Thrice was Christ denied in Málaga on Good Friday. If only poor Peter, too, could have simply blamed the weather for his betrayals of the Lord. For the first time in 80 years, three of the four processions for the end of Holy Week, Semana Santa, were cancelled, thanks to mad billows blowing over every banner and stanchion and cordon, rain guttering from every rooftop, children's fingers growing waxy.
While Britain sweltered, Málaga, the chosen destination for, reportedly, one in 10 bank holiday travellers from Gatwick this weekend, was beset, just beset. Cold gusting winds, sudden unheralded drippy rains, chills snatching your ankles on corners.
Finally, by 11pm, the weather had settled enough for a procession. Boys in huge pointy purple hoods. Bells, drums. The "Klan effect" was happily diminished by the boys' gloves, all always pure white: it's easier to discard the sinister when you see eight white-gloved hands wiping noses under the pointy purple hoods, and remember they're kids catching a cold. Finally, the huge gold coach carrying plaster models of Christ (in a real damp fluttering winding-sheet) and his disciples. Interesting models. Think of al-Fayed's model of Jacko outside Fulham FC, but better. A bit. A tiny bit. It was all rather mad, and rather lovely, and rather cold.
But this is Málaga, for goodness' sake! Gateway to the Costa del Sol, and for so many recent years gateway to guaranteed sun, and guaranteed drink or tat or culture, you takes your pick, and what's happened?
Let's start with Torremolinos. John and Jane Wilkinson shudder from the wind, drinking tea in their coats. I repeat – in their coats – drinking tea. A drop of rain has just fallen on to John's nose from the roof of Los Remos de la Chalana, their beach bar. The sand is black with wet. Smoke from a lonely sardine-vendor smells lovely but floats over 560 chillingly empty deckchairs. John/Jane have just sold their house up in Antequera, and are moving back to Norfolk. "Our pensions aren't worth what they were," explains Jane, in kindly fashion. John mutters something about the bloody euro. "And if you can't even guarantee the weather," continues Jane, "then what's the point? I know the climate's changing, but – oh, whatever. Doesn't matter. We'll be fine, got each other." What will she miss about Spain? "To be honest? Nothing."
Bit of a downer, and more gloom along the road in Fuengirola, where lifeguard Martin Correllini sits atop a huge solid wooden lifeguard ladder-thing, like in Jaws, wrapped in a blanket. He is in possession of an umbrella. It is, he says, the first Easter they have employed lifeguards, properly opened the beaches, and they are utterly, utterly empty. "But I have to wait here all day. In case the sun comes out."
Half a mile away, in the creatively named British Bar, poor Paula, here with friends for her 40th birthday, is less than happy. "No, I'm more than less than happy. Bloody nightmare. What's to do but get drunk? Still, you make the best of it all, don't you?" Her smile is winning. Her best friend Yvonne tells me they fly back Friday. So they'll miss the royal wedding? "Yeah. I'll have to send my hat back. And the ticket. But at least they'll know, back home, that I had an excuse, I was in Spain, on holiday, so I'll be the only one in Warrington without a tan."
Further west, along the "Golden Mile" towards Puerto Banus, past the castles of, among others, Simon Cowell and Alan Sugar – yup, this stretch simply seeps class – and into the port itself. This is where the money lives. There is a Wally yacht and five Aston Martin DB7s, and the new gull-wing Merc, and the full host of sleek white pimp-yachts, owned by sheikhs. Shops are Vilebrequin and Bulgari and the like.
This is surely where, when the Costa del Crime wives Deedee and Jackie from that grand film Sexy Beast went shopping, shopped. Somehow, here, the rain matters less. Rich people wave at us, or at least smile if smiled at, from under the canopies of their rain-dappled gin-palaces, their causeways perfectly guarded by muscled men in fake epaulettes. It's all quite fun, and terribly Ferrero-Rocher.
(There are, actually, many Brits here, but most are hiding in their rooms today. Spaniards, in the rain, go for a brisk walk. Brits hide in their rooms, watch telly and have the kids play electric games. To talk to people I have to play spot-the-Brit, before I hear them speak. This means looking for people with non-brown eyes, and an odd dress sense, and who look a little as if, were they to suddenly sport a grand free wide smile, it would seriously hurt tomorrow. In the first five hours, 90% of those I approached and annoyed were, in fact, German. Hmm.)
One in 10 from Gatwick has come here, if only to use it as a hub. Málaga itself is wrongly maligned, easy shorthand: passengers never actually visit or enjoy the real city, it's a hub for taxis and buses and limos to the hills and spas. It strikes me that there are three, perhaps more, separate tribes. The moneyed and the minor celebs, who hide openly, and enjoy a quick trip from Britain and some sun. The lovely Yvonnes and Paulas and Robs and Pauls and the rest, and the Irish on a stag week in Fuengirola, and my notebook's beyond full with them but no room here, who take what they can get, cheaply as they can. And the squeezed middle, the hardest to talk to, who actually love the culture – Málaga, home of Picasso, is quite stuffed with it, and fairly marvellous it all is. But the same group moan, when they deign to talk to you, about the euro, and buggered pensions. They're all terribly cultured, and half of them Observer readers, and very nice but won't give you their names because that's demeaning, and I should feel sorry for their pensions/euro gamble but, hey-ho!
It is also hub to a beautiful coast, if mired in the 1970s. It's no coincidence surely that three people point out to me the nightclub once owned by James Hunt, more 70s than which you can't get. But take the train from Fuengirola back to Málaga, past Montemar and Los Alamos (the original, pretty one, not the bomb-y destroyer-of-worlds one) and your heart rises at the flowers, the football, the sweeping mountains, even in the rain, and there's nothing wrong with the 70s seafront architecture which a decade's determined seaborne thermonuclear bombardment couldn't cure. Behind, La Concha rises 1,200 metres over Marbella. It is called this, the Shell, not because it looks like a shell – looks far more like a mountain actually – but because they found, at the top, shells, proving the hill had once been below the seas. Climate change: not new.
But, for the moment, the skies cluster, clouds quite unaccountably winging in from both east and west and air suddenly chilling, and I feel a little sorry for the poor dumbclucks stuck in Málaga during Britain's hottest Easter ever. Such as me. But the plane leaves tonight, and I'll happily go back to wherever in sunny Britain that's going, glowing, sweltering. Blackpool's take is apparently up for the first time in long forlorn years; even Scotland, I'm told, is simply basking. As Ol' Blue Eyes so obviously wanted to sing: Fly me to Dunoon.