My recent comments about smoking in Spanish bars and restaurants received the usual amount of moody replies, many of the more offensive ones deleted. There are two possible reasons for this: 1. Smokers hate criticism, 2. Negative blog posts lead to angry replies. The latter is certainly true.
I don’t like being critical of Spain, but as the years go by it seems that one finds more to be critical about. The other day whilst walking around the Retiro park, I tried to work out why, and came to the conclusion that it is simply the product of living somewhere for a very long time.
After the honeymood period wears off, one starts to see the chinks in the armour. But what made me fall in love with Spain in the first place?
The new-found freedom you get when you escape abroad, wild escapades with friends to different fieasta-ful corners of an undiscovered country, stunning fresh landscapes to look at, wander through, and photograph, a beautiful new language to learn, new people to interact with, a wonderful, rich, new culture to get to grips with, new food, the Spanish love of outdoor life, Spanish film (not TV!), fine wine, fine ham, beautiful people, a passion for valuing tradition… the list is long.
But then you live here for five, eight, ten years and you start seeing beyond all of that to the workaday country beneath. A country with the same problems as the one you came from, with it’s own silly annoyances that you realise do come to infringe on your everyday life (like the smoking thing).
You start moaning about the same things the locals do, but when you do it, there is a real danger that, as one commenter put it a few months ago, you just become “yet another foreigner sticking his nose into complicated issues and drawing the same old negative conclusions about Spain”.
The same conclusions a Spaniard will draw, but as a foreigner, woe betide you if you mention these things in public!
Anyway, what am I on about? I knew long ago that Spain would be a ‘life-partner’, like a great wife (like mine) that you know you plan to keep forever (hope Marina reads this, few bonus points here for the taking perhaps?!)
And just as we go might go through rough patches with a husband/wife/boy-girlfriend, in the end the best thing to do is to find a perfect middle ground where we live happily together, in love with each others’ virtues, and putting up with the foibles.
So my plan is to get my head out of my office, and start enjoying those virtues again, keeping everything positive (as is my wont), and putting up with the day-to-day annoyances that probably crop up wherever you live. I mean, if I still lived in the UK, I know I’d be moaning a hell of a lot more. (Then again when I phoned my great uncle recently, and he immediately commented on the weather, I felt deep pangs for such wonderful Englishness!)
Have you ever fallen in and out of love with somewhere you’ve lived for a long time?