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The Iberian Horseshoe — A Journey

Part III. South East

TV, Lingoes & Birthday Wrapping

Steve Porter
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The new flat, on Capità Gaspar Ortiz, had a dining area with a rug featuring Spanish flamenco dancers draped from one wall; suffice to say the design was not based on a Velázquez painting. Chandeliers hung from every ceiling and appeared to be works in progress like something out of a Gaudí nightmare. But the flat had two bedrooms and a separate kitchen and only cost about the same as the tiny studio in Cádiz.

When I moved in, I spent a few days adjusting to the ever-present heat. I was joined temporarily by another Scottish teacher, Mick. We sat in front of the television in the evenings with a steady supply of olives. Mick had a beer or two while I stuck with fizzy drinks or water.

Spanish TV is just as awful as its British equivalent. In some ways it is worse. Weekends in particular see a lot of variety shows reminiscent of the outdated Sunday Night at the London Palladium. These shows can go on for three or four hours. The Spanish, it would appear, have no concept of overkill. The consolation was that I didn’t have to pay a licence fee to add to my suffering. All television channels have long and frequent commerial breaks.

Fortunately for Mick and I, there was a healthy diet of Champions League on Canal 9. Most programmes were in Valencian, the regional language widely regarded as a dialect of Catalan. This issue is a political hot potato. Valencian right-wingers from the conservative and centralist Partido Popular wish to distance themselves from anything that might be seen to endorse Catalan nationalism, while some Valencians resent Catalans telling them what to call their own language. Others think there are more important issues to worry about. Meanwhile, Catalans are defensive about what they view as a deliberate attempt to fragment their language. One compromise that has been mooted is to call the language Valencian-Catalan but the only certain thing is that there is no way of pleasing everybody. Some locals I spoke to told me that to say Catalan, Valencian and Majorcan are all distinctive languages is nonsense. After further study and reading I could find only minor differences in vocabulary and grammar.

The situation becomes even more confusing when people refer to Valenciano, the Castilian/Spanish version of the name. The truth is that Spanish is the predominant language here although street names and signs in Valencian are much in evidence. This was the case in Elche too, where I would soon find that many of my students had families who came from Andalusia. Those claiming to be ilicitanos—natives of Elche—were hard to find.

The night before we started at the school Mick and I sat in the flat and prepared for work. The school insisted we cover all our books with cellophane. It was like being back in primary one, only this time I could not ask my mum to do it for me. As I fiddled around with tape and scissors I wondered if this would be the most boring birthday I would ever have.

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Copyright ©Steve Porter, 2004
By the same author RSSThere are no more works at
Date of publicationDecember 2006
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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