As a child my three elder brothers used to take me up to Carnaby Street and the Kings Road in London. This was the swinging sixties and my older brothers liked to seek out the latest fashion of the day.
I doubt they could have afforded the clothes designed by long time Spanish resident Michael Rainey.
It truly is a small world. There I was a few years ago wandering the streets of the Albaicin, high above the city of Granada, when a mutual friend introduced me to a man who, in the decade of mods, rockers and mini skirts was one of the foremost designers of mens clothes in Europe.
Michael Rainey dressed anyone who was anyone. Pop groups and movie stars among them. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones were regular customers, as were The Beatles when they were in London and The Kinks.
His hip and trendy designs were all the rage when his first shop opened in Cale Street and then when, later, he moved into the Kings Road in West London. His flowery shirts and boldly coloured kipper ties became a must have for young men.
He also dressed home grown movie stars such as Terence Stamp. His trendy London clothes shop, ‘Hung on You’ was where people went to be dressed in the flower power style of so many of their idols.
Michael was a man about town and mixed with some of the biggest names of the era.
Before going for an excellent lunch close to his home in Granada, we sat down for that very traditional of English events. Tea in china cups.
But I may have spilt some. My breath was taking by the view from Michael’s lounge.
A full, square on view of the Alhambra Palace. The best view of the most popular of all tourist attractions I have ever seen. And, believe me, that is saying something.
So here I was, not for the first time, asking someone that question: “What are you doing here, in Spain?”
It transpires that Michael always had an affinity with Spain and travelled the country long before it became a fashionable thing to do.
He has numbered among his friends in Spain some of the most famous cultural names to have lived or been born in the country.
He has witnessed big changes in the country. And it was over lunch when he told me where he was when General Franco died.
Without a scintilla of trying to be boastful he said: “Dali and I watched Franco’s funeral together. We watched it on TV in his hotel bedroom in New York. The telephone rang and it was Andy Warhol. He wanted us to come over to some party or other. Dali said we couldn’t come as we were watching a funeral on TV. Dali was in tears at the death of Franco. He was a fan.”
As Michael recounted this tale, in a very matter of fact manner, I think my knife and fork had come to rest. Much as I was enjoying a wonderful Lamb tagine in a little restaurant hidden away in the Albaicin, I was engrossed by the real life stories from a man who has led a real life.
Love saw him leave London for Spain. Married to a lady from Seville, his growing children do not have childish things on the walls of their bedrooms. They have original works of art by some of the most famous Spanish painters.
Age is telling on Michael these days. The air is good this high in Spain but his chest is not. But, despite his still slender frame and advancing years, he keeps busy.
He told me: “I go out on my scooter. It is the simplest way to get around the city, especially up here in the Albaicin. I pick up the children from school. The positive thing about living in this part of the Albaicin is how quiet it is. The loudest sounds come from the local birds and the timeless clanging of the bells from the many local churches.
“The view of the palace from my private quarters, and from the apartments I rent out, is amazing. I never take it for granted. I’m always aware of it and just to sit and contemplate its symmetric order does have a soothing and calming effect. Spain is full of magical views but, in my opinion, none are on a par with the one I see every day.
“When the sun hits the Alhambra at sunset and turns the walls purple, it is one of the prettiest sights in the world.”
The swinging sixties are but a distant memory for Michael, but he’s not lost his eye for detail and beauty.