December 19, 2008


Today began and ended in tears.

When I went down to fetch Lola for her morning exercise, Señora Noriega started reminiscing about her courting days and how she wished she’d met Juan Antonio then (the approach of the New Year always seems to make her maudlin). Mention of his name then started her off and before I could stop her, she was howling uncontrollably.

She wouldn’t let me leave until I’d promised I’d come back later today. But first I had to get to the last Spanish class of the year. And Jesús.

As a group, we had all clubbed together to buy him a gift token that he could redeem as he wished. For some CDs, a book or something for his beloved computer. And when he was handed the small envelope-sized package, his eyes lit up in surprise and, just for a second, he looked like a small boy again as he started tearing off the paper. But as he did so, he started to get quite emotional and tears welled up in his eyes. Immediately we were once again reminded what a bad year he’d had with the loss of the pre-payments on his apartment and consequent strain on his relationship with his fiancée.

The atmosphere was fast getting tense and, as everyone started looking apprehensive at the prospect of his breaking down altogether before he finished unwrapping it, I thought I’d try to diffuse the situation.

"Jesús, es turrón?", I asked, knowing full well how much he hates those sickly sweet, honey-coated almond delicacies which are as much a part of Christmas in Spain as mince pies are in Britain.

"No! No es turrón!" shouted indignantly all the Germans in unison as they turned on me, missing the irony while the only other Brit looked on, grinning broadly.

When at last he’d opened it up and read our messages on the enclosed card, he was very near to tears. "This is almost as good as winning El Gordo," he declared. Referring to next Monday’s huge lottery, The Fat One, which he, like millions of other cash-strapped Spaniards are pinning all their hopes on. More in the next post…

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