November 5, 2008


Got back from an early morning run today with Lola to find Sra Noriega ushering both of us into her apartment. "You must see these pictures of Juan Antonio," she added conspiratorially, brandishing a huge, red leather photo album displaying outsize photos of Juan Antonio taken at the wedding I’d recently taken her to.

Now, the mere mention of the words ‘photo album’ or, horror of horrors, ‘videocam’ usually send me running for cover. However, something in her manner stopped me in my tracks. When I had a chance to look at her face more closely, I could see she’d been weeping.

"You know, I’m likely to lose not only that apartment I bought for Juan Antonio but him as well", she said by way of explanation. "As soon as it goes, he’ll go… He knows I can’t afford to buy him another because of the crisis de crédito."

"But is it so certain it will be demolished?" I asked.

"Look, I love Juan Antonio but he is no Antonio Banderas! The only thing they share is the name…"

Faced with my look of blank incomprehension, she continued, with a faint hint of impatience. "Banderas lives in an illegal property nearby also due for demolition. But his won’t be demolished because he is the prodigal son of Marbella. He has a square named after him in Puerto Banús! He has a major role every Easter during Semana Santa as Mayordomo del Trono de la Virgen de las Lágrimas y Favores! He’s just received from King Juan Carlos Spain’s Fine Arts Gold Medal of Merit! He’s now producing a film about Granada and bringing much needed work to the area! They won’t dare pull his home down… Too much bad press. Bad press for Marbella. Bad press for tourism. But as for Juan Antonio’s…"

She stopped to dry her eyes. "You know, back then I was fooled by everyone. By the Registry, the notary, the State, the Junta, the estate agency. Nobody told me there were problems with the property. The headaches began much later when the courts annulled the so-called ‘building permit’ and ordered demolition. But then Angela Munoz was elected, and we thought all our problems were over … but we hadn’t taken into account, you know, the local Property Owners’ Communidad."

She was referring to the policy of the recently elected Mayor of Marbella to demolish only unoccupied illegal buildings and to the fact that the Property Owners’ Association of Juan Antonio’s urbanización responded by suing Marbella Town Hall in the Andalusian High Court and winning! And further that, since Marbella Town Hall refused to demolish either the Banderas house (above) or JA’s apartment block in open defiance of the High Court's ruling, the Association was continuing its cruzada, as she put it, regardless.

With that, she broke down, starting to sob so loudly even Lola looked up from the rubber toy she’d been trying, with a remarkable lack of success, to decapitate.

Sra Noriega eventually pulled herself together and looked so embarrassed that I had to think of something quickly to take her mind off her problems. But what? She loves to talk and she loves weddings (her dearest wish, after all, is to marry JA if her family would only let her).

So the answer seemed obvious. To show me all those photos…

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