During the first few months after FR and I met - maybe I told you what a whirlwind start our relationship had? We met on 10th March 1996 and on 27th March, also 1996, he moved in with me...
And to continue - we began talking about moving to Spain to live together. I was lucky enough to be allowed to take a year's leave of absence, so we could see how things went without burning all bridges back again - not an option the second time we did the same thing! We purchased a valient (and as it turned out, illegal..another story) Nissan Patrol monster, packed up our belongings, topped off with a precariously balanced wicker chair, and set off. We were heading for Malaga. For two reasons. The first was that FR said the weather was very stable and temperate all year round. (Although the storms of January 1997 and the extreme heat wave in early June put paid to that particular 'fact'...) The second was that he had a friend - a trumpet player - who lived there and who played in the Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra. His name was Angel. I was impressed.
Our journey to Spain got off to a fairly inauspicious start and I actually entered the country in an ambulance. With hindsight, I know that the occasional but incredibly severe pains I had experienced over the previous three or four years stemmed from gallstones. Before I met FR, I had been treated for a suspected ulcer and told it was probably stress....neither of which was true. But the pains stopped and I forgot about them. However, as we drove through France, around Bordeaux, our picnic consisted of some amazing saussison and bread, which we ate en route. Soon after, I guess the combination of the rather fatty saussion, the long journey and perhaps a touch of tension/excitement/stress activiated my gallstones and I had an attack...I don't know if there's a medical term for it but the only way I can describe the pain is in a series of expletives. It can feel like a heart attack (I am assuming...) and like there's an intense pressure on the whole chest area, leaving me rolling around and moaning and groaning.
I tried really hard to hide it from FR but after a bit of moaning and a lot of huffing and puffing, he obviously began to get very worried. I pressed him to keep going as I knew that it would eventually stop and that there was nothing much anyone could do and also that his French didn't always reach French ears in an understandable manner....I was in too much pain to have to speak to anyone.
However, as we approached the border between France and Spain, he had obviously formulated a plan and just we crossed into Spain, he screeched up to a portacabin that was occupied by the Red Cross and explained that I was in severe pain and needed help. I was so bad by this time that I couldn't even speak much English, but I remember being bundled into an ambulance and hearing a siren. It was about 1am. We had arrived in Spain. Not quite as anticipated.
FR did a sterling job following the ambulance through the streets as we headed for San Sebastian. I remember being hooked up to a drip and various things being asked of me. And then being left with FR for seemed like quite a long time. As as suddenly as the pain started, it stopped. I suppose it's the stones that cause a blockage and that when they move or pass through, the relief is immediate. FR tried to find a nurse or a doctor but it was very quiet everywhere - 4am - and so I removed the drip and we ran away to continue our adventure.
And after stopping a few days in Valladolid, we continued our journey to Malaga. FR had spoken to Angel, (sadly, it's pronounced ANN-hel, including a bit of throat phlegm on the 'hel'....the Spanish 'g' is never pleasant.) and he and his wife and young son had offered to put us up for a few days. We had no map that I remember and only the name of the little village where they lived. We began asking for directions far too soon - on the wrong side of Malaga to be exact - and almost everyone answered 'Pa' rriba' - which means, more or less - 'Straight on'. Of course, we eventually found them and spent a couple of days in their tiny little house, very grateful for some sort of base. Over the next couple of days, we managed to find an apartment to rent in a neighbouring village and Angel and Rosa were our first visitors.
We saw quite a bit of them over the next 10 months or so that we lived in Malaga. They moved house during this time and I remember helping to move them into their new apartment in the centre of the city. Angel also managed to get FR hired to join the Malaga Philharmonic for a concert where lots of additional brass was needed. I remember that the programme included Prokofiev's 'Peter and the Wolf' and the concert was absolutely wonderful. FR got well paid too and as this was almost at the very end of our time in Malaga, it was very special indeed. Good old Angel was what we said.
And then we left. FR kept in touch for a good many years but then as sometimes happens, we lost contact.
After the fantastic concert we went to in Granada a few months ago, I have been keeping my eyes open for another and couldn't resist booking for one in Malaga, which included one of my favourite symphonies - Sibelius' 2nd. I didn't actually think about Angel when I bought the tickets but as time is rushing by and we suddenly found it time to set off on the 2 hour drive to Malaga...I wondered if we'd get the chance to speak to him again.
By the time we found a parking space, we were pretty familiar again with the narrow streets in Malaga's historic centre! I remember driving the Nissan Patrol around them and feeling the wheels scraping on both sides of the little pavements! Most of the area has been pedestranised but bizarrely, there's an underground carpark right in the middle of it all! And that's where we ended up - inching our way through the Saturday night crowds of young and old, some in pushchairs and wheelchairs, all ignoring our car as we followed the 'P' signs....with increasing concern. However, at the end, there was a car park that was packed as though it were a ferry and where you had to leave your car keys so that the attendants could shuffle them around during the evening to get some people out and more people in. Very strange!
We also listened to some great street musicians - a really cool guitarist and saxophone player - and I visited the shop in the main square where I once used to sell my cards. Well, I think I may have sold two or three....
And then it was time to go into the concert.
We were sitting really high up in the third level and the orchestra was a long, long way away. Two trumpeters came out - FR recognised one from when he played 19 years ago but the other didn't look like Angel but as there were only two of them, maybe it was. The first piece was Mendelssohn's 'Hebrides Overture' and whilst the clarinets and woodwind were brilliant, the trumpets left much to be desired. Particularly the one that we weren't absolutely sure wasn't Angel....surely it wasn't.
Then we had a Mozart symphony which we all agreed was OK but not his best. Number 35, the 'Haffner' but again, the trumpets were unimpressive. The star of the orchestra for me was the timpanist. He hovered over his pans (is that what they are called?) like a giant spider as he turned his elbows out and seemed to have overly long arms. He was fascinating to watch and when he'd done his bit, he would sit down with a very theatrical flouncing of his tails.
During the interval, I stayed in my seat chatting to the lady next to me who was an interesting old bird. Travelling alone, probably in her 70s, from Canada. She looked like a frail little thing but I really admired her as she was staying alone in Malaga, learning Spanish and had obviously been travelling around a fair bit. Hope I have her spirit in twenty years time!!
Then a lone trumpeter walked onto the stage and sat down. Now this time, I clearly recognised Angel. Funny how I hadn't been sure in the first half.... No doubt about it now it really was him, but FR was nowhere around for me to mention it (nor, for that, were any of my children...our family having a tendency to scatter at the first opportunity!) And then, Angel walked OFF the stage. As I found out later, FR had gone backstage and asked to speak to him, so someone called Angel from the stage. Apparently his face was a picture when he saw FR! I do wish I'd been there!
The Sibelius was excellent. I studied it as part of my 'A' level music and so I knew it pretty well. I have a great fondness for Sibelius, who seems to me to convey the vastness of his homeland, Finland, so well - although apparently the piece was inspired by Mozart's 'Don Giovanni' - but I simply don't hear that! I see mountains and fjords and snow-covered trees....but either way, it's a very uplifting and emotional piece. And Mateo loved it. I am still pondering Ruy's response that he liked the last movement best....
And afterwards, in the Christmas lights of Malaga, we all met up with Angel and Rosa and their son, Alvaro, who had been only two years old the last time we saw him and who is now studying piano at the Conservatory of Malaga. And Angel was just as warm and funny and full of jokes as he had been all those years ago - only this time, I could understand him. I had to confess that when we first met and I had nodded and smiled at all he said to me, I hadn't a clue what he was actually saying! What was strange was that once again, as happened to me in England last month, the years seemed to fly away behind me and we were all chatting away as though a lot of time hadn't passed and we'd just bumped into each other in town...even Mateo and Alvaro struck up an easy conversation as if they too were meeting old friends. I look forward to them coming to visit in the not too distant future!
And did I say, Angel plays the trumpet....well, like an angel!
Angels in Malaga. Lots of them!