Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Sunshine.

Much to my panadera’s disgust today started grey. She takes it as a personal insult, especially if the weather forecast is for sunshine as it was today. Well, the sun managed to come out later. By mid afternoon it was lovely. 

Yesterday was blue and bright all day until well into the evening when I walked up to the Castro Park. There were of young people up there taking photos of each other and making lots of noise in that way they do. You know the kind of thing: protesting loudly when someone won’t stay still to go on a photo and squeals from the girls when the boys climb up to somewhere precarious to have their picture taken in some daring pose. Such gender stereotyping! I was tempted to give them a lecture, especially the girls. Why didn’t they do more climbing and less squealing? I have to admire the Spanish ability to create a party. Some of the young people had hung streamers in the trees, making a simple picnic into a party. For once they had respected the rights of others to some (relative) quiet and hadn’t set up music players. What a surprise! 

The juggling beggars were out were out and about. Like lizards they come out when the sun shines. They must think that the sun will make people look kindly on them as they prance about and toss their batons on the pedestrian crossings and then ask for money just before the lights change. They probably need to study the pattern of traffic light changes so that they know just when to beg. You see, even begging, serious begging anyway, needs some planning and forethought. 

And then, later, I read an article online about the Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen, who was in “The Killing” and “Borgen”, two very successful Scandinavian TV series. It turns out that he studied in a kind of circus and drama school where he learnt juggling and fire-eating and suchlike tricks. Then he spent several years travelling around Europe earning his living with his trade before he decided to become an actor. So maybe the traffic light jugglers have a future after all, other than being run down by frustrated motorists. 

Of course, we should be careful not to assume that all street performers are no-hopers. I know for a fact that many of the buskers in central Manchester are students at various HE establishments in the city. The daughter of a friend of mine used to make quite a lot of pocket money playing in a string quartet on Market Street. And she was in the English National Youth Orchestra. 

The ones who play the recorder or the penny whistle tunelessly, however, don’t get quite such a friendly reception from me

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A few statistics.

Quite early this morning I was woken by the sound of a ship’s hooter. I say quite early but I suppose everything is relative. It was before eight o’ clock anyway, before I had intended to be awake. Not long after that I did get up; I opened the blinds and looked out towards the port. There it was, another cruise liner. 

Yesterday’s cruise liner, which arrived at least an hour later in the day, didn’t make so much noise on arrival but then it was about twice as big so no-one could even pretend they hadn’t seen it coming in. I could see it when it was still out by the Islas Cíes. 

By now the however many thousand passengers will be well on their way to their next destination. Most will have spent the day on visits to Santiago or Pontevedra. A lot will have been wandering the shopping streets of Vigo. Judging by the number of them I see with bags of stuff they have bought, they must need an extra suitcase to get everything home, especially if they shop in every port. 

I wonder how many of them would have visited Vigo if they had not come on a cruise. Do their short stops at places like La Coruña and Vigo, with optional excursions to other places, encourage them to come back again and explore Galicia a little more? Do they wonder what the Islas Cíes are like to visit as their boat goes steaming past? 

According to a recent survey I read about in Faro de Vigo, two out of three tourists who visit Vigo do come back again. What they come for is the “medio natural” and the “gastronomía” apparently. Well, yes, there are some nice green places and you can eat well. In the case of people off cruise liners, however, I suspect it’s because this is where the boat stops for half a day. Am I being too cynical there? 

 The number of people arriving in Vigo by boat exceeds those who arrive by plane or bus according to that survey. That’s hardly surprising when you look at the size of the boats. The vast majority, 56% come by car, despite the parking difficulties. Quite a lot of French people come and a fair number of Italians but not as many Portuguese as you might expect, at least not as many as the survey people expected. But then, they might want to go somewhere that isn’t quite so much like their own country. The biggest group of foreign visitors are the British. Has that got anything to do with the thousands who get off the cruise liners? I wonder. 

One unfortunate fact revealed by this survey is that we are too old to fit the age profile of visitors to the ciudad olívica, aka Vigo. The average visitor is in the 35 to 54 bracket. Still, looking at it positively, we’re just non-conformist. 

And finally, here are some photos of one of the big boats leaving the other day, getting a little close to the little ferryboats that chug between Vigo and Cangas and Moaña. 






 I don’t think I would like to be the ferryboat pilot.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Expressions

In the supermarket the other day the public address system started up: “Senores clientes, bla, bla, bla.” Not unusual. All supermarkets do it, announcing the day’s special offers. One of ours back in the UK uses the person with the most annoying voice possible. Someone in management must have decided that his slightly pompous, would-be posh but still man-of-the-people voice was perfect for it but it really grates on me. 

Anyway, here in Vigo, where such announcements in the supermarket next door are usually preceded by a sing-song “Mer – ca – do – o – na”, I heard an announcement I am unlikely ever to hear in Oldham, UK. It told the señores clientes that fresh fish had just arrived, fresh off the boats n the harbour. Wonderful!! 

Also in the supermarket, I gave in to the temptation to buy hummus, previously an unknown item her in Vigo but clearly selling well. The newness of the product is marked by the fact that it has serving suggestions in the packaging, something no longer deemed necessary in the UK. I am not mocking the Spanish for this. I know people who did not know what to do with long grain rice when it arrived in the UK. Accustomed to rice only being used in rice pudding, they had heard of this new idea and served it up for tea without any accompaniment. They found it hard to see where the attraction of this new product lay. 

On this particular packet I found a new bit of Spanish vocabulary. The producers of the hummus recommended, “Dipea con crudités o con pan tostado”. “Crudités” long ago became an international term, no longer French. However, “dipea” is a new word for me. It seems that anew verb has been invented: “dipear” = to dip. Now, for “dip” in my small Spanish dictionary they give “mojar”, which basically means “to moisten”. If you are soaked to the skin, in Spanish they say “mojado hasta los huesos” – soaked to the bones. The dictionary also give “meter”, really “to put”, used when you talk about dipping a ladle or a spoon into a bowl. I also hear “meter” used down at the pool. “¿No vas a meterte,” they say, “Aren’t you coming in?” Literally “putting yourself in” or “dipping yourself”. A “dip”, n the culinary sense, is “una salsa”. This is also the word for “gravy” or “sauce” so there’s plenty of room for confusion at the dinner table. 

Here’s another nice expression I’ve come across in my reading. To say, “this is not the right time for something” you can say, “No está el horno para bollos” – “The oven isn’t ready for bread rolls”. 

Now, isn’t language interesting?

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Food for thought.

I sat in a cafe the other evening trying not to watch synchronised swimming on the television screen. Was there ever a stranger sport than synchronised swimming? A team of lady swimmers cavort in time in the water, apparently interpreting some piece of music and scoring points for technical excellence and skill and artistic flair, just like ice dancer. How do they hear the music? I wonder. I suppose nowadays they all wear earpieces and the music is transmitted to them. They all wear matching elaborate swimsuits and the most ridiculous amount of make-up ever seen, presumably waterproof make-up so that they don’t emerge from the pool with mascara running down their cheeks. What sport could be stranger? Well, maybe the individual events where one swimmer alone performs acrobatics in the water. 

As you might have guessed, I am not a fan of this (non-)sport. I know it demands a lot of skill and so on but I really fail to see the point. And then, isn’t it more than a little sexist? Where do you find the male synchronised swimmers? Come to that, where are the male acrobatics competitions? There too, young women show off their artistic skill and contort their bodies in time to music. 

Anyway, there I was, trying not to be distracted by this stuff on the television screen when I realised that the lady at the table next to mine was taking it all very seriously indeed. She criticised the manner of entry into the water, the various jumps and throws involved, even the costumes. Goodness me, someone actually likes this stuff! How amazing!!! 

I think the best I saw was a Coca Cola advert some years ago. One summer in Spain Coca Cola offered a free waterproof music player if you collected enough ring pulls off their cans. The advert showed a synchronised swimming team in the water. The commentary was going on in that special sing-song tone that is used for some, usual female, sports reports. Suddenly the commentator reported one of the swimmers shooting off on her own and doing her own dance to her own music. She had the music player, of course. Priceless! 

When we last travelled to Pontevedra, at the railway station I met an old friend from the Italian class I used to go to here in Vigo. She told me she was off to Sanxenxo but that the group still met at a cafe down on the Paseo Marítimo. The reading group at the library had been discontinued last January because of cuts. Not just the Italian book club but all the languages. What a shame! It was one of the ways that I got to know a whole lot of people when we first lived in Vigo. In the broader scheme of things, I wonder how much money they actually saved by doing that. 

So I decided to look up the remains of the group and went off on Wednesday evening to find them. We had a nice chat about royal babies and the fuss made about them, among other things. Then one of them lent me a book to read for next week. She’s already read it so it was no hardship. 

It’s a detective story, set in the city of Urbino at the end of the 18th century. The blurb on the back describes it as “un thriller storico”. So, you see, the Italians do it too: borrow words from the English. They have a perfectly good word for detective stories: un giallo. This means yellow and is used because of a famous publishing company who printed their detective stories with yellow covers. 

So I’ve taken a little break from reading Max Aub’s books about the Spanish Civil War. I’ll get back to them. 

In the meantime, here is an example of Mr Aub waxing lyrical about food, in this case egg and chips. 

“Nothing more difficult than what seems simple. 

The whites of the eggs must be fried until golden and crispy while the yolks must remain soft, under a thin white coat. The edges of the egg white should bear a similarity to a baroque sculpture. 

And with the chips this is what should happen: they must be soft in the middle and about to change from golden to sienna coloured on the outside ...” 

There you go. Food is important. Even the simple stuff. 

It is interesting that when someone is a hopeless cook, in English we say he can’t boil an egg while in Spanish they comment, “No sabe freír un par de huevos” – He can’t fry a couple of eggs. 



On the subject of food, here are a couple more examples of the great free tapas you receive in some places in Vigo. 

This is what we were served this evening in the Nuevo Derby. I didn’t bother photographing the second lot that went with our second drink but it was equally substantial. 

And here is what we got last night in the Failde. Practically a meal!!! 

I shall soon stop cooking altogether.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Day of sadness.

Yesterday was a Día Festivo, the 25th of July, Día de Galicia, the “national” day for this region, feast of Saint James, Santiago in Spanish. But it can’t have been much of a celebration after the train derailment of Wednesday evening. 

My Spanish friends on Facebook were all posting their sadness. English friends with connections to Galicia were doing the same. Appropriately the day began with rain. One of the posts read, “O ceo chora neste día tan triste para Galicia i España....” Roughly translated this says, “The sky/heaven is weeping on this so sad day for Galicia and Spain.”The word for sky, “o ceo” in Galician and “el cielo” in Castilian covers both sky and Heaven. I suppose you could say “The heavens are weeping” if you want to keep the double meaning. 

I can appreciate the posts like that, expressing genuine sadness. What I don’t like are the posts giving links to the stories of victims, which one of my so-called friends put on. There’s something macabre about going through the accounts of awful things that happen to people. 

That members of the royal family and politicians visit the city and the hospital, I can understand. Somehow, however, it doesn’t seem right to plaster details over the social media. I’m not even happy about pages of photos of victims as appear on the online version of La Voz de Galicia. 

That’s all. 

Normal service will resume tomorrow.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Talk on the street.

I got involved in a conversation in the fruit shop yesterday. The shopkeeper reminder a customer to close her bag where her purse was visible, telling her that another customer had her purse stolen from an open bag just a few days ago. This started a whole series of stories from customers about wallets stolen from pockets as people walked along. 

Then there were the gipsy stories. First of all, the one where they offer to help you carry your shopping and steal from you as you try to reject their help. Next came the one about the gipsies who come up to a lady and engaged her in conversation, stroking her face and arms and then asking if they could kiss her because she was so nice. As she tried to fend them off they snatched her necklace and ear-rings and left her with bleeding ear lobes. 

So, not to be outdone, I chipped in with the story told to me by a Spanish woman in Italy. She told about families of gipsies who wait near the main train stations in Madrid and approach obvious tourists, offering to help them find their way somewhere. While two harass the poor tourist, others pinch stuff from his rucksack and so on. The person who told me this story said that whenever she saw this happening she began to shout at the harassers, telling them she knew what they were up to and that she was about to call the police. Apparently it worked. 

The next contributor trumped us all: what she told us had happened to her! Personal experience! She was robbed in the Carrefour shopping centre. As she bent to point something out to her daughter in a shop window, someone lifted her purse from her bag. There it is again, that open bag. It had her debit card in and then there were the things of sentimental value like photos of the grandchildren. Shocking! Moral: keep your bag close and your purse closer! 

There is kind of irony in all this however. When I give in to the whining supermarket beggar and hand over some small coins, she says to me, “¡Que Diós te bendiga!” (God bless you!) This is a fairly standard response. But, it seems, Heaven help you if you come across those who want to show affection and then rob you. This last crime is unlikely to happen in the UK, of course. There it’s much more likely to be robbery with violence. You need a society where casual kissing and hugging is much more common, like the Spanish situation, for robbery with affection to take place. 

Mind you, I’ve not had any personal experience of such problems. For the most part I feel very safe here although I did experience an unsuccessful bag snatch in Barcelona a few years ago. In Vigo, though, I feel I can walk home alone without any problems. I’m just reporting the things I hear when I’m out and about.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Winning and losing.

Here we are back in Vigo after a pleasant weekend in Pontevedra, courtesy of our friend Colin. We watched Chris Froome win the Tour de France. Well, we watched to the end of the penultimate stage and then missed the parade around Paris as no-one challenges the leader on that day – why not? Surely it must happen if two riders are really close? What an exciting race across the cobbles that could be! – and besides it was going to finish rather later than we wanted for our travel back to Vigo. 

 So there it is, an Englishman, well,sort of, if you count those who were born in Kenya, has won the Tour, for the second year running. Last year Wiggins, who became Sir Wiggo, and now Froome. Will he become a Sir as well? Watch this space. 

 And I understand that Kate has had her baby, a boy or so I am told. I haven’t actually read any news reports about it yet; I am assuming that all went well. No reason for it not to go well. She is, after all, a healthy young woman and had the best medical care possible. All the speculation about whether a girl child would be accepted as monarch of the British Colonies – apparently some would not accept the new ruling that the first born royal child inherits, whether male or female – is unnecessary now and we can get down to the important business of “guess the name”. 

But seriously, what will the chat shows, on both sides of the Atlantic, go on about now? 

Here speculation, and moans, about the weather continue. My bread lady’s mum – on duty again this morning – has just told me that today will be better. Yesterday began well and went off. Today began “oscuro” but has improved and will continue to do so. I missed the “oscuro” bit. I must have slept through it. Surely all days begin dark, however, until the sun comes up! 

Anyway, that is the bread lady’s mum’s opinion. I wonder why she is on duty again. You hardly see her and suddenly she is there all the time. Maybe the panadera has gone on holiday. Even bakers have the right to holidays, I suppose. They are, however, like nurses, policemen and teachers, expected to have a vocation and be on duty all the time. 

Outside the baker’s shop someone pointed out to me a car with the keys in the door. Waiting for a thief to come along and drive it away? Anyway, we decided to leave the keys in the shop so that they could keep an eye open for someone in a panic, going through pockets or handbag in a desperate search for missing keys. How do you leave the keys in a car door? I wonder. Was it the consequence of one of those sudden Spanish conversations where someone stops to say something and then it goes on and on? Did the driver have a car full of unruly children and got distracted by them? Another of life’s little mysteries. And besides, how rare to see a car these days that doesn’t have central locking all done by a beep from the remote control on the key ring. 

While I was out a small cruise liner has sneaked into Vigo harbour. I say small but, of course, it’s all relative. I mean that it doesn’t tower over everything the way the great big ones do. 

Let’s hope the day stays bright and sunny for them. And for me, I want to go back to using my newly acquired pool card and get back into my daily swim routine.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Habits.

For a while I thought the Galicians only knew how to serve fish with boiled potatoes – “a la gallega” – but last night we went to a restaurant in Pontevedra where I ate “lubina al horno”, sea bass baked in the oven. That sounds simple; it turned up in a bed of slice potatoes, onion, garlic, tomato and red pepper, all baked to perfection. Delicious!! I shall have to try to re-invent the recipe at home. 

Also in Pontevedra, we noticed a group of people wandering around the evening before last, all either wearing or carrying yellow neckerchiefs. We could find no obvious reason for this until, sometime later in the evening, we came upon them again, standing in a group outside a building of note. With them were a couple of people in fancy dress and a strange hand cart that we had also seen earlier. It all turned out to be “Visitas Teatralizadas”- guided visits with an added touch of performing arts. Very nice! But what struck me most was the language use. In Vigo we have a “castro musealizado” – a pre-Roman settlement made into a museum (“musealised” is how they oddly translate it into English) and now we have visits turned into theatre. How will they translate “teatralizado”? Theatre-ised? Theatrified? Isn’t language fun? 

My friend Colin often comments on Spanish driving and parking habits. I was driving, or rather being driven, the other evening by a Spanish friend who has lived in England. She went on at some length about the bad driving habits of the Spanish and how much better the English are and so on. Two minutes later she double-parked, turned off her engine and proceeded to telephone the friend we were due to pick up. Priceless!! 

I took this photo from our balcony one day last week. I thought at first that there had been an accident. Then I realised that it was just some people who had stopped to drop off or pick up members of the family and stayed for a family chat in the middle of the main road. 

And then there’s bureaucracy. It seems – how shocking!!! – that people who do not live in our blocks of flats have been getting in and using our pool. How do they get in? Do they climb fences? Tunnel? Abseil? Parachute in? Anyway, steps have been taken. We have all had to collect “pool cards” which we will need to show at peak times when we use the pool. I suggested that there might be a prize for those who use the pool most frequently. This raised a small smile from the earnest chap giving out cards. 

Mind you, as there are 2 blocks of flats of 11 floors with 4 flats on each floor, if one person from each flat came down to the pool at the same time you could have 88 people in or around the pool. If they each brought 2 guests, imagine the games of sardines you could have in the pool!!!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Topsy Turvy

We’ve been watching BBC news on TV at our friend Colin’s house. The reports are all full of stuff about the UK heat wave: how hot it is, problems with forest fires, problems at A & E as people turn up with heat stroke and sunburn. I suppose the last is a consequence of the sudden onset of the heat. No-one had time to adjust gradually. Forget about spring; the weather went from winter to summer almost overnight. 

Here, on the other hand, we continue to have mist and this time it’s not shifting to give blue sky and sunshine by lunchtime, something we had got used to. How weird? It’s probably hotter in Saddleworth than it is here. 

The other item in the news has been the cost entertaining children in the summer holidays. There really must be very little going on in the country if they have to spend so much time on hot weather and entertainment. 

They had pundits going on about the difficulty of keeping the children busy and happy. There is lots of advice on how to organise an “event”, even if it’s just a picnic, more or less every day. I wonder what happened to “playing out” which occupied a fair amount of my time during the holidays. Children here seem to do it but during the evening in the squares in town, while their parents also sit out. 
 
There’s the difference, of course: that custom of going and sitting out in the evening and letting the children run around, as these were doing at around 10 o'clock last night. 

The other thing I used to do as a child in the summer holidays was go to the library and get a stack of books to read. I even had arguments with the librarian if she thought I took them back too soon. Now, of course, the children prefer to play on their electronic games, even quite small children. 

I’m still using the library, here more than in the UK I must admit. And so, from what I have read recently, are rather more Spaniards than used to be the case. Back in 2003, a survey on reading habits placed Spain, along with Portugal and Greece, down towards the bottom of the reading table. Only 47% of people said they had read at least one book in the previous year. In the UK and Scandinavia it was 70%, which still doesn’t strike me as fantastic but then I’m a bit of a reading fanatic. But now, it seems reading is making a come-back in Spain. 

Possibly as a result of the high unemployment rate, people are going to the library and borrowing books. What’s more, whereas it used to be mainly women doing the borrowing, now they are finding more men are doing so. In Andalucía library use has gone up by 50.6% and in Seville it has done so by an amazing 150%!!! 

People are also going in to use the computers. An estimated 40% of Spanish schoolchildren don’t have internet access at home and so they use the library wifi. And people who may have had to cut their internet connection as an economy measure are taking their laptops along to libraries to log in there. 

In some places they are also finding an increase in homeless people using the libraries, partly as a place to keep cool (this would not work in the Vigo library which is ALWAYS far too hot) and in some cases going in to use the bathroom facilities to have a wash and brush up. 

The best story I heard was a working class district of Granada where the library had been officially closed two years ago as part of the cuts. Local people have re-opened their library, staffing it with volunteers and keeping the place going despite the fact that there is no electricity or running water. 

They are a bit concerned about what will happen in winter as the days grow shorter but for the moment they are carrying on: business as usual.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Quite a spectacle.

Last night I went to meet a friend of mine for a drink down on the Alameda. When she arrived she proposed going up to Castrelos Park where there was going to be some kind of “espectáculo”. Neither of us had strong feelings either way but a couple of friends of hers had asked if she was going and if she could give them a lift. So, always game for a bit of local colour, I said OK. 

Local colour it was: a “history” of Vigo with acrobatics and aerial displays thrown in. The stage of the little amphitheatre in Castrelos Park was dotted with burning torches and I mean proper, old fashioned burning torches, pre-technology style. No health and safety concerns here then. The stone steps were full of people. Due to start at 10 o’ clock, it finally kicked off at 11 after a series of pictures on the big screen of the Castro Musealizado, the reconstructed Roman and pre-Roman settlement in Vigo and a droning talk about all the “castros”, the above-mentioned settlements, all around the area. 

Then we were off. The floodlights went off and a group of witches, “meigas”, came on stage, together with a selection of jugglers all flinging fire-brands around, some stilt walkers and fire-eaters. An important-looking chap in a long greenish robe told us a lot of stuff about “Celtic” magic, the usual stuff about “terra, auga, lume e aire” – land, water, light and air. So far so good. All in gallego, of course, but via a rather poor sound system. 

Then came the drama: the “Celtic” magic and peace was disturbed by the arrival of the Romans. A small legion marched onto the stage, all in good order. They re-enacted a battle on the Islas Cíes. The Romans won and a cry of “¡¡oooooh!! went up from some of the crowd. It was all fine, however, as the Romans left some time later, our patriotic friend reassured us, and Galicia remains Galicia to this day and Vigo is still Vigo. There was a lot of patriotic shouting about “our” identity: “¿Qué somos?” Answer: “¡Vigueses!” (What are we? Vigo people!) 

My companions were two ladies from Pontevedra and a French girl so we felt just a little excluded. However, the general enthusiasm was impressive. Maybe it wasn’t just that little group behind us who were smoking something other than straight tobacco! 

There was some quite spectacular, and occasionally frighteningly daring, trapeze artistry, accompanied by a song in English, oddly enough considering the avoidance of Castilian Spanish throughout. Some kind of deus ex-machina descended from the sky in a winged chariot, courtesy of a huge crane. 

I was just thinking that the (self-)important, patriotic chap in the green robe was going on a bit and wondering what I could say diplomatically to my companions when one of them leaned across and whispered: “Este me parece que es un poco pesado, ¿no?” – This chap seems a bit boring, doesn’t he? Phew, it wasn’t just me! 

Anyway, the patriotic chap eventually told us that all the brave gallegos who died in the battle on the Islas Cíes were going up to heaven. And so they climbed onto a creation not unlike a lightning conductor and, courtesy of the huge crane once more, they were transported, arms outstretched and with fireworks fizzing above their heads, into the darkness above. 

After that, some fabulous fireworks closed the proceedings. Goodness knows how many Euros went up in smoke. Crisis? What crisis? Bread and circuses! Keep the people happy with free entertainment. Oh, and give them a dose of Galician patriotism to boot. 

We stopped for a drink on our way home and chewed the fat a little. Our collective verdict? Good fireworks and some impressive trapeze artistry but the patriotism could have been quite seriously reduced!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The heat is on.

As the hot weather continues in the UK, the newspapers are full of advice about dealing with it: 

how to keep cool at work – dress light but not as if you were going to the beach. 

how to keep your pets cool – don’t leave your dog in the car while you shop – ditto small children and, presumably, old people. 

how to keep the garden cool – well, more like a warning that insects, ladybirds and such, are more likely to land on you as they regard you as a source of water when they can’t find it on plants – funnily enough a friend of ours in Pontevedra was told that was why his house was being invaded by ants – they were just thirsty!! 

how to keep cool at night – this one advises putting your pillow in the fridge to chill so that you can go to bed with a cool head – if you don’t release all that heat you can’t sleep! 

Goodness me, anyone would think it had never been hot before. But then, for a lot of younger people this is probably the first hot UK summer they have known. 

British and Spanish papers go on about what to eat and drink in the hot weather. One Spanish paper recommends “té con hielo” – iced tea. I can personally vouch for the refreshing qualities of iced green tea. I like the way they do iced tea and coffee here. They bring you your pot of tea or your small black coffee and a cup full of ice cubes. When your tea is brewed you pour it over the ice cubes. Result: an excellent chilled drink! 

Also praised as a refreshing drink is "cerveza con gaseosa" – beer with lemonade, otherwise known as “una clara”. So we’ve been drinking the right stuff. They also, rather surprisingly, recommend Coca Cola; it improves concentration for long journeys apparently. A dose of sugar and caffeine! Gin and tonic wins the prize for the least fattening alcoholic drink but they recommend rum and coke as a refresher. 

And then there’s your style. I saw an advert for some make-up, a kind of rouge or blusher to rub on your cheeks and give you that “I’ve just been out in the sun” look without having to age your skin by actually doing so. Now, I thought the aim was to look golden not red but what do I know? This is “un look distinto” – a different look. 

There’s that use of English again: “un look”. And another one I saw this morning in next to a range of nail polishes was “un must para el verano”. No wonder everyone has a smattering of English. 

Maybe they should offer English language courses with a level known as “un smattering”.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Things you find out.

My panadera’s mother was on duty at the shop this morning. Like her daughter, and as a good gallega, she gave me a weather report. The morning mist which lasts pretty well until midday or thereabouts is, according to my meteorological expert, not July weather but more typical of August. The climate is “trastornado”, all mixed up – just like the people, she told me. That’s that then. 

One consequence of the late emergence of the sun is that the pool tends to be empty when I go down for a late morning swim. I can pretend that the pool is just for me. I was joined towards the end of my swim today by a couple of daddies with their smallish offspring. They were part of a group of about twenty people preparing to have lunch al fresco. 

While these two daddies gave swimming lessons others manned the barbecue. Cooking at a barbecue, or burning meat as I like to think of it, is men’s work. The women just provided crisps and salads and stood around looking decorative, which is quite as it should be in such a situation. 

I am still reading Max Aub. Book one finished with a description of the chaotic fighting in Barcelona at the start of the Spanish Civil War and gave a list of the fate of the characters who figure in the book: some dead in the fighting, some ending up in prison, some executed by Franco at later stages of the war. Quite traumatic but effectively done. Book two, Campo Abierto, move us on to Valencia with some new characters and some old ones reappearing. Mixed up amongst them are real life leaders such as Durruti. 

This kind of reading is not the easiest of Spanish. It’s not unlike reading Dickens or Jane Austin. Like almost anything written before the second half of the twentieth century, it’s full of vocabulary that is really hard to find. Maybe it’s a result of readers’ familiarity with stuff they have seen on TV or in films but later books have shorter descriptions. I know younger readers who get really impatient with the classics for that reason. 

Anyway, I have made some linguistic discoveries: - 

    Back in the 1930s, the Spanish were already borrowing English words, such as “un dancing”, an exclusive sort of lace where the “señoritos” from good family could go and dance to the latest music. 

    The word “postín”, which I recently commented on as possibly being related to posting on Facebook and other social media, was also in use then. Mr Aub describes his hero, Rafael, going to a cafe which is rather more upmarket than his usual sort of place. “A Rafael le chocaba tomar un café en un sitio de tanto postín”. 

    In English we have one verb for planes landing: to land. In Spanish when a plane comes down on land they use “aterrizar” (from “tierra” – land) but when it lands on water they use “amerizar” (from “mar” – sea). How logical!! 

All the above courtesy of Max Aub. It’s amazing what you learn from a little bit of reading. 

From the papers I have discovered that the House of Lords is referred to in Spanish as “la Cámara de los Lores”. I never knew that a Lord was “un Lor”. 

I have also read, in both Spanish and English papers about an obesity gene, currently being researched by British doctors. Apparently it affects 1 in 6 people. If both your parents have it, you’re stuffed! No chance! You are condemned to get fat! There’s also a “hunger hormone”. If you have the obesity gene you are likely to have a higher level of the hunger hormone than other people and so you want to eat more. There, you see. It’s probably not your fault you can’t get into your jeans; it’s in your genes! 

Call me cynical but aren’t they finding all sorts of excuses for being overweight or underachieving, for being unable to give up smoking or just being generally anti-social? 

More cheerfully, I read that Chris Froome is the first Briton ever to win the Mont Ventoux stage of the Tour. Well done, Chris! 

He’s still in the yellow jersey, despite concerted efforts by Contador and his Czech team mate Kreuziger to give him a serious challenge today. They kept pushing him to ride faster by taking turns to overtake him, so that he had to work hard to catch up; presumably they were trying to tire him out. It nearly went wrong as Contador lost control of his bike with7.5km to go and Froome had to swerve round him. Both of them were off the road and had to remount. The group of riders politely waited for them. Wasn’t that nice? 

The stage winner was a Portuguese rider, Rui Costas, but Froome keeps his lead and Contador remains in third place. So it goes!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Going with the flow.

From Castrelos Park in Vigo, you can follow the Lagares River down to the sea at Samil or, as we discovered last summer, you can go in the other direction and end up somewhere on Avenida de Madrid, one of the main roads into Vigo. The bus from Oporto comes in that way. Yesterday we decided to do that walk in reverse, from wherever the walk begins to the park at Castrelos. 

So we planned our route in advance: along Calle Aragón, onto Sagunto, across Emilio Martínez Garrido and onto Ceboleira. Here there was a slight hiccough as there was a short stretch of unnamed road before we actually go to Ceboleira. But we managed not to get lost. From there we went onto the Estrada de Vilar, called Carretera de Vilar on its road sign. There’s a misnomer if ever there was one. To me “carretera” suggests a highway but this was little more than a one lane road. I suppose at some time in the past it was a main road between two of the small communities that merged into greater Vigo. 

After that we found Camiño da Fonte (Camino de la Fuente in Castilian Spanish) a small road that did indeed have a spring half way along it. Presumably before houses had running water this is where the local community came to fill its buckets and bottles. We had hoped to be able to get onto the river walk at that point, where Calle Gondarín crosses the river, but there was no access and no path so we had to continue to the main highway, Avenida de Madrid.  

At the start of the path was No Entry sign with a difference. Only authorised vehicles were allowed on but the sign itself had a sort of leaf design stencilled onto it. A nice touch! There was also an informative notice about all the birds you might spot on your walk. 

There were several of these along the way, all helpfully given only in Galician. Clearly they don’t expect people from other parts of Spain where Galician isn’t spoken to follow this walk.

The walk began nicely. You would have thought you were out in the country somewhere, all leafy boughs overhanging the river. And then you had to cross a road and walk for a good while through an industrial estate which was rather a disappointment, especially as it was not well signposted and you had to take it on trust that the path would improve again later. 
 
Fortunately it did so. We walked past a field with horses and admired the flowers and wildlife as we went along, even spotting a lizard at one point: our first this summer! We like to spot lizards; it feels as though summer is really here. 

Eventually we reached the park and admired the flowers and the “English Garden”, all formally laid out with its box hedge maze, currently closed to the public as it is being given some kind of treatment. This treatment has been going on for almost a year now. The maze looks very neat and tidy and very green so maybe the treatment is working. 

 We exited the park on the other side and stopped for a refresco before catching a bus home along Gran Vía. Our choice of cafe was determined by the fact that we came upon one that was showing the Tour de France on its TV screens. So one “clarita” (small shandy) turned into two as we watched Chris Froome power up Mont Ventoux in southern France to win the stage. We’ve been up that mountain, a long time ago now, and it is steep and windy, hence the name. 

After we had been there a while one of the local residents came and occupied a table just behind ours. He was clearly known to the staff; they knew exactly what he wanted without his having to ask. We, however, did not know him and were unsure whether his incoherent shouting was because he was drunk or merely one of the local care-in-the-community cases. 

Anyway, it soon became obvious that he was also watching the end of that stage of the Tour. Initially he was cheering on Alberto Contador, at that moment in the leading group with Chris Froome. “¡Vaya Contador! ¡Que gane Contador la etapa!” he shouted, in that special kind of hoarse shouting that is like a loud incoherent mutter. 

When Froome made his breakaway (How did he manage to do that? What does he have to make his legs work like that in that heat, at that gradient after all that pedalling?) and it was clear that no-0ne was going to catch him he changed his tune. At first it was a rather disgruntled, “He’s stealing the stage”. But then it changed to, “Le quito el sombrero a este Froome” – “I take my hat of to this Froome”. 

What’s more he pronounced Froome properly, unlike the TV commentators, one of whom was our old hero Pedro Delgado, who called him Chris From or Chris Frome, with a nice round O sound. 

Now, why, when the Spanish pronounce the letter U as an English OO, can they not say Froome? The mind boggles. It really does.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Plus ça change...

Sitting in a cafe yesterday I saw once again scenes from Pamplona on the television. In the midst of a crowd of scared looking young men in white t-shirts and red neckerchiefs you could see the enormous head of a wild-eyed bull, probably as scared as the young men. Nobody, neither bull nor men, seemed able to move. And then there was a surge and the bull clambered over the young men and into the bull ring. It transpired that the bulls had run quickly, more quickly than usual, through the streets of Pamplona. At the entrance to the bull ring was a crowd of “mozos”, the young men in white and red. Suddenly the bulls arrived and the mozos were blocking the entrance. Chaos ensued! 

Now, we sometimes get the impression that this bull running business, the San Fermines, is just a Pamplona thing but I have my doubts. That may be the case now, although I suspect that there are other places doing their own small thing, but I think it was more general in the past. Pamplona is just the place where it has become a huge international tourist attraction. 

I am currently reading a book by someone called Max Aub, an Italian by birth, I think, who lived and wrote in Spain. His book, Campo Cerrado, tells the story of Rafael López Serrador, a young man born early in the 20th century in a small town in the Valencia region and, so far as I have read, his involvement in various left wing groups in Barcelona. 

The interesting thing from the bull running point of view is that he describes the “Fiestas de Septiembre” in the small town of his childhood. For a week the main square became a bull ring and young bulls were run through the streets of the town. Those who had money and influence watched proceedings from balconies on upper floors; marriageable daughters, “las hijas en edad de merecer”, were incidentally shown off to potential suitors from appropriate families. Lesser mortals got to watch things from behind barriers at ground level. People came from outlying districts and made a holiday of it all. 

 One of the highlights of the fiesta is the “toro de fuego”, the fire bull. A fierce old bull with magnificent horns – the star of many a fiesta in the area, taken from place to place by his owner, supporting my idea that this was a common event – has tar-soaked rags tied to his horns. These are set alight and the beast is set free, late in the evening on probably the last night of the fiesta. Trying, no doubt, to escape from the flames, he charges through the streets of the town, making the whitewashed walls glow a rosy red that can be seen fifty yards ahead. 

He finishes his run in the bull ring / town square. Exhausted, the fire of his horns less fierce now, he stands in a corner and the “brave” men of the town come out to taunt him. Our hero, Rafael, fantasises that the bull will turn on his tormentors and destroy them, knock down the walls of the town and cause mayhem, but it doesn’t happen. 

I’ve heard of this “toro de fuego” tradition before, but done with fireworks tied to the bull's horns. Nowadays, of course, that kind of thing can’t happen, mainly because animal rights groups protest about it. However, the other day I saw a photo of a “toro de fuego” in Pamplona. This was a mock-up bull’s head attached to a kind of wheelbarrow, the sort of thing that is used in training sessions for young would-be toreros, but this time with fireworks attached to the horns and rushed through the streets by a man who presumably wasn’t afraid of fire. Old traditions don’t die; they just evolve. 

Finally, something for my friend Colin who remarked recently in his blog about the South American Spanish use of the prefix “re” as a superlative for adjectives, as opposed to the Iberian Spanish suffix “ísimo”, making a very pretty girl “re-guapa” rather than “guapísima”. Well, in Max Aub’s book I came across a description of farm workers returning from the fields and commenting on the visiting holiday-makers staring goggle-eyed at the bulls in the field down by the river. One of them remarked, “¡Paece que nunca hayan visto animales, re-Diós!” – “You’d think they’d never seen animals, by bloody God!”

Friday, 12 July 2013

Foggy thinking.

Out for my run in the early morning mist, I saw a lady with an umbrella. ¿Pesimismo gallego? Or maybe she knew something the rest of us didn’t because unlike the pattern for the earlier part of the week when the mist or fog burned off by about midday in time for me to go for a swim, today it barely shifted. Well, I suppose the fog went but the cloud remained, just rather higher up. No blue skies today. 

Yesterday we went out to lunch in town with friends. Our rendezvous point was La Porchaba, the bar on the corner of Calle Rosalía de Castro and Calle Oporto. This is what they gave us by way of free tapas along with our drinks, a nicely generous portion, more than is offered in some places but not unusual here in Vigo, possibly an anti-crisis measure to try to encourage people to go to the bars and at least spend something. 
 
By the time our group was fully assembled we had had three lots of free tapas. This is what happens when your party arrives in dribs and drabs, each order getting another plate of food. Our bill for three glasses of Albariño and one clara came to €8.20, a very fair price I thought. We had to stop ordering drinks or we would not have needed to go out to lunch at all. As it was, we gave away some of the food to a beggar! 

Good places to go for free food in Vigo: 

La Porchaba, already mentioned above. 

El Nuevo Derby, on Urzáiz, the Principe end of the street. They offer hot pinchos on cold days as well. 

Failde, on Travesía de Vigo. They do excellent mini cheese and ham toasties and sometimes bring you a second lot of food before you even get round to ordering a second drink. 

Cafe Mónaco, on the corner of Gregorio Espino and Ruiseñor streets. Usually good but very occasionally they only serve crisps and olives if they’ve run out of other stuff. They also give generous slices of cake with coffee. 

Flor de Vigo, on Gran Vía – just discovered yesterday. 

All of the above, with the exception of La Porchaba, have free wifi as well. 

A big disappointment has been the Cairo, the closest bar to our flat with free wifi. Last year it was excellent, friendly service and a nice atmosphere as well as good tapas. Then we came in October and found to our dismay that it had shut. In April it re-opened under new management. We have given it several tries but the new owners just offer a few measly crisps in a bowl or, worse, a selection of those nuts that include some like small pebbles that you risk breaking your teeth on. OK, this is more than you get in the UK but we have grown used to a more imaginative approach. And besides, the service is not brilliant: rather slow and the barman is too interested in talking to a small group of friends. Our verdict: could do better!!! 

In Pamplona the July madness is in full swing. There’s a little song they sing, the only line of which I can remember goes like this: “Siete de julio, San Fermín”. 

 So, last Sunday, 7th of July, the San Fermín fiestas began. In the opening stages hundreds of red neckerchiefs were waved in the main square. People climbed up statues and fountains and indulged in the traditional test of faith by throwing themselves down into the crowd, hoping that the loonies below would catch them. 

And then the bull running began and lots of crazy people ran with them, behind them and before them!!! On a report I saw on TV yesterday they were saying that there had been no bull-related injuries. Presumably that meant that no-one had come into contact with horns because lots of people seemed to be falling down and being trampled by running people. 

Well, today an article headline in the Guardian read: 

“FOUR GORED IN PAMPLONA!” 

The sub-headline went on: “Panic in the streets as four people attacked by bulls during San Fermín festival.” 

What did they expect? Well trained bulls who politely ignored the drunken fools running around waving red neckerchiefs? Drunken fools who react calmly when faced with a ton or more of bull with huge pointy horns? 

I am, as every year at this time, flabbergasted by the craziness of it all!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Foggy times.

Someone stole the ría overnight. This morning, where the water usually is, all you could see was a huge fog bank. I could hear the mournful hooting of a boat but it wasn’t until later that I saw the cruise liner that had docked down by the estación marítima. Apart from fog over the water, however, they boat people must have had a good day with plenty of sunshine. They missed out on some spectacular views though because the fog stayed all day. 


Out towards the Islas Cíes and inland towards A Guía all you could see was cotton wool. 

It all made for a much cooler run this morning though. The temperature at the bottom of the road was a much more healthy 21°, instead of the 28° it’s been for the last few days. My weather-lady panadera assures me that the “bochorno”, the sticky hot weather, will be back at the weekend. 

As I ran I could hear one of those mobile public address systems: a little van driving around with speakers on the top announcing something incomprehensible. As a result of hearing it over and over again, I finally worked out that they were urging everyone to go to Plaza de España tomorrow at 6.00 pm for a demonstration in protest at the continuing high unemployment. “O traballo e o problema de todos” – Unemployment is everyone’s problem. 

We came across an item in the Telegraph about the employability of different sorts of graduates in the UK. The top 12 subjects to study if you want a job at the end of your course are as follows: 

1. Medicine and Dentistry. 
2. Education. 
3. Veterinary science. 
4. Subjects related to medicine such as Biomedical Science and Neurology. 
5. Law. 
6. Biology. 
7. Mathematics. 
8. Modern Foreign Languages. 
9. Engineering. 
10. History and/or Philosophy. Interestingly History was higher last year. 
11. Architecture and Planning. 
12. Business. 

It’s interesting to see that the traditional "vocational" courses still rule the roost and that subjects that encourage analytical thinking also do well. Apart from Business at number 12, the new vocational courses don’t figure at all, despite the government’s insistence on how we need such courses. Some years ago when our son, who studied History and Politics, was touting his CV around possible employers in London, commented that we should have advised him to study Business instead of a subject he was passionate about. It seems that statistics have proved us right after all. And he did manage to find work and is doing quite nicely, thank you. Let’s hope the situation improves for those seeking working now, all over Europe. 

 Someone who doesn’t need to worry about his job is Andy Murray, set to earn millions in sponsorship deals. There are lots of rumblings in the press about his deserving a knighthood. Well, they gave one to Bradley Wiggins so I suppose they might well do the same for Andy Murray. I find myself rather disturbed by this trend. Isn’t it enough to win a big title in your chosen sport? We know they are heroes of a sort but surely they do something more to deserve to be Sir Successful Sportsman? 

Oh, dear, I’m turning into an old grump again. It does seem that everyone wants a bit of Murray, however: all the political groups including the Scottish independence people. Here’s a link to a Steve Bell cartoon to that effect. 

And finally, thank you to Perry in High Wycombe for explaining the fan business to me. Perhaps he can now tell me why the fog here hangs over the estuary even when it’s fine and hot and sunny in the rest of the city.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Sunshine strategies.

The sunshine seems to have brought out the best in the British sportsmen. First there’s Andy Murray winning Wimbledon in three straight sets. It would be churlish to say that he didn’t have to beat Rafa Nadal this time but, hey, I’ve said it anyway. And then Chris Froome has been wearing the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France for a few days now. All good stuff! I wonder if he’ll still have that jersey at the end of the day. 

I can’t say I would have enjoyed playing tennis in the heat and certainly not cycling up the Pyrenees. Each to his own, however. 

I’ve spent some time standing on the balcony – in between going down to swim and cool off in the pool – catching the breeze and incidentally watching the traffic go by. I think I’ve noticed another odd fact about Spanish drivers. In the UK, when you learn to drive you are trained, as it were, to drive fairly close to the kerb. If the road is wide enough to allow two lanes of traffic in one direction, you still drive in the inner lane until you need to pull out to go round something. Now, the road I observe from our balcony has two lanes in each direction, that’s in addition to the parking spaces. Even when it’s quiet the majority of drivers stick to the outer lane, close to the line in the middle of the road. Maybe it’s because of the propensity for double parking here; the drivers want to avoid having to pull out round an illegally parked vehicle. I have absolutely no idea whether this is the truth of the matter or not. 

Getting back to the subject of the heat wave, we have been resorting to desperate measures to keep the flat cool. Everyone moans about it down at the pool. Ladies declare that they really don’t want to cook. The blinds are black and consequently absorb heat so the rooms facing south heat up at a furious rate of knots, even when you batten down the hatches. So we stuck kitchen foil over the windows on the principle that if it works for car windscreens it should work for bedroom windows. And to a certain extent it does. 
 
One result of the heat wave is that we have been going a bit stir crazy so yesterday evening we took ourselves out and walked up to A Guía. En route we spotted some fine graffiti but felt that the street should be called Heat Street not Beat Street.

Mostly,though, we walked in shady places and through the trees. 

The view over the bay was quite spectacular in the evening sunshine. 



 We stuck our noses in the chapel up there as the door was open for once. One of the smallest old ladies I have ever seen was just finishing off the cleaning and growled at us, “Voy a cerrar (I’m about to lock it up)”. Very Christian, I thought. So we stuck our noses out again and the rest of us followed. 

I went to bed with windows and blinds open last night: beautifully cool. And then at about five this morning I had to get up and close things as the wind had got up and for the first time in ages I felt TOO cool. 

Well, the first time since Phil left the air-conditioning on in the hotel in Sanxenxo. 

Today, the wind continues, keeping it cool enough to walk around. However, don’t stand around too long waiting to cross the road. You just might melt!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Still hot!

We succumbed to the continuing heat yesterday. 

First of all, Phil went in the pool. This is not quite a first but is a rare enough occurrence to merit commenting on. Even he has to admit that it is an excellent way to cool down. And once again the pool proved to be emptier if you go at the end of the morning rather than later in the day. 

Then later we gave in to the desire to buy a fan. Not the kind you hold in your hand. I already have one of those and it works perfectly but it is a little hard to do anything else that requires two hands. (By the way, can anyone explain to me the physics of fans? How is it that even when the air in the room is warm a fan produces cool air? The movement I understand but the temperature is a mystery.) No, we wanted an electric fan that could cool us down and hopefully keep the poor little netbook cool as well. The poor machine is heating up dreadfully. So, off to Carrefour we went, fortunately not too far away, just a short walk down the road and it was early evening so the sun was not quite so fierce. 

And this is what we found!!!! Obviously everyone and their grandmothers have been in buying electric fans. 

I asked at customer services if they expected to have any more in. I was told, “No hay nada”. Well, yes, I could tell there isn’t anything at the moment as the shelf was empty; that was a bit of a give-away but when did they expect to have more. Perhaps on Wednesday, was the rather grudging reply. Now, I suspect that if the situation arose on the UK, at the local big Tesco, for example, they would be arranging for more stocks to be brought in THAT NIGHT not maybe next Wednesday. Business logic! 

Ah well! We went down to one of the Chinese shops and bought one there. It seems to work ok, for the time being at any rate. 

In between falling into the pool, languishing in the heat and taking cooling showers, I am re-reading Domingo Villar’s excellent detective novel, “Ojos de Agua”, set in Vigo. (I braved the library system here the other day to get myself some extra reading material. It was even hotter in the library. Why was that? Aren’t libraries supposed to be cool and quiet?) At one point detective Leo Caldas commented on the tremor in someone’s voice when interviewed by the police. He went on the talk about the writer Camilo José Cela who said in his novel “La Colmena” that fear often causes a tremor. Except that Leo Caldas/Domingo Villar didn’t just say “the writer Camilo José Cela” or even “the Galician writer Camilo José Cela”. I didn’t realise that Cela was a Galician, but there you go. Oh no, he said “the Nobel prize winner Camilo José Cela”. 

Galician pride!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

It's in the news.

I got up early to go for a run, hoping to get the exercise before the day gets too hot. The papers have warned us not to take vigorous exercise at the hottest times of the day. Mind you, I’m not sure my running really counts as vigorous. As I came towards the end of my run I noticed that the temperature notice on the hoarding at the bottom of Calle Aragón was showing 30°. And this was before 9 o’ clock!!! 

It’s official! This is a heat wave. The newspapers say so. Not just a couple of days of exceptionally high temperatures but a proper heat wave. Saharan winds are pushing the weather front northwards. Vigo has had 33° and 35°. Today is predicted to be just as hot, if not more so. And it should continue until the middle of next week. Although my panadera says she has heard it will last until next Friday. And she should now. Bread shop ladies are a fount of important knowledge. This is an accepted fact. 

So I think that, apart from a possible sortie to the pool, it may be a day for staying in the shade and reading the papers. 

I read about a variation on the drive-by robbery. As a rule this type of theft involves someone on a motorbike snatching a shoulder bag from a female tourist and driving off. In this case a right-hand drive car (the article explained that this is the kind of car you find in England – was there some implication that the thieves were British?) stopped at the roadside next and called the victim over. The passenger produced a map and asked for directions. While the victim helpfully indicated places on said map, the chap grabbed his hand and pulled off his finger a gold signet ring. The car immediately drove off. The victim said that it was lucky he had lost quite a lot of weight recently or they might have broken his finger. How about that?! And there have been two other cases reported recently. They didn’t say exactly where the ring snatch had taken place but the victim was a Cambados resident so perhaps it was there. In any case, the moral is, do not show your hands when giving directions, at least to people in cars. 

Here’s another bit of news. Since it seems to be open season on the royal family there has been some discussion about the possibility of King Juan Carlos having money stashed away in a Swiss bank account. Now, it seems that there was such a bank account, not his but his father’s, but he, Juan Carlos not his father, closed it in 1995. Well, that’s all right then. I’m sure we’re all relieved to know that. The bad news is that no-one seems to know what became of the money in the bank account. Hmmmmm!!!!! 

On the subject of royal family baiting, I saw this headline: “Felipe, el rey que nadie quiere.” I was a little surprised. I have heard some people say that they don’t expect the monarchy to survive for all that much longer and I am aware that certain members of the Borbón family have been getting very bad press recently but I didn’t know that people didn’t want Prince Felipe to be king. And then I read on. It’s not that Prince Felipe. It’s Philip of Belgium, whose father has just abdicated. Even at 53, he is considered to be unready, too timid for the throne. That’s another thing to be relieved about, isn’t it? 

It’s that Spanish habit of changing all the names to Spanish. The UK’s Charles, William and Harry become Carlos, Guillermo and Enrique. Even Queen Elisabeth becomes Isabel. It’s very confusing. What’s more it transfers into other areas of life. Posh Spice, as I said the other day, becomes La Spice Pija. 

And on Thursday a friend of ours asked me what we call the singer Rihanna in English. Well, actually, we call her Rihanna. There’s a surprise!