Friday, 16 March 2018

Things I have found out recently!

According to my Spanish niece, here in Andalucía there is a relationship between the price of beer and the likelihood of your receiving free tapas. The more expensive the caña the less likely you are to get a freebie. Also according to my Spanish niece and her boyfriend it is far less common here than in Galicia for free food to arrive with your drink. They only know this from word of mouth and from stuff they have read and I do not have sufficient experience of bars around here to comment.

We went walkabout yesterday and stopped for coffee and homemade cake near the castle of El Puerto de Santa María, complete with stork’s nest on the tower. Photos will appear at some time soon, but maybe not until I return to England and have access to the computer. Unless, of course, I suddenly discover how to do it on my iPad.

When I first went to Galicia, lots of people went to great lengths to explain to me about “galerías”, the enclosed mini-balconies on the old traditional buildings. These act as insulation, keeping the building cool in summer and warm in winter. They always maintained this was a Galician specialty. Guess what? They have them on old buildings here as well. Once again, photos will appear at so e time in the near future.

This morning we woke to thunderstorms and a deluge. By 10.30 the sky was reasonably clear. We are going to eat out near the beach so we hope the clear skies will remain. Umbrellas in our handbags however.

Here is some odd stuff I found about certain English expressions:-

“They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken & Sold to the tannery.......if you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor" 

But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot......they "didn't have a pot to piss in" & were the lowest of the low The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be.

Here are some facts about the 1500s: Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.. However, since they were starting to smell . ...... . Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting Married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof... Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "Dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat. 

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would Sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.”

Isn’t language interesting!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Trials and tribulations of reuniting sisters!

So here I am, back in Spain, in Andalucía this time. My older sister and I are visiting our younger sister. It’s the first time in a good while that the three sisters have been together. My daughter did suggest that the three of us should all sleep,in the same bedroom, recapturing our childhood! Fortunately there is no room large enough for three beds.

The journey was interesting to say the least. First there was my older sister not having understood that meeting at departures in Manchester airport meant before not after going through security. Consequently I was waiting for her and not getting through to her phone because she was already in the security queue and being yelled at to switch her phone off!!

We got that sorted and eventually met and found our way to the gate and then onto the plane, headed for Gibraltar. It’s the first time I have flown to Gibraltar.

Except that in the event I didn’t fly to Gibraltar.

We set off from a windy Manchester and the pilot did his usual talk about how nice it was to welcome us onto this EasyJet flight and so on and so forth. He went on, as usual, to talk about weather conditions in Gibraltar: windy, just on the edge of acceptable for landing there.

And then he told us about a rockfall on El Peñón in the last few days, a rockfall which had knocked out the radar system. This meant he would have to land on visuals, provided visibility was good enough. Which it was at that point but he would monitor the situation.

We continued on our rather bumpy way, the pilot explaining to us that the jet stream was really strong and he would have to fly above it if possible. On and off went to the fasten-seat-belts signs throughout the flight. You had to choose your moment to go for a pee!

Then he announced that there was a possibility of our being diverted to Malaga. Oops! But better a diversion than falling off the end of Gibraltar’s runway.

And so, forty minutes before our due landing time, he confirmed, Malaga it was. By now our niece would be on her way to meet us at Gibraltar. How annoying! But they did promise to provide us with transport to The Rock.

Once landed in Malaga, we had to sit on the plane a while until they had sorted some things with the ground crew. But now we were able to send messages to our driver, expecting to be in Gibraltar within a couple of hours.

What false expectations!

We finally got off the plane and stood around in baggage reclaim waiting for further information. Some three quarters of an hour later we all traipsed, in a gloomy kind of procession, into the bowels of the airport, where buses were supposedly waiting for us. Except that not enough buses were waiting. We were unfortunately at the tail end of the gloomy procession. Our bus went to the wrong bit of the underground bus park!

And at long last, after standing around for another two hours, we got onto a bus and made our way to Gibraltar!

And so several hours later than intended the three sisters got together to spend another hour or two reminiscing! Such is my life!

Monday, 12 March 2018

Bouncing back!

Yesterday I got myself up and ready to go for a run. I was halfway out of the door when I realised that I had not picked up my keys. So I popped back in, grabbed them from my handbag, stuffed them in the pocket of my bumbag and off I went.

En route I stopped to have a chat with Mike the dog-walker. That’s Mike who might also be Patrick or even possibly Dave, depending on who you talk to. I suspect, from things he has said about this Roman Catholic education, that he was probably christened Michael Patrick. Where the Dave comes from I have no idea. He had a little rant about obesity and doctors being unwilling to discuss it with their patients for fear of hurting their feelings!!!

Leaving Michael/Patrick/Dave behind, I continued on my way, past the snow drifts that still adorn the roadside, and into the Co-op store to buy the newspaper.

When I arrived home I fished my keys out of my bumbag pocket ... only to find that they were the keys to the flat in Vigo. I was sure I had put those away in a safe place already. Obviously not! So there I was, on the doorstep, without the correct keys. I rang the doorbell. No answer! I hammered on the door. No answer! I rang the landline! No answer and eventually on to messages! I rang Phil’s mobile. Straight to messages but it does that every time and I rang again to make it ring, which is one of the quirks of his mobile. Still no answer! This is what I expected, which is why I usually try to remember the keys. Phil claims to be a poor sleeper but he must sleep more deeply than he thinks because he never hears the phone or the doorbell. Of course, wearing earplugs to sleep in does not help. Eventually, after I had almost worn my fists out banging on the door, he came apologetically to my rescue. So it goes!

Later in the day the gang - our daughter and family - came to eat. I always enjoy a family meal. However, I have been reading more and more about what they term “boomerang children”. These are the offspring who leave home, most often in the UK to go and study at a fairly distant university, sometimes finding a job and establishing themselves in a place of their own, and then come bouncing back.

It’s one of the consequences of the cost of renting accommodation and the difficulty of saving up sufficient money to put down a deposit on a house or flat to buy. Another factor is the difficulty graduates have in finding a job that matches their newly acquired qualifications. So, having had a taste of freedom and independence, they have to return home to the parental home, not quite tail between their legs but feeling a bit miffed at not having got away permanently. After all, that is what most of our generation did: we went off to university, got a job and got on with our lives, returning to Mum and Dad for brief visits. Gaining your independence without tears! It was a good system! Our two followed something like the same trajectory, although our daughter did it in a rather roundabout manner.

The trouble with the boomerang children, it seems, is not only that the offspring feel that they have failed to some extent but also that the parents have got used to, and rather resent losing, their own newfound independence. Most have not gone as far as turning the offspring’s bedroom into a gym or office, or in some cases moving house, downsizing because they no longer needed the extra room. However, a large proportion of us/them have got used to being able to do whatever we/they like without taking the offspring into account. And suddenly the offspring are back, and the grocery bills go up, the washing machine gets more use once again and you have to bite your tongue not to complain about mess.

Problems of modern living! But then maybe the parents, who will live longer and longer according to all the theories, can eventually do a sort of reverse boomerang and go and live in their dotage with their offspring. Good grief! That generation could end up with boomerang children AND boomerang parents!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Another Mother’s Day!

Happy Mothers’ Day! There it is! Another ... Day!

When I was a child it was called Mothering Sunday, or at least that was the case where I was brought up. You went to Sunday School in the morning and you went home with a card for your mum. Card shops, which in any case didn’t exist in their current huge card-emporia form, didn’t sell special cards. And in primary school you didn’t make a special card to take home. So teachers didn’t have to worry about the possibility of children who for one reason or another didn’t live with mum. I don’t think it occurred to our Sunday School that such a thing might be possible.

Neither was so much fuss made about it that childless women felt the need to avoid any mention of it. Here is a link to an article about older mums and those who opt to be childless, or often nowadays don’t opt but find it happening anyway.

When I was a child, back when I brought my Mothering Sunday card home from Sunday School (Good grief! She must have received four identical cards before the older two of us moved on to other things!) we were given an explanation for Mothering Sunday. Girls who were in service, maids and cooks and cleaners for the gentry, had that one Sunday free - free to go home and visit their mothers. So on their day off they cleaned and cooked and generally helped out at home instead of in the “big house”. If that is true, then Mothers’s Day is not quite the celebration of motherhood that it has become today.

As far as I know Frida Kahlo, subject of yesterday’s post, had no children. It is unlikely, I suppose, that after childhood polio and her horrible accident in her late teens that she was actually able to have children. But the Barbie Doll people have made her part of their “Inspiring women” series of dolls. Here is a link to a picture of the doll, which you can acquire for $29.99.

However the doll has become the subject of a dispute. Frida Kahlo’s great niece claims the the toymaker Mattel does not have the rights to use the artist’s image. She doesn’t want money or any sort of compensation but she wants them to redesign the doll. Apparently it doesn’t reflect Kahlo’s heavy, nearly conjoined eyebrows, and its costume doesn’t accurately portray the elaborate Tehuana-style dresses the artist wore.

But the Mattel company said in a statement that it worked with the Panama-based Frida Kahlo Corp, “which owns all the rights”. “The Frida Kahlo Corporation actively participated in the process of designing the doll, Mattel has its permission and a legal contract that grants it the rights to make a doll of the great Frida Kahlo,” the company’s statement said.

Oh, dear! A bit of a legal wrangle going on! It’s rather ironic that Frida Kahlo, a communist, should be portrayed by a company from the consumer society! So it goes.

Now, just recently I came across a series of books for children, each one based on the lives strong women - suffragettes, adventurers, artists. One of these was Frida Kahlo. I wonder if her great niece has seen these and if she approves of the image of her great aunt!

Saturday, 10 March 2018


I have just been to our local Tesco to replenish stocks.

I walked there, to the undoubted delight of my Fitbit which will be able to congratulate me on the humber of steps I have taken (14,042 so far today) and the distance I have covered (10.9 kilometres). It sends me messages telling me I am an over-achiever - so many steps over my daily target most days. Then it invites me to set myself a higher target. I think about it, briefly and not very seriously, because if I were to do that it might have to start to admonish me for not meeting my daily target. So I just stay with the status quo.

David Sidaris, who occasionally does very wryly funny talks on the radio about his life experiences, once described his experience with a Fitbit. He began modestly with a target 10,000 steps a day. Quickly he upgraded his target to 20,000 and easily made the grade. He walked around his village, picking up litter as he went, simultaneously meeting a different, more ecological, target. He moved through 30,000, 40,000 and rambled further and further afield. The higher his target, the more obsessive he became about it. He had to meet his target and, no doubt, receive the Fitbit badges saying what an achiever he was. It was taking up more and more of his day. There was little time left to do anything else. His partner was complaining; this was worse than if David were having an affair.

He had got up to a target of 60,000 daily steps, possibly more, and had not found a way out of his dilemma, when his Fitbit broke. He did not replace it!

Such are the perils of letting an amusing little gadget tell you what to do!
It was a pleasant walk to the supermarket. The weather was mild, almost springlike. I followed the bus route for part of the way, planning to hop on one if it came along, None did so I went off road and followed the towpaths and bridle paths the rest of the way.

The supermarket shelves were strangely bare. Empty spaces with the notice “temporarily out of stock” abounded on the fruit and vegetable shelves. Even the fish counter was sadly depleted and I am usually quite impressed.

What was going on?

I know that there has been deep snow around here and for at least one day the Co-op store in the village closed because it simply ran out of stuff to sell and the shop assistants who lived outside the village could not get in. And I am aware that there is still snow lying in places: big, dirty mounds at the side of some roads, pushed into drifts there by snow ploughs when the weather was really bad, and cleaner mounds in the fields, blown into drifts against the stone walls. All very picturesque! But the roads have been clear for days, or so I am told.

So why have Tesco’s supply lorries not restocked the shelves?

Did they not realise I was due back and would be food-shopping today? It’s not good enough!

While I scanned the vegetable shelves to see just what was available, one of the shop assistants, also scanning the shelves, turned to me, pointed to the parsnips, of which there were perhaps a dozen scrawny specimens remaining and asked me if they were turnips. I put her wise. So she asked me if the store had any turnips. What did a turnip look like, she wanted to know. No, I told her, there were no turnips on the shelves. I described a turnip. She looked puzzled. Then I spotted one of the things I was looking for, a pre-packed ‘stew veg’ pack containing an onion, some carrots and parsnips, a swede, but no turnip. I introduced her to the swede, which has a vague similarity to a turnip, although you could never really confuse the two. “oh”, she said, “and we definitely have no turnips?” Once more I had to disappoint her! As we separated she thanked me for my help.

Minutes later - not even long enough in time for me to have moved far with my trolley - I overheard another customer asking another assistant whether they had any packs of “stew veg”. The young man gave her a blank stare. She explained what she was looking for. He still looked blank. So I held up my purchase and said that this was probably what she was looking for. The customer’s eyes lit up (Saturday shoppers in a depleted store are easy to please) until I revealed that I had taken the last off the shelf (shoppers are also easily disappointed). Still looking blank, the young man told her they only had what was on the shelves, confirming my belief that replenishments have been slow to arrive!

But what is it with the young shop assistants who cannot recognise vegetables? Did nobody ever read them children’s story books about enormous turnips?

I should perhaps apply for a job in customer service!

It had started raining, just like Galicia, when I came out of the supermarket. Consequently I caught the bus back!

Friday, 9 March 2018

Women having their day. And hugging!

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. There were demonstrations in Vigo centre. lots of women with flags.

Almost every day is international something or other day.

The V & A in London is holding an exhibition of the belongings of Frida Kahlo, often held up as an example of a successful woman artist. Which of course she was, with her own style and exhibitions of her work all over the place. And yet I always have a sneaky suspicion of her not being quite so famous as her husband (later not her husband and then her husband again) Diego Rivera.

Her belongings - clothes, jewellery, makeup and her prosthetic leg - were sealed up in her house, the Blue House, for more than fifty years. This is the first time they are being seen outside of Mexico. After Frida Kahlo died in 1954, aged 47, Rivera locked up her belongings in a room and said it should not be opened until after his death. That in itself says something about his control over her. A sign of the times, I suppose.

In the event, it was not opened until 2004.

The thing is that Frida Kahlo herself was a work of art. She was injured in a near fatal bus crash and suffered great pain throughout her life. But she covered it all with her own distinctive style of dressing. Even her prosthetic leg was clad in a red leather boot. You have to admire the little woman. Many would just have given up!

 Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up will be at the V&A from 16 June to 4 November. I must try to get there! I wonder if TheresaMay will go. After all, she has the bracelet!

Here’s something else. I read yesterday about doctors in the UK being warned not to hug patients, even when trying to comfort them as they give them bad news, because it may lead to legal action later!!!

I find it really strange. If you walk around the streets and see young people meeting, they hug each other far more than previous generations ever did. Girls in particular squeal their greetings and hug each other as if they had not met for years. But boys are not immune to this social contact thing. I can remember my brother being averse to hugging or kissing anyone, even family, for years after someone told him that only sissies kiss people. It all changed when he discovered girls but he was never a great hugger within the family. But now they all make physical contact on greeting.

So on the one hand we have young people hugging all over the show and on the other doctors being warned not to offer physical comfort to patients. And then there are the teachers, who are advised not to hug their pupils. Keep everyone at professional arm’s length! But now the mental health professionals are blaming many of the mental health problems of the modern age on precisely that lack of physical contact. Here’s an article about it.

We have a big loneliness problem: half a million older people in the UK, I read, go at least five days a week without meeting or touching a soul. And it’s not just in the UK. A Spanish friend of mine spoke to me recently about the number of elderly people in Vigo who live alone and rarely see anyone. Centres are being set up in some countries for people to go and be hugged.

Ours is a strange world!

“We seem to have been creating a touch-averse world,” said one expert. “It’s time to recover the social power of touch.”

I think I’ll just keep on hugging family and friends!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Fines and justice!

Yesterday we went down into town to meet a friend and have some chipirones encebollados - baby squid served up with really tender onions - for lunch. We met in the bar La Porchaba, where they served such copious free tapas that when we moved on to the restaurant we opted to miss out the starter and go straight on to the main course.

How do bars and cafes make a profit when they give free food in such quantities? Three drinks and lots of food for less than the price of one glass of wine in the UK!

In the restaurant, the Rosalía Castro, near the port, the chipirones were slow to arrive but the wait was well worth it. Absolutely perfect!

 Later Phil went of a haircut, something he does almost every time we visit Vigo. He is greeted like an old friend by the rather aged barber and they swop opinions about this and that.he says he gets a better cut than he does at home in the UK.

While he was getting trimmed, I took a look at the paper. I discovered that a cyclist in Orense was recently fined €200 for having a flashing light on his bike. It seems that the Reglamento General de Vehículos states that bikes should have a fixed lamp front and back and reflectors on pedals and wheels. Well, none of the cyclists I see around here seem to have heard of that rule. Flashing LED lights are pretty standard bikes in the UK but here in Vigo no lights is the more common thing. I suspect that the police were doing a little revenue generating!

Incidentally, out and about yesterday and today I saw at least ten cars go through red lights. This morning a van stopped at a red light so that I could cross, with the little green man giving me permission. And then he set off and made his right turn, totally disregarding the light. The cars behind him obeyed the traffic lights. He was a white van driver, however, and they appear to have a different highway code to all other road users.

In my newspaper reading I came across an item about the Galician feminist writer Emilia Pardo Bazán. More specifically it was about her summer residence, lasTorres de Meirás. Here is a link to a youtube visit to the pazo.

After her death in 1921 and after the assassination of her son Jaime in 1936, the house was left to her daughter and to the widow of Jaime. They decided to donate the residence to the Jesuits, who in 1938, together with the right wing authorities of La Coruña, gave the llace to Franco as a summer residence. After that nobody from Pardo Bazán’s family was allowed in. A little unfair, all things considered!

In 2008 the pazo was declared a “bien de interés cultural”, a sort of National Trust property, despite the protestations of Franco’s heirs. In 2011, the doors opened to the public for the first time. And iw you can visit it on Fridays. However, the Franco heirs still use it in summer and try to prevent visits. They were fined in September lastvyear for failing to allow visits. Justice of sorts!

And finally, proving that every cloud has a silver lining, here I hope is a link to a newspaper report on Roman remains in Cádiz uncovered by the recent Storm Emma. Bits of an aqueduct and a roman road.

That sort of thing doesn’t often happen in Greater Manchester!