The Art of Living, Sevillanos Style

1 May

It’s the Labour Day national holiday and I should be hunkered down writing a job application or making travel bookings but this cloudless blue sky had other plans, luring me out into the streets and plazas of my ‘hood’, the area between Calle San Luis and Alameda in north-west Seville.

My head is still chock full of images from La Feria. Even in the rain the people came to paseo, drink, dance, display and bond. Sunday night was melancholy as many of the gorgeous private casetas were being dismantled and the crowds were thin compared with early in the week, however the public casetas distritos kept the Feria spirit alive right to the 2am fireworks signaling the end of La Feria en Sevilla 2012.

So many snapshots to process: big sister and seven-year old brother dancing Sevillanas – he so upright and polished and she in her tight jeans and huge smile. The 50-something gentleman in smart white shirt and black pants who took to the Triana stage solo to practice his lunging torero moves before his female friend joined him, dusting the dirt off his knees then striking the proud Sevillanas pose. Downs Syndrome people excel at dancing and he was wonderful! The staff at the bars who worked flat out for no tips the whole week still had a joke and smile for customers, especially the pretty señoritas, and the hunky policemen controlling the crowds were unfailingly polite.

Despite the big money on display at La Feria anyone can enjoy the party for the price of the public toilet (one euro for the day) and a drink (one euro fifty for a fino). The only thing that marred my enjoyment was the sight of the miniature ponies in the fairground standing patiently awaiting the signal to plod round in a circle carrying a small child on their back. I couldn’t see water, food or spare ponies anywhere. How long did they have work until they were rested? Much better were the Kangaroo rides, or Super Kangaro and Mega Kanguro, as they were named. How funny that our Australian national symbol is a star attraction at Spanish fun fairs.

Now the good citizens of Seville are in Spring holiday mode and I’m happy to join them. In my neighbourhood that starts with an eye opener cafe con leche and tostada. Cafe Hercules has a prime spot in the sun. Then a paseo around the Alameda de Hercules, where there are as many pet dogs as people, some receiving their weekly brush, but most just lying at their owners’ feet as they smoke endless cigarettes and talk non-stop. Children run amok in the playground while parents catch up on the gossip in the cafe beside it. I pay homage at the statues of two flamenco greats, singer Manolo Caracol and dancer Niña de los Peines, and admire well endowed Hercules atop his column.

Final stop is Plaza Pumarejo for a beer (one euro fifty) in full sun. Tourists clutching maps are rare things here, Calle San Luis is not on the beaten track. Rather I have a svelte young woman with bicycle at the next table who has just returned with a second plate of caracoles (tiny cooked snails). No tooth picks for her, she sucks them out of their shell with a slurp and washes them down with Coca Cola.

We can learn so much from the Spanish use of public space. Australia’s problem with public drunkenness is not an issue here. Yes, there are some slightly unsavoury chaps sharing large bottles of Cruzcampo they bought from the store across the road, but apart from scamming cigarettes where they can they’re not bothering anyone. I don’t mean to whitewash the difficulties facing Spain, and especially Andalusia which has amongst the highest long term unemployment, but it has helped me relearn that crucial lesson : it’s not what you have the matters, but what you do with what you have.

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