O is for Olé

O is for Olé, toros, flamenco, fiestas, sangría, cervezas, mañana…. and any other stereotype you can think of.

My friend Victor shared this link with me through Facebook. (He is a real friend too.)

It challenges the Spanish stereotypes. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/26/spanish-stereotypes-we-have-mondays-too?

Let me know if you have any favourite ones – those you love as well as those you hate.

Errant in Iberia. Book Review

I mainly bought this book for inspiration, to see how someone else had tackled the task of giving a taste of Spain to those living outside it.

Errant in Iberia is a novel, so if you fancy being wrapped up in the story of a young man who finds himself in the middle of Spain almost without realising it, go for it! (On the Kindle it is only £1.99!) I especially loved his adventures with the “mancomunidad” in the building where he buys a flat – to see what I’m talking about, have a look at the sample chapter of the A to Z, B is for Barrio.

Ben Curtis’ book is a warm book; it’s an honest book; it’s a funny book.

If you know Madrid, you will love it. If you’ve never been there, it will give you a good idea what life might feel like as a visitor. It’s also interesting to see the protagonist escape Madrid and his vision of some of Spain’s traditions, such as the Fallas.

I have yet to see anything in Spain quite so astonishing as the civic irresponsibilities that take place during Las Fallas. There is something wonderfully liberating about the whole thing, that makes you realise how much the British might benefit if the powers that be were just a little less up-tight about health and safety.

He also describes other lesser know Spanish festivities, such as the “Concurs de Castells” (the castle competition) in Cataluña, the human towers competition.

I’ve certainly been inspired by his book, as well as entertained!

Thanks, Ben!

E is for Electroduende

As someone who used to watch quite a lot of TV as a teenager, I was a great fan of “La bola de cristal”, a tv programme from the 80s (The Crystal Ball).

This programme was aimed at children, teenagers and young adults, targeting each age group by segments. Assuming that the older the person, the later they would be getting up in the morning, La Bola de Cristal structured its content to appeal to an older age group as the programme progressed. (For photos etc, visit the official site http://www.rtve.es/television/la-bola-de-cristal/)

La bruja Averia. Image from official website http://www.rtve.es/television/la-bola-de-cristal/

The ‘electroduendes” (electric elves, see also D is for Duende), were irreverent creatures who artistically portrayed their creators’ political views. For example, the Bruja Averia (The Fault Witch) has a range of slogans including “viva el mal, viva el capital” (Hoorah for Evil; Hoorah for Capital).

Although the form seemed to be aimed at young children (puppets whose puppeteers had trained with Jim Henson), the underlying themes of the Electroduendes were definitely of interest to older viewers.

La Bola de Cristal ended with a segment hosting the most popular pop bands of the time. In fact, the second half of the programme was hosted by Alaska, who with Kaka de Luxe and Alaska y los Pegamoides (‘pegamoides’ has no translation, sorry!) became one of the most famous punk stars in the 80s. (She is still going by the way, still featuring in Spanish culture). Nostalgia for what was an exiting era in Spain can now be satiated through the purchase of DVDs of the series or many You Tube appearances.

If you speak Spanish and would like to find out more about the programme, or just have a look at the videos and pictures, visit http://www.rtve.es/television/la-bola-de-cristal/ For a different type of Spanish TV personality, see E is for Espinete.

(Taken from the chapter M is for Movida.)

H is for Huevos Rotos

A bed of home made chips covered with two (or more) eggs, ready to be smashed or broken allowing the yolk to flow over the chips. Often accompanied by jamon (Spanish ham) or chorizo (Spanish spicy sausage). I’ll never get tired of them. 

Recommended for those wanting to raise their salt or cholesterol levels.

(Taken from the chapter T is for Tapas.)

A is for Agosto

Ode to August

Agosto – the wonderful summer of August.

The beaches are completely packed. Not one visible grain of sand.

Agosto – the wonderful summer of August.

Strutting around during the day in your best top, enjoying the over 35 degrees heat, you almost catch a cold when you go into the cinema, shivering under the air-con.

Agosto – the wonderful summer of August.

In the urban neighborhoods, you enjoy the summer sounds – of people chatting, of crockery clinking against the plate, of tv’s blasting… At 12am as you try to go to sleep, as you need to go to work the next day.

Agosto – if you play it right, you can enjoy the silence of the city.