“So how are things in sunny Spain? You don’t want to be back here in the UK, it’s miserable” my old colleague observes, his on-screen lips not quite moving in sync with the words.
I tend to agree with him, though probably not in the way that he means. A few minutes ago I had to turn off the UK news – not for the first time recently – because it was just too disappointing. Not the news itself, though that was grim enough. What really brought me down was the way attitudes seem to have changed, from talk of aspirations and ambitions to an incessant clamour about rights and demands, all fuelled by hysterical media channels whipping up irrational outrage and perceived entitlement.
Not even the language has escaped intact – I wonder whether I’m alone in remembering when the meanings of words such as discriminate and exploit didn’t automatically include the assumption of unfairness, immorality or evil intent?
Maybe I’m just getting old; becoming a relic of a British society that no longer exists, having made way for a new and modern reality. If so, I find its passing quite sad; the society I grew up in was never perfect, or even close, but it had plenty of good points. But modern life too has its benefits – I appreciate the internet, for example, which is making my current Skype video conversation not only possible but essentially free. Maybe you just can’t have it all.
“How long have you been living there now?”
“In Spain? About seven years.”
“You must really love it!”
The answer has become somewhat rhetorical. But is it true?
There’s no doubt that Spain has a lot to offer, with breathtaking scenery, historical monuments, cultural heritage and more. The summers are pleasantly hot, the people affable, and the cost of living – at least for us – generally low.
But Spain seems to be struggling with that very same anomaly; whether it’s possible to hang on to the best of the old while also having the best of the new. Can the country benefit from Europe without losing its national identity? Is it right that its citizens should define their needs and desires based on those prevailing in other cultures? Should Spain embrace the English language for business, or does that risk the future of castellano? What should be done about the horario? The rise of the botellón? Bullfighting?
So do I love it? The best answer I can offer is that it suits me at the moment, compared to life in the UK.
Are there things I’d like to see change? Of course there are.
The administration varies from bungling and corrupt to downright backward and perverse. The winter is colder and longer than I would like. Spanish cuisine, for all that both locals and expats rave about it, I find utterly underwhelming, especially compared to what the Italians and Greeks do with pretty much the same ingredients. And it always feels like society here could collapse at any moment, giving way to either mob rule or paramilitary coup. All of that would need putting right to make my perfect Spain.
I know it’s a lot to ask. But then again, I’d also like to have a pet dragon, perfect pitch, and hover boots; and I don’t see any of that happening anytime soon, either.
“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” – Steven Wright