I fall in and out of love with Spain. I am in Saint Jose, in the Cabo de Gata in the province of Andalucia and I am here to complete my novel, working title ‘The Boy and the Balloon’.
This is not a sight-seeing trip. This is an attempt at a low-cost, out of season exodus to find peace and quiet and a place to write without distractions. I am living in a cheap but very pleasant and quiet hostel with a lovely balcony on which to write. I will not be going out to restaurants. My budget for everything is 15 euros a day, not including accommodation.
I have just arrived and I am facing the self-imposed deadline of 10,000 words a day, something I can achieve if I really go for it. I have done it before and I will do it again.
I will have a draft novel to present to a literary agent in December; not a good time to present a novel to an agent, all caught up are they in the Christmas season et al, but I am going to present it anyway.
This is the fifth time in 12 months I have flown to Spain in search of ‘something’. I think this ‘something’ is a romantic view of the past, but in modern Spain the romance is lacking. So I love Spain and hate Spain at the same time.
The pros of Spain are: its natural environments are stunningly beautiful, its temperatures are sublime, its language is intriguing, mysterious and amazing, its culture and its history are awe-inspiring, its historic architecture is out-of-this-world, but – .
Its cons are constant frustrations to me; I hate the ‘siesta’ – still rampant in Spain and Catalunya – where shops and supermarkets close from 1.30pm until 5.30pm even in the winter season where there is no heat; I hate the endless industrial suburbs that blight the landscape of every town and city, cheap apartment blocks built in the 70s for maximum profit with tiny rooms housing the poor and the down-trodden, next to autovias or motorways.
I hate the racism in Spain. It’s not a multi-cultural place and Spain still treats anyone who is not Spanish with suspicion; I hate the terribly ‘backward’ feeling here as though time has stood still (not in a good way) and it’s 1991. I feel sad that so many Spaniards appear miserable, run-down and full of ennui, as though the dictator Franco is still in their veins. The Spaniards of rural Spain appear beaten, shy of progress, dismissive of ‘outsiders’ and locked down in tradition.
Inside me, the conversation I have with myself is that Spaniards are torn between the old and the new, that the recession has not really left this country and that they are being sold a lie, about Europe, about their need to belong, about their culture and their future by the ghost of Franco from beyond the grave. And the monologue goes on in mind that this is the state of Europe and this is the world; this is how it is when capitalism and dictatorial-style governments run amok in every corner of the globe.
The whitewashed pueblos of the Spain of old are charming, but Spain is changing and the cost of living is going up. Five years ago when I lived in this country, you could buy a vino tinto (glass of wine) for 80 euro cents, now you’re lucky to pay a mere 3 euros. So Spain is becoming more like northern Europe without the wages to match. And Spaniards seem unhappy here in their own country, repressed by the past, unliberated by the present and blind about the need to embrace the future.
Wish me well with my 10,000 words a day.
Much love, Jo x