Thursday, 17 May 2012

Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a class at 9 a.m. I teach Ysabel. We shave an hour off her tour of duty in her parents’ bathroom and kitchen centre on a side-road into the town. She’s on her own in the shop all day. Like most Andalucians she has a flexible concept of punctuality. I, typically, arrive more than 5 minutes earlier: taking into account Ysabel’s ten-minute tardiness, this means I have about 15 minutes to spare. Sometimes I use it to have coffee in Café Chani about 200 metres away. I take my place among the builders , bankers and bums lining the bar inside. The owner cocks an eyebrow at me and nails my order, although I come in for about 5 minutes a day 5 times a month maximum. My poison is ‘una nube doble grande’ – milky coffee with two shots of expresso: I don’t care what Starbucks’ call it. The Coínos to my left and right order un café solo – an expresso as black as the Devil’s heart – a shot of anis and a glass of tap water. This order repeats most of the way down the line. One old chap with a face as lined as an autumn leaf in the gutter orders ColaCao: a chocolatey drink that the Andalucian kids are reared on. This man looks at the clear glasses of spirit in front of the men alongside him, while his ColaCao cools. The banter is difficult to follow, but I usually try. The owner is a woman, about 40 maybe, although I find it hard to tell with the Andalucians. She gives better than she gets and I think she must have been doing this for a long time, because she always gets the last word and the customers keep coming back. There are women customers. They sit outside and smoke if they are Spanish, or they sit at tables eating fry-ups and squawking if they are English. What I like best about this café are the packets of sugar. On the reverse side of each one there is a quotation, perhaps from Marquez, or Lorca or maybe Coelho. They are usually philosophical in tone, they might be anything from a quote from Cervantes’ Quixote to a snatch of obscure verse. I give a wry smile as I read them and watch the anis glasses being drained of their last drop.