Going out from La Chanca into the middle of town on a Friday night is like crossing a divide between two worlds.
I get on my bike, make up done for a Friday night out, my attempt at glamour slightly undermined by my green cycle helmet (but I must be safe for the sake of the children) and speed down the hill, passing the usual dressing-gown brigade and kids that shout out “Inglesia” (a corrupted version of ‘Inglesa’ – English) until I get to the cobbled street at the bottom where I slam my brakes on for fear of going over the edge.
Here I stop and marvel at the view, bathed in the setting sun as if you really are seeing the world through rose-tinted spectacles.
Then it’s slightly slower progress over the cobbles, past the odd goat and the chickens in the street, men chatting in groups and youths preparing their gypsy fire on the waste ground for later, collecting old bits of furniture and dragging them along.
There are gypsy women outside the brightly coloured block houses just before I round the corner to the Alcazaba road. They call to their kids in a sing-song accent that I am learning to recognise, while Moroccan women pass by pushing babies in buggies, and teenage girls in jeans and white tops jostle each other in a playful quarrel.
By the time I have cycled past the front of the castle and entered the town hall square, all that has changed.
The Almerienses are all dressed up for the start of their weekend, and come out in full force to patronise the many bars dotted around the city.
I am meeting a friend in a popular bar just by the Escuela del Artes called Capitol Centro. Even at 7pm, early by Spanish standards, it is full of well-dressed people, office workers, a party of little girls all in school uniform, middle-aged women in smart coats and jewellery, all enjoying pre-tapas drinks, as the kitchen in true Spanish style doesn’t open till 8.
It’s kind of mixture of the end of the merienda time – coffee and cakes – and the start of the aperitif time, a beer, wine or cocktail accompanied by cheese, jamon, olives or crisps.
It is seven minutes and a world away from La Chanca, and I am now between the two worlds. Clearly I belong in the second one, but still as an unemployed migrant I am also starting to feel kind of at home in the first one.
I haven’t exactly had many meaningful conversations with people down my street yet, but the locals do greet me cheerfully whenever we pass, and the young Moroccan doing up the house next door was chatty the other day.
He quite proudly told me he had managed to get to Almeria via about five other different countries, with no papers. Why he told me that I have no idea! Obviously he doesn’t feel I am a threat, likely to report him to the authorities. (I haven’t told anyone round here about my past life as a journalist!)
Meanwhile I haven’t forgotten my third world (which really should be the first), my home in Cariatiz, the dogs and cat, my house sitters who are doing a sterling job picking all my olives and looking after everything really well, and all my friends there.
Luna loves my pupil Pablo!
It was lovely to go back at the weekend, to see the almond trees in full bloom in the burgeoning spring, cuddle the dogs, catch up on all the news, teach my young music pupils and play in a great concert with my friends in the Cariatiz Orchestra and the Rose Singers.
Almond blossom in the garden
Our concert for the Day of Peace in Vera Auditorio
So I count myself very lucky in my no-woman’s land state. It’s fun to cross a few boundaries and see different points of view – literally!