Is fearr cairde ná ór (Friends are better than gold)
My basil plant has outlived my romance. Threatened by the intense summer heat, Carlo resolves to return to his more temperate Italian climate. The first of many goodbyes; hasta luego, mi amigo.
However, the real love story of my Sevillian adventure has been my chicas.
I will caveat this post with a confession that I have recently read and was moved by Dolly Alderton’s ‘Everything I know About Love’; a celebration of female friendship. And should she deign to establish a cult, I would be first in line with undying loyalty and bank details in paw.
I first meet Tina after posting in a Facebook group about setting up a book exchange. Tina sends me a message; ‘Hey,’ she says, ‘I guess you could say I’m a vegan, feminist, nature-lover’. And I like her straight away.
Ana adopts a more cautious approach; ‘I’m also a vegan,’ she writes, ‘but maybe not everyone wants to talk about veganism’. Although, should you wish to discuss veganism with Ana, she can do so confidently in five languages…
The forth member of our group, Carmen’s presence is felt only in her silence. Perhaps not enamoured by our introductions and political persuasions, Carmen leaves the group (not before voyeuristically procuring two weeks of juicy gossip) and so, ‘GorgGirls’ Whatsapp group is founded.
These chicas are wholesome, endlessly interesting, remarkably intelligent, exceptionally caring and wonderful fun.
My mom’s gravestone is engraved with the Seamus Heaney line ‘In your presence/Time rode easy, anchored/On a smile’. It’s perhaps the most beautiful description that anyone can be gifted and couldn’t capture my mom any more accurately. And I don’t take it lightly, when I say that with my chicas here, time really does ride easy, anchored always on a smile.
Lentil burgers in the park taste all that bit better with Ana and Tina in tow.
And we all have our down days, where, for whatever reason, life doesn’t ride so easy. On these occasions, the GorgGirls are always there to lend their support; be that food, a hug, translation service, a listening ear, pooh cleaning assistance…
And here we encounter my other enduring friendship, Bochum.
It’s late Saturday morning, after an evening of gin and techno, and outside my door is a fresh pile of bloody pooh with a half chewed pen encased in the centre.
‘Dad!’ I cry down the phone (independent woman doing it for herself as always), ‘the dog has left diarrhoea on the floor. My housemate is out. What do I do!?!’
My concerned father directs me through the process. But as I walk closer to the mess, I begin to wretch. As I start to vomit, my Dad tells me to put down the phone.
I sit on my bed shaking.
‘Ana,’ I send into GorgGirls, ‘How do you feel about dog pooh?’.
‘I’m on my way,’ she replies instantly, buíochas mór le Dia.
Angel Ana arrives, she rubs mint balm under her nose and fills her nostrils with tissue. She removes her kimono and gets to work without complaint.
The pooh is gone, Bochum is happily wagging his tail, ignorant to the drama caused, and off we go for vegan lunch with Tina.
Happily fed and calmer, I settle the bill for all three. Primarily as a thanks to Ana but also strategically paying it ahead with Tina. This won’t be my last call for assistance…
Seldom is Spring without cold (Is annamh earrach gan fuacht)
So, I had my first bad day. A fish out of water, unable to understand nor make myself understood as I attempted to make a medical appointment. Somehow, ‘me pones dos cervezas’ did not cut it with the medical staff.
Alas, fast forward 24 hours and Joe, a fleeting but fortuitist friendship, is feeding me watermelon on the roof as we contort ourselves into the most fabulous poses for the Kiki dance as the sun sets to sleep. This lone fish now has a flapping buddy. Hurrah!
Another 24 hours later, my ever kind flat mate has bought me a book. A most welcome gift as a priority for these months is to consume; media, books, art, music, culture, food; to widen my knowledge base and points of reference. On average, I listen to 4 podcasts a day, I read two books a week, I’m learning Spanish, am actively engaged in improving my Irish and I have stopped putting tomatoes in a fruit salad (#wisdom #lol)
Perhaps it’s ironic that the book my housemate has given me is a memoir focused on the North Korean Regime. And funnily enough, I had just finished another book on the same subject that very day. It’s ironic in that, I have never experienced such freedom as I have here. And not only freedom in the sense of free travel and open borders but this move has been, to some extent and without overstating, a liberation. I’m lighter, I’m brighter and my shorts are getting tighter (whoops…how many calories are in a cerveza?).
I’m not beholden to anyone or anything. Upon discovering a male companion’s professional involvement in the escort industry at a photo shoot for a food tour company last week, and with that not aligning with my own moral values, I simply left with an ‘adios amigos’, never to see them again.
Rather I spend my time being nourished by a more wholesome bunch; we do yoga in the park, we cook together, we play cards, exchange idioms, books and belly-hugging smiles. We have a culture of sharing; ‘mi casa es su casa’, ‘mis amigos son sus amigos’, ‘mi tinto es tu tinto’ and not ‘mi naggin es mi naggin’. Carlo, a carnivore, eats nothing that we do not share; cute and romantic…until he orders cold soup.
And when we do cook for one another, it’s to please, not to impress.
Life is fulsome, wholesome and rides that bit more easy. I will set my first alarm of five weeks on Sunday…and that is to wake up for the beach. Today, the electricity is gone, and so what? No pasa nada! I’ll read until it comes back. Maybe I’ll write a poem. Or pluck my eyebrows. The opportunities are endless.
On Tuesday, Speedy Gonzales here ran into a car and landed on its bonnet. And what of it? My elbow and knee are bruised but my stress levels are reduced to such an extent here that my ‘fight or flight’ response was merely a ‘thumbs up and half shrug’. I kept running.
So, my first bad day is over, my basil plant is still alive and Kim Jong Un is due to meet Trump next month. Is there a moral to this story? Qui sait? Ach nach maith an scéalaí an aimsir!
Didge does Sevilla
So, I’m three weeks into my adventure. I have had food poisoning, sinusitis and two migraines. I have learnt enough Spanish to order my morning’s Acai bowl. I’ve read 3.5 books, written one poem, consumed all of my four month supply of berocca, drank a lot of cerveza, made a solid group of friends and fallen in (and possibly back out of) love.
The problem with being a writer is that all experiences, be they boring, banal, or barmy, are viewed under the lens of ‘copy’. ‘Ah,’ I think, as I organise my first Tinder date of Sevilla, ‘this will be good copy’.
In fact, although emigration and travel often allude to escapism and an individual wanting to run away from their current situation, and though this I can’t deny entirely, in my case, I was running to something.
My health played a large role in my decision to move away, and from that I wished to run. But so too did my desire to experience more. The previous few months, my life felt painfully ‘lacklustre’. I was left wanting. I craved both solitude and excitement and moving to Sevilla has been just that.
I’m my own woman here. Mornings are spent eating, reading and lounging in the sun, lunchtime and evening follow similar suit with the added haze of cheap cerveza.
Relationships grow quickly when you travel alone. You rely on the company, generosity and knowledge of new compadres to a great extent. Six days in and my housemate was cleaning my vomit from the floor and helping me to bed (infection not alcohol induced). I only hope that he understood that the pile of pooh in the hallway was the dog’s (also sick) and not mine. I do have some dignity.
And speaking of relationships blossoming quickly, here enters Carlo, my Italian, aforementioned Tinder date. We match (the prelude to meeting) the first week of my arrival. I cancel a few times (tut tut, Brigid) and we finally agree to meet Wednesday, 10 days after I set camp in Sevilla.
It’s Tuesday evening and Carlo sends a text; ‘Do you like black and white movies?’. Trying not to display my ignorance, I reply ‘I LOVE Casablanca!’ (which I studied for Leaving Cert. English). I’m in luck. ‘Great!’, Carlo replies, ‘I’m going to a movie by the same director tonight. You should join’. Ninety minutes later I am standing in a flowing yellow skirt outside an unmarked garage waiting for my date.
I like him straight away.
The video is projected on the garage wall with subtitles in Spanish. There’s a beer cooler in the corner with bottles one euro a pop. There’s a hum of tobacco and weed in the air and the movie is occasionally interrupted by residents wheeling their bikes through the garage. The lead actor kisses his wife. The beginning of a great love story, I think…
Carlo suggests a members-only bar. Not really my scene, but I reluctantly agree. And TG for an Irish girl’s placidity!
Bikes hung from the roof in the bar. (You can take the girl out of Cycling Ireland but…). As I described the bar to a friend the next day, I typed ‘It was a members-only bar full of smirking hipsters’ and while I had incorrectly typed ‘smirking rather than smoking, my typo was just as apt.
The playlist was robbed from Camden Street’s Whelan’s with the addition of The Beatles ‘Obladi, Oblada’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’. The hum of smoke in the previous joint (pun intended) was a smack in this spot. We made friends. We bought drinks for our friends. They bought drinks for us. ‘Smokes’ were shared. Carlo stood up to dance and sing alone. I fell in love.
The next day we went basil plant shopping together. Our first pet, I think.
We buy gym equipment, we share dessert, I correct his CV. ‘I don’t really like to drink during the day,’ I tell him. ‘They have orange wine here,’ he says. ‘Dos copas?’, I wink. We make friends, we set up a Whatsapp group, he meets my brothers, we buy a six month shared bike pass together.
Carlo’s plan to leave Sevilla before the end of May becomes ‘before the end of August’. I think of our future life in Sicily and the novel-cum-memoir I will write.
‘I’ve been dating an Italian’, I tell my Dad, ‘he’s really nice’. ‘That sounds lovely’ my Dad says, ‘ It must be recent’. ‘Not that recent,’ I reply. ‘But you’ve only been there two and a half weeks…?’ ‘Oh yeah, I met him last week…’
Alas, all things that go up, must come down. My Italian is moody. He is sitting on the couch and we are waiting for friends to arrive. I’ve made food. He has brought beer and strawberries. He’s not feeling well and he’s not happy about it. He wants to be mothered and I can’t ignore the Italian mamma – son stereotype ringing in my ears. I make him sweet tea and tell him to sleep. He sits in silence until my friends arrive.
It’s too soon for you not to keep up the happy façade, I think, quietly pissed off. We’re 10 days in and that bike pass is on my debit card.
So, I’m not sure what will come of our romance, or my time in Sevilla but the point is, it’s all good copy.