Tuesday 4 April 2023

Spanish Practices by Richard Townsend BLOG TOUR #SpanishPractices #RichardTownsend @RandomTTours #BookExtract


‘Spanish Practices’ weaves together nearly half a century of observations by Rico, an Englishman married into an eccentric family in a left-behind corner of Spain.

Among others, we meet Macu, the maiden aunt who runs the family wine business with an iron fist and controls the family purse-strings; mother-in-law Mamí, whose sons can do no wrong, except when they do; brother-in-law Chus, who has a loose interpretation of the marriage vows and a dangerous weakness for the bottle; and younger brother-in-law Sancho, who becomes pivotal to the family’s succession battles and their struggles with the local rival winery.

Initially an outsider, Rico is drawn ever deeper into the family mire as well as facing, with his wife Marina, his own fraught relationships with neighbours, local planning laws and the busy body ‘Authorities’.

Through the interplay of rivalries, conflicts and vicissitudes ‘Spanish Practices’ illuminates the idiosyncrasies of Spanish ways and exemplifies the travails of a society in the throes of wholesale transformation.

Spanish Practices by Richard Townsend was published in November 2022 by Chiselbury. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from Spanish Practices by Richard Townsend


Apart from a first sight of Aurelio from the inside, the trip will provide
an excuse to visit my favourite shop, the ferretería (hardware store), also
located in Tobillo. Not unjustifiably, Marina attributes an obsession with
gadgets and tools to me, a by-product of living on a near-permanent building
site. But when I mention that steel tacks are among the items I need, she
immediately thinks I am planning some crazy retaliation against Monchi and
family – in her view, utter folly.

There are two schools of thought: appeasement or confrontation.
Marina’s technique is to disarm Monchi with cheery greetings and smiles; in
my opinion, it cuts no ice whatever. It hardly worked up until now. Not that I
had a nefarious purpose in mind for the tacks, whose destiny was merely to
anchor a wayward rug.

If anything, the silhouette of Monchi’s son, Nino, now resident in the
top floor of that jerry-built dwelling right behind (the original casus belli), casts
an even more baleful shadow across the village than his father used to. These
days, Monchi himself is more likely to be seen tottering down the hill from the
bar in the barrio alto, too far gone to cause much trouble. Yes, he sAll affects
to greet me with a smile that’s close to a grimace; but in terms of mischief,
Monchi has bequeathed the honour to his son Nino.

Marina may have in mind the incident the other day, when Nino spotted
me in the garden and stormed over to berate me about a couple of overhanging
twigs: “What the f***’s all this maleza overhanging my land? Can’t you see it’s
encroaching by at least a metre? Look: right here, over there, down at the
bottom, all over the place! What are you going to do about it? I want it
removed, right now!”

And after I let him rabbit on in this vein for a minute or two without
response, he added: “Well? I’m not in the habit of denouncing anyone, but…”

It’s just the latest of countless altercations and aggressions, often
involving petty vandalism.

I won’t deny that his quadbike’s a temptng target. It’s garaged in a leanto belonging to our other neighbours, GusA and Dolores, the elderly couple we
haven’t seen on site for about 20 years. Every so often, Nino takes the quad for
a spin but even he Ares of it once he’s terrorised the vicinity for an hour or two.
Most of the time it sits in the shed under a plastic cover, otherwise
unprotected. However, I do realise the urge has to be tamed. There’s no upside
in it at all – that’s what Marina impresses on me, anyway, and her instincts are
usually right: “Nino’s worse, much worse than Monchi. El tio es borde, borde,
borde” she says, reaching for that favourite Spanish locution, “cumulative
emphasis”, as Jack calls it, to convey a superlative: That bloke’s properly
twisted… “All the more reason for caution”, Marina adds.

Besides, I’m developing other, more subtle, stratagems should relations
deteriorate further. Ideally, I would grow a dense hedge right the way along the
wall that separates us from Monchi and his son. (It needs to be tall as well as
wide, because a balcony projects from the upper storey of their dwelling for 
access from the external stairs. That’s where Nino lives, and it offers a
commanding view over our garden. He someAmes sits up there, plus girlfriend
and baby, tracking our every move.) But repeated hedge seedlings have been
systematically exterminated, a flagon of bleach evidently doing the honours in
our absence. Somehow, though, by planting a single, tiny seedling of slow growing griselinia each year, it has escaped notice, the result of which is that,
after 20 years, at least one third of the frontier now boasts a three-metre-tall
evergreen barrier, which, for some reason, Nino has spared from the poison
vial. Meanwhile, it has eliminated most eye contact and hidden Nino’s offensive
hot hatchback.

Ironically, on my way to Tobillo, I see that very vehicle looming in my
rear-view mirror. As soon as he realises it’s me, he tails me, close and persistent
as a randy dog. It’s happened before, so I know there are only two places before
the old main road where he can pass, the first being a short straight stretch
aYer the barrio alto, on the slope down to the floor of the winding river valley.
If Marina were with me, she’d say “no seas necio” or something similar – “don’t
be an idiot”. But I’m alone, and this provocation is more than I can stomach
right now. Besides, downhill at least, I have a good chance of thwarting his
designs and so it proves this time, the old Golf juddering with the effort but
allowing me to brake just in time for the hairpin at the bottom. On the second
straight, however, Nino flashes his lights and this time I can’t avoid letting him
race past, scowling at me and raising a middle finger. He just has time to slide
out of the way of a campervan dawdling round the bend in the opposite
direction, before vanishing into the wood ahead… My heart’s a-thumping.

Tobillo, reached ten minutes later, unfurls along the old main road, the
long, straight artery that once irrigated the town end to end. But recently, that
vessel has become sclerotic, a victim of the new bypass, a present from Europe,
all stilts, cuttings and tunnels, sweeping imperiously from the French border to
Portugal almost without a break, ignoring trivial capillaries in and around
places like Tobillo. Once a thriving hub, Tobillo has withered to near oblivion,
despite hosting several not undistinguished landmarks, including the local
ayuntamiento (town hall), the ferretería, a flashy CEPSA garage, Vinos Aurelio
and a few imposing blocks of flats. In one of these, opposite El Viajante, the
bar of lottery fame, Nino lodges his semi-estranged girlfriend and baby. Sure
enough, the yellow vehicle’s drawn up on the tarmac outside.

Richard is a linguist and historian by training who ended up as a self-employed adviser to
private companies on their financial and other affairs. 

He began writing several years ago and Spanish Practices is his first novel.

He is married with two adult children and two small granddaughters.

He lives with his Spanish wife in London and Spain.

No comments:

Post a Comment