Viva Espana

A greedy, lazy week spent in Laredo, a little town on the northen coast of Spain between Bilbao and Santander led to the following discoveries:

Always order Rioja ‘crianza’, this is the good stuff, and it’s still hilariously cheap (sob.)

Somera (17, rua major, Laredo) does Michelin-starred tapas for pennies (er, cents?)

These cool little braided bracelets called Decenarios are all the rage. They are made from twisted silk thread and look a bit like a rosary with ten little blobs and a crucifix charm. They were originally made by a woman called Sara Carbonero who I believe is married to a footballer in Spain (Spanish WAGs make stuff, cool!) and they’ve become a bit of a craze, with people buying them in every colour and wearing them stacked up on their wrists. I bought a yellow one for me and a black one (smartly named ‘Gotholic’ by my mama) for Anna-Marie from some entreprenurial kids selling them for 75c on the beach.

Spaniards dress ‘jazzy’ and totally pull it off. Returning to England it was painfully obvious that many people try to look ‘on-trend’ wearing ‘must-have pieces’ that are ‘so now’. Shudder. As a result they look awkward and uncomfortable, while the Spanish with their micro-fringes, rainbow-bright specs and crazy-paving clothes look relaxed in their own skin. It’s the sartorial equivalent of an Almodovar apartment and it works.

Spanish children are the best dressed in the world. The girls have a matching hair ribbon to coordinate with every single outfit. They wear frilly socks with smart little white sandals. In the posh little seaside town of Santona, Nicolette stocks the coolest kids’ clothes you’ll ever see. Vintage photographs transferred to fabric and lovingly made into little knickerbockers with braces (braces!) and flouncy frocks.

I am perfectly capable of eating 12 churros by myself. Daily.

And being the late adopter that I am, I only just discovered the brilliance of short story queen Alice Munro. Oops. Her Selected Stories jump and skin between decades, from the ’60s (going by the mentions of kaftans, ‘grass’ and open marriages) to WWI, but they’re all held together by a faintly melancholic understanding that all youth is beautiful, an beauty fades with age. Middle aged divorced people reflect ruefully on their younger selves, their selfish naivety and assurance in their own strength. They look at their grown children with a kind of pain, as if the good they’ve done at raising fully functioning adults now renders them redundant and ready for death.

The relationship between mothers and daughters is painted with very fine brushstrokes; every change in tone, gesture, expression, is held up to the light and analysed with skill and ease. The effect of the stories read one after the other, is cumulative and a little soporiphic, characters and events blur into one another and the gentle melancholic tone creeps up, like waves lapping a shore and the tide slowly, inevitably creeping in. They are women’s stories; tales of love, loss, childbirth, illness, home making and breaking. The reader’s response is telling; I found the stories sad, while my brother read them as uplifting, what on earth does that say about us?! Either way, Alice Munro is mistress of telling our lives back to us and finding something extraordinary in the ordinary, everyday and mundane.

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Co-founder and co-editor of Pamflet. Bookworm, bluestocking, Brown Owl. Loves Garconnes style, reading, writing, ranting and raving. Gin snob.
About phoebe:

Co-founder and co-editor of Pamflet. Bookworm, bluestocking, Brown Owl. Loves Garconnes style, reading, writing, ranting and raving. Gin snob.

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