Saturday night barbecue
One of the many things I am finding I like about the Spanish is their sense of community. Let’s get it straight, before Mrs. Ottawacker accuses me by cell phone of wandering off into the realms of racial fantasy once again (as I have done, possibly, about the Irish): the Spanish are not perfect (but who is?) They have a cruel and despotic history, can build architectural monstrosities that rival their architectural magnificences in their capacity to shock and awe, are cruel to animals in a way I shall never accept nor understand, are the inventors of ‘machismo’, and have a tradition of radical and evangelical Catholicism that leaves the agnostic among us shaking his head.
These are issues the likes of which beset every race or group of people: not the same issues, of course, but the same magnitudes, the same blights on society. Fill in your own country’s issues (and I don’t mean the petty ones like transit and politicians) and you’ll see soon enough. (I don’t know where to start with England, for example. And Canada came to me easily enough too.) But what Spain has, that I tend no longer to see in the two countries with which I am most closely linked and which makes me very happy, is an overwhelming sense of family and community.
I saw this today in a simple gathering of families in the urbanización I’m staying in. At around 4 o’clock, I started hearing voices in the common green space in front of my window: it was a group of three women setting up tables for what looked like a banquet. I stood looking for a while and then moved away to get back to the task in hand. But still the voices continued, increasing in volume and number. So I went and had another look. There were more people this time. And this gradually increased, with people bringing bowls of food, bottles of wine, chairs and blankets, setting up and lighting a barbecue; it quickly became a hive of activity, until around 7 o’clock (incredibly early by Spanish standards) everyone arrived. The children quickly hurried off with their soccer ball, setting up posts between two of the trees, running back for bites of food and slugs of drink; the adults sat and talked and drank wine and were just plainly happy to be with each other in this moment, in this place.
By 10 o’clock people had started saying goodnight and packing away. Despite three hours’ drinking and eating, the volume had never risen above the happy. Nobody had fought or shouted abuse, nobody had puked in the swimming pool or pissed against the trees (admittedly, I don’t know that for sure, but I would be very surprised), nothing had been broken. It had just been a gathering of friends and families, enjoying dinner as a community.
The contrast with what this would most likely have been in England is so obvious I am ashamed to make it. One day, cultural anthropologists will take a deep sigh and decide to look at England as a case study. I hope I am still alive for that.
I’ll tell you one other thing too: when I awoke at 8 this morning, I went to the window to stretch, yawn and scratch my balls (or something like that). I looked down on the space where the barbecue had been. It was spotless (extra photo, dated March 8 but included here as evidence). Every little piece of paper, every bottle, glass, and cup had been cleared up and taken home.
I only managed to take one photo today. I decided to focus on the writing as it was coming reasonably easily, and rest my ankle, which was throbbing a little (not the osteoarthritis but the accident from the snow-clearing fiasco in Ottawa). On the plus side, I managed to find a café with functioning Internet, and was able to delete 120 emails offering me the chance to become a millionaire, buy Viagra or win a trip to the Bahamas.