Saturday, 30 June 2012

Success - we hope!

I closed yesterday saying that I had a cena to get ready for. I then looked at the time and realised that it was after 9 o’clock and the chess player had not surfaced. So I went looking for him, expecting to find him deep in analysis of a game. No such thing; he was still playing, surrounded by a host of spectators as this, the last game to finish, was coming to a nail-biting close. Just before 9.30 he finally managed to win it, much to everyone’s relief as the cena was due to start at 10. Just time to shower and go and eat. 
And very good eating it was too with lots of interesting shellfish and huge paella pans full of arroz con bogavante. Delicious! Many toasts were drunk in good, cold albariño wine. A good time was had by all. It was an international occasion: Spanish, of course, English (us), a family of Swedes (who were quite intrigued to discover how much Swedish TV we have been watching lately – we tried to find an occasion to thank them so that we could say “tag” but it never happened), some Portuguese and some South Americans. We even had a birthday in our group, so we had a cake and a song as well. 
 Now, we had agreed that if Phil lost his game yesterday he would take a day off today and go with me to the Isla de Ons, an island cum nature reserve which he managed not to visit last time we were here. However, having won, he stayed in the hotel to play chess. There may be a prize at the end of this if all continues to go well. 
So I went off to the island on my own. It’s not quite so spectacular as the Islas Cíes, just outside Vigo bay, but is certainly worth a visit. You are not allowed to pick flowers or collect shells. However, there is nothing to stop you taking photos of all these things. Nothing must upset the ecological balance of the island and therefore you must take nothing away and leave nothing behind. Looking at my sandy feet before I caught the boat back, I wondered if the ecology police would make us all wash the sand off before we boarded the boat. 
 On the way out I had seen canoeists just outside Portonovo but on the way back it was much more spectacular. 

The Liga Galega de Traineras had organised a boat race for this afternoon and teams of rowers were working away to complete the circuit of the bay in the fastest time possible. 
Rowing in the sea like this makes the Oxford and Cambridge boat race seem very sedate. I’m sure the Oxbridge rowers will not agree with me but they don’t have waves to contend with as far as I know. 

So it was back to the hotel to give the chess player some support. I have been taking him coffee half way through his games to give him an energy boost. This seems to be working. Before he had the coffee today he felt he might be losing. After the coffee, he won in just a few minutes. The caffeine is working its magic apparently. 

And so our week at Sanxenxo comes to an end. Last round tomorrow morning and we shall see whether a prize goes with us to Pontevedra, our next port of call.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Spanish Practices.

Well, the intrepid explorers made it to Portonovo and just a little beyond this morning, without mishap and without climbing over or sliding down any rocky places. Quite a relief really! We gave up walking much further than the Playa de Caneliñas because in the end one pretty bay is much like another and besides we wanted to be back in time for lunch. The water was a very nice shade of turquoise though. 
Just above the Playa de Caneliñas was this statue of a working woman, carrying a tray of something on her head. Whether it was meant to be fish or bread or some other kind of merchandise I have no idea. There was no explanation. She is certainly striding out very purposefully and I do know that until not too long ago it was fairly standard for the women of this area to carry stuff around on their heads. 

On the way back I spotted this sign announcing ice for sale. Now, this is not an old, decrepit sign. It looks fairly recent and it’s not the first I’ve seen this summer. Do people still buy ice in this age of electronic devices in every kitchen? Perhaps they do. After all many people still have gas delivered to their houses in great orange canisters, as this lorry full of such canisters shows. 
I include this photo as well for my friend Colin who likes to point out the odd parking habits of the Spanish. The lorry on the corner spot is yet another example. These are just things that you don’t usually get to see in the UK. 

I also saw a cafe with a notice stating: "Prohibida la entrada sin camiseta" - No entry without your T-shirt.  This reminded me of all the men sitting outside pubs in the Uk or in pub gardens with their T-shirts off and their tattoos on show. Not acceptable behaviour here in Spain.

Every so often you get reminders of just how foreign Spain still is. This afternoon I went to buy aspirin. What I hadn’t noticed was the sign outside the shop was for a “Parafarmacia” and not a “Farmacia”. The “parafarmacia” can’t sell you medicines, not even aspirin or paracetamol. I find this strange in a country where everyone’s mother knows a remedy for just about every ailment going. And so I had to hunt around until I found a “proper” chemist. Goodness knows how the Spanish react when they go to England and find you can buy painkillers in the supermarket or even in the corner shop. 

I am reading more Isabel Allende, this time one of her long novels, “Hija de la Fortuna”. At one point one of her characters, Tao Chi’en, a Chinese medicine man (for want of a better way to describe him), is in San Francisco in the 1850s, at the time of the gold rush. He comments on the immigrant population: “Allí nadie era lo que parecía, el estibador del muelle podía ser un aristócrata latinoamericano y el cochero un abogado de Nueva York”. Roughly translated: “There no-one was what they seemed, the stevedore at the quayside could be a Latin American aristocrat and the coachman a New York lawyer”. So the situation of immigrant workers hasn’t really changed much! 

Tonight we have a “cena especial”, a special dinner for the chess players. I will report on what wonderful food they give us. Then at the weekend we get to watch Italy and Spain hammer it out in the final of the European Cup. Spain had better win; after all Rafa Nadal has just been knocked out Wimbledon! Who would have expected that at this early stage? We watched Italy make fairly short work of the Germans last night. The Germans fought hard but didn’t make it. I almost feel better about the English team losing to Italy on penalties now. At least we didn’t actually concede any goals UNTIL the penalties. 

On the subject of penalties, I am going to have to ask someone to add the word to the Spanish dictionaries with an accent on the E so that the Spanish commentators, professional and in the bar, can stop mispronouncing “pEnalties” as “penAlties”. Normal Spanish rules of pronunciation put the emphasis on that next to the last syllable but its beginning to annoy me. I know the English have no room to talk. It annoys me just as much when I hear an English person say “no problemo” or pronounce “machismo” (ch as in church) as if it were an Italian word “maKismo”. And then there's Picasso's painting Guernika which the English often pronounce with the emphasis on the first syllable!

That’s it. Rant over. Time to go and get dressed up for the “cena especial”.

Thursday, 28 June 2012


Today the intrepid explorers set out to investigate the promontory just at the end of the Paseo Marítimo, the headland that divides Sanxenxo proper from Portonovo. Mostly it’s a very civilised little park area, with a playground for children and absolutely masses of hydrangea bushes. This part of Spain could be the world hydrangea capital; there are so many beautiful specimens in a whole range of colours. 

So we walked along the path past the oh-so-beautiful hydrangeas, under the trees and up to a point where we had to decide between following the path round and then taking the road and the boardwalk to Portonovo or scaling the rocks around the rest of the headland and getting through that way. 

As the tide was part way out we opted for the latter course. All went well, even if it was a little steep for me as my legs are shorter than the other intrepid explorer’s. It looked as if we were going to get through to Portonovo without problem. 

And then we reached a place where it was clear that the way down had suffered from erosion and slippage, leaving a rather too steep descent into Portonovo bay. What’s more we appeared to be in somebody’s garden. Keeping to the edge of the garden as much as possible, we made our way past the empty – well, apart from a collection of dead leaves at the bottom – swimming pool and round to the front of the house. At the end of the drive was an impressive, and locked, gate. So we circled back round the house, looking for the front door. All the shutters on that side of the house were down. No-one there. It is probably somebody’s summer residence and a very nice one too, I must say. Maybe they’ve not started their holidays yet. That would explain the waterless, leaf-filled swimming pool. 

We still had to find a way out, however. We never like to go back the way we’ve come. Far too sedate an option. And besides, the rather steep climbing places (for the shorter-legged intrepid explorer) would be even harder to descend. Eventually we found a break in a fence where you could sit at the top and kind of launch yourself into the not too huge drop down to the next level. This we did and prepared to continue on our walk. 

It was then that I noticed that my intrepid explorer companion must have caught his shorts on something sharp and now had a neat L-shaped tear in them. Some adjustment of dress was necessary to ensure decency was maintained and we made our way back to the hotel by the shortest route possible. 

 There this intrepid explorer had to turn herself into a seamstress and do some running repairs. It’s a good job I am a blogger of many skills. It’s a good job I bought a sewing kit from the Chinese bazaar across the road as well!!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Of Patos and Pazos

Normally in the morning I leave the hotel, go down to the Paseo Marítimo and turn left to run to the lighthouse and back. How much we humans are creatures of habit. This is day 4 of our stay in Sanxenxo (5 if you count Saturday when we arrived half way through) and I have a routine established and can talk about what I “normally” do. Be that as it may, this morning I went down to the Paseo Marítimo and turned right to run to Portonovo, the bit of Sanxenxo round the corner and over a bit of a hill and where they have a nice beach of their own. The “over a bit of a hill” part is reasonable hard going but then you get to run on the boardwalk and on the beach instead of along a paved walk. 

On the beach I was accosted by a chap who asked me, “¿Miraste a pata y os patitos? Están allí.” You don’t expect people top start asking you about ducks and ducklings when you go for a run, especially in a mix of Castilian and Gallego. But indeed Mr Duck and ten by now fairly large duckling (teenage ducklings?) were paddling and then swimming in the sea. I’ve never seen ducks in the sea before but I suppose that if they nest on the coast – two ladies told me that they nest in the dunes and waddle down to the sea every morning – then the sea is the logical place to take the youngsters for a swim. 

Later Phil and I set out to walk the “ruta urbana” that the young lady at the tourist office had pointed out to us yesterday. 

As we set out from the hotel we could hear a lot of whistle blowing and hooting of horns. A demonstration? Well, there was little sign of one but then I noticed a bunch of people kind of straggling along the Paseo with placards of sorts. When they stopped for a bit of a shout down by the town hall you could see that these were the people of Portonovo, protesting about “inxusticia” and demanding the right to some autonomy. “¡Queremos festas de Portonovo! Let them have their fiestas, say I. 

The “ruta urbana” is supposed to take you past several Sanxenxo “pazos”, Gallego for “palacios”, stately homes rather than palaces. I seem to remember we tried this unsuccessfully last year and didn’t find any “pazos” except the very first one: the Pazo Emilia Pardo Bazán. This is in fact a conference centre which has been named for this woman writer who has been described as one of the most remarkable Spanish intellectuals of the 19th century. The mad lady who recently wanted to sign me up for a series of packs of information about Galicia and its culture told me that Emilia Pardo Bazán was famous as a writer of cookery books. When I told her she had written poetry and essays among other things she told me once again, “Pero escribió libros de cocina”. Emilia Pardo Bazán wrote precisely TWO cookery books and a whole pile of other stuff. 
Anyway, she was born in La Coruña and is a famous Galician woman, en example to feminists every where, I expect. Here is a link to some information about her. Today, we once more found the Pazo Emilia Pardo Bazán and to prove it I had my photo taken next to a statue of a rather dumpy Victorian-looking lady.

Moving on up the hill we had some difficulty locating the Pazo de la Torre de Miraflores. Phil set off up a track which looked promising but only led to a vineyard. 

So we retraced our tracks since the road appeared to be leading us way out of town. And we almost missed it again but at the last moment I spotted some once grand but now rather neglected looking gates. Behind the gates was an equally neglected looking building which, since it had a tower of sorts. we assumed to be the Pazo de la Torre de Miraflores. 

Next on our list was the Pazo do Virrey de Padriñán. Once more it was a case “blink and you’ll miss it”. But we found it, intrepid explorers that we are. Someone needs to do a bit of signposting of these bits of heritage, especially if the tourist office is going to give out maps with routes and bits of information about them. 

On the way back, it tried to rain on us but not really serious rain, just a summer shower. So, were we downhearted? Not one bit! A successful bit of tourism completed!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Sights of Sanxenxo

At nine o’ clock this morning, as I jogged down the promenade, I spotted a man doing yoga on the beach. He seemed to have gone beyond the Saludo al sol (and the sun was up and bright ready to greet him back) and had progressed to a little meditation. Either that or he was into a cult of adoration of La Madama de Silgar, the statue out on the bay. 

On my way back I had to duck and weave around enormous numbers of old ladies and gents who had been disgorged from a bus on the corner of the street just below our hotel. Pensioners outings to Sanxenxo, obviously! 

A more usual sight than the yoga man is that of the ladies on their way to the beach, this one captured later in the morning. The style of the big yellow coverall is very common among ladies of a certain age and size, even though it looks a little as though they have come out in their nightdresses. But it’s a very sensible way of covering your swimsuit and possibly more dignified than the short version favoured by her companion. 

 We saw the same yellow coverall and striped sunhat make their way into the dining room at the hotel at lunchtime. Tables full of elderly ladies and gents tucking in and, being Spanish, talking nineteen to the dozen. Somebody once told me that the English often consider the Spanish rude as they always seem to interrupt you. It was then explained that we English have the habit of stopping at the end of one statement and taking a breath before starting the next, pausing just slightly but sufficiently long to make a Spaniard think you’ve finished. They then leap in with the next thing they want to say as soon as possible before someone else does so. If this is the case then our friend Colin’s mate Mike could possibly be a Spaniard as both Colin and I had difficulty getting our comments in last time we met for lunch. 

On the subject of lunch, it has to be said that the food here at the Hotel Carlos I Silgar in Sanxenxo is very good, quite imaginative, very nicely presented and, above all, served in copious amounts. For lunch today we started with “crepes de mariscos”, shellfish nicely parcelled up in a pancake: very tasty. We went on to “chipirrones”, baby squid prettily arranged around the ubiquitous Galician potatoes: also very tasty. There was a third course: “churrascos”. We cause some concern to the restaurant staff here as we never want three courses. After the first two today there was no way that ribs, cauliflower and a mountain of chips were making their way into my stomach. I wasn’t struck on the desert either, another custard/cream/patisserie affair, so we had yoghurt instead. Don’t get me wrong; I am not criticising the service; I think it’s excellent just a little too much for my taste. If you stay here with full board and really do justice to the meals they offer, you must leave several stones heavier at the end of a week. Maybe it’s to encourage people to stay on a bit longer and have “treatment” in the spa, working off the extra kilos. 

In the lift I saw this notice for one of the “tratamientos” available. For a mere €52 you can have an apple hydromassage, a facial with apple stem cells (I believe that’s what “células madre” are) a fancy, revitalising foot massage and various other things. Now, I know that an apple a day is supposed to keep the doctor away but, really, this is a bit over the top. Does the facial consist of them covering your face with apple purée or what? €52 is a bit too much for me to spend to find out. I guess I’ll just stick to my morning jog down the prom and regular dips in the pool. 

Today I swam this morning, around midday in fact but before the sun was at its highest, instead of later in the day. This does not exclude my going back for more at about seven o’clock, however. At the moment it is so hot out there that you would have to be in the pool to feel comfortable at all. Inside the hotel, though, we have the air conditioning on so it’s not a problem. Oh, yes, I do know it’s not good environmentally but, boy, does it feel good?! 

Anyway, the pool at the end of the morning was much better than at around five in the afternoon. Quite simply, there are fewer little boys leaping into the air, hugging their knees to their chest and shouting “¡¡¡BOMBA!!!!” as they splash bottom first into the water. I have nothing against children in the pool so long as they don’t disturb my gentle plod up and down.

This morning it was me and about five other sensible adults: perfection!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Shopkeepers and shortages.

Buying postcards on Saturday (4 for €1 or 35 céntimos each – guess which deal I went for!) I earwigged the conversation between the shopkeeper and his young customer. She was about ten or eleven and wanted to buy a fishing net and possibly a bodyboard. I think that’s what you call those fancy shaped floats featuring cartoon characters like Ben Ten. Anyway, she wasn’t happy with the selection: all too small and babyish for her liking. The shopkeeper clearly didn’t want to sell her anything bigger: too dangerous – ¡peligrosísimo! – and too expensive! What a very responsible shopkeeper. In the end she settled for her fishing net and the shopkeeper handed her the change from the note she had given him before the discussion about bodyboards, surfboards and other very dangerous things he didn’t want to sell her. As he held out to her a €10 note, a €5 and some loose change, she looked at him in surprise and told him that she had given him only €5, not €20. What a very honest little girl! I can think of any number of adults who would have walked out thinking they had made a good profit. 

By contrast, there is rather rude lady who hangs out around our pool. She clearly thinks that “Prohibido Fumar” doesn’t fully apply to her as I have seen her once hiding behind a large pot plant and twice light up, have a few puffs and then reluctantly go outside the pool area to finish off. Mind you, the whole outdoor smoking legislation needs clarification here as almost all cafes put ashtrays on all the terraza tables, encouraging smokers and making sitting outside unpleasant for non-smokers. No doubt they’ll sort it out eventually. 

As you might expect, we see quite a lot of children in the pool. Papás teach their little ones to swim and occasionally show off their own prowess to impress the little ones, or maybe to impress the mamás. In Galicia as a whole, however, I have read that there is still a problem with the falling birthrate. When I read this in yesterday’s paper I was tempted to express my surprise because in Vigo you always see loads of prams on Príncipe. Then I read on to have it confirmed that Vigo has the highest birthrate in the region. Almost all the big towns do quite well. It’s the little places that suffer. So many young people have left to seek work in the cities that there are now small towns and villages where no babies have been born for a year or more. 

There is talk of closing or amalgamating schools in these places. Parents are understandably concerned at the idea of their six year old having a round trip of 20 or 30 kilometres every day. Equally unsatisfactory are classes where five year olds are taught alongside twelve year olds or even older children in the same class by the same teacher. It’s rather like going back in time to village schools of the 1920s or 1930s where there was one schoolroom and one teacher for all. That may have had some social advantages but somehow we expect to have moved on from there. 
Here in Sanxenxo, though, there s no need to worry our summer heads about stuff like that. There’s the local statuary to admire. 

There’s the beach to go to, where you can indulge in that traditional Spanish beach pastime of walking up and down the waterline as many times as possible in a given length of time. 

There are tat shops to visit where you can hunt for a little saint to hang from your rear view mirror. In all seriousness, I heard someone moaning this morning because they couldn’t find one. The shopkeeper suggested buying a fridge magnet, removing the magnet and then attaching it to the rear view mirror. A sort of do-it-yourself annoying thing to hang in your line of sight. As you can tell, I'm not a fan of hanging stuff from the rear view mirror.
 However, you have to hand it to the shopkeepers around here; they know how to be extremely helpful!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Some things change; some stay the same.

Friday was officially the first day of summer, or maybe it was yesterday. Either way, the sun has decided to come out and even the Galicians are tentatively saying that summer has arrived. Fairly late on Friday evening we popped across the road to Casa Puentes to use their Wifi. We ordered beer and our hostess asked us did we want Estrella Galicia or Mahou: they don’t have a pump so cañas are out of the question and it has to be bottled beer. “Estrella”, said I while at the exact same moment Phil said, “Mahou”. Laughing, our hostess agreed with me when I commented, “Estrella es de aquí, de Galicia pero Mahou es de Madrid.” So regionalism won the day and we had a bottle each of the local brew accompanied by a bit or tortilla and some jamón serrano. Total cost: €3. That’s €1.50 each. Last summer in central Manchester, my young friend Craig and I ordered lager and were offered a very badly pronounced Estrella Galicia. As we caught up on each others’ news we gave in and had another one each. Total cost: £15. That’s almost £4 a bottle. And we didn’t even have a single crisp. Even for city centre and sitting outside that’s a bit expensive if you ask me. 

Yesterday, Saturday, we travelled to Sanxenxo. It was the “noche de San Juan” when traditionally people light bonfires and eventually leap over them with the intention of guaranteeing good health for the coming year, the granting of some wish or other, the continuance of their relationship or success in life in general. I’ve come across so many different interpretations that I think you can just put in whatever you like. Not that you’d catch me jumping over any bonfires! Grilled sardines are the traditional food of choice for that evening but this year there is a sardine shortage and the newspapers have been wondering how a country in crisis can afford to eat sardines, even to celebrate Saint John. 

Last year at around this time we arrived in Oporto on that date and found São João in full swing there, complete with all the local jokers running around bopping everyone on the head with squeaky plastic hammers. Here in Sanxenxo you wouldn’t have known that it was anything different from any other Saturday night. Later in the evening there was a slight smell of bonfire smoke but it must have been drifting in from one of the bays further along the coast. Here, nothing at all was happening. Mind you, there WAS football on the TV: Spain against France. So the atmosphere was alternately tense and joyful in the cafe round the corner from our hotel. Finally Spain won 2:0 and so everyone was very happy and, when we revealed our Englishness, wished us luck for this evening’s England v Italy match. 

Earlier in the day I had rediscovered the delights of the pool, very necessary as the temperature soared to 31° according to one of the chemists’ signs. Now, I run and enjoy my running but there is truly nothing to beat swimming up and down a nice pool, rather like a slow and possibly demented turtle in my case but still covering the distance. I’ve visited friends’ houses where they have pools in the garden but they are always piddling little affairs; a couple of strokes and you’ve done a length. I don’t want a pool like that but I would love to have my own pool of a decent size and a bit of guaranteed sunshine to sit out in for a while on emerging from the water. Pipe dreams, I’m afraid! 
We’ve reminded ourselves of the layout of the town, discovering that “my” shop from last year, a clothes shop called “Anthea”, obviously named after me, has now become “Jockey”. You see, you go away and things change while you’re not looking. The beach is much the same as it ever was, however, and there are still plenty of boats in the harbour. 

We have also reacquainted ourselves with various chess playing friends from last year. Phil has won his first game. So all’s well with the world so far!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Words, words, words.

In the supermarket, just the little Froiz down the road, nowhere special, I found a packet of biscuits labelled, “Cookies gigantes, con grandes chunks de chocolate”. Since when have “cookies” and, more especially, “chunks” been Spanish words? Cookies is an Americanism which, I suppose, may become universal, like “cappuccino”. This language exchange is a bit hit and miss. You might say that “tortilla” has gone into the English language, except that it’s the Mexican and not the Spanish “tortilla”. When I make a “tortilla”, and I mean the Spanish one, and call it by that name my small grandson corrects me and tells me that a “tortilla” is a “wrap”. His big sister, however, who has been eating my “tortilla” since she was about two, never makes that mistake. A “wrap” is another funny expression: it used to be a shawl but is now something you wrap smaller food items in to eat them, instead, I suppose, of making a boring old sandwich. Give me a good old fashioned sandwich any day. 

You have to be careful how you say things, of course, in this age of political correctness. According to Isabel Allende, my current source of interesting odds and ends, the Chileans find it hard to understand political correctness. The idea of talking your way round something instead of calling a spade a spade is very alien to them. She had to live in California for some years before she got used to the idea and even then she made mistakes. She wanted to adopt (there you go with the political correctness: give a home to) one of the dogs that she had read about which had been undergoing training as seeing-eye dogs for the blind but had not made the grade. So she wrote to the organisation concerned and told them she would like one of the “rejected” dogs. The reply she received barely thanked her for her offer but did tell her off for the terminology she had used. Such dogs are not “rejected”; they are described as “having changed their career”. Wonderful! 

Ms Allende also introduced me to a new (to me) Spanish expression. Some time ago I learned to say in Italian, “Non vedo l’ora”, meaning “I can’t wait”, expressing excitement and anticipation. Literally it means “I can’t see the hour/the time”. There was Isabel Allende writing, “No veía las horas de volver a Chile”: “I couldn’t wait to go back to Chile”. Almost exactly the same expression transferred from one language to the other. It’s not really surprising when you remember that both languages come from the same Latin source, but it doesn’t always work and can sometimes lead people astray. 

As regards the Anglicisms, I’m used to the French doing it. I wasn’t really surprised when I went to meet old friends at the Alliance Française earlier this week and was told, “Tu as changé de look” Well, I was surprised because I didn’t think I had changed my “look” but not surprised at the use of the expression. They do it all the time. 

The chemist has also given me linguistic food for thought. Phil developed a cold, coughing and sneezing all over the place. What we needed was Lemsip, the universal cold cure in the UK. So I went along to the chemist, asked for something for a cold, described the symptoms and explained what I was really looking for. And the chemist instantly produced something called “Frenadol Hot Lemon”. Yes, that’s right: HOT LEMON. In English. Everything else on and in the packet is in Spanish but clearly “Hot Lemon” is more appropriate than “Limón Caliente”. 

Perhaps it’s more politically correct.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Things you see.

If you walk through the centre of Manchester you quite often see people walking along drinking coffee from one of those half-pint paper cups with a plastic top on. I’ve always harrumphed and said that you wouldn’t see that in Spain. People here know how to drink coffee. They all have more sense, And so on and so on. Well, the other day, for the first time ever, I saw someone walking down the street drinking coffee from one of those half-pint paper cups with a plastic top on. I suppose there’s a first time for everything. 

Not only that, however, I noticed in the local supermarket, alongside the yoghurts in the fridge, a row of chilled cappuccino to take away, the sort my daughter picks up all the time and has in her car to give her a boost as she drives to and from university. More changes in coffee habits which I’m not sure I approve of. It’s all a bit too American for my liking. 

What you do see here and not in the UK are quite a lot of old-fashioned baby carriages, as opposed to the little trolleys you fasten the new-born car seat onto. Possible it’s because people do more walking around pushing prams here. Babies and toddlers all look a bit more old-fashioned too, a bit like 1950s babies almost. Different traditions in different places. 

They sell quite a lot of those olde-worldy toddler dresses in a shop round the corner from our flat. It’s a shop that advertises “Arreglos”, in other words, alterations and mending, another thing you rarely see advertised in the UK. I know of a stall in Oldham market that does things like replace zips and shorten trousers but that’s the only one I know of in the town. You don’t see such shops on the average high street. However, in the shop round the corner from us you can see two ladies busily working away at their sewing machines. That itself is getting to be a lost art in the UK. Recently I saw part of a programme on TV about a company trying to see if it would be worth their while moving their cushion factory from China to the north of England. I don’t know what their conclusions were but they had difficulty recruiting machinists, because girls don’t have the skills any longer. And of those they recruited, one gave up before the training was completed. It was easier to go back to working in a call centre. 

Isabel Allende, whose book I have now finished reading, also commented on the loss of the old traditional skills. In her case she was talking about ladies knitting on the bus. You used to see it all the time but now that cheap clothes are imported into Chile, she said, no-one wants to knit any more. I recently saw someone knitting on a train in Greater Manchester but I can’t say it’s a common sight. In general it’s disappeared, partly because it’s actually more expensive to buy the yarn and make the garment than it is to buy one ready-made. I also read some time ago about someone who used to knit on long-haul flights, but can’t do so any longer, as knitting needles are potential weapons and therefore are a terrorist threat. 

That’s the modern world for you.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Being busy!!!

My humdrum, quiet existence (get up, run round the Castro, breakfast, potter about doing this and that, go for a stroll and so on) went into a flurry of activity over the last few days. Well, I suppose that to some it would still seem quite humdrum but it felt quite busy here. 

First of all at some point on Sunday my friend Dominique phoned me, possibly because it was raining so hard over Vigo that she could do little else but phone people, and told me which book was being discussed at the meeting of the Alliance Française that I was going to attend on Monday. “You can find it easily on the Internet,” she assured me. And, indeed, we could and did. And so I spent the rest of Sunday and a good part of Monday reading “La Princesse de Clèves”, in the elegant 17th century French of Madame de Lafayette, full of grammatical constructions rarely used nowadays. It was also full of the romantic intrigues of the court of Henri II a hundred years earlier. Eastenders has nothing on 16th century France for promiscuity and complicated affairs. 

Anyway despite all the complications of plot and the imperfect subjunctive, I managed to finished it in time and went along and put in my two-penn’orth to the discussion. All good fun, and then Dominique produced a bottle of champagne and some petits gateaux. This was the last meeting of the group until September and so she was making it special. I had forgotten that she did that at the end of each year. How nice! It was good to meet some old friends as well, all of us catching up on what’s gone on in our lives since Phil and I left Vigo two years ago. 

So that was Monday. And then yesterday we received a parcel of forwarded mail sent by our daughter, including some letters from the bank and a new credit card. Now, I have ranted at length about security in Spain regarding banks and credit cards and so on. Well, yesterday the UK systems put it all to shame. One of our letters concerned possible fraud. We had agreed to lend our son some money (house-buying in London) and had transferred the amount from our account to his, using Internet banking. So they were checking up and we had to phone them and sort stuff out. Unfortunately I must have answered a question wrongly along the way and was told that I hadn’t passed the security check. Botheration! The young lady on the phone was apologetic, said she personally believed I was the account holder but she could not continue with the conversation. And no, I could not just pass her on to my husband. We had to call again, despite explaining that we were calling from Spain. So he called, went through a much reduced security check and passed first go. Problem sorted in no time and we took the trouble to point out that if we withdraw from ATM machines in Spain over the next couple of months they please should not cancel our cards. It will be us, not some fraudster. 

My husband may have handled that bank security procedure with ease but he went on to have problems activating the new credit card. This is a card which does NOT charge you for using it overseas and we had hoped it would arrive before we set off for Spain. No such luck! So we had to organise our daughter to look out for it, post it to us in the most secure postal package possible and send us the pin codes separately hidden in an email. All good so far. But then Phil needed to activate the card. To do that he needed a password which he had set up when applying. Could he remember it? Not at all! Was it written down anywhere? Not a chance! After much searching in coded messages all over the place, in notebooks, in computer files, anywhere possible, he was about to despair when they agreed to let him set up a new password. Somehow that rather defeats the object of security passwords but I suppose he had passed all the other checks they set up. 

After that we were quite exhausted and went mildly catatonic for the rest of the day! 

However, all is not frustration and complication. Progress has been made in the bijou residence. After much experimenting in pressing different combinations of buttons, I have persuaded the washing machine to spin for me. Never did I think I would get so enthusiastic about simple domestic pleasures like not having dripping wet washing!! In the meantime Phil has been attacking squeaky doors in the flat with my cocoa-butter flavoured lip-vaseline. Success! We now have squeak-free doors which probably smell delightful if you get close enough to the hinges. 

We ended the day in our current favourite internet cafe, Nuevo Derby on Urzáiz, where we watched the end of the European Championship football match where England managed to win once again. The waitress in the cafe was very pleased for us. A satisfactory end to a trying day!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Reading matter.

Oh gosh, it might be time to become a two-kindle family. On the recommendation of our son, an avid reader who has been known to leave clothes at home so he could take more books on holiday in the past (rather like his father, as a matter of fact), we bought a kindle some time ago. It’s certainly convenient for going on holiday but at the moment we have to take turns in using it. Hence the need to think about becoming a two-kindle family. 

In the meantime, having checked that our Vigo library cards are still valid, I have made use of mine to borrow some books. And so I am currently reading Isabel Allende’s “Mi País Inventado", her autobiographical ramblings about being brought up in and out of Chile and her feelings of not truly belonging anywhere: hence the invented country. 

I was amused by her memories of the cautious, penny-pinching ways of some of her often quite rich relatives witnessed during her childhood. She claims that “Chilenos”, mostly of Basque/Castilian extraction, are less exuberant and more conservative than many other South Americans. Thus careful, moneysaving ways are seen, or were seen in the past, as a virtue. Consequently some of her aunts and her grandmothers and other ladies would “virar” their husbands’ suits as the fabric became worn. This involved unstitching the suit, ironing the pieces and then stitching it back together with the shiny side to the inside, giving the garments a new lease of life. It was not totally successful however as you could always recognise the victims (Isabel Allende’s term) by the fact that the top pocket on the jacket was always on the wrong side. 

It reminded me of my grandmother “turning” (virar) sheets. When a sheet got worn in the middle she would cut it in two, stitch the outer edges together to make a central seam and hem the new outer edges. And so the sheet lasted a little longer. This is why girls learned how to make a “flat seam” in needlework lessons, just so they could turn a sheet without making a lumpy and uncomfortable seam in the middle. 

So I am sure than my Lancastrian grandmother would have appreciated the careful ways of the “Chilenas”. Mind you, I doubt that present day Lancastrians and Chilenas turn anything. 

Just as this practical side was seen as a virtue, so it was to be hardworking. And so the respectable Chilenas of Isabel Allende’s youth did not paint their nails, not even the wealthy ladies. Painting your nails was a sign that you did not use your hands which in turn meant that you were lazy. Even worse than not being handy at turning things, if you were labelled lazy you were a social disgrace. 

Somehow I have a feeling that the Chilenas of today do paint their nails and probably have those horrible false ones that you see everywhere else. Such is the modern world!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Time and weather and results and such.

Well, here we are, halfway through June already! Where does the time go? People around here are complaining that it’s halfway through June and summer hasn’t got going. They were lulled into a false sense of security by having a very mild winter and now summer is eluding them. Granted, it did rain absolute bucketsful in the night; it woke me up several times. And my normal running route around the Castro was rather muddy. It made me feel quite nostalgic for the muddy Delph Donkey Line back home. OK, I exaggerate, but it was very soggy. 

Despite the rain in the night I don’t think people have a lot to moan about here. Temperatures of between 15° and 18° first thing in the morning (well, 9 o’ clock feels like first thing to me) are not at all bad. I know people in the UK who are seriously considering turning the heating back on. 

And even though I took my waterproof when I went out for a run this morning, the weather has improved and the sun has come out. The sea out by the Islas Cíes looked very blue from the top of the Castro when we went up there this afternoon. No complaints, OK? 

UK folk should be feeling reasonably cheerful, however, as England managed to beat Sweden at football last night. It wasn’t quite the resounding victory of Spain against Ireland from the previous night but 3:2 is still a win. We watched it in a cafe again and found ourselves with a small dilemma. 

What is the paying protocol if you want another beer but a Spaniard has already “invited” you? When a Spaniard says, “Os invito yo”, it means he’s going to pay. Now, this is what happened last night. We went for “just one beer” after chess club closed in the cafe on the corner, another place with free tapas by the way. On the previous couple of occasions, we have paid and it was clearly getting to our Galician Spanish friend’s pride. So as we went in he declared, “Os invito yo.” Fine, no problem. But then England’s match was on the TV. 

As the tension mounted and the “just one beer” had been drunk, there were still about 20 minutes to go. We needed more beer. If you’ve been “invited” where does this leave you? 

In the end we ordered more beer and an extra coffee for our “host” who insisted on paying anyway. So there you go. 

I mentioned yesterday the importance of wifi cafes and our obsession with not overusing the allowance on the mobile dongle. Well, last night we got a message form Vodafone saying we have used up 80% of our THREE MONTH’S allowance already!! 

Oh, bother!!! Just when I need to keep track of my last ever group of sixth form students. They’re all coming to the end of their degree courses and posting their results on Facebook. One Master’s successfully completed, two 1sts, possibly another 1st as well but so far unconfirmed, a 2.1 and a 2.2 to date. I need to be able to access Facebook to find out what they are doing. 

So it’s off to the nearest wifi cafe again now.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Out and about.

Spain defeated Ireland at football last night: Spain 4 – Ireland 0. We watched the end of the match in a cafe on Urzáiz where we go or free wifi and free tapas with our drink. 

It’s important to know which are the wifi cafes. We have our mobile dongle from Vodafone but we are rather afraid that the gigabyte that we have three months to use may well get used up much more quickly than that. Hence, wifi cafes. The chess club is also good for free wifi but it can get a bit hot and sweaty in there in the evening. It must be all the brain power being used and generating heat. 

Anyway there was much jubilation over Spain’s victory. 

This morning the tat-sellers on the street were offering little Spanish flags as well as the usual CDs, DVDs, “ethnic” beads and other assorted stuff that you really don’t want to buy. I feel sorry for these poor men who resignedly go in and out of bars touting their wares, usually selling nothing but doing it with great dignity. I’m amazed at the tolerance of the cafe owners as well; I’ve yet to witness one losing his temper and throwing a tat-seller out. 

Today, however, I swear I saw one of the sellers being harangued because he was selling Spanish flags and not Galician ones. A little over the top!! 

On Wednesday after the Italian conversation session in the Cafetería Rosa Negra we continued chatting with our Italian friend and got onto the state of people like himself who have no fixed contract in this troubled time. As summer comes on and language school courses and community activities (he also teaches a sort of yoga/exercise class) come to an end, his income practically disappears. He will receive some benefit payments but less than might be expected from the amount of work he’s been doing. This is because at least one of the schools he has worked for over the last year or so have fiddled their books. He has been paid cash in hand for some of his teaching, allowing him (and the school) to pay less tax but qualifying him for less in benefits. This is what happens when you play the system. 

To add to his woes, he is also suffering in Italy. There he owns a small house (he hastened to assure us that it is VERY small) which he rents out. Now, because he is officially resident in Spain his house in Italy counts as his second home and so he pays a higher rate of the Italian equivalent of council tax. However, his tenant has become unemployed and declared herself unable to pay the rent, throwing herself on the mercy of the courts to prevent herself from being thrown out. And the courts have decided that she can stay in the house for another three months (at least) rent-free while she looks for work. So my Italian friend loses out both ways and risks being thrown out of his flat here. 

Out and about on the streets, I’m still seeing the homeless and unemployed with their cardboard begging notices. There’s a chap who every morning tidies up the bench he sleeps on up in the Castro Park, puts his stuff in his backpack and goes on his way. A different class from those you see curled on a bench in the centre of town with their carton red wine next to them. 

And then, again this morning, I was approached by someone asking if I knew where it is they give away clothing. Just as I expressed my ignorance a friend of hers arrived and told her place isn’t open on a Friday. It turns out to be more or less next door to our building and it’s connected to the church up on the bigger road at the top of the slope. 

Well, our street is called María Auxiliadora, after all, so I suppose it’s appropriate that there should be somewhere helping the poor around here.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Do you speak ....?

The UK government has announced once again this week that all seven year olds in state schools are to learn a foreign language. I’ve lost track of how many times they’ve made that decision and then failed to carry it through. Of course, a large part of the problem is that the vast majority of primary school teachers don’t speak a foreign language either, which makes teaching one a bit difficult. Most of those who have some foreign language skills can do little more than teach the children to sing a song in the foreign language (badly) or count up to twenty (also badly). With the best will in the world it won’t work in the present situation. 

Maybe it’s time for an international initiative: one teacher from each primary school in the UK does an exchange for a year with a teacher from a school in a foreign country. The exchange teachers teach each class in the primary school for one day a week, teaching them all the usual curriculum subjects in their native (foreign to the children) language. At the same time they learn to speak their host language well enough to teach it in their home school. There you go, sorted! If only it were that simple. 

Here in Spain, people are always telling me how bad the Spanish are at learning languages. And yet they all have such enthusiasm for doing so. Small boys hear you speaking English in the street and start up conversations with you – in decent English, ok at a basic level but all comprehensible. Language schools abound, there are foreign language book clubs at the library here in Vigo and a cafe which has informal foreign language conversation groups on different evenings of the week. You pay €5 for a drink and an hour’s conversation. It’s organised by the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas, the town's Official Language School and they pay the native speaker who runs the group. It works! Is Vigo the only town that does stuff like this or is all Spain the same? 

Then there are the shop windows. El Corte Inglés has a huge Poster which declares “Summertime”. Small shops have notices in their windows saying things like, “Summer is Here!” And that’s in English not Spanish. OK, some of the shops have weird English names that don’t mean much, such as “Pull and Bear” or “Vintage and Coffee”, but even their oddity is a symptom of the interest in English. 

 I’d love to see the reaction if a clothes shop on a UK high street put up a sign saying, “¡Ya llegó el Verano! 

End note: back at the bijou residence we were told that we might have to get a new lock for the street door after the blockage the other day. This would have meant getting a new key as well so we were relieved when the locksmith managed to fix the already existing lock. However, it sticks and you have to jiggle the key around to get it turn. 

So that’s both the street door and the front door to the flat that have their little idiosyncrasies! 

Life is ever interesting in the bijou residence!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ladies in the news.

According to a certain Susana López Abella, the General Secretary for Equality in the Galician Xunta, companies created by women last 30% longer than those created by men and they are surviving the crisis better on the whole. This is because the Galician women who start their own businesses tend to have a higher level of education and training, again according to the Equality Secretary. Good news for businesswomen then! Much better than the position of women in the business world as a whole in Galicia where still only 35% of companies have any female presence on their boards. Tut, tut! 

On the other side of the world Hillary Clinton is being criticised for letting herself go. Her biographer has been dropping hints that she might run for president in 2016 but says, "I don't want to sound anti-feminist, but she's not looking good these days. She's looking overweight and tired." As her biographer is called Ed Klein, I assume it’s a man. Time Hillary got herself a woman biographer. It seems to me that it’s too easy to pick on lady politicians for their image. 

Someone who doesn’t get criticised for how she looks is Kate Middleton. Or should we say Kate Windsor now? Whatever her name is, she is usually held up as a style icon. But it seems that the time has come to start speculating about whether or not she is pregnant. In Touch magazine has published a photo of her with a bit of a “tummy”. They say they are sure it’s not just the way the dress hangs. And besides, they say, her face is radiant (isn’t it always?) and rounder, as is her backside – rounder, not radiant. Proof positive, obviously!!! 

As regards the Spanish royal family, Queen Sofía is praised for being such a stalwart, constant helper and support for the king and she has been a good grandmother to her daughter’s children as they have been going through troubled times. Well done, Madame! 

 Letizia also receives a good report, adding spontaneity to the seriousness of Prince Felipe, although he too is given credit for being well-prepared for kingship in a parliamentary monarchy: as democratic as a royal person can be!! A good report all round then. 

Less so the king himself. As LV (de Luns a Venres, the free paper her in Vigo) says, there is a before and after Botswana. And the “after” is not good for Juan Carlos and his standing with the people. It’s not so much that he went on safari. It’s not so much his hunting elephants. It’s not so much that he was accompanied by a certain Corinna. It’s putting all those together and much more the fact that he just wasn’t THERE for the country in crisis. “O Rei é noso e ten que estar para servirnos”, according to the journalist Pilar Urbano. (The king is ours and he has to be here to serve us.) 

Back in the UK it’s Cameron who’s catching it. Even the papers here report his leaving his daughter behind in a pub. Opinion among my friends and in the UK press varies from “can someone who can’t even remember his daughter be trusted to run the country?” to “surely anyone can forget a child in the pub”. Tim Dowling in the Guardian writes about once leaving his baby behind in his pram at a fish market. He had to go back and retrieve him with much embarrassment. It’s in our family mythology as well that my mother once left my small brother parked in his pram outside the nursery school when she dropped my sister and me off one morning. It was only when she arrived at my grandmother’s and was asked, “Where’s the baby?” that she remembered him. So you don’t even need to be a highly pressured male to do it. 

Spanish males can take some comfort in the progress of Rafa Nadal though. He’s the first tennis player to win Roland Garros seven times. Keep it up, Rafa!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Just when you think it’s all going swimmingly ...

... another little bit of chaos breakout. Naturally I’m talking about the bijou residence here. I went out for a run this morning as usual, said hello to the old chap who walks round the Castro with his cap, his sunglasses and his umbrella/walking stick, stopped to buy some bread and came home. That’s when I discovered that my key wouldn’t open the door to the building. It went in fine but just wouldn’t turn either way. No way, José! This blogger had left the building and wasn’t getting back in any time soon.

So, as no-one else was around to try and open it, I did the sensible thing and rang the doorbell .... several times .... at length. Finally a sleepy voice said, “¿Síííííííííííí?”; I had successfully woken Phil up and he let me in.

 Later in the day I went out shopping, hoping that someone might have fixed it in the meantime but once again had to ring the doorbell to get it. Phil told me that he had had to buzz the door open several times in my absence. I went down and tried Phil’s key: same result. The key would work from the indoor keyhole but not from outside: useful!

Eventually I popped round to the estate agent’s to inform them of the problem and to see if they knew how to contact the “comunidad”. They told me they would contact the owner of the flat as she was the one with the contact details and I left it with them. On my return one of the neighbours was being buzzed into the building so I asked her politely if she knew what was going on with the door. “Es la cerradura”, she replied, helpfully. Translation: “it’s the lock”. Wow!!! I NEVER would have thought of that. Hopefully by the time I want to go out or come in again the problem might have been solved.

Meanwhile up at the Castro I saw the remains of posters urging people to protest that they want “una zona para los perros”. When I saw these the other day, I commented to Phil that there would be a demonstration before we knew it. I was right. In the free paper was a report of a march through Vigo yesterday of dog-owners protesting at the new regulation that says dogs must be on a lead at all times. They want a place to let the dogs off the lead for a run-around. This always used to be a big grassy area of the Castro Park but apparently they risk a fine now if they let the dogs loose. I can’t say I saw or heard their demonstration. They can’t have had any whistles, the usual sign of a demo but I suppose the dogs would have been very confused by lots of whistle-blowing.

Also in the paper was a picture of Prince Felipe, the lovely Letizia (Mrs Borbón) and Presidente Rajoy watching the football match between Spain and Italy yesterday. They all look rather concerned but in the end Cesc Fabregás saved the day and the final score was 1-1. Alls well that ends well.

 I read last week that since the demise of Paul the Result-Predicting Octopus not long after the last European Cup, they have had to find another creature to choose the winners. There is now an elephant doing Paul’s old job.

Hooray for the animal kingdom, say I.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

So far so good.

No more disasters on the bijou residence front as yet. Friday’s repair to the washing machine appears to have held. The thing still doesn’t spin but we’re getting by and there have been no more floods. 

Yesterday we decided to ignore the threatening rain clouds and set off on a walk to A Guía, the little church and lighthouse at the top of the hill at the Teis end of town. Once you’ve walked past the port with its stacks of containers waiting to be loaded onto cargo ships it’s a pleasant walk. 

On our way there we stopped off at the relocated railway station. It’s now on El Arenal, in a shiny new building. Quite what is going to happen to the site of the old station remains a mystery. It’s very strange walking past it and seeing a great empty space. This, of course, is what happens when you leave town for a while: they change things. The station has moved and the bus fare has gone up to €1.22, still very reasonable but nonetheless a silly amount of money involving the driver giving out small change. Why not make it a nice round sum? What other changes will we discover? 

In the station we picked up a train timetable for the Vigo - A Coruña line, now on an A4 sheet rather than the handy card they used to have. But at least we have the necessary information for when we decide to go travelling in that direction. Ahead of me in the queue was a young man who had just arrived in town, asking for a map and directions to the “estadio de beisbol”. I didn’t know there was a baseball stadium here. The train enquiries man scratched his head as well, went and conferred with colleagues and eventually told the young man he should go and ask a policeman. 

Continuing on our way through Teis we passed the “Colegio Possumus” – the Yes, We Can School, which I am sure had its name before Obama used the slogan in his presidential campaign. 

We made it to the top of A Guia in the end and took a rather grey photo just before the drizzly rain started. The rain never really got going, however, and so we continued in our quest to find the A Guía coastal path, which we discovered accidentally last time we went that way. We very nearly wandered through somebody’s garden by mistake but his barking dogs alerted him to our presence and he sent us on our way, through a kind of enchanted eucalyptus forest, all dark paths with roots to trip you up. 
By this roundabout route we finally got onto the paseo marítimo, which is nicely laid out but perhaps needs greater publicity as there were very few people on it. Mind you, it was lunchtime so I suppose sensible people were busy eating. Which is what we did once we got home after stopping at the end of Teis for a quick “clara” and a free snack. (It seems to me that there are more free tapas around than there used to be but I am not complaining. Far from it!) 

In the bar we had a quick look at the newspaper. The mayor of Vigo, Abel Caballero, is pontificating about the bank merger which was taking place as we headed back for the UK two years back. He said it was the worst thing to happen to Vigo financially. Who knows? Maybe in a different economic climate it would have worked but the bank has had trouble ever since the merger. 

Another article suggested that the mayor should be Sir Abel Caballero after the triumph of Celta moving into the first division. Really? 

 The one I liked best, though, was the article that said that Vigo is the “gaita” capital of Europe. Vigo bagpipers have been working in association with other European countries as far apart as Brittany and Rumania and it has been decided that Vigo is the best place for that squeaky instrument. So the next time we hear one being played on the streets of Vigo and Phil goes into a tirade about “bloody gaita music” I will have to remind him that it could be worse in other parts of Europe. He should think himself lucky to be in the “gaita capital”. 

During the night the rain came down in buckets again. The bijou residence is an internal flat but still the sound of the rain in the patio managed to wake me up. And I got rained on running around this morning to buy bread. 

I didn’t do my normal run around the Castro Park but headed downhill to Puerta del Sol so that I could check on bus times out to Bouzas, about which more later. Information gathered I then ran through the Compostela Gardens, along the front and back home via the bread shop. 

We had planned to meet an old friend for lunch in a Bouzas restaurant today and had done our homework, checking upon bus routes on the computer. So, having verified times from the centre (the computer only told us times of leaving Encarnación out beyond Teis and so was no use to us) we felt we were well prepared. Not so! We got on the bus, which came at the time given at the stop (so far, so good) and sat back to watch out for the point where it would turn back on itself and head back into town. That’s where we would alight and walk a few minutes to the restaurant. 

No such luck. The bus went off its computer route at Bouzas market and before we knew it, instead of turning left to head back to town, it took a right and ended up on the fast road to Samil without a stop in between. Well, we were flabbergasted! Even more so when the bus driver told us he was not heading back to Bouzas but going a different way. There we were on the rather damp and windy seafront with no bus back for ages. So we had to phone our friend, explain our predicament and have him pick us up from the seaside, fortunately only five minutes away by car. 

After that it was fine. We had an excellent lunch at a very reasonable price and then made our way back to the bijou residence. All’s well that ends well but a warning to beware of computers bearing false information.