Which don’t Involve Antonio Banderas…
When it comes to grinning like a Cheshire cat, few nationalities do it better than the Spanish. The land of flamenco, bulls, sangria and oranges – okay, I am being totally stereotypical now – could really teach the world a thing or two about the simple things in life. Which is enough to get even the most pessimistic of us souls jumping onto the table and shouting Olé!
Here are my top 5 reasons why the Spanish are so happy…
This isn’t just reserved for those sweltering Marbella afternoons of forty degrees plus, when it is too hot to extend an arm to connect your hand to the cold drink teasing you on the table next to your sunbed. The Spanish observe their much coveted siesta all four seasons of the year. And this makes for shinier, smilier, happier peeps. The forty minute power nap has long been associated with good health too. It makes sense, doesn’t it? And it’s what we all crave after our cave men programmed bodies have hauled themselves out of the sack in the pitch black hours formerly known as slumber for yet another day at the office. I can’t deny that having lived in Spain, the closing of the shops for three hours in the afternoon doesn’t annoy, but when it’s back to business at 5.30pm, everyone is revived, refreshed, rejuvenated; ready to party on into the night. And – deep Spanish recession aside – this nation does business when it wants to, after it has digested the boquerones, filete de cerdo con patatas bravas and copa de sangria.
Quality, not quantity.
There is a party for every occasion in the land of Picasso and Pimientos. A few years back, in one of the towns in which I lived, some of the local bars had bought in too much jamon serrano (that gorgeous thinly sliced ham from the piggies in the mountains). Solution? Create a Ham Party. The Fiesta de Jamon was billed as one of the summer’s top festivities. You’ve got to love the Spanish for their creative flair.
Got a problem? Turn it into a party. Dance, drink and eat yourself into the solution. And then there are the Just Because Fiestas. Just because it’s the full moon, let’s have a party. Just because the Americans have invented Halloween, let’s start celebrating it too. Let’s have Halloween parties in schools where the teachers have jumped straight out of one of Edvard Munch’s paintings; ghoulish grinding in tapas bars; raving witches in the ruins of old castles. Just because the grapes are ready to be squeezed, let’s cordon off all the streets in the town and throw an all day party. Just because it’s mid-summer’s day; party! Just because the town has inherited a foam machine; a weekend foam party!
I was told it would take me six months to adapt to the ‘mañana’ way of life when I first moved to Spain. Well, not Miss Pollyanna! I fell in love with this country’s ‘mañana mode’ within hours. ‘Mañana’ meaning ‘tomorrow’ (and just to mix it up a bit, ‘morning’) is never to be taken at face value in Spain. Everything happens ‘mañana’ – a very general expression for ‘possibly tomorrow, but more than likely next week, or the week after, or next month, or some time this season.’ And I really like that. For in this concept of ‘mañana’ we are forced to keep life real, live in the now, stop fretting about the future, count our blessings, open our eyes, look up to the sky and seeeeeeeee. ‘Mañana’ is liberation. ‘Mañana’ soothes the soul, makes us walk slower, breathe deeper, stand taller, give up the competition, quit the race.
Look, I am not for one moment advocating that anybody leaves their door wide open with abandon, but oh, how refreshing to walk around a small town or village in Spain where tradition sticks two fingers up to scaremongering. I am a firm believer in Feng Shui, so in my opinion this message of open doors can only be a good thing. Homes in these places are welcoming, outsiders are treated like family (but not in a come-on-in-burglar-and-swipe-the-lot-away way). This is truly how life must have been when my Grandparents were younger, when your Grandparents were younger. And it is a beautiful thing to sneak a peek back at the past before our society became so frenetically imbued in fear. The smell of garlic and spices sizzling on the stove, the swish of a broom and the splash of the mop. Homes full of love and laughter. Homes to be lived in. Homes that are a million miles away from the bricks and mortar, buy-to-let, get-rich-quick, laughing-all-the-way-to-the-bank-landlords mentality of other parts of the world.
A fried donut strip doused in sugar and dipped in the velvetiest of hot chocolate sauces. I dare you to eat one without it bringing a wicked smile to your face.
Spain is a country where this is the norm, in fact it’s positively encouraged on a Sunday morning after that night on the tiles. Or eat them on a Monday morning with the locals after the school run and before the daily shop. Or as a quick pick me up on a winter’s afternoon. The point is there is always a good time of day for a plate of churros, and the Spanish devour them guilt-free and unapologetically. The Spanish adore their cuisine, embracing the calorific content of the lettuce as much as the fat-laden deliciousness of the humble churro. And this is mirrored back in their love of self too. You won’t find a size twenty lady desperately hiding curves under sarongs and makeshift beach towel dresses on the beach. In Spain everybody is one and it’s bikinis all the way.
Food is love, life, siesta, fiesta, mañana, open doors. And churros. Spain is a country filled with the best things about being alive.
Spain is life.