Wednesday, 2 February 2011


9. Ibizan doll

This is the only doll that remains from my childhood. She is far from the brightly-coloured, neat little figure that she once was, with crisp white skirt, petticoat and bloomers. The rope-soled alpargatas have long since disappeared from her feet and her black stockings are in holes.

Traditional dress was still being worn when we used to holiday on the island of Ibiza.
The different coloured ribbons that were tied at the end of the plait were to denote the marital status of the wearer. Like the Ibizan girls I had my ears pierced so that I could wear the traditional gold drop earings.

10. Ibizan earings with detachable drops

My father was happy to draw and paint any locals who would sit for him. He was the sort of English man who thought that he need only speak a little louder and more slowly to be perfectly understood. Fortunately my mother was a fluent linguist, having worked as a translator in Spanish, French and German prior to her marriage. Thanks to her abilities we gained access to many and varied households.

I first went to mainland Spain when I was quite young. It was a dramatic introduction. Having obtained visas, my mother, being unable to drive, took my brother and me on holiday by train. (My father had been on holiday earlier in the year, traveling around Italy with a couple of friends, an opportunity taken because one of the friends was working in Italy at the time.) We traveled with my mother at night through the Pyrenees in a storm. The Spanish train had outside viewing platforms at the rear of each carriage and we stood, one moment in darkness and the next with sheet lightening displaying the landscape all about us.

I approved of the Spanish way of life from the start - children were not just packed off to bed at night! They were allowed out in the cool of the evening to paseo in pretty dresses or, better still, to dance sardanas in the square. No matter if, unaccustomed to this, I fell asleep at the table over my small cup of hot, dark chocolate. 
My mother knew the ins and outs of life in Spain; we did not post our cards to home from the post office where Franco's portrait hung on the wall. We went round the corner to what looked like someone's front room and conducted business from there.

I have been to Spain many times and only ever met with kindness and courtesy, not something that I can say of every European country!


  1. A lovely recollection Cher - I bet they don't sell those in Manumission these days.

  2. My family's first ventures into southern Europe were during the late 50's/early 60's. We all spoke French but not Spanish or Italian. Most of our destinations are now deep under concrete. So much charm lost forever. (I still love Formentera)

  3. This is becoming an interesting project for my memories, Tom.

    My first trip to Formentera, Cro, was in a very small boat with a priest who had obviously had a very good breakfast. It was soon given up to the sea!

  4. That'll teach you to travel with priests!