Not a mobile on the table

Migas, is an very old and very traditional Spanish dish created to make use of stale bread. It was traditionally eaten by shepherds. It's easy to see why if you imagine them spending days on the hills limited to what they could easily carry with them. Stale bread flavoured with garlic and olive oil or lard cooked over a camp fire is a lot better than nothing. On good days the migas might even include the spicy chorizo sausage, ham or salted pork.

I was in one of those little road trains. The things that hold you up in your car in the narrow streets of historic city centres. A man was holding forth on the different versions of migas. He was agreeing with the guide who, outside the interpretation centre dedicated to cave dwelling, had told us a little story.

You need four people to make good migas - she said. Un tacaño, un generoso, un estupido y un listo or a tight fisted person, a generous person, a stupid person and a clever person. The miser won't put sufficient wood on the fire so the migas cook very, very slowly. The generous person is the one who should put in all the extras to make the dish tasty, the stupid person is required to stir and stir the migas whilst they cook on the low heat and the clever person is you of course - the one who gets to eat it.

I was a little less tongue tied than I have been recently. I was on another of the coach trips with lots of other grey haired people. This time we were in Guadix in Granada province. Our guide had a reasonably thick regional accent but, if I paid attention, if the portable speaker was pointing in my direction, if there wasn't a passing lorry and if the people around me weren't talking loudly amongst themselves then I could understand.

She wasn't a bad guide. There were stories about ghosts, about past lifestyles and other little anecdotes thrown in amongst the dates and facts but it didn't hold the attention of most of my travelling companions for long. Very quickly the guide gave up on the whole group and spoke only to those who stuck close by her. The stragglers would find her half way through her discourse when they caught up so they wandered off. I gave up too because there were too many things stacked against me.

Lunch was at three but the tour was over half an hour before. I decided to get a beer. I'd "forgotten" we were in Andalucia so I was surprised when they popped a free snack, a tapa, in front of me to accompany the beer. It was fried, battered chicken in a bread roll with tomato and lettuce - hamburger sized. And lunch still to come.

We ate in a hotel. The round tables were set up for eight people. I was beckoned over to a free space on one of the tables. As usual I experienced the rising panic of having to either speak Spanish or appear to be ill mannered and keep schtum. Nobody was tinkering with their mobile phone, they were talking to each other. Amazingly the man next to me started the conversation by complaining about the political aspirations of the Catalans - none of the pleasantries about where I was from or where I lived . My Spanish wasn't good but it served for communication and I got a bit more confident. The other people on the table started to speak to me too. The problem wasn't that I couldn't understand, the problem was that I couldn't hear.

I got a hearing test a while ago and I was told I was fine. My sister tells me there is a theory about this. Basically the idea is that your ears work fine but when you have to process lots of information old brains, and mine is pretty close to worn out, simply can't process all the information quickly enough. In a quiet, one to one conversation I have a chance but throw in the general hubbub, different accents and what not and I founder.

On the bus home I didn't say a word to the wide hipped woman next to me.


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