Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Wild weather – random results!

At the weekend a notice appeared on the door of our block of flats. ¡Cuidado! it said. Careful! There was, it transpired, some danger of stones falling from the sixth or seventh floor of the building onto the area opposite the swings in the children’s playground. Residents were asked not to merodear, wander around, in that area. And, just like the scene of a crime, the area was cordoned off with stripy plastic tape, which we have heard flapping in the wind ever since.

Looking up, from a position of safety I hasten to add, we could just make out something sticking out at an odd angle. From the looks of it, the building, to all appearances made of solid stone, is in fact only stone-clad. Not a problem in itself but I suspect that the nasty weather we have been having has caused this new problem of bits falling off. There is nothing like a bit of rain, frost and wind for finding a weak spot and taking advantage of it. A piece of stone cladding was about to take a nose-dive!

I still feel that here in Vigo we are managing to avoid some of the worst excesses of this winter, although I seem to have had a few close calls. On Monday evening I decided to catch the bus home from the town centre after my various social activities rather than walk home. I was glad I did so because I was barely off the bus when the sky lit up with the start of an impressive thunderstorm. Scuttling up the hill to home I succeeded in getting inside before the torrential rain came down. Much the same happened today as I returned from the hairdresser’s.

Last night at my painting class someone was telling us about a tornado in nearby Baiona, reported in this morning’s papers. And a neighbour who was there for a day out – well, when you have visitors from Scotland you have to have days out even if there is a risk of bad weather – reported driving home through hailstones!!

It is generally agreed that the winter has been going on too long now: Este invierno se hace largo. We’ve really had enough and are ready for a touch of spring.

On Monday the mayor of Bilbao was advising people in that city not to go out as there was a serious risk of being blown over. But then Bilbao is a fair way from here and facing onto the Bay of Biscay, noted for winter storms. Even so, we are on yellow alert and the Xunta de Galicia has taken the decision to suspend all outdoor activities in schools here until the storms have abated.

Late this afternoon, just before yet another storm rolled noisily and impressively over us, we noticed a rope waving around outside our window. Nothing seemed to be attached to it and, rather irresponsibly perhaps, we dismissed it as nothing to do with us. Just as I was commenting that I wouldn’t like to be a repairman in the current weather conditions, a man in a safety harness descended slowly past our window. Presumably he had been involved in some kind of repairs or at least stabilising activity on the stonework higher up the building. Rather him than me!

As I said though, we have seemingly escaped some of the major extremes of weather. Other places and other parts of Spain have suffered a good deal more than us. I received an email today from my sister in the south of Spain. She and her husband have just done a pilgrimage to London with a group of friends to see the guitarist Eric Clapton. The London bit of their trip was a piece of cake, very enjoyable and involved no more problems than might be expected with a group of eight or nine mostly Spaniards losing each other from time to time in the capital of the UK. It was their journey that was the nightmare.

They had flights booked from Gibraltar, quite close to where they live, to London. On the outward journey the plane they were due to travel in was unable to land at Gibraltar because of bad weather. They were put on buses and had a three hour ride to Malaga where they caught another plane. Returning to Spain was even more difficult. First their Gatwick – Gibraltar plane was once again diverted to Malaga because of bad weather. Then the plane tried three times, unsuccessfully, to land at Malaga and they were diverted to Granada.

Her email continued: “Twenty minutes later, and with great general relief, we landed at Granada airport. But now the trouble was they didn't know what to do with us. Maybe the coaches would come from Malaga to take us to Gibraltar, but meanwhile we had to sit in the plane till further notice. An hour later we were told, to our dismay, that they had decided to fill up the tanks and try again at Malaga as the weather there had improved. The bad news was that the storm was coming our way and we would have to go through it to get to Malaga. So half an hour later we set off, and finally arrived at what seemed to me an equally stormy Malaga, although this time we managed to land. Did we clap? Sure did, out of sheer relief!!!!”

(Now, before she made her visit to London my sister and I had had a small disagreement about clapping. As she was travelling with a group of Spaniards she said that she expected them to be very noisy and excited on the plane. So I asked her, rather maliciously I do admit, if they intended to clap when the plane landed. She replied huffily to that, telling me that the only people she had seen clapping on planes were drunken English sun-seeking package-holidaymakers, so there! Living in a rather more refined bit of Spain, I have not travelled recently with drunken English sun-seeking package-holidaymakers but on more than one occasion I have landed at Liverpool in a plane full of Spanish and Portuguese travellers who clapped like mad when the plane touched down. Who started it, that’s what I want to know.)

My poor sister was blamed by her friends for all the problems. If she had not booked flights from Gibraltar, all would have been well. Hmmmm, I rather suspect it might be the gods of weather who caused the chaos! Be that as it may, my sister is now advising all and sundry NOT to fly from Gibraltar!

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