There is an entrepreneurial spirit in Canillas. Besides the obligatory post office, tobacconist and general grocery store, Canillas sports a bakery, a butcher, several grocers, some hardware stores, an ironmonger, a picture-framer and (perhaps tellingly) TWO banks. There is even a take-away roast chicken establishment, open weekends by order only. Every other doorway conceals some business enterprise behind its bead curtain. You only realise that an apparently-typical house is a shop when you notice people queuing up inside.
This entrepreneurial spirit is not limited to individuals. The council in Canillas is famous for getting things done. Every year there seems to be another major project underway. When we arrived three years ago, the municipal swimming pool was under construction and finished in record time. Sedella's pool, which was started earlier, still remains incomplete. Last year, the council dug up half the main street, re-laid all the pipes and effectively widened the road, so there is now room for vehicles to pass. This year, work on the new bypass has proceeded apace, including the installation of a magnificent roundabout at the town entrance. The recent appearance of an asphalt lorry, which hangs about the bypass but hasn't yet done anything, suggests the work nears completion.
The other project is more mysterious. A substantial erection is taking place next to the village carpark. When I asked one of the shopkeepers what it was, she said she didn't know. Yet, she somehow managed to convey the strong impression that she did know but was sworn to secrecy. Now that the main structure is in place with large arched doorways all along the front, it resembles a covered market, large enough to rival that of Vélez Málaga. Whatever can that portend?
The experienced driver knows all the little alleys and side streets where one can back up and wait, but it's still unusual to drive through town without an incident. The old men sit on town hall steps and watch the chaos with evident enjoyment, occasionally giving a sporting warning about vehicles approaching round hidden bends, but more often sitting back to enjoy the resulting mishaps. If you actually want to get across the village in reasonable time, I'd recommend using the almost-completed new bypass or sneaking through under cover of lunchtime, when even the old men desert the steps for comida and siesta.
The day after fiesta is one of the rare occasions when Canillas is quiet. What few villagers you see on the streets seem to creep along sadly, looking pale, exhausted, and barely able to give you a cheery wave. It's even possible to make the journey without a single granny hurling herself into your path. However, fear not! Tomorrow the myriad shops will open for business, the streets will fill with chattering people and the old men will be back on the Town Hall steps, watching the world go by.
Jenny Twist grew up in the British mill town of Heckmondwike but now lives in Spain. She studied history in Manchester and did post-graduate work at Oxford. Her novellas Doppelganger, Uncle Vernon and Mantequero have appeared in various literary anthologies, plus she authored the books Take One At Bedtime, Domingo's Angel and All in the Mind.