1. Language Versatility
I first met Antonio in the CNRS LEMD as the three of us, myself, Pierre and he were writing a proposal for collaboration under the auspices of a European Community Scientific Programme as Spain was about to join the EEC. He was explaining in French what he knew about electroconvection. My understanding of French was somewhat underdeveloped but I thought his pronunciation was rather strange. I was to realise later that he was speaking in Spanish or more precisely Franco-Español! Our subsequent cooperation continued but at times the communications were in the multi-lingual “Franglais-Español.” He explained this by indicating that his brain had three language departments. However at times there was only a partial rotation and his 2K RAM (Random Access Memory) needed time to reboot: if too much information went in then some previously stored information had to be cleared out. Perhaps his most amusing error in pronunciation concerned his restaurant request for “a Quiche Lorraine tart” but instead astounded the waiter by asking for “Les Cuisses de Lorraine!” or “Loraine’s thighs!” In fact his language skills became very impressive being fluent in the reading, speaking and writing of English, French and of course his native Spanish. I would often try to perplex him by using longer alternative phrases in English. But his knowledge of the Latin etymological derivations meant he always understood. If I tried to bamboozle him by talking in my native vernacular “Geordie” with its Nordic origins, he would reply in Andalusian Spanish which to my ears sounded like rapid Arabic and therefore was as equally unintelligible.
2. The English Experience
As part of our NATO and EEC contracts Antonio visited England on many occasions. Whilst in Bristol he always preferred the “Black Beer” when in our ale houses. When he was a guest for dinner at our home he never showed any leanings towards our locally brewed cider “Scrumpy,” or our offerings of French red wine. However, he was taken by our home brewed quince wine! I remember I had booked a room for him in a hotel near to my home in the Somerset Mendip Hills. When I called on him he had been given the bridal suite with a magnificent westerly view. He was however seated and watching the television with the zapper (channel changer) in his hand watching two channels at the same time. This was clear evidence of his multi-tasking skills! On a subsequent visit to a conference in Queens College, University of Oxford when asked at breakfast “A Full English breakfast, Sir?” by a “Dracula-like” servant he exclaimed “No, No, Please No Sausages!” I suppose he like me remembered my first experience in Seville in a “Buffet Libre” restaurant where the sausages had been left out all day in the summer heat. When I returned home we had a Health Inspector visit us just in case I had contracted the bacteria in an English restaurant! Oxford was notable for its night life and whilst Antonio, Pierre and I were walking along the main street a passing group of young ladies pinched our backsides as is a common practice apparently in Rome! Pierre, however, denies all knowledge of this rather unusual English experience.
3. The Sporting Man
When I first knew Antonio he was keen on tennis so an early morning game was de rigueur. I had not played very much as my usual sports were squash and rowing. However we had a very enjoyable equally matched game next to an empty swimming pool – it was the last week in June and deemed too cold by the locals to take the plunge! When in Grenoble we enjoyed picnics in the mountains and swimming in the local pool but when it came to winter time, as we met from a Wednesday to the following Wednesday, the weekends were devoted to ski de fond (cross country skiing). I had some experience at ice skating but Antonio never to take up a challenge lightly shot off into the distance in a rather large but slightly sloping snow covered field with only one tree standing proudly in the middle. His ability to crash into it illustrated majestically that he could always go straight to the point in any argument! I was less fortunate as whilst standing still I over balanced and, still holding my ski pole, dislocated my elbow. I was struck by his sympathy and helpfulness after I returned from hospital and recall his most brotherly concern for my subsequent welfare. Again this was characteristic of him when caring for his fellows.
4. The Man of Culture
Finally I remember him asking me why on the geographical maps of Great Britain the city of Plymouth was nearly always printed in bold capitals. My response was that the city was of historical significance since Sir Francis Drake after finishing his game of bowls had set sail from there to defeat the Spanish Armada. “Ahh! Drake the Pirate,” he retorted. “No! Drake the Hero,” I replied. He then gave me a gentle history lesson from the Spanish perspective. It was then that I realised that we had come from two entirely different cultural backgrounds. The remarkable fact is that we could and did work and play in perfect harmony and that we did until our academic paths naturally took different priorities.
I will never forget Antonio, my Spanish colleague and friend.