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Not that I have anything against the Costa Brava of today. I've heard it said that the old, true Costa Brava has disappeared beneath a tide of hotels, tourists and pedalos - but I haven't been back to find out. Not only that: I've seen plenty of indications online to suggest that much remains of the Costa Brava I knew. People still seem to dance the Sardanas, for example, one of those delightfully sociable, open-air dances designed for hot climates, in which there is barely any movement that is not strictly restricted to the feet. In any event, if change there has been, I don't doubt that much of what I knew and saw needed to change for the sake of the people who actually have to live there: what delights the traveller is all too often the locals' daily headache - and worse. So I'm not generally in favour of decrying the present - especially as there were tourists and pedalos on the beaches in 1956.

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In those days, of course, I had no idea of the linguistic diversity of Catalunya and certainly none of the region's desire for autonomy or its differences with Franco's central government in Madrid. The only vaguely political implications of those holidays arose from the association of many of the American expats I met with an organisation called The American Committee for Liberation. AmComLib, as it was known for short, broadcast from Spanish-based stations into Communist eastern Europe. It was usually referred to by the guys who worked for it as AmComFib: whether any of them ever fell foul of McCarthy, I never learned.

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Still on the subject of Franco's Spain, however, and more crucially of Catalunya's place in Franco's Spain, I do recall that I was warned to be wary of the Civil Guards - but never of local people: far from it. My aunt and uncle spoke Spanish, as did all of the expats in their circle, however rudimentary that Spanish might be. In addition they had many Spanish friends and of those Spanish friends many were Catalans. I was nonetheless aware that there were expats who made no effort: one woman I heard about had allegedly spent 20 years in Spain and had acquired a single word: ¡ponga! Her maid would fetch something (everyone with some money, it seemed, had maids) and she would point to show where she wanted it put: ¡ponga! In my experience, however, this behaviour was exceptional to the point of freakishness. In the 21st century I have every sympathy with Spaniards I read about who refuse to deal with expats who insist on speaking English.

As far as I am aware, I am in this piece spelling Catalan places with their current Catalan spelling.

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