Saturday, 2 June 2012

Cultura Gallega.

Yesterday I was visited by a mad woman, well, probably not actually mad but manically smiling all the time she spoke. From the word go it was obvious that she wanted to sell something but it was not clear what. She tried to disguise it by appealing to my love of Galicia – everyone is assumed, usually correctly to have a love of Galicia. She followed this up with some questions, getting information apparently for some kind of Galicia organisation, but not the tourist board or the Normalización de la Lengua people. In an attempt to butter me up, she told me that I must be a Gallega, having lived here, moved away and come back, something that many Galicians traditionally do when there is little work here. 

Anyway, after much talk about which aspect of Galicia I liked best (the people, the countryside, the cities, the food, the culture?) and whether I wanted to know more about these, eventually she got down to it. For a mere €24.95 a month I could receive a pack of information about an aspect of Galicia, a different one each month. She was very hard to get rid of. I explained that we are here for just three months, we don’t have a bank account to set up payments even if we wanted to do so, we are travelling on restricted luggage allowance and don’t want to clutter ourselves up with extra stuff. None of this worked. She went on and on and on. In the end I had to force her back through the door explaining that we were about to go out and she still went on asking could she not just send me JUST ONE pack. The poor mad thing must be working on a commission basis. 

And it was true that we were going out; we were off to the Centro Cultural Novacaixagalicia to hear the Real Filharmonía de Galicia play some Sibelius, among other things. And they played their hearts out. It was well worth the €16 apiece we paid for our seats. It might have cost us twice that at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. 

The Centro Cultural Novacaixagalicia is a splendid place, very grand. I imagine finely dressed ladies and gentlemen of a bygone age sitting there, enjoying the theatrical or musical performances. Last night the place was far from full and we wondered if it has anything to do with the ticket-selling arrangements. 

You can book seats by internet and collect them on the night from a fancy machine by the booking office. Otherwise you can buy them on the night in the hour and a half before the performance starts. Those who don’t have access to a computer must buy on the night and this may be a disincentive. If you’ve already got your ticket, even a reasonably priced ticket, you feel committed to going. After all, you’ve spent your money. But having to turn up on the night and see if there are any seats left might put you off, especially if it’s a fine evening, like last night, and you would rather sit outside a bar and sip a glass of something cool. 

We sipped our glass of something cool beforehand, initially planning to sit outside the Maracaibo on Avenida de Compostela with our “clara” (shandy) and some free tapas. And then the lady on the table next to ours lit up a cigarette and we took refuge indoors. At some point the Spanish will have to bite the bullet and establish smoking and non-smoking zones on the terrazas, maybe varying them according to the wind-direction. 

As regards sipping something cool, or even something less cool such as a coffee, when you go to a concert, there is one thing that strikes me every time I go to the Centro Cultural Novacaixagalicia here. In the lovely concert venue there is a beautiful empty space on one of the upper floors. Once again I imagine finely dressed ladies and gentlemen of a bygone age standing around here making elegant conversation. My photo does not do it justice, as the establishment had switched off the lights at the end of the evening: a sign to concert-goers that it was time to leave the building. 

Now, if this were the Bridgewater Hall, that space would be a bar with tables, where concert-goers would have pre-booked a drink for the interval and where many would have stayed for a post-concert tipple at the end of the evening. A nice little earner for the Bridgewater Hall, and they are not alone in doing this; it’s standard practice at most concert venues. 

Have I discovered something about which the British could teach the Spanish a thing or two?

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