Name: Tom Rixton
From: Dorset, England
Profession: Hotelier, Home Hotel
Education: Sherborne School
Last book read: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Last film seen: Ponyo
Gadget: Doepfer MAQ16/3 MIDI Analog Sequencer
Tom Rixton’s first visit to Buenos Aires 13 years ago had baptism of fire written all over it: meeting his Argentine future in-laws and attending a Boca Juniors game on his own. Despite the fear that those two combined elements could spark in many men, Tom later married Patricia, moved to Argentina’s capital and eventually acquired a season ticket to the Bombonera.
“I had recently moved to Ireland to live with Patricia, and the first time I came to Buenos Aires was to meet the parents. That was when I started to get used to sitting around for hours after lunch, talking about nothing in particular although I realized early on that football was an easy subject to talk about,” he says.
“I went to see Boca Juniors play, the super team of 2000 with Riquelme and Tevez. You could buy tickets at the gate back then, and I remember sitting on the floor for two and half hours as Patricia wandered off. There certainly weren’t any tourists buying tickets. So I sat on my own, in this ruined stadium, cumbia blaring from car windows.
Everyone had told me how dangerous Boca and Boca Juniors were, but there was nothing to be scared of at all.”
Behaving in a legitimate touristy way, going to a tango show and scoffing steak, Tom recalls a pricey Buenos Aires.
“The peso was one to one with the dollar, and at that point I had just quit the music business and wasn’t earning a lot of money. It turned out that Argentina was more expensive than Europe. I had a wonderful time on that trip, although we weren’t planning on moving here.”
Those, of course, were famous last words for the record producer turned hotelier, who worked with the likes of Tim Simenon from Bomb the Bass during his London career and was inadvertently part of the chain that led to Tom meeting his wife.
“I was working for Tim, programming his keyboards and drum machines. He needed a sound engineer and spoke to (record producer) Flood, who had taken a year off and Flood said he could use Rob, his guy from Dublin. We became very good friends and he put me up to produce a record in Ireland. Rob is Patricia’s best male friend and he came over for the weekend, so I met Patricia in a pub in Dublin.
“We went backwards and forwards between London and Dublin for a year, but I was burnt out from working 90 hours a week, partying hard, and couldn’t cope with London any more. I was planning to go to New York, but we moved in together in Dublin.”
Following their engagement a year after meeting the parents, the pieces began to fall into place. Initially planning nuptials in the UK, the day after she told her parents the good news, Argentina’s economy collapsed.
Surrounded by vinyl, CDs and wallpaper rolls, combined elements of his two lives, Tom recalls: “We were planning a small party in Argentina and a big wedding in England, but that went out the window as the Argentine side of the family couldn’t afford to travel. With the same budget, it was either a pub lunch for 40 people and one glass of champagne, or renting La Martina polo ranch, with a firework display, huge video screens, parrilla and as much booze as 100 people could drink. And the great thing about marrying in a foreign country is you don’t get all those nasty aunts that come out of obligation, just your close family and friends!”
The decision for Tom to leave Europe and for Patricia to return to her homeland was effortless.
“I’d always wanted to speak two languages, and it was really easy. It was a bit like, ‘let’s go to Argentina, yeah, let’s go.’ Working in a recording studio means the clock is ticking and you’re costing loads of money doing what you do, so you make decisions really fast. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the right one or the wrong one, but I decided quickly to come to Argentina.
“One part was very easy, the other was very difficult. I didn’t think about the cultural differences before I moved but those differences have become what I love about this country, especially now I have a family. Having a child here is amazing. During the corralito, when queues for the bank were seven blocks long, Patricia’s sister was pregnant and still went straight to the front. That’s amazing.”
Lupe is now aged four and recently went to Bolivia to help celebrate Tom’s 40th birthday. Not only that, she sometimes accompanies him to football matches.
“You wouldn’t do that in England, would you?” he says.
Another difference that Tom has learned to love is the time people spend on each other.
“Everyone has time for people. London is so hectic, and you see your best friends once a year, even though you live an hour and a half away on the Tube. But here, people make time to see their friends or call them up; it’s a lot warmer. I like sitting around, having lunch for three hours. Then you get some ice-cream in. Then another two hours go by, and you go and do something else. I like that, everyone has time to relax but it took me a long time to understand that it’s not boring, that it’s enjoying life. Everyone’s a bit more relaxed and it’s a more human way of living. ”
Tom recalls the early days of constructing Home Hotel, the boutique, 17-room pied-à-terre the couple built together, with little Spanish. “What a gift to give being bilingual to someone. My daughter goes to English playgroup, which is American playgroup, so I have to explain certain things to her like rubbish, not garbage. She flips between English and Spanish, with a perfect accent in each.
“I arrived in Argentina able to count to 10. I had this great concept of Spanish by osmosis, which when you’re setting up a business as complex as this, didn’t work at all! I started classes four years after I arrived, but I was so advanced in some areas yet had no idea in others. I remember the teacher saying ‘so you know the verb ser (to be),’ and I said, no sé. I was all over the shop. If you want to talk about hotels, music, food, building, business, I’m very good but if you go off on tangents to areas I don’t know about, I get lost. My vocabulary is very specific!”
Living close to Home in Palermo Hollywood, Tom says of the neighbourhood’s early days: “When I got here, Palermo was Plaza Serrano, a bit of Gurruchaga and the odd shop here and there. I remember some people saying to me: ‘this is Palermo Soho’ and I asked them why. They replied, ‘because it’s just like SoHo in New York.’ Actually, it wasn’t like that at all, as that SoHo was full of shops and mannequins, but whoever said that was a visionary, because now it does look exactly like that.
“And there was nothing in Hollywood. When I moved here, there were two car repair shops opposite the hotel. The only restaurant was Olsen; now every corner has three or four. Families would sit outside on a sunny evening, it was cheap to buy houses, and now it’s one of the most desirable areas to live in.
“Some friends suggested we look at Florida in the suburbs, to buy a house with a garden. That’s great if you spend all your time at home. I work here. I like walking to work. There are great restaurants. My butcher is opposite, the vegetable market is around the corner. I love this area. The only reason I go anywhere else is to watch the football.”
Although Tottenham Hotspurs is his passion on the English pitch, in Argentina it’s Boca Juniors. However, obtaining a season ticket became an epic mission.
“To get one in London was beyond my means so when I moved here, I could simply buy a ticket. It was affordable. But it’s been a seven-year odyssey to get a season ticket. In classic Argentine style, I became a socio thanks to my wife’s cousin’s husband’s brother’s wife’s best friend’s husband, who was a director of Boca Juniors. And through another contact I managed to get season tickets and I go every two weeks. It cost 1,400 pesos and it’s worth every penny in my opinion. It might not be the greatest football you’ve ever seen but the energy in the stadium will be.”
Buenos Aires Herald, July 19, 2013
Ph: Diego Kovacic
If you enjoyed this expat piece, check out this interview with Bolivian couple Alfredo and Yobana.