Two Middle-Aged Ladies In Andalucia, By Penelope Chetwode
Just 50 years ago, rural Spain was another, medieval world.
Of the army of Britons annually drawn to the south of Spain, only one has produced a classic work of adventure and humour. Penelope Chetwode had several advantages in writing this little masterpiece. She was a companionable eccentric, obsessed with horses and Catholicism. She undertook her month-long journey in 1961 when rural Andalusia was in many respects medieval. She travelled alone – the other "middle-aged lady" is La Marquesa, "a mule foal ... more or less equivalent in horse age to my 51 years."
Chetwode's trek took place 100 miles inland from the Mediterranean. She meandered on mule tracks between a series of posadas, "an inn with stables", where humans and equines entered through the same door and shared the same toilet facilities: "When you enter the stable to attend to your horse, you open the door with a smile on your face... When you wish to enter it for the other purpose, you go with a look of grim determination and slam the door hard behind you." The appearance of a solitary Englishwoman was such a novelty that Chetwode gathered a Pied Piper train of children in many villages. In one, an athletic urchin observed her breakfast through a high window and commentated to "the inquisitive crowd" below. "The woman eats! The woman reads! The woman writes!" When Chetwode complained, he merely continued, "The woman speaks!"
She was touched by the generosity of her hosts, though a breakfast liqueur was poured "into a handy pot of geraniums" and "many is the fish soup which I have cleared up with the aid of the posada cats". Even so, the robust food sounds tempting, even fashionable, especially the "superlative" bread. One compensation for travelling in chilly late autumn was the annual pig slaughter and the consequent feast with "purple serpents" of black pudding.
Though she noted drawbacks ("The Spaniards possess a great variety of talents but plumbing is not one of them"), this acute and amiable observer concluded that the setting was like "the garden of Paradise before the Fall." Anyone planning a visit to post-lapsarian Andalusia should pack Chetwode's magical diary.
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
The Freemasons' Code: Dan Brown reveals the message that told him the door to the lodge is open
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
Film review: The Hangover Part III (15)
- 1 Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good
- 2 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 3 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 4 Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
- 5 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.