What an easy life you must have, being a writer, people say. You only need work when the muse strikes you, and it doesn’t really matter where you live. No hassle, a stress-free life… and much more in this vein. I hate to disillusion them but it isn’t like that at all, sad to say. I work flat out for several hours a day, most days of the week, month after month to produce a novel. Yes, I love what I do, but easy it isn’t. And there are also frustrations, certainly in living where I do in rural Spain.
I won’t bore you with the tale of trying to get a telephone. Still working on that one, although we do now have a radio phone which also provides us with the internet via microwave, would you believe? I keep hoping it might also cook my dinner one day.
And then there is the postal service.
When we first came to live out here, we’d been living in the village for some weeks and were beginning to worry, having received not a scrap of post. Fortunately those who’d been there before us pointed out that we hadn’t introduced ourselves to the postman. Ah, we thought, this must be an essential courtesy in Spain. So along we went to do just that and Pedro declared himself delighted to meet us, welcomed us to his village and handed us a large bundle of our mail which he’d been saving for us. It turned out that he was dyslexic and couldn’t read, but once he’d connected your written name with your face, everything worked fine after that, except when we have to send a large parcel which seems to be fraught with unexpected difficulties.
We tried Fed Express. Unfortunately the nearest office is in Almeria, an hour’s drive away, and the Spanish don’t see why they should travel all that distance just with one parcel, so they hang on to it in the hope they’ll get something else for this remote part of Spain, while telling me that for sure it will be with me this week. I wait in, sitting by the phone, ever hopeful. Days later we’re running out of food and milk, or climbing the walls with frustration. We ring them and they swear they’ve tried and failed to find us in, which we know is a lie. Why didn’t you ring and we’d meet you somewhere? I say. ‘But of course we rang, senora. You did not answer.’
Eventually I gave up with them and took my next manuscript to the post office in the nearest town and asked that it be sent the fastest possible way. Urgente is the Spanish word. The man behind the counter was appalled by the weight of it, and took great pains to explain how much such a transaction would cost. An arm and a leg at least. I kept insisting that was fine as it had to be in London by Friday. Unconvinced that this little English lady understood a word of what he’d said, he called upon the entire assembly of customers gathered in the Post Office to help him, found someone who could speak English and had them explain to me exactly what I was letting myself in for. I agreed, and accepted the terms. It must be there by Friday, I said. In five days. It would be, he assured me. It took three weeks. The next time I sent it by ordinary post and it was in London in 3 days.
Here's the latest, set before and during World War I when they didn't have the internet, and no doubt their post was delivered in 24 hours flat, that is if they got a letter at all from their loved ones out in the trenches. We should perhaps consider ourselves very fortunate.