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El Pasado es Otro Pais
Cádiz, Cádiz, Über Alles

June 24 2000

“I am German and I am seventy nine years old. I have been many places in this world but for nine years now I have lived here with my wife because here is Paradise! Here we have no tourists, no mosquitoes and no snow. If I want to see snow, I have to watch it on my television! Last week were three cruise ships in the docks. Two thousand tourists on the streets of Cádiz! We stay indoors!
“When Germans come, I pretend to be Spanish: for most Germans wish only to talk of the business and of the money — and in Paradise, you do not speak of these things!”

plaza de las flores First of all let me say that I have decided against trying to represent a German accent phonetically (“I haff lived here viz my vife…”). Even when Shakespeare attempts to represent foreign speakers, it is at best of limited success, at worst painfully naff. If I do it, it would confuse our faraway readers with strange sounding names and add nothing for the rest. It may even offend our German readers, though if I’m to worry about giving offence at this early stage, I might as well stop now. Those of you with a fixed idea of what a comic German accent sounds like, use that and you won’t be far wrong. Those who have comic German accents, please be accepting my apologies und it vill not be again heppening, I promise! Oh and also, much as the excessive use of the exclamation mark is to be deplored, in the speech of our friend, both the dramatic intonation and the accompanying hand, brought smartly down onto the table, demanded something more than a full stop.

My memory is vague as to exactly why or when we first visited Cádiz. It was not in our 1991 trip, the year before the Seville Expo, when many of that fair city’s tourist sites were closed down for serious tarting-up. That was definitely the year after our love affair with Southern Spain was sparked off by a weekend in Andalucia, for the wedding of one of la frisada’s school friends. So Cádiz, the first time, must have been Autumn of ’94 or ‘95. I do remember very clearly the fact that the first half-day here was spent in the unprepossessing modern end of town, queuing at the clinic to see the charming Doctora Coco (and her flirtatious nurse) because of my leg.
Doctor Ramón Muñoz, long-suffering paterfamilias and star of the Linguaphone Spanish Course, forgets to extinguish his pipe at the gas station, allowing us to learn the phrase, “Soy muy distraído” (“I’m very absent-minded”). Close as he is to blowing the whole family away before we have had the chance to progress from the present tense to the perfect, at least he doesn’t have to smack his leg on a low post in Torremolinos, causing copious bleeding and much pain, to make his point.
But, dressing changed and armed with iodine, we found a hotel in the old city and, next morning, sitting outside a café in the Plaza de las Flores, were addressed by the elderly gent, who, despite his later claim, asked us in German where we were from. He went on, in English, to outline his daily routine.

plaza and cafe “Every morning I am here for my breakfast. Then I go to the bar for drink and tapas with my friends. Then to my apartment for lunch with my wife and then, the wonderful Spanish invention — the siesta! And you are sure that, for two hours, your phone will not ring and no-one will come to your door. Total peace!
“I have friends here who were officers in the Civil War and they tell me that at two o’clock, everybody stops shooting. People have a sleep; others go to the front and exchange food for cigarettes and so on; some send messages to their families on the other side of the lines. Then at four o’clock, they are all shooting each other again!”

No fool, that Franco chappie. He took Cádiz first, both for logistical reasons and because he knew the city might hold out forever if not hit hard and quickly. And he kept Spain out of World War Two. He knew that not even good old Tommy Atkins, famous for playing the game, would have taken much notice of a plea of, “Por favor, Señores — is half past two — we are trying to sleep here! Come back later. We fight then, ¿vale?
Now I can’t even see that many Gaditanos would have been ready for action before six thirty. But even then, after such brief acquaintance with the place, something in me already thought the guy had a point. Unless you really are worried only about “the business and the money”, this place does seem some kind of Paradise. And if you are, maybe a spell here might help you to look at things differently. Though in his memory as well as my interest, I should not risk encouraging too many tourists.

And we do have a few mosquitoes.


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