Saturday, 30 June 2018

Bits of strangeness!

In the middle of the night, somewhere around 3.30 to 4.00 am, we had a monster thunderstorm. First it was the noise of the rain that woke me, and then came the crash, bang, wallop. It rolled around the bay for a good while and I reflected that it was a pity I could not send it to the Northwest of England to put out the fires on the peat moorlands!

Maybe it was the noisy weather and all the sound of rain but I found myself having crazy dreams, the ones that you drift out of, half wake up and then go back into the same dream, as if it were a soap opera. I was at a friend’s house, with masses of people from various sections of my life - different times, different work places, different groups - all standing and sitting around elegantly and tastefully, like characters in a period drama set early in the 20th century. Very odd! In real life this friend’s house is at the top of a hill, looking down over a valley where we once lived and beyond that to the burning moorlands. In the dream, it was beside a river, only approached by boat and then via a muddy bank. (There’s the rain influence.) Everyone was hosed down before entering the very chic pale grey salon-type interior, where were all suddenly perfectly dressed and coiffed for such a setting. Very odd indeed!

And I can’t even blame it on having eaten strange snacks late at night.

This morning we had fog, rather muggy fog. It tried to clear several times over the day ... with indifferent success.

Out in the wider world, another crazy man with a gun has been busy in the USA, this time shooting the staff of a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, killing five people. Apparently he has a long history of antagonism towards the newspaper in question and had sued several editors in the past. Clearly legal redress was not enough for him and he decided to take the law into his own hands. Crazy man!

Another, better known, crazy American is reported to have suggested to Emmanuel Macron of France that he should pull his country out of the European Union and in return he would be given a bilateral trade deal with the USA. This sounds a little like an attempt to disrupt Europe, as if it were not already in some disarray. After all, he is said to believe the EU was set up to cause problems for the USA. We seem to be living in interesting times, to say the least!

No doubt Mr Trump will seek out some justification for his offer in things that have gone on in the past. Indeed, his justification for making an extreme vetting plan to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of his country was that Christians in Syria were “horribly treated”, alleging that under previous administrations, “if you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible.” Basically, if people do bad things to you, then you are permitted to do bad things back to them. If he weren’t running a country, it would all seem remarkably childish!

On something else entirely, we keep hearing about “boomerang children”. These are young people who have seemingly left home to go to university but who then bounce back home to live with their parents instead of going off and living independently: a consequence of the times we live in! Now it seems that new research has shown that this can be good for families, leading to closer, more supportive relationships and increased contact between the generations.

But, I found myself thinking, what about the couples who have got used to having the house to themselves again, their child rearing years over? We love to see our children and grandchildren but it doesn’t mean we want to live with them. And then the article I was reading finished with this:- “Researchers found that couples enjoying a new lease of life after their children had flown the nest, with improved marital relationships and fresh hobbies, may regard their offspring’s return as “a violation” of an exciting stage in their lives.”

There you go! It’s not just us then!

Friday, 29 June 2018

Cyclists! Football! Politicians! Artists?!

Cyclists on the pavement drive me crazy. The other night we were strolling home from the bar when we heard shouting from behind us, telling us - not asking - to get out of the way. Two young people racing along on bikes. When I say young, I mean older teenagers, maybe 20+ year-olds. Needless to say they had no lights, no helmets or warning bells or hooters. In a rare moment of assertiveness, otherwise known as bad temper, as we dodged I yelled back at them that they should be on the road not the pavement. They shouted back that I too should be on the road and they gave me the finger. What are things coming to!?

England played Belgium in the World Cup last night. Off we went to a bar to watch England lose the match. Mrs May is at a summit of EU leaders. The Belgian PM gave her a Belgium football team top. Which she unfurled and held up before realising it was not her team at all. Oops! How the other EU leaders laughed!

While I am talking about female politicians, here’s a little something:-

“An MP has been praised for breaking a taboo by talking about being on her period during a debate over the cost of sanitary products, which many women cannot afford. Scottish Labour’s Danielle Rowley, who represents Midlothian, apologised for being late to a House of Commons women and equalities debate, saying she was on her period and it had cost her £25 so far this week.

She called for action on the cost of sanitary products. “We know the average cost of a period in the UK over a year is £500. Many women can’t afford this. What is the minister doing to address period poverty?” she asked. Several MPs congratulated Rowley after she made parliamentary history.” 

So that’s another disgrace in modern society, women who can’t afford to pay for sanitary products! And that in the UK as well, not a third world country!

I’ve been reading Craig Murray, writing about his work in Ghana and in Uzbekistan. Disturbing stuff, giving the lie to the UK being pure as the driven snow and knowing nothing of corruption. And then I came across this little item, asking Jack Straw how much he knew about the UK’s involvement in torture after 9/11.

More amusingly and rather less seriously, a few years ago an amateur artist had a go at restoring an ancient painting in a local church in Spain. Well, it’s taken a while but she started a trend. Here’s the story:-

 “For 500 years, the painted wooden effigy of St George that adorns a chapel in the Spanish town of Estella has been locked in a silent struggle against his old foe, the dragon.
Today, however, the saint faces a different battle thanks to a feat of restoration that has prompted comparisons with the infamous “Ecce Homo Monkey Christ” and exasperated the mayor. An attempt to freshen up the 16th-century polychrome statue has left St George with a rosy pink face and a bold, red-and-grey suit of armour. The restoration is believed to have been carried out by a handicrafts teacher at the request of the parish authorities of the Church of St Michael.”

 There you go!

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Fire and fitness!

Paul Simon sang that you could hear “all about the fire in your life on the evening news”. He was really singing about “crazy love” but over the last couple of days I have had numerous friends tell me all about the fire on Saddleworth Moor, just a few miles from our house in England. Here’s a link to one news report.

The moor is huge expanse of what is basically peat bog, soggy and sticky when wet, highly inflammable when dry, which it is at the moment. After all, people used to dig up peat, dry it out and use it as fuel to heat their homes. The fire has swept across 2000 acres. That’s a lot of moorland. What’s more, fledgelings of birds that nest at ground level have perished, as have a range of plants and animals. The larger birds of prey which feed on the small animals have lost a source of food. Experts reckon it will take years for the area to recover properly.

Last year we watched devastating footage of forest fires around here in Galicia, and also in Portugal. Our Saddleworth Moor fire may not be quite so extensive but it is really bad. And really sad! And it doesn’t seem easy to put out!

Some better news! We have had a couple of days of dull and gloomy weather here in Galicia but the sun is back today. And, good news, the pool in the gardens of our our flats is open again. Starting today, I can resume my swimming routine. Hurray!

My fitness routine appears to be working. My Fitbit awarded my my New Zealand medal today, telling me, “You've walked 1,593 lifetime kilometers—the entire length of New Zealand. And while that country's native bird the Kiwi might beflightless, you, my friend, are really taking off.” So, since the end of January, I have walked 1,593 kilometres. not bad!

I take it all with a pinch of salt but I confess to working on my fitness.

Now, here’s something else on that subject. We hear a lot about the pressure on women to conform to certain body shapes. Well, it seems men suffer as well. I read about a journalist called Dan Rockwood, who works for Men’s Health magazine, who complained that the photos on their front cover did not reflect a realistic or realisable image for men. So they put him on a fitness regime to prove it could be done. A nice feature for the magazine. Here’s a link to the article.

The process of going from a mild fatty to a six-pack sporting “beauty” is called “getting shredded” and he achieved it. But it takes work. And it involves giving up alcohol, ice cream, cakes, anything sweet, and training non-stop. All the men who did it for a feature for the magazine were given personal trainers, not really what happens for most young men.

And, just like young women keeping their “beach-ready body”, it needs constant updating. If you don’t keep up the training the six-pack goes flabby. So there you go, young men are getting pressure as well, maybe not as much as young women but it’s there.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Yes, we women can! if we want to!

I was talking about children yesterday over lunch: women’s decisions to have babies, how many to have, how to organise child care, help available from the state, attitudes to child-rearing, and so on and so on. The person I was speaking to only ever wanted one child and paid to be sterilised as soon as possible after her son was born. She hates hearing people talk of a child, especially an unexpected, unplanned child, as an “accident” and so she took steps to be totally in control of her fertility. Wow! Just a bit extreme! But she was not giving in to any media pressure to conform to someone else’s idea of how her life should be organised. And besides, she is probably right to say that no child should be regarded as an “accident”. What a label to carry round with you for life!

Somebody or other was writing in the Guardian about babies, well, more specifically about the baby of Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. Here’s a short extract:-

 “Fear not, new mothers. Having a baby need not be a barrier to a career. When New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, gave birth last week and the world got drunk on what this, ergo, means for all women, Wide Awoke was delivered this “empowering” memo over and over again. You, too, can expel a tiny dependant from your body and be back up and running a country in six weeks. Inspiring, no?” 

Here’s a link to the whole article if you want to read it.

I once worked with someone who must have been a bit like Jacinda Ardern. She was vice-principal of the college where I worked. A very ambitious, driven young woman she was set to be principal of some college somewhere by the time she was fifty. And then, in her early to mid forties, when everyone had thought she was just career-minded, she had a baby. Maybe she needed to prove that she could do both - career and motherhood. She ran the college pastoral team on a philosophy of “tough love”, so I imagine that her child would be brought up the same way. Never mind six weeks maternity leave, she was back running meetings within six days! Frightening stuff!

Another former colleague of mine, a much younger one, cried every day for two weeks when she returned to college after maternity leave. And her little Grace was a year old by then. I heard recently that she has just been made assistant principal of the college where we worked, proving in a different way that it is possible to do career and motherhood.

Will the New Zealand Prime Minister cry during government meetings? Or will she determinedly keep her hormones under control?

Six weeks seems to me an inordinately short time to take for maternity leave, even if you have a stay-at-home partner to be responsible for the child. Jacinda must be a strong woman. A friend of mine did it forty years ago out of sheer financial necessity. Her partner did not earn enough for her to stay at home longer and back to her teaching job she went. And off the tiny child went to nursery. They seem to have survived it but at the time I know my friend suffered emotionally.

No woman should be forced to make that choice. It brings to mind a visit I once made with some students to a former cotton mill, where there was a special hatch in the wall through which breast-feeding mothers were able to feed their offspring, brought to them at feeding time by a childminder who looked after umpteen tiny babies.

And while I am ranting about babies and maternity leave and such, isn’t it time the cost of childcare in the UK was reduced?

Yes, women can do everything but it needs to be made a little bit easier and there needs to be less media pressure to be perfect all the time.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Bits of crazy stuff!

On a menu in Baiona recently we came across an item called “pulpo bipolar”. It turned out to be something to do with the way they cook the octopus but we were amused at the idea of a manic depressive octopus.

In Sanxenxo I noticed that someone I had developed a nodding acquaintance with at the pool was one day sporting a large plaster on her leg. So I asked what had happened. It turned out that she was bitten by a spider, not she hastened to add in the hotel but somewhere in Sanxenxo. It had injected poison or else she had had an allergic reaction and the bite turned into a huge swelling, the size of a two-euro coin. I was reminded of the time Phil had a run-in with tiger mosquitos in Italy and ended up at emergency first aid.

And here is a story from Indonesia:-

“The body of 54-year-old Wa Tiba was found on Friday when villagers cut open the seven-metre (23ft) python which was found bloated in the village of Persiapan Lawela on the island of Muna, off Sulawesi. “Residents were suspicious the snake swallowed the victim, so they killed it, then carried it out of the garden,” said local police chief Hamka. “The snake’s belly was cut open and the body of the victim was found inside.”
About 100 residents and relatives launched a search for the woman after she failed to return from her garden on Thursday night. Hamka said villagers found the giant serpent lying about 30 metres from Tiba’s sandals and machete, adding she was swallowed head first and her body was found intact. The garden in which she disappeared was at the base of a rocky cliff, pockmarked by caves, and known to be home to snakes, Hamka added.

Giant pythons, which regularly top six metres, are commonly found in Indonesia and the Philippines. While they have been known to attack small animals, attempts to eat people are rare.”

Such are the difficulties of wildlife.

We have been staying with a our friend Colin and are heading back to Vigo later today. Over breakfast this morning we discussed diet with him, as you do. He pressed onto us jam, butter, milk and orange juice that, admittedly, we had bought, on the grounds that if they stayed in his fridge he would end up consuming them and growing fat. We are all of us more or less obsessed with our health, our size, our weight.

Some more than others. Everything in moderation!

Here is an excerpt from the writings of one of those mad women who live on stuff most of us have never heard of:

“At 8am, I had a warm, morning chi drink on my way to the school drop off, drunk in the car! It contains more than 25 grams of plant protein, thanks to vanilla mushroom protein and stone ground almond butter, and also has the super endocrine, brain, immunity, and libido- boosting powers of Brain Dust, cordyceps, reishi, maca, and Shilajit resin. I throw ho shou wu and pearl in as part of my beauty regime. I chase it with three quinton shots for mineralization and two lipospheric vitamin B-complex packets for energy.”

If that’s not enough, here is a link to more of the same. https://www.thepoke.co.uk/2016/02/05/whole-internet-lolling-amanda-chantal-bacons-pretentious-hippy-diet-50-foods-youve-never-heard-recap/ Another bit of madness, and bad grammar, comes from an advert I came across for a fancy fan that you put next to your bed with a kind of funnel that goes under the sheet. “This device means your never too hot in bed” is what it said! Nobody ran a spell check over that!

 And finally, here is another “day”; next Thursday is national handshake day, in the US at least – a day no one observes, or if they do, no one notices. So here is an article about handshakes-

Monday, 25 June 2018

Hotel life,

Having spent just over a week in a hotel I feel moved to comment on staff.

We cannot fault the maintenance staff who came put quickly and sorted out our bedroom safe which had blocked itself. And then it turned out that we had put stuff in the safe in such a way that it prevented the spring mechanism on the door! Similarly there was the other branch of maintenance who came promptly when our toilet cistern sprang a very small leak. After some harrumphing that our room had a new installation that he could not get into without taking the thing apart. The older installations, he told me, had a space behind them to allow easy access. As it was he was able to assure me that the leaking water was clean water going into the cistern not rather disgusting stuff waiting to be flushed away. Which is just as well as he could not fix it.

Later in the day reception rang to offer us a change of room so that they could call a plumber. However, as we were leaving next day, we opted to stay in the room and put up with a tiny leak, which fortunately was not going anywhere else.

The ladies who cleaned the rooms deserve medals for patience, especially dealing with the likes of us. We would go down to breakfast, unwilling to put our stuff away so they could sort the room, leaving the do-not-disturb notice on the door. Then we would return to the room and maybe go out for a walk, leaving the do-the-room notice but coming back too quickly. Then Phil would settle down to do some chess preparation and the do-not-disturb notice would go back up.they quickly got used to asking when it would suit to do our room and, failing that, just ask if we needed anything. Such tolerance and patience and always with a smile.

The waiters were the best by far, of course. One of the senior waiters in the dining room was a positively unctuous gentleman, with a very dodgy moustache. He liked to show off his proficiency in a range of languages. At the other end of the experience scale was the very young waiter with the startled eyebrows. He looked little more than sixteen and had eyebrows that went at a 45 degree angle from the edge of his face to the middle. Permanently timid, he seemed half afraid of explaining the day’s menu to us. Unafraid and very chatty was the older waiter who liked to check on the progress of the chess competition. When the chess players were not around he enjoyed joking with us wives that we were undoubtedly having a better time than our menfolk.

Then there was Mr Impatient. The waiters at lunchtime always informed us what the choice of courses were at lunchtime. Mr Impatient rattled them through quickly and grew visibly grumpy if we asked for further clarification. He was equally grumpy when I ordered coffee before the chess matches: a café cortado with cold milk and then two white coffees in the thermos flask. Not really a complicated order!

I ordered a sparkling mineral water from him late one afternoon. As he served it I noticed that nobody seemed to be receiving the usual pots of nuts or crisps or olives that usually accompany drinks at that time of day. Some five or ten minutes later I saw him with a tray of little pots, going round from table to table, delivering them to the beer drinkers. Eventually he had one pot left on his tray. He looked around the room. His glance kind of slid over me. And he returned to the bar with the pot still on his tray. I felt truly discriminated against.

Much better to order stuff from his companion, a round faced black man (Can I say that. Do I have to call him a waiter of colour?) who always twinkled. Also friendly but maybe somewhere on the autistic spectrum was the nervous waiter who repeated the order several times over and sometimes took ages delivering the goods. I overheard one hotel guest refer to him as “un desastre de hombre”, which I thought was rather harsh.

You could get used to living in a hotel like that, where all the staff greet you in a friendly fashion: reception staff, gardeners, cleaners, whoever. Yes, of course it’s down to training to a large extent. That hotel obviously has a very good customer service training programme. And it works.

But it doesn’t totally explain the friendly greeting from the ones who clearly recognise you from last year and the year before. And that includes some of the top management people.

Well done, that hotel staff!

Saturday, 23 June 2018

The end of another Sanxenxo stay.

On Friday we had a special dinner here for the chess players and wives and camp followers. Arroz con bogavante - a bit like a paella made with lobster. We had copious starters:- serrano jam served on little, crispy toast rounds with a kind of sweet chutney, croquetas, prawns or maybe crayfish on kebab sticks. Then came the main pcurse. It was pot luck whether you got accessible bits of lobster or just claws you couldn’t get into. All very good though and served with very nice albariño wine.

The evening finished with a bit of a singsong. Someone had brought a guitar along. It’s amazing how many ways you can mispronounce John Lennon’s Imagine!

At some point in the evening some Belgian friends asked us about the pronunciation of the letter V in Spanish. Is it V or B? Well, it depends on the word but usually it is somewhere in between. My brother in law Avelino used to fall about laughing at my brother calling him Abelino.

But even the Spaniards have difficulty. Written Spanish shows the confusion. Country places will advertise that they have Bino for sale, when they mean Vino - wine. (Is it significant that v and b are next to each other on the keyboard?) On the sea front here there is a bar called Bulebar, which must be a corruption of Boulevard. The Castelao bar/restaurant across the road from the hotel has “patatas bravas” on their tapas menu but it is printed “patatas brabas”. And yesterday at lunch we were offered something which sounded like “bolobón”. I was rather pleased that the Spaniards at the table next to ours had difficulty understanding it as well. Then I worked put it was “vol au vent” but not really like any vol au vent I have ever been served before. Most curious!

June 24th is the feast of Saint John, celebrated here with bonfires on the beach on the eve of San Juan, bonfires that you are supposed to jump over to bring good fortune! It’s really an example of Christianity swallowing up a pagan festivity, in this case the summer solstice. ( Look out for the nights growing longer from now on!) Traditionally sardines are served, presumably grilled on the bonfires, but this year there is a shortage and sardines will be more expensive.

A noisy San Juan party appeared to be going on not far from our hotel but fortunately it ran out of steam at about 11.30 pm. Thank heavens! I thought we might be kept awake into the small hours. 

And so another Sanxenxo tournament comes to an end. One final game this morning. We await the result!

Forecasts. Gluts. Rules and regulations.

As the week has gone on the weather forecasts have changed. Earlier in the week they had been forecasting very changeable weather and even rain cor this weekend. We had a spectacular thunderstorm in the middle of possible Wednesday night, with wet sand on the beach next morning. And on Thursday afternoon the cloud moved in seriously in the early evening, clearing the swimming pool as temperatures plummeted. But then the sun came back and the forecasts are all big sun symbols. In fact Galicia is promised a hot summer. Perhaps to make up for the wet and chilly spring. 

The UK is also forecast a good summer, for a change! It seems that the good weather in the UK so far has caused a strawberry glut. Prices are being reduced to get rid of them. Various websites are offering suggestions for things to do with the strawberries that people have bought and cannot eat. Is it really possible, I ask myself, to have so many strawberries that you cannot eat them? They suggest mashing strawberries, mixing them with butter and sugar and keeping the spread in the fridge, to use on your toast on the morning. Another idea is a strawberry face-mask, the acidity of the fruit being good for acne! Who knew? It still seems a bit of a waste of strawberries, inmy opinion anyway! 

There now seem to be at least two, if not three, sand sculptors down on the beach. If they continue to multiply at this rate it will not be possible to walk 100 yards along the prom without seeing yet another elaborate work of art. I am not much impressed by the Christ crucified but some of the others are very elaborate and interesting. The artists appear to have set up little tents next to their works. I wonder if that is against the rules of beach use.


Now, the person who seems to be breaking rules at the moment is that Meghan Markle, Duchess of Wherever, Wonderland or some such place, the new Princess of Everybody’s Hearts. The other Duchess, la Middleton, appears to have been cast in the role of “the good one”, the one who has to conform. After all, if there is a likelihood that you could be queen one day, then you can’t have dodgy stuff posted on social media about you. But Meghan is now the one who can be seen to kick over the traces a little. They expect her to modernise the royal family!!! Oh yes??

So what has she been up to? It seems she went to the trooping of the colours wearing a nice little slightly off the shoulder number in a fetching shade of pink, with a matching fancy hat, a “fascinator” the size of a dinner plate. There are pictures of it all over social media. But women in the royal family are not supposed to bare their shoulders, unless presumably they are wearing evening dress. Are there similar rules for the men? Apart from their having to wear lots of medals? I expect so.

What a load of nonsense!

I love all these rules and regulations about what you should or should not wear. Jess Cartner Morley, whose fashion comments amuse me, make me cringe, have me thinking that she is as mad as a box of cats, has been going on about the wonders of a white shirt as a fashion item. I could perhaps agree with her. A white short is always good. Here is a sample of what she says:

“Princess Di, Bianca Jagger, Jean Seberg, Sade, Brigitte Bardot, Faye Dunaway and Jane Birkin” are Lauren Grant’s white-shirt idols. Natalie Kingham, fashion and buying director at Matches adds: “I think of Diane Keaton, Carolina Herrera, Patti Smith … it’s the varied women and way they interpret it that makes the white shirt an endlessly, effortlessly chic item. I have many and never tire of them.” This spring, logoed white shirts by Burberry, an elegant swing-back style by Raey at £225 and an oversize cotton shirt by MiH at £155 are all flying out at Matches. “

Note the prices she quotes. This is what I mean about her enraging me. Who pays  £225 for a shirt? Which reminds me, here in Sanxenxo, in one of the seafront boutiques is a very nice green sundress - €250!

Nice but not €250 worth of nice!

Friday, 22 June 2018

Nursery stuff.

Flan, arroz con leche, dulce de leche, natillas - some of the most frequently offered desserts here in Spain. They all strike me as what I think of as “nursery puddings”, milk based, some with soggy rice as well, all soft and just a bit bland. Add to that “mus”, Spanish for mousse, which has always struck me as a rather sad thing to do to perfectly good fruit.

Here in this hotel they also serve a range of “tartas”, all consisting of a thin layer of sponge cake, a filling if something soft and fluffy, another layer of sponge cake and usually iced with chocolate.Today there was gipsy's arm - brazo de gitano - a kind of chocolate swiss roll. Okay if you like sponge cake, I suppose.

Yesterday’s offering was “tarta de trufa”, which Phil declined in favour of an ice cream on the grounds that it was probably “mousse-ified”, which it was indeed. Pleasant enough, it was not something I would have gone out of my way for. Maybe it would be better chilled. Very prettily presented, of course.

Both of us avoid flan (crème caramel) because it was served so often in the boarding house where we stayed as students long years ago. And, of course, there were the flan-eating competitions - enough to put anybody off that dessert for life!

Our daughter posted a photo on Facebook of her small daughter jn the bath with her coat on! Yes! With her coat on. She cried because she wanted to keep it on to go in the bath. And then she cried because she could not keep the wet coat on when she got out. Very cute and funny but .... I think I am getting old and cranky and set in my ways for it seems to me that our daughter’s giving in to wearing a coat in the bath is creating a rod for her own back.

Of course, it’s very hard being the mother of a young child. Probably even harder nowadays in the age of social media. Everything you do is in the public eye and is liable to be criticised, whatever you do. Take Kate Middleton - oops, i mean the Duchess of Cambridge. She went along to watch hubby playing polo. As you do! The children played happily but unfortunately little George had a toy gun. Photos were taken. And displayed. This sparked a whole lot of comment, of course.

I remember being very determined that our children were not having toy guns. So they made them out of stickle bricks. How did they even know about guns? We didn’t have television and didn’t read stories involving guns? How much harder nowadays when screens and adverts and you-tube are all around us.

Then there’s the alcohol business. I read an article the other day in which the young mum writing declared that she was going alcohol-free. So many of her friends, she said, seemed to need alcohol as a reprieve from childcare. Drinking was a way of demonstrating that they were still the fun-loving, independent young women they were before children came along. This again strikes me as an odd attitude. I never felt the need to escape from my children. As a matter of fact, I don’t think our daughter feels the need to escape from hers. But I hear quite a lot about young mothers who feel just that. Maybe they became mothers because it was the next thing their life plan said they should do. And then it proved harder than expected!

One unexpected consequence of Brext, apparently, is that fewer young Europeans are applying to be "au pairs" in the UK. That's onereasonably-priced nanny service becoming unavailable to stressed mummies then. Pehaps more wine will be needed.

Mind you, the whole alcohol thing is interesting. When we began working as teachers, more years ago than I care to admit to, it was not the usual thing to go home and open a bottle of wine at the end of a hard day at the chalkface. At the end of every day!  Okay, good wine was harder to find at a reasonable price but even so, neither did most of us rush to the pub to drown our sorrows every evening.

Suddenly, maybe about twenty five years ago or so, I started to hear people talk about it being “wine o’ clock”, at the end of a working day. And I don’t just mean teachers. It’s not the same problem as binge drinking but it’s related.

The world has become a strange place.

And I seem to have became a grumpy old thing!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

A bit of rebellion!

As I predicted, there was a small rebellion at the pool yesterday. When I went down there were few sun loungers left unoccupied. And yet, once agin the numbers did not match up with the people in the pool. I managed to find one anyway and just got on with my day. Some time later a couple of women arrived with a small girl. Clearly rather disappointed, they put their stuff on the hard plastic chairs and looked around. Then they spoke to the people next to a couple of sun loungers with neatly arranged towels, bags and newspapers. And then they removed the offending stuff, carefully placed it on tables and occupied the sun loungers.

A coup d’état!

Many people around the pool applauded their actions - well, they said they had done the right thing!

When Phil goes down to play chess in the afternoon he takes with him a cushion from our room. The seats in the playing area are rather too low to give a good overview of the board apparently. The other day he realised after the game that he did not have the cushion any longer and went back to the playing room to look for it. No sign! He thought back over the day and remembered having it with him in the cafeteria before the game. So we went and enquired. Yes, they had found a cushion and had placed it on one of the sofas. We retrieved it and returned it to the room.

Something similar happened two years ago and we lost one altogether. I had to explain at reception when I paid our bill as they were mystified by the lack of a cushion in our room. I thought for a while we were going to be charged for it.

This time Phil says forgetting the cushion in the cafeteria was my fault. I had gone down ahead of him, ordered coffee, filled his flask for mid-game coffee and sat down at a table. Where there was not room to out his stuff down, resulting in the cushion being put on a chair and forgotten. My fault!!! Indeed?

Lunch in this hotel is always a copious affair, a starter followed by two courses and a dessert. We usually opt for two course, starter and one main course and then quibble over dessert. Lunch yesterday was mejillones en escabeche (mussels), tronco de verduras (a sort of spong cake affair with vegetables mixed in, a very curious and stodgy dish) and osso buco de ternera. Phil always rejects mussels and asked for an ensalada mixta. I love mussels so the first course was fine but I asked for an ensalada mixta after that. The vegetable sponge cake and the veal we both rejected. The waiters were a little concerned.

Then we discovered that ensalada mixta is a different beast in this hotel than anywhere else. Everywhere we go, we find ensalada mixta rather huge and often overfacing: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, olives, hard boiled eggs, a huge mound of tuna and sometime asparagus spears on the top. Here it was lettuce, tomato, onion, a token olive and a bit of carrot, chopped rather than grated. A modest affair, more of an ensalada simple! And a smaller portion!

Out and about, we came across a sportswear shop called Twinner and wondered at the appropriateness of the name, asking ourselves if there might be one somewhere called Tloser. (This is a North of England play on words!)

In the wider world, somebody posted a picture from the New Yorker magazine with this comment:-

 “Recently at the Holocaust Museum in Budapest, I saw photos of the piles of wedding rings taken from holocaust victims and wondered how we ever let the violation of human rights get so far. Then I came across this photo from The New Yorker of rosaries taken from people at the US border. May the US find its soul.”

Why do they confiscate rosaries? Is it some kind of White Anglo Saxon Protestant thing? You know the kind of thing I mean, a reaction against the Roman Catholic church with all its saints and pageantry. High Anglican gets close but low church and Methodism finds the clicking of the beads a little suspect.

But surely the land of the free should be able to put up with a few rosary beads. Confiscating the rosaries must be another staement of power!!

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Poolside ..... politics!

Down at the pool in the continued hot weather it is nice to find a sun lounger in a place where you can have a mix of sun and shade. Some people are continuing to flout the rule that say loungers cannot be reserved. These seem to be a group of elderly Spaniards who leave their towels and newspapers and other odds and ends on sun loungers while they go off and head for the beach or do other stuff. One of them got a bit huffy the other day because some of his newspapers had disappeared. Someone else returned them to him; they had blown around a bit in the wind.

However, people are beginning to look askance at the loungers covered in hotel towels, and more so at the old grumblers when they turn up and blithely take over the sun loungers. Will there be a revolution down at the pool?

Watch this space!

Out in the wider world, away from poolside politics, life is going on. There’s a fair amount of stuff around at the moment about the children of illegal immigrants being taken from their parents and kept in different places. There is historical precedent for that kind of behaviour but in regimes that we thought we had fought against and defeated. Now it’s happening in the USA. Some people have been asking if this is legal and if it comes from a law set up by the democrats, either by Clinton or by Obama. The original idea of this may have originated with POTUS himself. Some folk would like to blame Obama for everything.

Well, I read this somewhere:

 “There is no federal law that stipulates that children and parents be separated at the border, no matter how families entered the United States. An increase in child detainees separated from parents stemmed directly from a change in enforcement policy repeatedly announced by Sessions in April and May 2018, under which adults (with or without children) are criminally prosecuted for attempting to enter the United States.”

There you go!

Melania Trump is reported to have said that she “hates to see children separated from their parents”. This has been taken as meaning that she has spoken put against her husband’s policy of taking illegal immigrants’ children off them and keeping them in separate detention centres.

Has anybody asked Mr May for his opinion of his wife’s policies? I wonder what he would say. Mind you, I suspect he backs her all the way.

The First Lady role is a rather special one. The French, whose presidents’ wives always used to be anonymous, seem to have been trying to develop the role. Sarkozy seemed to start a trend, if I remember rightly.

But the First Gentleman role is not really well developed.

Do we ever hear about Mr Merkel? Is there a Mr Merkel?

Now, who said this about the European Union?

“Leaving would cause business uncertainty, while embroiling the government for years in a fiddly process of negotiating new arrangements, so diverting energy from the real problems that have nothing to do with Europe.”

 And when was it said?

Well, it was Boris Johnson in February 2016.. Our politicians are men of straw who blow with any old wind.

However, I read that Mr Feijoó, President of the Autonomous Community of Galicia, does not want to be leader of the Partido Popular. Nor does he want to be the President of the Spanish Government. Galicia was, seemingly, the extent of his ambition. But then a cynic I read today says that there will be time for further ambition when his term as President if Galicia expires - a couple of years hence.

We shall see!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Tuesday thoughts

The sun continues to shine. The temperatures creep up. People still complain that the water in the pool is “helada” - icy. Not so! They exaggerate. It always feels colder when the weather is hot. By evening the water feels quite warm - warmed by the day’s sun but also contrasting the cooler air of the evening.

I ran to the lighthouse again this morning and back along the beach, dipping my toes into the seawater. No doubt my Fitbit will downgrade my run, not giving me 100% effort because I slowed down to run in the sea.

It amuses me that my Fitbit grades my exercise. It does not recognise time spent on a static bike, although no doubt there is a way of making it do this. The rowing machine is a different matter, presumably because you actually move to and fro and this registers on the GPS system as movement. 

It registers my sleep as well, telling me how much deep sleep, light sleep, dreaming sleep and disturbed sleep I have each night. Surprisingly little deep sleep! I always said I was a light sleeper.

I read something the other day about the amount of sleep we need. This suggested that the politicians who claim, as Margaret Thatcher did, to get by, no, more than get by, to function perfectly well on four hours sleep a night are kidding the selves and us. This is part of what it said:- “Some politicians and CEOs boast that they need only four hours’ sleep, but it simply isn’t true. Take Donald Trump, for example. If this were the case, the scientific evidence would suggest he would be overweight, show erratic behaviour, poor judgment and frequent mood swings”

There’s a surprise for us all then!! Who would have thought it?

Down on the beach was another fine example of sand sculpture, not in the same place as the previous one, so maybe by a different artist.

I sent a photo of it to my son, who has always been a great admirer of castles and a prodigious builder of sandcastles. He said he assumed, correctly, that I had not built it and sent me in return a photo of the much simpler castle built by himself and his four-year-old daughter on the beach at Baiona.

It’s good to see family traditions maintained from one generation to another.

Monday, 18 June 2018

People you see, or don’t see, out and about.

Overheard at the pool:-

 “I am going for a walk towards Porto Novo. I wonder if I’ll bump into Rajoy.”

 “If you do, tell him we miss him. Those socialists are not doing any good at all.”

Someone’s not giving the PSOE much of a chance but there we go.

I ran to Porto Novo this morning. I didn’t see Rajoy, assuming he is actually there.

It was very quiet, but then, you don’t expect to see many people at 8.30 in the morning. It’s a good time of day to be up and about though. Later in the day you need to find shady places to walk, especially today, I think, as the temperature seems to have risen. When we went out a couple of hours later the beach was already filling up.

 Maybe it’s because it’s not high season yet but there are remarkably few beggars here in Sanxenxo. Not even outside the supermarket, which is often a regular spot for beggars, such as our very own Soy-Muy-Pobre in Vigo.

Almost the only beggar I have seen is the one who makes sand sculptures down on the beach. In fact, I have not really seen him, just his work and his little tent. If you make sand sculptures, anyway, does this really count as begging? Is it not perhaps a form of visual busking?

So Mr Rajoy might well be just down the road from us at the moment. I have plans to go to London to visit our son and to go to a concert in Hyde Park in July, coinciding accidentally with Mr Trump’s visit to the UK? I begin to feel as though I am being stalked by politicians!

As we stumble towards Brexit, still not really knowing what will happen, I find this in the independent:-

“The European Union has made preparations for the possibility of Brexit being postponed, as talks with the UK appear less and less likely to reach a productive conclusion in time. Internal documents drawn up by the European Council show that the bloc is planning what to do “in the event that the United Kingdom is still a member state of the union” after March.
Separately, European Commission officials have privately discussed the practicalities of extending Brexit talks, according to sources cited by the German newspaper Handelsblatt. The document drawn up by the European Council showing preparations for a delayed Brexit addressed what will happen to the UK’s seats in the European Parliament, which are set to be partly distributed between other member states at the body’s next elections scheduled for the end of May.
But under EU treaties if the UK is still a member when the elections happen it will technically have to participate, an eventuality which it has not been publicly preparing for.
“In the event that the United Kingdom is still a member state of the union at the beginning of the 2019-2024 parliamentary term, the number of representatives in the European Parliament per member state taking up office shall be the one provided for in Article 3 of the European Council Decision 2013/312/EU1 until the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the union becomes legally effective,” the European Council plan says.
It continues, adding that the plan to redistribute the MEPs will come into force midway through the parliamentary term if and when Britain ultimately leaves the bloc.”

So we remain in suspended animation. Wait and see!

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Day one of the tournament. And seafront thoughts!

Day one of the chess tournament here in Sanxenxo led, as expected, to a whole series of reunions with friends and acquaintances we have not seen for a year.

There were complete strangers, to me anyway, who greeted me at the bar as I organised coffee into a flask for Phil, who said to me, “Eres la mujer de Adams, ¿no?” These are the type of chess players who tend to greet each other by their surnames but think nothing of using the informal address when talking to the wives of the chess players they address by their surnames.

Then there were the ones who have become friends of ours over the last few years, people who arrive accompanied by their families. And we catch up on news and comment on how much the grandchildren have grown. Or we share photos of the grandchildren who have not accompanied us.

In the pool, after the whole shebang had started and I had gone off to do my own thing, I came across the Asturian. He had opted not to play yesterday, having just arrived, but was taking a half point bye. This gentleman whose name I have never got to know, has been coming for the last few years, accompanied by his wife and daughter and two charming granddaughters. Two years ago, the year of the fateful Brexit vote, he was accompanied also by his son, who turned out to work at one of the Manchester universities and who was devastated by the Brexit vote.

The two charming granddaughters, who have grown from toddlers into tall and slender pre-adolescents are Iria and Esva. I have always been struck by these unusual names so finally I googled them. There are quite a lot of famous Irias apparently. Iria is also place Galicia, an Ancient settlement and former bishopric in the modern municipality of Padrón. Okay, that’ll work. After all, I have taught a number of young ladies called Chelsea and Camden. Esva is the name of a river in Asturias. I have yet to come across anyone in the North if England called Ribble or Mersey, but there is time yet!

Walking along the seafront here, you come across lots of shops selling the usual seaside tat, but also boutiques, selling clothes at extortionate prices, naturally. One of these, a children’s clothes store, listed designer labels they stock, including one called Cloudette, which I assume is a Spanish version of the French name Claudette. Now, this is all quite logical. A spaniard reading Claudette would read the first syllable as “cloud”, “au” giving the “ow” sound. Cloudette on the other hand would be pronounced French fashion, as “ou” gives the “oh” sound. It’s just the English speakers who turn the name into “Clordette”. I am quite surprised to to see it spelt that way.

Along the seafront there is now a rainbow wall. Well, the wall has been painted in almost rainbow colours. Only orange and indigo are missing. The colours are in the wrong order: red, blue, yellow, green, violet instead of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. But then, you can’t have everything. I have no idea whether this is a nod in the direction of the gay and lesbian community.

Yesterday evening we saw a hawk hovering over the seafront, the underside of his wings looking rather magnificent in the sunlight. Unfortunately I was unable to snap a photo of him. Goodness knows what he was hunting. Seagulls do not make great eating!

Walking along the seafront in the afternoon, my eyes were assaulted by the sight of numerous teenage bottoms: on young ladies who had come up from the beach to buy ice-creams on the promenade. The fashion this year is clearly for the sort of bikinis that allow for maximum tanning of buttocks. They look rather uncomfortable. And personally I would not want to risk sunburn on my sit-upon!

Eva Wiseman, writing in the Observer, seems to feel the same way, or at least expresses indignation at the difficulty of finding bikinis to suit her.

Here’s a sample:-

“To begin with, the gussets. Usually there’s a selection of bottoms, from shorts to thongs, but this year, the fashion is for a very narrow chocolate eclair sort of shape that extends between the legs and up towards the belly button, requiring even the blondest of women to depilate almost an acre of flesh. So that’s the gussets.

But I was prepared for that, and indeed had taken it into consideration when selecting swimsuits, leaving behind a number of costumes that, rather than offer a covering for one’s genitals, instead provided a sort of will-this-do mental floss, like a hastily erected crucifix to show where one has buried the cat. But even the kinder gussets provided only a suggestion of arse coverage, the designer perhaps having never seen a human bottom, instead having only studied medical charts about digestion.”

Quite so.

She goes on the comment on fashion magazines assuming that nobody over 28 needs a bikini. Or indeed, should consider wearing a bikini.

They have clearly not seen the shapes and sizes and ages of bikini wearers on Spanish beaches. 

Finally, as regards the chess, Phil won yesterday. Today will probably be harder.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Equality matters!

I have long been a fan of Rafa Nadal. When he first burst onto the scene as a very young player I used to have my first year A-Level students research him and give us a potted biography, in Spanish of course. All these years on, one of my ex-students still raves about Rafa, even though she is now a married woman and mother of a small baby.

I remember him winning Wimbledon for the first time and climbing over the stands to reach the box where King Juan Carlos was watching. The king hugged him delightedly.

Rafa is in the news again: he won an incredible 11th French Open title at Roland Garros on Sunday. But it’s not just that; he is also in the news for his opinions. Apparently he has said that he sees no reason why female tennis players should be paid and win prizes on a par with those won by male tennis players. Oops!

"It’s a comparison we shouldn’t even make,” he said. “Female models earn more than male models and nobody says anything. Why? Because they have a larger following. In tennis too, who gathers a larger audience earns more.”

Oh dear! Not good, Rafa!

So there’s that sexism in sport. And then there is ageism.

A friend of mine posted this comment:-

 “More World Cup commentary trends...

Listen out for the casual ageism from all media observers on the game: any player over the age of, say, 32 is not, therefore, someone who brings vital experience, balance and know-how to a team, but is instead a superannuated tactical risk seemingly in imminent danger of cardio-vascular failure.” 

Well, Rafa Nadal is round about 32. Tennis players seem to last longer than football players but he needs to be careful!

Getting back to the feminist-ranting bit, the UK Government announced its support, its full support, for a new bill making upskirting a sexual offence. Upskirting is when a bloke uses his mobile phone to take photos up a woman’s skirt, without her permission of course.

Imagine if you were on a bus or a train or whatever means of public transport and a bloke lay down on the floor and looked up your skirt! Well, this is the same but done with a mobile phone.

Imagine anyone thinking it was an acceptable thing to do! A bit more sly than going round taking photos of cleavages but just as grotty, or maybe more so.

The new bill had been part of the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill, following a campaign by one Gina Martin. I think she tried unsuccessfully to take someone to court for upskirting and so began campaigning.

The bill was going along nicely until a Conservative, Sir Christopher Chope, shouted “object” when the title of the bill was read out.this means that its progress has been halted.

This Sir Christopher Chope is 71, surely too old to be going round taking photos of that nature, the dirty old man!

Maybe he just does not understand what the fuss is about.

But then again, maybe he is just against equality. It seems he has form.

  • In 2013 he voted against making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste. 
  • In 2016 he voted against the publication of a gender equality strategy to,improve the position of women.  
  • He was absent from a vote on the Human Rights Act in 1998, but in 2016 he voted in favour of repealing it. 
  • He has consistently voted against expanding the rights of gay people, and, of course, against same sex marriage. 
  • He voted for the war in Iraq, against a hunting ban or hunting restrictions, for badger culling and against measures to help prevent climate change. 
 You get the picture. I bet he also voted for Brexit!

Friday, 15 June 2018

Poolside at last!

Well, we have made it to Sanxenxo for another chess tournament. At the start of last week we were wondering if this year would be Sanxenxo’s wet tournament but the organisers appear to have sorted the weather once again.

We timed our travel here so that we were able to step off the train from Vigo in Pontevedra and cross the road from the train station to the bus station and hop straight onto a bus to Sanxenxo. The bus always seems to take an inordinately long time making its way through Pontevedra before crossing the river and heading up through Poio, past Combarro and eventually on to Sanxenxo, picking people up and dropping them off at various points en route. Maybe it’s the result of the sun having come out but masses of people got on the bus in Pontevedra. Some years we have been almost the only passengers. Maybe it was the time of day: we caught the 3.00 bus.

At one of the stops in the town centre a hoard of young people wanted to get on, clearly heading for an afternoon, possibly an evening, on the beach. The driver appeared to just keep on selling them tickets and letting them get on until suddenly all the seats were taken and there was a group,of about 6 or 8 standing in the aisle looking sheepish. Some kind of discussion must have been taking place because it was a good ten minutes before they all eventually got off the bus again and we set off. Surely the driver must have had an idea that his bus was getting pretty full. A quick walk down the bus counting empty seats would have been a good idea, not beyond the wit of a bus driver, surely! But it obviously did not happen.

I felt rather sorry for the young people because at that time of day there was nit going to be another bus for two hours. Mind you even if they got to the beaches at 6.00 the sun was still shining. It wasn’t all bad!


We arrived and checked into the hotel. Then I wandered out to buy few things: bottles of water, sun cream and a mouse mat. The final item had been forgotten by the person who uses the computer most - not me! I had some difficulty finding one in the Chinese bazaar across the road from our hotel. The place is vast and seems to sell everything but the kitchen sink. It was when I was in the shop and about to ask for assistance that I realised I had no idea what they call mouse mats in Spain. So I had to explain in roundabout terms what it was I was looking for. It turns out to be an “alfombra”, which is more of a carpet than a mat. Maybe Spanish mice (mouses?) are more demanding than English ones. I could have got a very fancy one with a raised area to rest your wrist on and avoid strain. However, I decided to go for the plain and simple one that only cost €1!

Having done my bits of shopping I headed down to the pool for my first swim of this summer. The water was a bit chilly. After all, it has not been hot enough over the last few weeks to warm things up. But once you get over the initial shock it’s fine.

This is a rather splendid pool!

And it was almost empty. I suspect that tomorrow, being Saturday, might be a different story.

While I was there a couple of family groups turned up, in each case a mummy, a daddy and a six-year-old girl. One of the daddies was a stickler for rules, insisting that his daughter showered before getting onto the pool and going off the look at the rules and regulations noticeboard. The other spent a fair amount of time pushing his little girl into the pool. This struck me as rather mean, even though her only reaction was to say he was crazy - !Este tío está loco! she told her mother.

I am not sure I really approve of pushing children into pools in that way, even though the child in question appeared to enjoy it and was a competent swimmer. It strikes me as a form of bullying as well as setting a really bad example. The child will learn that it’s okay to push people into the water and may well do so to someone who is not such a competent swimmer.

There I go, being very British!

Of course that may not be a problem here, where every child seems to learn to swim very early in life. Ah, the advantages of a climate that allows for lots of outdoor pools!

However, that climate does not prevent the two mothers from telling their daughters how cold it was once you got out of the water. That’s out of the water and into a still sunny and warm late afternoon / early evening.

 Crazy people!

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Day out!

Having planned my day almost to the minute, I arrived at the bus station in Vigo this morning with only minutes to spare to catch the bus to Baiona. I usually like to leave a bigger margin than that. I was on my way to have lunch with my son and his little family.

I had got up, been for a run, bought bread, gone back and showered, washed and dried my hair, put a load of washing on and hung it out - all that before breakfast. Then came decision time: was Phil going to go with me or not. In the end not, so I set off with plenty of time for a stroll to the bus station.

Then came a series of phone calls. I am no longer a teenager and so my phone was in my bag and needed fishing out. And then, also because I am no longer a teenager, dealing with my phone slows down mu walking. Taking advantage of a green man, I crossed the road. There, in a square that looks out towards the bay, sat an old lady with whom I have a nodding acquaintance, she called me over, wanting to know if we still had the flat in the tower block. She had not seen me for while and wondered. I used to see her walking a very old dog. She always referred to herself and the dog as two little old ladies - dos viejecitas. But she no longer has the dog. She had had to accept that the dog was too old and was suffering and had to have her put down. She was sad but she herself was getting along, still out and about.

So that took a good five minutes off my walking time, possibly more, but you can’t rush old ladies.

And I got to the bus station, as I said, with minutes to spare. I did not fancy waiting half an hour in Vigo’s insalubrious bus station for the next bus. The bus ride to Baiona is very pleasant, once you have got out of greater Vigo. And it proved to be a splendid day for a bus ride along the coast and then some lunch and possibly a bit of playing on the beach with the granddaughter. What more can you ask for?

The fine weather has provoked a rash of washing on my part. Everything dries so nicely in the sunshine. This is what women from the Northwest of England do - the sun shines, you hang out washing. Not just in the Northwest by all accounts. Here is a little gem/piece if nonsense I found in the Guardian last night:

 “Name: The Laundry Revolution.

Location: Colyton, Devon.

Appearance: Festive. That sounds nice.

Yes, it has been a lovely revolution so far. Very few casualties. Although one Colyton resident will be feeling very anxious right now. Why is that? Please wiggle from side to side and play this harp while we go back in time to last Wednesday.

Like this?

Perfect.

So, it’s a warm, sunny day in east Devon and Claire Mountjoy has been making the most of the good weather by hanging out her washing to dry. Well, you would. Absolutely. Although, living in a pretty cottage on Dolphin Street, she has very little outside space. That’s the price you pay for living in a picturesque small town a short walk from the Jurassic Coast.

Um, yes.

Anyway, mindful of Colyton’s role in the Monmouth rebellion of 1685, Mountjoy has been hanging her washing in front of the house, rather than at the back.

I suppose there’s not much in the way of traffic fumes on Dolphin Street.

No, indeed. But there are tourists, especially in summer. And, on the day in question, Mountjoy received an anonymous letter, asking her to “please consider using a tumble dryer or hanging the washing indoors”.

Or what? There might be an unfortunate fire? Is the mafia very active in Colyton?

I don’t believe so. The writer just claimed to represent “local businesses and your neighbourhood” and asked her to “help us all keep Colyton a town we can all be proud of”.

Still, I understand why Mountjoy would feel anxious about that.

On the contrary, it’s the letter writer who will be worried now. Because, as soon as they heard about the message, other residents of Colyton began to hang their washing in front of their houses in solidarity.

Viva something or other! Absolutely. Now there are knickers in shop windows, pyjamas strung across the town square and even a bra up a flag pole.

And this would be the Laundry Revolution?

That’s right. “It shows the fabulous community spirit Colyton has,”

Mountjoy told Devon Live. I guess. Don’t you think it’s a beautiful thing? The whole town uniting to ostracise one powerless busybody?

It sounds more like a persecution than a revolution. You must admit it was snooty to write an anonymous note.

Sure. But I bet they’re glad it was anonymous now. They must feel like the target of a witch-hunt! A charmingly eccentric witch-hunt.

Revolutions are always charming. To begin with. Maybe so.”

The complainers should see the blocks of flats near ours in Vigo, the fronts festooned with washing. But then, the far end of Calle Aragón is not really picturesque enought to demand hiding the washing.

We had a lovely day in Baiona, with a splendid lunch!




Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Some anomalies and odd behaviour!

I finally found and bought an academic year diary. It must be all those years of being teachers but we still seem to feel that the year runs from the beginning of September to the end of August rather than January to December. However, I bought the diary in haste, on a whim, and when I examined it more closely I discovered that it starts on Monday August 20 2018 and finishes on Sunday August 4th 2019. So there is a hiatus. A couple of weeks during which academic year diary users have NO TIME, NO DATES. 

Perhaps all academic year people are supposed to go on holiday at that point, rather as in the past workers in the cotton mills in the Northwest of England had to take their annual holidays all at the same time. This was so that the mill owners could close down all the machines and have them serviced. These weeks were called Wakes. Boarding house owners in seaside places like Blackpool knew to expect masses of people from, for example, Oldham during one fortnight and Blackburn during a different fortnight. Even the schools closed for the towns’ Wakes Weeks, to enable children to go on holiday with their parents. That’s what you call organisation! 

On the subject of holidays and families, we have just had a brief visit from our son and family. They were en route for Baiona, a place they have enjoyed visiting in the past, and they stopped off for a day and a night with us. We all went into town to lunch off chipirones encebolladas at the Rasalía Castro restaurant down by the port. Always worth a visit. 

Later in the afternoon we went downstairs to give the four-year-old a chance to run around in the gardens and play on the climbing frame in the little kids’ playground. Imagine our surprise to go out of he back door and find a huge barrier: ¡ACCESO PROHIBIDO! Half of the garden seem to have been dug up, the pool is obviously empty and machinery of various kinds is parked around it. Goodness knows what is going on! 

Of course, had the weather been better I would already have discovered this state of affairs but it simply has not been the kind of weather to induce me to go for a swim. What a fool I would have felt if the weather had been warmer and sunnier and I had gone tripping down in my swimsuit with a cover-up on top, my towel over my arm and with a little bag containing suntan lotion and a book to read! 

Today the weather is much improved and is forecast to remain so for a while. It is a good job we are off to Sanxenxo at the end of the week. There I will be able to make use of the much superior pool in the hotel while Phil plays chess. We did suggest that the organisers of the tournament should arrange the usual good weather for us. Perhaps they have managed to do so. We shall see. 

I saw our son and family off on a bus to Baiona this morning and will go and lunch there with them tomorrow. As a rule I would wait until further into their stay in Baiona but as we head for Sanxenxo on Friday this will not be possible this year. 

I walked back from the bus station, detouring via the Eroski supermarket to buy some honey. The honey they sell there is in more efficient non-drip dispensers than the stuff they sell in the Mercadona next door to our black of flats. I selected what looked like a good queue at the checkout - a couple of people ahead of me with just a smallish basket of groceries rather than a huge trolly. 

As I waited, another customer tapped me on the shoulder and asked could she go ahead of me as she only had two items. I pointed out that I only had one item and that she should wait her turn. She then asked the lady ahead of me if she could go in front of her as her husband was ill in bed at home. At this point the cashier intervened and said categorically NO; I had not let her go ahead of me and the lady before me should not do so either. 

The would-be queue-jumper hovered, moving distractedly from queue to queue, whining and moaning all the while. Eventually she returned to our queue, this time declaring that she would not ask if she were from around here, but she had a bus to catch - ¡es por el bus! 

Finally we had had enough of her whinging and let her go ahead. 

The cashier was quite cross after Mrs Saltacolas had left, declaring that she was in and out of the supermarket every morning at least four times, always buying two items and always trying to get out ahead of the queuing shoppers. 

To add insult to injury, Mrs Salatacolas was dithering around the exit, in no hurry to go anywhere. Clearly this is another form of madness! 

I shall stick to my guns in future, turn a deaf ear to any moans and be a grumpy old meany!

Monday, 11 June 2018

Too many numbers!

Our lives are ruled by numbers and minor bits of chaos ensue if we forget or lose our numbers. Most of us develop complicated mnemonics to help us keep the numbers in mind. Our grandson has only one number fixed in his actual, inside his head memory: his mother’s mobile number! Sensible lad!

I was reminded of this when I received a message this morning from a former student. She had met a young man, a Spaniard, when she was out and about. He told her that he was looking for a reading group so that he could get involved in some conversation and also said he was interested in finding a way of setting up an exchange of some kind. My former student thought of me on both counts; she knows I go to a reading group, organised by another of her former teachers and that, back when I was a teacher, I organised exchanges.

I could help with the reading group if she put me in contact with the young man in question but I think my exchange-organising days are long gone.

She had noted down his number. In the middle of writing her message to me she realised that she had accidentally deleted the last digit of the young man’s number. She sent me the message anyway just in case, so she said, I happened to be wandering the streets of Eccles (unlikely) and came across a young Spaniard called Maxi!!!

Now, if she had really noted down his number, on a piece of paper in a notebook or diary, she would not have deleted the final digit. But, a modern girl - she always was a modern girl, even when she was just a sixth-form student - she had entered it into her phone. I suppose that, if she were really determined to get in touch with Maxi, if it were a case of her having fallen desperately in love, she could have made ten phone calls, each with a different final digit, until Maxi eventually answered.

But no, Maxi will never receive the information about the Winston Smith Reading Group.

Another numbers-related thing occurred the other day. I was standing at the checkout in the Eroski supermarket, waiting my turn. Ahead of me, a young woman was buying boxes of chocolates. She wanted to pay with the credit in her Eroski loyalty card. This being Spain, in order to do this she had to show some ID and the cashier had to enter the number on the ID card into the till. Of course, this does not happen in the more carefree UK supermarkets. I have no idea what happens in other EU countries.

Well, that’s when the trouble started. The number on the ID and the number registered on the Eroski card did not match! Oops! No possibility of using the credit. Was the young lady sure it was her Eroski card? Was it perhaps her boyfriend’s card? At this point the young lady, rather confused by it all, asked the cashier if she spoke English. No she didn’t. Costa Coffee baristas in Porto airport might well manage several languages but not girls who work on the tills in Eroski. So I offered to help. After all, I might otherwise have been there for hours.

The young lady, who turned out to be a student from the Ukraine, thought she might have applied for the Eroski card using her passport. She did not have her passport with her as she did not want to risk losing it and found that for most things her student card was enough for identification purposes. But she wanted to use her Eroski credit, about seven Euros, as she was about to leave Spain and, after all, seven euros is seven euros! Could she come back later with her passport and try again? Okay, sorted! 

Numbers can, as I said, cause problems!

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Points of view.

Our flat here in Vigo is on the seventh floor and has a tiny balcony which overlooks the estuary, a good deal of the city, the port and beyond, out to the Islas Cíes. In the other direction you see the promontory of A Guía with its chapel-cum-lighthouse at the top, and beyond that the Rande bridge, which can look quite spectacular.

For a good part of this last week almost none of this has been visible; all we have seen is gloom and murk. Even today there is very low cloud shrouding the top of the hills on the other side of the estuary. So much for June!

When I looked out this morning there was a cruise boat the size of a small town in the port. If you could have picked it up you would have been able to put it down on top of all the expensive yachts in the marina and covered them completely. It must take the holidaymakers most of their cruise to find their way around the ship!

Because of the murky weather those cruise boat people must have missed all the beautiful views of the islands out beyond the estuary and the coastline as the boat came up the estuary into Vigo harbour. What a shame! It would seem to me that one of the few advantages of going on a cruise is that you get to see some good scenery. After all, they won’t have been able to do much shopping, today being Sunday! Maybe they have other places to visit yet. The forecast seems to be rather better for the coming week. We shall see.

We have walked out into the drizzle of the last couple of evenings to have a beer, some free food - I remain amazed at how bars here make a profit as some of them give quite substantial free tapas with the drinks - and to catch up with our email and other internet stuff.

Looking at newspaper headlines online, I spotted this one from the Telegraph:

“Donald Trump 'tired of Theresa May's school mistress tone’ and will not hold talks with her at G7”.

So much for the “special relationship”.

I didn’t get to read much more of it as the Telegraph is one of those mean newspapers which insists that you have to be a subscriber if you want to have access to their articles in full.

From the Independent I gleaned this little gem:

“A State Department spokeswoman has been ridiculed for citing the D-Day invasion as an example of America’s “very strong relationship” with Germany.

“We have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany,” Heather Nauert said.

“Looking back in the history books, today is the 71st anniversary of the speech that announced the Marshall Plan. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany, and we have a strong relationship with the government of Germany”.”

I suppose that we should take into account the fact that the USA is a long way from Europe and so perhaps should not be expected to know much about stuff that went on here all those years ago. But, really, which alternative reality do the people who surround POTUS live in?
 And here’s another bit of American oddness. A kindergarten in Massachusetts has been teaching its tiny charges what to do in the event of a crazy gunman attacking the school by means of a song. It goes to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and here are the words:

Lockdown, lockdown, lock the door
Shut the lights off, say no more
Go behind the desk and hide
Wait until it’s safe inside
Lockdown, lockdown, it’s all done
Now it’s time to have some fun!

A parent spotted the words pinned to a noticeboard in the school and tweeted angrily, “This should not be hanging in my soon-to-be-kindergartener’s classroom”. Quite so! But neither should it be necessary to train tiny children in what to do in the event of crazy gunman getting into their school!

I wonder if the angrily tweeting parent has a gun in-the family home!

Later. As regards the cruise boat, the weather cleared later in the day the holidaymakers will have been able to admire the ría and its beaches as they left.

It must have been rather perturbing, however, for the sailing school. At around 5.30 as the boat left, lots of tiny boats were out there practising their manoeuvring skills. Having a lorry pass you at close quarters on the motorway is bad enough. How must it be to be caught in the wash of a boat as big as a small town?

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Some weekend stuff.

Saturday morning. A much-diminished sailing school is out on the bay. Usually in June the little boats are out in force on a Saturday morning. Today there is only a handful. The gloomy weather must be putting them off. You would think that a bit of cloud and damp would not affect apprentice sailors.

After breakfast I pop out to the supermarket to buy a few things - pasta, the makings of pasta sauce, bottle of wine and so on. On the way out I grab a bag of recyclable rubbish to put in the container near the supermarket entrance. Because the supermarket is just next door I don’t bother with a coat or jacket. As I step outside I realise it is starting to rain ... again! How very annoying!

As I hurriedly sort my recyclables - glass to one container, plastics to another - I hear a voice cry, “!Ay, señora!” And I find myself involved in a bit of a hug and kisses on both cheeks situation. Soy-Muy-Pobre, at one time our regular supermarket beggar is back. And she is SOOOO pleased to see me. Probably because I am a bit of a soft touch, usually giving her a few coins just to get away.

After the initial delight of seeing me again, she reverts to her usual whine and tells me once again how poor she is and please will I give her ten euros!!! A soft touch I may be but not that soft a touch! 

She complains that the supermarket won’t let her stand in the doorway but make her stand out on the street. But she has a warm jacket on whereas I have bare arms so I slip her a euro and escape as fast as possible.

Note to self: try to avoid the supermarket on a Saturday morning.

Soy-Muy-Pobre probably knows that there are more people in and out of the store on a Saturday morning. During the rest of the week it is likely she begs in some spot where there are richer pickings than at our end of town. Maybe she even has a job. That is unlikely, though, or at best it will be something menial because I doubt she has much by way of qualifications. However, she looks cleaner and more respectable than other beggars you see around and in the past I have seen her taking her son to school. She is very proud of him.

But we are in the 21st century and nobody should have to be standing outside a supermarket with a poorly-written sign asking for help!

Friday, 8 June 2018

Out and about.

Today we had sunshine. Well, this morning we had sunshine. How long it would last was a different matter. This is very much a stop-start summer. Those who believe summer cannot be declared until the temperatures reach 30+ must be having a hard time of it.


We took advantage of the sunshine to go for a walk around the coastal path at A Guía. It’s a very pleasant promenade, with views out over the bay and a little lighthouse at one end. I am not sure what actual purpose the lighthouse serves these days but presumably it was useful in the past. I suspect that all expensive boats that are moored at the marine round there are all equipped with fancy GPS systems. And besides, they probably don’t go to the far end of the estuary.

We never see many people on the coastal path, no matter what time of day we decide to walk there. This is a pity. It should be used more, a perfect escape from the fumes of the city. And if anyone ever asks what the EU has ever done for Vigo, then there is the answer: they funded the coastal path, opened in 2010. Well, there’s also the European fisheries thing; we shouldn’t forget that.

By the time we got back the cloud was moving in but on the whole it has been a better day than yesterday.

Now that I have got myself back into the routine of an early morning run up the hill towards San Joan do Monte (but not all the way up, I hasten to add - there are limits!) I am noticing the traffic jam by the school half way along my running route. Masses of people bring their offspring to school by car and clog up the narrow approach roads and the far too small parking area. I suppose this is a consequence of more families with two working parents but it will no doubt contribute to the child obesity problem. So it goes!

Pretty soon this traffic jam will disappear. The school year ends before the feast of San Juan, which is around the 24th of June, if my memory serves me well. So why, with the academic year finishing earlier here than in the UK am I finding it so hard to buy an academic-year diary? I have seen them in the UK but here they tell me that they are not out until probably next week. Mind you, I did go only to the Chinese shops, so maybe they are not the best indicators. 2018 diaries, the normal all-year diaries are available, but there is no reduction, which is often the case at this time of year in places like W.H. Smith in the UK.

Also selling at full price, which admittedly in the Chinese shops is never extortionate, are piles of 2017 diaries! Who is buying those?

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Jet-streaming!

People here must get very confused. A couple of weeks ago they had temperatures of 30 degrees - sudden sweltering summer in mid-May. Now we are rapidly approaching mid-June and they all have their coats and scarves and boots on. 15 degrees, the temperature gauge down by the roundabout says this morning. Not quite boots and gloves and woolly hats weather but still ...

Yesterday eventually warmed up quite nicely: a bit of blue sky and sunshine but nothing excessive. Today we are back to gloom and drizzle, not even proper rain. It’s probably why we feel quite at home. Just as in Saddleworth, you never know what to wear as the weather can change over the course of the day. The people who came into Vigo on yesterday’s cruise ship had almost the full range - cloud first thing, then some blue sky and sunshine but no rain, fortunately for them.

According to Phil, it’s all the fault of the jet stream. It changes direction and brings different sorts of weather. Now, I want to know who discovered, or even invented, the jet stream. You never used to hear about it in weather reports but now it’s all over the place. Newspaper weather forecasts have interesting pictures showing where the jet stream is located on a particular day. Like an errant dragon, it swoops around, disturbing weather patterns and flightpaths. When I flew to Gibraltar recently (well, I tried to but we were diverted to Malaga) the pilot kept telling us he was taking the plane higher to get above the jet stream. I found myself wondering if he could actually see it.

Little has changed here since our last visit, apart from the unseasonable weather.

  •  The pavement on our stretch of Calle Aragón has still not been replaced, modernised, gentrified or whatever, unlike the rest of the street. Mind you, in contrast we found yesterday a very fine stretch of the already gentrified alameda, Plaza de Compostela in the centre of town, which had been given very fine new pavements. This smacks of discrimination. 
  • Our local breadshop remains closed, which is a shame as I now have to go further afield. What is more, my new regular breadshop is one of a largish chain while the original one was an independent bakers with ovens on the premises. 
  • Drivers continue to have a frightening disregard for red lights at pedestrian crossing. If you see a car approaching you need to wait to be sure it intends to stop before you cross, despite the little green man telling you it is safe to do so. A little green man has precious little power to prevent a driver sailing through regardless. This morning I prepared to cross as a lorry rumbled slowly up the slope to the red light. It reached the lights and just kept on going, the driver giving me a wry grin and a wave as he did so. Clearly he did not want to lose revs to get him round the corner. But anyway he was bigger than me and I had no intention of getting into a fight with him! 
As I said, nothing changes but the weather!

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

A bit of a feminist rant.

I have been reading Craig Murray, writing about his time as an ambassador in Uzbekistan. There is a lot of interesting stuff about how Tony Blair and co accepted that it was ok to take as evidence material that had been gained through torture by other regimes. A strange double standard that says we don’t actually torture but we let other people do it.

At one point Craig Murray talks to young women who tell him that it was standard practice for the police in Uzbekistan to rape women, in fact to invent reasons to question women so that they could rape them. Families then covered it up as, of course, girls had to be virgins when they married. There’s another double standard!

Talking to the young women made Craig Murray reflect on his own behaviour towards women. Declaring that he had had been “fortunate to have a number of extremely enjoyable relationships”, he went on to reflect: “I was always prone to falling head over heels in love. But these relationships had one thing in common. Whether in Central Europe, Russia, the Caribbean, Asia or Africa,there had always been a startling economic gap between the girl and me. I was much richer than them, or anyone whom they might normally meet.” To what extent, he wondered, was he really different from the Uzbek police? “Plainly, beautiful girls do not normally fancy greying, pot-bellied weaklings with bad teeth.”

Indeed! Take that to heart, Harvey Weinstein at al.

Craig Murray said his conversation with the Uzbek girls “resulted in a distinct change in (his) behaviour”. Maybe those accused of abusing their positions of power should be made to read Craig Murray.

It didn’t seem to stop him admiring, and describing at length.the beauty of the women he came across, but that is a different matter, I suppose. And then, he describes men and their good or bad looks with similar detail. So we can’t really accuse him of too much bias.

In the United States Miss America, the annual televised pageant, has announced that it will be scrapping the swimsuit portion from this year’s event. Instead of rating contestants on how they look in a bikini, judges will now rank the women on “who you are as a person from the inside of your soul”. They are also getting rid of the evening gown section and asking contestants to wear clothes that make them feel confident. A spokeswoman for the pageant said: “We’ve heard from a lot of young women who say, ‘We’d love to be a part of your program but we don’t want to be out there in high heels and a swimsuit.’ So guess what, you don’t have to do that anymore.”

After 97 years of the competition, I suppose it’s time for a change.

Earlier this year Formula One decided to stop using the “grid girls”, scantily-clad models of more decorative use than anything else. I wonder if the Tour de France organisers will follow suit.

Meanwhile in a primary school in Inverness, I read yesterday, they announced that girls and boys will compete together on sports day instead of having boys’ events and girls’ events. It makes sense. Their physical development is pretty much level at that point. But some people have complained, saying that their sons are being bullied because they have been beaten by girls. Poor things!

Time to educate them all to be accepting of each other and to recognise the equality.

Surely in the egg and spoon race there should not be a problem. After all men and women compete against each other in equestrian events. And in football, girls and boys are allowed to play together up until the age of 18 after the Football Association changed the rules in 2015, and girls’ teams can play against boys’ teams in organised leagues up to the age of 12.

Time for more up to date attitudes all round.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Crazy travellers’ tales and stereotypes!

Yesterday we left a surprisingly sunny Northwest of England and travelled to the Northwest of Spain. Well, first we travelled to Porto and waited around for a couple of hours for the bus to Vigo.

I was convinced at several points in the day that we were travelling with crazy people.

First there was the case of the mother and daughter who got on the bus with a baby and toddler, both in separate buggies, one pushed by each adult. The children were surprisingly cherubic: chubby cheeks, big eyes, long lashes and golden curls - too long in the case of the older child, who was clearly ready for his first big-boy haircut. Maybe his mother was reluctant to cut off his curls. He must have been at least three, quite articulate and protesting loudly because they would not let him out of the buggy to sit on a seat. To pacify him his grandmother fished about in her bag and produced one of those compacts that ladies carry around (I don’t so maybe I am not a lady), the sort with a fancy enamelled outside and two mirrors inside. Mother meanwhile was busy with her mobile phone and ignoring both children.

The ploy worked. The child was delighted, explored it, decided it was a special pair of glasses and declared himself to be Darth Vader. Grandma gave me a wry look and told me the child was obsessed with all things Star Wars. She only wished he had not gone to the dark side. I resisted the temptation to ask what a three year old was doing watching Star Wars. Surely the main story line must have gone right over his head. I was strong, however, and joined in the game, and as we got off wished them, “May the Force be with you”. The little boy had clearly understood enough of the story to appreciate the wish and rewarded me with an angelic beam.

The tram was fairly sane, apart from the woman, another grandmother, with a child of perhaps ten who kept teasing her by getting hold of grandma’s phone and videoing her. She also had a baby in a very odd baby-buggy, one and a half times the usual width. Alongside the baby’s seat there was a sort of container for transporting shopping, the inevitable “baby bag” for carrying nappies and bottle and such, and presumably anything else you might need. I am sure it was very handy but oh, so unwieldy. I remain amazed at what they produce for carrying babies around!

 Despite the recent train chaos, we managed, without further craziness, to catch a train from Manchester to one of the Liverpool stations and then straight onto bus to Liverpool’s John Lennon airport.

It was on the plane that the real fun began. First there was a pair of elderly sisters, overexcited and perhaps just a little tipsy. Throughout the flight they kept up a loud, giggling conversation, uninhibited and unabashed.

But they were outdone by the Portuguese lady who provoked an outrage from the cabin staff by getting up and walking around during take-off. Maybe it was because we taxied a good way before take-off. Maybe she was just odd. Shrill requests for ALL passengers to remain in their seats with their seatbelts securely fastened producing no result, one of the crew had to almost manhandle her back to her seat and tell her firmly, “Now fasten your seatbelt!” All was well for a while, although she did keep changing seats; unusually there were empty seats on the flight. And so it went on until the crew started moving up and down the aisle with food and drink for sale.

She ordered lasagne and made a big fuss about it being heated. When it arrived a short while later she demanded that it be opened for her. Then she wanted hot chocolate and got cross because they would not give her more than three sachets of milk to put in it. A good ten minutes was spent on this one passenger. All of this went on in Portuguese, broken English and equally broken Spanish. She grew very agitated because the cabin crew did not understand Portuguese.

Observing what was going on, I decided that she probably wanted to take some kind of medication with food and a hot drink but she was having clear difficulties with communication. At one point she shouted down the plane to a companion who came and helped sort out the problem of how much she needed to pay. When she was on her feet, blocking the aisle, preventing trollies from moving, stopping other passengers from getting to the toilet, a sort of chief stewardess arrived to remonstrate with her.

Now, SHE was a bit of Nurse Ratchett figure, from “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, and she calmed things down and sat for a while with the poor woman. However, as we made our descent into Porto, nothing and nobody seemed able to persuade the by now rather tearful woman from fastening her seatbelt. And no further fuss was made. Very odd!

As we would be arriving late in Vigo, too late to purchase supplies of any kind, I was persuaded by Phil that I should try to buy milk in the arrivals lounge at the airport. This was too great a challenge for my very basic Portuguese, so I asked the young man in the coffee shop, in Portuguese, if he spoke English or Spanish. Both, he told me. And so I successfully bought a paper cup of milk which I equally successfully decanted into an empty water bottle. Job done!

I wonder how many coffee shop employees in Liverpool, or even Manchester, airport could deal with three languages. No doubt in the cosmopolitan centre of Manchester itself you can find them, but I suspect that they might be among the EU nationals working in the city!

This morning I woke to the sound of car tyres swishing on a wet road. it was raining! I went out to buy bread and fruit for breakfast. In the fruit shop one of the customers was saying how she was bored with rain and gloom and so I asked how long the weather has been bad, explaining that we had just arrived from a reasonably sunny Northwest of England. Several weeks, she told me, and not much of improvement this week. One of the other customers, ignoring my remark about bow nice the weather had been in our part of England, commented that as I was from England I would be used to horrid, inclement weather!

I love these stereotypes. In the UK I know people who assume that Spain is all wall to wall sunshine all year round, while here in Spain there are those who believe that all of England is covered in fog, that the sun never shines and consequently we never go to our beaches.

In just under two weeks we go to Sanxenxo, where Phil will play in a chess tournament. For the last I don’t know how many years we have done this and there has been a heatwave. We have told the organisers that we expect no less this year. Good weather has been ordered! We shall see.

My daughter tells me that the sun is shining today over Greater Manchester!