Belinda Ray – Part 2 – When Bella Met Jagger

As Spanish teacher Belinda (aka Bella) Ray revealed in Part One of this feature, when she first went to Barcelona in the early 1980s it hadn’t properly dawned on her that she would have to learn another language too if she were to be fully accepted in Catalonia.

“I simply missed the fact that I had to learn Catalan,” she confesses. But undaunted, she went ahead and did just that.

“And that was even harder. It’s not a form of Spanish – Catalan is similar to medieval French. The language spoken in Languedoc, in France, is very similar to Catalan. Catalan is as different from Spanish as French is. I learned both languages from day-to-day experience. And that brought a huge reward.”

Part of that “reward” was hugely unexpected – and it came when the Rolling Stones rolled into Barcelona in 1990.

Bella explains: “I was working for the manager on the Stones’ Steel Wheels tour when they came to Barcelona. I was unwittingly and thoroughly ‘vetted’ by him and his team to see if I had the nerve to do something… It was fun for them but slightly bewildering for me.   

“Only after that did they tell me what it was… they’d like me to teach some Catalan to Mick Jagger. Of course I said: ‘YES!’

Winning partnership: Mick Jagger (above) and Bella Ray (below)

“I was then led down many a dark corridor, through several security checks… and shown the door. No introductions. I think the management entertained themselves by throwing us naive rednecks to the lions! 

“I knocked on the door and as I entered I saw a skinny little man in a very ordinary dressing gown hunched over a mug of tea. 

“I tried some humour with this household name and world-famous rock star: ‘Hello, you must be Mick.’  

“He turned, saying with imposing authority: ‘Michael to you!’

“There was a pause… in which I caught my breath…  and then we both laughed. Haaaaa! And the ice was broken, thank God!

“I taught him how to milk the visual effect of his wonderful full and famous lips for the cameras, using words beginning with ‘m’… e.g. muy meaning very. 

“He learned how to say the usual patter… how to say hello and how very, very, very happy he was to be in Barcelona… everything was very, very….  As I remember, he learned hello in Catalan and the rest in Spanish. 

“He was warm, very focused, respectful and fun. I loved the experience… although it all only lasted less than half an hour. 

“And he did a good job with his live delivery on the night!” 

Belinda (Bella) Ray can be contacted on 07879 238382 or bella@wildaboutspanish.com; her website is at https://wildaboutspanish.com.

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at www.nigel-summerley.blogspot.com.

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