Archive | Essay

Seeing Red

On my way to watch last week’s Spain-France World Cup qualifying match, I thought about my friend James and shook my head with a chuckle. Dear old James. Poor chap is afflicted with the most absurd superstitions when it comes to sporting events. You probably know the type. If his team loses, it was because he was there. Or maybe because of something he did. Or something he didn’t do. Who knows where he got the idea he could jinx sporting events? I don’t pretend to understand the man and besides, that’s up to his therapist to figure out, not me.

The day of the game, Continue Reading →

6

A Touchy Subject

When I first moved to Spain I used to get a kick out of touching fruit in supermarkets. I’d be walking through the produce section and say to my girlfriend, “Watch this…,” and as we passed near a bin piled high with oranges I’d reach out and tap one quickly with the tip of my finger–always looking around beforehand, naturally, to make sure nobody was watching. “Ooooh,” she’d say in mock horror, “you are bad!”

Perhaps I should explain. Continue Reading →

31

Slippery Business at the Port

In the Mercado de Bailén, in Malaga, a fishmonger gave me the lowdown. If I wanted to see the boats unloading fish, I had to go to Caleta de Velez. In Malaga, only a few boats come in every day. The port of Malaga is too expensive, he told me, so the fishermen go to Caleta, only a short drive up the coast.

By the time I got there, many of the boats were already tied up to the dock and more were coming in; big boats, motors chugging in a throaty diesel rumble as they shifted into reverse, gunned it for a second or two, and glided gently up to the dock with unerring precision. Continue Reading →

5

Madrid para Comérselo

My friend Iñigo has no sense of direction. I realized that after he got lost even though he had a windshield-mounted GPS that uttered clear directions in a soothing female voice. Janet or Sara or Melinda, whatever her name was, knew where she was going. Iñigo, however, had no idea. On our first wrong turn, Iñigo turned to me and said with a smile, “I’m the worst with directions.”

I thought the fact he admitted that, and still had the confidence to ignore the GPS woman’s instructions, was really quite admirable.

I wasn’t any help either because I didn’t even know what we were looking for. I thought we were going to visit a chicken farm west of Madrid near El Escorial. I got up early on a Saturday and took the Metro over the Iñigo’s place, wondering whether I had made a wise choice of footwear. (I was thinking, rubber boots would have been ideal.) Turns out we were going to a tomato farm on the road to Valencia. Okay then.

I must have thought chickens because I knew Iñigo’s friend Higinio was coming. Continue Reading →

4

How to get your point across in Spain, 101

You may know how to speak Spanish, but if you don’t know how to use it, you won’t be talking for long. But I’m here to help. So hear me out. Okay? Just hear me out. What I’ve got to tell you might be a big help, so just hear me out. (Spoiler alert: that was your first lesson.)

The thing is this. Spanish people love to chat. If there’s one defining characteristic of Spanish people in general, it’s that they are extremely social people. It’s one of the joys of living in Spain. The simple act of asking for directions can often lead to a lively and wide-ranging discussion of everything from Continue Reading →

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