Homecoming

How do I begin to describe it? The feeling of being home again, some nine years after I left? It’s like your first ever Christmas morning. Like getting into a hot bath at the end of a hard working day. Like falling in love for the second time. All these things at once. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it, every time I see that silhouette on the horizon, there are tears in my eyes and my heart starts racing.

I’ve lived in several places during my twenty-one years of existence, from Dover to Durham to Boroboro and beyond, but no one hometown has ever had the same effect on me as Olvera. Not even El Rocío stirs up quite the same initial rush, like a starstorm in my heart, and El Rocío is far and away my favourite place on the planet. Maybe that’s Olvera’s own magic at work. I wasn’t born here and I didn’t even live here for all that long – all of ten months and more – but if anybody asks, I always tell them that this is where I grew up. Pretentious, yes, but there’s more than vague half-blood pride behind that statement. I was twelve when I moved here, and turned thirteen just over a week after I returned to England, so I was here at a critical time for growing up. I had my first crush out here. I developed a serious passion for languages, I had my musical awakening – and consequently began to toy with the idea of abandoning my violin – and, perhaps most importantly of all, I became the avid naturalist that I am today. Oh, I’ve always been stark-raving mad about animals, but it was only here when it got to the stage where I started going out on my own and putting names to things furry and feathered (mostly feathered) without the aid of a book. My own book came into its own here – I even went on local TV to advertise it when the chance arose. Essentially, the four pillars of my life, music, writing, travel and nature, were cast here, from the same marble that mottles the rolling hills that cradle the lonely peak of Olvera.

Oh, and of course, Andalucía, like a shard from the Devil’s mirror, lodged itself in my heart and I’ve not been able to remove it since.  
I’ve used the word ‘heart’ three times now. I’m aware of that. I’ll try to keep a level head. It’s not an easy thing to do right now.

But simply being here isn’t the best part. In truth I’ve made three return trips since 2007, once with my family, once with mum when we were grounded by the Eyjafjallajökll eruption and the third, the last, towards the end of my crazy pan-Iberian adventure back in 2013 when, my endurance failing me, I turned from my road towards the homely peaks of the Sierra de Grazalema. On all three occasions I tried to find my old school companions, without success. This time, armed with WhatsApp, I’ve finally managed to track them down, and a reunion of almost a decade in the making is on the cards. Excited? You bet I am. Ecstatic? That doesn’t even cover it. I’ve been planning this day in my head for the last nine years, adding new stories every year. I’m still going to walk into it and freelance it anyway, but that doesn’t kill the hype. These are people I haven’t seen since we were primary school children with brightly-coloured rucksacks and unbroken voices. I’ll bet I’m still the one who sands out a mile with the blonde hair and the blue eyes – and now, of course, the shirts – but I wonder how much will be refreshingly familiar?

  
I get the feeling they’re planning something behind my back as well. All I have is a time and a place, the rest is Cristina’s doing. I have twenty-four hours. That’s perfect. It means that I can spend tonight rediscovering the delights of my old Friday night haunt, the pizzeria Lirios. Better still, the red murder that’s scarred my face since Jordan is fading away thanks to a visit to the doctor yesterday, and only just in time. With a little luck, I’ll be as good as new by tomorrow.

  
It’s coming up to nine o’clock. I think I’ll wander on up to Lirios. I wonder if the ginger-haired porter from the Hotel Sierra y Cal who used to frequent the place is still there? If anyone in this town would recognise me, it’d be him. He was the first Olvereñan I ever met. It would be so very fateful if he were. There’s an air of fate hanging about this whole weekend. That’s what I’m feeling. BB x

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