Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Getting hot under the collar.

24̊ - that was the temperature at the roundabout at the top of the road at 9.15 this morning. It just got hotter as the day wore on. We came out to walk to chess club at about 8 this evening and it was still very hot. I'm ok though; I've been in the pool for part of the day. Phil is threatening to join me tomorrow. He must be feeling the heat as he rarely makes it into the water. I am not holding my breath. 

I'm just very glad I didn't have to cycle up very big hills in France today. It must be quite excruciating. Although the downhill runs probably cool them off some. Nibble remains in the lead. I am seeing none of it at the moment. I just catch up on the Tour website at the end of the stage. 

Walking down the road earlier, I saw a young bloke get out of his car and spit on the pavement. I see this more and more, both here and in the UK. When did it become socially acceptable to do this? 

What you don't see much of here here is young men walking along with their chests out. You see this all the time in the UK. Last year I read that several seaside places here in Spain had introduced by-laws forbidding people from walking along the street in a state of undress. And you might expect people to walk around in their swimwear when they're just coming back from the beach. However, you don't see people here doing it in the centre of the ordinary town. Whereas in the UK, the minute the sun comes out blokes think it's ok to strip to the waist and strut their stuff. It's a kind of hangover from bad behaviour on holiday in the sun. One of my favourite fashion gurus, Hadley Freeman, was protesting about it the other day. I quite agree with her. 

Just now I've read a rant by someone called Ellie Mae O'Hagan about how Welsh should be taught in all UK schools. She grew up speaking Welsh (although I'm pretty sure O'Hagan is not a Welsh name. Aren't they all called Jones or Williams or Evans?) and regrets the fact that she is very rusty now. I'm all in favour of children growing up bi-lingual. And I believe everyone can benefit from learning to speak as many languages as they can manage. Oh, and I agree with preserving ancient cultures. But I think school kids can perhaps learn something more useful than Welsh. 

 She claimed that Welsh is the oldest language in Europe. Really? Well, it may very well predate Anglo-Saxon and Latin and so on but I think she might find that Basque is the oldest!! 

I also get a little fed up of hearing about the English domination of the Welsh and the Scottish. It's the same with the Castilian domination of the Galicians and Catalans. 

It's time we all got along. That's what I think anyway.

Monday, 21 July 2014

New words, bad habits of the Brits and how we don't conform to that norm.

I've learnt a new word: el balconing. I read about it in La Voz de Galicia, one of the local newspapers. El balconing is a sport practised by young, drunken British tourists in places like Mallorca and Ibiza, especially Magaluf. It consists of leaping off balconies, sometimes into pools, sometimes just into the street or into crowds of people. Spanish authorities are more than a little concerned at the "orgías etílicos y sexuales" which crazy young people from the UK indulge in every night. (Etílico is an excellent word for alcoholic, is it not?) I quite agree with them. 

We once went to Magaluf, by mistake I hasten to add. Phil was taking part in the Calvia chess congress which turned out to be in Magaluf. Even in October it was a regular thing every morning to see barmen sweeping up masses of broken glass outside their bars. Bars which advertised, in English, one litre of vodka and coke for €2!!! Which comes first, cheap alcohol or the demand for cheap alcohol? Anyway, I think the Spanish newspapers are right when they say that young Brits seem to leave all sense of morality and general decency behind when they get off the plane in places like Magaluf. 

I'm not going there again. And Phil didn't even win a prize! 

We are much more restrained in our drinking habits, following the great Spanish tradition of eating something, preferably free tapas, while we drink. So we pop into wifi cafes and slake our thirst responsibly while catching up with out internet needs. 

Yesterday this led to our having a little chat with the waiter in the Nuevo Derby about the British Open Golf Championship, just finished in Hoylake, Liverpool. It was on the TV in the cafe. He asked if we knew how much tickets for the event cost. No idea! Golf doesn't really interest us much. And then I saw on Facebook that my sister-in-law was there. I didn't see her on screen though. 

When we first came to spend time in Vigo, amazingly almost six years ago now, we lived right in the centre of town, in the middle of all the activity. Now we have a flat at the far end of town, almost in Teis, and it's positively rural. Although there are huge tower blocks of flats, just like ours, all around there are smaller properties with little vegetable gardens attached. It's a whole self-sufficiency thing that's going on. We, however, amount to no more than a pot of basil on the window ledge. 

Back to new words, I recently discovered Sean Bean's version of John Denver's Annie's Song. It goes like this: 

"You fill up my senses, 
like a gallon of Magnet, 
 like a packet of Woodbines, 
like a good pinch of snuff; Like a night out in Sheffield, 
like a greasy chip butty…". 

I just thought I would share that. 

I've just seen the weather forecast for Spain for tomorrow: sunshine everywhere, except possibly the Basque Country, where they can expect rain! Oh, and a few clouds down in the far south, near where my sister lives but that might be good for them as it gets far too hot down there.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Time marches on.

Another Saturday evening and here we are in the Failde cafe with football on the telly again. I have no idea who is playing. Last week it was the last throes of the World Cup but that's all over and done with. Tonight it might be Barcelona against I don't know who. It doesn't really matter. 

The pacing lady is here again, walking up and down the cafe just like last week while the old chap, presumably her father, sits and read the paper at the same time as semi-watching the football. She's an odd one, this pacing lady. Possibly a case of care in the community! Possibly she just likes walking up and down cafés. 

So we've been here just over a week. It seems like longer. Maybe it's because we've been busy doing stuff. And we had a trip to Pontevedra mid-week. Doing lots of things and going to different places has a weird effect on time, making it stretch out to some extent. Time is funny anyway. There's that odd thing that happens when you go on holiday and time speeds up after the midpoint of your stay. Then there's the way five minutes pass really slowly when you're on the platform waiting for a train but really fast if you need to get there before the train leaves. As I said, odd! 

We've had quite a lot of excellent sunshine since we got here. Yesterday was a disappointment, especially as it rained quite torrentially as we made our way home from the chess club last night. Today has been better, rather cloudy but mostly fine and a bit of sunshine thrown in. I hear they've been having a bit of a heat wave in the UK as well. But then, they've also had thunderstorms. 

We walked up to A Guía at the end of this afternoon. The view over the bay towards the Islas Cíes was still spectacular, even though the sea was silver rather than blue. It's hard to believe it's the same sea as we saw during last week. 

We've also "done" the Castro since we arrived. We need to visit Castrelos Park and possibly do the river walk to Samil to complete our collection of regular visits to places. Some time next week we hope to get to the fish restaurant, El Puerto, for lunch with various friends. Clearly we are ticking boxes here on the list of "stuff to do". 

In the Tour, the Italian is still in the lead. The Sky team seem to have given up on getting Richie Porte on the podium in. Paris and are now just going all out for stage wins. They've not managed it yet but there's still time. 

So that's it: just another Saturday.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Weather and cyclists and such!

My panadera (aka the lady in the breadshop) told me then weather was due to change. So by lunchtime today we had rain, not real rain, no torrential, soak you to the skin rain, but nonetheless rather drizzly rain! I felt a bit sorry for the people who came in on the cruise liner as they must have had a rather damp visit. 

Last night we discussed with one of the chess playing folk of Galicia the possibility of Phil translating some of his books into English. He told us about his experience with publishers in the early days of his writing career when he was so pleased to get a publishing contract that he signed away all his rights to publish those books in other countries. When his publisher did nothing to promote his books outside Spain, he could do nothing about it. Now he is older and wiser and knows the ropes a little better and is in control of his own work. I was reminded of pop singers and songwriters from the fifties who naively accepted contracts which gave them no rights to royalties in later years. Is the world full of sharks? Apparently so! 

I suspect that we might be talking about different sums of money signed away here though. Few people make a fortune out of chess, after all. I have yet to hear of chess players being in the kind of sponsorship deal where they have to wear, for example, a cap with their sponsor's name on whenever they appear in public. It doesn't happen like that. 

 The cyclists in the Tour, of course, have their sponsors' names blazoned all over their kit. And with the increased popularity of cycling, and the importance of having the right gear, loads of amateur cyclists now have the same cycling tops, paying large amounts of money to ride around advertising a company, just because that company sponsors a team in the Tour. The same goes for those who wear their favourite football team's jersey. And those football jerseys cost an awful lot of money. At least, if you buy the genuine article and not a cheap supermarket copy. 

In Italy they are remembering a cyclist who helped save hundreds of Jews from the Nazis by transporting counterfeit identity papers hidden in the frame of his bike. He was the star Italian cyclist whose victory in the Tour de France on the eve of the second world war made him a favourite of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. But he was also a devout Catholic who helped save hundreds of Jews from the Nazis by using his hero-status to courier false documents around Italy. On Friday– 100 years after his birth in a small village near Florence called Ponte a Ema - Gino Bartali, known to some as Gino the Pious, will be remembered in his home region of Tuscany, where a special bike ride, a dinner, a parade and free museum tours will be held in his honour. He died in 2000 and in his cycling career won three Giri d'Italia and two Tours de France. Not bad for a hero! 

Some-one who might be being forgotten Barbie, who is now 55 years old. The oddly shaped doll has seen her popularity fade in recent years. She might have tried dying her hair all sorts of colours, she might have tired a multitude of new professions but the old(ish) lady can't compete with new dolls which appear as vampires and witches and who knows what else. I never did like her but you can't help feeling sorry for a 55 year old who is deemed to be over the hill! 

Back to the cycling. Nibali is still in yellow after winning today's mountain stage. Poor Richie Porte had a bad day and lost more than 8 minutes to the Italian. It looks as though he might not be on the podium after all. But there's a Spaniards, Valverde, in second place. The race goes on.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

In Pontevedra.

Watching the Tour de France at our friend Colin's house in Poio, Pontevedra, yesterday, I noted that the sun had come out for them in France. Having provided horrible weather, causing a number of nasty crashes over the first few days of the Tour being in France, the country has decided to be nicer to is race. On the rest day, however, Fabian Cancellara announced his decision to withdraw from the race so that he can prepare for the world championship. Average speed yesterday was over 40 miles an hour! These men are amazing. If it's as hot there as here, I would not like to cycle in that heat! 

Nicolas Roche, who tried to help Alberto Contador to get back into the race after his fall the other day, is now having a good go at replacing his teammate at Saxo Tinkoff's hope for victory in the Tour. Good luck to him. 

We were in Pontevedra so that we could go out to the Pitillo restaurant on Tuesday evening. This is one of our favourite eateries, lots of excellent tapas and some good white wine. Splendid stuff. 

Then yesterday morning we met the organisers of the chess club in Pontevedra that is doing a kind of chess exchange with my husband's club back in the UK. All good stuff. We have arranged for four youngsters from the UK club to come over to a chess training camp and then play in a tournament here. One of the stumbling blocks is the possible date of the return visit. The Spanish youngsters are involved in a lot of training camps in the summer and then Spanish schools have a much stricter policy than English ones about their pupils having time off in term time, even for something clearly educational. At the moment we're looking at next Easter - so far ahead! At least we'll have time to organise. 

After our discussion about chess visits, we rejoined Colin for lunch and spent some time watching him fight a losing battle against pigeons in Plaza de Verduras. These annoying birds congregate around your feet, hoping for scraps. In the past Colin carried around a large model owl which worked for a while to deter the objectionable pigeons. Yesterday he was reduced to a rolled-up magazine and attempting to swat them. He must have got about ten and that seemed to deter them. It amused folk at other tables, fortunately there did not seem to be any pigeon lovers among them! 

His battle will continue. As will that of the riders on the mountain roads of France. At the moment Nibali, the Italian, still rules!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


Hadley Freeman, reporter for the Guardian, has a regular, rather tongue in cheek column where she answers peoples queries about fashion problems. The latest question was about what is a suitable outfit for a 14 year old to wear to a prom. Now, a prom is an American import so Hadley, who grew up on the USA and may even be an American citizen for all I know, is qualified to talk about them. 

Here is an extract from her reply: "There was a popular story last week about a mother in England spending £1,000 on her 11-year-old daughter's prom, fitting her out with a handbag, professional hair and makeup, a limo and a tiara. People, please. That is not a prom: that is just lunacy. Take off your tiara and listen to a tale from the prom coalface: I went to proms in the States when I was a kid. In fact, I was voted prom queen when I was 12 or 13, and let me tell you how much my parents and I spent on my prom triumph: $0. No, there aren't any missing digits there: $0. I wore an old denim dress my mother had bought me ages ago from Gap, I didn't wear any makeup and I certainly didn't go to the hairdresser. At most, I might have had a bath and brushed my hair. Instead of a limo (limo!) I walked to the prom with my girlfriends, and we spent the night dancing to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. Then, when I was made prom queen, I got a small crown made out of aluminium foil and a plastic rose. Then I walked home." 


Years ago, in the early 1990s, when I worked at a sixth form college in Bolton, one of our bright young teachers, in charge of the student social committee, decided to organise a prom. This was strictly for the college leavers. So all attending would be 18 or pretty nearly so, about to leave college for employment or university. No doubt he pinched the idea from some of the American films but there was also his own experience of leavers' balls at the end of university. It was going to be a very grown up affair, no jeans or scruffy clothes. It worked fantastically. We were very impressed with the way our students scrubbed up so nicely. 

That was kind of the start of it all. I'm not suggesting that he introduced the idea to the country as a whole but he was in at the start. Over the years since then it has worked its way down to students leaving high school: 16 year olds. And now we hear of leavers' proms for primary schools. It's a bit like "graduation ceremonies" from nursery schools. All rather silly! I can remember being amazed at one girl whose father paid almost £300 to HIRE a dress for her prom, so that she wouldn't risk the embarrassment of someone turning up in the same dress as she was wearing. Crazy stuff! 

The last one of these events I went to was in 2008, just as I was retiring from teaching. Two girls from my tutor group, both beautifully dressed and with immaculate hairdo, manicure and make-up, spent the whole evening taking selfies with their mobile phone. Back then, of course, no-one knew they were called selfies. Also rather silly! 

 Thinking of my ex-students, I was reminded of at least one of them yesterday evening as I watched a report on Spanish television about Brits behaving badly in Magaluf. I am having serious thoughts about "unfriending" the young lady in question as her recent Facebook posts have all been videos of herself and friends doing embarrassing things in ... yes, you've guessed ... Magaluf. One was all about them being thrown out of their hotel. Now, I've been to Magaluf and I think you have to be pretty bad to be thrown out of your hotel there. And this was a girl who studied languages at university. Okay, this is not a total guarantee of quality but it usually indicates a certain degree of intelligence!!!! 

Enough said!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Rubber bands, boats, football and Le Tour.

Our grandson really enjoyed learning to play the cornet at school. They have a specialist music teacher who comes in once a week and teaches groups of children to play. Half way through the year they changed from brass instruments to recorders. The boy was singularly unimpressed and stopped trying. Whether he thought the recorder was not really a boy's thing or what the problem was, we will probably never discover. However, the teacher decided to introduce incentives. Knowing how children all over the country are currently obsessed with loom bands, she started to offer packets of these small rubber bands to those who excelled in effort, enthusiasm and general progress. Suddenly, the child who had become the clown of the class turned into a model pupil, organising his little group to play well and even writing little compositions himself. What a transformation! 

I don't entirely see the attraction in wearing bracelets woven out of rubber bands but they have been spotted on the wrists of the famous; even members of the royal family have been photographed wearing them. Our grandchildren get commissioned by their m other's friends to make them in specific colours and patterns. Odd! 

Now it seems you can even make clothes out of loom bands as well. Someone has made a dress and put it up for sale on eBay. By Friday afternoon bidding had reached £169,000. I regularly express my amazement at what people will pay for haute couture. Comments along the lines of, "What? I would expect a whole wardrobe for that!" have been heard to escape my lips. But at least those are proper garments. This is a collection of rubber bands looped together. How uncomfortable must that be?! I don't suppose anyone will ever wear it. It'll probably become a museum piece eventually. Life is strange. 

Children in Bolton were featured in their local newspaper when they made a huge loom band bracelet that went around the whole school. They're not the first though. Our grandchildren reported two girls at their school doing that. It's just that no-one told the newspapers. 

I wonder if you could make a flotation device out of loom bands. Over in Italy they are working at re-floating the Costa Concordia, the cruise liner that sailed too close to the rocks and went down. Last year a salvage team managed to get it upright but they are afraid that it might break apart when lifted from the metal platform that has been supporting it. Surely no-one will ever really want to sail in it again, even if they get it back in working order. It must be haunted! 

Last night we watched the final of the World Cup. The German and Argentinean teams ran up and down the football pitch, working very hard and trying their best but not managing to score any goals until Germany finally managed one in extra time. The tension was evident in the bar where we watched it. People groaned each time a goal was saved. One elderly chap was accompanied by his daughter who clearly didn't want to be there. She paced up and down the length of the bar muttering for most of the match. Then she made the old chap leave before they played extra time, so he never got to see Germany's victory after all. 

Meanwhile, in France, the yellow jersey has been worn today by a Frenchman, Tony Gallopin. As today is Bastille Day, the French must be very happy about this. Richie Porte and Alberto Contador are still contenders, in 5th and 9th place respectively at the end of yesterday. 

Everything to play for. That's what I wrote this morning but I've just read that Contador has had a bad fall today and has pulled out of the Tour de France. 

Spain is seriously not having a good year for sport - Nadal failed at Wimbledon, la selección failed in Brazil and now the little madrileño is out. What else can happen?