Dog in Seville

A lesson learned from a Dachshund in Seville, Spain

Walking from the Giralda in Seville to the old Alcazar palace, it is hot. My body isn’t used to the heat after the grey, mild London summer. The summer that felt tropical after the months of unusual snow and usual sleet and hail, the summer after we got married. The summer I decided I will never work events and a pay check doesn’t compensate for some things. The summer that went too quickly in a fast-tracked, winding path of stress and questions and self-doubt despite my best intentions.

Walking from the Giralda to the Alcazar, past the tapas restaurants and American exchange students and English taxi drivers on a weekend holiday from the Costa de Sol, there is a great wall with treasures behind it. As a high as a building with bricks as large as a couch baking in the sun, it looms under the shadow of the Giralda, an old tower that’s the spitting image of the mosque in Marakech whose hourly bells ring out rather than the 5-times-a-day call to prayer and it’s a show-piece of a cathedral that positively bleeds the wealth of the Catholic church.

In the shadow of the Giralda and behind the wall lies the old palace and lizards, the history of Spain and of Europe. The stones whisper stories. Europe wasn’t always this great continent with tidy borders and tidy values.  First the Moors and then Franco and now there’s the great horde of ‘immigrant-loving’ English taxi drivers baking themselves in the sun like the old stones. Standing behind the wall, and modern ticket office, lies Islamic tiles and mathematically shaped gardens. There are giant fish and a fountain peeing out of a wall in a half-hearted stream. There are large rooms and tiny ones built just for a water pool. There are colourful ceramics and large palms, oranges and tropical plants.

It is cool in the palace, in the darkened rooms lined floor to ceiling with perfect tiles in perfect lines and shapes and designs. I can feel the tiles through the soles of my shoes recently cooked on the stone streets as my cooling feet carry me around the rooms and water pools. For a time, I’m broken out of my preoccupation that should have been left on the runway at Gatwick rather than my packet of gum. Lost in a reverie, I dream of the Moors that used to live here. I romanticise their lives and imagine flowing fabric and fresh fruit while ignoring that my ancestors, if they were from Spain, would have been the hired help at best and I wouldn’t have been the one demurely snacking on grapes and waited on hand and foot in a lifestyle that could only be described as luxurious. I dream of seeing the Taj Mahal one day; the pools remind me of the photos.

Lifestyle, now there’s a loaded concept. Even though I know it’s silly – insulting even, I worry about mine. The one I’m going back to in 9 days, after we go to Cordoba, Granada and Gibraltar. The one that feels both uncomfortably new and horribly day-to-day. I can’t quite get used to it and I can’t quite get my head out of London and get my head wrapped around our holiday, our honeymoon.

Near the exit is an artist and his old dog sitting next to pictures painted with the palette of Crayola crayons, painted in the true colours of Seville: red-orange, lemon, yellow-green. The heat is almost too much for the dachshund, who isn’t worrying about much of anything. His back is to the Alzacar. His face is pointed towards the old square and the bull ring. He doesn’t worry about the re-writing of history for modern political aims. He doesn’t worry about animal rights and where that fits into Spain’s cultural fabric. He doesn’t worry about whether his out of office message is set correctly. I ask his human, in Spanish-tinted Italian if I may take a photo and he agrees, or more accurately, he shrugs his shoulders in indifference. The dog is oblivious. He is a picture of mindfulness, of living in the moment.

We head back to the tapas restaurants. I want to try sherry, just because, well you have to in Seville, don’t you? I want some patatas bravas, despite the heat. As my cooled feet rapidly absorb the warmth from the stones, I make a decision to be on holiday. I make a decision to take a leaf out of the Dachshund’s book.


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