Our first property came via an office colleague who, by the merest chance, bought an apartment in Paloma Beach next door to Cristimar. Only used for family holidays, he wondered whether we would be kind enough to keep an eye on his property or, better still, let it to "really nice" people.
We took it on board not knowing any "really nice" people, although we heard some horror stories from other residents who had let holiday apartments. NEVER LET OFF THE STREET was the advice we were given. ONLY ACCEPT BOOKINGS BY LETTER OR TELEPHONE.
Then there was Bernardo and Berenca who, returning home to manage their family affairs, asked us to manage their apartment. And there was Anton and Maria two floors below who returned to the mainland for holidays: "Here is for home, In Bosost is for vacaciones. We live in equal partings." And would we be very kind and protect the house?
These three apartments were simply dropped into our laps and we were suddenly in business. Then there was Bernard, a businessman from Southend, whose apartment in Los Angeles on the other side of Cristimar required management. Done in five minutes: he first asked us, with a big smile on his face, if we were honest? "Well, yes - but what if we had said no?" Lizzie challenged. "I wouldn't have believed you. For me, honesty is a financial speculation. You could be on the run from some scam back home. But you look too - sorta pure." "Pure! Me! Actually, we're retired." "Retired, my arse! Even villains retire! Here's the keys."
Four apartments in the space of nine months; we had people clamouring and a fourth string relieved the pressure. Wandering minstrels are too great a risk. The standard horror story involves a group of kids who were given two adjoining apartments and promptly knocked a hole in the dividing wall, converting the two into one. Great fun! It took Ted Bear and Fred Bear and two of their mates to get them out. And the famous one where they burned the furniture one night because they felt cold. And that delightfully polite and apologetic Indian family in our Victoria1B1 whose daughter insisted on putting knives, forks and spoons down the toilet.
"Shit! How do we cope with this?"
"Take away the knives, forks and spoons," suggested Maeve.
But occasionally we get a referral from Angela, the receptionist at a local holiday hotel: she is overbooked - but she knows these people from previous visits and can recommend them.
Without a telephone, communication was difficult: often it was a note slipped under our door or placed in our post box on the ground floor. Urgent calls came via the phone in Mas a Menos. Many of Angela's visitors are Scottish. That was how our four quiet and well-behaved Scottish naturists came to us - anyway, they are subject of another story. But Angela spoke three languages including her native Spanish. She once asked me: "What is the most widely-spoken language in the world?"
Most of South America speaks Spanish. "Spanish?" I suggested.
She shook her head.
"Portuguese" - thinking of Brazil's great spread.
"OK I give up."
"Bad English" - with a sweet smile - "Everybody tries to speak it!"
Elfin-faced, little Angela looked more English than Canarian. Sideways-on she almost disappeared. She reminded me of an Arthur Rackham fantasy figure.
Clever Dick tried to do her in watercolour, made a complete balls-up, gave it up as a bad job. Did it later in pencil.
This is it with me. Sometimes I do a drawing in ten minutes and it's close to perfect. More often it takes many hours and I still can't get it right. I thought maybe the secret was oily fish; though I've noted no correlation between brain food and artistic excellence. I envy these beach artists who can do a good likeness in about twenty minutes with little preparation and nothing more sustaining than a can of coke. So I just did the head. "Be serious", I urged. But every time I looked up she was laughing. While many visitors were "envoyed" to her desk, I was hidden behind it for the simple reason that I am a shy soul and don't like people looking over my shoulder. One group of visitors always stands out for Angela.
"I always recognise Scottish peoples," she told me. "They have the bad teeth."