Amaia landed in Ipswich late 2006, possibly early 2007. She brought in her bags the essence of a sun-drenched Spain, the mellow flavors of the Mediterranean, and the singing accents of the Sierra Nevada. Or so would the poet at the height of the XIXth century’s Romanticism have rambled. This was the time when Byron roamed about a neo-classical Greece while Garibaldi fought for his revolutionary ideals in nearby Italy.
The truth is, however, not so grand. Amaia is in fact from Northern Spain. Her home province is probably quite the climatic opposite of Suffolk: where Wolsey’s homeland is known for its dry weather in the UK (relative dry weather, we are after all in a very humid – to put it mildly – island), Navarra is on the contrary possibly of the more humid provinces of a bone-dry peninsula. Located at the easternmost tip of what is considered as Green Spain, the northern counties bow to the Atlantic as it brings in lashes of relentless rain. So much for Amaia’s sun-drenched, mediterranean-flavored Spain. As for the accents, in lieu of a melodious singing voice, people from Navarra are said to talk grossly, in a very recognizable way. I wouldn’t judge local accents though. I struggle enough as it is with English and French ones. I will return to Caesar what belongs to him and leave the accent debate to Native Spaniards.
ROMANCE IN THE AIR
In this great confusion of Spanish stereotypes, Amaia had nonetheless arrived in the capital of Suffolk somewhere between 2006 and 2007. Her pretty face, ebony dark curly hair, and deep eyes soon had the better of most single chaps in our group of friends. Surely, soon enough a long list of suitors formed about her – much like Japanese tourists huddle around the Mona Lisa in Paris. Phone numbers were exchanged, compliments were hushed down the table at lunchtime, and invitations were sent.
I must admit I myself was not indifferent to Amaia’s charms. Then again, I have a weak spot for anything ‘made in Spain’. But at the time, I was happily engaged in a deep and meaningful relationship (ahem) with my then beloved Laurine (God bless her cotton stockings).
The first true contact I had with the newcomer was – I believe – on a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon. To be quite frank, I can’t remember the weather, but it suits the storyboard. I then lived with 2 fellow Germans, Mirko and Michael. None of us really cooked then except when either Mirko’s girlfriend or mine came round. Shopping was therefore limited to the strict minimum and usually the bright orange bags we brought home from Sainsbury’s only contained breakfast items, bread, flour (for the bread-producing Germans), jams, and cheese. With this in mind, imagine Mirko’s surprise as well as mine when we suddenly saw Michael walking into the house plowing under the weight of several shopping bags full to the brim of fresh produce, meat, sauce, and even a bottle of red wine. What was he brewing? What surprise was he cooking us? Literally… Well almost, for if indeed he was about to toss together a five-star meal, neither Mirko nor I were invited to the table. Shyly, Michael came into the living room and told us he had company for lunch and asked us whether we minded sticking to the living room and not intruding into the kitchen, converted into his den for the time of the meal.
Mirko and I glanced at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and resumed whatever important task we were doing, keep well clear of the kitchem and its cacophony of plates banging, pots clashing, and pans simmering on the cooker. Then silence. A long pause. The meal must be ready. The doorbell – well a knock (the doorbell is broken). A rush of air – Michael running down the corridor – the door opens. Voices are heard. And in comes none other than Amaia. Yes, sir. Our very own Michael, slightly baldish (God bless his remaining hair), uncanny grin, and a good heart, had invited Amaia, the ravishing Pamplonese, to a tête-à-tête dinner. On the scale from zero to Hyacinth Bouquet’s candlelight supper, Michael scored quite high that day. If only he’d had hand-painted perrywinkle china…
Mirko and I refrained from intruding into the couple’s romantic lunch in the kitchen and we tried to muffle as much as we could our laughter. When I mention the event nowadays to Amaia, she dismisses it as being a simple lunch with no hidden agenda. Yes, we believe you, it’s Michael’s intentions that we question.
THE CANDY MACHINE
Michael was not alone in his efforts as Ruben, my other housemate, and Amaia’s galant knight and defender, later explained. And I now recall the many moments spent at the candy machine during coffee breaks. Back in the old day, I used to work in a team of 4 – all friends – developers. A hairy Italian chap called Mauri, a military-obsessed Dane, Lenni, and our lyrical day-dreaming Austrian Andreas. The building we were located in had no candy or coffee machine much to our dismay and we therefore had to walk to the building next door to refill on unhealthy sugary sweets in the likes of Kit Kat, Twix, and Mars. Amaia so happened to work in that building almost nearly directly above the candy machine. Our Great Dane would always try to meet up with Amaia there and share a bit of chinwag. Chocolate certainly maintained the love feel in the air. All we now needed was Robbie Williams and his hit song ‘all I want to feel’.
FERIA DE PAMPLONA
I didn’t see much of Amaia in the following months. I had little if no social life then and never met with the Spanish gang. I merely noticed she seemed to get excited everytime the number of the day matched the number of the month, i.e. the 2nd of Feb, 3rd of March, and so on. Was it witchcraft? No, wisely replied Lenni coming back from a reconnaissance mission. It’s all about bulls, running, and Hemingway? Ah and it involves drinking and partying until the wee hours of the morning. The Feria of Pamplona of course – 7th of July.
A year went by, months flew until days wound down to April 2008. Forced to move out of their house because of landlord issues, Amaia & Ruben were looking for a new roof. At the same time, JuanLu was also searching for a place where to settle down. And I was reluctantly giving up my apartment where I’d shared so many precious moments. Three Spaniards, one Frenchman looking for roof big enough for 4 with possibly room for a guest (code name Tikka). The answer to this hypothetic ad came from the offices of Martin & Co, a letting agency and its charming blonde agent who toured us round a house in Bull Rd – quite a fitting name for a mainly Spanish household. It’s a dire shame none of our last names is Osborne. Contracts were signed, money changed hands, keys replicated. Soon, furniture was flying around the house. At this precise moment, a new chapter started.
…to be continued…