Killing with kindness

There's no better way of clearing the old noggin than a brisk six-mile walk down to the sea from the village where I have a little house. The return journey is somewhat less brisk, more of a desperate melange of unseemly gasping and panting before the ceremonial quaffing a triumphant beer or six in the local bar.

Actually, I've only made it twice. Not because I fell headlong into a ditch clutching my chest and calling out for my mother - although that's always on the cards - but rather the fact that the locals are so kind hearted that they frequently stop to give me a lift. The fact is, I really need the exercise and look forward to a couple of hours or so winding my way home on foot but the people from the village are just too generous to let me.

Last week was a classic example. I'd set off, as always, full of vim and vigour when about two hundred yards into the six miles I heard a car pull alongside me honking its joyful horn.

"Pedro! (charmingly, they call me Pedro in the village). Hop in , I'll give you a lift."

It was Pepe's young daughter, recently enamored of a new car and wishing profoundly to share her boundless delight.

"Sorry! I'd rather walk. Good for clearing the old bonce and putting the world to rights, don't you know. Thanks anyway. Toodle pip!" That, of course, is what I didn't say but probably wanted to. What I did say was more conventional.

"Er, thank you very much. That's really kind of you."

So, I jumped in and we chatted about work prospects for young people until we reached the village. Highly enjoyable.

The next day, I had to head back down to the coast and, again, resolved to walk. Here we go, then - best foot forward, three hundred yards down, lots and lots still to go.

"Toot! Toot!"

An old bloke with the happiest face in the world pulled up.

"Pedro! Hop in, etc."

I'd never seen him before in my life but got into the car, thanking him profusely through gritted teeth. We chatted about the Spain of fifty years ago and Malaga's once booming industries until we reached the sea and I disembarked. Highly enjoyable.

The next day, determined to do some bloomin' exercise if it killed me, I went for an eight mile jog along the coast, half expecting someone from the village to ride by on a bicycle.

"Pedro! Hop on - I'll give you seater."