When the long hot summer days arrive, so do our visitors, eager to share the Spanish sunshine and the peace and quiet of El Hoyo. My niece, Becky, comes every June, always alone.
She’s not married, but has never been short of a boyfriend.
“You know you can bring whoever you like,” Joe and I have always said to her.
“Nah,” she replied every time, “I like coming out here on my own. I’d have to meet someone really special before I brought him with me.”So when she announced that she was bringing her new boyfriend, Gresh, we were both surprised and curious. Clearly this was a serious relationship.
The couple arrived and we shook hands with Gresh, a tall, friendly man with an easy smile.
“Welcome to El Hoyo,” said Joe. “I hope you won’t be bored, it’s very quiet here.”
“Perfect!” said Gresh. “A whole holiday with nothing to do. Just what I need to unwind.”
But Gresh didn’t sit around relaxing. He walked round the village, calling “¡Hola!” to the bemused villagers. He introduced himself to Geronimo and peered inside Marcia’s shop and the new bar. He climbed the mountain looking for Uncle Felix’s mule, which he could hear, but not see.
Cooking was Gresh’s hobby and he insisted on not only driving down the mountain daily to shop for ingredients, but cooking splendid dinners every evening. We loved it, and were completely spoiled.
One particularly hot day, Joe suggested we should drive to the next village and swim in the pool. Gresh hadn’t brought any swimming trunks, so he bought some specially for the occasion, bright red to match his sun-scorched skin. Becky was already wearing her bikini under her shorts and quickly jumped into the pool to cool off. I thought her olive green bikini looked a little strange, but I didn’t say anything.
When Becky climbed out of the pool, I stared at the bikini again. Then I understood.
“Becky, that’s a lovely bikini,” I said, laughing, “but I think you may need to adjust it.”
Joe and Gresh both heard me and swung round to look, then roared with laughter.
Bewildered, Becky stopped towelling her hair and looked down at herself, then turned the same colour crimson as Gresh’s new swimming trunks.
“Oh no!” she squeaked, wrapping the towel around herself and fleeing to the changing rooms. She was wearing the bikini bottoms inside out and the white gusset was on the outside.
The rest of our guests’ holiday went without a hitch, except for one night when Gresh organised a barbecue. After a few beers, he dropped nearly every sausage and burger onto the floor, one by one. He laughed so hard, he promptly dropped a chicken piece.
“You’ve found a good one there,” I said to Becky privately. “We really like Gresh.”
Becky smiled, and her eyes sparkled.
When their holiday ended, we drove the couple back to the airport. This had probably been one of the easiest sets of visitors we had ever had. We hadn’t even needed to cook as Gresh had served up delicious meals every night.
“Gresh, you and Becky are welcome to come back any time you like,” we told them.
And we meant it.
Barbecued Butter Mushrooms
Makes 4 tapas
500g (17-18oz) white mushrooms, quartered (mixed mushrooms also work)
75g (2-3 oz) butter
Cracked black peppercorns
1. Clean the mushrooms under the tap and cut the base from the stalk, you don’t need to remove the stalk completely. Cut the mushrooms into quarters.
2. Tear off a sheet of kitchen foil about eighteen inches in length.
3. Pile the mushrooms in a line the length of the foil leaving a few inches spare at each end so the foil can be folded.
4. Place a small knob of butter every few inches on top of the mushrooms.
5. Fold the ends of the foil and wrap the mushrooms into a parcel making sure there no gaps or holes in the foil.
6. Barbecue for 5 minutes, turn and barbecue for a further 5 minutes.
7. Remove from the grill and carefully remove the foil parcel. Serve mushrooms as a side dish or tapas, drizzling over the remaining melted butter.
Tip: Can also be cooked with finely chopped garlic cloves for barbecue garlic mushrooms.
by Victoria Twead.
Victoria is a New York Times bestselling author. In 2004 she nagged poor, long-suffering Joe into leaving Britain and relocating to a tiny, remote mountain village in Andalucía, where they became reluctant chicken farmers and owned the most dangerous cockerel in Spain. Village life inspired Victoria’s first book, Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools, and was quickly followed by two more in the Old Fools series, all of which fast became Amazon bestsellers.
Victoria and Joe continue to enjoy life keeping chickens, writing, sampling the local wine and living alongside their colourful neighbours.
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