Expo 92 - A Freeloader's Guide
Mid October 92. I am sitting at my desk pondering the miseries of another Scottish winter. The last thing on my mind is the prospect of 10 days in Seville, Spain with the wild, wonderful and seriously wacky Monica. Early November 92 and I'm back at that self same desk, and I can still hardly believe it.
And why was a stay-at-home Scotsman in Seville? Well I had been invited there for nothing, free gratis, without payment, no strings attached, and after all I am a Scotsman. And how did this come to pass? A certain Joel Sciamma (long standing friend, guru, inventor, etc, but that's another story) had decided to go to Seville to see the end of Expo 92 and stay with a young lady called Monica who is some sort of friend of his family. When he bought the airline ticket to go he was told that there was a special offer on that he could purchase a second ticket for £1, but a quick decision was needed. He phoned me at 4:15pm one day out of the blue and offered me a free 10 day sojourn in Spain. "Wow, can I think on this Buddy". Sure says he but I need a firm decision before 4:30pm. "I'll go!" So 4 days later I'm in Spain living in a flat with a half dozen young ladies half my age. Ain't life a bitch?
And what a 10 days it proved to be. Monica De Soto Medina is 29 years old, the problem child of a large wealthy Andalusian family who are well connected in southern Spain. She had spent a couple of summers in England as a sort of exchange student, living with Joel's grandmother. Although I knew a bit about her from Joel, I had in truth met her for all of 5 minutes in Joel's brother's swimming pool last summer on a bike trip to London. Those five minutes were enough to establish that I was not entirely sure I liked her, and I am later to learn that the feeling was wholly mutual. So here I am her house guest.
House was an apartment in the University quarter of Seville (Sevilla in the proper tongue) which she shared in a rather ramshackle fashion with another 3 or 4 younger girls. It is hard to be specific as the number seemed to be perpetually changing. Barely two cups that matched, no coffee or sugar, and not a can of beer in sight. It should have been a disaster, but instead I somehow swallowed my regular stuffiness and got on with it. I had a ball.
There were only 2 days of Expo left when we got there, which was a bit like trying to "do" Disneyland and Alton Towers in 2 days with a million (literally) other people queuing to do the same. Even now I am not entirely sure exactly what Expo was supposed to be. A fun fair? A pan Euro business opportunity? A whole pile of jingoistic flag waving? A celebration of technology? I guess the closest I can come to describing it, is to imagine it as a conglomeration of all of these. Pavilions from all the world's countries, lots of high-tech goodies to ogle at, more sensu-round IMAX cinemas than you can shake a stick at, fountains, gardens, fireworks, and cold beer dispensers. I liked it. So unfortunately did an awful lot of other people, and to say that it was crowded was a considerable understatement. It was entirely possible to queue all day just to get into one exhibit. Not my favourite way of spending a day!
But we had a secret card up our sleeve. La Monica. Not only had Monica been working at Expo all summer and knew her way about like a rat in a laboratory maze, but she is the most adept ligger I have ever come across. She raises free-loading to a fine art. In Spain the art of connection, grease, bribery and corruption, and a set of flashing eyes is still something to be looked up to. Suffice to say that Monica hustled, bribed, connived, brazened and hassled us round Expo for two exhausting days from 8am till 3am until there was nothing left to see that was worth seeing. Each pavilion has two doors. One is the obvious front door where thousands of the great unwashed queue in great snakes to be allowed in. The other door is always discreet, but it is there somewhere. This is the VIP door, and Monica knows them all. What's more she knows the security guards and the staff, and with no more than a few smiles, perhaps a few promo trinkets here and there and we're in. Amazing. What's more, Joel and I are usually abandoned with some party of Euro VIPs (or more liggers!) with instructions on where to meet next, and the whole performance begins again.
A virtuoso performance by a true Diva, culminating in ligging a whole gang of us into the best party on the scene on the last night where I drank Tio Pepe and danced the Flamenco. A crazed ginger haired Scotsman mixing Jagger and Flamenco literally cleared the floor and before I knew it I had a queue of ladies asking me to dance. I then had to be rescued (Boo!) from some guy who was hell bent on me going of to some other party where he could line me up with some hot Venezuelan girls. Struth! But the best was getting home at 3am to find our beds full of women. Wild and crazy evening I can tell you.
And so on the third day we rested, Joely and me padded around Sevilla, where we began to notice that our appearance cleared the crowds like that trick Moses pulled on the Red Sea, guess Spaniards aren't used to a small Jewish guy balding but with long hair tied back in a tail, and a Scotsman in pink tartan baggy trousers and bushy red hair. We sure got noticed.
Another couple of days were spent with Monica ligging round Sevilla, restaurants always seemed to have the best seats for us, bills miraculously never seemed to get paid, people would give us lifts places for no apparent reason. Great stuff this, by now I'm getting used to it. The trick of course is to damned well expect every other sucker to kow-tow. Pull it off and they do it. And they smile. Hey I'm really polishing my technique as a smart ass now, getting ever so good, ebenezer goode!
So next we head off to the coast with another young lady Natalia driving us, (looks like an angel, drives like a dervish!) where there is of course a holiday apartment that Monica's parents keep on the Costa del Sol.
Same treatment of course in all the tapas bars where platefuls of delicious seafood appear from nowhere, oh those baby squid fried whole in their ink, I will remember those for a something longer than a long while.
From here we tour the Costa, up into the Sierra Nevadas, and finally to the Moorish splendour of Granada.
Another day or so in Sevilla, and it's back on the big bird to London , and an hour later I'm back in Edinburgh. I am not experienced jet traveller and compression of distance and culture like this phases me.
As I write this, I have been back on UK soil for just over 2 weeks. A quite bizarre thing has happened, when I look back at my trip to Spain I have two entirely separate ways of viewing it, both valid, and I seem to be able to toggle between them at will. Mode 1 is that the whole thing was so improbable from the outset, and so off the wall in execution that already it has taken on the air of faintly remembered fantasy. Mode 2 is quite the reverse, I remember the whole deal as clearly as a day out in Edinburgh and am no more surprised at the outcome. On balance I like both of these views, the romantic and the prosaic, as I can appreciate my trip from a whole series of perspectives between the two.
\I can also slip between modes while rehearsing my tales of derring-do, which as you can imagine have now taken on the cool nonchalant patina of the seasoned story-teller. Needless to say I should be able to dine out on these carefully crafted artefacts for some time to come. The girls at work have listened and smiled (do I detect a faint green tinge of jealousy, or is my ego finally getting out of hand?) while the guys have generally responded with a typical "whoo-err!" bravado (and who am I to spoil a good illusion)\par \par On my first Saturday at home I spent the day in Edinburgh, something I have probably done a thousand times. I know Edinburgh like the back of my hand, and as a result I have stopped appreciating it. But that day was somehow different. Fresh from Sevilla I saw my own favourite city for the first time in years with the eyes of a tourist, and what a glorious sight it was too. It was a typical cold but sunny Scottish autumn day, and Edinburgh looked striking, like an elegant older woman, mature and demure, but very attractive. I loved her.
\ I had a great day out, I had gone to buy the printer which is producing this, and I wandered from shop to shop talking to people. It was then I noticed how many people actually knew or recognised me, and in a good mood I was happy to talk to the ones who didn't. It occurred to me that I actually had the same talent I had envied in Monica, namely that I too was well connected in my own home territory. I felt even better.
I was also constantly aware of how much I would have liked to have had my new found Spanish lady friends with me that day. As they showed us around Andalusia, it was obvious how proud they of their country and that it gave them great satisfaction to show it to others. Well we Scots are just as bad, we are fiercely proud of our own little patch, and as Edinburgh glinted in the cold blue sunshine, I imagined that I had them to show it off to. It is possible that I was enjoying this fantasy to the point where I was probably talking to thin air, and there may have been a few people wondering why this ginger haired lunatic was pointing out the sights to two young Spanish ladies who in fact did not exist. Do I care? What do you think?