I flew to Spain at the weekend; a last minute trip to see my friend, Gianni. I’ve known the Italian for over a decade, having met him when my brother-in-law, OG, had his stag-do in Valencia before marrying my sister, Kay. G and I are both very…similar guys—he’s an Italian plastic surgeon working in Spain and becoming more famous by the day, and I’m a truck driver with a penchant for words. But good friends we are, and I try to see him as much as I can. However, the last few years with Covid and my touring job interupted my visits, something Gianni reminds me of often.
“It’s been a year and a half since you visited me, you fuck,” he said to me last week, so I booked a flight from Stansted Airport to Valenica, at a cost of £24, but with the cheap fare came the condition that I flew at 0730 Saturday morning and came back at 0630 Monday morning. It saved me almost £200 not going Friday and coming back Sunday, kerching.
I slept on the flight over, grabbing a taxi when I touched down in Valencia. As my driver pulled up to my hotel, I said, “gracias, senor, yo apprendo Espanyol and hablo poco Espanyol“, which made him laugh. Mainly because he didn’t speak English, but mainly because of my mauling of the language.
I should add that I’ve been learning Spanish for a year and a half now. Every day. I’ve got almost a year’s streak on Duolingo, but I’ve recently switched to Babbel because it’s a far superior learning app, and Duolingo had an absolutely shocking revamp a few months ago. Oh, I’m also learning Lithuanian (because of my girlfriend) which is a much harder language to learn!
It was upon my last visit to Spain that I decided to go hard at Espanyol. Gianni and I had been on a night out with his friend, Vivi, who said some things that really stuck with me.
“How many times have you visited Gianni and Spain?” she asked.
I wasn’t sure. It was a lot.
“Then why don’t you learn Spanish?” she wanted to know, but it was the next thing she said that has rattled around in my head ever since; “And why have you only ever lived in England?”
I really didnt know, but on the flight home that weekend that I decided to explore my options.
All of my closest friends live in other countries—Spain, Belgium, America, Thailand, China—so I figured if I could learn Spanish, between that and English, I could pretty much cover most of the world. But wait, if I added Chinese I’d have the big 3 languages under my belt and the world’s my oyster.
So I started learning Spanish and Chinese. I have a Chinese friend who helps me sometimes with that absolute conundrum of a language. There are 4 different inflections of so many words, it’s difficult to learn. I’ll admit to dropping Chinese since Lithuanian became such an important language in my life, but I aim to get back to it one day.
But that was a big digression. Back to the weekend entry of my diary.
I meet my friend, Roberto (AKA “Papi”), who I see almost every time I visit Valencia. He doesn’t speak English, so it was a good test for my Spanish. And it went pretty well! Instead of understanding 2% of everything he said, I’m now up to about 22%. Progress.
While Papi and I waited for Gianni, we went for beers. He took me to a Chinese-owned bar, where I dropped a “Nǐ hǎo” on his unsuspecting friend of a bartender.
“Nǐ hǎo,“ he said with raised eyebrows.
Then I dropped a “Hǎojiǔ bùjiàn” on him which really shocked him. He replied in Chinese but I told him, in English, that I was tapped out on any more conversation with him. Still, it made us all laugh, even if none of us really had any idea what was going on.
Papi and I drank and talked (kind of) through the afternoon until Gianni arrived and gave me the big, back-slapping hug that only close friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time can give, and then the weekend really started. The day continued with beer, champagne, wine, and a lot of laughter as Gianni and Papi realised my fledgling Spanish was a source of great amusement.
For our Saturday finale we went to the Sabbia hotel/restaurant for more champagne and seafood. It was very busy but we got a table to ourselves. We were entertained by a DJ and 4 dancers. At the table behind us sat a beautiful black girl and her friend, looking a little bored. After a couple of dance routines, and me finding out the Spanish waitress spent 9 months in Bournemouth of all places, one of the dancers tapped me on the shoulder.
“You should ask the girls to join you,” she said in English, indicating the two girls behind us. “One is Colombian and the other Venezuelan. They need company.”
“Thanks,” I said, “but I have a girlfriend. Besides, look at me. If I go and talk to them they’d probably leave!”
She stepped back and studied me. “Si,” she said, “you’re probably right.” Thus giving Gianni his biggest laugh of the weekend.
The next day was hangover day, until G woke me up late afternoon to go get food at the Goiko Burger joint. I can’t remeber what I had but it was amazing. Big, thick, maybe containing chilli, and much needed.
Then I had to get my ass back to bed for a 4am wake up call and a flight home.
But another successful visit, giving me that evergrowing urge to possibly make a big move…