Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Democrats in Madrid

AOG, Madrid

Today after work I attended a meeting by the Democrats Abroad group being held in a café in Madrid. I arrived, of course, late for the presentation (lucky me in fact, it was about taxes!) but in time for the social afterwards. Well, sort of social. Most people were gone by the time I got there. Nonetheless, I found a very small piece of America in a Spanish café where most of the clients were south american immigrants watching a Real Madrid-Barcelona soccer match on the wide screen tv.

I introduced myself to whom I thought were prone to be the American lot and struck lucky. Nervous presentations, obvious questions (where are you from? how long have you been in Spain? what do you do here? etc etc) and generally socialising.

A lady who, I think, had been in charge of the presentation, and who flew in with her husband on easyjet, God knows from where, managed to cajole me into buying the last book on her pouch. "Its for a good cause" she said, "and you'll be making a contribution to get the democrats elected". I was sold. Anything to make sure America gets a new ideology for the next 4 years of its history. Go Hilary! Go Obama!

The book is called "So far and yet so near" and it is published by ACA. It is a compendium of stories written by americans living abroad. The lady in question, who told me she had been in the editing staff, mentioned that the book had been commissioned to show politicians in Capitol Hill that not all Americans living abroad were bad citizens. That they are often accused of not paying taxes, of being unpatriotic, etc. Tewnty Euros later, said book was mine.

Perhaps what sold it to me was the fact that one of the writers was in front of me, and said lady mentioned the author could autograph it for me. She did. This actually proved to be a fortunate turn of events.

The writer in question is Sue Burke. This is her website. She mentioned that she attented a couple of writing groups in Madrid, one in English (fiction) and one in Spanish (Sc-Fi). The Spanish one (Terma) seems the more chaotic of the two (no surprises there) if only because the seem to meet at a coffee shop, only to make their way out again and go have dinner en masse. One year on, I have found a writing group. I can breathe a little more easily now.

I have to say, once again, a little contact with America seems to save my day. This often happens to me. I think it is probably psychological since, for it to be esoteric , would make no sense- a bit like the Chewbacca defense from South Park.

And yes, perhaps you think I worry too much about the US and think to yourself, "why don't you just move back there?" Well, a couple of years ago I almost did that. But then life threw this rope at me, the one that flew me toSpain, and I have not let go of it yet. I think that is because I had been looking for it for a long time. Almost without knowing it.

Through it, I managed to leave the UK, something which had become an obsession since 1990 when I first arrived there. I know, why didn't I just leave the UK? Too many reasons. Number one is that I couldn't. I was too young. Too many things happening. Not necessarily good things. Ok, more reasons than just one. But they are connected.

Sometimes you get stuck in a place, stuck in life, and you coast. My 20s were mostly that. Coasting. But I sure paddled a lot too, so as not to coast. The problem is that the coasting was not self inflicted, but the paddling was. And then, in 1995, I met someone who helped me to start making some changes in my life. A rope was thrown my way. I still have that rope, hanging about somewhere. Then a few more ropes were thrown my way. Some, I made myself. These ensured my life in the UK was palatable, and worthwhile. Some were British.

A lot of good things happened in my life in London between 1997 and 2004. And a lot of bad ones too. But somehow I survived, learned from them, and made myself a couple more ropes. And today I am here, in Madrid, because a rope was thrown my way. And today, in Madrid, another ropewas flung towards me. Granted, a literary rope, but I think that these days, I need to get writing. Or at least fool myself into thinking I am writing.

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