Great things about Spain, Seville

Visit Seville, or else…

After last week’s blog titled Nutters in Seville, I want to make it clear that I do actually love the city I’ve chosen as my home, and that despite its downfalls there are plenty reasons to visit, and even live, in Seville.

I’d like to stay clear of the obvious reasons that anyone could find out with a quick search on google, such as the marvellous weather, the impressive cathedral, and the breath-taking festivals: Semana Santa and the Feria. I want to dig deeper, and let anyone interested in visiting Seville just what you can expect.

seville-sevilla
Beauty… Photo by Calvo Pastor

Azahar

If someone was to take off my nose and ask me what smell I’d missed most about Seville, then I’d definitely say azahar, the orange blossom that comes out at the start of spring, normally just in time for Semana Santa. For me it’s not just the lovely sweet smell that the orange blossom gives off around the city, but the memories that it sparks.

I started to fall in love with the smell of azahar around the time when I fell in love with my wife. I still remember our first Semana Santa, where she started to open up and show me the real her and what drove her passion in life.

I also remember the year my Dad visited and my father-in-law had the decency to pick off some orange blossom near plaza San Pedro, wrap it up in a box. He gave it to my Dad, so my mother could experience the richness and special smell of the city and festival too. As the azahar was packed in the box for eight hours, when my mum opened it up the smell exploded from the box. My Mum was speechless, which was probably a first.

My recent memories are of the week when our daughter was born, during Semana Santa. The first time we walked with her around the city, when she was all cute and snug in her pram, we were knackered from not sleeping, but content that she was in the world. I remember sniffing the air, and being filled with life as azahar shot up my nose and made me feel proud of the baby we’d made.

Romance

Having come from living and teaching English in Bangkok, my exposure to romance had been stolen from me. There it’s frowned upon to show affection in public places, and no, ping pong shows don’t count. It was a cold and sad way of living, the complete opposite to Seville, where you can see the love being felt on a daily basis.

Seville is a very coupley place. I don’t know many people who stick it out here for long if they don’t get snapped up by a local, or fall in love with a fellow English teacher. A lot of people I’ve met over the years have found it too coupley, and have commented that they find being single here a bit weird. They just didn’t fit in, and I can imagine that.

Everywhere you go here, couples in love are walking about, kissing, holding hands, and being proud of the person by their side. This makes it an upbeat, happy and romantic place to visit. So what are you waiting for? Maybe you could meet your future partner here as well.

Beauty

Sure, it’s cheesy, but the longer I stay here, the more I realise just how beautiful the city is. Now that I’ve moved out of the centre, I appreciate it more as I don’t have to put up with the annoying aspects too much.

Where I live now it’s pretty dull. You don’t get many tourists wandering about, although there is a great hotel in Cuidad Expo  if you want to get a feel for village life. There are less shops, less people, less traffic, and less everything. But it’s a family area, which is exactly what we were looking for.

When I go back in the city, normally at the weekend, I appreciate just how pretty the centre is. Not only am I talking about the buildings, parks, and colourful centre, but also the bright churches, the flowers, and the people.

Most Sevillanos make a real effort to go out, in fact, they wouldn’t dream of popping up the shops in their pyjamas or taking their dog out for a quick walk in their track suit bottoms. Of course, you have the slightly hippie and bohemian area such as the Alameda and Calle Feria (which I loved while I lived there) but in general people make an effort to look the bee’s knees, and show the rest of the world that their image is important.

Safety

I was done over a few times while travelling, but I’ve never had any problems while living in Seville. The only times I’ve felt unsafe were after my bikes got stolen. In general I’ve always felt secure, both in the day and at night, walking around on my own in the centre. There’s a happy atmosphere, people are generally kind to each other, and you’ll rarely get into trouble while on holiday here.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t take care. My sister swears she had her purse stolen while walking down Calle Sierpes, I’ve heard of travellers and expats being mugged in the early hours of the morning too. Also guys stealing handbags while driving about on scooters in the centre of the city, so by all means, be adventurous, but take it easy.

Tradition

The more I live here, the more I realise just how important it is to preserve tradition in a city. I am big fan of Semana Santa, and am proud to say I’m a member of a brotherhood here, so I can participate in the processions. I’ve learnt a lot about the tradition of Seville, about the past, and just how important this festival is for the locals. I understand why too. I know that the value of the Christs and Virgins, which are so well preserved in the churches, are icons, giving belief to locals. The longer I’m here the more I appreciate how much passion is involved in keeping this culture’s importance. Grandparents teach their grandchildren their values, share memories, and educate their family on the beauty of the festival. I think it’s great that these values are passed on and remain an importance in the society.

It’s a long time since I’ve been to a flamenco tablao, but that was another reason why I fell in love with Seville. Not to mention the fact that my first official date with my wife was in a flamenco tablao. To see the passion and spirits of Sevillanos performing their art and tradition through dancing, singing, or playing the guitar is a real treat, especially as you can normally find the best ones for free, like La Carboneria.

I miss those Saturday nights when I used to go out for tapas with my wife and we’d normally end up in a flamenco tablao, just sitting, watching the dancers show the world that their tradition is very much still alive.

Christmas is also a lovely time to visit. I normally prefer the lights here, which they put up down the main street Avenida Constitucíon, are prettier and more varied than the ones back in London. There are also great Christmas fares set up around and generally there’s a great, festive and happy vibe kicking about.

If you are visiting Seville, then I’d recommend coming in spring; when the weather is perfect, if it doesn’t rain, and you can get a real feel for why Seville is so special.

Are you planning on visit Seville soon? Have you been here recently? If you have any questions about life here then just leave me a comment below.

Annoying things in Spain, Humour, Seville

The Nutters of Sevilla

nutters-in-sevilla
Daisy are you out there? Photo by D0282

I met a fair few nutters on my trip around the world. The scariest was a 6ft transvestite called Daisy, who I met while on a greyhound bus on the way to L.A. She told me she was going to see her Mum because she’d got her a job as a show girl. Also on the greyhound bus were a drugged up couple. One of which was wearing illuminous pink shades. They both got off the bus at every chance to pop another pill. And not forgetting the obese Chinese guy I met in Siem Reap who had a go at me for going to see Angkor Wat because he said I should prefer seeing natural wonders of the world.

Continue reading “The Nutters of Sevilla”

Great things about Spain, Semana Santa, Seville

6 phrases to survive Semana Santa

It’s that time again; Holy week is just round the corner. Semana Santa in Sevilla is about to kick off when hundreds of Nazarenos form in their processions while on a penitence, thousands of spectators absorb the atmosphere while throwing their pipas – seed shells, on the floor, and plenty of Sevillanos cry while their Christs or Virgens pass, or because their procession gets cancelled due to rain.

Whether you love or hate Semana Santa, you can’t live in Sevilla without being affected by the craziness that surrounds this immense festival. Personally, I’m a massive fan (I even participate in a procession, one of the benefits of being married to a Sevillana whose family are members of a brotherhood), at least until the Friday, by then I’ve usually had enough and can’t wait to back to normality, go to bed at a reasonable time, and be able to walk around the city without planning several hours in advance.

If you’re sticking around to watch the processions this year, or are coming over as a visitor, then here are a few expressions that might come in useful as you are out and about watching pasos or having a beer with some locals.

Semana santa virgin
Esta preciosa… Photo by albert besselse

‘Esta preciosa’ – ‘She’s beautiful’

You can use this one while, or just after, a Virgin passes, especially La Macarena, although to her you’d be better off shouting ‘Guapa, Guapa,’ like her followers do. I’m not a huge admirer of the Virgin processions. Even after all these years they seem pretty similar, I know they’re not, but once you’ve seen one hundred, you think you’ve seen them all, or just the same one a hundred times. I’m more eager to wait around an hour, or even two, to see a decent Christ procession though. That’s where the passion and excitement lies for me, especially as La Madrugada approaches. Continue reading “6 phrases to survive Semana Santa”

Annoying things in Spain, Culture Shock, Seville

How do you survive the summer blast in Andalucía?

Stop hoping that the intense summer heat wave from Africa is going to whizz round the side of Spain and let us off for a year. You know it won’t be long before you find yourself struggling to breath easily when you leave your flat in the evening, or having several cold showers a day to try to maintain a reasonable body temperature, or joining the masses in saying ‘Que calor,’ all the time. The horrible heat wave in Andalucía is coming, so get prepared.

Yes please! I'll have a bit of that. Photo by Edwinek
Yes please! I’ll have a bit of that.
Photo by Edwinek

So far this summer we’ve been damn lucky in Seville. I think everyone panicked at the start of May when temperatures got up to the mid 30’s and we thought we were in for one of the worst summers in history. Luckily the unbearable heat hasn’t struck us yet. I mean the one which leaves you zapped out, lethargic and in zombie land for a few days. Last summer was agonizing at times when temperatures got as high as 55 degrees, which my wife loved as she was pregnant at the time. If you’re reading this from the UK and are dreaming of your sun packed holiday, then just think about us lot over here, desperate for the summer to fly by, or until we fly away to escape the oven. Continue reading “How do you survive the summer blast in Andalucía?”

Culture Shock, Humour, Seville, Spain, Uncategorized

Can Spain win the World Cup in Brazil?

Can Spain win the World Cup in Brazil? Could they pull off the unthinkable and become Champions of Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012, and now World Cup 2014? I’d be bloody impressed if they do, and if England don’t win (you have to be optimistic in life) then I will be rooting for La Roja as always.

Can they win the World Cup in Brazil? Photo by S. Yodo
Can they win the World Cup in Brazil?
Photo by S. Yodo

I’m not so sure they can become World Cup champions again though. I had my doubts that they were going to win any of the previous three competitions, especially Euro 2008, but that was mainly because of the low expectations the locals had.

I remember that tournament in Austria and Switzerland clearly. Part of me was gutted that England wasn’t there, but another part was relieved that I didn’t have to suffer the usual torture of watching us getting smashed out on penalties again. I could support another team though, Spain. I respect Spain and have always liked the way they play. I sort of felt sorry for them too, just like England they had a half decent team, but never got past the quarter finals.

I was surprised by the attitude of my students back in 2008. I was teaching a bunch of adults and they all laughed when I asked if they thought Spain could win the Euros.

“Spain? Nah, we always lose in los cuartos.”

“Spain? But we are rubbish; the manager doesn’t know what he is doing.”

“Spain? I think England have more of a chance.”

“Well, I doubt that somehow,” I said.

You get the picture.

Even with the mighty Luis Aragonés as a manager, the expectations were generally low. I say generally but my brother-in-law was convinced Spain was going to make history.

“Look at the team we have: Casillas, Ramos, Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi, Alonso, Fabregas, Torres, and Villa Maravilla.”

Once the campaign started and Spain smashed through the group stages by beating Russia, Sweden and Greece the atmosphere began to change. The fans really believed there was hope.

“I told you,” said my cuñao, “this is the year!”

As an Englishman my main fears were that Spain was going to get knocked out on penalties. When it was still 0 v 0 against Italy after extra time, I was convinced they were doomed. But luckily I was wrong. When Fabregas poked in the last penalty, suddenly my devotion for La Roja began to grow. I loved the way they played and respected their determination and will to win. I joined the rest of Spain in the celebrations and took on the new belief that Luis Aragonés could lead his men to victory.

Watching them do Russia, and of course the Germans in the final, was absolute magic. It was lucky because normally I go home to England in July, but that year I decided to stay. It was great to see the city of Seville partying that night, although the celebrations weren’t as intense as when Sevilla F.C. won the Uefa Cup.

I must say I was expecting the celebrations to continue though. The next day was as if nothing had happened. There were hardly any flags hanging out the windows and only a few people were wearing Spain shirts. Perhaps in other parts of Spain the celebrations were more intense.

Celebrations outside Seville. Photo by Ghawi dxb
Celebrations outside Seville.
Photo by Ghawi dxb

I think the main reason why Spain won that year was because of Luis Aragonés. After his sad death on the 1st of February this year, they showed a documentary on his powerful impact on the Spanish team. A lot of people believe he inspired the players to victory that year and started this positive feeling in the Spanish side. You only have to watch the way he shouted and motivated his players to realise what a powerful man he was and how much he helped Spain. A lot of the main players; Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta all said in interviews how much of a leader he was. He will be sadly missed this year. Even Torres pointed to the sky in his honour when he scored against Bolivia the other night.

The World Cup 2010 in South Africa was equally as enjoyable. My Spanish students finally had some confidence about themselves and the general vibe in the air was positive. This time it was Vincente Del Bosque who led the team to victory. He kept the same tiki taka – passing football, strategy, which allowed Spain to beat Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and Holland to win the World Cup for the first time in history. Again it was a magical tournament, and as soon as England got knocked out I was rooting for them to win.

No one thought they were going to win the Euros again though. I certainly didn’t. But they only bloody did it. They smashed their group and then beat France, Portugal, and Italy (4 v 0 in the final) and went on do something that no one had ever done before, and probably never will again, by winning three in a row.

The big question is; can they make it four? They have a tough group this year with games against Holland (13th June – 17.00 Spanish time), Chile (18th June – 17.00), and Australia (23rd June – 14.00). Also they have the possibility of meeting Brazil or Croatia in the next round. I’m hoping to see them play Brazil, not only so one has to get knocked out (Come on, I’m English at heart), but also to see an amazing game where Diego Costa has to face his own country.

Hats off to Spain Photo by piceyebone
Hats off to Spain
Photo by piceyebone

I’m not so sure they will make it this year, but I did say that at the start of Euro 2012. How can one team win four major international trophies in a row? Despite losing a few key players like Puyol, Navas, and Negredo, they still have the main bulk and experience of winning. The spirit must still be alive. Surely they will be playing with Luis Aragonés in their hearts.

I’d be absolutely amazed if they win it again. If they do, then it will have to be a massive chapò – hats off! I’m just hoping we manage to steer clear of them so there isn’t war at home.

What do you think? Do you want to see Spain win again? Or have you had enough of La Roja and want to see someone else win this year’s World Cup in Brazil?

Annoying things in Spain, Culture Shock, Seville

What does my head in about the Feria in Sevilla…

The longer I stay in Sevilla, the more I realise what the city is really like. Don’t get me wrong, Sevilla is a great place to live, but over time, like any city I guess, I’ve started to wonder if I really belong here. In my previous blog I made it quite clear that I’m more of a Semana Santa type of guy, and even though I think the Feria is a great festival, there are a few things that do my head in. I can manage one afternoon and evening at the Feria tops, any more then I’d just end up fuming inside. But why, what is it that bugs me about the Feria?

Sevillanas
Dancing Sevillanas… Photo by Tom Raftery

The repetitive music

I love music, and I’m a fan of Spanish music. They have some great artists and I rarely have to turn the radio station over, unless I’m listening to Copla. I particularly enjoy listening to flamenco, which is why my novel is connected with it, but I couldn’t listen to it all damn week.

The problem with the Feria is that in the casetas all they play is Sevillanas. It’s the constant ring ting ting ting ting, ring ting ting ting ting that gets on my goat, and the tick tick tick, tick tick tick of the castanets that peck at my head like a woodpecker on speed. Continue reading “What does my head in about the Feria in Sevilla…”

Great things about Spain, Humour, Seville

What’s so special about the Feria in Sevilla?

It’s that time of the year again when I get out my horseman’s suit, dust off the hat, and polish up my shoes ready for the Feria in Sevilla. I’m only messing, I wouldn’t be seen dead in one of those shiny grey suits and poncy hats the Sevillanos wear while they totter about on their horses with a glass of manzanilla sherry, but that’s mainly because I don’t own, and can’t ride, a horse.

The mighty Feria in Sevilla starts up next week, officially at midnight on Monday with the pescaito (fried fish night). Sevillanos remortgage their houses so they can spend a week eating, drinking and prancing about dancing Sevillanas on unstable wooden stages.

Can you sense that I’m not a Feria kind of guy? I’m more of a Semana Santa man. I probably would have been a fan back in my early twenties when I was young, free and single. Sure I will be again once my boy is old enough to drag me on the intense rides on Hell Street. I do try to see the positive aspects in most things though, so here are a few reasons why you should get out a loan from the bank this week and attend the Feria de Sevilla! Continue reading “What’s so special about the Feria in Sevilla?”

Culture Shock, Expat Issues, Seville

How can you have breakfast out every morning?

It’s not that I don’t like eating breakfast out. I’m all up for some churros now and then, a warm cup of coffee on a chilly January morning, and even a shot of anis after breakfast on a Sunday, but how Sevillanos, and some guiris, have breakfast out every morning is beyond me.

Busy bar in Seville
Room for a small one?
Photo by Katie G

When I was in my late teens growing up in London, I’d normally meet mates for a fry up to sooth a nasty hangover at the weekend. I used to love the occasion; chatting about the shenanigans of the previous night and normally trying to remember what had happened. It was fun, but I couldn’t do it every morning.

A few things bug me about having breakfast out in Seville. Firstly, the noise; it’s never quiet in a café. I’ve grown to hate the sound of smashing china plates, and knives and forks splattering in the tray. Waiters shouting orders does my head in too. Sometimes the volume of locals speaking is so loud that you can’t hear the person in front talking. If I’m not properly awake when I go in the café, I sure am when I leave. Continue reading “How can you have breakfast out every morning?”

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?

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.

-94
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.

-142
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.