From the mouths of babes

Are Spanish kids more street-smart than their English counterparts? Do they mature faster? (in social terms, I’m not talking about overgrown forty-year old babies still living at home with Mum and Dad. A Spanish woman once told me that they are shorter in stature, as, due to the heat, they burst into puberty earlier, like hot-house flowers, before they have time to grow. I haven’t checked this particular fact out medically but it seems unfounded.) At a friend’s one-year old’s birthday party there was another little boy, about the same age, who was handed over to the husband’s best mate. He hugged the child, jiggled it up and down on his knee, and told him, man to man,

‘Botellon, porro y Fulana, that’s all you need to know, kid. Remember, your uncle Paco told you first, botellon, porro y fulana.’ (‘Street party, spliff and slapper). In the UK he would probably have found himself at the bottom of a rugby scrum of angry women. In Spain everyone chortled and a couple of girls tutted wrily.

From a good thirty years ago when staying at Nerja, near Malaga as a child, I vividly remember a scene in a local bar. An extended family were passing round a small baby which they were teaching to smoke cigarettes. Every time its wrinkled, Chruchillian features puckered and turned purple, they would fall about laughing and order another round of drinks. So maybe they do start them young here.

Or maybe they’re just precocious by nature. I remember an ex student who was married to a woman from Cadiz, a city  he explained, whose locals are boisterous, with a particular character. He recounted that after his wedding, held in a church in the centre of Cadiz, the photos were very amusing because in the background of each shot there are various characters hurling rice at the bride and groom with the enthusiasm of kids involved in a playground snowball fight.

‘Who’s that?’

‘Don’t know.’

‘And this one? The one lobbing a fistful of rice down the bride’s cleavage?’

‘I have no idea. You mean they’re not from your side of the family?’

They were, it turned out, gleeful passers-by caught up in the festivities, who had taken it upon themselves to roll up their sleeves and join in.

As another example of their particular character he told me about his neice, who was about four years old. One day she came home from school and when her parents asked her how her day was, and what she had learnt, she told them happily,

‘Our teacher told us a great story about a little girl called Caperucita Roja’ (Little Red Riding Hood).

‘Oh really, darling? And what does the little girl do?’

‘She goes in the woods looking for flowers, and to go and see her granny, and she meets a big, bad wolf.’

‘I see, and what happens at the end of the story?’

Here the little girl put her hands on her hips and told them indignantly,

‘Pues, el hijoputa del lobo se comio a la abuela!’

(Well, the fucking bastard wolf went and ate the granny!)

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