The second time I lived in Spain was at the other end of the country, in La Coruňa. I’d been recommended to someone who was running a Celtic folk festival there, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them I didn’t see myself as a folkie, or even Celtic, particularly.
Still, they paid me the cost of my travel and a small fee, and I was in the south of France at the time, so off I went. The Pyrenees just about killed the VW’s engine; and when we got to Galicia in early June, it started raining and just kept right on. It was wet summer, in 2001; at least in La Coruňa.
La Coruňa’s quite something, though. Much bigger than I expected – the Spanish call anything bigger than a village a city, but this place stretches itself tight around miles of the headland, like it’s trying to swallow the Atlantic whole.
I gave up trying to be a good vegetarian in Spain. There was so much seafood – octopus, of course, but I preferred the fried squid, or the cangrejos, the crabs you could see in the market, their claws tied as they tried to fight each other in the holding tanks.
I was meant to be there for a week, but ended up staying four months. Most of the time I was in a flat on Rúa Cantábrico that belonged to a friend’s cousin. After things got complicated with the friend’s cousin, I lived in the V for a while, parked up round the headland near the tower they claimed had been built by Hercules.
I really liked that place, especially walking along the beach in the twilight on my own, watching the Atlantic throw clouds at the city as its surf broke on the rocks below. I had lots of time to think things through, and no access to the harmful stuff.
Then, one day, I was sitting in a cafe, reading the local paper over a pitch-thick cafe solo, and the woman behind the counter cried out. I looked up in time to see a plane fly into a building. Then people falling out of the plane, jumping out of the building, leaping for their lives: real human beings, lost souls in a brand new hell that some mad god created for reasons of his own.
I don’t know why that made me want to go back to the States, but it did. I left as soon as they started flying again, heading out of Madrid on a half-empty plane. It was three more years before I got the V back. It was exactly where I'd left it.