In Glasgow, my supermarket of choice is Lidl. I love how there is only one of everything – one type of baked beans, one type of toilet paper, as though they were Platonic archetypes. I love how Continental it feels with its black bread and numerous cold meats. I love the bizarre promotions they have of things like Horse Riding equipment. So when the opportunity arose to visit a Basque Lidl I jumped at it.
The building is situated inside a warehouse in Erandio, facing a vast steelworks on the other side of the Nervion. Inside, subtle differences made uncanny what was a familiar experience. In Time Out of Joint, Philip K. Dicks character realises that something is wrong when he reaches for a light switch that isnt there. He understands then that the people who have recreated this reality have slipped up. Shopping in Spanish Lidl was a bit like that.
Our actual desitnation was to Portugalete, a small twon distinguished by having the highest population density in Europe and the worlds first Transporter Bridge (which ferries people and cars across the river via a suspended gondola). In recent years, Puente Colgante (which is the name of the bridge), has been refurbished so that you can walk across the top, offering panoramic views of Bilbao and the coast. For those of us that suffer vertigo this was a stiff prospect. Thankfully, a few tips from TVs Paul McKenna helped and I almost enjoyed the experience.
Once on the other side we walked up steep, narrow streets which resembled a vertical Venice but with more bars, stopping for tapas and kas limon, watching immaculately turned out middle aged women gossiping in the street. August is fiesta month in the Basque country and Portugalete boasted a superbly inauthentic Medieval Market. I attempted to get some herbs for my psoriasis from the apothecary, but the 40 Euro price tag made this peasant blanche.
In the evening to Guernica – or rather Gernika, it being very Basque – for a fiesta which resembled nothing less than Bakhtins descriptions of Bartholemew Fair with its transvestite fancy dress, street theatre and joyful atmosphere. I almost lost my wallet on the rides, almost won a prize on the darts competition and almost got drunk. Almost.