Sunday, November 27, 2016
Battening down the hatches
As I weeded the garden I was thinking about the Siddiqui family - well them and the remarkable resilience of weeds. I pondered the Siddiquis speaking English to each other. Without knowing anything about them I presume that they are the second and third or maybe third and fourth generation descendants of someone who would not claim Derby as home.
It is November so it's time for the meal and Annual General Meeting of the Culebrón Neighbourhood Association. It happened this afternoon, in fact it's probably still going on as, for the first time in years, I did a bunk from the AGM. I'm on, or maybe I was on, the management committee so skipping the meeting is probably a hanging, or maybe a garroting, offence.
When we are complaining to people about our lack of Spanish they often suggest to us that Maggie and I should talk in Spanish at home. Grammatical considerations aside how self conscious and how foolish, do you think I'd feel speaking Spanish to Maggie? You are correct - somewhere off the top of the stupidity scale. A Tsunami of stupidity.
We've lived in Spain for twelve years on the trot now. Maggie can claim 15 years total because of her time in Madrid in the 90s. For me that's close enough to 20% of my life and for Maggie over 27%. Maybe, like the Siddiquis the home language should be the language we use to generally communicate and, like the Siddiquis, our home TV should be our home TV. But it isn't. Why else would I be watching Gogglebox?
I didn't really want to go to the Neighbourhood Association meal this afternoon. It isn't so much the Spanish anymore. I've sort of accepted that my Spanish is bad and always will be. The reason I didn't want to go is because the Association is probably the place where I feel most foreign. Paradoxically that's because, almost certainly, it's the place where I am most warmly greeted. At the last meal there was a lot of kerfuffle about where we were going to sit. We sat somewhere only to be told that such and such was going to sit there and, when we tried again, we got a similar story. Our final destination was the metaphorical seat behind the column. This looking out for your pals obviously happens everywhere, people hold seats and places in queues for latecomers. I suspect though, that if challenged, most seat holders would cede the right to the people who were physically present. Shift the German towel and the sunbed is yours isn't it?
After the Association meals the conversation is never just football, or the weather, or music. If we talk about music we compare and contrast Spanish and "English" music. If it's football, I'm conversationally buggered but, even if I weren't, the conversation would become an analysis of Man U and Barca or Aston Villa and Mallorca. I'm as guilty of this as the Spanish person alongside me but I am marked out as different (and incidentally inferior) because of my nationality. Just once it would be nice to have conversation, flawed as it may be, where we were talking about Stoke and Watford because we are talking English football or Numancia and Rayo Vallecano because were are in Spain or even about PSG, Manchester City and Sevilla because we are in Europe (just).