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Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

The “Accidental Spaniard” – Part Two
30 April 2021 @ 03:47

Pablo de Ronda is an honorary Spaniard. He has lived and worked in the Serranía de Ronda for more than 12 years. Yet it was all an accident really.

In Part One of his story he explained how he came to study Spanish at university.

In Part Two he tells us how his life developed over the course of his degree, and how he ended up in hospital in Germany.

As I outlined in The “Accidental Spaniard” - Part One I was good at languages at school and when I came to go to university to study French and German, the university I attended managed to persuade me to drop French and start Spanish from scratch, ie ab initio.

After a difficult first year as an undergraduate, I dropped out of the course. I was way too immature. So I went to work for a year, earning the princely sum of £10 a week in a small supermarket back in Exeter.

At the time it was enough for me to run a car, my mum’s Morris Minor, smoke and go out most nights. I was living at home. I made a contribution to the household, but my dad, bless him, put it aside and gave me it all back when I returned to my degree course after a year of “maturation”.

I didn’t have to repeat the first year, so joined a new cohort as the “older guy”. This new group of students made me very welcome. One, the dusky Hazel, from Kingston-upon-Hull via Vienna (her mum was Austrian) even asked me out on a date! Blimey!

That went very well for a while. She didn’t want a commitment, but we stayed friends for years.

Another, Welsh girl Jac, was in all my classes – she was doing Spanish from scratch alongside German, like I was. Another dark-haired beauty, I fancied her like hell, but I was too slow off the mark and my friend Danny snapped her up – and married her in our Final Year, while they were still undergraduates!

Not doing too well on the romantic front. Maybe I should try a blonde!

Well, you say that! Look what happened next.

At Easter 1970 we were sent to Spain for the first part of our year abroad. Seven of us flew to Barcelona, and then, because the trains were full (Easter), we all squeezed into a hire car (a BIG hire car) and travelled all the way across northern Spain to San Sebastián, where we were to attend university for three months.

I had to do all the driving, as I was the only one with a driving licence.

We arrived in the elegant Basque coastal resort at night and found that alcohol was very, very cheap, a mere one peseta (< 1p) for a glass of wine!



The worst hangover of my life later, I decided I really liked what I’d seen of Spain so far: seedy Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, and genteel Donostia (the politically correct Basque name for San Seb nowadays).

I was in love with Spain. Oh, and there was a bubbly blonde in our group, Brenda, who had snogged me in Barcelona. She won my heart too and we dated for a short time, but she soon replaced me with a local shop owner, so once again I was “single” and devastated.

Three months later, university course over, we were free to spend the next three months in Spain, doing whatever we wanted.

I’d landed myself a job in the office of a local Basque tour operator, Dorfe. The boss, Toni (Antonio Dorronsoro Feliner), was the Basque equivalent of a “wide boy”, but he ran a tight operation ferrying British and Irish Catholic pilgrims from Lourdes in France to San Sebastián, in order for them to let their hair down after all that praying and grotto-visiting at the French pilgrimage site.

After a few weeks in the office, Tony asked me if I’d like to have a go as a guide. I did and never looked back. I became his top commission earner (for selling excursions) in no time at all.

The other guides were all local girls, by the way, and all beautiful – of course.

There was Amaya, slightly older and the more experienced of the group, Marisa, engaged, Begoña, a good mate, giggly Carmen, sultry María and Coro. Coro was a stunner. I fell for her big style.

But this provincial Devonshire lad didn’t have a clue about dating. Remember: Hazel and Brenda made their moves on me, and I’d lost Jac through being too slow off the mark.

So, nothing ever happened between me and Coro.

Come the end of the summer it was time to head off to Germany for the second leg of my year abroad.

A quick stopover with Roger at the Munich Oktoberfest (it is actually in September, in fact!) and I found myself in Stuttgart, working as a translator at Daimler-Benz AG, the manufacturers of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Coincidentally, both Jac and Brenda had placements in Stuttgart too, at Bosch and Siemens respectively.

Then I got acute appendicitis and was admitted to hospital for an emergency operation.

What happened next? Find out in The “Accidental Spaniard” – Part Three.

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