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Touched by Spanish fever in Manchester.

Byline: VALERIE HILL

FEW of life's experiences equate to having a handsome Spanish male shake his maracas at you. The first time it happened to me, I was on the Costa del Sol. My burgeoning feminist consciousness objected slightly, but I was only 24.

The last time was on Friday night, in the North West. I now have a body scarred by natural disasters, childbirth and cooking accidents and I am simply grateful.

Yes, the air was hot with Mediterranean testosterone as hubby and I had our passports stamped and took a trip to Manchester's Balearic Festival.

OK, so Liverpool's had all the glory for the past year as Capital of Culture - time to give someone else a go, we thought.

The islands of Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera sent their best to show island life outside Manchester Town Hall.

As the fading winter drizzle and damp permeated our jaded epidermis, a substitute Spanish ambience was drummed up by frisky, paganistic dancing.

By 'eck! This certainly raised the temperature a tad.

No middle-aged women draped over the barriers needed HRT - they had the Correfoc Fire Devils, no less, in front of them.

My husband tried to drag me away to watch the Fine Minorcan Horses perform their dressage, but by this time I had chained myself to the railings, transfixed by Spain's leading Flamenco guitarist, Paco Fernandez.

As my Nanny Hill would have said, "he could make a guitar talk". After a couple or five glasses of authentic Spanish Rioja and having been fired up by the feisty folk frolickers, I attempted my own Flamenco dancing.

It was bad timing, as my husband at that moment tried to introduce me to the head of the Majorcan tourist board.

This was a lady so elegant that by now she was apparently on to her third outfit of the day. But fair play to her, she applauded my version of the twist and the slosh.

Replete with Spanish bread, cheese and pastries, a perfect evening ended at the supertrendy Lowry Hotel. You've got to hand it to Manchester, they've cashed in to the max on their most celebrated local artist, lending his name to a theatre, shopping outlet and riverside hotel. They've even called a gallery after him.

How fortunate he had such a lyrical monicker, rather than other more familiar Lancastrian surnames like Ramsbottom or Arkwright.

Stretched out in a bed as wide as the River Irwell (indeed, so large that the two of us could sleep star-shaped and not touch - fantastic!), I hazily contemplated my Balearic evening.

Mmm. Mediterranean hot men, hot food and pretend hot summer nights. Eat your heart out, Manchester matchstalk men and match-stalk cats and dogs!

THERE'S a big kerfuffle about Labour peer Lord Gould's 22-year-old daughter, Georgia, being manoeuvred into a safe seat courtesy of her father's contacts like former Tony Blair mouthpiece Alastair Campbell.

Apart from the fact that no democratic party should behave like this, what on earth does a callow 22-year-old think she can bring to representing all walks of life as an MP?

CAPTION(S):

Que? Was I truly wafted here from paradise just to raise your temperature, Senorina. No, I am from Barthelona
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 8, 2009
Words:533
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