Another year. Another month in Spain ends.
Just long enough that the glimpse of another culture unsettles me, leaving me wanting change.
To live and work there. To think and dream and speak in another language.
Never to see another tub of Bisto or Tetley tea bag or square sausage or jar of marmite. To drive on the left; to never use the inside lane on a roundabout and to negotiate the swarms of mopeds with insouciance. To order uno cafe solo – and it be mellow in my mouth. To Toot! without thought. To be so used to heat that you forget you’re warm but to enjoy cold showers.
To be amazed by the ant routes on walls and pavements and gardens. To be less amazed by ant burglaries – sweeping their lines out of kitchen and lounge and hallway and swearing you’ll invent an effective repellent.
To sleep with windows wide open and gaze at the darkest sky through mosquito blinds and have the local sponger-cats sit on your sill and serenade you for scraps.
To rest midday and embrace a nocturnal community.
To inhale the neighbouring cooking smells: oil and smoked paprika; chorizo; chicken stock; croquettes; gambas; tortilla. Evening air fragrant and savoury.
I visit for a few weeks. Of course I’m enchanted by it all. By definition I have escaped from my own everydayness – the drudgery of work and routine; the rain and the cold; the wrapped-up-in-must-do that is the rest of my life.
For a few weeks I get to rest when I want. I get golden honied light and the warmth of the sun. The freedom to visit new places – to do the touristy things I don’t do in my own home country. To taste and cook new foods and hear a new and musical language. To glimpse another way of doing and being.
This year the proximity of the French Border meant frequent trips over the Pyrenees. Sorties into Carcassonne and Narbonne and Perpignan. The memory of school French stronger with every visit.
And the position close to Girona and Barcelona meant adventures on the train system; funicular journeys up mountains; long engrossing walks through cities and towns; seaside excursions and toll familiarity.
Tarragona; Sitges; Barcelona; Montserrat; Blanes; Tordera (very close to where we were based); Tossa de Mar; Figueres; Jonquera – and many more in between.
We returned to torrential rain after a 7hr and 10 min plane delay. Our central heating is on. I look at my shabby home town and this worn and frayed house with a fresh frustration. I read of our politicians and fresh scandals and feel deepest despair and a desire not to stay and fix – largely because I realise I’ve given up thinking any of it can be or that I could have been instrumental in ameliorating any of it (silly, naive – though more likely arrogant – me) – but to leave and leave now.
I feel contaminated by the Tories and their politics of hate. I feel contaminated by a Labour party so corrupted by Blair that it reeks; the leadership contenders fighting like maggots over its corpse. And every news outlet – all preaching the same bankrupt neo-liberal sermon. There is nowt to be done. No effective opposition. And the system is designed to ensure there’s none.
I’m alive to my hypocrisy of course. That I’d decamp to a European country that’s as much of a basket case – and that I’d do so whilst knowing that I’d vote No in any EU Referendum. That’s breath-taking classic idiocy. To imagine a new life – to imagine that ultimately the politics of the powerful would be different.
The trick – I think – is not to leave in the belief that you can somehow begin again. Not to leave because you feel nothing but contempt for your own home. But to be clear about what is possible – what can be left behind and what will not change.
I’m a nomad who hasn’t travelled. I am restless to be gone. Not to some mythical nirvana. But to live a life that feels a better fit.
Baby steps. I’ve sent the application away for the language course.