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The Iberian Horseshoe — A Journey

Part I. North West

Vía Norte & Clínica Fátima

Steve Porter
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I moved into a flat on Vía Norte with two other teachers. Jill was a Geordie lass who had been out here for a couple of years. She was hardened to teaching in the state system in England, so found her new life easy compared to a Gateshead Secondary. On Sunday evenings she stood in her Newcastle United flip flops, occasionally glancing up from the ironing board to view Estudio Estadio, the Spanish football highlights programme. It was always good to have a flatmate who liked football. I had been worried that sharing a flat with two women would leave me outvoted in nightly TV scheduling.

Lisa came from England’s south coast. She claimed to be an Arsenal supporter but in truth she didn’t know Tony Adams from Victoria Adams. Lisa had been living with a French boyfriend in Montpellier. They broke up and she had come to Spain to learn another language as she wanted to become a translator.

One lunchtime, with sun slanting over the balcony, Lisa was preparing a lesson. At the same time, she chatted enthusiastically about the new job and theories of English teaching. I did not view teaching as a long-term career and wasn’t willing to devote every spare minute to it. I was reading Strange Pilgrims by García Márquez. The book’s cover reflected in the afternoon sun, casting some light on the grey brick Clínica Fátima opposite. Patients came and went from the hospital.

“I bet the next one comes out in a wheelchair,” I said.

“No, I reckon it will be a kid with a broken arm,” Lisa said, as she made notes on the second conditional tense.

There was a lack of green space in the city, too much traffic and concrete and not enough nature for my liking. I thought of Mary, at home in Edinburgh, planting bulbs amid the birdsong in her tenement roof garden, the odd fox scavenging for food by the canal, as the Scottish mornings grew ever more frosty.

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Copyright ©Steve Porter, 2004
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Date of publicationJanuary 2006
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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