A gated community for the rich in Spain? No thanks
Give me a busy egalitarian community over a gilded cage any day
I was talking to a thin brown man I am acquainted with, his bony legs (and my more substantial ones) dangling in the cool blue water of the municipal swimming pool that serves the mountainous Spanish village I’ve been staying in.
He was wearing a bleached straw hat and baggy cotton trunks, and his nut-brown abdomen wrinkled ever so slightly under the milky sun. He was telling me about his ex-wife, who has various homes scattered around Europe, one of them in a gated community down on the coast. You have to have a permit to enter the neighbourhood, he told me.
Her neighbours – those of leather-booted oligarchs and silk-wrapped sheikhs and others who, maybe by kicking a ball accurately, or exploiting the resources of small republics, or distilling aphrodisiacs or God knows what – have made themselves exceptionally rich.
How did his ex-wife make her money, I asked him.
“She’s beautiful,” he said, without rancour. “Always was, still is. Women like her don’t end up in places like this.”
I went back to my book under the lemon tree, unwrapped a home-made sandwich from its tinfoil bed. Sturdy brown toddlers in water wings bobbed on the surface of the pool like lovely fruit.
Open the gates
I’d hate to live behind gates. The village’s communal pool is open from early July until mid-September. It costs €4 for the day. There’s a bar, showers, tombolas, ice cream, a pool table, food – but you can also bring your own. You can bring the kitchen sink if the fancy takes you.
One Sunday last year, when the sun was so hot that walking felt like drowning, and the mad-eyed guard dogs chained to tool sheds down on the campo were too exhausted to howl, and the goats slept and their bells were silent, and the narrow whiteness of the streets burned your eyes, I sat in the shade by the swimming pool and watched entire extended families arrive for the day.
They carried barbecues and cool boxes and picnic tables and stackable chairs. Into the silence came great gusto. Thickset men, brothers maybe, threw each other fully clothed into the pool, golden-brown children dive-bombed floating mothers in pleated swimsuits, babies napped, food was cooked and consumed, ants built empires from the scraps.
I’ve been coming to this village since before my eldest son was born. Since my sons have got older and can carry their own backpacks, we’ve also ventured beyond the village, spent time crossing the country by bus.