Friday, 22 April 2011


Our car, un-named after nine years of loyal service, now belongs to  Sazzie and has left the county and gone North. So it's to be Shank's pony from now on, [which can only be a good thing]  or the Bus [once I can stir myself to apply for our free bus passes] or taxies.

Neither of us enjoy driving any more, one seems always to be on a conveyor belt of irritable drivers, and, aware that we might not be quite as alert as we once were - plus the fact that the car was only used to drive to Tesco once a week, and  was costing us more than it was worth - it was really no hardship to let it go

 You notice that 'it' had no gender- neither a she nor he was 'it'. And the reason for that was because it had no story attached-it was a common or garden  all round good egg, neither fish nor fowl; neither a banger nor sporty eye-catcher, or hugely expensive glittering status symbol. It was simply our last car...a Peugot 306, dark blue, alloy wheels and only 44.000 miles on the clock.

I asked JP 'How many cars have we owned?'

He screwed up his forehead and drew in his lips and I thought, here we go...I wanted him to start at the first and continue chronologically; that was the reason I had pad and pen at the ready. I rushed in before he could muddle my head, zigzagging from T.bird to 2CV.

'The first was the Simca, right?

His forehead relaxed 'Ah yes! Caan 1959, the Epicerie...remember?
I wrote down Simca and 1959 and already had that story in my head.

'Then what, the Hillman?'
He gave me one of those scathing looks designed to reduce me to a mere woman, and he tutted, he actually tutted. I held my hands up and bowed to his greater knowledge of motor cars.

'It was a Ford Prefect.'

'Was that the one that caught fire?

'No,that was the Hillman.'

'Then there was the Humber Super Snipe that I bought for £50 while you were away having a ball on the Riviera when our one and only son was a mere six weeks old.'

'That was business, why do you always bring that up?'

'Because you always rise to it like a fish to a fly, and it amuses me...there were rumours you know.'

'Then the Pontiac in Canada, followed by a Thunderbird...'
We got sidetracked for a while, gliding through the States in our red beauty, and I brought out the album and we were lost in our young selves. Riding back to the Mexican border in  air-conditioned style.

'After the T.bird?'

'I'll make  a list for you later, go and write something.'

So I shall.

The Simca

We had bought a tiny shop in Caan in Northern France, in the brave but mistaken belief that we could turn it into an Epicerie and make some sort of living out of it.

We now had a car, a second hand Simca which JP could not drive. He took lessons from a Madame Granvale, a stern, tiny bird-like woman who looked like a Max Beerbohm cartoon with a pouter pigeon chest, a long nose,  no chin and a Madame Pompadour hair style . 

While taking the lessons and waiting for his licence, he would wash and polish the car till it shone then sit in it in it’s parking space behind the shop, reversing a little way out and then driving back into his slot. He passed his test and received his licence on the day we sold the shop. We could not face going back to England only three and a half months after leaving. We decided that we would go to Spain, to Majorca, find an apartment and rent out rooms. We now had a little money and were positive that we had found the answer.
            We made a bed for Sara on top of our cases in the rear window, and set out for the long drive through France and Spain over the Pyrenees - where we brushed our teeth in a mountain waterfall - and on to Barcelona where we took the ferry to Majorca. It was a huge adventure, but we were young and happy together, we answered to no one and the world was our oyster. 
This is the story of that time. All the pictures enlarge with a click..

by Moannie
I would dearly love you to meet Felicity and Mr. Joe, two more lovely and eccentric people who touched my life. But before I do I shall fill you in on some background.


Sazzie was born in August of 1958 and for nine months JP tried a number of different jobs, none of which panned out for no fault of his. We went to France and ran a business there for a few months, someone offered to buy us out and we went back to the Bay, where he worked for some months as Trainee Manager in a restaurant, but the business failed and once again there was no money coming in. Then we were both struck by a brain wave [or idiocy depending on your outlook] We had a car, JP could speak Spanish, we knew Majorca, why didn't we go there, rent a flat with enough bedrooms and rent some out. Simple!

So we packed the car with all we owned, made a bed for Sazzie on the back seat, said goodbye to mum and set off on our big adventure with a bit of money in our pockets and youth and the spirit of adventure in our hearts.

It took us two days to drive to Barcelona, spent one night in an Hotel and took the early morning ferry to Majorca, then drove to the Pension Ancora [where we had spent our pre-wedding honeymoon] and began or search for a suitable Villa or apartment for our new venture.

I do not know how business is carried out in Spain these days, but then it was very much a man's business. A few discreet enquiries in a bar/cafe and JP had an appointment with a Mr. Short who kept the English bookstore. Mr. Short took note of our requirements and agreed to make our needs known in the right quarters; he would be in touch. Meanwhile we caught up with our old friend Jaime. S. a Majorcain Merchant Seaman, third Officer on the Ferries, and got to know the other residents of the Pension.


Felicity Morten Farmer [not her real surname] attracted Sazzies attention first. Our daughter was a serious child with an elfin face and a smile, when she deigned to produce it, that dazzled with it's sweetness., and she decided to give it to Felicity one lunch-time, climbing up onto the chair opposite her she composed her hands in her lap and smiled full-on. I made to extract her but Felicity waved me away imperiously and gave Sazzie her full attention. They had a long conversation, slightly one-sided of course as Sazzie's vocabulary was not yet fulsome and then they left the dining room together, Sazzies hand firmly in Felicity's slender one.

We caught up with them down by the water, sitting at one of the tables outside the bar, and got to know this rather special, totally eccentric woman. Of an indeterminate age-she admitted to 41 but we found out much later that she had shaved off 20years-she had the look of a Blanche Dubois about her...blond with large fat curls held back, always, with a bright chiffon scarf. Her face, beautifully painted was doll like...large blue eyes, mascaraed lashes, tiny nose and rose bud mouth painted bright red. Her slim body was dressed in fine Horrocks' Shirt-waist dresses and her court shoes and hand bags and gloves were of beautiful quality. She was the widow of an Army Officer, a Major, and they had spent the majority of their married life in Colonial Service. She had come to Majorca because her widows pension went much further there. And, our luck was in, she was looking for accommodation.

Felicity introduced us to her friends at her local Bodega, PEDRO'S, an establishment consisting of a few small pinewood tables and stools set between enormous barrels of wine that mine host would draw our evening aperitifs from, and at two-pence a glass [this at a time when there were 240 pennies in a pound and a pound was worth about three dollars...who can do math?] you can imagine that we were a merry bunch. It was there that we met Mr. Joe and his friend Alain.

Mr. Joe and his friend were Czechoslovakian and had escaped from Czechoslovakia by marrying a Canadian woman, at least Mr. Joe had. After his arrival in Canada she had dumped him and he had somehow arrived in Majorca. Pining for her he bombarded her with letters begging her to take him back; he waited every morning at the Poste Restante office, Felicity told us. He was a very unhappy man and he had the right features for his melancholy.Incredibly tall at 6'10  he stooped as if from weariness, his face pale, always shaded by a panama hat drooped - from his brown Spaniel - like eyes to the jowls that hung in sacs each side of his down-turned mouth. Allain, was domiciled, but Mr. Joe also was looking for a rooming-house.

We re-doubled our efforts, Mr. Short came up trumps with an introduction and a rendezvous for JP to meet a gentlemen who had an apartment for rent; all very clandestine, one evening at a men's Club in the heart of Palma. Flat was viewed that evening, rent decided and we got the keys the next day.
Numero 12, Calle Elcano was the third floor of a four floor newish building. [The fourth floor flat was occupied by a troupe of Flamenco dancers who practised every afternoon on the roof terrace amongst the clothes lines] It had three bedrooms, a salon with a three piece suite of scarlet velvet covered, rococo Paris Brothel, style furniture,a bathroom, WC, and kitchen. It would do.
Our guests moved in. Felicity had a large twin-bedded room, Mr. Joe a single and we made a bed for Sazzie in a corner of our room.
Mr. Joe and Felicity hardly bothered with breakfast but it was agreed that I would provide an evening meal. I tackled the job with vigour, sourcing fresh vegetables and fish and sending JP out for meat. And it was my first effort that almost ended the whole enterprise. I stated that dinner would be at six-thirty and set about making a steak and mushroom pie. Not only was it the first meal I had ever cook for anyone beside my family, I had never cooked on a wood and charcoal fired oven and grill, and certainly not in Spain, in August, when the temperature had no difficulty reaching 40degrees in a kitchen that was a lot smaller than it appears in my picture. I diced the beef and browned it, then stewed it till tender in a rich sauce, lightly fried the mushrooms and turned this all into a deep dish. By now the room was so hot that I had a cold shower and changed into my bikini. Then I made the pastry, covered the pie, and left it aside while I prepared vegetables, potatoes for mash, and something those days I was very English and a meal was meat and two veg. Time to put the pie in the devils oven, and have another shower. By six thirty the table was laid, pie and vegetables prepared and we waited, and waited, and waited. When they arrived at nine, slightly the worse for wear but very hungry they sat down in the dining room and I plonked their food in front of them and watched as Mr. Joe valiantly tackled the now dry and sorry looking pie, and Felicity delicately picked and peered at the dark lumps on her plate.
I burst into tears and ran to the bedroom leaving JP to explain how hard I had worked and in what conditions.
Much later we all sat in the brothel, er, Salon and Mr. Joe told me in his mournful tones how very sorry they were and explained that in Spain the evening meal never starts before nine o/clock at the earliest, because it is just too hot. That I must never cook for them again, but make salads or an omelet or not even bother, they really did not mind.

Hot enough to sizzle

Felicity had an admirer, Jaime [segundo-to differentiate from our friend Jaime] a beach vendor, a small, lithe and darling man, a widower who provided for his twelve year old daughter by selling knick-knacks from a large black painted box fixed to his Velocolex. He would park his machine outside the Bodega and come inside and stand silently next to her, gazing at her with adoration while she studiously ignored him. After a while he would bid us all Bueno Apetido, touch her shoulder gently and leave. She would blush furiously and make a moue with her painted mouth and shrug her narrow shoulders. 'I don't encourage him, poor little man' she would say. Yet, every evening she, Mr. Joe and Allain drank together with Jaime Segundo and he brought her home with one arm holding her steady and the other hand pushing his trusty machine.

Jaime Secundo
We managed our little venture for three months-during which time we fell into a routine of sorts.
In the morning we all ate a simple breakfast of fruit, ensamadas or toasted bread rolls and coffee. Mr. Joe would go to the Poste Restante and Felicity would play with Sazzie, allowing her to watch her perform the miracle of transformation from pale, lined ancient to gay young thing-then she would dress in one of her three, well-worn but beautiful frocks, unpin her curls and turn them into chunky sausages wrapped in chiffon before leaving on her pilgrimage into town for coffee with her cronies, Mr. Joe and Allain. 
I would make beds and clean while JP shopped for the evening meal which now took place at 9.00pm, allowing plenty of time for the evening's carousal. After lunch I would take a tram with Sazzie and spend the afternoon toasting myself on a beach somewhere, be  back in time  for a siesta, feed Sazzie, and then go down to the Bodega for an aperitif, before returning home to prepare the meal, and then to bed.
But it had to end. What money we had bought with us was fast disappearing. I was feeding us too well and their rent had not been well thought out. JP needed to find something to do, and we realised that we were kidding ourselves...this was never going to make our fortune or even provide us with a decent living. It was fun, and despite Mr. Joe's wrapping his head in a towel to go to sleep, leaving his huge handkerchiefs to soak in the bath, and his inability to smile, we really were very fond of him, and Felicity had become very close, especially to Sazzie, who adored her. We had to tell them they must leave.

Strangely it was the impetus Mr. Joe needed. He wanted to go home to Czechoslovakia, now he was a Canadian Citizen he was free to return. He bought our Simca and left three days later with Allain.

I wrote a short story once, wherein I imagined Felicity and Jaime Segundo got together-she drew portraits of holiday makers, while he sold his knick-knacks. Sadly that did not happen. She too went home to England and moved in with an un-married niece. We kept in touch for a year or two, then we emigrated to Canada and we lost touch.

My dream for Felicity and Jaime Secundo

We have never been back to Majorca and only once more to Spain, for a ghastly two weeks in Sitges, but that is another story.


  1. What an amazing life you have lived! I have never been anywhere, besides New Orleans to see my cousin, or once to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, and then once to Texarkana to spend the weekend with a friend. Otherwise, I have spent 55 years here in Texas. I love reading about your adventures in Spain, France, England, and Canada. Thank you so much for sharing....I love reading about your food, too. So much I will never experience! But, I can live your adventures through your stories!

    I am so sorry that you gave up your car. I do understand what you mean by "conveyer belt of irritable drivers"! I think here, at least, the price of gas is adding to their irritabilaty! My hubby gets so upset with people who have to drive right on his bumper that it isn't pleasant to ride with him! And we used to LOVE to go for rides in the country back in the 70's!! No longer!

    My own mom is 77. She still is driving herself and has a ninety year old boyfriend who drives, also. I dread the day either of them have to give up their car. It will really be a sad day.

  2. You will never cease to amaze me. I so love to read your stories and admire your adventures.

    Giving up your car is a big decision. I hope I can recognize when I should. Mom just had to give up her Lincoln Town Car when I moved her to Arizona

  3. What a wonderful story you tell! It is wonderful what you can do when you are young and foolish and brave.

    I loved Majorca......still long to go back and live in Palma...sigh. Not likely, but a good dream to have.

  4. By the way......I have to go to the DMV next month and get my drivers' License renewed before my 84th birthday and I am in a state of high anxiety. I am not ready to give up driving (though I sometimes joke that I should not be allowed on the streets.)

    (I am still a good driver and really drive very seldom, but when it is necessary off I go)

    I admire you enormously for being so accepting of giving up your car.....just the thought makes me really cranky and dangerous to be near.

  5. Such lovely memories and I love the way you tease JP about the Humber... I want to hear that story!!

  6. I stumbled across your writing by pure accident, how glad I am, it truly was serendipity.

    Your style of writing, your attention to detail, the way your bring things alive and paint pictures with your words

    It brings to mind the writings of Gerald Durrell, someone else I have a huge admiration for!

    The temptation is to sit and read for hours but Im viewing you as a luxury box of chocolates and dipping in and out as a treat.

  7. Such a great story. You really do bring the characters to life -- and I love the pictures. Looking forward to reading more of your adventures and the humorous way you describe them.

  8. There comes a time when it seems right to give up the car and we are nearing that time, too.
    What a wonderful story teller you are and the pictures are lovely.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  9. I'm in the middle of an essay, then a novel, than a romance in a faraway land. Ah, to write like this, to live like this. Moanie, you are masterful!

  10. What a very colourful and adventurous life you've had! And you write so well, I could picture it all, from Sazzie on the suitcases, to you brushing your teeth under the waterfall and the saga of the chicken pie!

    And those watercolours are amazing. Just beautiful. Such a light touch and such charm.

  11. There's a gentle touch and grace to your watercolours that is reflected in your words and the way you tell a story. Truly a wonderful account of life.
    Of all the cars owned the Humber Super Snipe was my favourite. For over year it had Just Married written in lipstick on the back window, embarrassing when I became pregnant but I refused to allow my husband to remove it in case it left a scratch! The words finally faded just after my first child was born. Ahh, just sweet memories.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story and sparking my little trip down memory lane.

  12. Just wanted to pop over here and say hello, Moannie. I would love to be one of those people who doesn't own a car, but where I live, I need one. As it is, mine has been forcibly parked for a couple of weeks now while I get better and then go get the tags (which expired while I was otherwise occupied). It feels odd not to have the mobility at the moment. I'm depending on my ex-husband for rides. D

  13. My God, Moannie! What a huge, lovely, intriguing bunch of stuff you've given us here. So much to enjoy, and via a wonderful device of a list of your cars. Inventive as all hell.

    You always make it worth the trip here.

  14. You were so brave! Packing up with a small baby - and no rubber knickers in those days, let alone disposable nappies. What a wonderful story, hope you can give us a story for each car. I remember the Ford Prefect, such a staid , well-behaved little car, so aptly named. (And the Ford Anglia, with its surprised headlights, like a pug's eyes, opened up wide and enquiringly). The Pontiac, my goodness, only boy racers had one of those, what is the story behind that one!

  15. One can certainly say that you two were adventurous spirits!
    Love the story, hugs,

  16. i always get lost in your stories... i was actually trasnported to your kitchen in Majorca! :-)