1. Marbella

2. From Torremolinos to Churriana

3. Ben the Baker

4. After the Fashion Show

5. The Bronx

6. You are never too old to Learn

7. Peter from Poona

8. Rule Britannia

9. Sports and pastimes

10. The Constant Nymph

11. Ben rises to the Occasion



The Constant Nymph

'Most woman are not so young as they are painted.'

When I drove Franny to the airport, I was surprised and relieved to see that her body had practically healed from the battering I had given it in Portugal, and apart from a few heavy bruises and scratches, she appeared almost like any other young girl returning from a holiday in the sun and not, as I feared, like a Vietnam veteran.

'I'm OK,' she reassured me. 'If my parents do happen to notice the marks, I'll say that I feel down the stairs.'
'It would be an odd shaped staircase to give you bruises where you have them,' I commented.

We did not talk much before she kissed me goodbye and loped off through the passport control to make a few last minute purchases at the tax-free shop for her parents and friends. We both knew that it was time for us to part. If she had stayed any longer, the games would have becomes more violent, the strain upon us, intolerable. But, once back in the States, she would long for my presence - the more the suffered, the would long for my presence- the more she suffered, the more she loved. And I knew that I would miss her and that although there was nobody on whom I had inflicted so much pain and anguish, there was also nobody for whom I felt the sea tenderness. There are many ways of loving: who is to say that ours is less sincere and worthy than any other?

However, I am still young enough to look to the future rather than dwell on the past, and I had called Ben and arranged to pick him upon my way back from the airport. Ben had wanted to spend a few days with me, in my apartment in marbella, and this seemed the ideal opportunity.

Ben was as affectionate as every made a fuss of me as soon as I came though the door.
'It's great to see you again,' he cried excitedly, as he hugged me so tight that I could hardly breathe.

'I am so looking forward to being with you again,' Ben enthused. 'I even went so far as to buy myself a new pair of pants at the Corte Ingles.'
That really was something. Ben's wardrode was not his strong point; indeed, he was contender for the little of The Worst Dressed Man of the Year combining, as he did, the careless elegance of a New York shopping Bag Lady with the sartorial splendour of a South Sea Island beachcomber. Ben, who was so generous in the way he threw his house open to me and my friends, because a penny-pinching miser when it came to buying new clothes. His purchase of a new pair of trousers at one of the most expensive shops in the area was therefore an event of the greatest significance.

'They were reduced in a clearance sale,' ben the baker explained as if he needed to apologize for his rashness.
'They are magnificent,' I told him. 'They show off your bow legs a treat. How about celebrating with a new pair of sandals?'
'No need,' Ben answered, ' there's plenty of wear left in these.' And he pointed to the faded, tattered slippers which hung dejectedly from his feet.
'No way can you wear those in Marbella, except on the beach,' I insisted. 'and to encourage you,

tomorrow I'll take you shopping in Marbella and buy you a decent pair of swimming trunks.
Wouldn't you like the girls by the sea to admire your great, sexy ass?'
'You always choose just the right presents for me,' he chuckled. 'That red toothbrush, shaped like a nude woman -terrific.'
'Well, stop talking about it and pack it into a case with whatever else you need to bring with you.'
'Oh, I'm ready. I had packed before you got here.' Ben pointed to a couple of plastic shopping bags into which he had crammed his possessions.

'God! What would the fashion magazines do without trendy guys like you?' I scoffed. 'Well, come along, my peacock.'

Ben and I had only been back at my apartment a few minutes before the Phone rang. It was Louise, an American who lived with her husband, Bill, in a super house which they had designed themselves in the hills above Benahavis.
'Say, honey, how come I see nothing of you?' Louise came from Oklahoma, and her voice had never lost its soft, slow drawl.
'Oh, Louise, you know how it is. I've only just got back from a trip to Portugal.'

'Portugal,' she echoed. 'I thought that you would have been frittering away your time with all those Arabs. You can't stir a foot in Marbella without tripping over some sheikh or other. All that oil! All that money,' she added.
'Why, Louise, I would have thought that you would be the last person to object to either oil or money.' I knew that Louise's money had come from her family planning ownership of one of the earliest of the Oklahoma pipeline companies. 'Anyway, my only companion right now is ben rises to the occasion.'

'Well now, why don't you two come on right up here? There's an exhibition of paintings by David Cradle opening this evening. And Horst will cook you a great meal. Anyway, I want to see you again. I've got something to show you.'

'And I'd like to see you too, Louise. Tell me, how are things working out between you and Bill?'
'That's to do with what I want to show you. Now don't you argue, young Xaviera. You and Ben just hop into your big, shiny automobile and get along here, as soon as you like.'

When I first got to know them, Bill and Louise were an odd, yet attractive couple. He was slow and ponderous, not unlike a larger than life version of Orson Welles, with a warm, booming bass voice. Good humour shone out of his broad, bearded face. He took great pleasure in entertaining in his fabulous house, which he had broad, bearded face. He took great pleasure in entertaining in his fabulous house, which he had built around a big pool and under-water bar, and he delighted in cooking his own specialties for his guests. His wife, like him, in her early fifties, was one of the most natural people I have ever met. She wore no make-up on her lightly freckled skin, and her hair was brushed straight down in a simple fringe. Whenever I saw her, she had on a loose kaftan type dress comfortable and cool, but completely unrevealing. Her dress sense equaled that of Ben. But they were so good-hearted that when one day, somebody had driven up to their isolated house in a taxi, under the impression that it was a hotel, they had invited him in and given him a meal.

12. The Magician

13. Say it with Diamonds

14. The simple life

15. Forced to Fast

16. The Persian Boy

17. Penthouse Pet

18. The road to Morocco

19. Have you anything to Declare?

20. Men of War

21. Fiesta in Ojen

22. Highway Robbery