Hannah Fielding on her love story with Spain
‘For me Andalusia, and especially Granada and Seville where the action of Indiscretion takes place, is overflowing with bygone charm’
“My love story with Spain began when I was in my teens after I saw a film called The Pleasure Seekers. The wonderful setting and atmospheric music made me dream and triggered my imagination. Then once I had visited that beautiful country the seeds for Indiscretion were sown”
My love story with Spain began when I was in my teens after I saw a film called The Pleasure Seekers. The wonderful setting and atmospheric music made me dream and triggered my imagination. Then once I had visited that beautiful country the seeds for Indiscretion were sown.
Spain is a land of flamboyance and drama. Where else would men flirt with death every afternoon for entertainment? The people are intense; their culture, their music, their traditions personify passion and fire. Even their national dish, paella, is a rainbow of vivid colours, with a flavour to match. Life is lived to the full. The Spanish seem to be totally in tune with James Dean’s immortal words, “Live as if you’ll die today”.
Of all the regions I visited in Spain, Andalusia was the place that captivated me the most and that is why I set my story there. All-year azure skies, dazzling sunshine and sweetly fragranced gardens… colour, romance, emotion and the flamboyant figure of a flamenco dancer or the torero in the arena, sword and cape in hand beneath the scorching sun.
For me Andalusia, and especially Granada and Seville where the action of Indiscretion takes place, is overflowing with bygone charm. Located in southern Spain, it has a distinctive exuberant culture influenced by its hot Mediterranean climate and the country’s long rule by the Moors. For seven centuries its history was intertwined with that of the Berber and Arabs who crossed from North Africa to Spain and founded Al-Andalus, their rutilant empire.
Andalusia’s fiestas and ferias are charged with music and dance, conjuring an image of open air, moonlight sky, and all the aromas that a warm summer’s night has to offer. Women in bright coloured dresses and silk shawls, with rainbow-painted fans in brilliant designs, the ladies’ secret language of love. Courting couples on horseback or dancing the most evocative sevillanas. The crowded little terraces underneath the orange trees that dot the pavements and the maze of winding, narrow streets that provide shade from the hot sun. The dazzling, quaint pueblos blancos, whitewashed villages hanging on steep cliffs with their houses huddled around a ruined Moorish castle, piercing the deep blue sky. The peasants working in the fields, with their sparkling black eyes and their faces weathered like the bark of the native olive trees in the breathtakingly dramatic landscapes. The wide avenues lined with spectacular purple jacaranda trees. The splendour of the magnificent buildings and monuments; so many sources of inspiration that all portray the vibrant world and fruitful diversity of the culture of Spain; but these are only the tip of the iceberg.
The people of Andalusia are fun-loving, friendly and hospitable. They love to eat, sing and dance. Laid-back, they are never in a hurry. If you don’t make it today, there is always mañana. Take a walk to the market place in the early evening and watch the paseo, a stroll around the square in which young people may socialise with each other.
The siesta passed, people meet on streets and in bars that overflow with laughter and noisy discussions. Experience the tapear, going from one bar to another for drinks and tapas, an essential part of the social culture of Spain. Enjoy with the Spaniards who will immediately accept any stranger into their midst, a glass of manzanilla or fino sherry with exquisite tapas, small savoury snack dishes served at little tables, standing up at the bar, or even sitting on upturned barrels.
Spain is different, Spaniards will tell you, and they are right; not only compared to Europe, but to the rest of the world. What caused this uniqueness? The history of their land which was sought out by so many civilisations? The temperate climate characterised by hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters? Or its geographical location which combines a most-varied terrain and therefore affects the vegetation, the landscapes and the people? It is probably an amalgamation of all these. Suffice to say that when you arrive in Spain, you feel you have come into a magical, buoyant and unique kaleidoscopic universe that is not quite real… almost a fantastic dream, and it made me dream.
Hannah Fielding is the author of Indiscretion, published earlier this month by London Wall, priced £7.99