Seen this in the newspaper? Macmillan's been going on about how well-off people are in Britain these days. "Never had it so good," he reckons. I've got news for you, Harold. They're not the only ones.
Of course, it takes a few days for the English papers to get here, but I can live with that. It's all part of the pace of life. Mañana. Or whatever the day after mañana is. Nobody seems to bother that much. Least of all me. It took me a while to adjust, but now I've settled into a nice leisurely routine. Wake up with the sun streaming in through the window. A dip in the pool, then breakfast out on the terrace: coffee, rolls and freshly-squeezed juice straight from the orange grove. Then a gentle stroll into the village, sit and read the paper, another coffee perhaps, or sometimes even a livener if I've indulged a bit too heavily on the local firewater the night before. A wander down to the beach for a swim, and then perhaps a light lunch, and plan that I'm going to do for the rest of the day. If anything. That's the great thing about life down here. I can do exactly what I want. And if I just feel like having a totally lazy day, I can.
Some of my old mates in the East End reckon I'll get bored pretty soon, but I don't think so. I'm just taking it easy for the first few months. Unwinding. I've got plenty of time to decide what I want to do. And, it goes without saying, the money to do it with.
Don't you miss England, they all ask? Not really, I tell ‘em. Going down to see West Ham on a Saturday, perhaps. A night out with the lads. A decent pint, and some good old greasy English fish and chips. But nothing I can't live without. And look at the compensations. A life of luxury. Every man's dream. An idyllic little spot like this, miles from anywhere. And the sun shining all year round. What more could you want?
The villa alone would knock their eyes out. I say villa. It's a hacienda, if you want to give it its proper name. Acres of land. A swimming pool in the back yard. Perched right on top of the hillside, looking down on the village. The views are unbelievable. You can see the whole sweep of the bay. Nothing except mile after mile of pure white sand. The fishing boats coming in with the early morning catch. And the sunsets. It's enough to turn you into a poet.
In fact, there's a couple of them in the village. Americans, from their accents. A long way from home, anyway. Live in one of the old cottages down near the quayside. Always go around together. Reckon they could be ‘ginger’ if you ask me. But they keep themselves pretty much to themselves, and don't seem to bother the locals or scare the horses, so I don't suppose they're doing any harm.
Dropped out of society, that's what they call it, isn't it? You could say I've done the same. Except I don't walk around with a goatee beard and a black polo neck sweater reading all that beatnik crap. I'm not interested in denouncing the material world. Far from it. I plan to enjoy every minute of it.
That's why I planned the robbery. And made sure it was a big one. Couldn't see the point of taking all those risks for just a few thousand. This was going to be a one-off. Set me up for life. No more scrimping and scraping. I'd seen enough of that growing up.
It was the war that made me realise that there had to be more to life than sweating your guts out in a job you hated, just to have enough to be able to pay the rent, feed the wife and kids, and maybe have a few bob left over for a pint and a packet of fags. I don't mean the whole "coming close to death" thing. I made quite sure I never got near enough to a Jerry bullet for that to happen. No. It was rubbing shoulders with people from other walks of life. Especially the officers. Seeing what privilege, education, money could bring you. Well, I'd missed out on the first two, but there was nothing that said I couldn't have the third.
I resented them. Born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Parents loaded with money. They'd had it all laid on a plate. They didn't know what it was like to see their mother with barely two brass farthings to rub together, going without food because she had five young mouths to feed; growing up in a street where you were considered posh if all your kids had shoes to their feet and an arse to their trousers; and leaving school knowing that the best you had to look forward to was following your old man into a job down the iron works in Canning Town, breathing crap into your lungs every day for fifty years, and wheezing your way through to a pension at sixty-five, if you were lucky. That wasn't going to be enough for me.
The robbery went off without a hitch. Everything had been planned down to the last detail. That's another thing I've got the army to thank for. One of the biggest bank jobs in British history, so the papers reckoned. And split just the four ways. Who wants to be a millionaire? I do, Cole my old son.
I chose this place on purpose. The Old Bill would never find me down here. And Franco and his pals have bigger fish to try. The locals think I'm just some rich English businessman, made enough money to be able to retire whilst still the right side of forty, and doing more than my bit to support the local economy. Such as it is.
Nobody speaks a word of English, but that's not really a problem. I'm learning the lingo, and in the meantime I've found I can usually get by with a bit of sign language and a cheeky smile. Shopping and everything like that's taken care of by the maid. She even takes care of me. Pretty little thing. Named Maria. Stays the night quite often. I love to watch her wandering downstairs and out towards the pool first thing in the morning, slipping off her robe and diving in, naked, the sun glinting off her body. She'd never get away with anything like that on the beach, of course. They're a conservative lot here. Very religious. Lock her up if she was caught wearing anything less than a swimming costume my old granny wouldn't be seen dead in. But up here, there are no prying eyes to have to bother about things like that.
I think it’s the peace and quiet I like the best. I could have bought a fancy apartment in Rio or Acapulco, lived like a real Flash Harry. But I'd had enough of cities, crowds, noise. I wanted somewhere I could put down some roots, relax, enjoy some of life's simpler pleasures, but with the knowledge that when I want to buy something, then money's no object. I'll be able to fly the family out to see me, once things have cooled down a little. It’s not that far. And who knows? If Maria and I hit it off, I could soon be starting a family of my own.
You know, I can just see myself in twenty-five or thirty years’ time, wandering down to the harbour with the grandkids, showing them the fishermen mending their nets, explaining that nothing's changed around here for donkey's years. I'll even be able to point out the old windmills on the headland and tell them that's how the village got its name. The tower of the windmills. Torremolinos.
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