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Monday, 27 June 2011


Very few foreigners here will have spent time in a fato's home as a guest. Some may even have that privilege of being invited, once, to a dinner but it won't be repeated. It's not that you have done something to offend your host and of course there are exceptions but invariably unless it concerns their family and very close friends ( there is often no other type here) a  fato will not feel the need to entertain you in his home. There is another reason which is of course that the Spanish live outside, so there is often no need to go to anyone's house. You meet in the bar or a restaurant and take it from there. The British have the awful weather and the Georgians to thank for home entertaining and a chance to show off their home furnishings and DIY skills. I have had the strange experience of being 'shown round' many fatos'  homes and to this day I am not sure what it is about. It isn't the house warming situation either and my most memorable was being dragged off the street by a woman I knew as the cleaner cum nanny of a young pupil who insisted I follow her to her home of which she then proceeded to take me on a tour. It was probably to do with a feeling of inadequacy on her part, that she didn't want me to go to my grave thinking she was just a humble housekeeper who didn't live in as big a house as her employer who was also her neighbour. It does have a tinge of the Violet Bouquet character in Keeping up Appearances.

Over the ten years we have been here I have had the opportunity to get inside the homes of the Spanish via teaching. It is a great insight as you get to see and meet all sorts of folk not just the fatos. One thing that struck me from the beginning is the lack of books. I grew up surrounded by books and my mother's house is still full of them and all of them read, not on show. Likewise, all my friends and people I came into contact with back in Britain had books so it was something quite strange at first. The only books I have seen in Spanish homes are complete sets of encyclopedias and reference books depending on the students professsion, law books and medicine being the most prevalent. Another observance is the tendency to not switch on lights which makes me think that psychologically they like to be kept in the dark. As the class progresses and night draws in I often have to ask the student if he or she doesn't mind switching on a lamp. It always reminds me of the anecdote of Samuel Becket refusing to turn the light on supposedly to get rid of some unwanted guests. Likewise, you don't want to turn up at a Spanish home during the siesta, especially in the height of summer. Most children wouldn't dream of taking a siesta as it is wasting their life according to some I have asked, and therefore their parents decide it is a good idea to have them taught at this time. Entering a house around three in the stinking heat with all the shutters down and inhabited by people who want to rest and are averse to switching on lights is still a strange intrusive moment for me.

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