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Spanish Secrets: Those Spicy English

On a rainy Galician day a Spanish journalist, accompanied by a photographer, arrives to interview Craig and Melanie Briggs about their life in Spain.

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With her tail curled high and ears pricked, our dog Jazz sprinted excitedly to the glass patio doors and barked furiously. An unfamiliar car turned into the drive, its bright headlights struggling to pierce the heavy rain. I walked through the hall and opened the front door.

By now the occupants, a young woman in her mid-twenties and an older man had stepped from the car. Like Caped-Crusaders, they shielded their belongings under the lengthy rainwear which was protecting them from the stormy elements. They tugged awkwardly at the handle of the garden gate before releasing the lock and scurrying to the front door and the relative shelter of the front porch. Waiting at the open door I warmly greeted our two guests.

Having phoned earlier in the week to arrange an appointment their arrival came as no surprise, unlike their polite apology. They’d arrived twenty minutes later than the agreed time. Given the atrocious weather conditions and the fact that they’d journeyed from our provincial capital Lugo, over an hour’s drive away, their tardiness was to be expected. Besides that, unexcused and deplorable timekeeping is as much a part of the Spanish character as the stiff-upper-lip is to the English psyche.

It’s an important lesson for all visitors to learn, whether permanently settling or just holidaying here in Spain. This national characteristic was once eloquently and quite logically explained by a Spanish acquaintance, Señor Suso.

Melanie and I had been travelling around the countryside with Suso in his old but trusty BMW. Along leafy lanes and through picturesque Galician countryside, time simply drifted away. As we’d rumbled along I’d kept an infrequent eye on his dashboard clock. We were meeting friends later that evening for dinner. With little over an hour until the agreed rendezvous we were pleased to be heading back. Moments later our mobile phone rang.

It was our friends asking our whereabouts and how long we might be. It transpired that Suso had failed to alter his clock to springtime and we were now running an hour late. As if this wasn’t bad enough, before leaving he insisted we share a glass of wine and a tasty tapa. He went on to explain that true friends would not mind waiting for us. Fortunately, they didn’t.

Our guests today were a journalist and her photographer, employees of the regional newspaper El Progreso. Along with several other English immigrants, we’d been chosen as candidates for an interesting feature article for the forthcoming Sunday supplement.

Some of her questioning said more about the Spanish culture than it did about the English. She found it unbelievable that English people would want to live in Northern Spain.
Why did you choose to move here? She asked. Why didn’t you move to Andalusia? There are many more English people there.

My answer was simple – “Because there are many more English people there.’’ I’m not sure she quite understood my answer.

Halfway through the interview she moved to the subject of food. The previous evening we’d enjoyed a wonderful creamy chicken tikka masala and spicy Bombay vegetables. Their eastern aromas were still hanging in the air. It was obvious from the eagerness of her questioning that the UK’s extensive variety of cuisines and mix of international cultures was of great interest.

The interview ended with the photographer taking pictures of Melanie and me standing over the remains of last night’s meal.

I can just see the headlines – Spicy English Couple Lunch on Butchered Indian.

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