Strange, in the third week of December, to be sat round a pool in the blazing heat, concerned about burning rather than work and Christmas presents. Work can manage without me (I have to accept). My blackberry is switched off and safely locked in the room safe. And the presents will take care of themselves in next week’s traditional frenzied last-minute shopping spree. For now, my shoulders are a little sore and it is talking rather too long to attract the waiter’s attention so that I can order a long refreshing cold beer.
Here he is finally. “A large one signor?” he inquires in broken English. It’s the first big decision of the day. “Oh, go on then, gratias” I protest in fragmented spanglaise “why not?”. Debbie is gently snoring after the exertions a lazy swim and her puzzle book.
It really is delightful here, sat around the tranquil perfectly warm blue pool. The hotel is wonderfully posh hotel and the service is excellent. The other residents are mainly older, and therefore reasonably quiet and well-behaved. Although some of them really should keep themselves covered up more. There are too many beer bellies and fat bottoms wobbling around in wrinkly skin for my liking, especially before lunch. But apart from that, the only mild anxiety is whether we will find a pair of sunbeds in the sun after 11am. So far, so good.
Hard to believe next week is Christmas. The hotel has tried its best. An illuminated Santa is perched precariously on the top of the hotel roof with a couple of token reindeer. We watched amusingly as two young Spanish staff wrestled him into place. He seemed reluctant, and it took several attempts to persuade him into position. I think he was okay with the height but he was less keen on the heat. He is going to be up there for a week or so and there really won’t be much snow.
Other near life-sized Santas are sprinkled playfully around the grounds. One is lounging on a bench; one climbing over a balcony, another emerging from a large ceramic urn like an erstwhile flower pot man. Each one is wilting and rather lifeless, like half-inflated dolls. They haven’t got the enthusiasm and it really is rather too warm for them here.
There are a few other nods to the season – a tree in the bar, and elaborate nativity scene outside the restaurant, lights draped down from the magnificent stain glassed dome decorating the central atrium. But it all feels rather perfunctory; a gesture and a concession to a festival from a different climate.
I remember as a kid being told that people in Australia ate their turkey on the beach and wondered how they kept the sprouts warm. I have never celebrated Christmas Day south of Basingstoke, and we will be back in the frozen north next week for our cranberry sauce.
The northern climes demand Christmas with all its trimmings as a relief from the relentless cold and darkness of winter. Here it is an aside; an optional and rather amusing extra, an acquisition for the guests from the north. But the half-inflated Santas hanging around the sunbathed garden mock the gravity and seriousness of our tradition. We should be offended really. We put more energy and stress into Christmas than anything. These warmer countries have it easy.
And yes they do. They can relax and enjoy themselves without all of that effort. They should put the garden Santas out of their misery and send them home to their natural habitat where they can work hard distributing gifts to well-behaved children. They are like fish out of water.There are no chimneys in any of the buildings here anyway. Rest and relaxation are best enjoyed without the distraction of having to buy presents that people don’t want and organise endless food and drink which only makes us feel bloated and dozy. Christmas in colder countries has become a Trojan horse for retail sales and just another set of tasks and tensions.
Here time and tensions have ceased, and the only task I have is turning another page of my novel and applying a little more sun cream. Then my cold beer will arrive and I will have to drink that I suppose. All in my own time.
This morning, for the third course of my breakfast; sat on the balcony in the soft heat of the morning sun, I enjoyed my nod to the festive season with my lovely wife. This is how. I forced myself to eat a thin slice of black forest gateau washed down by a red berry smoothie laced with a dash of champagne. Now that’s what I call Christmas.