Wednesday, 6 July 2011

On the road again

Yesterday we left Pontevedra and made our way back to Vigo once again where we are staying a couple of nights with some friends. One of the first things the chess player did on arriving was to get out the chess set and teach our friends’ two small sons how to set it up. Moving the pieces around will come another day. For the time being they are happy to move them around and enjoy the feel of them.

In the evening while the chess player went off to catch up with the goings-on at Xadrez Galego, the chess club here, I went for a drink and a chat with my friend Carmen. She will pass on my greetings to all the ladies from the Club de Lectura Francés.

We finished the evening with a few beers and some free tapas at a couple of bars near our friends’ flat. Very pleasant!

Vigo appears to remain much the same as ever. Some of the obras have been finished an others have been started. So, there are still traffic cones here and there. I understand that work on the AVE, the high speed train, continue very slowly. I found this cartoon in a local paper.

One man says, “We Jews have been waiting for centuries for the Messiah to come. What are you Gallegos waiting for?” “The AVE,” comes the reply. (So work here is going more slowly than work on the trams in Greater Manchester. We were promised a link from Oldham to the Manchester City Centre for 2012 but now all the signs say it will be open in the autumn. We shall see.)

There’s some protest going on about the train service between Vigo and Porto coming to an end, planned for this Sunday in fact. This service currently runs at 7.45 am and 7.45 pm, taking about three hours to complete a journey which is rather shorter by car or bus. It has the advantage of arriving at the rather fine Oporto station but this doesn’t make up for the slow journey for some people by all accounts.

However, some businessmen have started complaining and protests are underway. When it was first planned at the end of the 19th century, the rail link as regarded as an international project and an international bridge was commissioned to cross the River Miño, the border between Spain and Portugal. This was tested in 1885 to see if it could bear the weight of a train and the service was inaugurated in March 1886.

And now international cooperation is underway again as the mayors of Tui on the Spanish side and Valença on the Portuguese are joining forces to oppose the closing of the line.

Meanwhile in France, Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador has faced protests of a different kind. Some people felt he should not be allowed to take part in the Tour de France this year as there are still matters pending from an investigation about drugs from last year. Poor thing, he’s having a rough time of it so far. On day one, an opening stage with rather a high number of crashes including a spectacular multiple pile-up which delayed Contador and several other top-end contenders, he finished in 75th place, not at all to his liking. Day two, a team time trial, saw him moving up to 66th place, not a great deal better. Yesterday he almost won the stage but was pipped to the post by Cadel Evans who beat him by ⅓ of a wheel length. So he began today in 41st position.

This did not prevent the newspaper El País from headlining its report with this optimistic comment: “Contador empieza ya a ganar el Tour”. Well, I suppose it could be the start of a win. After all, our boys David Millar (currently in 4th place) and Bradley Wiggins (6th) have started among the leaders on other occasions and have ended up sliding down the ratings.

So maybe our hero can make up for Rafa Nadal being pushed into the runner-up place in Wimbledon.

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