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Package holidays reached the Costa Brava in the 1960s. I was lucky: I got there in the 1950s. I first went to Spain, to Catalunya, in 1956: at the time I don't think I knew what even an unpackaged holiday was. At eight years of age, however, I had the enviable and much-envied good fortune to possess an aunt and uncle who lived on the Costa Brava. Had I not, I am quite certain that the holiday would not have taken place: it certainly wouldn't have lasted for a whole month. But as things worked out, I was able to return in 1958, once more to Catalunya, once more to the Costa Brava, and once more for an entire month.

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Then there was a gap of several years before I saw Spain again, by which time my aunt and uncle had moved to Sevilla. Here I visited them on several occasions during the mid-1960s before I went to college, and I have vivid memories of a beautiful city on the brink of modernisation - memories which I discovered some forty years later, in 2006, to be more than a little topsy turvy. As far as my memories of Catalunya in 1956 and 1958 are concerned, I have no way of knowing how faithful they might be - I have never returned to test them. But the fact is that they retain for me a sharp clarity and an impact which I would not willingly sacrifice to mere accuracy...

As is the way with memory, I am aware of having misplaced many of the people I recall: the Chaguacedas I know I met in Madrid in the 1960s in the course of a most peculiar set of coincidences. The Siljestroms - he the Swedish consul, his wife a native of Andalucía - belong to the same period in Sevilla, while the Farrells (British expats who had retired to Spain from Hong Kong) and the Colemans (American expats of working age) definitely belong to the early Costa Brava period. Other names and faces, however, are less firmly anchored in my chronology.

The events and places I recall are generally more secure, however. I may from time to time mistake the Costa Brava of 1956 for the Costa Brava of 1958, but I have no fear of confusing it with Anadalucía - even less of confusing it with the Costa Brava of today.

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