On this day during the course of the 1960s (No, I’m not going to tell you which year) a little girl was born in an imposing ‘finca’ close to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (or town hall square) in Valencia, that glittering jewel in the Spanish crown. The youngest of five children, born into the family of a hardworking and respected couple, from Alcoy near Alicante. She grew up resilient and resourceful: hardly surprising considering the competition – three brothers, the eldest of which was 15 when she was born.
To have an apartment in such a sought-after area of the city was a measure of how far her parents had come as individuals, and then as a family since the end of the unbearably bitter Civil War. They had known hardship, privation, hunger, internment, forced labour, the pain of loss, not least, a brother commited to the opposition in the miserable frozen wastes of Teruel. Yes, this is Spain, everybody’s sunny summer playground. We tend to forget …
Of course, I knew none of this, when I made my first hapless attempts to get to know her better in the staffroom of a West London school. In contrast, yours truly was born later that same year in a particularly grim area of the industrial North of England. Our respective environments could not have been more different. Around the corner from the ‘finca’ the graceful Plaza with its palm trees and fountains, site of the ‘mascleta’ (You have to see and feel this. Calling it a ‘display of firecrackers’ or somesuch really doesn’t do it justice. It is immense) You don’t need to walk too far before you come upon the old dry river course, its bridges and boat moorings still intact. Quite different from the ribbon of brown slurry that passed for a river and was such a feature of my journey to school as a child. Then there is the ‘Micalet’ and the handsome central market and the smells! Of sea, the earth, the orange blossom.
The smells which characterised 1960s Huddersfield? I think we’ll draw a graceful curtain over that.
I could go on (and on)
And the point of all this? I just wanted to say that despite everything, I never forget, and
© Andy Daly 2010