Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalusia
Nine years ago – I find that hard to believe but my Andalucia Explorer blog tells me so, I wrote ´It´s fifty years since Penelope Chetwode, wife of John Betjeman, rode alone on a borrowed mare into the wilds of inland Andalusia…´ Chetwode then penned Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalusia which was released in 1963, a year I´m quite fond of, not that I remember it but I am reminded of it every birthday.
When I tracked down a copy of Chetwode´s book I read it, almost, in one sitting. Many times I exclaimed or chuckled aloud and had to reread a section out loud to my husband, She covered an amazingly large area on horseback via tracks and what could not even be classed as a pathway.
When I finished the book I got out a paper map, covered the dining table with it and plotted my own route, I was hooked. I knew that one day I´d have to follow some of her route and at the time I would have betted I could find some of the characters in the book that remembered her.
Image – Penelope
Her journey, staying in posadas – travellers´ inns took her a month, the only definite plan was to leave the Duke of Wellington´s estate near Illora in Granada province and to get as far as Cazorla Natural Park and back to Gibraltar for her flight back to England.
She started on Bonfire Night, when I was six months old and rode along until she reached a town or village and then she´d decided whether to stop. Each little town was as poor but as welcoming as the next. Her room often no more than a bed, a washstand and a 15 watt bulb. The only too more often than not was the stable and its deep litter that she had to share with mules and at times chickens and pigs as well as the other inhabitants of the inn.
In those days of few cars travellers were rare and maps non existant. When Chetwode arrived at a town she became its attraction and gained the attention of the whole village.
The simplicity and charm of the book is something all lovers of Spain should read. It shares the social history long gone, although many of our neighbours will happily recall memories of, to them, not such a long time.
Imagine my delight when I discovered a new book by someone who had been given this book as a fifteen year-old and dreamed of following Chetwode´s route to finally do so when she retired! And it arrived two days ago – I´m so excited but I will finish what I am presently reading first! I´ve only had a little peak ( several pages) but I put it down and can´t wait to dive in. This one is written by Karen Considine and is called Penelope´s Route.
Happy reading – I know I will be.
B-C-Ing-U you two weeks.. having finished the second book for sure!