Mrs Canavan and I went to Spain last week and spent a large portion of our trip commenting on how fantastic the lifestyle is.
Relaxed, tanned and happy-looking families gather in restaurants at 10pm and feast late into the night on fine meats and fresh fishes, washed down with large glasses of red wine. I wonder, when they come to England, if they envy us in the same way?
‘Oh look Juan,’ I imagine a Spanish lady saying to her husband. ‘Isn’t it marvellous how they eat corned beef hash at 5pm, watch The One Show, put a colours wash on, take the dog for a walk in the rain, then go to bed at 10:30pm. I wish we could live like that.’
I love the Spanish, especially their attitude to getting nude. I say this not in some kind of perverted, teenage fantasy way but as a matter of fact. It is simply what they do.
During an early-morning walk along the promenade – early-morning walks are a regular occurrence when you have a six-month-old who views sleep as a completely unnecessary act, like wearing a fleece on a hot day – I passed a man, stood at the side of the road, a main road no less, without his trousers on.
I did a double take at first, thinking that surely it couldn’t be right. Yet there he was, getting changed after a morning dip in the sea, letting it all hang out for everyone to see.
Can you imagine that in England? You’d be arrested for public indecency and have a large picture of you printed in the local paper alongside the headline: ‘Naked weirdo gets two years in prison’.
But in Spain, it’s fine. Indeed the chap even waved cheerily as I walked by. I had to leap in front of the pram and cover Mary’s eyes – a thing like that could scar her for life.
Further on, I looked out to the beach and saw five men, all probably aged in their 60s, swimming. I paused to watch and it was only as they strode on to the sand that I realised they were wearing absolutely nothing. It was 7.30am. The last thing I want to see at that time is a pensioner’s wrinkled nether regions.
I have to be careful when writing about naturism, though, for I have previously got into trouble. After a recent article where I questioned what possesses people to disrobe in public, I was besieged with angry letters from the nudist community telling me that I ‘just didn’t get it’.
I do get it. You like walking round in the nuddie, which is fair enough. But all I’ll say is God invented underpants for a reason...
In Spain, we stayed in San Sebastián, right at the northern tip, only 12 miles from the French border. It is on the coast and close to the Pyrenees, and as a result has its own micro-climate which, essentially, is torrential rain.
Failing to do any research ahead of the trip – Spain in August is hot, right? – I packed a case containing only shorts and flip-flops.
By noon on day two, soaked and cold, I had parted company with a large wad of euros to purchase an umbrella and waterproofs. Still, the bad weather didn’t stop people getting out and about and I must say at this juncture that Spanish women are incredibly attractive. They all, without exception, look like they’ve stepped out of a beauty parlour. Even the way they blow their noses or pick verrucas from their feet is alluring and sensual.
I saw around 3,000 girls that I would have, without hesitation, asked there and then if they’d consider becoming my bride, though at no point did I share this thought with Mrs Canavan.
Being in San Sebastián offered me an opportunity to try out the language, for I studied Spanish at high school. Granted, that was 29 years ago and I only managed six months of classes before deciding it was boring and dropped out to do woodwork instead, but still, I was pretty confident all the same.
I strode into a bar and announced to the guy behind the counter: ‘Una cerveza por favor’.
‘Eh?’ he replied, with a puzzled look on his face.
‘Una cerveza por favor,’ I repeated, a little less confidently, while – just in case it was my accent putting him off – miming drinking an imaginary glass of alcohol.
He didn’t dignify this with a response, simply shrugging his shoulders.
‘You know, a beer,’ I said helplessly.
‘Ah, a beer,’ he replied in perfect English. ‘No problem’.
As first exchanges go, I thought it went well.
Language difficulties aside, it was a very pleasant week, though on the downside I returned to England with Mrs Canavan on my arm, and not some dusky Spanish senora.
Maybe next time...