This is a photo of Plaza Salvador on a typical Saturday afternoon. So as you can see, right now during lockdown is a far cry from Sevillana life as we know it. It’s not only that, like everywhere else, people are staying at home, cooking at home, eating at home, actually living at home. I think perhaps it’s a more accutely felt change here because Sevillanos tend to spend a LOT of time out in the streets. Dinner parties at home are pretty much unheard of and if there is anything to be celebrated then we like to do it outside. Streets are usually crowded and happily bustling and there is little reason to go home because we have almost everything we need outside our homes. And even though I’m someone who loves an evening in Netflixing with the cats, I do also enjoy, love, need (and now crave) the energy that being out in the streets gives me.
I remember when I first moved here in 1993, living broke and alone in my tiny studio apartment in Mateos Gago, that it was a solace to sit in my tiny home in the evenings with the windows open, listening to the gentle “hum of humanity” coming from people outside on the sidewalk terraces enjoying drinks and food, and each other’s company. Somehow it made me feel less alone, even though I couldn’t afford to go out and join them. Back then half the bars that are there now didn’t yet exist, and they all closed by midnight, so things never got too noisy, or went on too late.
Later, when I could afford to I’d take my book (remember those?) and pop down to Bar Campanario (where La Azotea Santa Cruz is now). It was the first bar I got to know when I moved here and I became friends with the Pepe, Elena and MariPaz, who ran the place. There was one small sidewalk table against the wall that was “mine” and I spent many evenings out there, reading with a glass of wine, chatting to whoever struck up a conversation, and feeling very much at home in my “outdoor livingroom”. I can’t tell you how many people I met that way, some of whom are still friends.
I also remember my first summer in Sevilla when English classes (and income) suddenly dried up for two months and I told them at Campanario I wouldn’t be able to afford to come out again until September. And dammit if they didn’t say, hey no problem Shawn, and they ran me a tab for two months (!!) throwing in the occasional freebie, and then let me pay it off whenever I could. Because it was inconceivable to them that I would spend all that time STUCK INSIDE.
And so now, these mild spring evenings, stuck inside, are reminding me of that first year in Sevilla, long before it became a massive tourist destination. I hadn’t realised until I moved to the latest Casa Azahar, located in a central shopping street, how much I appreciated the more subdued sounds of people out and about. Sure we have a few bars but, like back in the day when I lived in Mateos Gago, they close by midnight and are mostly geared for locals, not tourists.
So it’s actually lovely in a special way, during these lockdown days, to sit with the balcony doors open enjoying the soft spring air. Though the usual street sounds here have also changed and it almost feels like I am in a small village. I can hear the clatter of pots and pans while neighbours are cooking, along with whiffs of garlic or fried fish, followed by more clatter of cutlery against plates and friendly lunchtime chatter.
The gentle chatter continues throughout the evening mixed with sounds of televisions or music, neither so loud as to be intrusive, creating a very homey background soundtrack, as if I’m sitting in a dozen different livingrooms.
I mentioned before that I’ve met a few of my neighbours during our evening Balcony Applause sessions, and I’m really trying to hold onto all that has been good about all this. Because until there is a vaccine I’m not going back out there, other than for essentials. And neither should you. xx