Apparently I do have wifi here – at the moment, at least. For blogging, convenient; otherwise a little dismaying, though – it means that e-mail can reach me here. Oh well: once in a while a pleasant e-mail does show up, among the noise and work and spam; and at least there is not a television here, at least not one I would bother to watch...
There is a definite physical transformation that begins on arrival: or perhaps before, in the stress and chaos of air flight (Newcastle to Barcelona is a short flight, between easy airports; but all flights are innately characterized by fussing and waiting and following nonsensical orders). It’s a kind of annealing – the weather is so very hot, at least compared to what I’ve been living with (about 30° Centigrade, about 80° Fahrenheit, and it will stay up there most days that I’m here) that my first afternoon is spent lying sweating in bed.
At first unbearable, exhausting: then there is an adjustment, one relaxes (not only mentally getting into a Spanish who-knows-and-who-cares-what-time-it-is mind set, but also being pushed there by the effect of heat on the body) and passively changes: molten, impurities rising through the mix and burning off into the air, the fan constantly stirring a surface of boiling metal, until your skin begins to change, to become more like Spanish skin, dark and all of one piece; until one is forged into a solid, new substance, as hard and pure as the floor tiles, as the marble hallways, as the blazing air; and you develop some of that relaxed energy that is native to this country, and you are transformed: maybe, into gold…
It starts with roasted almonds from the grocery: startlingly good, strong with arresting flavor. Then the first dinner that evening, once coolness sets in: small fishes, anchovies, chorizo, garlic, all my favorite tapas at the funky little place down by the water that was the first place I ever ate in Sitges, six or seven years ago now.
It’s not only southern cooking (though, of course, consider the taste of herbs in Greece, which makes every dish you’ve ever eaten elsewhere seem like it was cooked in dishwater; and the utter perfection of everyday Italian cooking, their ruthlessly high expectations, and shock at how badly most other people eat). In Switzerland, in dull Basel in fact, I remember a hotel breakfast that happened to include yogurt and butter that was so amazing it made you wonder whether Swiss cows, when they travel, deign to talk to their brethren in other lands; and of course good, dark German bread makes everyone else’s seem like Wonder Bread.
When you come into an environment where the food is startlingly good, you can’t help but think, with a sort of pleased and generous embarrassment: good Lord, you should see what I’ve been eating….
It is strange that my dreams are so often structured around – really structured by – moving through complex symbolic spaces, rooms and buildings about which I can remember many impossible details, but which of course I cannot draw upon waking. That's because, when I am awake, conscious, 'normal', I have an distinctly clumsy sense of space, of architecture – I struggle with architectural picture books, trying to get some sense of the space shown from one picture at one angle: while what I really want is to turn around, to walk through it – to see, okay, that chair is there, so that's really an unusual sort of atrium, which now that I finally grasp the whole is really kind of cool.
But although those dream spaces, magically created and even more magically understood only in dreams, are often huge, monumental; yet when I imagine my ideal homes, they are always complex and small, made of odd tangents and curves, no boxes, and nothing at right angles. Hobbit holes, those are good; and Art Nouveau spaces of the more radical kind; and... (but mostly these places don't exist, they would take too much complex carpentry, like the hopelessly expensive relics of the furniture made by Hector Guimard).
And small, peculiarly designed houses, that seem to have grown rather than been built. Like the streets and houses of Sitges: the winding unpredictability, the almost plantlike growth of paths winding up and down....