It starts with a sniffle. By the time I arrive in Valencia my cold has well and truly set in, despite the 30°C heat. I rifle through my bag, searching for packets of tissues consigned to a forgotten pocket months ago.
On Sunday in Valencia the neon crosses that usually glow green on every street corner are switched off. I ration my way through half a card of orange Strepsils, and plan to visit a pharmacy and replenish my paracetamol supplies first thing on Monday.
Instead of ordering beer and wine to accompany menus del dia and tapas over the coming days I opt for soft drink. My consumption of Coke reaches heights reminiscent of my early teens, when it was my social lubricant of choice (post-cordial, pre-cider). Its effectiveness in this regard, I soon learn, is now much diminished, but its healing powers outstrip that of booze.
I become lazy in Cordoba. This isn’t really in my nature; having down time requires an ironic, concerted mental effort and constant self-reassurance that it’s ok to rest. But still, I pull it off: I doze in the early afternoon, get a massage, write a letter on my hostel’s terrace while the sun warms the back of my neck. One night after an early dinner I lie in bed and watch Absolutely Fabulous on my laptop, slurping black tea from a soup bowl.
I begin to feel better after four or five days, but retain the same relaxed pace. I linger in cafes and skip cathedrals in two non-consecutive towns. I listen to ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’ a dozen times, if not two dozen, as I recover: at the beach in Valencia, in the shower, meandering around Granada’s cobbled streets in my ugly grey thongs. Despite the song’s ever-riding hi-hat, it provides a laid-back soundtrack to my recovery. Wistful but disinterested, Sophie Ellis Bextor’s vocal beckons me back to full health in my own time. While I am moving the music is soothing. Sophie tells me everything’s going to be fine, and so it comes to pass.