The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.
How could a weekly blog post about the life of an Englishman living in Spain not include a reference to those words spoken by Audrey Hepburn paying the part of Eliza Doolittle in the movie My Fair Lady which in turn was based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion?
Often misquoted as ‘the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain’, or is it just me that constantly misquotes it? Probably. So much for that expensive private education and my success in English Literature examinations which included, as it happens, studying Pygmalion. But, as I said in my opening essay, I like to think my education taught me to think, not to remember things. So there you are.
Anyway, I think it is a reasonably well established fact that English people, at home and abroad, like to talk about the weather. A lot.
The great thing about being an Englishman abroad is that the fact that one is ‘abroad’ (as opposed to a broad, which means something else entirely) opens up rich new vistas, entire new meteorological phenomena to be explored, experienced and expounded upon in conversation? After all, isn’t it great to escape those dreary grey skies and all that rain. Being born in a small town in a Lancashire valley, I know a lot about dreary grey skies and rain.
Many Brits leave all that behind for the sun-drenched land that is Spain, all those beaches, oranges from Sevilla, sun-bronzed bodies, spaghetti westerns. You get the picture? So why is that when I look out the window in my home-office does it seem that I am back in Lancashire? The skies are moody and magnificent, thick coils of cloud gather overhead. It has rained and rained and rained, it has even rivalled the inevitability of rain at Wimbledon. And it’s bloody cold.
So, today, in defiance of the weather, the gods, and the forecasters, I sallied forth and purchased logs, charcoal and some juicy steak to barbecue. It will not be the first (nor I suspect the last) that I have barbecued under an umbrella, in fact I have, over the years, become quiet expert at it.
And, it’s not just Spain. I recall only too well, before migrating to Sydney some years ago, thinking about all that year round sun and fun. Well, my first trip there, in the Aussie winter, suggested there was nothing to worry about, cloudless skies, bright sun and wind on the ferry to Manly boded well for a sun-kissed future. When the first summer (in December of course) appeared to be the wettest summer in living memory (after the worst drought in living memory), it was possible to think this was unusual, it wasn’t. And believe me, when it rains in Sydney, it rains. A lot.
It also rains a lot in Belgrade. Although the weather there is probably the best, for dinner party small talk at least. Imagine a country where there can be over a meter of snow in the city centre, temperatures hitting -25C, two rivers freezing (the Sava and the Danube no less), the government shutting down public services because there is no power because the oil laden barges are stuck in the previously mentioned frozen rivers. And two weeks later it is 25C and the streets are thronged with people in shorts and tee-shirts. Does it get any better for an Englishman abroad who has nothing to talk about but the weather? I don’t think so. And, of course, such insane weather fluctuations also then give rise to all kinds of respiratory illnesses, further fuel for the other conversational staple of the Brit abroad, health.
Of course, when it’s not raining in Spain it can be very hot. And being an Englishman (under the midday sun) I venture forth without any forethought which means no sunscreen and no hat, which in turn means sore red skin and amused and knowing glances from the locals. At least in Spain there appears to be some semblance of an ozone layer, unlike Sydney where only a few minutes exposure seems to demand intensive care therapy and the sides of buses in the CBD are adorned with dire warnings of skin cancer. This also accounts for why when sunbathing in Sydney it is necessary to cover yourself from head to toe with sun resistant lycra which seems to defeat the object just a tad. Which reminds me, in a rambling kind of way, of my most notorious sunburn related escapade which revolved around a solo three day drive from Serbia to Spain. For most of that journey I happily listened to music with the window wound down, enjoying the breeze, the smell of the sea and all that lovely (hot) sunshine. During my daily visits to the hospital for the application of a thick gel to my upper left arm to treat second-degree burns for the following two weeks, I was left reflecting on the wisdom of that.
One of the good things about this part of Spain, apart from the healthy food and (perhaps less healthy) delicious and copious amounts of local wine, is that there are definable seasons. In winter it’s cold, it even snows. In spring it’s a joy to watch nature begin to unfurl, in summer the pool seems to be open all day and the nights are long, and in autumn the fruit drops and mists cover the city skyline.
Oh, and did I mention that it rains here. In Spain. Which makes sense as this part of Spain is on a plain. So, maybe Eliza was right.
Postscript – of course, since writing this, the rain has gone, and the sun hasn’t stopped shining. Time for another glass of chilled wine Eliza?