Just back from holiday, Trades Fortnight of course, paying ‘Homage to Catalonia’.
Imagine if you will a resort with few Brits, no lager louts or drunks of any kind, 17 fantastic beaches, cracking restaurants, bars and shops, around 30 miles from Barcelona made up almost entirely of locals, gay men and young families.
There’s not a Celtic or Rangers strip to be had and there’s no chance of bumping into a ‘lovely’ couple from Greenock who want to be your mates. “Let’s keep in touch.”
In this holiday paradise, the only parades you’ll see will be outpourings of Pride, rather than the Orange-tinged variety, and you won’t get battered trying to cross the road in the middle of one.
Welcome to Sitges.
Inclusivity you say? I’ll give you inclusivity, this place has it in buckets and spades, the sort of inclusivity that committees of stakeholders attending numerous meetings at Holyrood to dicuss inclusivity would give their eye teeth to be included in. Saying that, it is heavily weighted towards gay men and some in the LGBT communities may take issue with this – but it’s still miles ahead of anything we have in sectarian-riddled Scotland.
I know my limitations commenting on such things, having grown-up in an era where we always thought there was ‘something funny’ about that Mr Humphries character played by John Inman in the classic 70s sitcom, Are You Being Served?
I’m a work-in-progress on all things LGBT but have spent enough time drinking in Edinburgh’s Broughton Street over the decades to see how things have changed for the better.
However, I can talk with some authority about lager-louts, having being one in a previous life, earning my stripes in legendary campaigns such as Kavos 89, Falaraki 91, and Tenerife 96.
There’s a lot to be said for a full Scottish breakfast, all-day drinking and endless re-runs of Only Fools and Horses in the Red Lion while watching young guys let their girlfriends win at pool, but at some point you have to move on. Or you don’t...
Those of a right-wing persusion would hate Sitges and that old spunker General Franco would be turning in his exhumed grave but it works as a family resort and then some.
The reasons for this are numerous and the lack of a British drinking culture certainly helps, but the overall atmosphere is one of tolerance which brings with it safety and the ability to enjoy all the marvellous things the town, roughly the size of Portobello, has to offer.
Sitges plays a unique part in Spanish history. Home to artists and the so-called gay pioneers who discovered the town and help transform it under a backdrop of military dictatorship controlled by Franco for 35 years until his death in 1975.
Under that regime, homosexuals were imprisoned and it’s easy to forget the brutality that oppressed people for so long.
In Sitges, the Catalan flag with accompanying yellow ribbon, is draped alongside the Rainbow banner on balconies, mirroring the increase in political activism througout the region.
But everyone is having too good a time to dwell on that. Pass me the tapas while I pop out for some frozen yoghurt (froyo).
I spent the entire time smirking childishly, trying on shorts that would never fit me and honing my sunbathing technique which consists of rubbing a token bit of cream onto the arms before lying on my side and falling asleep.
You wake up an hour later looking like a piece of fine Iberico ham and your cover is blown. Scottish person abroad alert.
It’s great being on holiday – you sleep on the beach then go back to the apartment to sleep again. Win-Win, like having two teas on a late shift – one at work and one when you get home.
I remember going to Benidorm as a kid in 1978, not long after Spain relaxed the rules on tourism and realised the pot of gold they were sitting on.
We flew on a Dan-Air, quickly nicknamed Dan-Dare, plane and my old man was only half-joking when he said there was Sellotape on the wings.
This was around the time DC-10s were falling out of the sky like raindrops, but I was too excited to care and the adults were busy downing duty-free bevvy and smoking on the plane. I loved it.
I got an exotic Athletico Madrid top and remember eyeing up the nudey playing cards on display amongst an arsenal of flick knives and assorted holiday trinkets.
The flight home was full of stuffed donkeys in the cargo hold and people were wearing sombreros and drinking wine out of a bottle with straw on the bottom. Of course, we all cheered when the plane landed.
The second part of this year’s holiday was three days spent in Barcelona itself.
This time the Catalan flags and yellow ribbons seemed to hang from every balcony and the people are highly motivated for change.
I like Barca but prefer Madrid, some folk see it differently a bit like the Edinburgh vs Glasgow rivarly.
We took in Antonio Gaudi’s unfinished ‘masterpiece’, the Sagrada Familia basilica, which he dedicated his life’s work to but never completed. Imagine the sculptors who built the Scott Monument had dropped acid and you get the picture.
We have our own unfinished ‘masterpiece’ in Scotland – it’s called the Queensferry Crossing.
It was raining when I got back and, for the first time ever, I was disappointed to return.
The news was full of that giant marshmallow Boris Johnson throwing our top diplomat “under a bus” with an idiotic Scottish Tory MP called Ross Thomson sticking up for the school bully.
The Labour party has imploded like Jim Morrison in a Parisian bathtub and is now on track to finish fourth at best in the next General Election and the people who run Scottish football have donated 100 balls to help the women’s team qualify for the next World Cup.
Roll on next year’s Edinburgh Trades Fortnight.