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.