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There was a vast and varied spread of cheese on offer at the Hogmany party last week. Cheesey-cheesey-cheese-cheese, I love it so. Sometimes I even dream in cheese….

Sadly, though, I was to discover that its talents are not all-reaching after all, and in fact the power of cheese to soak up alcohol – despite how well it goes with wine – is notably limited. No matter how many slices of fromage goodness I shuffled in on top of the cava, it was not enough to allay the fact that I hadn’t had a proper tea.

No matter, Cheese, I forgive you. Though Spain has many fine cheeses to offer, you still can’t beat a classic vintage cheddar. Yesterday I bought a big ol’ expensive block out of the ‘imported’ section in El Corte Ingles (ginormous, overpriced Spanish department store). And just right now, Cheese and I made our peace. Mmm, cheese before bed, as it should be. Hello, sweet dreams…

 

Cheeses of the World!

[image: gmushrooms.com]

I’d awoken with a headache and horrible, foggy eyes from sleeping with my contacts in after I don’t know how many hours sleep, but not many.  The flat was silent and stale smoke pervaded, but there had clearly been an effective pre-bed tidy-up, so I didn’t feel too bad about heading home. It would be about a 25 minute walk back to my place. For once I was glad to see a grey sky, since I’d neglected to bring walk-of-shame sunglasses. I’d anticipated making the walk through the Alameda and into the centre as quickly as possible, to breakfast and my bed at the other end, but there was something so satisfying about those streets this morning…

Calle Miguel de Carvajal, one of many interesting street names in Seville which I must investigate.

Calle Miguel de Carvajal, one of many interesting street names in Seville to investigate.

In contrast to New Year’s Day at home, which has something of the post-apocalypse about it – desolate street scenes with occasional bands of refugees, fleeing, bedraggled from a night of kamikaze boozing, or family units wrapped up to the hilt against a bitter northerly wind, journeying to share sustenance with elders; barely a vehicle on the road and absolutely no public transport – the streets were full of people. Walking dogs, jogging, or dressed in smart coat, umbrella in gloved hand, as if out for a Sunday stroll. And there were buses running. Given the Spanish fondness for holidays and – dare I say it – not working, I was a little surprised. All of the shops and most of the bars and cafes, however, remained closed. It was a great opportunity to feel Sevilla differently, without the distractions and the bustle of commerce, of shoppers, of the crowds taking tapas. The dull light added an unexpected, soft peace, and right away I made the decision not to take the quickest route home, but to turn in another direction and find a path previously unknown.

Vespa under orange trees.

Vespa under orange trees, que Sevillano.

Rain on Plaza del Museo,  a marble, hedged patio endowed with two huge, ancient fig trees, outside the Museo de Bellas Artes and five minutes from my flat.

Rain on Plaza del Museo, a marble, hedged patio endowed with two huge, ancient fig trees, outside the Museo de Bellas Artes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turned midday and the bells on all the multitude of churches clanged.  Along with the Chino bazaars, they were the only thing open. Seville is a city of twisty-turny streets and alleys, without hills, and so churches come upon you unexpectedly – a high, flat stucco wall suddenly merging out of a block of apartments. Through one great, studded wooden door, I saw a set of Franciscan sisters in white habits. Through another, I heard Gregorian chant benedictions. I walked on but the sound echoed in my head, and the tinny pop music from a café a few streets on seemed unbearably empty. I tried to find my way back, not sure that I would – the streets here are tricksy like that – but then the church came out of nowhere again and I heard the monks. I lingered in the small plaza outside, under the ubiquitous orange trees (they have fruits, even at this time of year) where someone had parked their Vespa, and listened, trying to pretend I wasn’t. I’m not religious and I always feel a bit awkward and embarrassed to show interest in it. There are moments sometimes though, like that one, where I understand it…

Door to the church of the Gregorian chanters.

Door to the church of the Gregorian chanters.

The unusual motif outside the church of the chanters. The saint is Guadalupe, but I'm not sure of the significance of the turbaned men who flank her.

The unusual motif outside. The saint is Guadalupe, but I don’t know about the turbaned men who flank her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walked on, and around the corner this time (I chose a different one) I could hear above me a continuing party with a soundtrack of funk. I smiled, felt a little envious, and carried on into a shabbier area, with broken bottles, swept piles of revelry rubbish, and homeless sleeping behind cardboard ramparts.

Walking the damp streets of my new city this morning, I really felt that I was starting this new year in the best possible way. I’d celebrated the previous evening with my fabulous new colleagues in my new job. Here I was, exactly one month into my stay in Seville, first wages in the bank, a spacious place to live, and no longer a waif. A whole year ahead of me to explore and love and hate this country that’s been on my mind so many years. I can relax! For a bit, anyway…

A man out for a New Year's Day stroll.

A local flaneur, out for a New Year’s Day stroll.

I’d made a few reluctant attempts at starting to learn Korean. The sounds were totally alien, I struggled to get my mouth around them, and of course there would be no familiar Romantic base to hang the grammar upon. The thought of struggling so much with communication was weighing on me a little… But then I got a call out of nowhere, offering me a job in Seville, Spain. I could abandon the Korean completely! And now, three weeks later, here I am…

Packing was difficult – I’m no stranger to packing but this is the first time that I’m going somewhere just to go. And not come back, or have to think about coming back, or where I’m going next, or what on earth I’m going to do with myself in six months, or a year, or whenever the current venture is up. This time, I can stay still. How unusual… In the end, due to the expense and impracticalities of trailing large amounts of luggage in my wake, I couldn’t really take any of the things I’d have liked to have taken for a life of staying still, especially books. I had to settle for my Spain guidebook, my Spanish dictionary, Bukowski’s Tales of Ordinary Madness, and Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, which I’ve only just read but have every intention of reading again as soon as I’m done with Bukowski. I think I chose well…

My journey over on Saturday was also notably unusual. For me, anyway… I stayed with a friend in Glasgow in order to catch my late-morning flight in plenty time. I did indeed arrive at the airport in plenty time, and hangover-free. I checked in my hold bag, 0.1 of a kilo below the weight allowance. I carried on through security without difficulty. The flight wasn’t delayed; In fact it landed 25 minutes early, which left enough time to catch the direct bus from Malaga airport to Sevilla. I had enough cash for my bus ticket (despite initially trying to pay the driver with Turkish Lira – thanks, Dad, for the bag of ‘Euros’). The bus got into Plaza de Armas station right on time, at 8pm. I walked in the right direction straight off and arrived at my new apartment within only a couple of minutes, where my new flatmate was waiting to greet me.

All this things going smoothly is unheard of for me. An airport experience, free of debacle? Naw… Either something is very wrong, or, just maybe, very right… Korea never had sat quite right with me (goodness knows, I’d procrastinated over it long enough). Now it feels like the universe has corrected itself. If it hadn’t been for an unexpected delay in getting my Korea visa documents sorted, it would have been too late – I would already have been there, away out East and unreachable. I don’t think I believe in fate – more often than not it’s used as an excuse or an empty justification, and that annoys me – but sometimes you need something to hold on to. It makes you feel nice…