Wednesday, 2 February 2011

On babies, marriage and gender equality!

This blog has been rather neglected of late. I would say I had been too busy but that’s a bit of a lame excuse for a retired lady who can choose more or less what to do with her time. However, what I have lacked has been the peace and quiet to sit down and write rambling accounts of what I think about things in the world. Things have conspired to keep me occupied.

There has been a trip to the Trafford Centre, that temple to consumerism which covers the ground area of a small town. Granddaughter number one had been given vouchers specifically for the Trafford Centre as Christmas presents and had been itching for an opportunity to go and buy new clothes. (You know how it is when you are thirteen and female.) So off we went on a Sunday recently and joined the throngs going from shop to shop, in our case from clothes shop to clothes shop. I was surprised not to meet ex-students of mine there as the shopping centre was a major employer of our students when I was a sixth form teacher and I know that many of them kept up their contracts while studying at local universities. Not one did we see but, on reflection, many of them are doing languages degrees and are currently spending a year abroad in France, Spain, Germany, Morocco and even China or South America.

In the midst of our hunt for fashionable items such as ponchos – it’s amazing how styles come round again and again and again and it’s equally amazing how hard it is to find exactly the right item – hunger struck and we ended up in what looks like a cross between a film set and one of the circles of Hell. A huge section of the place is dedicated to eating with a range of different cuisines and a matching range of different decors. Our choice was a fairly plain looking bit called Giraffe where the staff was very child friendly (almost all Mediterranean or Eastern European) and the gimmick was to give all the children small brightly coloured model giraffes. It kept the smaller members of our party happy.

There then followed a week of running around on a series of errands: find the ingredients for a Home Economics lesson for granddaughter number one and take them round to her; later in the week, call in on the same granddaughter who had developed some kind of illness; still later accompany the same granddaughter to the doctors; and so it went on and on.

In the meantime events have been going on in other parts of the world. No, I’m not going to go on at length about the turmoil affecting places like Egypt at the moment! However, I have noticed that Spain’s history has been bobbing up to the surface again with stories of babies who were stolen from their mothers at birth, many of whom (the babies that is) have just recently discovered that this was so. The mothers were told that their babies had died and the “adoptive” parents registered the children as their own. In some cases in the early post-Civil War years they were babies of Republican mothers who were passed on to “better” families. Some were single mothers who were deemed unfit and immoral. In some cases it was a kind of baby factory enabling rich childless couples to feign a pregnancy and then buy a baby. One man discovered that he had been bought for 200,000 pesetas. Now, you could almost believe, but still not condone, this happening in the aftermath of the Civil War with the backlash against the Republican supporters but apparently this practise went on until the 1970s and 1980s: rather disturbing to say the least!

Then I saw a rather odd headline in today’s El País: El Gobierno estudia elevar de los 14 a los 16 años la edad minima para casarse. So, according to that headline the Spanish government is just getting round to raising the age at which you can get married in line with European legislation??? Of course, when you look at it more closely, you discover that you can only get married at 14 in Spain at the moment if you have special permission from a judge. And then, in the first half of last year only four girls and one boy under 15 got married and in the under 17 age group only sixty four girls and four boys tied the knot. So the teenyboppers are not exactly rushing to the altar or the register office and really it’s just a case of the law catching up with reality. In practise it’s just like here where you can marry with your parents’ permission at 16 and whether they agree or not at 18. Mind you, I also discovered that it was only in 20o5 that France raised the legal marrying age for girls from 15 to 18, establishing parity between the genders.

On the subject of gender equality, the Archbishop of Seville is apparently obliging the Hermandades, the “brotherhoods” or organisations which organise the Holy Week processions, to accept women into their groups. The archbishop wants to establish "plena igualdad de derechos", without any chance of discrimination. Well, if "completely equal rights" means that the women of Seville get to carry huge statues through the streets in the Easter processions, all I can say is, “Good luck to them! More power to their elbow!” But I don't want to help.

One final bit of news springs to mind as we talk about babies and gender and so on; Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem became parents last week. Despite earlier talk of returning to Spain for the child to be born in Madrid, they finally opted for a Los Angeles clinic, this giving little Bardem Cruz the chance for dual nationality. In December an article appeared in one gossip magazine reporting that Pé had given birth to twins, Penelope and Javier, but this proved to be a work of fiction. The latest report seems to be the real deal but so far Pé has not revealed whether this child is male or female and Mr and Mrs Bardem are not selling their story to the press; another reason for choosing the Los Angeles clinic was its reputation for security from unwanted media attention.

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