“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!”
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.
“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.