditioned air I had breathed for almost two weeks.

I’ve been reading some very good posts about a similar broken ankle experience by writer Mihal Freinquel.  In this one, she tells that even when they took the stitches out and gave her The Boot, she still wasn’t allowed to actually walk on the bad foot. What’s the point of it then? I’m a bit down tonight, such a long road ahead before I can walk a long road again.


4 August 2015


12 days a slave: Fred’s Day

Twelve days a slave

Get up wash dress let Eds in collect

Eds’ bed and bowl from terrace water wilting

window boxes take Eds out in steamy morning back

set table make fruit salad make and serve a

simple breakfast clear and jiggle dishes into

washer write out shortish shopping list and

leg it down to local stores come

back unpack prepare

lunch munch and unwind with forty

winks blending into wending into

kitchen paring fruit chopping chicken chunking

chai brewing for TV viewing teary victim of total ankle

failure stewing on her stoic sofa supper serving weary clearing and

subside with sinking feeling. To repeat tomorrow morning.

“Fred has always been chief cook, but now he is having to be bottle-washer too, and much else, while I languish on the sofa with my leg propped up. Almost two weeks after The Fall, I wonder if this is what his day feels like?

I’ve been experimenting with rhymes, assonance, alliteration, half-rhymes and internal rhymes in my OU course; this was a bit of a game with these elements.