As I was trawling through Instagram the other day, and spied friends in the UKs posts about gooseberries and blackcurrants, I remembered how every summer when we lived in Norfolk, I would spend literally hours at the kitchen sink topping and tailing punnet after punnet of these jewel like fruits. I don’t miss that bit at all, it was very messy with splats of blackcurrant juice all over my white tiles-but I do really miss eating them.
There are not many things that we cannot get here in Spain, and apart from the above, what else ? Well water-cress, rhubarb, smoked haddock, kippers, taramasalata, to name but a few of the things we love to eat ,and are impossible to find here. In fact I had to do a drawing of rhubarb to explain to a Spanish friend what it was.
That said, we eat more seasonally here, and there is a plethora of the most wonderful fruit and vegetables , most growing a stones throw from our house. At the moment we are devouring the best cherries and nectarines that I have ever tasted.
I have learnt a lot about this country in the last eighteen months. Much more so than if one is on holiday. We are fortunate to live in a small , traditional Spanish village near the sea. Community is all, and children and the elderly are revered above all else. Everyone you speak to is a cousin, sister or brother of the next person.
The Church plays a huge role in village life, and the annual calendar of events, Saints` days and fiestas. There is always something to celebrate.
The Spanish by nature are garrulous, the men as much as the women. They talk and argue loudly, cry and laugh loudly. Emotions run high. I am often woken by incessant chatter in the village street outside our bedroom window, late at night and early in the morning.
One thing I love, is that you can sit in a bar in Spain, and have one glass of wine, or a cup of coffee ,and basically stay there all day if you wished, without being hassled to buy another, and you would be offered a saucer of delicious hot, salty almonds, or a plate of tapas too. Being sociable matters, and talking is important.
The weather has a huge part to play, I guess, as we all spend so much more time outside, and that means people are sitting outside their houses in chairs on the pavements to keep cool in the evenings, and it`s lovely to see the children playing in the village streets, as they have done for centuries. One of my most favourite things about living in Spain, is just that-how much time we are outside. We have totally embraced it. Sunshine and fresh air.
Friends we were talking to the other night , asked us if we missed the changing of the seasons (thinking UK), and no we don’t ,the seasons here do change too, albeit at a higher level temperature wise. I love how the Spanish hate the cold, the wind, the sea mist, but the minute the temperatures ramp up, they mutter `mucha calor` non stop, fanning their faces…
The Spanish love to eat, drink , dance and party.
They eat tons of paella, sardinas, and jamon, and vast amounts of delicious fresh seafood in general. We are constantly amazed at the ginormous portion sizes at most beach restaurants, and if it is just Andrew and I , we tend to share one plate of food. But Sunday is beach day and family day , babies, and granny comes too,( as long as it`s `Verano`-that is summer), and there are usually large tables of people tucking in. I love that the tiny children adore clams and prawns etc as much as the grown ups. Their love of good food starts when they are young.
At lunchtime, in the town, you will see workmen and builders , downing tools, and sitting on the ground in the shade, tearing their bread and piling with tinned tuna or marinaded peppers. No packets of unappetising sandwiches here.
The people in Spain love making music-an impromptu sing song or guitar playing ,and they dance well and uninhibitedly. This happens a lot in our village bar in the square, the hub of the village, with young and old alike taking part. Pop songs, anthems, and flamenco, and all life is seen here. We often go to bed late, and can still hear strains of rousing Spanish ballads travelling up the street from the bar.
The Spanish love using bleach and fly spray. I understand the bleach , because as I have said before, here in the glaring sunlight ,white doesn’t stay white for long. It goes yellow or grey ,and it is a total nightmare, sheets, cushions, lampshades, outdoor chairs , tables ….and don’t leave brightly coloured clothes outside ever. They fade, big time, and not always evenly, as we have learnt to our cost!
At this time of year , all I can hear over the wall from next doors terrace is a periodic loud whooshing noise , from Maria and her extra large can of fly spray. We also got back from shopping this morning, and Isobel across the road, was doing battle with ants outside her house. It`s never ending. Love it.
There are more dentists, hairdressers , beauticians in the towns here, that you can shake a stick at. Appearance is obviously very important. A reddish burgundy coloured hair dye is de rigueur for the older women, (which tends to fade ), and jet black for the men, ( why oh why). A new hair-do is very important for church, and that means twice a week here for Mass in our village. Every Tuesday and Saturday evening rows of very smartly dressed , dripping in rather nice jewellery, older women, coiffured within an inch of their life, walk slowly down past our house in Calle Real to the Church. ( They head to the bar afterwards too-which is rather jolly)
What I love most about living in Spain, and indeed this village, is how we have been embraced by everyone. We have tried very hard to integrate, which hasn’t been difficult really, and has indeed been a pleasure. You have to make an effort to greet people, to shop and drink locally, and share and care.
Our Spanish is improving, and it’s interesting to see how ,when you speak a few words ( that you know)to someone, they always presume that you are more fluent than you are, and answer you back in a fast spoken torrent of Spanish, going into all the ins and outs of whatever observation that you might have made.
It’s the only way to learn though, and I never let on!