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In the spring of 2002 I was living in countryside of Andalucia when I submitted an idea for a regular column to the travel section of UK’s Independent newspaper. Intent on completing the first draft of a novel I had been working on far too long, an act of self-imposed exile had me selecting an abode that had neither phone or internet connection. My only way get in contact with the outside world was to take the hour long walk along a country road to the nearest pueblo and use a cyber café. I emailed off my submission with high hopes, as the newspaper had already published two of my travel articles.
The proposed column would consist of humorous anecdotes centred around the ex-pat life of an aspiring novelist in an Andalucian pueblo. As it was not intended for publication, I based my example on Conil de la Frontera, a few miles away from my little house. Taking care to rename the pueblo Santa Catalina, my account of a New Year’s Eve at a bar in the central plaza was garnished with a little poetic licence to liven things up a bit.
Imagine my horror one Friday morning when I read a discovered an email saying my proposal had gone to press for the Saturday edition, but the travel desk was having some difficulty in locating Santa Catalina on a map. Something had got lost in transit. Rather than face up to the mistake, I did what any self-respecting journalist with an ounce of integrity would do, I allowed the story to be published and be damned. Having rushed to the nearest phone box to try to put things right, I ended up confessing there might be a couple of facts that weren’t really facts at all. But hey, stuff happens. I could tell nobody was going to make too much fuss about a couple of tiny little facts at such a late stage in the game, so I told the travel desk the reason the pueblo couldn’t be found on a map was because it was actually called Conil. I suppose whoever was behind the desk that morning must’ve assumed I’d temporarily forgotten what it was called while writing the piece. The Indie went ahead and published. Of course, years later I realised making stuff up is what most corporate media journalists do all the time.
The article served as a base for a series of short stories, which I am in the middle of re-editing and re-publishing on the net under the title Missives From Santa Catalina
Little has changed in the seven months since I was last in Santa Catalina. Spring and summer have been and gone. The bad news is that Juani and the boys have moved to join her husband in Barcelona. The small bar that she kept on the Plaza de Franco was the most popular in town. Seems it’s been joined to the bar next door by knocking a hole through the wall. I wonder if the owners know? Juani never did get the hang of running a business, not really sure on which side of the bar she would rather be; something she managed to overcome by dancing on top of it at every opportunity. But then again, she never knew on what side of what she was ever meant to be. Continued here
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