Sunday, 8 August 2010

Meet the Queen

Queen Laura at leisure
As we approached her home in Jimena for this interview, up a steep hill that leaves most  people breathless, we knew why the Queen was fit. Having come back to what she calls 'her village' ten years ago, she has climbed that hill at least once a day for that long. No Rollers or Daimlers at the door for Laura. Not yet, anyway.
Laura Gutiérrez Haddon was born in Bristol, England, just under 19 years ago. Her birthday is in early November, under the sign of Scorpio. Not that this latter piece of information would be of any significance to her, for Laura is a practical sort of person - at least in her own opinion.  Her opinions are, she believes, the reason she was elected Reina de la Feria this year.  As far as we can verify, she is the first British-born Queen of any annual village Feria in the Campo de Gibraltar - excluding the Rock, we suggest.>
She presented herself for election -after a lot of indecision- because as a child (she first came to  live in Jimena aged 16 months) she had been fascinated with the the Queen of the Fair and all that went with it. She used to chase after the floats to collect the sweets they flung from the floats and is looking forward to doing some flinging of her own now. She never expected to be elected a Lady-in-Waiting, let alone to become the Queen. 
Asked why she thought she had been chosen among some 15 local girls ("But I am a local girl!" she exclaimed at the question - true   enough), she said that it could have been because she answered the set questions differently to the rest. How so?  "I don't know, but they all said that," she answered. "They're all so much better looking than I am," added Laura modestly.
"And another thing ..."
At the selection itself, she admits to being totally incredulous when it was announced that it was she who would be sitting at the very top of the float - until she remembered that it had been an announced that there would be no floats this year. And no sweets to throw. (After this interview a press release came down saying that indeed, there would be floats and maybe even sweets. See the item here.)  But Laura is a practical sort of person. As soon as she had got over the shock of her election, she began, with her mother's help and consternation, to find a way of getting this year's fair as it should be.
To start with, the bankrupt Council advised that there would be no subsidies for flamenco dresses this year, either. The Queen needs a super one for the big day, plus at least another two for the other two days. The average price for a good dress - nice, but not the absolute ultimate - is around €500. That plus all the bits and pieces that go with it, like shoes, combs, earrings, etc.  "That's fine!" said Laura. "I'll buy them myself!" And she has, with a little help from various family members, including her boyfriend Fran's family. She doesn't have to worry about her hair, though.

After those difficult teen years of indecision, Laura decided that she wanted to become a hairdresser. She studied in Algeciras and now works as an apprentice at a hairdressing salon in Tesorillo. Her clients love her, she says, and there is good reason to believe her. It might be her playfulness.

"I'll get the phone!"
When we were interviewing her, the phone rang in the middle of the photo session. She was at the window, posing, somewhat tense, maybe even a little overwhelmed, which she never showed, except as people sometimes do, by giggling - in this case mostly with her mother (the Queen Mother, you know). But we were able to capture that mischievious turn of Laura's in some of the photos, such as this one on the left.

Yet behind the person she is, and probably the reason she is that person, there are years of difficulties for her. When she was 6 her mother decided that they would be better off in the UK, so they moved to Wales, to a place called Gorseinon, near Swansea. Laura did her early schooling in English and Welsh, a language she admits to having forgotten. But three years later it was time to return to Jimena.
"My first day at school was terrible," she says. "They all laughed at me because I could hardly speak Spanish and I certainly couldn't read it. And I had a Spanish name and surname. It was awful!"

But she was in Señorita Lola's class, in third grade, and the teacher helped her out. "I remember her so well; she was so helpful."  Laura laughed when we suggested she could have spoken to her classmates in Welsh, which might have shut them up. Her laugh is open, infectious, uninhibited.
Laura finished her schooling at the Instituto in Jimena, with very good marks. But she knew she was not academically minded, which prompted her to seek out a further studies unit - and hairdressing it was.
Prospero: What language do you prefer, Laura? (This interview was conducted in Spanish.) 
Laura: Spanish, Spanish! But I speak English with my mother and sometimes with my father, Diego. So I suppose I'm bilingual but Spanish is a lot easier.
P: What do you like about Jimena
L: Everything.
P. What would you change if you could?
L. I'd leave it as it is. No, there are some things... Well, I don't understand the need for a botellón (the habit of heavy, often binge, drinking among the young) except that everything is very expensive for young people and you can have a couple of drinks for a tenth of the price at a disco.
P: But it's dangerous. Everyone takes their car and drink driving...
L: Yes, that's right. But why don't they set up a minibus service, for example? A shuttle bus between San Pablo, Jimena and Tesorillo. It would save lives.
P: Do you have a driving licence?
L: Not yet, but I'm working on it. You're lost in Jimena without a car - I'm lucky that Fran (her boyfriend, in the photo) has one.
P: Now you want some changes. But you were in the UK for a number of years. Is there anything you miss from there?
L: Yes, all the facilities. Good libraries, public transport, year-round swimming pool ... all that kind of thing.
P: But you're happy here?
L: Oh, yes, very happy! As I say, there are things that I would add to the village to make things easier, but I love it anyway.
Maybe it is just that, that she loves Jimena exactly the way it is, with all its faults and need for improvement, that got her elected as the Reina de la Feria 2010.  Maybe it's her infectious laughter. Or her sense of mischief. Or her beauty, her smile. 

Whatever it was, I'm certain that our readers will join me in wishing her the very best feria ever. Personally, having known Laura since she was a small child, all I can say is that if you wish for something long enough and well enough, if you meet fate half way, your wish will come true. It does, doesn't it, Laura?
"Haven't you finished yet?"


Anonymous said...

What a beauty...and who´s beauty is she?MINE!!!Hahaha!Long live the Queen!Viva la Reina!

PROSPERO said...

Just to let you know I am a very proud sister as well, to see my beautiful baby sister over there in Spain having her dreams come true. I am following it all on Jimenapulse so please do keep posting bits and pieces.

Her neices and nephews are also very proud at their Aunty being so lucky to have this opportunity. Yes, we are all so proud of her.

She means so much to me; she is a very special person that deserves to have her dreams come true. And they have, so YAY!!!! from England. Thats MY sister up there she is so beautiful and we love her very much. xxx