Good God (I am allowed to say God, aren’t I?) I’ve only had one blog on-line and I’m getting the red pen put through my carefully scripted words already! So much for the freedom of the press!
In case you are wondering what my ire is all about (and boy, can I ire when I’m in the mood) I sent a perfectly sensible little blog entitled…well I can’t actually tell you what it’s entitled because that’s where my robust prose is deemed a bit too much for TIM’s ‘sensitive readers’ (the red pen wielder’s phrase, not mine).
As with There’s nowt so erotic as rubber, the second one has a bit of a mucky title, but those who read it just for the smut would be sadly let down by the content, although personally speaking, I think it’s not bad in its own little way. It’s a bit like internet dating; the nifty looking bit of totty in the photo sadly doesn’t always give a fair resemblance of the actuality – at least that’s what they say about me, anyway.
So if you want to know what the banned blog is called, and what it’s all about, you have to go here, but don’t go shouting at me if it upsets you. And if you want to read about all the muckily-titled blogs I’ve written, go here.
Meanwhile, here’s one that I’m sure won’t offend anyone.
Which menu, sir, Chink or Dago?
I was meandering home on my bike this afternoon when I saw something that made me smile, in a sardonic sort of way. I’d been coming back from the centre of Valencia and had detoured through the back streets behind the gorgeously kitsch Estación del Norte, the central station, to visit a small Chinese deli that sells a particularly spicy sauce I like and can’t seem to find anywhere else in the city. I passed a sign that said ‘Restaurante Español’ – and that’s what I smiled about, although viewed from distance and with Valencia being the third biggest city in Spain, it might not seem all that strange to see a sign advertising a Spanish restaurant. But that’s not what he was doing. The sign wasn’t in fancy lettering painted on the window, or neatly written above the door; it was in capital letters as big as his printer could print them on pieces of A4 paper and stuck across the window. What he was saying was, ‘I’M A SPANISH CAFF, WITH SPANISH OWNERS AND SPANISH CUSTOMERS!’ although he might not have used those exact words.
Until as recently as five years ago, the criss-crossed streets that ran alongside the Central Station, Calles Bailén, Pelayo, Troya and Julio Antonio, with a smattering of others, were barrio barrio, streets full of ordinary working class people, many of whom have lived there for generations. Despite it being mere spitting distance from the posh centre of town, most of the shops would have been your little mum and dad grocers, a scattering of butchers and veg shops, the odd photographer (and that’s not meant in the prejudicial sense), the inevitable Mercadona supermarket, hairdressers by the dozen (there’s always hairdressers by the dozen in a vecinidad, a neighbourhood), pastry shops, knicker shops, and all the other types of shops that keep body and soul together, and it was the last place I ever saw horse meat advertised for sale. Over the last few years, though, there has been a steady flow of Chinese businesses opening in the city, until now it’s become a flood.
Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a diatribe against an Eastern Invasion. Far from it, my barrio is about as mixed as you could possibly get and I love it, but back to the Central Station.
Like most cities, Valencia has sort of divided itself into districts over time, mainly as certain areas would attract the immigrants who live in those areas, thus attracting more immigrants, etc. etc. New York has Little Italy as well as a dozen other Little ….’s; London has its Chinatown and Manchester it’s Indian Village in Rusholme. But there are divisions between the separate communities and their businesses, at least there are in Valencia.
It’s impossible to go to any one-horse-town in Spain – and probably anywhere else in the world – and not find the Chinese equivalent of the Todo a Cien. This was the mainstay of basic life, where you could buy anything from a pan to a packet of needles for one hundred pesetas, about 60 centimos in today’s money. Many of these shops existed on the sales of ends of lines, slight seconds, bulk purchases of fire and flood damaged goods etc, and was a boon to those living on the borderline. My favourite shop when I came to Spain was Domti, and I’m still using three pans and two casseroles I bought there ten years ago. Unfortunately, when Spain and most of the rest of Europe succumbed to the Euro, the floodgates opened and thousands, literally thousands, of Chinese cheap-jack shops opened, flooding the markets with what are called here, ‘yellow goods’. I’m not knocking them, the one on the corner of my street is my first port of call for all my basics.
Go to almost and city and the world and if you want a cheap bed for the night look to the area around the station – and Valencia’s no different. Cheap hostels, cheap caffs, cheap food shops, cheap knick-knack shops, cheap everything – including cheap property rentals. So it’s not just the Chinese who’ve set up shop, there’s a whole assortment of Latino bars and clubs as well, but the Chinese are definitely the dominant population.
A few Spanish cafes, shops and restaurants are still open for business in the area, as well as one of the most famous bookshops in the city, Librería Paris Valencia, but even if a cafetería appears Spanish from the outside, there’s no guarantee that you won’t be eating with chopsticks if you go in. When I went to the Café Pedro a few weeks ago – a name as Spanish as Spanish can be – I was there because I friend of mine had told me that you could get a bowl of noodle soup ‘as big as your head’ for only four Euros, but I was the only occidental face in the place.
So I can understand the ‘Restaurante Español’ sign. I’m sure the owner wasn’t being racist, he was just letting everyone know that, if you wanted it, a Spanish option was on offer. Personally, after eleven years in Spain and enough paella, albondigas, and queso manchego to sink a battleship, I’d rather go next door and have a bowl of noodle soup the size of my head.
If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and http://derekworkman.wordpress.com . http://valpaparazzi.wordpress.com are random thoughts about life in Spain.
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