Mercadona

When people show you their holiday snaps ( thank heaven the era of the slide show is over) you know that you are in for a series of monuments, castles, rooftop views, your friends emulating celebrities and royalties at attractions like the Taj Mahal, etc etc. I know. I’ve done it too. How to make the Leaning Tower of Pisa look as if it’s resting in the palm of your hand, pulling funny faces straight into the lens. Been there. Done that. Now that we have digital photography mastered we can impose our photos onto anyone, anywhere. Somehow or other you WILL look. We’ve all been bullied into this and many of us have done the bullying.

But holidays aren’t just about the monuments or the photographs. They’re about the day to day and how different it is from home.

Almost thirty years ago a friend of my father’s, Edward Sikorski, offered us a holiday flat in Denia, a little town between Valencia and Alicante. We leapt at the chance, as he just wanted minimal expenses. He felt he had to recompense my father in some way for saving his life during the war. Unfortunately I can’t remember what my father did as he was quite dismissive about this, but we went anyway. It was a small flat, very hot and humid, simply furnished. But it had everything we needed. Two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living dining room and most importantly a kitchen. We didn’t have a lot of money on those days, but enough for fish and bread and wine. This is sounding biblical. Not quite.

There was a swimming pool in the communal gardens where the children taught themselves to swim. We sat on the balcony reading a lot of the time. We listened to the sound of the janitor yelling for her daughter YESSICA at various times of the day and evening!

And then there was the highlight of the day. Going shopping. To the supermarket. Mercadona. Here we bought water in five litre cans. Bread. Lomo. Olive oil and fish. The fish counter was the most entertaining. A lot of the fish were still alive so occasionally you’d see crabs and other creatures moving on the floor. Everything was laid out on masses of ice and it was all very colourful. Lots of local women buying up the daily catch, carefully, questioning every sardine and whelk. A few tourists struggling with their choices and making themselves understood. And us. I nominally speak Spanish but there’s not much about fish in the literature I studied.

So we pointed with the best of them, delighted with our bagsful of prawns and gilthead bream and anticipating the characteristic chorus of ?algo más? from the assistants.

And it all came back to me today and yesterday, here in Ronda. A Spanish holiday means Mercadona, and fish, and colour and almost !nada más!

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