What. A. Night. No, seriously, what a night. It really does look beautiful from the abandoned hillside of the Via Verde at five o’clock in the morning. The night sky is terrific. You could save yourself several hundred quid and skip Wadi Rum for this, if getting locked out of a hostel doesn’t bother you.
Yes, he’s done it again. Yours truly has managed to spend another night locked out and consigned to wandering in the twilight. But that’s ok. Any other night might really bother me, but my bus home isn’t until five o’clock in the afternoon, and frankly, for everything that happened tonight, I’d be locked out all over again just to live it through once more.
The reunion of the decade was everything I wanted it to be and more (and I just saw a shooting star racing overhead as I looked up for inspiration. This was meant to be). That my former classmates hadn’t forgotten me is a given; though Olvera has a tenaciously stalwart expat scene, I was the English kid there too, the guiri, one of only three in the primary school (the other two being my younger brother and a tot in the infantil group, both desperately shy when it came to mingling). So that doesn’t surprise me all that much. That they should be so happy to see me after so many years, however, is something I can hardly believe. This is a town where friendships are cast for life. Within ten minutes I was nattering away in Spanish as I never knew I could, as though I’d never left at all. Jorge was quick to point out that I’d improved a great deal since the last time we met, which leads me to wonder when exactly that happened, as I recall acing my Spanish GCSE two years early. Perhaps it has something to do with actually knuckling under and learning the preterite. Otherwise, I’ll take it on trust.
Where to begin? How does one even embark upon nine lost years? I’d spent most of the morning narrowing down the years into the most worthy tales, and the rest of the time looking up any key words that might have escaped me, from the lesbian ex-girlfriend to the misunderstanding with the Guardia Civil and my successive failed attempts at tracking them down before. It was quite entertaining to play the Storyteller, but it was better still to hear all the things they’d been up to. Foolishly I’d expected them all to be in the same big group from primary school – a technical oversight anyone with half a brain could have known in advance – and it came as a fair surprise to see how everyone had splintered off. That’s growing up, though. I have to admit their voices alone sent my head spinning. When last I knew this lot, we were primary school kids with unbroken voices. Oddly enough I got the same start on being addressed by Jorge in his low Olvereñan bass that my entire generation got when Ron wound down the window and said ‘Hiya Harry’ at the opening of The Chamber of Secrets.
Jorge had to spark off to Málaga to another party – they’re all driving now – and we called it a night. I’d only just taken off my jumper when Alicia, another old friend of mine, gave me a buzz to let me know she’d arrived. Cue Catch-Up Round Two over tapas with Little Miss Popular before she invited me out to a night out on the town with her girls. What could I say? A night out with five Spanish girls, and andaluzas at that? That’s not the kind of invitation you turn aside.
I hadn’t exactly planned on sampling Olvereñan nightlife, but it found me nonetheless. All I need say is that it was everything I’ve ever wanted from a club – and this in nothing more than a bar, no less: great atmosphere, a broad clientele, impeccable music (zero Taylor Swift – sorry) and a crowd quite happy to get up and dance. Alicia taught me to dance the bachata and I taught her a few moves of my own. I haven’t ever had such an obliging dance partner – mostly because in the UK, any guy really going for it in a club is almost instantly written off as gay and given a wide berth by all but the most determined non-closet cases (speaking from experience). When Alicia left to grab another Barcecola to share, I was hailed over by a group of girls sitting at a table across the floor who asked the inevitable question. But instead of surprise when I said I wasn’t gay, they gave me an encore. ‘Hombre, tienes dos cojones y bailas muy bien,’ said one, ‘podrías salir con cualquier chica que te apetece.’ That’s probably not strictly true, but it’s a damned sight better than the usual British reaction. England, you could learn a lot from this world.
The bar gradually began to empty and eventually it was just the guiri and the andaluza left on the floor. We clocked out just before four o’clock, closing time, and left the night there. Four hours of dancing. Think about that for a second. That’s more than brilliant. It’s bloody phenomenal. 2015’s been the best year yet, but that night trumps the lot: Saad Lamjarred, June Ball and the Music Durham inaugural concert in Durham Cathedral, they don’t even come close. And Alicia tells me that’s just a regular night; next week is a puente, and the parties will be better, busier and longer. And so I find myself on the bus back to Seville, happy in the knowledge that I’ll be back in Olvera in five days’ time. If that’s how the rest of my year abroad is set to pan out, I’m one happy guy.
It’s going to be a year spent living a double-life: one as a teacher in Villafranca under one name, the other as a party animal in Olvera under the other. English in one location, Spanish in another. So we’re juggling again. But I’ve been juggling for several years now and I’m getting the hang of it.
Seriously, though. There are only a few times in my life I’d willingly relive. I don’t look back. Last night, however, was definitely one of them. BB x