It took all my cunning to escape with my manhood intact. Sadly, in all the commotion, I managed to leave my trousers. I wish I had brought more than one pair. There exists a Spanish penchant for living with one’s parents until firmly married. This coupled with my nigh-on inability to speak any Spanish had resulted in this ridiculous situation. Half naked with no prospect of trousers.
How do you explain to an irate matriarch, one who has seen legions of my fellow Brits run riot over great swathes of Southern Spain, that I had absolutely no intention whatsoever of trying to shag her daughter. It is a thankless situation and either lie I choose, one party´s going to be offended. So fuck it. Trouser-less and here in rural Spain. This is how the “Carnaval” finished for me.
“Carnaval”, as the Spanish put it, is a difficult concept to explain to the British reader. I suppose it must have started off as some sort of religious thing but now, like all the great Catholic celebrations, it has descended into a town wide piss up. The confusing aspect is the strange balance between the ancient and modern. Legions of bulls meet their slow demise while people film the spectacle on iPhones and tablets. Amongst the storied streets of Spain´s most ancient citadels are lined row upon row of bottles of Imperial and WKD blue. I even saw some Reef, which I thought died in the 90´s. Anyway this is the story of “Carnaval”, which I took to in rural Spain as the token British guy in a sea Spanish boozing.
I had seamlessly made it into the village jakey scene and by about 4 in the afternoon I could see that my new friends were getting pretty twitchy about the hitherto lack of boozing.
“No need for modesty lads, get fired in whenever you want” I said to a sea of vacant faces. They all nodded. Nobody understood.
I motioned with my hand the international sign of drinking to great applause and off we went to one of the many bars.
Brits take some kind of perverse pride in their ability to drink a lot, though the more I see of other cultures the less I think this is true. We are certainly Europe´s most reckless drunks but heaviest drinkers, I am not so sure now. I love Spain and its attitude to drink. It is a land where the “mixer” part of “spirit and mixer” is a distant afterthought. The barmaid angrily shakes the gin out the bottle, motioning the liquid to flow faster. This is joy. No little chrome barrel denoting how much I can drink, just a solid half pint of gin with token tonic flavouring. It´s like getting four for the price of one, or less that one in the UK because this baby was only €3.
The problem came when I asked at what time we were going to the party. Midnight was the general response. It was about 5. I was already steaming. There is some innate desire for value that resides deep within every British citizen, so that when presented with alcoholic bargains such as these, I seized the opportunity with great vigour lest it be taken from me at a future time or date. It is this very attitude that has turned several Mediterranean beach towns into scenes from Dante´s Inferno.
I ended up putting back ten of these drinks before we began to entertain the thought of going to the party. At least they couldn´t hear me slurring my words. They would probably put it down to me being shit at Spanish. The alarm bells started ringing when you become acutely aware of people staring at you and using the words, water and ok in the interrogative. I had peaked way too early. Which was fair enough considering the volume of gin that was somewhere in my system. In my heart I knew the night was over for me but what I couldn´t understand is how it wasn´t over for them too. Sure there were several “village drunkard” type characters who almost certainly never show any signs of fatigue when it comes to drinking but everyone else had been boozing the same as me yet remained (at least to my blurred vision) remarkably sober. This is a study I intend to follow further.
I did make it to the party for a brief half hour before my body finally said enough and I tumbled home, another evening, stricken from the memory. The village party itself was an odd concoction. Myriads of underage girls, dressed in a way to make British mothers faint, paraded around with men many, many years their senior. It was a scene that could make Operation Yewtree seem like a round-up of reasonable, like-minded individuals. Then again the age of consent is 13 here so Saville, Harris and co. just chose the wrong place to do what they did. I guess it was the language barrier or the fact that Easyjet didn´t exist in the 70´s.
Following this spectacle, the Spanish, no strangers to the antithesis of political correctness came out in force dressed as “Moors” and when questioned further “blacks”. It is a hark back to the good old days of vaudevillian spectacular but now they have cheap afro wigs from Smiffy´s.
As I left I saw a wheelchair-bound old man dressed in military garb with rubber dolls attached to his wheel chair. He was very drunk. I asked who he had come as. He steadied his gaze then answered:
Viva y Espana folks.