Los Ingleses and the Spanish Dream

Los Ingleses and the Spanish Dream

Like I said, we came away from our tapas experience pondering what it must be like to live here permanently, inhabiting a strangely hybrid society of disconnected individuals in the corner of a foreign land.

Of course, one makes all sorts of possibly scurrilous and certainly baseless assumptions about the lives and motivations of complete strangers. What is travel about if not to ogle and surmise, or even imagine? And, one can only be subjective, after all. There was something in the eyes of that bar owner, I thought, some weary disappointment, some resignation. It strikes me that there’s a half-emptiness, as if the dream is not quite fulfilling its promise. Long hours in a bar or even a restaurant in the middle of a dry dusty hinterland with four punters on Saturday lunchtime. Probably more in the evening and then Sunday lunch is reservations only, and probably a roast. It’s a business, something to do, something to grow and be proud of. But it strikes me it’s helluva lonely and a long time till ‘closing time in the sky’ if you get my drift. I don’t know, but there’s a lot to be said for Chorley.

I happen to be reading a terrific book called Ghosts of Spain that deals with the hidden bits of Spain’s more recent history, starting with the Civil War. Hidden in the sense of everyone knows they’re there but nobody really talks about them. Fascinating stuff. On the subject of the English in Spain, some serious ethnographic research was done not long ago. The researcher, a social anthropologist, lived with the ‘tribe’ down on the Costa del Sol and participated in its many and varied rituals including the Royal British Legion, old-time music hall, time-share touting events and Anglican Church coffee mornings in Fuengirola. Her conclusions were pretty depressing but somehow unsurprising: that people thought they were living the Spanish lifestyle but spoke virtually no Spanish; that they lived, in effect, in English ghettoes; that they kept faith with the Little Englander, isolationist, nationalism of GB. She called this ‘betwixt and between’, ‘neither here nor there’. And that seems to sum it up – that sense of rootlessness, living on a margin of a kind, a sunny one for sure, but…..

….but it must take, what they call in these parts, ‘cojones’ to up sticks and come out here to live, forsaking all others and all that. You’d need to be very resilient, very self-reliant and/ or have some kind of absorbing passion. Alternatively a hermit, a sociophobe or an out and out nutter might do it. Or perhaps maybe you’d do better if you were just a bit dim and enjoy shedding skin or watching a lot of daytime TV. Who knows, but hats off to them, those Ingleses. I couldn’t do it.

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