The eruption of a volcano is an unusual event in our modern age. It’s not the kind of thing that turns up with any regularity in our 24-hour-news-saturated lives. Or the kind of thing that trends on Twitter every Thursday. No. An erupting volcano is an extraordinary event. An event that brings chaos, destruction and, if you’re very unlucky, extremely disrupted air travel. This was the case in April 2010 when Islandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull over-boiled and caused no end of flight-delay pain for those escaping to and from Europe.
For what was, I’m sure, a memorable-for-all-the-wrong-reasons event for those caught up in the ash cloud chaos, for me, it was an event that will forever have me giving thanks to Iceland and her angry natural phenomena. Eyjafjallajökull is the reason that during my recent trip to San Sebastian, I was able to return home, if for a little while.
Allow me to explain.
Story has it that during that fateful April, a certain gentleman was waylaid in Barcelona en route to London. He then decided to visit San Sebastian, fell in love with its perfection (I imagine) and opened the second bar that would carry his name.
And if you are from a certain suburb, in a certain city, in a certain country south of the equator, you will come upon the sign of this second Gerald’s bar, shining like a beacon in the dark Spanish night and a burst of familiarity will erupt in your chest. You will stumble through the doorway and know that while you may be on the other side of the world, you also just got a little closer to home.
For the seven-and-a-half years I lived in 3054, Gerald’s was my local. Hell, I bought my house because it fell within the acceptable 10-minute-walk-to-Gerald’s rule (okay, yes, there were other reasons too, but this played a big part). Gerald’s was for good food and even better wine. Was the place of many sisters-only boozy nights out, or a last-minute post-work pit stop, or the perfect date location because at least the bar’s coolness would win you some street cred if all else failed. It was a general balm to life’s ailments and I was just as sad to leave it as I was to leave Carlton North.
And so, being able to visit Gerald’s Spanish outpost made me more happy than if I got a book deal big enough to cover buying lush apartments in Paris and London while Cumberbatch, Hiddleston and Josh Homme duked it out to see who would be lucky enough to do my cooking and cleaning, while Beyonce taught me her dance routines.
Thankfully, Gerald’s didn’t disappoint, as I knew it wouldn’t. Even the pintxos tour guide we met happily extolled the wonders of the place and how it was one of the few foreign-owned bars that had been accepted by the locals.
|Nothing here not to love|
And so it seemed only right to spend all three nights of my San Sebastian holiday in a bar that offered up small nods to my home town. And it also seemed right that I would be drunk enough to accost the man himself, blabbering on about Melbourne and Carlton and Spain, though thankfully stopping just short of crying on his shoulder.
Moments of pure, pure joy are like erupting volcanoes. They’re rare, aren’t often to be seen trending on Twitter (especially these days) and cause chaos and destruction, and just a little travel mayhem. Visiting Gerald’s was a moment of pure joy but it also gave me my first, big, heart-string pull towards home. I could feel it in the depths of my soul. I longed to be able to sit around the living room table with my parents and my sister, chatting over a meal, a glass of wine. Not having to wait for the right time to call and try and open my heart and mind across a terrible phone line. I wanted to see my house, my things. To be where I knew how to get around, knew where I fit in. Knew where I belonged.
But at the same time, sitting at that bar on Iparragirre Kalea, and not Rathdowne Street, I felt unbelievably lucky. It had taken little over two hours to fly from London to Spain. I could do it over a weekend, I DID do it over a weekend, and I could do it again, whenever I wanted. I was with a new group of friend who were helping me experience life in a different way from what I had always known. I was happy and excited for the adventures to come.
And then I saw Gerald’s little map of Australia, sitting on the bar, just next to the kangaroo. And with a lump in my throat, I ordered a second glass of wine and hoped that a volcano would erupt and keep me there for just a little while longer.