Culture Shock, Falling for Flamenco, Flamenco, Seville

The Power of Flamenco

It’s impossible to live in Andalucía and not be affected by the power of flamenco. Before I came here I knew that flamenco existed, but never realised its real beauty. Over time it has become an important part of my life here.

Flamenco - Carboneria
La Carboneria. Photo by von_boot

The first time I saw live flamenco was at La Carboneria with my wife (girlfriend at the time) on our first date. I guess it was a strange place to go for a first date, especially as it was Halloween and I was wearing a monster mask (she made me take it off before we entered). I felt the power of flamenco immediately though and soon became a fan.

“Are you ready to see flamenco?” she asked as we sat on the long white wooden benches near the front of the stage.

“I guess so,” I said, taking a sip of manzanilla, sweet sherry. Two men wearing all black entered, one carrying a guitar, and they sat on the red chairs on the wooden stage.

I looked up for the dancer, expecting a slender pretty lady to glide towards the stage, but a chunky aggressive woman barged through the crowd and clonked over instead. I turned to my wife, raised my eyebrows, and smirked. She put her finger to her lips and hushed.

“Respect,” she whispered, smiling. The guitarist began to strum. I was immediately mesmerized by the beauty of the sound that emerged. Drawn in by how quickly he moved his nimble fingers. He was fantastic to watch and made playing look so easy, so natural, and so perfect.

The dancer was equally as impressive. The speed she moved her feet and slammed on the floor was outstanding. The emotion in her face seemed so real. She actually looked as though she was suffering about something. If only I could have understood the lyrics, but it wasn’t essential to appreciate that flamenco was a powerful, emotional, and romantic art. I’d been touched by its beauty.

Over the years I’ve seen a few flamenco shows. A great place is Los Gallos. I only went because my parents treated me. The venue was a lot more upmarket than the free Carboneria. The carpets were cleaner, the spectators were dressed up, and the performers were better groomed (still no slender pretty dancers though). For €25 (now €35) I thought it was a tad expensive, but if you want to splash out then it’s worth it. My parents also went to Auditorio Alvarez Quintero recently and had a great time. I prefer La Carboneria though as it’s more underground and rugged, like real flamenco should be.

Flamenco guitarist sevilla
Flamenco Guitarist Plaza del Triunfo
Photo by HDR-newaddict

The flamenco guitarists around Plaza de Truinfo have also had a big impact on me. I love sitting on the benches and listening to them play while I write my novel, read, or just sit and people watch. It’s a romantic setting and the guitar music provides inspiration. There are a couple of guitarists who normally perform at about mid day and also in the evenings. It can get quite busy with tourists and guiris walking about, but it’s still one of my favourite things to do when I get a chance in Seville.

Flamenco nights out remind me of a lot of great moments: nights out with my wife as we were getting to know each other, fun times with mates and family, who always insist on seeing flamenco while they are here, and even our wedding because we hired a guitarist for the reception.

I miss seeing live flamenco dancing at times, especially now as we can’t go out that much. But living in Seville will always provide opportunities for seeing flamenco. Instead I listen to it a lot at home, when I’m walking about Seville, or writing. I’d still like to learn how to play the guitar, but that’s one for the future.

Are you a flamenco fan or maybe a musician? Where’s your favourite place to go and watch a live flamenco show?

Culture Shock, Great things about Spain

A Tribute – Salvador; A Remarkable Man

Every now and then you meet someone who changes your life. During my time living in Spain a handful of people have really influenced and inspired me. One of those was Salvador – Saviour in English, but why was he so important?

About four years ago I surprised my girlfriend by whisking her away to Cazalla de la Sierra and asking her to marry me. She said yes, of course (that’s what she actually said, I’m not trying to be arrogant), and we returned to Seville a happy couple.

View from hotel in Cazalla

Then we told her family.

They were over the moon, of course, but I hadn’t considered one minor detail.

“So where do you want to get married?” asked the mother.

“In a church of course,” said my fiancé.

“Por supuesto,” I said, nodding and grinning. I suppose I’d always wanted to get married in a church, but there was a slight snag.

“But Barry isn’t a catholic,” said the mother, smiling a concerned smile. Continue reading “A Tribute – Salvador; A Remarkable Man”

Great things about Spain, Seville

Short Story: The Golden Cross

Here’s a short story about a wedding in Sevilla. I wrote this a couple of years back after I got married. In my next blog I’ll tell you what inspire me to write this story.

The Golden Cross

The church bells chimed and Salvador glanced at his silver watch as it jangled round his thin wrist.

Santa Ana Church – Sevilla

“In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he whispered. He continued ironing, concentrating on the pleats on the sleeves, the cuffs, and the collar.

When he thought about the big event, his stomach tightened. Standing in front of all those people and speaking made him feel jittery. The church would be packed with family listening to him repeating the words from the Lord, saying the vows.

He thought back to his childhood and grimaced when the names the other boys called him at break times in the playground echoed in his mind; Mute, the Whisperer, No Tongue. He was a changed man now though, and had courage for his grand day.

He hung his shirt up on the wardrobe and brushed his black trousers. His clothes were ready and he had plenty of time to get to the church. As he took a swig of coffee, his mobile rang.

“Hi Pedro.”

“Hi, I just wanted to check how you were,” said Pedro, chuckling down the phone. “You know; last minute nerves and everything. I know you’ve never done this before.”

“That’s true, first time for everything I suppose. I’m a little nervous, but I’ll be fine. What about you? Is everything in order?”

“Yeah, I checked the flowers and everything this morning. All the guests have arrived from England and I’ll be at the entrance to greet them and make sure they are all ready for when Maria arrives.”

“That’s great. Guess I’ll see you there, don’t forget the rings now.”

“Don’t worry, they’re in my pocket.” Salvador breathed deep as he placed the mobile on his chest of draws. He’d be all right, no one would suspect his nerves; besides, everyone will be looking at Maria in her dress. 

The afternoon heat in September was scorching so Salvador had a cold shower and got dressed. He was about to do up his top shirt button when he remembered his lucky charm.

“My cross,” he muttered, smiling as he reached towards his bed side table, but his golden cross was gone. He felt a nervous pang in his chest. “I’m sure I left it there.” How would he get through the day? He checked under his bible, by the side on the floor, and in the draw, but the cross had disappeared.

The church bells chimed. He only had an hour before the ceremony. He needed strength. He would be unable to speak in public without his cross. He would freeze. He thought back to his confirmation, when his father had given him the cross. The month before he’d been to speech therapy classes and in front of the packed Cathedral he’d spoken his first words. His parents had cried, watching their son speak after all those years in silence. He had to have his cross.

He jogged into the lounge and knocked into a table, a glass half full of orange juice smashed on the floor. He had no time to clear up the mess. He pulled the cushions out from the leather sofa and searched down the sides, behind, and under, but nothing.

He could feel his wet shirt sticking to his back. He had to calm down or the wedding would be a disaster. He could see Maria gazing at him, wondering why he was unable to say a word, her eyes welling up on her wedding day.

He searched his bedroom one last time, but there was no sign of the cross. He knelt down in front of a picture of Jesus and prayed for strength. He put on his black leather shoes, grabbed his jacket, and left for the church. He had to find his strength alone.

As he clonked towards the entrance, he could see family members gathered outside so he went in a side entrance. He knew the layout well and figured that he could get near the front without speaking to anyone. They’d all be taking photos and waiting for Maria anyway.

The church was ready; flowers placed along the wooden benches and candles flickering on the sides. No one was inside. Salvador’s throat closed up and he wheezed as he knelt down and stared up at the golden altar.

“Please Lord, give me strength,” he whispered, crossing himself. He was surprised he could speak without the cross, what would happen when the church was full though?

Just as Salvador had finished praying, the church door creaked open. Salvador darted to the side, hid behind a wooden pillar, and listened to Pedro lead in the English and Spanish families. His throat clenched up. How was he going to go through with this? Poor Maria.

“Hola Salvador,” said Miguel, one of Maria’s nephews. Salvador smiled at the boy and tapped him on the shoulder. “What’s the matter,” Miguel said, frowning. “Can’t you speak?” Salvador’s stomach tensed, how did kids always know everything? What if Miguel ran over and told everyone he was hiding? Salvador placed a finger on his lips and shushed Miguel while crossing himself.

“Oh, sorry, you’re praying.” Miguel slipped away. Salvador stood in silence.

Pedro brought in the guests. In five minutes Maria would arrive. He had to think of something.

“Has anyone seen Salvador?” Pedro said. The groom’s family shook their heads, concerned.

“I have,” Miguel said, holding up his hand. Salvador shut his eyes.

“Good boy, where is he then?” said Pedro.

“He was praying over there.” He pointed to the pillar. Salvador wiped his brow, tidied his collar, and forced a smile.

“There you are,” said Pedro, shaking his hand. “We were beginning to think you’d got cold feet. You okay? You seem flustered.”

“Uh huh,” Salvador mumbled, nodding twice.

“What’s up, cat got your tongue?” Salvador cringed at the word; Mute, the Whisperer, No Tongue. He smiled and shook his head. “Right then, well, go and take your place and I’ll go check for when Maria gets here.” Pedro darted up the aisle and Salvador wandered along the front benches, kissing the women on both cheeks and shaking hands with the men. His palms were sweaty.

Stunning altar inside Santa Ana

Salvador faced the altar and prayed for energy and strength to speak. He had to find the courage. The organist started and everyone stood up. Salvador peered along the aisle. Maria came round the corner, her bright smile creating a wave of energy through the crowd. She looked stunning. He prayed for strength.

When Maria reached the front, she looked right and smiled. Her eyes were a brilliant white and her face was beaming. Salvador breathed deeply and grinned. The music stopped and everyone sat down.

Salvador stood there, clenching his fists and tapping his left foot. His palms were sweaty. He reached inside his jacket pocket for a hanky. He always kept a hanky for emergencies. As he scrunched it in his palm to dry the sweat, he felt something cool and thin. He smiled at Maria and looked down to his pocket. Tangled up in the white hanky, glistening golden, was his cross. His tension oozed away. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath.

“Dear Beloved,” he said, grinning at the happy couple, “we are gathered here today…” 

Find about what inspired this story in next week’s blog.

Life as a guiri, Seville

First impressions of Seville

I decided to arrive in Seville at four in the afternoon during August; big mistake. As I stepped off the bus from Malaga, the suffocating heat smacked me in the face and clogged up my throat. I felt like I’d just jumped out from a massive freezer into the Sahara desert. Sweat started to seep out my pours. A group of darkly tanned lads were collapsed on a bench, suffering from the heat, gasping for air. I threw on my rucksack, took a massive glug of water, and started walking.

Maria Luisa Park

Maria Luisa Park
Photo by R. Alessandro

As I left the bus station the heat intensified. I passed a couple of white taxis parked under some withered trees. The drivers were inside snoozing behind the wheels. Of course, this is Spain; everyone must be taking a siesta.

Walking with a rucksack again felt great. I’d thought about travelling every day for the last two months while working in London. I was relieved to be back on the road, starting a new adventure, but unaware of the extent to which my life was about to change. Continue reading “First impressions of Seville”

Life as a guiri, Spain

Introducing ‘A Novel Spain’

Dusty road in Cazalla de la Sierra

Spain does weird things to me. One minute I think I’m living in one of the most charming and romantic places in the world, and the next I’m pulling my hair out wishing I was back in London.

I’ve had a rollercoaster of a ride during my eight years in Seville. I’ve travelled extensively round most of the country, had two jobs teaching English, moved four times, fallen in love with a Sevillana, got married, and had a baby boy. My chilled lifestyle here has also enabled me to become a writer, something I never would have had time for back in England.

Why am I writing this blog?

To entertain, inform, and have a bit of a laugh. A Novel Spain is my way of expressing to the world how I see life in Spain. I intend to write about the highs and lows, fun and annoying moments, fictitious and real stories, and perhaps give advice on the way. It’s a way of getting in contact with fans of Spain and meeting other bloggers as well.

Who is this blog for?

A Novel Spain should hopefully appeal to anyone with a slight interest in Spain. Whether you’re living here as an expat, just passing through on your holiday, or would like to read about the way of life here.

What will I blog about?

The pages on the menu bar above will give you a pretty good idea: Culture shock, Travel, Seville, Short Stories, Expat Issues, Flamenco, and Book Reviews.

When will I post?

A darn good question, with a full time teaching job and now a little baby boy to look after time is precious. However, I aim to post every Friday, and also the odd Tuesday.

So, I hope you enjoy this new blogging adventure. Be sure to follow me and subscribe for regular blogs. Looking for advice? Then just leave a comment below. Thanks.