Tuesday, 2 September 2014

September thoughts!

Suddenly we are almost at the end of our summer. It's September already. You might not think so if you looked at the blue sky and felt the heat bouncing off the walls out in the street. Nonetheless, September it is. As it said on the t-shirt of someone I saw in Pontevedra during our chess extravagance, "Winter is coming". Actually, I think that is going a little too far but that's the way of slogans. But, indeed, suddenly we are running around tying up loose ends here before we head back to the UK. 

One of those loose ends was paying our rent. Because of the difficulties, still unresolved, that we had opening a bank account here, we pay a couple of months rent in advance in cash. (I sometimes wonder if our paying the rent in cash means that the landlady avoids paying taxes and that we are part of the black economy!! Heaven forbid!!) This means that for a few days before payment I run round like a scalded cat visiting cash machines every day and hoarding euros under the bed. 

I was reminded of this when I read in the newspaper yesterday that there are almost €1.7 billion worth of pesetas still kicking around somewhere in the country. Is it really 12 years since Spain converted to the euro? It seems barely believable. I remember being in Mallorca not long before they changed and having a conversation with a number if people who were panicked at the idea of adjusting to a new system. 

They probably needn't have worried. In some places, prices are still given in pesetas as well as euros even now. I wonder how they work out what the modern value of the peseta is. 

I am constantly hearing that life is more expensive under the euro. That may well be so. I am sure that some prices were "rounded up" and even quite substantially so. Mind you, I could also say that life is generally more expensive than it was twelve years ago. So what does that prove? 

In any case, it seems that there are a lot of pesetas around. Some might well be under people's beds. Some will have been stashed away by coin collectors. Others will probably have been lost down long-since destroyed items of furniture and possible been destroyed. There is a theory that quite a lot have left the country in the pockets of tourists, never to return. 

I have the odd duro (5 peseta coin) kicking around but not enough to make my fortune. For those who have huge reserves of pesetas tucked away under the mattress, you have until 2020 to take it to the central bank and cash it in. Get a move on! 

On the subject of currency, what will happen if Scotland votes to go independent. Will they keep the pound? Will the Scottish pound be of different value? Will they be able to spend Scottish pounds across the border? Such a lot of questions! 

The journalist/economist Paul Mason reckons that it is unlikely that Scotland will vote for independence but ... He writes, 

"It probably won't happen. But few south of the border realise how volatile the outcome is. Yes, the polls reflect bookie William Hill's confidence that there's just a one in five chance of a majority for independence – but the variables are bigger than for most political events. If, on the morning of 19 September, we wake up and that 4/1 horse of independence has come in, the levels of shock in official circles will be extreme. The Conservatives will have presided over the break-up of the Union. Even compared with handing Zimbabwe to Zanu-PF, and Hong Kong to the Chinese Communist party, that will be a major psychological moment. 

Even more traumatised will be Labour. The prospect of a majority Labour government at Westminster after 2016 will be remote. The party in Scotland will likely go into meltdown, with a Podemos-style left emerging among the pro-independence Lbour camp, the Greens and the progressives around groups like Common Weal." 

So this is part of the excitement that September holds in store for us!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Budget options!

As I travelled on the bus towards Samil yesterday, at the further end of Travesía de Vigo I spotted a hairdressers with the same name as the one I usually go to here in Vigo. I know this is a chain. They have salons all over the city. This particular one was slightly different. 

Usually the salons portray themselves as being quite smart, perhaps even a little upmarket. This despite the fact that it costs me less than half what it costs in Manchester to have my hair done. And they are clearly cost-conscious. for example, when the stylist asked if I wanted the regular shampoo and conditioner treatment or one with a fancy name, she took pains to point out that the fancily-named one, which she would recommend, would cost me €2 more. A whole €2!!! I did a rapid calculation and decided that my budget could run to that. 

Besides I was curious to see what this fancy-named treatment would consist of. In the event, the shampoo and conditioner bit was much the same as usual. I can't imagine how you could make that very different. However, after that the stylist combed some gunk (which didn't look radically different from conditioner even though she called it a mask) through my hair and then put me under a kind of hood which blew steam all around my head. All this is the name of glossy hair! 

Anyway, back to the one I spotted on Travesía de Vigo. It was obviously the same chain as it had the identical logo. But the main salon sign was bright orange and it had a kind of luggage label image printed on, which said LOW COST!! I have noticed before now that some budget places use bright orange on their signs and notices. Could this be in flattering imitation of a certain budget airline? Hmmm, I wonder!! 

Talking of budget airlines, we have just printed our boarding cards for our flight to the UK at the end of the week. It offered "options" to call up the reservation: passport number or reservation number. Passport numbers (correctly entered this time) were more easily available so we went for that option. Whereupon they told us we had not completed all the obligatory fields. They needed the reservation number as well. So we had to go back into email to find it. Now, option means choice. Or at least, it always used to. "Options" shouldn't mean a list of stuff you have to do. In the end though, job done, boarding cards printed! 

Phil gets regular information from various sites regarding prices of flights. Over the last few days he has been getting updates on the price of the flight we decided not to opt for next Sunday on the grounds that it was already more expensive than we like to pay. It crept up to £170 and then, the other day, it flagged up £200+. 

That is no longer BUDGET! 

Budget, however, is what is offered by a small fruit shop I popped into on Avenida Castrelos yesterday on my way home from Samil I bought two oranges, half a dozen plums and half a dozen strange flat nectarines, like Paraguayans but in the nectarine family, all for the grand total of €1.30. Less than the fancy treatment for my hair! 

Yesterday I commented that the chess players might have a hot and sticky journey to Rianxo, a carful of full grown men. In the event, the ride was probably the best part. The venue was a sports hall, never the coolest of places on a sunny day, without air conditioning. There were several junior competitions going on in the same hall, starting and finishing at different times. Then there was the simple volume of entry for Phil's event, bigger than anticipated. Net result: a late and disorganised start to the noisiest and hottest tournament he says he has ever played in. And he didn't win even the veteran's prize. One of their number did return with a prize though. So all was not lost! 

When I read the newspapers online I occasionally glance at the collections of photos they have available on different themes. In La Voz de Galicia the other day they had an album of bridges of Galicia, bridges connecting Galicia to other parts of the Iberian Peninsula, such as the old railways bridge that crosses the Miño at Tui, and bridges that cross the various rías. 

One of those featured was the Rande bridge, which we see from our window. And a very fine view it is, I must say. From the album I learnt that the bridge is 1558 metres long. When it was opened in 1981 it was the longest bridge of its kind in the world (maybe it still is) and is the longest bridge in Spain. There you go. Always something new to learn. 

I was amused by the picture selected to show a bridge connecting Galicia to Asturias, the Puente de los Santos which crosses the ría de Ribadeo. A fine bridge but the photo was obviously taken on the occasion of a road accident as there is a lorry tipped over on the bridge. Love it! 

You have to admire the style! Perhaps this is budget photojournalism.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Ongoing adventures

Never let it be said that this blogger came to Galicia and did not go to the beach! Well, actually, it has been known to happen. But not this time! Oh, no!! 

Phil was taken off by car this morning to a place called Rianxo, somewhere near Padrón (where the little green peppers come from) to play in a one day, quick play chess event? Had there been room in the car I might have gone with them but the vehicle was full. No room for a non-contender! I suspect they had a rather hot and squashy journey, especially those in the back seat. 

So, here I was, up and about early, shopping done, washing done and hung out to dry on the balcony. A whole day was spread out before me. So I went down to Travesía de Vigo and caught a C3 bus to Samil, Vigo's biggest (I think) beach. It was a rather long and tedious journey. A small boy was travelling with his mother and grandmother and kept informing them, and incidentally the whole bus, that he was going to the beach. "Vamos paya", he said again and again. Despite the correct version being repeated back to him, "Vamos a la playa", his diction never improved. Besides, his grandmother kept teasing him, telling him that they were going to Grandma's house: " Vamos a casa de yaya", causing some consternation. ("yaya" is short for "abuela", a bit like "gran" or "nana" or whatever abbreviation is accepted in your household.) 

Eventually we got there and small boy, mamá and yaya took the packet of biscuits they had been consuming all the way and headed off. I went in the opposite direction to them. The beach was fairly full but I have to say I have seen it fuller. Perhaps by the afternoon it was packed to the gills but by then I was long gone. 

I did that Spanish thing of walking along the tideline, getting my feet wet and coming away with sand sparkles on my toes. People were in the water. Sand castles were being built. Serious-faced small boys transported buckets of water to fill moats, unsuccessfully. My plan, after walking the line, was to walk back along the River Lagares as far as Castrelos Park and then catch another C3 bus back home. 

Before setting off, I stopped for a glass of water at a cafe, sitting myself down outside at an empty table. I had just ordered when a chap came out and said that I had taken his place. A case of, "I nip inside to the loo and lose my seat". Well, he left no indicator that he had deserved that table. I apologised. Anyway he sat down there across from me and proceeded to ignore me. OK. So I ignored him back. 

The place had wifi, so I was going to post a photo on Facebook. The waitress told me that the network was unprotected but it demanded a password and she never reappeared to tell me what it was so I abandoned that project, drank up, paid up and left. 

The walk back along the river really starts after the wetlands section, where the river meets the sea and there are some reedbeds, all signposted nicely in Galician. What they neglect to do is tell you that the track which is paved so well with fine grey stones is not in fact the river walk. It does indeed go along the river but only so far; it leads you to a barrier, beyond which is a major road without pavements. I know this because I followed that path and had to turn back to the point where there was a road-bridge over the river and a sandy path on the other side of the river. THAT is the river walk! 

In a few places there were little platforms overlooking the river, ideal for fishermen if it were not for the notices saying that fishing was forbidden. On one of these platforms I came across an old man doing some kind of Tai Chi exercises. Very good! 



It's quite a pleasant walk with some nice photo opportunities and some interesting graffiti. 

 





 Also it carries on nicely for quite some time until suddenly you are at Balaidos, home of Vigo's football team, Celta de Vigo. At that point the river walk sort of peters out. You make your way round behind the stadium along the road and the path tries to get going again but it never quite makes a good go of it. 

And then you are at Castrelos Park and effectively back in Vigo Proper. There was some kind of race going on in the park. Before I saw anything I could tell there was a sporting event because I could hear the commentator, droning away in that special tone used by sports reporters. I wonder if they have special training and need a certificate in sing-song speech before they are given a job. I never found out exactly what it was or who won, simply skirting my way round it and setting off for the bus stop on Gran Vía. 

At the stop the useful display told me that there was no C3 bus for 33 minutes. I started walking. A C3 bus passed me. 

Further up Gran Vía I stopped for a clara, spent some time fishing peanuts out of one of those bowls of mixed inedible, rock hard nuts they sometimes offer you. I was given a little tapa of pasta and tuna sauce as well, I hasten to add. Then I set off again, in time to see the next C3 bus sail past me. 

So I caught a 15A to the end of Pizarro and walked the rest of the way home along Calle Aragón. Another little adventure over!!

Friday, 29 August 2014

The Image is All.

In the hairdresser's this morning I caught up with the scandal magazines. I discovered which celebrities are looking really good in their bikinis only five or sixth months after giving birth to little what's-his-name! On the other hand, I also found out who has been letting themselves down and really shouldn't be showing off their cellulite down at the beach. A lot of bitching goes on down at the beach, or so it seems. 

 The holidays of the Spanish royal family gets a lot of coverage. No indiscreet pictures of Letizia in her swimwear. Lots of cute pictures of the little princesses, sometimes dressed identically and sometimes differently, which provoked comment. It is much more common here for siblings to be dressed the same. Outfits are sold in his and her versions so that you can have matching boys and girls. "Posh" kids' clothes (posh clothes, not clothes for posh kids but, on reflection, that might be the same thing) are generally much more traditional, not to say old fashioned, very formal. And little girls still often have big ribbon bows in their hair. When I have shown photos of our smallest granddaughter, six months old, I hear comments about how "modernita" she is. In other words she isn't dressed like a 1950s baby! 

One thing I read in the "prensa rosa" was about measures that King Felipe VI is taking to prevent scandal overtaking the royal family from the same angle as has happened with the Infanta Cristina and her husband. From now on the Royal Family is deemed to consist of King Felipe, Queen Letizia, the Infantas Leonor and Sofía and, of course, the retired (are they retired?) King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía. When or if the little princesses marry, their husbands will be part of the family but under certain conditions, of which more later. The Infantas Cristina and Elena are no longer officially members of the Royal Family, although the press still refers to them as "Infantas". I didn't realise you could be expelled from a family in that way. How very surprising! 

Of course, the big thing that goes along with this is that no member of the Royal Family will be allowed to work for a public company. So if the little princesses' future husbands want to continue working for some public company, then the princesses will have to leave the family. Of course, Leonor won't be able to do that as she is the Princesa de Asturias, heir to the throne. How complicated! Elena and Cristina, ex-members of the Royal Family will not represent the country and the throne any more unless requested to do so by the king and will receive no stipend. All of this, of course, still has to become law but that appears to be what is proposed. What a sensible back-covering King! 

And for now the press appears to have given up suggesting the Felipe and Letizia are on the verge of divorce. Instead they are expressing their concern at how thin Letizia is. 

It's all a matter of how you see things.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Some silly stories.

Last night we called in for a drink and use of internet at the "orgy" cafe. That is not its true name but ever since we accidentally found ourselves at a performance by a seriously unfunny, would-be sexy pair calling themselves "Orgía y Fantasía" that has been how we refer to it. 

It's really called Mid Century and its unique selling point is the excellent music from the mid 20th century that they play there. Added to that, the music is never too loud and although there is a TV screen it doesn't have a rolling programme of news that you can never quite hear. Neither does it have a series of too-loud pop music videos that are almost pornographic. If the screen is on, it usually has a bunch of people jiving or doing the twist or possible a performer from the same era a the music being played. Rarely, however, do the music being played and the onscreen display actually match up. But that doesn't seem to matter. And the decor is fresh and bright as well. 

The young lady who runs it usually dresses almost 1950s / 1960s style. Hair in a ginger pony tail, what she really needs to complete the look is to wear roller skates as they do in some American cafés. They would have to be roller skates, 1950s style, not the modern roller blades, even though I am told these are easier to use. 

Mid Century girl works hard to promote her cafe. As well as the rather odd "Orgía y Fantasía", to my knowledge she has put on concerts by local (I presume) groups and this weekend she has a Magic Workshop. So if you want to hone up your skills at putting a hex on someone or just doing card tricks, that is the place to go on Saturday night. 

When we arrived last night Mid Century girl commiserated with me for arriving in sandals in the rain, pointing out that she was also wearing sandals. Both of us had dressed for the sunshine that was around earlier in the day. Mind you I did have my just-in-case bright pink umbrella with me. Just as well! 

We were escaping from a noisy chess club, full of over-excited children. They had been meant to be having a chess camp down at Samil, at the far end of Vigo, with chess on the beach and other such fun. Then the weather had turned bad in the late afternoon to early evening and they had to abandon the plans and cram everyone indoors. So there we were, in the orgy cafe reading newspapers online. 

Now, August always used to be the silly season for news. So here is a collection of silly stories, gleaned from newspapers here and there. 

From La Voz de Galicia I learnt that a female panda in a the Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre in Chengdu, China, pretended to be pregnant in order to get extra rations, a private room and air conditioning. Who knew pandas were so clever??? 

Buñol has had it's tomatina festival, where 125 toms of tomatoes were thrown around. People from as far afield as Australia and Japan joined in the fun!!! I have never understood food fights and especially the idea of throwing tomatoes at each other. Ripe ones burst and the juice stings your eyes. Unripe ones hurt! Madness! 

An Italian politician, from Liga Nord, who called another politician, of Congolese origin, an orang-utan says it's because the father of the second politician put a curse on him. He reckons all sorts of bad things have happened to him, including his mouth running off in racist drivel. He has apologised and asked for the curse to be lifted!! Do people still believe in such things? Maybe he should attend Saturday's Magic Workshop. 

The Guardia Civil in some place in Andalucía discovered that someone had converted the bullring into a marijuana factory, growing the plants, drying the leaves and so on. They also found another smaller "factory" nearby. Inevitably, some British people were involved!!! 

 A Banksy graffito, Mobile Lovers, has sold for £403,000, enabling the Broad Plain Boys Club in Bristol to stay open for a bit longer. The mural, showing a man and woman embracing while each looks at their mobile phone over the other's shoulder, was on the wall of the club. They managed to take it inside, charged people to see it and were threatened with police action for doing so. But Banksy said they could have it and do what they liked with it. So they sold it. Good for them! 

That's all, folks!!!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Sleep and stuff.

I have just read that there are moves afoot in the USA to start school later in the day to accommodate teenagers and their "need" to sleep later. This is part of what it said: 

"Your typical teenager doesn’t just become lazy and irritable due to attitude problems; their brains and bodies are changing, meaning they need more sleep than usual, and at different times. One of the effects of puberty is it makes the individual get tired and need sleep later than “normal” (e.g. falling asleep after midnight rather than 10pm), but the school schedule requires early rising regardless of bed time. Coupled with the fact that on average teenagers need more sleep than people of other ages, this is a recipe for inevitable sleep deprivation, resulting in poor concentration, lethargy, behavioural problems, and much more." 

At the risk of being unscientific in my response, I am tempted to say, "What a load of rubbish!!!" Mind you, my mother always used to say that the hours of sleep before midnight were more beneficial than those after midnight. Personally, I think it was to get us to go to bed early. More unscientific nonsense! 

Whatever next? A scientific reason for people to eat junk food? I am weary of a such nonsense! 

Another thing I grow tired of hearing about is the ginger debate. I have just read - once again that just reading thing - that Scotland has the highest percentage of ginger people in the world. And ginger people, or so they keep on saying, suffer from discrimination and bullying. As a ginger myself, I fail to see what all the fuss is about. I always enjoyed being different from the average person. Mind you, no-one went on about it so much when I was a kid at school. I did learn quite late in life that my grandmother, also a redhead although I was never aware of it, used to rinse her hair with camomile to try to tone it down. It takes all sorts, I suppose. 

My sleep this morning, not very late in the day, was disturbed by the mournful hooting of a cruise liner, desperately trying to find the wharf so that it could dock. I was rather hoping for a spectacular bump but it never happened. That's two days running that enormous great boats have called in here. At least they managed some sunshine today, once the fog had burned off. 

And here's something else I just read. I thought I had problems with wasps in Pontevedra but this beats it into a cocked hat. There is a family in Winchester who had not been in their spare room for a few months. When someone finally went it, he found a wasps nest on the bed, three feet wide and one foot deep, eating through the bedding and into the mattress. They came in originally through an open window. An estimated 5000 wasps were involved. That's a lot of wasps! No wonder they needed professional help to remove the nest!! 

Finally, a bit of language. I have recently come across odd headlines about someone "owning" someone else. Disturbed, confused, puzzled, I decided to Google it. I discovered that it means to defeat someone severely, as in a verbal argument or in a competition, often to the point of humiliation. To "put someone in their place." It is possible to comment in an argument, "You just got owned!" 

You live and learn! 

Slang is amazing! I may need a long sleep to absorb the new information.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Challenges!!

Some time ago I read a book called "Pay it forward" in which the young hero did a kindness to three people, asking only in return that they too should do something nice for three other people. They should then ask those three in turn to pass on the kindness. And so on. And so on. And because it was a book, it worked. The youngster concerned made it his project for the summer, which he had to report on when he went back to school. This was the USA where they tend to do things like that. They even made a film of the book. 

It reminded me of those chain letter things you used to get as a child. You were supposed to send postcards to five people who had in turn to send postcards to another five. After several weeks, the system promised you, you would receive postcards from all over the world. How interesting!! It never worked. 

Anyway it seems that a woman is Saint Petersburg, that's Florida, USA, not Russia, decided to do something similar. She was in Starbucks and decided to pay not just for her own iced coffee but the caramel latte (no comments on weird coffees sold by Starbucks today) of the lady in the queue behind her. This person then paid for the coffee of the person in the queue behind her. And so it went on and on and on until close to 400 people had played the game. They were "paying it forward". Then along came the spoilsport. 

There had inevitably to be one customer who, on being told that her coffee had been paid for by the previous customer and did she want to return the favour, answered that no, she didn't. All she wanted to do was pay for her own coffee and not be bothered by anyone else, thank you very much!!! 

There's always one! 

A similar thing, perhaps more amusing to watch, but not so nice-natured, is the ice bucket challenge which is all the rage on Facebook at the moment. It's supposed to be a way of raising money for charity; that's the nice-natured aspect. You know the kind of thing. A "friend" nominates you to be videoed having a bucket of ice cold water thrown over you. You then nominate others. Very funny. My friend Colin has just taken part, or at least his blog says so, and declares that the video can't be shown because his language is too dire and dreadful. 

I have read that the actor Patrick Stewart, challenged to take part, agreed, had a bucket of ice delivered and proceeded to put some of it in his drink. That was his way of doing the challenge. 

As I said, there is always one! 

So here's another. 

I have never watched the TV show "The Apprentice". All the clips for it that I ever saw put me off. They always consisted of someone being rude and obnoxious to someone else. People were being reduced to tears as they desperately sought to meet certain targets. Is this entertainment? I wouldn't really want to watch a film on that sort of theme, let alone a so-called reality show. Consequently, when I saw an item about someone called Katie Hopkins, I had no idea who she was. A former star of the show, I found out. 

One of her unique selling points is her nastiness. There's a surprise! One manifestation of this is her rude comments about ginger-haired people. Another, is her saying that fat people are innately lazy and that she would never employ one. To drive her opinion home, she now plans to try to gain three stone and then lose it again, just to show that of you really want to lose weight you can do so. This will be televised, naturally. 

Now, there's something of a difference between having a long term weight problem and deliberately putting weight on just to lose it immediately afterwards. Someone commented in the newspaper that it would serve her right if she managed to put the weight on and then couldn't get rid of it. 

 Whatever the result, I have no intention of watching that TV show either.