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Not so very long ago I watched the celebrity chef Rick Stein’s Long Weekend programme filmed in my old stamping ground of Cádiz. A standout point for many viewers was the scene filmed in my old local, Bar Manteca (The Lard Bar, or Dripping Bar, as we’d have called it in Nott’n’m). As he does his piece to camera, a diminutive figure walks up to him, shouts some indistinguishable syllable and walks off, to amused applause from the regulars.  And I laughed out loud with glee, because I remembered ‘Uchi’ (pronounced Ooshie) from my days there. She shouted random things at me (and everyone else) many a time.

I was surprised on my September return to the old neighbourhood not to see her around.

And last weekend, I popped (well, limped, being at the tail end of an attack of gout) up the hill to Merchiston and the Edinburgh bookshop to see Mr Stein. Not to buy his Mexican cookbook, partly cos I already have a couple for that cuisine but mainly cos I don’t gots no moneys, waiting as I is on the local Council to help (or refuse to help) with my rent costs.

I did get an Elsie with him though.

… and I was able to tell him the sad news that I had seen that very morning, on all the feeds from my spiritual home what I follows, that she had died the day before.

‘Uchi’ leaves the barrio of La Viña an orphan

Today Cádiz is in mourning, especially the neighbourhood of La Viña, having heard of the death of Carmen Gutiérrez, popularly known as ‘Uchi’. She died early this morning, at 60 years of age, from respiratory failure, according to sources close to the family. Uchi was an endearing person for the city, known for her two hobbies: her bicycle and uniforms. A faithful sister, who never missed a mass at the Archconfraternity of La Palma, to whose Virgin she was devoted. She also became very popular for her interruption of the recording of a BBC programme on gastronomic tourism, when entering El Manteca in the recording with Rick Stein.

The mayor of Cádiz, José María González, has shown his regret through a statement. “One of the eternal smiles of the city is leaving. A person loved by all the gaditanas and gaditanos”, he said. Of the ‘Uchi’, González stressed that “she was a neighbour who represented a way of understanding life in La Viña”. Also, he has passed his condolences to the relatives of the deceased in these hard times.

The local representatives of the PP sent similar wishes.  The councilor [and mayor when I was there], Teófila Martínez, has joined the regret for the loss of “a dear woman that we will miss very much”.

[from andaluciainformation.es, 10th November 2017]

As another report said, a light has gone out in the streets of Cádiz.

I think it’s one of the things I love about that city, that they will give far more attention and affection to an ordinary citizen than any person of political importance or tv ‘celebrity’. The streets will be packed for the funeral, and there will be much wailing. I can’t deny I shed a tear.

And not just an ordinary person but someone who would be classified in many societies as a ‘learning difficulties’ disabled citizen, mocked or feared perhaps by the ignorant, shunned in the street or put into a special home and kept out of the way.

[That’s not entirely fair and certainly not true of all communities. I can think of one or two local characters round here who are much loved by their neighbours and whom I never pass in the street without a cheery hello. Whether their passing would make even the local news reports is another matter.]

Not that she wasn’t teased or mocked by the local kids; Cái is the home of banter from flirting to mockery, that might trouble many a politically correct sensitive type.  But woe betide any outsider who so much as looked at her askance in their presence (not easy to avoid when she’d have a wee but good humoured rant at any distinctive passer-by).

I recall her trying to make some sort of noise with a tourist’s didgeridoo on the beach once. Indeed I have photos to prove it. But she made that noise simply by shouting through it, to the amusement of one and all …

 

Ivan Illich wrote that education — institutionalised, non-convivial structures for education at least — tended to make us more stupid overall, by introducing inflexible pass or fail definitions for success and academic achievement. As he said the person who would once have been called the ‘village idiot’, entertaining and of genuine value (for anything from menial work to bringing a ray of sunshine into life generally), would now be labelled an inferior sort of person and a failure.

Well he may have been thinking of someone like the delightful Uchi (I never knew her real name back then), and her passing has certainly reminded me of the joy she could bring to the area, by something as simple as shouting at a chef.