Archives for posts with tag: Ana Corbero
Ana Corbero Carmona

During one of the last text conversations I had with Ana she asked me to write a blog update. A redux. Here it is.

You might be wondering why I’m roasting this old chestnut. Ana Corbero? Didn’t you wave goodbye to that old bint in 2017? Didn’t she leave you gasping for air like a freshly caught fish? Well… that’s what should have happened. I should have left well alone but life never turns out the way one thought it should. Sometimes, so it seems, I just can’t help myself from another thrashing.

At present Ana Corbero is living in Espluges, Barcelona. She lives in the palace of arches created by her tricky, tax dodging father Xavier Corbero. On instagram she belches how she is surrounded by love and light. She’s opening a gallery, she offers her close artist friends exhibitions in the space… only four years ago she called her fathers house, ‘that vile mausoleum I want nothing to do with’.

Things were not so good for Ana in February 2019.

On March 1st 2019 Ana Corbero emailed me. Desperate and alone… her husband and children, she cried, had abandoned her. Penniless, addicted to drugs, trapped inside her lavish Andalucian jail… like a Saudi princess.

It’s time to revisit Ana Corbero, describe the creature she really is. How Ana Corbero deserved to be abandoned and humiliated by her husband and her children. I shall continue telling the truth about Ana Corbero… her lies, her manipulation, the manipulation of her story, the story of her ‘trauma’. Her trauma, allegedly inherited from grandparents, from dolls, from Miro, from the Virgin Mary. Trauma, always her excuse for behaving exactly however she wants when she wants and anyone who has the audacity to contradict her is a hyena, a heretic, a narcissist.

But how did this happen? How did you fall back into her poisonous web, Duncan? Why didn’t you listen to those you trusted? Why couldn’t you stay away?

March the first 2019. Ana Corbero asked for help. She could have asked any number of people. She could have asked her rich Turkish friend Mr Koc. Her rich French friend Mr. V. She could have asked Elsa Peretti who bank rolled her father’s excesses. She could have asked the poisonous Celia Lyttleton. The poisonous Celia Lyttleton who once arrived on my doorstep in desperate need of help, babe in arms, until she was ready to move on. Ana Corbero could have asked any number of these rich friends but in her time of greatest need she asked me. And that, my friends is how a fool and his money are easily parted.

Some might say, oh just let it go. You can just imagine who might say that. People… rich enough not to notice the absence of several hundred thousand euros.

Begrudgingly, I answered her call. “What do you want?” I was irritable and uncommunicative. How did she know I was in Seville? She persisted and after some persuading I met with her. If only to tidy up past resentments. Because, as we all know, resentments are the number one killer of people pleasers.

At her house in Carmona she sat on a wide, yellow, gingham sofa. Tiny and thin as you could not imagine. Smoking one cigarette after another. Her eyes sunk into her head. The house was cold and damp. The smell of nicotine lingering. She began sobbing.

I asked what had happened.

“Nobody knows how to help me,” she wailed.

The staff had lined up in front of her unable to help. The nurses and housekeeper and gardeners. Everyone was exhausted by her. A year later, she would do the same to me, take everything I had… emotionally, physically and spiritually.

She sat on the sofa and told her sorry tale of a one page divorce she signed because she loved her husband and she said she would do anything he wanted. She had given him everything, now she had nothing. The children refused to see her. Like most desperate fools she was incapable of owning her part in a disaster of her own making. She was the victim, the wretched victim who had only others to blame.

However self piteous, it was hard not to feel compassion for her. However she’d behaved, surely she didn’t deserve this?

As I was preparing to leave the house that damp Spanish afternoon she grabbed hold of me and begged me to help. I thought for a moment and wondered how many times I had been desperate for help but unable to ask. Desperate and alone, this catastrophe was of her own making. So I said this,

“I will help you, I will do anything it takes to help you. But you must let me help you the way I see fit. I will be paid for my time if and when you are liberated from your shoddy divorce agreement and your father’s inheritance bares fruit. This help does not come for free.”

I asked her to consider signing an agreement and I left.

I stayed in my hotel in Carmona and flew back to London the following day.

Ana met me in London.

During the hours we spent together I attempted to unravel her various problems. Her problems were complex but not unsurmountable. The divorce she had consented to was a mess and obviously signed when she was high or drunk (no excuse). What little leverage she had I knew I was going to have to exploit to force her husband into a negotiation.

We needed lawyers. The best I could find. The best I could pay for.

Her father had left her (and her step mother Midu) his €150 million estate which was held in a complicated trust in the British Virgin Islands.

I introduced Ana to my lawyer Arthur Bing Nelson in London who specialises in trusts. I explained whilst I was helping as a friend, I expected to be paid for my time. The meeting was just one of many where Ana seemed incapable of grasping the bigger picture. Distracted, not looking like the beneficiary of a large estate but a resentful fool, too preoccupied with herself to help herself.

She had a plan to be closer to her children. She had been on-line house hunting for a place near her children’s boarding school. I drove her to see the apartment overlooking her children’s school unaware, until she mentioned in passing… the children were not just refusing to see her they had demanded to be protected from her, they were not allowed to see or communicate with their mother due to her abusive behaviour. The school had been instructed to safeguard them. As it turned out the children were mere trading chips in her ghastly game of cat and mouse with the cause of her primary resentment… Nabil, her ex husband. Nabil the ‘narcissist’, ‘the viper’, ‘the liar’. I was unaware that day, as we drove into the verdant english countryside the depth of deception and self deception Ana was capable.

I agreed to return to Seville for a longer visit to see what we could do to spring her from her gorgeous jail. When I returned to Seville I affirmed I was willing to do whatever it took to help her get back onto her feet and she signed the agreement to pay me an hourly rate, disbursements and expenses.

Nabil Gholam

I hired Miguel and Patricia, two incisive and brilliant lawyers from the international law firm Garrigues. At our first meeting, I explained what we needed. 1. Ana needed her ex husband to renegotiate the terms of her divorce. 2. We needed to onshore her father’s offshore assets. 3. We needed to deal with a highly complicated tax liability. It was complicated but I understood clearly what needed to be done whilst Ana, yet again, sat in the meetings like a troubled child asking about plates she had left in her London apartment Nabil refused to return.

Nabil Gholam had done a brilliant job of wrestling everything from her. Kept on a short financial leash at the house in Carmona, refused entry to their apartment in London. The property she owned with her husband in Carmona was in a company over which she had no control. The other property they owned world wide had been signed over by herself to her husband. Even her father’s estate was supposedly left to Nabil. What little room he had left her to wriggle was enough for me to get her out of the agreement or at least make his life uncomfortable. He was breaking corporate rules, he was not following even the basic rules of running a Spanish company therefore opening himself to legal scrutiny.

Everyday I research property laws, company laws, I gain an encyclopedic knowledge of offshore trusts, the British Virgin Islands and onshoring. I am searching for loopholes Ana could step through to avoid the problems she had created. I coordinate the various lawyers, accountants and advisors.

As Ana saw a way out of her prison she became wilful and surly, rather than take the opportunity to change anything in herself, she set about using my money and time righting historical wrongs. As she became stronger she became more arrogant.

Every day as I sorted one problem she would set about creating another.

The control she now felt confident to exert on others she attempted on me. She told me how to breath, how to stand, how to eat and insisted I gave her urine and stool samples so she could test how my insides were doing. I refused.

Desperate for cash she took her watches to a dealer in Seville and sold them. She asked me to contact Jay Jopling and offer him a bronze by Pablo Gargallo of Kiki de Montparnass. After I offered it to him (by text) Ana admitted it was a copy of the original by her father Xavier Corbero. Thankfully Jopling declined the sculpture.

KIki De Montparnass by Pablo Gargallo

A burly man from Seville arrives at the house. He has a bag of tools and a toxic body odor. Convinced the safe in her bedroom is packed with her husband’s collection of tax avoiding watches, Ana hired a safe breaker who worked all day to cut into the safe. He failed, filling the house with acrid smoke and foul, grey dust. The staff and I looked on helplessly as the safe breaker cut through the steel and concrete. Of course, she refuses to pay him.

High on the thought of freedom she demands furniture moved from wing of the house to another. Huge wardrobes dismantled. Beds and sculpture hauled needlessly from one side of the house to another. No longer the sickly sparrow she became a fucking monster.

At night we would work through the research I continued to compile but Ana was incapable of listening, berating me with stories from her past and the ‘inherited trauma’ of her great grandparents. She would sob and claw at her face keeping me awake until dawn.

Weeks of hard work passed. Her friend Mr V turned up from Mexico City and commended the work I was doing for Ana.

“We all need a Duncan in our lives.”

The chaos at the house intensified, Ana found her daughter’s diary who had written pubescent fantasies about the gardener. Whether they were true or not was a different matter. Seizing on this opportunity to cause more problems Ana calls the police, lawyers and social workers. We have the most gut wrenching chat with the gardener who casually denied the accusations looking at his boss with total disregard. Both me and Mr V (gay men) had seen the daughter use highly sexualised maneuvers. I extricated myself from the moment and informed her father.

Unexpectedly, Ana’s lawyers, the expensive ones from Seville… Miguel and Patricia turn up at the estate. We sit in the garden because Ana is paranoid her husband Nabil is eavesdropping from Beirut. We discuss everything in English, we discuss the divorce.

“Well, she signed it.” Patricia shrugged.

They were tiring of her antics. Why are they here? We discuss the property in Carmona held in the Spanish company she owned equally with Nabil. We discuss her father’s estate. We discuss the children and Nabil’s access to the house. Then Ana starts speaking Spanish. It isn’t unusual. But Patricia turns to me and says,

“We are discussing Anna stealing money from her daughter’s trust account.”

“How much money?”

“Enough for the authorities to be alerted.”

My heart sank lower than an ocean. I immediately tried to rationalise.

“I’m sure Ana is very embarrassed.”

I spluttered, but at that moment I knew what was happening, I felt so foolish… and I knew I couldn’t trust this greedy, common thief ever again. Stealing from her severely disabled daughter so she could attend a fancy party in Istanbul made a fool of me and my help.

Laughing how her husband would hide shaking in the pantry whenever they had a fight, she scoffed how a big man was shaking with fear, in fear of tiny Ana. But I knew Nabil wasn’t frightened of her… he was frightened of what he might do to her.

3am. I am bitten by a mosquito. So exhausted my immune system compromised, a thick red line of angry infection runs from the bite up my arm. I know it’s serious. We go immediately to the hospital in Seville. In the hospital she tells anyone who will listen that I am her husband. Unable to move she strokes my brow and calls me darling. The doctors confirm the worst: Lymphangitis.

Recuperating from the nasty infection I retreat to Ana’s house in Tavira, Portugal. At her suggestion I move my things out of storage and into the empty house. Ana sends video updates from Carmona. Videos of her husband wheeling her daughter’s wheelchair around the estate with the nurse. Whilst in Tavira we were contacted by middle man Enric Badia who acts for developer wanting her father’s estate. I construct a deal. If not for him for other potential buyers. The deal takes care of the offshore element/instrument, the tax… leaving Ana with a life changing amount of money.

It took weeks to recover from the infection and fight off sepsis. Emboldened by her inevitable jailbreak Ana took the reigns. As it turned out this meant more underhand shenanigans. She used her housekeeper, Ani to pass notes to Nabil bypassing the lawyers. Trying to make deals. Nabil’s lawyers tell Patricia and Miguel. When Garrigues discovered what she was doing they fired her. Speechless. Spent. It was over. She had burned her last bridge. I was so weak fell into the hall shelves and smashed her precious painted teapot, smashed into a thousand pieces.

I wished it had been her head.

The following week she turned up in Tavira and told me to leave immediately.

Persuaded to read my previous blog the only critique she had?

“I don’t have black eyes!” Of all the terrible revelations? That was it.

Of course, a nasty legal fight unfolded. She held onto the money she owed me. She still owes me. Of the approximately €400,000 she owes me she paid me £15,000. Now it’s with lawyers. We are waiting for the court to give us a date.

It seems she has moved into her father’s house. Who wouldn’t want to live there? Why didn’t she move into it sooner? As we began the process of suing her I knew I couldn’t take this situation personally. Ana treated many people like she treated me and she will continue to treat people the same way. It is what a narcissist does.

If you spot it you got it. Everything she accuses others she suffers herself. She has paid a huge price for her inability to address her character defects. Expecting everyone else to clear up her mess. Whether that mess is dog shit in the sitting room or refusing to deal with her father’s inheritance… her unrealistic expectations of others are huge and can never be fulfilled. It makes me sad to think a 65 year old woman can be so far from peace of mind. As for me? I suggest you read my previous blog. I think it explains everything. I couldn’t save you Ana. I shouldn’t have tried.

New York, July 2017.

colin and anna

A few delightful days in Paris and Barcelona restored my serenity.  No more searing heat, the weather more temperate, heavy clouds bursting over us.  The rain washing away the last of the red, Andalusian dust.  Well dressed men, once again, to look at on the streets. Mary’s spare room, decorated with Honiton lace and embroidered white linen.  We walk the length of Parc St Cloud with our dogs wearing gun boots and waxed jackets.  The Little Dog is almost fully restored, his eye closes once again, his sagging jowl looks perfectly normal to those who do not know.  One evening we helped friends of Mary move house.  TV Producer Etienne Alban, recently separated from his wife and kids, moving in with his super cute… yoga instructor girlfriend.  Alban and I carried a huge sofa six flights to their huge new attic apartment.   After the exercise we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at The Hotel Edgar.  Their boudin noir… superb.

The following day I drove from Paris to Chamonix listening to an audio recording of the novel 1984.  It is a compellingly joyless book.  Because I am a ditz I arrived a day early. So I booked the Hotel Isabelle and slept fitfully thinking about my time in Carmona. More specifically I dreamt about my Carmona host and friend Ana Corbero, the chatelaine of an 11 acre estate called The Pajarita nestled outside the old city walls of Carmona beneath the The Hotel Parador and the Cordoba Gate.  I dreamt a huge storm roared as I looked north from Ana’s terrace toward the great plain which was once the sea.  I was pointing at something.  “Land ahoy!”  In the dream the waves returned after a thousand years and swept over the fields of sunflowers.  Sea monsters curled out of the petulant waves then crashed into the salty foam.

My time in Carmona with Ana had been stormy, her demeanor quite different from the beautiful girl I chanced upon 35 years ago.

I met Ana Corbero in 1985 or thereabouts introduced by gallerist and curator Celia Lyttleton.  Ana was showing a collection of unremarkable paintings at the Albemarle Gallery.  Celia introduced her as the daughter of a well-known Spanish sculptor, the girlfriend of a Lord.  She was tiny… gamine, scarcely a women.  Her queer and marvelous features delicately carved and flocked, her fierce and sparkling black eyes challenging those of us who dared contradict her.  She demanded respect.  Her flamenco gestures, her delicate collar bones.  She was beautiful.

I don’t remember a great deal about the beginning of our friendship other than the first night at the gallery.

Ana had been enjoying a fractious relationship with the absurdly handsome Colin Campbell, 7th Earl Cawdor.  I do not remember them visiting me in Whitstable but apparently they did.  I do not remember going to Wheelers Oyster Bar and eating crab but apparently we did.  I do remember Ana’s invitation to Brooklyn the following summer where I stayed in Colin’s huge apartment, the top floor of an abandoned school he and another had recently bought.  It was located just over the Williamsburg Bridge.  Brooklyn was very different then. Crack addicts sat on the stoop. The Puerto Rican community had not been replaced by Hasidic Jews and dumb looking hipsters.  The sky at night was regularly lit by flaming, abandoned buildings.  Some called these arson attacks: Jewish lightning.

The walk into Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge felt unnecessary.  We stayed close to the apartment.  Colin and I had a fairly raucous time.  Even then I felt contempt for toffs but they had all the best toys so one tended to accept the invitations whenever they came.  It was an eventful trip.  I had a brief affair with the artist Paul Benney.  I threw a bbq from the roof of Gerard Malanga’s apartment*.  We were the only white people at an African-American block party and ended up in a black police captain’s humble house.  He looked very uncomfortable.  Years later, I understand why.  White, english people badly educated about slavery or the history of black people in the USA.  We must have seemed very disrespectful.

Ana and Colin’s relationship was passionate and destructive. I blamed Colin for his insensitivity toward Ana.  I excused Ana her eccentricities.  The last image I have of her at that time:  Ana is resting serenely in a nest of pillows, she has written in pen on her forehead one word… SILENCE.

Years passed.  Many years.  I remembered the word scrawled on her face.  Social media reintroduced us.  She married Nabil Gholam an arab architect and 18 years ago they had a baby girl. Sadly, their child is badly disabled with a rare genetic disease.  Against the odds, the child survives.  Ana fought to make her daughter hear and see.  She refused to accept the doctor’s bleak prognosis. Ana lived in Beirut during the Israeli bombardment.  Breastfeeding on her balcony as the bombs fell.  She adopted two more children.  A boy and a girl, both Lebanese.  The architect became successful.  They bought apartments in London, Paris and Seville. When her grandparents who raised her died she bought the Pajarita with a small inheritance.  The Pajarita, a modest finca surrounded by acres of scorched, brown earth and rock where the locals dumped their trash.   Ana set to transforming this barren place with many gardeners into the paradise she and her family enjoy today.

During the years I suggested to traveling friends I knew to be in Spain… meet Ana.  I sent the lazy, derivative Australian furniture designer Charles Wilson who I believed might benefit creatively from a stint in Andalusia. But Charles, another terrible drunk, ended up being thrown out of Xavier Corbero’s house in Barcelona because Ana’s step mother hated him.  Charles refused to leave so Ana’s husband threatened him with gypsies (a common, vaguely racist, threat from Nabil) who would break Charles’s legs if he didn’t pack his bag and leave immediately.

I sent Jenna and Stephen Mack’s brother John Jr., son of billionaire Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack.  Even though I did not know John Jr. I trusted they would be a great fit.  That introduction worked out very well.  Now it was my turn to meet Ana.  We communicated solely by text message.  After the long drive from Nice I called her and, for the first time in 35 years, I heard her voice. The deep and rasping voice of  somebody who smokes too many cigarettes or talks too much… or both.

“Why do you want to see me?” She asks over the phone.

I did not have an easy answer.

There was unfinished business between Ana and me.  It was not tangible, it was esoteric. I had no expectations of Ana.  I simply wanted to see her face.  Without the word SILENCE scrawled on it. We might have met that afternoon, had a coffee and left it at that.  I would have driven north.  I had no idea what to expect but I was compelled to see her, meet her again.  We arranged to meet at the small apartment she rented for guests in Carmona.

“How do you like your new digs?” She said as she got out of her huge silver Mercedes.

“Stay as long as you like.”

I gave her a long hug.  Her father, Xavier Corbero, had recently died.  I sniffed and she thought I was crying.  “I’m not crying,” I said, “I’m sniffing.”  Ana was back in my life. Her face was not the same as I remembered when I last saw her.  She has hidden herself on social media because, I now understood, she could not bear what age had done to her. Almost immediately she complained how old she was, how raddled.  She was embarrassed by her face.

“I’ve turned into a middle-aged Swedish woman.”  she said.  “I hope you’re not disappointed.”

It was true.  Middle aged and middle class.  Her face, bloated and pale, almost anemic. Her dry hair, she insisted she wanted to dye gray,  streaked with sun bleached golden locks.  Her eyes were just as fiery but no longer black.  There was something stone dried about her, something suspicious. I slowly recognised who she had become.  The reason I felt compelled to see her?  The reason why so many years ago she left something indelible in me?  It was something I recognized in myself.  Within a few hours my suspicions were confirmed.  Ana Corbero is an alcoholic of the most desperate kind.

We walked up the small cobbled hill from the apartment to the Casa Curro Montoya… her favorite restaurant.  She flamboyantly kisses the owners and lavishes us all with praise. We sat in the hot sun and drank white wine and ate greasy jamon.  Immediately, without prompting, she started telling me how her marriage was over.  Her husband was a liar, she said, and she didn’t know if she could stay married to him.

“He lies about his father and their relationship.  I am married to a stranger.”

I was baffled why this should be reason for divorce but Ana, it turns out, is obsessed with her version of the truth.  Under the parasol that dreamy afternoon I found her deeply personal over sharing electrifying.  I was being inducted into a tortured world of intrigue and family drama… it felt intoxicating.  She contemptuously described her adopted children, how her lazy teen son lied and failed at school.  Her pre teen daughter stole and refused to respect her Mother’s authority.  I ask about their eldest daughter.  “Oh, her.” she mused distantly.   A slight smile flickered over her face.  “She’s an angel.”

I do not remember driving to the Pajarita that afternoon.  I drove to her home so many times the next few weeks.  It is a dusty, pot holed road to Ana’s home.  Red dust gets into everything, into the car, my mouth, my heart.  During my stay the sharp red rocks rip into my tyres… twice.  Yet, once behind the sliding metal gates of the Pajarita… decorated with dragons and comic strip birds there is… the illusion of calm.  Beyond the painted blue iron gate a forest of pepper trees, oleander and citrus.  Terracotta pots filled with herbs and lilies. Vines, dripping with grapes grow over pergolas affording shade, respite from the searing heat. Down an exquisitely cobbled path the simple house reveals itself. There are huge windows covered with traditional Spanish blinds made of esparto… woven reeds.  Inside, rooms of various sizes at different levels filled with stuff.  Ana’s art covers the walls. Piles of art books and catalogues from Christie’s and Sotheby’s.  Broken china knickknacks. Buckets of architectural salvage.  Most of it inherited from her grand parents.  So much stuff.

Many staff run Ana’s estate and life. Annie the housekeeper and general fixer.  Three nurses look after the disabled daughter.  There are gardeners and flamenco guitarists, a governess for the adopted daughter and a masseur who comes daily.  On occasions Ana would marshal the staff and demand they sing songs of her own composition.  They did as they were told.

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Annie, a simple local woman and (it became apparent) loathed by the son… was Ana’s most trusted servant. As well as dusting, ironing and making beds Annie, Ana told me, was being groomed to write Ana’s autobiography and mix her paints whenever she started painting again. Annie would also run the restaurant whenever Ana got around to opening it.  Annie, forced to kiss us all as per the ‘Andalusian way’.

I refused to kiss Ana’s staff.

“I can’t bear lies or exaggeration.” Ana says.  “I am never impatient, I am never angry.”

During the first few days of my stay we find a happy routine.  I have practical considerations.  I apply for my Spanish residency, open a bank account and get a phone. I take the dogs to the vet in Seville.  The vet is quite the most handsome man I ever met.  I decide to buy a house in Carmona.  They are cheap and plentiful.  Ana is incredibly helpful.  She introduces me to a lawyer, a realtor and makes every effort to ease me into Spanish life. We find a perfectly preserved 16th Century house near the Cordoba Gate.  I need an assistant.  She introduces me to Jose, her own assistant for five years but curiously tells me he is not welcome at her home.

“He needs to pull his head out of his ass.”

Why she makes the introduction to Jose is a mystery.  And why is he unwelcome at the Pajarita? Jose is a good man. Friendly and helpful.  I confide in Jose.  I am shocked by the way Ana treats her children, the contempt she has for her husband.  I rant at Jose about Ana.  She believes she’s always right, she’s never wrong, the interminable interruptions at dinner so conversations between adults become utterly fruitless and frustrating. Ana interrupts with shrill, ill-informed dissent. Blighted with a remarkable lack of insight and self-awareness Ana’s inability to see her part in any dispute caused me much incredulity.

Jose smiles and listens.

“I don’t have a problem, YOU have a problem.”  Ana insists.

Three days into my visit Nabil arrives with their son.  They are very pleasant but I have already had my mind poisoned against them.  Expecting the worse I’m surprised to find her husband kind and considerate, compensating for his wife’s excesses.  He is a gentle man and every day works hard to keep his marriage alive. Nabil shows me his watch collection, explaining how he transports his wealth around the world at times of war.  In the evening, when she is at her worse, Nabil makes excuses for her rapidly disintegrating behaviour.

Their son is a perfectly ordinary teenage boy.  He has a girlfriend, he has thick black hair, he is interested in sport and fashion and making money trading sneakers… we went to the fashion outlet in Seville but it was closed.  He was funny and charming.  House hunting one morning I paid him to translate for me.  He has a keen understanding of people.  He could read between the lines.  He enjoys his life at boarding school.

I find him in his room trying to write.  Ana has asked him to imagine a fifty year life plan.  He looks helpless.  An absurd request the teenager knows he must fulfill.  When, after several weeks, the 50 year plan arrives Ana is outraged.  Why does the plan does not include Spain and by inference… her?  Why should it?  Ask a boy to map out the next fifty years is abuse enough.  But this was just one of many abuses, her plan to punish him for not appreciating how lucky he was that she had taken the time and money to adopt him. He could never be grateful enough.  She confided that she planned to take him out of the boarding school he loved and punish him for his lack of sensitivity by sending him to his paternal grandfather… who Ana hated.  Nabil, when we are on our own, desperately whispers an appeal to me,

“Please help me, can you make her see sense?”

It was no use, Ana is always hell-bent on revenge, riven by some resentment for some poor sap. Ana reminded both her children how lucky they were to have her as their adopted mother. These scenes pulled straight out of the movie Mommy Dearest. But Joan Crawford, bless her tortured soul, was a saint in comparison.

We drive to Seville for lunch with John Mack Jr. who mocks Ana’s constant, inebriated interruptions.  John Mack Jr has his own demons but I wanted to hear everything he had to say. I had been very close with his brother Stephen and worked with his sister Jenna. Both relationships had come to nothing.  Of course John claims he knows nothing of his sister’s appalling arrogance… he is his father’s son.  He knew everything.  He had his own brush with addiction, a failed marriage and traumas only the son of a billionaire would understand.  Stephen Mack told me once their father would say of his enemies, “I’ll make them hurt.” His father wasn’t called ‘Mack the Knife’ for no reason. Jenna was very eager for me to meet her parents but I knew it would turn out badly, getting dragged along to events I had no reason to be at.   I met Mack senior, who one couldn’t help respecting, several times.  I had dinner with Jenna and her father at The Mercer Hotel and again at a High Line charity event.  Jenna, Stephen and John’s parents are a great team,  they donate millions to charity, they delight in taking pictures of couples in the street who don’t have selfie sticks.

I knew my father was the same as John Mack.  Cruel and kind in equal measure.

When I said goodbye to John Mack Jr. after lunch (he cycled off into the hot, congested Seville streets) I knew I would never meet him or any member of his family ever again.

As I grow closer to my assistant Jose it becomes apparent that he doesn’t merely dislike Ana, he hates her.  He hates her with a shocking vengeance.  It is painful for him to carry such hate in his heart.  He warns me to think carefully about staying in Carmona, he cautions if I buy a house in Carmona I will end up hating Ana.  He warns me people very close to Ana hate her.  The owners of the restaurant hate her, he warns she has fallen out with everyone who lives in Carmona, accusing them of crimes and disappointments, their relationships blighted with unrealistic expectations.

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Jose describes Ana’s tantrums, how she would regularly reduce him to tears with her demands and mendacity.  His impersonation of her clawing at her own face demanding she wanted what she wanted… NOW!   Nothing would placate her.  He tried helping her but failed.  He still finds it hard to forgive himself for walking away.  Walking away from the children he loved and cared for.

I took the adopted girl to meet Jose.  They hadn’t seen each other for years.  They cried and hugged.  We wandered the streets of Carmona until midnight.  Jose kept thanking me for bringing her to see him.  We ate ice cream and sat in the forum.  When we returned to the Pajarita Ana looks quizzically at me. Taking the child to meet Jose could be construed as an act of betrayal.  I apologize for bringing her home so late.

The following day Ana is screaming at her children, “Why don’t you bring your friends to the Pajarita?” It is obvious why… to those of us who are the children of abusive parents. There’s shame and fear around alcoholism and the unpredictability of an alcoholic parent.  Neither child want their friends to meet Ana. Neither want to explain her behaviour.  I saw the fear in their eyes when Ana looked as if she was going to lose her temper.  The night she couldn’t make the ancient iPod work and began blaming her daughter.  The panicking child wrestled with the iPod, willing it to work. Finally she managed to make it play and disaster was averted.  I’m sure the little girl didn’t want to be reminded once more why she should be grateful Ana adopted her and how easily she could be sent back to the children’s home.

The daughter dances, she entertains Ana’s guests with gymnastics, endless cartwheels and overtly sexual dance moves she learns from TV shows like Glee.  Playing the same track over and over.  I was asked to judge endless dance routines.  She was desperate to impress.  Yet, however hard the child tries to please… it is never good enough.

“Hold your hands like this” Ana demands.  “No!  Not like that… like this.”  Ana lunges beside her daughter and demonstrates what she wants to see.  Ana demands we all dance.  I dance for a moment then I sit down and watch the scene unfold.  The dance with her daughter becomes violent, twirling the child around until finally it is no longer a dance but a fight… Ana body slams the girl onto the floor.  The child is crying and Ana falls badly into the television.  She mocks the child for crying, mocks her use of a hearing aid.  She swears at the child and accuses her of making sexual advances to Nabil.  Once, in the pool, Ana tore off the child’s bathing costume, tossing it out of the pool.  Ana is laughing like a maniac, the child is pleading. I throw the costume back into the pool. Then I walk away, saving the kid the embarrassment of being seen naked.  Jose, when I tell him… is not surprised.  There were times when he wanted to report her to the police for child abuse.  The following day Ana wonders why her back hurts so badly.  I remind her but she doesn’t remember the fight.  She has no recollection.  How much of the time is she blacked out?

“Time for drinkypoos?”  She says.

Like an infirmed english aristocrat the pronouncement comes when Nabil is at home… otherwise she’s opening bottles all day.  She’s already stoned long before she starts drinking.  I learned not to go near the house until she is drunk or stoned enough not to be a total bitch.  Waiting for an invitation to join her.  If I stayed at the Pajarita I would slip away before she woke up.  When her interest in me cooled her morning emails and text messages were filled with vile insults and personal attacks.  By then I was employing every technique Alanon afforded me.  Let go with love, they say.  Every day I let her go… with love.  Soon I would have to let go of her forever.

The night Nabil left for London and Beirut I was sitting by the pool with Ana enjoying a rare, balmy evening.  We spent a lot of time talking about her future, her work, galleries and retrospectives.  I was convinced she was capable of making the huge changes in her life necessary for her to be recognised as an important artist.  We talked about male artists who were commanding huge sums in galleries and at auction.  We discussed how women artists have been impoverished by men.  After meeting her disabled daughter my understanding of her work swelled.  The cute sculptures of girls looking heavenward meant something.  Ana has spent years working out her feelings toward her disabled daughter using her art, especially her sculpture.  Her work, like so many women… unlike the work of so many men, has never been contextualized.  The story is never told. “Your work is beyond the vagina.”  I said.  She laughed.  Ana is not easily complimented.  So, we concentrate on her potential.  I liked mulling over future possibilities with her.

Without warning she rolled toward me and laid her head on my chest.

She said, “I find you overwhelmingly attractive. I want to grow old with you.”

At that very moment I knew our friendship was over.  I shifted in my seat.  If I rebuffed Ana I risked her unconscionable wrath.   She repeated the words.

“I want to grow old with you.”

Finally, I affected my most affable self and said,”Oh, silly… what would Nabil say?”

She lifted her head.  She was not going to be fobbed off with that.

“I don’t put my head on anyone’s chest.” She began, her voice becoming defensive.  She continued speaking but I could not hear her… I was in a blind panic.  I knew it was over, at that moment I knew my time around Ana had come to an end.

The following days she called me names by text (fat and old) and generally took time to insult and belittle me.  She denounced me as a traitor to the Pajarita.  I found myself drifting to the house knowing full well what reception I would receive.  She warned me, I was no longer ‘drama free’ I was accused of bringing stress and ‘baggage’ into her life.   Thankfully, her friend Alfonso and his daughter arrived.  Perhaps he would grow old with her?  I slipped out of the pre arranged parties to which I was tacitly expected to attend.  I had no interest in being around her.  It was over.  Soon I was packing up the car and headed north.  My time in Carmona but not Spain… had come to an end.

Ana Corbero signs all her emails or text messages with ‘Luv and Light A xxx’.  It is ironic because she has a dark soul.  A monster for whom no cage will ever be built… unless of course she embraces sobriety and thereby solves her chronic addiction to resentment.

*Recently I bumped into Gerard Malanga, frail and limping, in a small French cafe on Warren Street in Hudson, New York and apologised for my drunken indiscretion all those years ago.  Although furious at the time he sweetly claimed not to remember the incident.