Now do please remind me when I get back to Scotland to organise a couple of my famous “How to” master classes.
Thrilled by Spain
I am inspired and thrilled by my visit to Spain despite the obvious danger we are all in from Hilda, the German vuman vat used to help our daily woman Mrs Travers with zee heavy vork. Hilda has stolen the strategically important crotched map of the coastal waters around Japan and very possibly bumped off Winnie and her squeeze Mr Chan, the late owner of a Chinese restaurant on the Govan Road (free crispy noodles with dinners F- H, Monday to Thursday).
Nevertheless despite the obvious perils facing strangers in Spain, a country in the grip of the Generalissimo, one cannot forget work entirely. I think Spain has given me one or two ideas which will help me to help you achieve “marvellousness” through Gracious Living.
A Legend in Fanning
If you will allow me to indulge myself for a moment I am thinking for example of reviving my near legendary class on the Language of the Fan, ‘Fanning About’, in which I teach non verbal skills for ladies of a delicate disposition. The ladies who dance flamenco here in Seville are experts in the use of fans and with their jet black hair, beautiful eyes and hands that are almost as beautiful as mine, say a great deal without opening their mouths.
It is quite amazing how, with the flick of a wrist and the revelation of sticks and guards (for these are the main components of a fan as we experts know them), one can communicate from one side of the room to another. It is one way we ladies can stick together in times of danger and I have learned something new – “we are being watched” from a Spanish lady with much experience and which may prove very useful here.
If you want me to put your name down, do write or telephone. I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed as my classes tend to be oversubscribed and one can only spread oneself so thinly. Perhaps I should open a school? After all, the best people have disciples.
Hands in Gloves
Many of you have been to my ‘Scarf Management’ workshop and once again Spain has given me some ideas. Shawls are all the rage here, embroidered shawls in the brightest of colours and the deepest of fringes. It is, however the Spanish way with gloves that particularly captures my imagination. I think a “How to Wear Gloves”, workshop might be just the think for a dull autumn day in Scotland. Jasper might do a little history and then I could reveal my wrists. I am quite sure Mrs Travers would do a spot of lunch as part of an all inclusive package.
I feel my inspiration comes from having been in Córdoba – it has always had the most wonderful leather for gloves. They have had a tanning industry since at least the 8th century. The very best of course are never worn, simply carried or worn tucked into a belt. Spanish gloves were hugely prized by Elizabethan ladies and were often perfumed. I rather like the idea of perfumed gloves.
A City of Many Faces
I am fascinated by this city. It is large and divided into a number of districts. It is not in itself beautiful but has many beautiful buildings. H. V. Morton, who has become our guide courtesy of his simply marvellous book, says that it was here that the tourist poster was born as early British tourists made their way into Spain from the ports of Cadiz and Gibraltar in the 19th century. It was then a city of donkeys and mules loaded with water pots.
It has been a city of cruelty too where the Inquisition tested its fires and where there was fierce fighting in the Civil War only 20 or so years ago.
We now associate it with beauty, with dancing and Moorish tiles and with sherry produced 40 miles away in Jerez. Not to mention of course ‘the Barber’ and cigars.
Jasper incidentally has hired a taxi and gone on a tour which will take him to a Bodega and to the factory where Bizet drew his inspiration for Carmen who rolled cigars on her thighs, which I regard as most unhygienic, but that’s men for you.
Naturally one associates Glasgow with tobacco, but of course one forgets that it was the Spanish who discovered the New World and that many of the ships carrying tobacco and gold sailed up the river into Seville. Astonishingly one can even buy a single cigarette in Seville. Not of course that I approve of this habit.
Chocolate Treats and Creeping Socialism
You find me sitting in one of the many pleasant cafes that line the streets of this city. I am enjoying a treat – a cup of hot chocolate with tiny little strips of what tastes like doughnuts, which one covers in sugar and then dips into the thick chocolate which is nothing like what we have at home. Rather yummy and if I am not careful will be adding to the waistline. The Spaniards seem to exist on little treats like this.
They eat what I would call bits and pieces which they call tapas. The oranges are delicious and so too the olives. In case you are Scottish oranges are a fruit and olives are little green things which one has with drinks. They are a very sophisticated and I will be serving them at my future cocktail parties.
We are not staying in the famous Edwardian hotel which would have been my choice. No; because the Foreign Office is short of money we have been put up in a modest town house in the old Jewish quarter. We do at least have a Spanish housekeeper. Unfortunately Mr Macmillan’s government is a bit strapped for cash.
Personally I put it down to the National Health Service which is 10 years old this month. I said to Beveridge at the time of the White Paper. “Willy” I said, “it’s a very kind thought, but if you start giving away teeth, spectacles and wigs willy-nilly Willy you will create a culture of dependency.” I said as much to that young woman I keep meeting, can’t remember her name, she’s a chemist I think, husband works for Burmah Oil or something like that, wants to go into politics. Apparently East Finchley are interested in her.
Of course Jasper thinks it is all marvellous and goes on about his Granny Wylie having to sing to Music Hall queues in Glasgow to get money for medicine before the welfare state. I am always tempted to say that she could have afforded medicine if she had cut down on the old John Barleycorn. I have, however, learned to keep quiet and therefore keep the peace even in the face of creeping socialism.
Lady Pentland-Firth Renewing Old Friendships
“Oh Muriel there you are; I have been looking for you everywhere.”
“Well Patience here I am, where have you been and why are you dressed for flamenco?”
“Well Muriel I discovered that the Generalissimo has an apartment in the Alcázar and is here for the weekend and so I telephoned and he invited me round for old time’s sake and a glass of manzanilla. I offered to take Mrs Travers by way of presenting a hand of friendship. Despite the fact that she has been irritating me, with her newly acquired night school knowledge, but she declined. She muttered something about an air raid and a devastated town and some painting by that painter Picasso. I say painter lightly he wouldn’t have passed muster at The Glasgow School of Art for one thing and for two I wouldn’t have allowed him to do the gloss work on my estate cottages.”
“I am sure Patience, that despite your problems with modern art the Glasgow School of Art would have welcomed Picasso with open arms. I have to say, however I am not sure about the company you keep. So what is Mrs Travers doing then?”
“Well I have left her in the house with that rather strange housekeeper, with the wig and the scars around her ankles, who is showing her how to make paella and then she is going to take her to the Bullfight.”
“Rather her than me.”
“Apparently Srn. Trabajo Pesado has promised her a wee discount on 4 steaks afterwards which she said would do for Mr Wylie’s suppa as he says if he eats one more olive he will turn into a slick.”
“Quite frankly Patience I will be surprised if Jasper comes back from Jerez able to coordinate the upper and lower parts of his jaw let alone tackle a steak.”
“I am quite envious Muriel; sometimes I wish I wasn’t on the wagon, there is something about sherry over and above the fact that once one starts one cannot stop. Anyway Frankie says I’ve to get you over to the Alcázar Gardens, pronto.”
At the Alcázar
“Well Patience this is more like being in Damascus than Spain with all this fretwork fantasy, tiles and golden honeycombed ceilings. It is like a Sultan’s Palace despite being built for a Christian, Pedro the Cruel.
“Can’t we just look Muriel? It’s a bit like having Jasper here with a history of every stone. I must say the gardens are rather beautiful. I love the orange trees and the myrtle.”
“Did you know that all Royal Brides have Myrtle in their bouquets?”
“Sorry Patience, but I must agree the gardens are gorgeous. I wonder if we might do something like this in Glasgow when we get home. Some tiles at the very least.”
“Who’s that in the hedge? Come on, who are you?” demanded Lady Pentland-Firth.
“Yes, Good day. I mean Ola, oh typical Andalusian gardener, how may we help you?”
“No; it is I who am here to help pretty laydees. Go first to the Archives of the Indies.”
“Is that all?”
“On the pesos I get, that is certainly all!”
Autographs at the Archives of the Indies
“Don’t start Muriel! I agree it is very interesting, even I am impressed by the signatures of Amerigo Vespucci, Cortes, Magellan and Cervantes.”
“Well Jasper told me that Cervantes had actually helped to supply the Armada ships with provisions.”
“How did the Armada work out then Muriel?”
“Oh really Patience you are the limit!”
Just then Muriel spotted a rather tired old curator who looked rather familiar, much like the gardener at the Alcázar but with a wash and brush up.
“Good after-evening Laydees.”
“Oh it’s you again. Are you a sort of Shakespearean everyman figure?”
“Umm Patience that is pretty impressive that you know something, well actually anything, about dramatic devices.”
“Actually I read it in one of Mrs Travers essays for the night school, mark my words Muriel that woman is going to be impossible.”
“Please pretty laydees, concentrate. Read the notes in the margins and find his resting place.”
“Whose resting place, what can he mean Muriel? Why can’t they just tell us!”
“Look Patience this is what he means, look at these books in the case, they all have marginal notes and all are by S. S. A. S. X. M. Y.. It’s the cipher of Christopher Columbus! He was known for his extensive marginalia and he is buried here in Seville in the Cathedral.”
“I have known many a man claim to have extensive marginalia and it unusually turns out to be wishful thinking.”
“Yes but how many of them discovered America?”
“Most of them knew it was already there.”
“You surprise me, Patience; now let’s go.”
“Now before you start, Muriel, I am well aware that this is the largest Gothic Cathedral in Europe. I am also aware that it was originally a mosque and occupies 23,500 square metres which is sort of Spanish for yards. It is enormous.”
“Yes it really is. Morton in his A Stranger in Spain writing as H. V. Morton the famous travel writer, says it is a bit like finding oneself in Bradford with St Paul’s in the middle.”
”I wouldn’t want to do that.”
What, find yourself in St Pauls?”
“No – find myself in Bradford.”
“Quite so, I have never entirely got Yorkshire.”
“Here we are Muriel; it is the tomb of Christopher Columbus.”
“Well spotted Patience and it surrounded by heralds representing, Castile, León, Aragon and Navarre. On their shoulders they carry the coffin of the man who discovered America.”
“I don’t get this Muriel; what has this man who discovered America got to do with our quest for the crotched map?”
Just at that point a woman covered in shawls came from the shadows.
“Not you again?”
“No; I am another dramatic device who dwells in the tawny, brown light of yet another religious building, the other one is on tea break.”
“Typical, Muriel – the working classes are the same the world over. Even world peace cannot get in the way of a tea break.”
“Señoras, please think instead about the man, not what you know now, but what he didn’t know at the time.”
The Peseta Finally Drops
“I know Patience I know, Christopher Columbus did not know he was sailing to America, he didn’t know America existed he thought he was going to Japan. Somehow the knitted map of the coastal waters of Japan is in Seville. But where?”
“Think laterally or maybe longitudinally Laydees” said the shadowy woman.
“Oh are you still here? That is unusual.” said Lady P-F with more than her usual hint of sarcasm.
“Yes I am on until 5 pm” said the woman “and then I do a backshift warming up castanets at a tourist rip off.”
“We need something more definite than lateral thinking, my dear.”
“Well Laydees, it’s a question of geographical terms.”
“Like North West Passage?”
“How else Muriel, would one get to India and Japan?”
“Oh my goodness! It’s around the Capes! Patience, I have got it. Oh just a minute the Spanish housekeeper that is with Mrs Travers, I knew there was something odd about her Patience, she is not a Spanish housekeeper. Mrs Travers is making paella with a heavily disguised Hilda, the murdering vuman vat does zee heavy vork.”
“Muriel I don’t think it’s the paella we have to worry about; it is what is happening after.”
“You mean the Bullfight?”
“Yes Muriel I mean the Bullfight. You know of course what the Bullfighters use to make the bull mad?”
“Oh my goodness it’s the Cape; it’s all about the cape. The crotched map of Japanese coastal waters is going to be in the matador’s cape.”
“Why would that matter, it is only of concern to the bullfighter?”
“It depends Patience on who the bullfighter is.”
“You don’t mean someone who would do pretty much anything to get 50% off four sirloin steaks?”
“I do and she will have worked out by know who the Andalucian domestic help is. Her life is in mortal peril as the Bullfighter is none other than Mrs Travers, a woman what does and might be done to death despite her doing not a lot.”
“No surely not. I have seen the Bullfight poster and it is advertising “La ultima sensacion – Esme – La Mujer Diaria Versos Asesino.”
“Exactly Patience, it translates as The latest Sensation- Esme -The Daily Woman versos.”
“Versos………the toro ……KILLER!”
“Make haste Muriel, we must go to the Anillo de toros, there is not a moment to waste.”
Seville, quite near Spain which is abroad.