Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Having your say.

I sat in the hairdresser’s this morning resisting the temptation to join in the conversation going on in the seat next to mine between customer and stylist. 

First there was the question of security in Barcelona and how you have to take off all your jewellery, leave it with your mobile in the safe in your hotel room, carry a small amount of change in your pocket and if you must take bank notes, stuff them in your bra. Well, yes, I know Barcelona has a bad reputation. I myself as almost the victim to a bag snatch in that fair city; my husband and a passerby chased and caught the thief and persuaded him to return everything before the police arrived. And I know at least three other people who have had a similar experience. You have to be vigilant and you can’t expect to leave stuff safely on a table outside a cafe but then I would feel the same in many a city in the UK. And I feel a good deal safer wandering around most places in Spain in the evening than I do in the UK. Besides, how on earth do the “stuff your notes in your underwear” brigade imagine the folk who live in Barcelona manage on a daily basis? 

Then there was the matter of food in Italy. I gather that the speaker had been to Milan and had been SO unimpressed by the food – “the only thing worth eating was pizza!” – that she declared she was never going back to Italy again. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! “Head south,” I wanted to shout. “Try the food in Sicily!” However, I remained completely British and kept my mouth shut. It’s really not done to join in another customer’s chat with the stylist. It doesn’t stop me commenting on it here though. 

Later I went along to my Italian conversation class, where I can say more or less what I choose, and commented to our friendly Sicilian teacher about the Cristofero Colombo from Genoa / Cristobal Colón from Pontevedra controversy. In her opinion there was no question; Columbus was obviously Italian and they have documents to prove it. The trouble is they have similar documents in the museum in Poio! Imagine, though, the different world we would live in if the Italian courts had believed Cristofero when he said he could sail round the world and had financed his journey of exploration! The Spanish speakers of South and Central America might well be speaking some form of Italian! Now, there’s an idea for a science fiction/fantasy story. 

On Radio 4 they have a comedy quiz show called “The unbelievable Truth”, in which competitors speak about a topic for a few minutes, making up a lot of nonsense but trying to sneak 5 true facts past the other panellists. Points are gained or lost as they challenge each other over points of possible veracity. One of last night’s speakers had to talk about Spain and one of the sneaky true facts she got past everyone was the fact that Spain, the name of the country, means “The Land of the Rabbits”. Apparently there are academics who believe that Hispania in ancient Latin meant this. No real proof was offered however. How very odd! 

 Some time ago my husband was reading a book by Bill Bryson and, using one of the chapters as his source of information, set about testing me on Cockney rhyming slang: north and south = mouth, trouble and strife = wife, plates of meat = feet and so on. Well, I have recently come across Mancunian rhyming slang. Here are a couple of examples: 

Newton Heath (a district of Manchester) = teeth – usually shortened to “Newtons”; 

 Salford docks = socks – usually shortened to just “Salfords”. 

 I can’t say I have ever heard anyone saying such things. Maybe I don’t mix with the right people.

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