Friday, February 13, 2004

The Spanish media gives a lot of attention to violence by men against their partners. If you landed here from Mars, you would quickly become aware of this. What you would scarcely ever read or hear about is paedophilia and you could therefore be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t exist here. This, of course, can’t be right but it is certainly true that there is no phobia about it. One truly wonderful consequence of this is that young children come up to men in their very late forties like me and chat to us, while their mothers sit smiling some way off. When this first happened to me, not long after I came here, I literally froze at the unexpectedness of it all and walked on without responding to the little boy who had spoken to me on the street. Now I am quite used to it. So, when a little girl started chatting to me when I was having my coffee yesterday morning, I was able to respond like my parents used to the UK in the days before tabloid-generated hysteria. And so I learned quite a lot about her name and she learned about those of my two daughters.

Later, when I went in from the café veranda to pay my bill, I saw the little girl’s mother sitting at one of the tables and smiled a greeting in her direction. She responded in kind but, when I then turned to say goodbye to her daughter on the other side of the table, I realised it wasn’t my new friend. I can only guess what the woman thought I was playing at but, happily, I wasn’t arrested for sexual harassment either.

What a marvellously sane country Spain seems to me at times.

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