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

La bruja Averia. Image from official website

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 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.)

F is for Fuente Ovejuna

¿Quién mató al comendador?
Fuenteovejuna, señor.
¿Y quién es Fuenteovejuna?
Todos a una.

These are some of the most famous lines of Spanish dramatic text. They come from the play “Fuenteovejuna”, by Félix Arturo Lope de Vega, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, whose talent is definitely comparable. Lope de Vega wrote over 1,500 plays but his most famous one is  Fuenteovejuna.

Fuenteovejuna is the name of a town which literally could be translated as  “fountain for the sheep”: “fuente” means “fountain” and “ovejuna” means “derived from sheep” (“oveja”). This town still exists today and the square housing its town hall has been named after Lope.

Fuenteovejuna is full of drama. Set in feudal times, the “comendador” (military commander) rapes Lucrecia, one of the town’s women. After she lashes out (verbally) at the town’s men for doing nothing to defend her, one of them kills the commander on his next visit. In order to protect him and take collective responsibility for the crime (and hence avoid punishment) the whole population takes the blame. Hence the lines at the beginning of this post. I will try to translate them here, I hope Lope doesn’t turn too much in his grave.

Who killed the commander?
Fuenteovejuna, sir.
And who is Fuenteovejuna?
All together we are one.

T is for Turismo

The tourism industry has always been strong in Spain. As a Londoner, I am always amused and surprised by the range of adverts for Spain and its different “autonomias” (autonomous regional governments).

While writing the article “I is for inglés” for the e-book “The A to Z of Spanish Culture”, I did a bit of research on the very famous slogan used by the Spanish government mid 20th century “Spain is different”. In doing so, I found this very amusing blog post in the Spanish newspaper “El Pais”. It’s written in Spanish, but it’s got plenty of posters in it to amuse you. And of course, all the slogans are in English.

Échale un vistazo haciendo click aquí.

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.