Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Sometimes you just have to disown your loved ones, including husbands. 'What's he gone and done now?' you might ask. Well, massive, HUGE lorry ends up in the centre of the village by mistake. Probably bad map reading or GPS failure. Anyway, you know the scenario, wing mirrors being torn off, sides of buildings being scraped away, litter bins crushed under its wheels, everyone staring. Last place you want to be as a driver. A builder jumps down from some scaffolding and takes control of the situation, all hand signals and telling all the villagers to get out of the way, while he helps maneuver the vehicle out of the street, smoke a cigarette and wink at me. Made worse when you find Mr van de Ven at street level looking up but at the same time looking down on the bloke driving, laughing and shouting the Spanish equivalent of 'clever dick', 'smart Alec', and the rest. Poor lorry driver leans out of the window as much to say 'what's your feckin' problem' and Mr van de Ven just carries on laughing and gives the finger to boot. I look at the driver and somehow manage to convey a look that lets him know that none of it merits an explanation and to just ignore the 'crazy Dutch bastard'. 
Life. All in all rather lovely. Moments when you feel like you could burst with joy. Then a struggle. Times when you feel you will never cope again and your heart is no longer in it. Then the bewilderment. That none of it merits an explanation. It just is. You sit and look and find yourself having a word with God, and you say, 'I like it here. I like birds, and flowers and bees and, well I guess I am just one of those people you probably think has got a soul'.

Sunday, 5 August 2018


It's summer. August, and everyone is away on holiday. The whole country, possibly the continent has left for the beach or the mountains except me. I am the only one still working at the academy and there is just one student, Antonio, who needs or wants to learn English. We do two hours then he takes a break and we do another two hours. There's no one else in the whole building including the other workers who've been given the month off. Outside the street is dead as the heat is keeping people away. Those not able to escape the town are at home in the dark with the shutters down, only emerging at night when it is cooler and the deserted streets take on a life you thought had been extinguished a few hours earlier. The academy feels strange without the usual rowdy children running up and down the stairs or the nervous adults studying for their exams. I feel like an intruder or a ghost walking through the corridors, expecting to see someone at a desk or a colleague passing by.
How can I put this? Antonio is different. The locals describe him as 'special' which doesn't have the same meaning in Spanish as it does in English. It is a polite way of saying someone is impossible, difficult or trying. I tell myself it doesn't matter as being different is not something that bothers me and I like to think I have patience with others. 
One day in the class I realised I might have the capacity to snap. We were reviewing the present simple and the present continuous when Antonio interrupted and asked me what I thought of the president. I told him I didn't think anything and that I didn't like to discuss politics with the students. He looked a bit miffed and looked back down at his book. A few seconds later he asked if it was true that most British people are hooligans. I was tempted to tell him only the English but worried he might take it literally so told him to concentrate on his grammar and that there would be time for a chat later. He ignored me and asked if it was true the English stop for tea at five o'clock. I decided to tell him they do as I felt mean spirited to say otherwise and didn't want to explain that the image he had of England was a fantasy, something he had learnt from films. It was just after five and nearing the break and I asked him if he would like a cup of tea like the English do and this lifted him somewhat. Leaving the classroom would give us both some space and a breather and it felt good just to get away from him for a few minutes. I returned with the tea and a box of PG Tips as I thought he might like to see what it was he was drinking.
He was fascinated with the box but kept repeating the slogan on the side. 'Lovely cups of tea'. He must have said it twenty times and then asked 'what is lovely? Que significa, 'lovely', what means lovely?'
'Lovely is something nice, beautiful, 'hermosa', something pleasant'. I replied. I thought how strange that might sound. That a cup of tea was something beautiful and pleasant.
'Lovely' he said for the twenty first time.
He started to look at his mobile while he drank his tea and said 'PG Tips is still made in Manchester'. He then added. 'Manchester. Made in Manchester'.
He kept staring at the box of tea and told me he thought the tea was delicious and he would start drinking it from now on and where could he buy it. 
'Lovely cups of tea'.
A sly grin crossed his face and I had the dreadful feeling he was going to ask me something improper. I was on my own with him don't forget and despite my patience I had to admit he could be weird. It took him a while to say what he wanted to say but in the meantime I clocked his armpits which were extremely hairy. In fact I don't think I had ever seen such hair and it didn't help that he was evidently stroking or playing with said hair. I felt embarrassed and concerned as I waited for what was coming next.
'Is it true that you race snails in England?' he asked with the same sneaky look as if he had stumbled on some unearthly, satanic secret the English have been hiding from the rest of the world. 
'I am not sure'. I said, thinking he probably knew more about my fellow country men and women than I did.'What makes you ask?'
'I was watching it at seven o'clock in the morning the other day on Euro News. It's a great channel. You learn so much, politics, culture, snails. It is done in a place called Norfolk, the capital is Norwich. Norwich. Yes Norwich'. 
'Well that figures'.I thought. 
'You don't believe me do you?' and he started to look it up on his mobile.
'Look, here. Snails. racing'.
It was a video on Youtube of a group of people cheering on some hapless snails that appeared to not have a clue what was going on but after an eternity declared one of the snails was a winner as it had crossed the line. A woman was being interviewed and said they had cancelled their holiday to Spain as they didn't want to miss this for anything. The knowing grin on Antonio's face remained and he looked at me as if to say 'told you but you didn't believe me did you'. I have four more weeks of this.

Friday, 3 August 2018

When Mr van de Ven and I are not working hard or socialising till three or four in the morning we like to eat and then lie down. Sometimes I have been known to do this between courses. It has become a kind of hobby or maybe we have just integrated nicely. It is his birthday today and so far so good. He said he didn't want any fuss. Had a breakfast of tortilla and milky coffee outside a bar called, wait for it, Bar Mi Bar, then it was time to recline and take a breather. Later we got up, had lunch in his favourite restaurant followed by another siesta, and finally when we have to get up again we will have dinner in another reputable establishment where if we are not on first name terms we will at least be addressed as 'Your Worship'. It's great fun if you don't weaken.