Under Instruction

I didn’t quite make it to the cafetería before the incoming squall hit the village. Not only am I now uncomfortably damp around the edges, but I’ve been relegated to the only available seat; next to the table where a small girl is treating her parents – and the rest of us – to a squealing, foot-stamping tantrum. I might just launch into one of my own in a minute.

To take my mind off the commotion I’m staring distractedly at the colour-printed A3 flyer that’s fallen out of the daily paper. One of the offers has attracted my attention; a sleek, silver-grey monolith that boasts (it says here) WiFi connectivity, USB 3.0, 200 mega-wossnames of data transfer, plus a whole host of acronyms announcing its many other talents. I want to buy one, I really do. If only they’d tell me what the darned thing is. Hard drive? Router? Sandwich toaster? I have no idea. The vendors have a catchphrase about not being tonto, but clearly I am; and I’m supposed to be tech-savvy. ... read more

The Man on the Mérida Omnibus

“What time does the bus go to Mérida?” I ask a middle aged lady standing in what I hope is the bus queue.

It’s an easy enough phrase to get right, even with my less than perfect Spanish. Still, she looks at me as though I’ve just asked her to reupholster my tortoise.

“Well … it’ll be … the same as always … ” she stammers.

Clearly she has never heard the question asked outright. This common knowledge is as deeply engraved into the local world-view as though, sometime on the sixth day, the almighty stopped fooling about with Adam’s ribs for long enough to create the morning service from Guareña to Mérida, calling at La Zarza and Alange. ... read more

The Early Bird

I don’t usually get up this early. Alan, our rescue greyhound, opens one eye for a moment before deciding that there’s no threat to the household; or if there is, then Dad can deal with it as he’s up now anyway. He yawns luxuriously, breaks wind and settles back to sleep. So much for the Rapid Response Unit.

For the next twenty minutes the only sound to be heard is that of a half-asleep man being as quiet as possible – a cacophony, in other words, of wardrobe doors, crockery, window blinds, and poorly suppressed profanity. ... read more

Through the Looking Glass

There’s an edge to the air this morning, and a blueness to the light, as though someone turned down the colour control a little. I’m paying little attention as I scan the newspaper headlines on the way to my usual breakfast haunt.

As I turn the corner, though, something isn’t right. The tables from the terrace are stacked, the awning rolled away, and the glazed doors closed. The phony colours of a television flicker through the misted window, and the only customer in sight stays outside for no longer than it takes to finish a morning cigarette. ... read more