By: PAUL McKAY
Teacher, Paul McKay, left London to live a self-sufficient existence in the Monchique hills with his partner Martyn. He keeps an assortment of animals and grows a variety of crops in an eco-friendly way – all on a limited income. He is currently back in London for a few months to teach maths and english to 11-year-olds.
Friday 4th April
RETURN TO Portugal tomorrow. The suitcase is packed with all sorts of wonders including pearl barley, porridge, four fuschia plugs and various garden sundries. The weather, I am reliably informed, is in the high twenties and the sun is shining.
Saturday 5th April
Stansted did its best to dampen the holiday high by making me queue an inordinately long time for a basic service and perform the usual striptease at security; somebody really should plug a few air fresheners in around the shoe check machine.
I caused a mini security alert with an Asda garden ornament but other than that check-in was without incident. I was studiously ignored by the couple alongside me on the plane who had obviosly planned on using the middle seat as a handbag rest. I got my revenge by noisily devouring the smelliest omelette as we skirted over the bay of Biscay.
Arrived at Faro just before sunset and the sea below glistened like the most effective holiday advertisement imaginable. The boredom of baggage collection was alleviated somewhat by a group of inebriated Polish gentlemen who had fetched a length of plastic sewage pipe over with them.
Sunday 5th April
Just watched the TV coverage of the Olympic torch relay through a snowy London. Classic TV. Any forward thinking Sports Minister would make it an annual event and scrap the Boat Race. It could become an annual protest day and be televised from start to finish, thereby improving the BBC ratings too.
Thursday 10th April
It has rained non stop for four days. The television reception has disappeared, the internet connection has gone down, the house is as dark as a dungeon and outside activity is impossible.
Fortunately, Martyn’s parents, who arrived on Tuesday, brought with them a wide collection of DVD’s so it has been entertainment all the way here. As the rain lashes down outside, preventing escape, our life has been enhanced by wall to wall ‘Only Fools and Horses’ and ‘Allo Allo’. During a brief interlude in the rain the TV reception returned and we were fortunate enough to watch a snooker tournament.
Friday 11th April
The sun has returned. Today we are off to Seville. Martyn’s parents are holding the fort at the farm and all routines have been explained 86 times.
As we left the house, I handed them a two kilo sack of chicken grain and said “Just give them one or two handfulls for now.” “Give them it all then is it?” replied Mum. We left.
Sunday 14th April
We were a little surprised to see huge traffic jams as we approached Seville. We were then stunned to notice most of the other motorists were wearing flamenco dresses or very stylish suits. Upon arrival in the city, the lack of parking spaces and the crowds of traditionally dressed visitors in party mood suggested something big was happening. An hour later, as we were still looking for a parking space, we were waved down by one of the city’s unofficial parking attendants who we usually ignore. We finally had our parking space at a very reasonable cost. I will never castigate those people again.
It quickly became apparent that we had arrived in Seville on one of its most important weekends of the year – the weekend of ‘La Feria de Sevilla’. The weekend when most of Andulacia descends upon the city to party and celebrate by dancing Flamenco.
Of course it was nigh on impossible to find a hotel room with six million visitors to the city and those that were available were double the usual cost. We had a brief moment of discussion, was this wise, given our dire financial situation? Instantly we were momentarily teleported back to the Monchique rains and the echoing theme tune of ‘Only Fools and Horses’. The decision was made.
The weekend was fantastic. We visited no museums, no galleries, no theatres, no stylish restaurants.
Merely the ambiance of the city and the enthusiasm of the Andalucians was sufficient to make the weekend memorable and enjoyable. The fair itself was spread over a site of several hectares and consisted of hundreds of marquees containing bands, tables and a bar.
Each tent was a mini restaurant for the night and the meals were finished off with music and flamenco. Of the thousands present, more than 90 per cent were dressed in traditional flamenco dresses and suits. How this part of Spain has managed to love and live its culture into the 21st century is a mystery and an achievement. The young, the old and even the teenagers embrace the culture and value the traditions. The next time someone tells me a united Europe will become a homogenised entity lacking personal identity, I will send them to Seville in April.
As we walked back to our hotel at 2am, the streets were still packed with people aged two to 90. In all that time we saw no arguments, no aggression and no offensive behaviour. Ever visited Newcastle (or any UK town centre) on a Friday night?
Sunday 20th April.
On the plane returning to the UK, dodgy eyes led to a misunderstanding at the airport when I told an elderly lady she was in the right queue for Glasgow. Twenty minutes later I realised she wasn’t and alerted her to this fact. I am the type of kind samaritan best avoided.
One more month in the UK and then back in Portugal for the rest of the year. Already bulk buying drinking chocolate and pearl barley.