Friday, 1 July 2016

Occupations and reputations.

When we were kids, my siblings and I used to pester our father to tell us what his first jobs had been. Well, there was the job on a farm, where he had special responsibility: taking the lame ducks to the toilet. Noooo! Really? OK, there was the factory where he had to carry the smoke out in wheelbarrows. Aaaaagh! And a whole string of other ridiculous answers until we gave in, defeated! (In fact he began an apprenticeship at a local printing company, went off to spend the second world war as a sailor, returned to complete his apprenticeship and worked for the same firm until he retired. That's a story you don't here often nowadays!) 

I was reminded of my dad's silly jobs this morning when I saw a bloke on the beach with one of those blowers that people use to blow leaves off their drive and into their neighbours' gardens. He was blowing sand off the boardwalks! It looked like one of those occupations that could go on for ever, apparently pointlessly. 

On reflection it's almost certainly an essential job. Otherwise the boardwalks might just disappear under the sand and became mini sand dunes. And on the really hot days those boardwalks are vital. The sand gets so hot you simply cannot walk on it. On the whole they do a good job of keeping the beach pretty pristine. No litter to speak of. And the road cleaners are out early along the prom. Tourism is a big business and needs maintaining. On the beach they are gearing up. The pop-up beach football stadium is almost complete: a kind of slot together set of scaffolding that is turning into ranks of seats. The rows of sun loungers, complete with sun umbrellas, for rent have not yet appeared but I fully expect them to do so by tomorrow or Sunday. It's almost July. Time to get ready for the high season! 

We once overheard somebody describing Sanxenxo as the "Marbella of the North". Not a bad comparison. Certainly it's not Benidorm or Torremolinos, thank heavens! It may not have quite so many expensive boats as there are in Marbella but there is still a prodigious amount of money moored down in the harbour. The working port with the fish market hall, the "lonja" or "lonxa", depending on whether you favour Castilian or Galician Spanish spelling, is located along the coast in Porto Novo. Which, nonetheless, is also a very nice place and has a lovely beach. 

Of course, the Marbella of the North doesn't always have the weather of its Southern cousin. Today, like yesterday, began a little grey. People were telling me the water in the pool was freezing - !está helada" - but I disagreed. 

And the sun came out properly not long after lunch!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Another day in Sanxenxo.

This morning began with a bit of cloud and some mist over the estuary. Not enough to worry about, in my opinion anyway. My morning run still managed to produce some blue sky and sunshine pictures. I post these on Facebook to comfort/upset friends in rainier places.

When we went down to breakfast we came across one of our chess playing friends on granddad duty, pushing his small grandson to and fro in the buggy. He was fussing about putting socks on the child as his little feet were a bit cold. After we had finished breakfast we saw him again, still pushing the child to and fro along the terrace of the hotel. This time he told me he was doing this because it was a little too cold to go for the usual walk along the promenade and the sea front. Really? I know it wasn't quite up to the scorchers we have been having but it must have been 20 or so degrees, AT LEAST, probably more. AND the wind which has been blowing sun umbrellas over on top of me has dropped. 

Later I went down to the pool to swim as usual. By now the sun was coming out intermittently and even when it was cloudy, the cloud was thin. So, down at the pool there was me, the Portuguese lady I spoke to yesterday, determinedly sunbathing, or maybe that should be thin-cloud-bathing, and one other person. By the time I had swum twenty lengths a few more people had turned up. I only saw one other person go in the water. 

I was reminded briefly of the day last summer when my daughter, her children and I horrified our friend Colin's neighbour by swimming in the rain. Well, it wasn't raining when we went down to the pool and the rain was only very light. Besides, we were already wet, so what difference did a bit if thin rain make? The sun is shining more consistently again now. 

I wonder if there will be more people in the pool for the early evening session. 

Meanwhile, here are a few odd facts gleaned from newspapers here and there. Twice as many men as women lose points from their driving license in Galicia. Why am I not surprised at this statistic? 

Galicia is the fifth worst region in Spain for traffic offences, coming after Cataluña, Madrid, Andalucía, and the Comunidad Valenciana. Is there a correlation, I ask myself, between the density of population and the level of traffic offences? 

I saw television footage of Nigel Farage gloating at the European Parliament, to the effect that they had laughed when he first appeared there and said he was working to get the UK out of Europe but he noticed that no-one was laughing now. No wonder they want to have meetings without any UK representatives now. 

Boris Johnson has declared that he will not stand in the competition to be Prime Minister of the UK. However, Michael Gove is standing. He says Boris Johnson does not have the necessary skills to be Prime Minister. So he must believe that HE does. Hmm! what about his record as Education Minister? 

I am beginning to get a little hot under collar. Maybe I need to go and jump into the pool again.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Just a few little minor frustrations!

The other I was buying an item that cost €12.30. I handed the shop assistant a €50 and €2.50 so that she could give me mostly notes in my change and so I could thus avoid putting even more coins in my purse. After a few moments the girl looked at me and said, "It's €12.30". "Yes?" I replied, not seeing what the problem was. "You gave me €2.50 along with the €50 note". I considered explaining to the poor creature that she could give me 20 cents in my change but gave up on it and rooted in my purse for 30 cents, first making sure she gave me back the 50 cent coin. Perhaps there was something wrong with the basic maths education she received! 

After breakfast we usually go out for a stroll before the promenade heats up too much. We were almost bowled over by a fast moving cyclist as we strolled along this morning. I somewhat grudgingly accept that she could not have ridden in the road as the promenade is a one way street in the opposite direction to hers but she was certainly giving it some wellie, as they say. Had we been a couple with small children milling around, they would have been in serious danger. As it was I just about heard her approaching and managed to dodge out of her path just in time. Needless to say, the cyclist was completely oblivious! 

In addition to getting a walk in before the sun really gets going, our post-breakfast stroll gives the hotel staff time to "do" the room. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Today it didn't. Accordingly we changed the "Make up the room" sign to "Do not disturb", so that Phil could get some chess preparation done while I went for a morning swim. Later, heading down for lunch, we swopped the signs over. All to no avail: the girls were only just about to do our corridor when we returned later. They explained that they started at alternate ends of the hotel each day so that it's not always the same clients waiting for their room to be sorted. After some persuasion we managed to convince them that we don't need the room cleaning in depth and the beds made to tight hospital regulations and all the towels changed EVERY day and that it would be fine to leave it until tomorrow. Phew! 

On the way back from our morning stroll I popped into the Super Froiz to pick up a couple of things. My timing was all wrong. Everyone and their grandmothers must have been stocking up and arranging for their stuff to be delivered to their home for them. In reality there were only about five customers but only two tills operating, one of which was REALLY slow. When someone came along and opened a third, she invited the people coming to move, in queue order to the new till. I stood back to let the lady ahead of me move first. Which she did much too slowly, thus permitting one of the I-don't-know-how-to-queue brigade get in ahead of us. Then the lady I had been so helpful to remembered she had forgotten to purchase milk. I offered to hold her place in the queue while she went and got some. She assured me it was not necessary as she would just tell the cashier exactly what she wanted. I should have put two and two together. Her trolley was fuller than it looked. She was arranging for it to be delivered to her house and spent a good ten minutes making sure that it would all be done properly, almost walking out without giving her address, having difficulty finding her phone number for them and a million other activities. 

That will teach me to be polite and British and follow instructions about keeping our places in the queue. 

Ah well, it's not all bad. The swimming pool is still fine.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Networking ... and other stuff!

Most mornings while we are in Sanxenxo I get up and run down the promenade, out to the lighthouse and back to the hotel, taking a detour on the way back to walk along the beach and dip my feet in the water. This morning, instead of turning left onto the promenade when I got to the bottom of the street, I turned right and headed for Portonovo. This involves rather more uphill running but it's good to vary the routine. 

Once again it was a beautiful morning. I find it hard to understand why some folk wait until it is really hot to go for a run. I'm sure it's not all that good for you, as well as being very uncomfortable. At the Portonovo end of Sanxenxo's Silgar beach, tractors were at work smoothing out the sand for a beach football tournament. I would not fancy playing in that, not at all. Any kind of beach sport is hard going because of the difficulty of running on sand but with the temperatures up at around 27 degrees, it does not sound like fun. Each to his own! 

On the beach at Portonovo there were ducks in the water. This is not the first time I have seen them but I was still surprised. I never thought of ducks as saltwater foul. Perhaps they have come on holiday from somewhere inland, like the rest of us. 

At the pool yesterday, the young man I spotted reading Paul Mason the other day was playing with two little girls who were obviously his nieces. I remember these children from last year, largely because one of them has an unusual (to me, anyway) name: Iria. At some point in the afternoon I got into conversation with their grandmother, mother of the Paul Mason reader who works at the University of Manchester. It transpired that her husband is a chess player. The family accompanies him to Sanxenxo: chess for him and a holiday for them. 

Later I found Phil analysing his game in the bar with the day's opponent, a gentleman from Asturias, husband of the lady I had been speaking to, father of the Paul Mason reader! 

Small world syndrome strikes again!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Sunday/Monday in Sanxenxo.

Yesterday Sanxenxo was apparently invaded by a mass of bikers. I did not see them but you could hear them from the pool. Voting took place for the Spanish government elections. This gave the newsmen something other than Brexit to talk about. This morning my Spanish sister (OK, English, married to a Spaniard, living here for close to forty years now) was expressing double depression: the referendum in the UK and the fact that the right wing Partido Popular, won more votes than any other party. 

They still are a long way from the 176 seats needed for an absolute majority but it looks as though Rajoy will continue as President, always assuming that some other party or parties will form a coalition of some kind. Having seen what coalition did for the Liberal Democrats in the UK, I would avoid coalition at all costs! 

At the pool yesterday I spotted a young man reading one of Paul Mason's books. Anyone who reads Paul Mason must be a right thinking person. He turned out to be an Asturian who works at the University of Manchester. I asked if he enjoyed living in Manchester. Wonderful so far but now he is worried about the stories of xenophobia and open racism that are appearing in the news. It's as if all the bigots have been given carte blanche to be as nasty as they wish. 

Meanwhile, the chess player had so far won one game and lost one game. We were asked to complete a survey about the hotel on Sunday morning. Good or very good for all aspects. And then at lunch time Phil found the risotto had too much of a cheese flavour for his liking. That's two days running we have found fault with something! However, I had cockles for first course (which Phil decided to skip) and they were very good. After the cockles, I had yet another ensalada mixta. PhiL had chicken.

One thing you can say for his hotel is that they will go out of their way to find you an alternative if you do not want their selected menu for the day. Today we had salpicón de mariscos followed by a kind of fish soup with pasta. They told us there was chicken (again!) for the third course. Just as well we declined it as when it arrived at other people's tables turned out to be some kind of beef. Definitely not our kind of food! 

This morning we had a walk around the Sanxenxo hinterland before it heated up too much. Provided you can still see the sea, it's just about impossible to get lost. We had some interesting views of the place from a different perspective. 

On our way back we tried to follow the coast a little, moving from one small beach to another via piles of rocks. Then we came to one that was just too big and had to turn back, something we rarely like to do. 

 But after a famous incident a few years ago when Phil slipped on a rocky place and had to hold his shorts together to get back to the hotel we have been a little more cautious. This year, we vowed, there would be no torn shorts and no emergency repairs. So we retraced our steps. 

This afternoon was hotter than ever. After I had taken a coffee to the chess player half way through his game, I dedicated the rest of the late afternoon/early evening to the pool once more.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

People watching at the poolside.

Day two of our stay in Sanxenxo. Well, really I suppose it should be day three but as we arrived half way through Friday I am not really counting that day. I was up bright and early, jogging down a rather windy promenade, noticing the Saturday night revellers who were just on their way home. There were quite a lot of joggers as well as me, however, most of them going faster than I do. But I have nothing to prove and maybe some of the younger ones still do. 

There is something very pleasing about being out and about on a fine, if windy, morning. 

Later I went people watching down at the pool, overhearing some conversations about the UK Brexit situation. Headlines in one of yesterday's papers suggested that the British vote will cause the break-up of the EU altogether. It certainly seems to be causing turmoil in UK politics. 

But my people watching was on the whole less serious. I always find it interesting that some people set themselves up for a long session at the pool while others, with almost as much clutter, take a quick dip and leave. As for me I had a good long swim in an almost empty pool and then sat and read under the sun umbrella for a while. All went well until the wind decided to intervene and blow the thing over on top of me. I fully expect to have a bruised shoulder. A lady who had just arrived and was setting up shop commented that down on the beach it was hardly blowing at all. In that case things had changed since earlier in the morning. 

So I went back in the pool for another swim and almost had my towel commandeered by the son of the setting-up-shop lady. Her family had arrived as I was in the water; there were four of them and her little boy clearly thought my sun lounger was one of the four that they needed. I heard his mother tell him off calmly and explained that they would have to manage with three sun loungers. I offered to let them move my stuff along to the next free lounger but she was adamant that they could manage. The child needed to learn to share, she said. 

Quite different was the next family to arrive, colonising the sun loungers on the other side of mine. The smallish daughter, probably aged about six like the would be towel commandeerer, objected to having to share a lounger with her even smaller brother. Her mother pointed out that she could share or she could perhaps go and have a lounger to herself on the other side of the pool. A paddy ensued! A fair amount of whining, shouting and stamping of small feet. Her mother told her that this nonsense had to stop. It didn't and after a couple of minutes the mother went and stretched out on a sun lounger in the other side of the pool. The child took her mother's place on the original lounger. 

Now, I wonder what lesson the child learnt from that!!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Diet, fertility, childcare - causes and consequences - theories anyway!

Here we are in Sanxenxo once more for the annual chess jamboree, otherwise known as a tournament, at the Hotel Carlos I Silgar. At the moment it looks as though we might be having the usual chess tournament heatwave. This worries me not at all as the pool here is very fine. 

 In our hotel room there is a book called "La Dieta del Doctor Cidón Madrigal". On the first page is a sort of introductory quotation. Who wrote it, I do not know. It is anonymous and reads as follows: "La obesidad es una condena. A través de una buena alimentación recuperaremos la libertad". This translates more or less as, "Obesity is a prison sentence. through a good diet we shall regain our freedom". I have not read any further. I presume there is one of these in every room. Or have they singled us out for some unknown reason? 

The supreme irony is that the food here is very good but they serve copious amounts of it. Lunch and dinner are both made up of three courses and then there is a dessert. Today for example they offered a kind of crayfish kebab with rice, then potato croquettes, followed by veal steak with chips. By my reckoning, that's three portions of carbohydrates in one lunch! Not a green vegetable in sight! Oh, and the traditional "flan", creme caramel, for dessert. 

And they leave books about obesity in the rooms!!! 

We only have half board and can choose between lunch or dinner. In the restaurant they are constantly surprised that we ask what the three courses are for the day and then choose to have only two of them. As it was, today we made the wrong choice. The kebab was lovely but the croquettes, although home-made, were disappointing. We should have opted for the veal, even though we eat very little meat. As regards dessert, neither of us really enjoys "flan". This goes back to our student days when some of the boys in the student pension where we stayed in Murcia used to have flan-eating competitions. These were rather reminiscent of the scene in the film "Cool Hand Luke", where the Paul Newman character declares, "I can eat fifty eggs". Enough to put you off certain foods for life. So we had to sweet talk the waiter into bringing us ice cream instead. Oh, I know there is sugar in ice cream but we had not eaten all our croquettes! 

In the local paper yesterday we read that the birth rate in Galicia is falling dangerously low. Not only that but the Pontevedra province, where we spend most of our time, has fallen behind Coruña province! Now, I can quite understand that if you have no job, if you are well qualified but have no prospects of a job other than giving out leaflets to persuade people to visit the Islas Cíes, if you find yourself beyond the age of thirty and still having to live with your parents, then you will put off having children. It's the only sensible thing to do. 

However, in the hotel where we are staying there is an abundance of children, many of them quite small babies. Not only that, but many of Phil's younger chess playing friends seem to have reached the point in their lives where they marry and produce offspring. Babies all over the show! It did strike me, though, that perhaps the kind of people who can afford to summer in this hotel (which is rather grander than any we stayed in during our younger days when we were encumbered with two offspring) can probably afford to have children. It's a theory! 

Here's another one. Yesterday evening we strolled out. Families were out and about, going up and down the promenade. In some cases, a tiny child was walking with the parents. Phil commented that Spanish children seem to start walking at an earlier age that British ones. Is it the famous Mediterranean diet? I doubt it but there were certainly tiny people, who looked to be no more than twelve months old, walking along at the end of a parent's finger. What could be the cause of this precocity?

This morning at the pool I had a moment of enlightenment. There were several young families with sitting-up babies, around sixth months old. I even had confirmation of the age because I chatted to one fond daddy as his child gurgled in the water. All these infants, too small to be standing or even pulling themselves up onto their feet independently, were at some point "walked" by their proud parents, held up by their tine, fragile arms, little legs going like the clappers. 

This is all well and good but I was always advised that it is actually not the best thing for the development of strong and, more importantly, straight legs. Maybe it leads to early walking though. Are these parents uninformed or are they competitive and want their child to walk first? Who knows? 

It may, of course, answer another question of mine. Why is it that so many young Spanish blokes appear to be slightly bow-legged? Just take a look when you walk behind them. Especially if they are wearing shorts. 

Of course, it's just a theory but the premature encouragement to walk might have something to do with it.