The Noble, Honourable and Well-Respected Crotch —- Cadiz,Spain, 1973

It's 1973 and I teach English privately to students located on and around the Avenida Cayetano del Toro in the city of Cadiz. It's a thrill to enter their homes, smell the aromas of garlic and olive oil, of cologne, of black tobacco. Spain is an olfactory delight. Not that I enjoy  the smell of black tobacco, but even that seems exotic in an obtuse manner. I feel happy teaching and I look forward to seeing my students progress in English.

I have never met so many wealthy people in the whole of my life.  Some even have maids who wear little pink uniforms and who treat me as if I'm from the aristocracy. They bow their heads when answering the door then they usher me into a room with a round table draped in a thick tablecloth. On the walls are tapestries. The wife of the man of the house usually welcomes me, offering me sherry, Anis, coffee, cigarettes, all of which I refuse as graciously as I can. I'm here to teach English, not to socialise.

Anyone who is anyone has a rudimentary knowledge of English, and anyone who thinks he is Someone  has his own private English tutor. And since I'm a private English tutor whose native language is English, I am indeed a prize that my students and their families enjoy bragging about.

Before long, their neighbours are wanting English classes.

"Señorita, I see you tutor the cardiologist. My husband is a very important man with a very important job, and he'd love to have you tutor him as well. We can pay you more, you know, if that helps you find the time."

"Señorita, you tutor the Comandante of the Guardia Civil three times a week? Well, MY husband would like you to tutor him FIVE times a week. We can afford it."

Sounds great, doesn't it?  Well, there is one problem. Most of the students really don't want to learn English at all. They have no interest whatsoever. It's just a game of who can outshine the other by flaunting the fact that they have the wherewithal to hire a private tutor. Never mind that there are language schools close by where you can learn English cheaper than paying for a private one-on-one class. These 'very important' men of the house wouldn't dream of mixing with the proletariat.

They love the charade, however. They get the chance to flirt with a rubia who is much younger than they are. Their wives can't complain for they're the ones who set it up!  For the most part. during the lessons, the men pretend to show interest in English. They may giggle a bit too much and they may even exhale their cigarettes all over me. However, they don't say or do anything untoward. I always get paid and their wives and maids are always close by.

It's a different story whenever I happen to meet one of them on the street. He calls out loudly to me, as if he's some gypsy at the local market. He introduces me to his married friends with a huge, gigantic wink.

"This is my private English tutor. She's a native speaker. Rubia, blond, just like the Swedish girls!" He touches his crotch with an upward motion and grins knowingly.

Perhaps he's dying to urinate?  Hope he doesn't pee right here on the street in front of me. I've seen lots of men peeing on the street. Some don't even turn their back to you.

I don't understand the meaning of the exaggerated wink. He and his friends eye me up and down and down and up, strip me with their eyes and grin lasciviously. They scratch their crotches so eagerly that I begin to wonder when was the last time they bathed.

"Señorita, do you have any friends who look just like you? Rubias?  We could all go for drinks some time."  His tongue licks his lips and his nostrils flair. His back is erect and his chest expands so much that I'm sure he'll burst the buttons on his tight fitting shirt. Even the thick gold chain dangling from his neck bounces up and down as he strives to breathe. "My cousin has a holiday flat just round the corner. We could go there."  He grins like a buffoon and pokes at his teeth with a toothpick.

I never knew I had this effect on men.

And I never know how to respond when a situation like this arises. I should perhaps be honoured. Maybe I should ignore the scratching of the crotches, the licking of the lips, the innuendos.  In the end, alas, I always feel awkward, disgusted and very disappointed. I feel like saying to him, "I'm going to tell your wife!"

But I don't. I tell his wife that I have just too many students, and that I can no longer tutor her husband. She looks at me knowingly, as if perhaps this has all happened before.

"I understand, señorita. I do. But,  I want you to know something extremely important. My husband is a very noble, very honourable, very well-respected man. Remember that." Then she sees me to the door.



The Plan Is - Get me that Cap! 1974

Valdelagrana, El Puerto de Santa Maria, 1974

     I teach English to this wealthy, educated man from Madrid. Due to his work, he's living in Andalucia, a region of Spain that does not appeal to him one bit.

     "The Andaluces are nothing more than patosos. Lazy bums who spend their time dancing and drinking." He shakes his head in dismay.
     "They are fun to be with, I must admit." I'm not joking about that. The local people laugh a lot, drink a lot, clap their hands a lot. Not too sure how much work they get done, however.
     "That's the problem. They are not the slightest bit serious, certainly not in the office. In Madrid, we work hard. We plan and we accomplish."
      He really is a serious individual. He studies his English seriously, and he looks serious; even his expensive clothes seem serious. Therefore, I am surprised one day when he introduces me to his wife. I'm expecting to meet a serious, formal woman wearing a fur coat despite the fact that it's the month of April. You can always tell the people from Madrid - the women wear fur coats and the men wear these really thick winter coats that resemble something Sherlock Holmes would be happy in. It's as if they don't know that the weather here in El Puerto de Santa Maria is mild all year long. Or, maybe they just like to show off their expensive winter attire.

      His wife kisses me on the cheek. Gosh, do I hate getting kissed by someone I've only just met. But, I've learned not to recoil too much. She squeezes my arm as if we've known one another for years.

       "Lovely to meet you. My husband enjoys his classes with you."  She smiles abundantly, seems very friendly and not the slightest bit serious. She's wearing a yellow blouse and red trousers that flair at the ankle. She smells of expensive perfume.

       "My husband tells me you have access to the American Military Base?"
       Gosh, maybe she's going to ask me to get chocolate chip cookies for her. Maybe peanut butter? Occasionally people ask me to purchase items for them on the Base.

        She touches my arm again and looks directly into my eyes. I think I know how a priest feels when he hears a confession. I just know she's going to confide in me.

        "My husband and I, we already have a child. A little boy."

        "Your husband has told me about him." In actual fact, her husband never shuts up about their son. He holds the boy's left hand behind his back to force him to use his right hand. He says the boy is very talented but needs lots of discipline and that he'll send him to an Opus Dei school when he's older.
        "We don't want to have any more children right now. Once we go back to Madrid we plan on having another child. That's the plan.  But not here."

         "I understand. "  I think I do understand, but I know I don't really. I'd just as soon talk about the weather or about the sales in the local boutiques.
         "You have a doctor on the Base?" Her voice is soft and her eyes plead with me.

         Now, why is she asking me about a doctor? Maybe she's ill? But, there are doctors in the town she can go to.

         "Yes. But I never go to him." I really don't. Why would I?

         "Maybe you could make an appointment with him?  Talk to him?"

         "About what?"  What on earth is she getting at?

         "There's a contraceptive  device I've heard about. It's called a diaphragm or a Dutch cap."

          "I see."

          "We're not allowed to use contraception. I can't get this Dutch cap from my doctor."

          Oh no. Surely she doesn't want me to ask my doctor for a Dutch cap?!

          "Perhaps," she continues, "You could get this contraceptive device and give it to me? You look to be about the same size as me.  I'll pay you."
           I'm speechless. I think my mouth actually does hang open and my eyes practically pop out of my head. I've been asked to get many a thing from the American Naval Base, but this is a first.



What's Going to Happen Next?! - Talavera de la Reina, 1981

Talavera de la Reina, 1981

     I teach English privately to various groups of students in my apartment on the Calle del Prado. One student is a history teacher who, according to her, speaks the best Castilian Spanish.  Her Spanish is the real McCoy, absolutely. None of this Talaveran slang, and certainly no cutting off the ends of words as the Andalucians have a tendency to do. She's from Madrid, something she remarks upon every occasion she can get.
      "I'm not from Talavera, you know. I'm from Madrid."  She moves her shoulders back and forth as if to emphasize this important point. She wants help with her English as the group she's in is more advanced, so we decide on meeting an extra time each week to do an exchange. She'll coach me with my Spanish and I'll help her with her English.
       I quite like being told how to pronounce Castilian Spanish correctly. It's so much easier than reading rules and regulations from a textbook.
     "The letter 'd' is suave, soft, at the end of a word. Although it's soft, it's still there. Think of the word, 'verdad'."
     I say the word, 'verdad', and out comes just too strong of a 'd' at the end.
     "Do NOT pronounce the 'd' as in English!"  She actually does yell at me.
Oops. The pronunciation of the letter 'd' never has been high on my list of priorities up until this very second.
    ""  She corrects me, emphasizing the 'th' as in 'this'.
     I curl up my tongue and pronounce the word as closely to the way she did as I possibly can     Such a fine point, but it makes all the difference to my pronunciation.
     Not only does she teach me the finer points of Spanish pronunciation, she tells me about her husband and some of the changes in Spanish society since Franco's death and the beginning of  new democracy.
     "My poor, poor husband works so very hard. His office is in Madrid, of course. Not here. So much does he have to put up with."
     "He has to deal with so many people." She lowers her head and stares at her stiletto heeled shoe as she moves her ankle round and round.  "Didn't you say you might be moving to Tarragona?"
     "Yes, possibly in a few months."
     "Then, you too will have to deal with the Catalans."
     "I don't know anything about them."
She snorts, and throws her hand up in the air as if swatting a fly.
      "Let me tell you a story about the Catalans. One day, my husband, who is a very important man, held a meeting in his office in Madrid. Guess what?"
      "This Catalan man turns up at the meeting. Well, the Catalan man begins talking in Catalan. To my husband, no less. Imagine! In Madrid, in my husband's office, this Catalan man speaks in Catalan to my husband. Well, I tell you."
       "Does your husband know Catalan?"
       "Of course not! What is the name of the country we're living in? What is the capital of Spain? What is the language of Spain?"
        Before I can answer, she slaps the table with her hand. Her forehead is perspiring as she gets more and more annoyed, and she grimaces, raising her eyes to the ceiling.
        "Let me tell you, Spanish is the language of the Spaniards. And Madrid is the capital of Spain. When you're at a meeting in Madrid, you speak in Spanish. Not Catalan."
        She fidgets, plays with her thick gold necklace,  crosses her legs, then folds her arms.
       "Now, my husband, who is a very noble man, a man who can enjoy conversation with anyone, decided to get the better of the Catalan. You know what he did?!"
       "No."  Gosh, maybe he punched him on the nose?
       "He answered the Catalan man in French!  Imagine! That shut the Catalan man up. My husband told him that if he could speak in Catalan, then maybe we should all speak in French, or German, or whatever language we wanted. But, that since they were in Madrid, the capital of Spain, where the language is Spanish, then isn't it the right thing for everyone to speak in Spanish?"
       "Why did the Catalan speak in Catalan? Maybe he doesn't know Spanish?"  What silly questions I ask.
       "If the Catalan people don't know Spanish, then what's wrong with them? I repeat, what is the name of this country? What is the name of the language?! Of course, they know Spanish!"
       "I think that under Franco they weren't allowed to speak their language?"
       "Oh, and that's an excuse? Just because we have a so-called democracy now, that's supposed to mean that they don't have to speak Spanish?!"  She waves her hand as if fanning herself and mutters, "What is happening to this country? What's going to happen next?  I ask you!"






How do you know you're a fan of the seventies and eighties in Spain?

Do you remember dancing and laughing to the birdie song?  El Baile de los Pajaritos?

We were all dancing to this song. At the beach, at the swimming pool, at birthday parties, everyone who could move danced to this song.