I’ve touched on my many visits to Spain as a kid before. And by ‘touched on’ I mean ‘mentioned it all the time ‘cause I’m still a bit bitter about it’. Mother, Father: I will never understand your obsession with this country, even after living in it for almost a year… especially after living in it for almost a year. But I digress. I have lots of good memories from my time spent in Spain that are very different to the good memories I’ve made myself here. So, to be fair to this country I’ve made my second home, here are some of my favourite Spanish things from my childhood… that I haven’t managed to recreate in Madrid. Aaaah, nostalgia.
- All those bars that have white plastic furniture and umbrellas that say Coca Cola and Irn Bru outside: It’s no secret that one of my main loves in Spain is the abundance of outside seating options and terraces, but from all the bars I’ve been in here, I’ve yet to find that familiar white plastic chair and obnoxious parasol combination. You might say this is a good thing, because in the 30+ degree heat of the Spanish summer, you more often than not end up sticking to these chairs. I always hated them as a kid, and remember bracing myself for the inevitable pain when you have to stand up again. But still, I miss them. Cool looking hipsters bars with cushiony seating in Malasaña is all fine and dandy, but I miss my Coca Cola parasols.
- People on the street thinking I’m cute and teaching me Spanish: As a kid, every waiter or barman in every restaurant we went to in Spain took a liking to me. And I have a distinct memory of being perched on a bar being taught ‘gracias’ and ‘adios’ from a nice barman. In Madrid, as a less cute twentysomething, this does not happen. It’s more like the opposite. Not one Spanish person has tried to teach me any words and phrases, everything I’ve learnt here has come from other English speakers or my iPhone. In fact, whenever I try to communicate in Spanish with a waiter or bar staff, I’m usually left with looks of utter disdain or cries of ‘QUE?!?!?!?’ Like, yeah, I know I’m not perfect. Actually, I know I’m pretty terrible. But maybe I’d be better if people were like ‘actually, you say it like x’. FOOD FOR THOUGHT. (Side note: yes, I am aware that this is because I spent my summers in cute little coastal towns and Madrid is a giant European capital city, but still).
- Wearing those hats with the giant flap that protected your neck: Maybe this is just a kid thing, or a 90s thing, or a British tourist on the coast of Spain thing, but damn, I miss those hats. I am a delicate pale British baby with a pixie cut. I need all the protection from the sun I can get. Factor 50 just isn’t cutting it for me anymore, I want it all. I want the giant tshirts from hotel kids clubs to protect my shoulders, the aforementioned hats with the neck protectors, and the ability to be grouchy and sleepy in the heat and have it be socially acceptable. Whatever was normal behaviour for me as a six year old in Menorca is not okay for twenty two year old me to do in Madrid.
- Friendly street vendors and what they were selling: Again, maybe this is a 90s/early 2000s thing, but the street vendor people I experienced as a kid are totally different to the people I have to deal with on a daily basis now. Nowadays my entire body flinches when I hear that godawful whistle sound (if you live in Madrid, you know it) or I get beer cans waved in my face every time I go out at night. But as a kid, it was all flashing dolphin keyrings and Now That’s What I Call Music CDs. On more than one occasion I remember getting some of these for free, which I highly doubt the people of Sol would do. But my favourite memory is after buying a cool statue off an African guy, we invited him to have a drink with us and he had a Sprite and told us all about his life and his job. Admittedly, he did try and marry me to his son (I was about nine), but still. I’ll take it as a compliment.
- TOUCAN ICE CREAM: The most important part of my Spanish childhood, and the one that still pains me every hot, sunny summer day whenever I get the uncontrollable urge to rip the head off a toucan, eat its insides, and then keep the carcass as a trophy of my triumph. What? Is that not an accurate description? Toucan ice cream (I don’t know the real name) was an ice cream that I had almost every day of every Spanish childhood holiday. It was a vanilla ice cream, which while nothing special in itself, was suddenly made amazing when placed inside a plastic toucan that you could keep when you were finished. If you were a British child, you probably had the toucan ice cream, and you probably loved it as well. Every other British expat I’ve asked about it also remembers it fondly, and is met with as much devastation as I when I tell them it’s been DISCONTINUED. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
So there you have it. Some parts of my Spanish dwelling childhood that I didn’t completely hate, and wish I could recreate now in my adult life. But mainly, it’s all about toucan ice cream and people being nice to me ‘cause I was cute.