There was a certain happy irony as we Oldie staffers queued to board our flight to Seville at London Gatwick on Tuesday. We were located immediately beside a herd of ten-year-olds embarking on their first-ever field trip. Beside the sea of red-capped youngsters, nibbling on crisps and playing stuck-in-the-mud, Team Oldie appeared civilised, even serene.
Libby Purves, the former long-serving presenter of Midweek, once said the organisation of the Oldie of the Year awards must be like 'herding squirrels'. If it is, surely it's not a patch on monitoring spritely youths who are in any and every place, all at the same time.
The Oldie staff, whose numbers have been swollen with the launch of Greydar, include a representative of just about every decade of life – which makes for lively conversation, if different priorities occasionally.
Seville: what an enchanting place. It is the capital of southern Spain’s Andalucia region and boasts a gargantuan Cathedral, plus the nearby Alcazar castle-and-gardens complex, with achingly beautiful Moorish architecture and dripping in handpainted tiles.
The narrow roads are cheerily embellished with tiles that reveal street names such as ‘Plaza Nuestro Padre Jesus de la Salud’. Strumming guitars sound out at church corners and mustard-yellow buildings glint in the sunshine.
There’s nothing like three days to get a hold of a city – and to get to know your colleagues.
Who knew that our books editor, Claudia FitzHerbert, also doubled as a wardrobe consultant, proffering wisdom and advice in my quest for a work-friendly flamenco dress? Art editor John Bowling turned out to be an aficionado of Catholic kitsch, rhapsodising amid the velvet drapery and Madonna shrines of El Garlochí, a themed Spanish bar. Nigel Summerley, our sub-editor, was seduced by the purple blossom of the jacaranda trees that lined the walkways leading to the city centre; and Vicky Ashby – who helps with The Oldie’s advertising – rather beautifully described the jacaranda blooms as 'like bluebells on trees’.
Our publisher and restaurant critic, James Pembroke, continued his quest for the perfect trattoria, and lined up cervezas and tapas at El Rinconcillo; it is renowned as Seville’s most ancient bar, with dusty beer bottles stacked high between hunks of jamon and against a backdrop of tiles. The place opened in 1670, and orders are still chalked up on the wooden bar. Hotel Dona Maria was the choice for dusky aperitifs overlooking the cathedral – a perfect viewing spot.
We tried to decode what Oldie might be in Spanish... and landed on Viejo, which translates directly to ‘old’. If you know better, do share with us…
Claudia FitzHerbert has a rifle though the flamenco dress rail
Jolly pretty: hand-painted tiles at the Plaza de España
Old and new: the Metropol Parasol (2011) home to the Antiquarian archaeological museum, located in the old quarter of Seville