My decisions about flying were cemented nearly five years ago, the last time I flew. I was off to Spain to spend spring and summer of 2006 painting watercolours and wandering the wilds of the Iberian Peninsula living off my wits and the paintings I produced! From the very beginning I wanted to get the ferry to Santander but as I was starting my journey in March I planned to head straight to the warmer climes of Andalucía. Predictably I was seduced by a flight from Stanstead to Granada advertised for £12. I packed my bag and my easel, my paints and some nice paper and said farewell to my family (at this point I remember one of my brothers saying ‘see you in a few days then!’).
Checking in at Stanstead was just about as ghastly as Id expected and the clerk was asking me the usual questions about things I shouldn’t have in my bag; explosives? NO. Aerosols? NO. Liquid based paints? I beg your pardon? Do you have any liquid based paints in your bag? Well unfortunately I use the sort of watercolours that come in little tubes and at the time security was very tight what with religious extremism and such. I’m sure if I’d just said nothing instead of arguing with the nice check-in lady everything would have been fine, but in the end it was either go to Spain without my paints of stay in the UK with them.
I landed in Granada four hours later without the very thing I needed to make my painting tour a success, the paints! Oh, and I only had 50 Euros to keep me going. From the very beginning it looked like my brother’s pessimism had been correct. But happily I had vowed as boarded that plane that I would never fly again, Never! Suddenly I had no choice but to succeed, I couldn’t break my promise, and I couldn’t afford to get on a train to anywhere so I had to start making do.
As it was things worked out rather well; my 50 Euros bought me two nights in a hostel, food, wine (always important in a crisis) and most importantly four tubes of paint, sepia, yellow ochre, scarlet and indigo. On my third day I sold two paintings for 30euros each, one of some Americans loitering around the vast gates to the Alhambra (I remember they were quite fat and brightly dressed with cameras dangling round their necks, it made a really cool contrast to the Islamic architecture), the other was a painting of some pigeons playing in a fountain at the Plaza Neuvo. I celebrated the sale with a tube of emerald green and of course a bottle of wine shared with new friends on a Granada rooftop.
I wandered around Spain, mostly on foot until the autumn and for much of the time I was living for about ten Euros a day. Many of principles Emily and I now live by I learnt whist walking around and painting the arid Spanish landscape (Emily came to similar conclusions herself around the same time a couple of years before we met). It isn’t just the idea of living for very little that appealed to me, it is the knowledge that I am not leaving so much behind me as I go.