What do you do when someone tells you your Spanish is rubbish? Well for a start, you can kiss your good mood goodbye. Wave goodbye to your nice afternoon - but keep your smile still there, plastered on your disbelieving face.
I should have seen it coming. This particular guy used to love telling me my Spanish was crap. But he hasn't for ages, at least six months, and I thought we were past all that.
But here he is, doing it again. In the aftermath of someone's birthday lunch, in front of a big group of people. Totally uncalled for. He says it once, he says it again for emphasis, and I realise everyone is looking at us, waiting to see what I'll say. No one is going to come to my rescue, tell him to shut up.
So what do you do? Say: "Hey, my Spanish might not be great, but it's better than your manners"? or "Actually I can speak OK, but big groups like this really scare me, so I tend to stay quiet and listen"? Or "How do you know, you've hardly talked to me? I spent ten hours at a party last weekend talking Spanish all the time and lots of people said it was actually getting better. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it."?
But I don't say any of that. Instead I make a joke of it. "My Spanish is fine. It's just that you don't speak it very well." And everyone laughs, including me and him. And my smile is still plastered on, though I'm glad of my sunglasses, so no one can see the pathetic tears of embarrassment and anger prickling at my eyes.
"He doesn't mean it in a bad way," says the bloke. "We're all like that in this group, we just take the piss about things we shouldn't." And I know he's right - this guy isn't trying to be nasty. He really has no idea how much it upsets me.
He's never studied another language, never lived in another country. Never had to walk the tightrope of trying to follow a group conversation of a group of tipsy friends who've known each other half their lives and half speak in their own version of Spanish. He's never lost concentration and slipped down into total confusion, desperately scrabbling to catch the threads of conversation again to pull himself back up.
The fact is that I never thought of myself as a shy person. But in my second language I can be. And it's really hard in a group of people who know each other inside out the way they all do. And someone publicly putting down my language skills doesn't help. Surely anyone would be able to see that?
Maybe not. I used to be an English teacher. I would never never ever think of critisising one of my students in class for their mistakes. What would that do, apart from make them feel down on themselves? How could someone be so cruel?
But perhaps you wouldn't realise that unless you've seen it for your own eyes. The same way that you should know that if someone doesn't understand you the first time, you should slow down your speech. Maybe use easier words. Not just repeat the same sentence at the same speed, like this guy does every time.
A bit later he overhears when I misunderstand something a girl is telling me about her telephone. He throws his hands up and says: "You see?" Like it's a perfect example of my rubbishness.
"But so, what?" says the girl. "We understood each other in the end."
The bloke jumps in to help this time: "And how's your English? I'd like to see how you get on in a big group of British people."
"My English is terrible," he says. "But I've not been living in England six years."
Then he turns to me. "It's completely normal you don't improve. You work with English people, you speak English with him. If you're only speaking Spanish in situations when you're forced to do it, it won't get better. But there comes a time when you've just got to take matters in your own hands."
I'm tired, I think. I've been here like seven hours already and I want to go home. I've had enough of all this for today. "I'm trying my best!" I tell him.
But am I really trying my best? My Spanish is improving slowly, but it's nowhere as good as it should be to say that I've been six years in Spain, and that I have a Spanish boyfriend.
I don't take classes anymore, and though I've even blogged about my intentions to Speak Spanish with the bloke, I've even failed in doing that. I don't read books in Spanish like my friend Two Shandies does. What am i really doing apart from speaking it on a needs must basis?
I came here to immerse myself, but have i really done that? I seem to still have one foot firmly planted in the English bubble. If i'm not careful I'll end up like Michael Robinson - a famous football commentator here who still confuses his tenses and articles, and has the worst accent ever, after 30 years living here.
Though I still half want to kill that friend of the bloke's, I think he might have done me a favour. Call it a massive kick up the arse, if you will.
A similar thing happened with my a-level art teacher. He told me I would never get above a c - I would never be as good as my brother. You bastard, I thought. i'll show you. So I worked my behind off. Completely went over the top and painted so much I got pains in my neck from bending over the paper, and stains under my nails that wouldn't wash out for months. Couldn't hardly carry my portfolio to school.
Sure enough I got an A. Take that you horrible man - how can you me so mean to an 18-year-old? And well, truth be known, my stuff really wasn't as good as my brother's - he had a real god given talent. But I learned then that no-one has the right to tell you you you're rubbish - you can't do something, you're not good enough. and if you set your mind to what you want you can achieve it, if you're prepared to work at it.
So this time I am going to get serious about my Spanish. And maybe one day soon this friend of the bloke's will turn to me and say, "wow, your Spanish has really improved". But you know what, I won't hold my breath. Some people only seem to notice the stuff they can make you feel small with.