In Practice, Production on January 31, 2011 at 10:45 am

A dark, wet turn in the weather and then it brightens up again and wild spring flowers – which in fact have been emerging gradually for weeks – seem sudden in the sunlight. The colours of early spring here; green, bright yellow, dusty blue, purple.

Mostly yellow though. Yellow primrose type blossoms everywhere. They might be primroses. The truth is I wouldn´t know a primrose if I saw one, but I´m pretty sure these are primrose-like.

Spring blossoms by mid January. This sure as shit is not Ireland.

And once again it’s dark and wet and winter. This part of the year – in this part of the world – has been characterised mainly by confusion, as if Andalusia only does winter reluctantly and as a result of its reluctance f**ks the whole thing up. It’s just one big wet disorientating mess.

And then it brightens up again. We go to Cadiz and encounter at least twelve types of weather on the one hour drive. By the time we reach the staggering seaborne city we have blue skies and a little warmth; antique streets and boulevards are depicted in the alternating sunbeam and shadow that Cadiz’s crowded rooftops throw down.

A beautiful day to see a beautiful city – K goes shopping. I follow her like a sad pup for as long as I can take it (ten minutes), then wander alone through the covered market and its arcades.

It’s the fourth or fifth time I’ve been here and as I slither amongst the hustling shoppers I ask myself if this place is a little – almost imperceptibly – less dazzling than it was the first time? If I am little jaded? If it’s possible that the romance of beginnings, of first looks, is fading and that the market is just a market, just a place for buying fish and fruit?

Nope. If anything it’s better. Slatted sunlight in the high ceiling and below that the fluorescent lit ceramic stalls. A confusion of people, a ferment of fish. Roman, somehow, in a city that of course was Roman; this is as close as I get to religion, a temple like this – to human bustle and strange food. And it doesn’t hurt if you happen to be on the lookout for some canailles, atun, pargos, cazones, merluzos, chocos, bonitos, palometas, urtos, acedias, boquerones, doradas, plateros, mejillones, gambas, chipirones, zapatillos, luas or langostinos.

When we meet again we find a Carnival shop. For ten days every year Cadiz goes crazy, its Carnival second only to Rio’s in scale, and this year we will be in attendance; we have beds booked in a shared dorm for the last night, the only beds left in the city as far as we could see. The shop is selling costumes. We decide that we will at least wear masks so as not to be kill joys.

Like so much here, Carnival has Roman and possibly pre-Roman roots. The great uprooter, as masks conceal social status and master serves slave. An almighty equalising mayhem, the social order temporarily destroyed. Gorillas, witches and zombies, topical caricatures and political lampoons will fill the streets and sing, dance and drink through the night, milling into the sherry and into the darkness.

And then it brightens up again. Platforms at the train station will fill up with tired pirates and clowns a little worse for wear. Off home to be nurses and shopkeepers again. Another year born in bedlam; the social order resurrected and baptised in chaos. I imagine a lot of people end up on the wrong train that morning.

To us it sounds like just what the doctor ordered and embodies many of the qualities that attract us to Spain itself – extraordinarily dramatic, a little intimidating, celebratory, musical, full of colour and very very noisy.

An indulgence in confusion that lifts and clarifies it. A birthing pool for whatever comes next. A suitably raucous marking of the renewal that echoes around the city streets and shines from the yellow flowers that line my way as I walk to work.

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  1. Sounds wonderful. As frustrating as varying temperatures and seasons can be, I’d take it!! We’re bracing for a nasty ice/snow storm the next three days here in the midwest of the US.
    The Carnival celebration sounds like a lot of fun, too.

  2. Great, you will be at the famous Cadiz carnival and I will be in Venice. We can trade stories.

  3. Brilliant article. We’ll need a photo with your masks on! Actually you should copyright your phrases “romance of beginnings, of first looks” and “a temple .. to human bustle and strange food”. Well done!

    • Thanks as always for stopping by John. The phrases actually are copyrighted and you’re in breach by reproducing them in your comment. You’ll be hearing from my people…;)

  4. How fun! I would love to go to a Carnival again…I’ve only ever been to Mardi Gras, which is good fun, but I actually prefer New Orleans when it’s not on. Have a great time!

    • The one time I was in “Nawlins” -it was in the run up to Mardi Gras so we saw a couple of preparatory parades but that was it. A charming city that has been through so much since…

  5. Carnival sounds like so much fun! Can’t wait to hear more about it. There’s a few in Germany and I’m hoping to go, but not sure the timing is going to work out.

    • I didn’t know there were any in Germany! It’s usually such a Roman Catholic thing to do. Yes there will be a carnival related post come early March

  6. Yes, I agree, I can’t wait to hear more about your Carnival experience!

  7. Looking forward to reading about the carnival as Turkey isn’t a carnival country, unfortunately. We do get a lot of festivals though. 🙂
    As for flower identification – we’ll just believe you that they were primroses as we wouldn’t have a clue either.

  8. Nice article. I really liked Cadiz on my one brief visit a few years ago. When is the Carnival? Look forward to reading your impressions of it.

  9. Thank god some bloggers can still write. My thanks for this writing..

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