Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Episode 3 - The Committee

A ten minute stroll down the hill towards the village takes you to the compound. Of course it’s not really a compound, that’s just what Martin rather scathingly calls it. It’s far grander name is Los Vista, and it’s a collection of fine villas set around a communal pool area, with an eighteen hole golf course and club house on site.

The villas are lovely and the communal areas are really well kept. I like their lush green lawns and the gardeners are always working on the beautiful flower beds. It’s all really nice, just not very Spanish. In fact I am sure that half the residents, especially those who spend the morning on the golf course, only ever venture outside the gates to go shopping. There isn’t any need for them to go out otherwise. Everything is laid on for them.

Malcolm and Gloria Westbury are the pillars of the expat community there. Malcolm is the chairman of the residents committee for Los Vista and Gloria spends a lot of her time raising funds for the local donkey sanctuary.

They are good people; boring, dull even, but basically good. Martin detests them of course. They are just the kind of people that he will cross the road to avoid and this fund raising meeting is his idea of hell. Why waste an afternoon with the old buggers when you could be on the golf course he would have moaned.

Malcolm and Gloria have a pretty three bedroomed villa overlooking the golf course. Their d├ęcor is more Home Counties than Mediterranean but they have made it very homely.

I’m late, as usual, and the rest of the committee have already gathered in the lounge;

Sitting very primly on the kitchen chair is Mrs Hale. Nobody knows her first name and even if they had they would be too frightened to use it. She is a scary looking woman who doesn’t seem to mix very well with other people. Apart from these meetings, the only time I ever see her about is when she is striding around the village barking orders to the local shopkeepers. I’m not sure if she’s deaf or just thinks that everyone else is.

Over on the sofa are Ken and Lizzie Jessop. They spend most days sitting around the pool drinking exotic looking cocktails and telling anyone who is mad enough to listen, how much money they made when they sold their house in Essex.

Near the patio doors, perched awkwardly on the plastic garden chairs are Sonny and his partner Michael who live in the next valley. They have walked the two kilometres over to the Westbury’s and now look rather hot and bothered. At the last meeting Sonny fell into the trap of asking Malcolm about his vegetable patch, never a sensible move. Malcolm can waffle on for hours about the problems of growing root vegetable this far south and poor Michael looked mortified when Sonny fell asleep mid lecture.

And finally, squashed over in the corner are Liam and Cassy Stratton with their beautiful baby daughter Abby. The Stratton’s have only just joined the committee. They bought the old hillside finca from the Mullers about six months ago. I’m intrigued to know how they are going to afford all the renovations needed to make the farmhouse even barely habitable. The spiraling costs of renovating the old place had near bankrupted the Mullers, who eventually cut their losses and moved to a small new apartment down on the coast.

Poor Malcolm is trying his best to get volunteers for the Annual Summer Fete. It’s the biggest fund raising event of the year for the donkey sanctuary. Every year is the same, the committee is great for coming up with the ideas but short on volunteers to carry them out. The committee as usual will be running the stalls with the old hands volunteering for the cushy jobs leaving the dreaded white elephant stall to Liam and Cassy. The poor things won’t know what’s hit them; there is nothing more frightening than two expats fighting over the same second hand lamp shade!

Finally Malcolm looks up from his clip board,

‘And the last item on the agenda, catering. Fliss dear would you possibly be able to help with this, you did so well last year, everybody was very impressed with your cream teas’ he smiled sweetly to general murmurings around the room of ‘oh yes, absolutely delicious’.

So no pressure then, and before I know it I have volunteered, yet again, as everyone knew I would.

‘We could help if you like’ volunteers Sonny, ‘more hands and all that’

Oh heck, I can just imagine the chaos that Sonny and Michael will bring to the proceedings. It’ll be much quicker if I do it on my own, but Sonny is so enthusiastic, so smiling, I just say ‘wonderful thank you that would be lovely’.

With all the jobs allocated thank goodness we can all escape into the fresh air. It never ceases to amaze me how some expats live out here. Take Malcolm and Gloria for example. Why would they think that we should have to sit indoors all afternoon when they have a beautiful shady patio that would have been perfect for our meeting? It’s so stuffy in their lounge with all those people in there, its no wonder that baby Abby slept all afternoon, much longer in there and I would have dozed off myself.

I always think that the beauty of living this far south is the weather and I for one love to make the most of it, especially at this time of day. With most of the heat gone from the sun, late afternoon is a lovely time for a stroll home and if I’m really lucky I might even see our rather handsome neighbour Paolo working in his fields. Now that’s a sight to gladden any poor woman’s heart!