The Cats Birthday

Sevilla Travel Blog

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I was thinking about my history - yes, it’s about time I owned up to having one. The last year has been like living a cats life in a human world. Seven years in one year. I have experienced so much emotion since my last birthday. I could say it was a non-event because I really don’t remember it. Maybe I went out to dinner, watched a movie, had breakfasts, ate more chocolate than usual but I really can’t remember my 2009 birthday.

I can, on the other hand, remember every detail of my birthday fiesta here in Sevilla. My friends and family on the other side of the world were definitely missed and I would have tele-ported them here had I the technology at my disposal. Sadly, no.

It all began on my birthday-day. Morning lessons finished early and by 2.00 I was dressed and waiting for Jose to pick me up for my special lunch. We walked towards the Cathedral and I was guessing our destination at every turn. Passing the bullring, we rounded the corner and came to stop in front of a non-imposing but typically Andalusian restaurant.

I immediately realised that in my entire time living here, I have never actually been to a restaurant. All my ‘meals’ out have been in bars. It was a treat to be shown to our delightful table and fussed over by the gentlemanly waiters – all smiles and flourishes. Jose selected a lovely fruity Albarino (white) wine and we set about choosing various scrumptious seafood dishes from the menu. It was the type of food abuela (nana) would make for your birthday – highest quality seafood simply cooked and served on a special plate!

Towards the end of the meal, Jose advised me that he had a small surprise for me (emphasizing the ‘small’) and we would need to take a cab. My interest was piqued and the taxi trip did nothing to arm me with any more clues. I have a love-hate relationship with secrets and feel compelled to figure out the clues before the surprise is delivered. Fortunately in this case. all my ideas were exhausted before we arrived at out destination, an innocuous looking street in Macarena. Stepping out of the cab, my hand was taken and Jose led me into a nearby bicycle shop. Leaning against the counter was a red mountain bike with my name on it!

What a treat, how spoilt am I? I have been struggling with the Sevici ‘hire’ bikes here and really wanted my own wheels to help with strengthening my knee and also to explore the surrounding countryside in the weekends. Jose looked on as I tested everything out and grinned like the proverbial Cheshire cat.

After a quick test ride out to the footpath and back, we decided it was the right size and walked it back home in the ever-present rain! So far, this birthday was looking great!

I only had one more English lesson to teach for the day and then I was free to celebrate with my new friends in lovely Bar Monsalves.

By 9.00pm, the little group had formed and I was playing hostess. It is the custom here for the birthday person to provide all food and drinks (and a cake, which I found out later on) for any celebrations. I was lucky I had my credit card on me! But it was a fun night with Jose, Denis the Menace, Jaime, Angel, Liz and Leah joining me to celebrate with beer, manzanilla, local wines and plenty of tapas. Denis kept everyone in fits of laughter with his jokes in Spanish and English (both tinged liberally with a French accent).
Tired and happy, I returned home to read my birthday emails from home.

It was also the week I moved out of my apartment and into a cute little place of my own. On Saturday morning I was awake earlier than usual and off to Arenal market to meet my new landlady for the keys.
Returning before 9.00am I began to haul my things down the 63 stairs to ground level and a further 50 metres to my new place. Remember - I arrived in Sevilla with a backpack and two small bags. I left San Roque with an additional eleven boxes of ‘stuff’. I have to admit that a lot of it is ‘teaching’ stuff but I have still managed to collect much more than I had intended to.
The whole idea of moving here was to maintain a ‘smaller’ life. It was a bit of a wake up call and I have now re-evaluated what is essential and what is dispensible.

So after thirteen loads, my arms were bruised and falling off at the elbows. I kept going until everything had a new home and was tidily packed away. It was early afternoon and time to celebrate with a glass of manzanilla and a tapa or two up at Monsalves, now even closer than before!

Paula, who works in the bar, reminded me that we had agreed to have a ‘girls’ night for my birthday and I duly confirmed my attendance later that evening. I was a little concerned later when Jose took me to a different bar to meet up with a friend of his. I had explained the concept of ‘girls night’ but the two of them insisted on seeing me safely back to Monsalves.

On arrival I noticed a table set aside with plenty of chairs waiting for bums. presently, the rest of the family arrived and we joined them. I realized that it was the ‘girls’ night plus partners so I relaxed from that point on. What fun. I had all my Monsalves family together. Patrons came and went and by 1.00am we had the place to ourselves and the doors locked. Sitting around the bar the noise level was almost unbearable. I think the Spanish have it over the Italians when it comes to lively conversation!

Suddenly the lights went out and a cake appeared from nowhere. I was gob-smacked! The entire evening had been arranged by my lovely friend Cristina and Jose weeks earlier. They were both ‘in on it’ and I never suspected a thing. It was a surprise birthday party for me and I was really surprised. AS if that wasn’t enough, they then presented me with a new watch. At that point I could not hold back the tears. What a wonderful gift – the gift of friendship.

I remember back to my first tentative scaredy-cat days in Sevilla in August 2009. I knew 1 person (Javi from the Camino) and was unsure whether I should stay or return to Granada. Then I met 1 more person (Javi and his trusty dog Nano) he invited me into his family. We met in the Plaza del Museo and I can still remember him bounding up to greet me with a huge smile on his gorgeous face. My treasure, my own piece of art and a very special friend.

And then I settled into my new home and chose Bar Monsalves as my local. The boys and their families have been instrumental in assisting my assimilation here and moulding me into a Sevillana. My first tentative steps at speaking Spanish were taken sitting at the bar. We swapped English words for Spanish and laughed at my mistakes nightly! Although I am still very much a beginner, I can acquit myself much better now and feel quite comfortable taking part in a conversation.

Many of you know one of my favourite stories is Alice in Wonderland. So here’s my birthday ode to the cutest cat of all . . . .the Cheshire cat

`But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
`Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
jethanad says:
Hi - a wonderful birthday and lots of smiles for you
Posted on: Mar 11, 2010
TravellingAuntie says:
what a wonderful post - i am quite envious and would love to chuck it all in and head to Spain. Way to go!!! and Happy Happy Birthday
Posted on: Mar 11, 2010
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photo by: JP-NED