Sunday, 22 July 2018

Poolside, swimwear and stuff!

Timing is everything. I went down to the pool late morning today. Some people like to stay in the pool for two minutes and then get out and sunbathe. I prefer to swim a good distance. Swimming is good exercise - un ejercicio completo, as a Spanish friend said to me once. But swimming a good distance in our small pool involves doing circuits, which is easiest if you have the pool more or less to yourself.

And my timing was good because I had practically completed the number of circuits I had set myself before the swimming lessons -usually daddies with small children - and the watch-me-jump-in teenagers arrived. And suddenly there were plenty of both categories

Yesterday I had the place almost entirely to myself but then yesterday was mostly cloudy, albeit thin cloud with intervals of sunshine. I find the locals don’t use the pool much in such weather. Of course, they might all have gone to the beach.

Today, in contrast, was clear and sunny, forecast to remain so all day. And tomorrow as well. So lots more pool users. No barbecuers though. Maybe it has not been consistently sunny enough to promote barbecues!

My younger sister, the one I usually refer to as my Spanish sister, has been spending a few days with our older sister, my English sister, since we came back to Galicia. Just as she did at my house, she has been hunting for old photos of our childhood at my English sister’s house. Today she messaged me a photo of me, herself and our brother standing on Southport beach, probably circa 1960, three quite scrawny kids on the sand with the sea remarkably close for Southport. Which might mean it was Ainsdale beach rather than Southport proper. My sister and I are wearing those odd elasticated swimsuits that girls wore back then.

No mini-bikinis that you see even on tiny girls these days. And certainly no suntanned buttocks on show! There were a number of those down at the pool this morning, not all of them terribly shapely either! I find it a strangely unflattering fashion in swimwear, a kind of thong affair exposing as much bottom to the sun’s rays as possible.

Once again I seem to growing grumpily intolerant!

Sitting in a bar yesterday evening, we heard a familiar theme tune from the television and realised it was Montalbano, the Italian detective series. When it is transmitted in the UK it is in Italian with English subtitles but it is rare for films and series to be transmitted in their original language here in Spain. Montalbano sounds all wrong in Spanish, and yet the voices sounded vaguely familiar, probably dubbed by the same team of actors who dub everything.

I read about people paying to socialise with Prime Minister Theresa May. Eighty-one Conservative Party donors, including Jacob Rees-Mogg’s business partner and the wife of a former senior minister to Vladimir Putin, have paid more than £7million, not individually I hope, for the privilege over the last year.

What an odd thing to do! I hope they were well fed or were served the best cocktails and wines. I suppose they could then dine out on the stories for years to come but personally I would pay not to have to be in the same room as that rather stiff lady.

 Chacun Ă  son gout!

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Some ramblings about stuff people put on Facebook.

Back in the days before we all had clever phones that send photos and stuff like that, we came to spend a year in Spain and my daughter signed me up to Facebook so that she could send me photos of the children. Coincidentally a friend of mine joined Facebook for a similar reason as a way of keeping track of her daughter who was spending a year in Guadeloupe and was rather unreliable about sending emails or making (probably rather expensive) phone calls.

Almost immediately I was on Facebook a host of old friends and former students, who all had my email, discovered me and friend-requested me. And so began a habit of observing the lives of people connected with me one way or another. But I do not tweet or twitter, I don’t have Instagram and I see no point in being Linked-in. Nor, despite the moans and groans of certain friends do I have Whatsapp.

However, Facebook has given me more regular correspondence with some old friends and allows me to laugh, usually in a gentle manner, at the oddness of some people’s lives.

A friend of mine, a former student, has been posting photos of her tiny daughter all dressed up to go to her nursery leaving party. Very pretty she looked too. I am rather surprised though it wasn’t called a prom! She followed it with photos of her graduation ceremony, complete with mortar board!!! And videos! Lots of tiny people wearing silly hats (but fortunately and very practically not wearing academic gowns!) scuttled across a makeshift stage to receive a leaving certificate.

All very American!

Our daughter posted a picture of the mountain of presents she received from her primary school class for the ending of the school year. A nice gesture appreciation from the parents but such a HUGE amount of stuff. Lots of wine and chocolate. Mind you, she also gave each child a small gift, as she did at Christmas. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that she also gave them Easter eggs. She has a much larger bump of sentimentality than I do.

Of course, there is a large amount of commercialisation involved in this gift-giving. The kind of shops that specialise in cards and tat (sorry, gifts) for all occasions, have been advertising certain items as ideal gifts for teachers for the last few weeks.

A thank you card used to suffice!

Which brings me to something posted by the daughter of a friend of mine. It was a piece of “gorgeous art work” made of all the hearts cut out from the cards she and her husband received for their wedding. (“They’d only been sitting in a box in the loft for the last 3.5 years anyway! And we kept the messages so can still treasure what people said to us 😊”, she said.) No, she did not make it herself. She found a local crafts business person who will make such a piece of work from any set of cards you sentimentally want to display: baby-congrats cards, christening cards, significant-birthday cards, retirement cards - you name it, there will be cards to celebrate it!

Full marks to the enterprising person making money out of people’s sentimentality but how much more satisfying to make the collage and frame it yourself!

Oh dear! My inner grump appears to have surfaced!

Friday, 20 July 2018

Counterfeit life!

Down near the port here in Vigo you see once again groups of Africans selling sun hats, useful for people off on a boat trip to the Islas CĂ­es, having forgotten to pack something to protect their head. They also sell replica handbags, copies of expensive brand name goods.

We saw them first, I think, in Venice years ago. There they were referred to as the “vu compra”, a garbled version kf the Italian for “do you want to buy?”. They displayed their wares on a blanket so that they could pick up the four corners and convert it into a holdall and do a runner if the police appeared.

Here they seem to be quietly tolerated, although they did disappear for a while.

I read yesterday that the British fashion label Burberry destroyed more than £28m worth of its fashion and cosmetic products over the past year to guard against counterfeiting. Such counterfeiting as the products sold by the Africans down at the port! Burberry’s annual report said that they burned £28.6 million worth of products.

Apparently it’s a common practice across the retail industry. They claim that this measure is “needed” to protect intellectual property, whatever that means, and to prevent illegal counterfeiting by ensuring the supply chain remains intact.

Burberry said that they for the burning of their products only worked with specialist companies able to harness the energy from the process in order to make it environmentally friendly. How very reassuring!

What a prodigious waste of resources! I wonder of it has occurred to anyone that they Re producing too much stuff. Or that if they brought the prices down more might be sold and there would be less waste.

They sell men’s polo shirts for up to £250 and their famous trench coats go for a silly £1,500. Even Burberry shareholders questioned why the unsold products were not offered to private investors.

This is a completely different way of living to what ordinary people experience!

Maybe the big fashion brands CEO’s convince themselves that their version of the truth is the correct one, rather like a certain American president who last week said in an interview recorded in Scotland: “Don’t forget both of my parents were born in EU sectors – my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany.” It seems his mother, Mary MacLeod, was indeed born in Scotland, on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. But his father, Fred Trump, was born in New York City, in the United States of America. Not Germany.

Fudging origins may well be a family trait. Fred’s father, Friedrich, was born in Germany, but when Fred took over the family real estate business he apparently used to maintain he was from Sweden. This was in order to be more “palatable” to Jewish tenants!

A little lie to make life, and money making, easier.

How the other half live!

Then there is the thing about repeating a lie often enough so that it becomes a version of the truth. And sometimes even when the lie is brought out into the open, as with the cheating that they Brexiteers were involved in, it seems to be too late to do anything about it. And people accept a fait accompli.

What a topsy-turvy world we live in!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Getting back in the old routine!

Here we are, back on Vigo.

We appear to have left the continuing summer behind us in Manchester. Okay, we did have some late night rain there on Monday, I think it was, but not a lot to speak of. We landed in a cloudy Porto. Not quite so cloudy as we left it but still rather dull.

Oddly enough, considering that we flew from Manchester, a cockney family sat behind us on the plane, with occasional forays to see other members of the family closer to the front of the plane. They had with them a whiney toddler who protested loudly about putting on his seatbelt. I was tempted to ask if he made the same fuss about being fastened into his child seat in the car, but I managed to restrain myself.

They were on their way to Nana’s house on Portugal. I could not help overhearing the loud conversation about what the house was like, who would have which bedroom, what the garden was like, whether there would be a bit more life in the village now that summer was here, would they be able to make sandcastles, what else could they do and so on and so on and so on.

And as we came down through thick cloud to land I heard one of them ask, “Does it look sunny?” Which but of descending through cloud di she not understand? Ah well, so it goes.

The AUTNA bus from the airport to Vigo arrived on time. The driver insisted that those with “tickets internet”, which included us, should be allowed to get on first. We watched the usual scramble as first time users tried to find non-existent seat numbers. And off we went.

And we arrived at Valença where we all had to get off and wait for a replacement bus as apparently one of the wheels had punctured. Once again, so it goes!

The last week to ten days has been rather hectic. We arrived home late on Monday the 9th. Tuesday I scuttled around making sure beds were changed for soon to be arriving visitors and that food was bought.

On Wednesday I went to catch a bus so that I could catch a tram to the airport to meet my sister who was flying in from AndalucĂ­a. I watched the bus approach the crossroads and, instead of coming across the crossroads and into the village to turn around before heading for Oldham, simply turn left, cutting out the village circuit altogether.I was a bit cross! But eventually I made it to the airport and met my sister.

Thursday I took her for a long walk and made her cross the river on the stepping stones! She has not done such daring things for a while! I compensated for this by having a picnic in the park and a rather nice ice cream.

Friday we set off together for London, the main purpose of her visit, and for my return to the UK being so that we could celebrate my son”s birthday by going to a concert in Hyde Park.

His birthday celebrations have gone on and on, it seems. On the weekend of then birthday he was given tickets through colleagues at work to go to Hyde Park and see The Cure. Then on the following Wednesday, the day of my sister’s arrival, he and three friends, the original four who went through university sharing lodgings, went to see Pearl Jam, a group I only know by name, at the Madrid Cool festival. Madrid, he told us, was only slightly hotter than London.

He returned home the day after my sister and I arrived at his house and on the Sunday we all went off and danced barefoot in the park to the songs of Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and Paul Simon.

We ate our evening meals in the relative cool of the evening in my son’s garden, watching red kites float around on thermals. Sipping white wine in the late evening is no bad way to spend your time! This was not actually London but Buckinghamshire - close enough for Northerners to continue referring to it as London!

Even when my sister and I returned from London, we continued the rather hectic life style, going out on family outings with my daughter and her crowd, including an evening meal for eight and a half (the toddler) in a local Italian restaurant.

Consequently, for the last week and a bit everything has been neglected: my fitness routine (although dancing in the park might count), my normal eating patterns, keeping up with the news and this blog. Too much fun and games and reminiscing over old photographs. All activity has been haywire!

But yesterday I shipped my sister off to stay a few days with our older sister before she, the younger one, flies back to AndalucĂ­a.

And today we returned to Vigo. There is not quite so much sea mist around the A GuĂ­a promontory as when we left but the local dogs are still barking noisily.

Normal service will perhaps be resumed!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

This and that - a bit about POTUS and educational stuff.

It sounds as though POTUS is having a good visit. There are reports of him walking in front of the queen, photos of him taking Theresa May by the hand once again and this morning I read that he has advised the Prime Minister that she should sue the EU instead of negotiating! There you go!

Here’s another Trump fact: “The Washington Post calculated that Donald Trump made 2,140 false or misleading claims during his first year of office, an average of 4.9 a day.”

Maybe he should go back to school! We have all been annoyed at times by the crowds of cars blocking the way at school start and finish times. Now people are growing concerned about the air pollution caused by all these cars and the impact on the health of the schoolchildren. And so local authorities, or at least certain schools, are taking steps to cut down the congestion outside school gates. These include closing roads, setting up “park and stride” schemes, walk-to-school initiatives and “playing dead” protests.

Kathryn Shaw, of a charity called Living Streets, said “When parents drive up to the school gates, it’s not just their children they’re dropping off for the day. The toxic fumes from the cars stay too. A lot of parents don’t want to drive all the way but feel there is no other option.”

Jolly good!

Our primary school children have to learn a whole lot of stuff that I don’t think had been invented when we were are school. Okay, I exaggerate but I am not sure that being able to identify dangling participles and the passive voice is an essential skill at primary level.

Here is a collection of jokes about all these linguistic points:-

 “A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.

 A bar was walked into by the passive voice.

An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.

 Two quotation marks walk into a “bar.”

 A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite. 

Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.

A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.

Papyrus and Comic Sans walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Get out -- we don't serve your type." 

A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.

Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They converse. They depart.

 At the end of the day, a clichĂ© walks into a bar -- fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.

 A figure of speech literally walks into a bar and ends up getting figuratively hammered.

 An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.

 The subjunctive would have walked into a bar, had it only known.

 A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned a man with a glass eye named Ralph.

 The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.

 A dyslexic walks into a bra.

 A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.

 An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television getting drunk and smoking cigars.

 A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.

 A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget. 

A hyphenated word and a non-hyphenated word walk into a bar and the bartender nearly chokes on the irony.”

 I can’t take credit for these, but the malapropism is my favorite.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Travel, aunshine, role models for girls!

Well, my sister and I travelled to London yesterday, managing to avoid anti-Trump protesters. We were mildly chastised by a lady for talking too loudly in the quiet coach. Nobody accused me of talking too loudly before. I am fairly sure we were not being loud and rowdy but maybe the lady in question had sensitive hearing. Maybe she was over-tired. She did put her head down and go to sleep before we got too far into the journey. But we spoke in whispers after that, just in case.

We caught a train on the Metropolitan line to Chesham. When we arrived there we saw young women with placards, obviously fresh from a protest. And apparently Trump flew over Chesham in his helicopter but we didn’t see him.

We left rain behind in Manchester, or rather in Oldham for by the time we arrived in Manchester it was all clearing up and we were able to pack our raincoats away.

And the sun was shining in London.

And in Chesham, where we stood in the garden and marvelled at six or eight red kites flying around, drifting on thermals and letting out raucous cries. Later we sat out eating chicken salad and sipping wine late into the evening.

The sun was shining again this morning, so walked into the town centre to have breakfast. Then we strolled round the market and popped into Waterstone’s bookshop. There we saw one author, an adults’ author, being interviewed for local radio and children’s author doing book signings.he turned out to be the father of a small girl who goes to pre-school with our granddaughter. So we were invited to sit and listen to a reading of the book, “Space Bugs and Selfies”, a story intended to remind little girls to be their OWN selves and not give in to the pressure to conform to looking pretty and feminine all the time.

He explained that he wrote the story after a six-year-old girl of their acquaintance coming home from school in tears, having been told by her classmates that her thighs were too fat! At the age of six! There are lots of books for older girls aimed at encouraging them to recognise their own self worth but he felt that there was a need for something for even younger girls. So there it is! A gap in the market has been plugged!

And I bought a copy so that my daughter can use it with her primary school class and with her own small girl.

 An interesting morning!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Turning things around!

In the spirit of the #MeToo times the organisers at Pamplona have taken steps to prevent female harassment during the bull running. I suppose it’s almost inevitable that such a very macho event would attract some male chauvinist pigs but it seems that in the last few years the male chauvinist pigs have been more daring than usual. Or else the women have felt less willing to put up with it and more willing to complain.

One of the organisers said, “We’ve got a series of measures and barriers that mean people won’t be able to get through. We’ve also come up with a very simple app. If someone’s suffered an assault, they press a button on their phone, their location comes up on the screen at police headquarters, and a patrol is dispatched.” A second button on the app allows anyone to report an assault, whether as victim or witness, while a third lets the user choose someone from their address book to track their journey home on a map to ensure they arrive safely.”

Such are the wonders of modern technology. As the spokesman said, “Women should be able to have fun, to laugh, to drink, to dance and to walk wherever we want – whether alone or with others – so that we can exercise our right to enjoy the festival however we want and without fear of being attacked because of it.”

I would not choose to get my fun by watching a load of bulls run down a street, much less by running with them, but that’s just my personal point of view. Each to their own!

Yesterday we spent the morning running around deciding what to take with us on a quick trip back to the UK. Hopefully the summer which has finally got going will still be around when we come back in about ten days time. I overheard someone at the pool commenting that summer had kept us waiting this year - “Nos hizo esperar”. It must have gone off on its holidays to the UK, where it is forecast to continue for a while yet. We have brought our waterproof in our suitcases as an insurance policy however. Failing to take them is a sure way to make it rain.

The weather was odd yesterday, in a very Vigo manner. Up on the heights of Calle AragĂłn the sun was shining and the heat was building up throughout the morning. Looking down from our flat though the estuary was shrouded in the mist that rolled in from the sea overnight. It’s more like very low cloud that mist. At midday it has still not shifted. You could hear the boats hooting mournfully. Down at port level they must not have been able to see anything much at all.

Bits of localised strangeness! Maybe!

We walked to the bus station and caught the bus to Porto airport. All the way we saw accumulations of low cloud in the valleys.

By the time we reached the airport the mist was fairly solid.

By the time we got on our plane, at about 7.30 pm there were mutterings about fog. People were getting extra layers of clothing out of their suitcases. And we sat on the plane, and sat and sat. They went through the safety procedure stuff - seat belt, life jacket, emergency oxygen - and still we sat.

Eventually the pilot told us that because of the deteriorating weather conditions the flight controllers were only allowing one plane to taxi down the runway at a time. So finally we set off about twenty minutes late.

We arrived in Porto in early June to damp and gloomy conditions and we left it in a similar state. 

Today, after a cool and cloudy start, the summer continues in Saddleworth - blue sky and sunshine! We blame the jet stream!