Monthly Archives: March 2016

How to feel like you’re 17 again…

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Last night, I phoned a friend. Not to say, “I’m at the bar, but I can’t see you!” or, “Where are you? We’re late!” Not to have a long-distance chat because we live in different cities and haven’t seen each other for months. I phoned my friend, who lives in the same city as me, just to have a chat.

No, we haven’t time-travelled back to 1998: the pre-mobile, pre-text, pre-facebook golden age. This is twenty-first century, western Europe. It started out twenty-first century enough, with my friend sending me Whatsapp messages asking what I’d been up to as we hadn’t seen each other since the weekend. But then I thought, why are we having this conversation on a screen when we could be speaking? So I suggested a Whatsapp call and my phone vibrated within seconds.

We chatted and laughed and moaned about the incessant bangers and firecrackers we’ve all been enduring for the past two weeks of the Fallas festival here in Valencia. It was only a 15 minute chinwag, but it felt rather intimate, connecting with another human being by using our voices rather than typing. To my delight, for those 15 minutes, I felt 17 again. Phoning a friend in the evening, just because. To talk, to laugh, to connect.

It seems strange that the telephone conversation has almost all but been discarded in the name of progress and technology. If you think about it, in a way we have actually stepped back in time, writing ‘notes’ to each other to convey our thoughts, feelings and plans. I am certainly not the first to say this, but by being switched on and connected 24/7 online, we are more isolated than ever, lacking a genuine connection with real life people. We have abandoned what at one time must have seemed impossible, yet magical; hearing the voice of somebody in a different location to yourself. Without abandoning technology, it is time we dabbled in that magic once more, and truly connected with other people. And our 17 year old selves 🙂

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“No somos pijos”

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“No somos pijos”

We clearly aren’t the type to live in this apartment block. Young, child-free, dressed in cords and checked shirts, skinny jeans and grungey band t-shirts. The only label on display: our worn Converse.

The ‘Holas’ from our neighbours, at times, are reticent. The night-concierge, on seeing us outside the gate for the first time, only buzzed us in once we had produced our keys. Even then, he asked us , “Donde vas?” Where are you going? Luckily, I had ingested a couple of glasses of  vino tinto, enough to allow our long address to bubble  up into my brain and roll off my tongue in confident, if basic, Spanish. That brought a smile to his face and he waved us through.

“Too posh,” was my first impression of the building. I couldn’t fault the immaculate apartment with stunning views over the Ciudad de les Artes y Ciencias; the communal pool and lush green garden, which would be an oasis in the baking summer. But still, “It’s too posh.” People too posh to say, “Hola.” Worlds, yet only a fifteen minute walk away from our sufficient, holiday-let apartment, in the very working-class port area. Old ladies greeting us, “Buenas dias,” in the street; dog poop on the pavements; the chatty Indian selling us fruit and veg, keen to talk whenever he sees us pass. A working-class Northerner feels the warmth of the working classes.

Not many years ago, a British study found that the more educated people are, the less likely they are to know their neighbours. Since I became aware of this, I’ve seen it played out everywhere. It was my biggest apprehension about moving into this beautiful apartment. The younger people here are a little friendlier, though not always. They look me up and down, from my red Converse to my pale face and grey eyes. They know that I am not one of them; I am not pijo. So I smile and brightly greet them, “Hola!” as if I am in the Spain that I knew before.