Chapter 20 from Memoir, “Aventuras in Spain”

Chapter 20

What’s going to happen next?!


In 1980 and 1981 I taught English privately to various groups of students in my apartment on the Calle del Prado in Talavera de la Reina. One student was a history teacher who, according to her, spoke the best Castilian Spanish.  Her Spanish was the real McCoy, absolutely. None of this Talaveran slang, and certainly no cutting off the ends of words as the Andalucíans have a tendency to do. She was from Madrid, something she remarked upon every occasion she could get.

“I’m not from Talavera, you know. I’m from Madrid.” She pointed to herself and sighed heavily as if to emphasize this important point. She wanted me to help her with English as the other two in the group, being English teachers, were more advanced, so we decided on meeting an extra time each week to do an exchange. She would coach me with my Spanish and I would go over her English so that she would be better prepared for the group lesson. I quite liked being told how to pronounce Castilian Spanish correctly. It was so much easier than reading rules and regulations from a textbook.

“The letter ‘d’ is suave, soft, at the end of a word. Although it’s soft, it’s still there. Think of the word, ‘verdad‘.” This normally sweet older lady suddenly spoke as if she were a tyrant, giving out orders. This was a side of her I hadn’t seen for normally in the group class she was the quietest. I sat up straight, almost about to salute and stand to attention. I said the word, ‘verdad’, and out came just too strong of a ‘d’ at the end.

Do NOT pronounce the ‘d’ as in English!”  She actually did yell at me.

Oops. The pronunciation of the letter ‘d’ never had been high on my list of priorities up until that very second.

Verda…th.”  She corrected me, emphasizing the ‘th’ as in ‘this’.

I curled up my tongue and pronounced the word as closely to the way she did as I possibly could. Such a fine point, but it made all the difference to my pronunciation. Not only did she teach me the finer points of Spanish pronunciation, she also told me about her husband and some of the changes in Spanish society since Franco’s death and the beginning of the new democracy.

“My poor, poor husband works so very hard. His office is in Madrid, of course. Not here. And so much does he have to put up with.”


“He has to deal with so many people.” She lowered her head and stared at her stiletto- heeled shoe as she moves her ankle round and round, then looked up at me. With an accusatory tone she muttered, “Didn’t you say you might be moving to Catalunya, to Tarragona?” 

“Yes, possibly in a few months.”

“Then, you too will have to deal with the Catalans.”

“I don’t know anything about them.”

She grimaced and threw a hand up in the air as if swatting a fly. “Let me tell you a story about the Catalans. One day, my husband, who is a very important man, held a meeting in his office in Madrid. Guess what happened?”

“What?” I couldn’t imagine where this story was leading to. What could possibly have happened?

“This Catalan man turns up at the meeting. Well, the Catalan man begins talking in Catalan. To my husband, no less. Imagine! In Madrid, in my husband’s office, this Catalan man speaks in Catalan to my husband. In the capital city of Spain! Well, I tell you.”

“Does your husband know Catalan?”

Ask a silly question, and be told a silly answer.

Of course not! What is the name of the country we’re living in? What is the capital of Spain? What is the language of Spain? What passport do the Catalans have?!”

Before I could answer, she slapped the table with her hand. Her forehead was perspiring as she became more and more annoyed, and she grimaced, raising her eyes to the ceiling. I think I was correct in assuming that her questions were rhetorical, and that she wasn’t expecting me to answer.

“Let me tell you, Spanish is the language of the Spaniards. And Madrid is the capital of Spain. When you’re at a meeting in Madrid, you speak in Spanish. Not Catalan.” She fidgeted, played with her thick gold necklace, crossed her legs, then folded her arms. “Now, my husband, who is a very noble man, a man who can enjoy conversation with anyone, decided to get the better of the Catalan. You know what he did?!”


Gosh, maybe he punched him on the nose?!

“He answered the Catalan man in French!  Imagine! That shut the Catalan man up. My husband told him that if he could speak in Catalan, then maybe we should all speak in French, or German, or whatever language we wanted. But, that since they were in Madrid, the capital of Spain, where the language is Spanish, then isn’t it the right thing for everyone to speak in Spanish?”

“Why did the Catalan speak in Catalan? Maybe he doesn’t know Spanish?”  What silly questions I asked.

“If the Catalan people don’t know Spanish, then what’s wrong with them? I repeat, what is the name of this country? What is the name of the language?! Of course they know Spanish!”

“I think that under Franco they weren’t allowed to speak their language?”

“Oh, and that’s an excuse? Just because we have a so-called democracy now, that’s supposed to mean that they don’t have to speak Spanish?!”  She waved her hand as if fanning herself and muttered, “What is happening to this country? What’s going to happen next?  I ask you!”

It certainly seemed as if big changes were indeed looming over the Spanish psyche. With Franco gone, Catalunya was beginning to take charge of its own destiny where their own language would rule supreme. Was this what Freedom meant? To be able to speak one’s own language with dignity and respect from others? Or, was Freedom a means to an end, where rulers had the right to dictate and establish order? Whose Freedom should dominate?


Free on Kindle

Free until the 13th of September is “The Fabulously Fantastic Alfa Romeo”. It’s a fun, short memoir about the car I purchased in Germany and brought back to Spain. Can you believe it? The Guardia Civil denounced me! What happens next? Hmm. Grab it while it’s free!

That Luscious Moment – a short story

“That Luscious Moment” is one of my short stories that was recently published at Bellaonline. It takes place in Cambrils, Spain, in the early 1980s and deals with the themes of relationships and loyalty.

Pleased to share the following links. One is for the above short story, and the other is for a photo of mine that has also recently been published.


Wee Dog in a Box, Rota, Spain, 1974

When I first got married in 1974. I lived in Rota, Spain in an apartment complex called La Costilla.

One day, I was out walking and came across a box on the sidewalk. Being curious, I immediately peeked inside to see what might be there. Would there be hidden treasures? Maybe boxes of candy? Guess what I found!

A wee puppy dog.

I picked him up, petted him and carried him home, all the time wondering how could anyone simply dump him in a box and abandon him?

Maybe the person believed he or she was doing the right thing, hoping that someone would look in the box and adopt him. Far better to live in a box than wander the streets and get hit by a car, or kicked by a fool. There were so many stray dogs lying asleep under palm trees, or lying dead at the side of the road.

Here he is. This is the two of us on the balcony at La Costilla, 1974. It was his lucky day, and mine, when I looked in that box.






Feria Time

When I lived in El Puerto de Santa Maria in the mid-seventies I attended dance classes. They were free! The instructor taught people who danced in the feria and allowed the public to attend his classes. Not bad! It was so important to have a straight back and to try to be so elegant with your arms. Oh dear.

This short video will teach you some of the steps that I learned all those years ago.

After each class I’d saunter back along narrow streets to the apartment where I lived with two Spanish teachers who taught in the same school as me. I listened to raised voices, loud clapping, and smelled black tobacco, cheese and sherry that enveloped me in waves of longing. The people sat outside on the tiny sidewalk, watched me go by, as they played dominoes and tapped their feet to throbbing Flamenco movements.

I think even the geraniums perched inside colorful clay pots cemented onto walls danced and sang as I strode along, each step silent as the sky above.


Learning and Forgetting Spanish

When I first moved to Spain I taught English privately. Since most of my students were complete beginners I had to translate into Spanish many of the concepts and grammatical rules I was endeavouring to teach.

Now, this was a grand way for me to learn Spanish, especially when I pronounced the words incorrectly. My students would invariably repeat what I had just said, only with the superb, crisp diction that only a native speaker can possess. I hadn’t intended to learn Spanish when I was teaching English. It’s just the way things worked out.

I had my trusted teeny tiny English/Spanish dictionary snuggled deeply inside a pocket and I’d pull it out any time a student didn’t understand an English vocabulary word. I learned an awful lot of new words this way!



Teaching English privately in Talavera de la Reina, 1981

Fast forward to when I moved away from Spain to live in the United States. I still wanted to maintain my Spanish. All that work and energy I had expended in order to memorise vocabulary words and those pesky irregular verb conjugations, I did not want to have been in vain.

But, there I was, and here I still am, living in an English speaking country.

I remember years ago being so surprised and annoyed with myself when I couldn’t recall the word for ‘sleeve’. It’s ‘manga’, by the way. I had to look it up. The only word I remembered for counter top was ‘mostrador’, but I did learn ‘encimera’ after watching a video on Youtube. I don’t think I ever had heard of ‘encimera’ before. Or, maybe it’s one of those words that fell by the wayside deep within the convoluted wires of my brain. Now I feel I should be out and about saying ‘encimera’, ‘encimera’ to anyone who might care to listen. The word for ‘hem’ I have a problem remembering. It’s ‘dobdladillo’. I don’t think I’ve ever said this word, never ever. I’ve heard it, but not spoken it, so that’s a good excuse for not remembering it.

In the United States it’s mainly Latin American Spanish that you hear. You should see the looks on people’s faces any time I’d use ‘vosotros’! They’d gaze at me in amazement and yell, “You speak Spanish like don Quixote!”

Oh dear. Now, after all these years, since I don’t know anyone from Spain, I rarely ever use the ‘vosotros’ form of the verbs. When I was teaching Spanish I always included it in the lessons, much to the chagrin of my students who pointed out that it’s usually Latin American Spanish that is taught in the United States. “Tougho lucko”, is what I’d be muttering to myself.

See? I soon learned to speak Spanglish! It’s something that you hear a lot in the United States. Here’s an example. The word for ‘lipstick’ is ‘lápiz de labios’, at least that’s what I learned. One day I was teaching Spanish when a Chicano student corrected me. Guess what he said? I still laugh each time I think of it. He said, “Señora, no es lápiz de labios. Es lippysticky.” (pronounced, leepysteeky) For a second I thought I had really forgotten the Spanish for lipstick. Lol.

In actual fact, Spanglish is really easy to learn, don’t you think? How about saying ‘lonche’ for ‘lunch’?! And how about using the word ‘nice’ to describe someone who is, well, in fact nice? La chica es alta, delgada, bonita y muy nice. Really. I rest my case.

In the end, when you’re learning a foreign language you have to go with the flow. Communication is what is important, even if you find yourself waving your arms about and making funny faces. And if you find yourself forgetting what you took so long to learn? Don’t worry, the verb conjugations will never leave you, certainly not completely. You’ll be constantly pleasantly surprised at the words you do remember.

Short Memoir, The Fabulously Fantastic Alfa Romeo – New E book


My short memoir, The Fabulously Fantastic Alfa Romeo, is on Amazon Kindle. It’s a fun read about the adventures I had with a car I purchased in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1981.What happens after I am denounced by the Guardia Civil?! Lol. It will be FREE on the 21st and 22nd of September.

This is the receipt I received from Jordi all those years ago.alpharomeo1

Teaser from short story, “That Luscious Moment”.

“At least my tan is real. I’m sure that Jane’s comes out of a bottle. She’s simply too dark in places. ” Lanny licked her lips as she scoffed down more of the luscious – looking red cherries. “My husband has a university degree. I’m almost certain that most of these other husbands don’t. Maybe that’s why they’re always having barbecues together and why they never invite us.”

“Do you have a university degree?”

“I beg your pardon, what did you say?” Lanny shifted in the chaise lounge. “Oh, not really. I mean, I did study, but I never quite finished.”

“I guess it was too boring.”

“Exactly! I met David, he got a good job, then an even better job. And now we’re here, in Spain. He’ll get a promotion when we go home. There’s really no need for me to have a university degree.”

I left Lanny’s and sauntered a few  blocks to Jean Pierre’s house. Already some 20 people were sitting around the pool, smoking, listening to the hi fi.  I spied Jane chatting animatedly to someone who obviously could not have been her husband for, any time he was around, she would sit quietly, her head down. I couldn’t help but stare at her mouth, to check out the lip liner that Lanny disliked so much. It did accentuate her lips, made them look as if she were pouting, and somehow she appeared pretty, in a handsome way. The man she was with looked up and called out, ””What’s Jean Pierre up to?!” I recognized him. He was the Yugoslavian who had just arrived in Spain to work for Westinghouse. My husband had introduced me to him. He certainly had brought Jane out of her shell for she was giggling as she sipped on wine, her eyes sparkling in merriment. The power of strangers to soothe the soul.  He spoke congenially, his large mouth opening widely as he carefully pronounced the words in English.  His eyebrows met in the middle, right  above his large nose, and this, together with his long hair gave him the appearance of a shaggy dog looking for affection. He inhaled his Benson and Hedges cigarette and tapped the ash into the plastic ashtray.

“He’s got a new toy, that’s all. Heck, he left his wife of 20 years for the young Spanish girl. He likes new things.” The Swede from Malmo spoke as if he were reciting the weather forecast from some American t.v. Station.

Jean Pierre puffed intensely on a Marlboro cigarette as he showed off his brand new camcorder. He struggled with the clumsy machine and hoisted it onto his shoulder, then yelled out, “Look natural!”  We immediately stopped what we were doing, and became like images frozen in time. He grunted, groaned loudly, then muttered, “How does this damn thing work?!”  He waved his hands at us as if directing an orchestra. “Got it! Pretend I’m not here!” Then he walked around the edge of his swimming pool pointing the camcorder at everyone.

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