It’s the mark of home. On the wall, over the sofa.
A trophy of our travels – we picked it up in the old city of Jerusalem in one of the covered bazaars there. The vendor was the usual blend of charm and ruthlessness but I believe we may even have gotten it for a half decent price.
The work is not particularly fine and a close inspection of the detail unforgiving but it’s handmade at least – a quality that distinguishes it from the rest of the “shit” that was on display in the man’s shop. His word, not mine.
Most of it’s made in China, he happily informed us.
Not this though, and I believed him. It would be a rare machine indeed – and not in a good way – that could weave the irregularities or simulate the errors which the curious eye can see all over its surface. Convinced, I paid him. We left the oriental nook with just enough money to get to the airport in our pockets and the tapestry in a plastic bag.
It may not be much but its from Palestine, not Peking. Now it hangs on our wall and marks the third home and second country we have lived in since buying it. It does that for us nowadays – important when geographical stability isn’t exactly one’s strong point.
We have other things around us that have taken on a similar role – for me my bookshelf, for K her wardrobe, for both of us the rack of knives in the kitchen, our pepper mill, the crockery. Above all the pictures on our walls; the photos, the prints, the tapestry.
They were all here when we returned from this last trip through northern Morocco but we didn’t have to wait till we got to the apartment to feel like we were coming home. It was the first time we had returned to Tarifa from what was essentially a holiday and after our experience in Chaouen it felt good.
Strange, but good. Living here has moved the goal posts when it comes to choosing appropriate places for a bit of downtime. If you’d asked me a year ago to describe the perfect spot I might have rattled off a list of qualities that included an antique town, a square lined with bars and restaurants, enough young people to keep it lively but somewhere to get away from them as well. Throw in a castle and a beach for good measure. Some kind of programme of cultural events to keep things civilised. Oh and the food. Good, cheap food. It would have to be Mediterranean, preferably Spanish.
So you see the problem. We live in that description now. It will be hard to holiday in any similar place. Chaouen couldn’t compete – we eat better here, for less. The weather is better. Crucially, there is wine. It is prettier. We have the water, and we have our things – our books, our crockery, the tapestry.
None of these things can replace family of course but they are like threads that hold together the fabric of a home. They mark a place where we can invite family, and that we have done. We will be playing host to a string of invitados for the next month or so before things quieten down once again for the heat of high summer. K’s parents, mine. My brother and his girlfriend, a swathe of extended family for the marriage of an uncle in Marbella.
It feels like the the end of the beginning. We’ve woven the outline this last year; now it’s time to get on with the detail, and it will be good to populate its scenes with familiar characters.
It’s just as well the apartment feels like home now because the weekend following our return is a rainy one and we spend a lot of time in it. I usually feel sorry for myself when the weather is bad here – it seems unnecessarily cruel to me. I mooch around the place all weekend, boring myself.
On Sunday I step into the bedroom and look at K forlornly to see if she will entertain me. She has caught the fever she gets when her mother is on the way and for some hours has been scouring and scrubbing the house. As I open the door she is bent double rearranging the things we store under the bed.
“Help”, she brushes some stray hair behind her ear; her face is flushed and glistening a little with sweat “or fuck off”.
I choose the second option; I’ll do my chores tomorrow. Today I’m hungover and not much good for anything. In the morning I’ll get on with the cleansing and preparation of our apartment, of our home. For our guests.
But for now it’s back to the sofa; to lie back and look up at the tapestry.