Marbella, on the Costa del Sol.
Let’s be upfront about something. The town doesn’t hold much appeal for me. I come here for two things, and two things only: La Cañada, and R’s family gatherings. It’s the latter that brings us here this Saturday, a warm December day that promises tapas, wine and friendly chatter.
Driving into any town is a strain on our relationship. We usually bicker, trying to find a parking space or just trying to find our way. This time round we have a go at each other when we drive into a car park that charges a maximum of 20 Euros a day and I decide to immediately leave again via the other exit. R is anxious to get out of the car and not waste the day looking for parking. I am anxious not to waste 15 Euros I know we can save if we just find our way to the market. Different priorities, you see. You win some, you lose some. As I am the designated driver, I win this one.
Marbella, though posh and at times overpriced, doesn’t score on the style front in my books. Frankly there is some awful crap to be had, for people with more money than sense. This would mean that shopping in Marbella wasn’t of any interest to me, but then, you see, there is La Cañada and having driven for over an hour, it would be a waste not to go there after a few tapas and pinxos with family G. The wine facilitates that R agrees to come along, the wine and my insistence that we need to get him a new pair of jeans. I’m not that worried about his jeans quite frankly but any excuse is good enough. Purchase made, I send him off to do some shopping on my own. Nothing worse than a bored boyfriend following you doggy eyed around the stores.
It’s Christmas though. The shops are full of tack. I find myself in Desigual, of all places, a shop that until recently I used to loathe with a vengeance, and which just about managed to redeem itself by providing me with this year’s best winter coat. But today, I spot something different that gets my heart racing and my head spinning with excitement.
It’s a dress.
A dress, okay?
Anyone who knows me knows that I wear dresses pretty much every day. I have many. I counted fifty a while back and the collection has been steadily growing since. Mentally ill perhaps, but also very, very much my style. The dress is buttoned, with a collar and full skirt, and a rather bonkers pattern. This dress is not for the faint-hearted. This dress is for the serial dresser. When I lure R in to have a look he is magically drawn to it.
“That really caught my eye.”
“Uhu,” I nod, eyes gleaming.
“That’s really you”.
Thank you, R. You totally made my day.
However, there is a problem. The one in my size has a huge rip across the belt. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed, but I won’t buy anything that’s already falling apart in the shop and especially not if it has a Desigual price tag. The second one they have in my size (yay) has bobbles all over the fabric (doh). I have multiple mental disorders when it comes to clothing and OCD is definitely one of them. I won’t buy anything that’s less than perfect. I couldn’t enjoy it. It would make me feel dirty. So, I leave the shop with nothing but a tear in my eye. R tells me how proud he is of me for walking away, but his words just ring hollow in the emptiness of the bereavement I feel inside.
The following night, I have wine-fuelled dreams about the dress. Something’s gotta be good if it follows me to the other side of consciousness, so when we return to Tarifa the next morning I find myself frantically mulling over the options. There is a Desigual section in El Corte Ingles in Algeciras…. however the dress doesn’t appear when I check their website. Bugger! When I check for it on Desigual’s own website, I discover that my size has sold out. At this point I’m breaking into a cold sweat, and not only because I can still feel the aftermath of last nights one brandy too many. I am cursing Tarifa now, if this was Dublin I’d be out there right now getting my teeth into this dress in one of its many temples to consumption. But this is small town Spain, it’s December and it’s Sunday. What I’m saying is, it’s dead out there. Totalmente muerte. All I can do is search every nook and cranny of the web. I finally find the dress on Amazon.co.uk. God bless a good multi billion dollar online operation.
Why am I telling you this, you wonder? Because small towns are full of surprises. As I write, R has left the house to witness a “pig stabbing” – his words, not mine. Apparently there is a traditional slaughter festival going on in the Alameda square of the town this afternoon. As a vegetarian, staying at home seems sensible. Also, my dress has arrived from Amazon and I need to spend a good half hour going over it for quality control purposes. It actually has a small printing error on the fabric but I think I can live with it. Did I mention I have OCD? Later this afternoon, I chance leaving the house for a trip to the local supermarket to pick up some (non-pork) dinner supplies, hoping not to run into any pigs being chased by men with pitchforks. No pigs, however another otherworldly sight has me mesmerized as I turn the first corner onto the Batalla del Salado, the new town main street which is littered with trendy surf shops. It’s an apparition. It just has to be.
My dress, the exact dress I ordered all the way from England, on display in a shop window less than a two minute walk from my front door. I blink but the image just won’t go away. I blink again. Then I walk on briskly, feeling utterly foolish.
Let’s just never mention the carbon footprint of my purchase again, shall we? I promise I’ll make up for it by loving and wearing it for a very long time. But let’s mention at this point that it is indeed safe for vegetarians to come and visit our beautiful home town on Spain’s Southernmost tip. As R confirmed, no pigs were harmed in town today (they already arrived dead, bless them), and if you’re looking for a dress to kill, Tarifa’s as good a place as any to start looking.