Saturday, 21 September 2013

El Cid and the Japanese connection

I promised you a more light-hearted post than the previous, littered with references to Day-Glo arses and with a strong 'Carry On' element to it, but before I dish it out, I must give a word of warning to El Cid, above.

I had to take El Cid (simply referred to as 'Sid' by his owners) to one side and give him a little talking to, lest he go down the same route as his chicken-killing predecessor, 'Chico', and end up in a shallow grave on the mountainside - so shallow, in fact, that the owners came home one afternoon to find Chico being gnawed on by the surviving mutts of the menagerie. Not a pretty sight, especially when you are still plagued with pangs of guilt about his demise anyway.

Although my hosts come nowhere near John Gray's level of obsession when it comes to animal-hoarding, they do have quite a few rescue creatures dotted about their villa, and these include a peacock (used to be three, but the foxes found the other two), geese, chickens and cocks (one of which is destined to end up in the pot very shortly), cats, dogs and the odd lizard.

Our hostess whispered to us as host was feeding the chickens one evening, that she was bringing home a donkey that week. When I asked if host knew about this, she said, "No. He would only object to it, but he'll soon learn to love it." I wonder how he did react.

She justified a donkey on the grounds that it would be very useful when clearing the shrubbery from the steep mountainous hillside, as well as bring in the aforementioned harvest of olives, etc. from the precipitous and rocky slopes. Rescue animals are very easy to acquire in Spain, and families of kittens are often to be seen stranded on traffic islands in the middle of busy highways.

Anyway, Day-Glo tits and arses.

I find it amazing how often and how soon any ordinary situation can turn into something straight out of a Fellini film. Once you have seen the world through Fellini's eyes (which I first did when a member of a film club, aged 14), it is never the same again, and despite his no longer being with us, the images linger and renew themselves daily.

When in Seville, we stayed in a big, posh and rambling hotel which once used to be the Jewish quarter of the city, before the wealth was taken away from them by their debtors.

Because this hotel is set in an enclave of tiny back-streets and houses, finding your way around is initially quite confusing. There is a whole complex of tunnel-like alleyways that extend even to the basement, but you soon get to know where your room is - unless you are Japanese.

Early one morning, we sat in a sunny courtyard fairly close to reception, and saw a party of about eight, middle-aged Japanese guests come from one of the alleys - each holding an A4 sheet on which a map was printed of the area, including their room numbers.

They stood in the middle of the yard, looking around at all four points of the compass and discussing the situation with each other in their own language.

Soon, a decision was made and they all trouped off down a sideway, staring up at the balconies and windows in minor awe.

Ten minutes later, they all appeared again from a different alley, and stood in the centre of the yard, trying to get their bearings and pointing in various directions. They then came to a group decision, and trotted off down a different path, only to return to the same spot another five minutes later.

They asked directions from one of the hotel maintenance men who answered in fluent Spanish, and off they went again.

When they came back a fourth time, the maintenance man went with them to show the way, laughing as he walked. When they came back a fifth time, about two were missing, so I suspect that they had - at last - found their rooms.

We went into town, and arrived back in the late afternoon, then sat in the courtyard with a beer to relax in the heat. About two minutes after we sat down, about four of the original Japanese party appeared from an opening, and - looking hot and flustered - stood there, trying to get their bearings whilst fanning themselves with the A4 maps.

Later, we went to dinner in a beautiful, open-roofed courtyard with a dribbling fountain at it's centre, and about three of the Japanese party turned up again, trying to decide which of the three staircases they needed to ascend to reach their rooms. A waitress pointed the way up one, and the tourists went up the other. We spent the rest of the meal watching them traverse the overhead walkways, their faces looking down at us from one of the two balconies which ran around all four sides of the courtyard.

After our meal was over and the last glass of wine had been drunk, we saw one of the original party - a woman - enter the courtyard and begin to stare frantically around as if in a maze. This was about midnight.

I last saw her go down the stairs which lead to the sauna and pool area, and I guess that she may never have found her room and spent the entire night wandering around like a ghost.

There is - we learned later - a very strong connection between this part of Spain and Japan, because a medieval war-lord came over from Japan at set up home and business there. All of his descendants are born with a distinctive but temporary birth mark which is also connected with Ghengis Khan.

Our host's son was born with this birth mark.


  1. The Japanese do 'confusion' better than most nationalities. Their every-day 'confusion' is much the same as our 'mega-confusion'.

    The French do 'staring' extremely well.

  2. The British do 'pretending not to be confused' quite well - especially on home ground.

  3. The Irish travel the world with ease and only get lost at home!

    1. There are more Irish outside Ireland than were ever born on the Emerald Isle.

    2. Eureka!
      They must be the ones that get lost;
      By jove old boy we've cracked it !

  4. Reading this reminded me of a guy I met in Lisbon in the early eighties whilst there as a student. He had a rather pretentious habit of closing his eyes, throwing his arms out and saying in his thick Portuguese accent 'This is JUST like a Fellini film', in any situation. He also used to describe those Portugese who he considered below himself thus: 'These working class people....they all listen to 'Queen' you know.' Nice Guy.

    1. H.I. did that as well, but - thanks to harsh discipline - is almost trained out of the irritating habit.

  5. Love your description of the lost Japanese. It sounds so funny and crazy, I would probably have fallen under the table giggling if I'd been there.

    1. Well, it is just a straight and honest description!

  6. I thought the macabre dog story was going to set the tone Tom - but no, I was wrong.
    I have to say that Seville is full of little alleyways, particularly in the Jewish quarter. I have stayed in Seville several times, never in the Jewish quarter but it was always a pleasant way to walk home after wandering round the sights, or the very expensive up market shops. I don't think we ever went the same way twice, and have on more than one occasion ended up where we started.

    1. I didn't want to get started on Chico. Did you go on a Japanese tour-bus?