Let me try and explain this restaurant to you. It is in the fishing district of Santander - right out here in dockland, away from the smart side of the city. On this area the government built subsidised housing for the fishermen and their families. In time the fishermen started to cook the fish as well as sell it to merchants and these shanty-like restaurants appeared on the ground floor of their housing units. The tables were probably outside at first and then they built these glass houses. Then, at last, they constructed a proper restaurant inside the building.
But we always like to sit outside in the glass enclosure- me, Sally, Irma, Pilar and Mercedes. We sit where we can look out at the dock and watch the man roasting sardines on a free-standing round grill by the door. Sardines are a speciality here. We always have them - and we have rabas (calamari), red snapper lightly flopped on the griddle with lemon and garlic, a huge communal salad (lettuce, onions, tomatoes, asparagus, tuna fish) and red wine with water with fizzy water. Sumptuous feasts are our M.O.
This photographer came and caught us having dinner - and I think we all look so beautiful here and so happy. I dont know why it worked out so well for us to be friends. I don't know why we didn't solicit boyfriends - perhaps it was because we didn't miss them. Of course Sally did have a boyfriend back in England and the rest of us had flirtations consisting largely of eye contact so it didn't cut into our time.
Remember the men behind us, on the other side of the glass window, waving and toasting? At the time I didn't even notice them. And that's how it was, very fraternal, very sororal, very friendly and if this year all the friends were women that's just what we want this year.
But this feast is a little sadder because it is Sally's last. I will return to teach next year but she's going back to England. Because, after all, Sally has that boyfriend. His name is Barry. Their way has not been smooth - but at last journey ends.
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