Walking along towards the fruit shop at Puerta del Sol this morning, I spotted an immaculately dressed lady, one of those elderly ladies you see in Spanish towns, dressed up to the nines even at 11.30 in the morning. This one was dressed in all pale greens with cream accessories. I did notice, however, that she was walking with some difficulty. No wonder!! On her feet she wore cream stilettos with pointed toes and heels that must have been three inches high. All right, three inches may not be high to some people but for a lady who looked to be well into her seventies, such footwear was really not ideal. I’m not sure that the extra height did a great deal for her spindly elderly legs either. I was sorely tempted to go up to her and as, “Señora, why are you putting yourself through such agony on this hot day? Would you not be more comfortable in a pair of nice cream sandals?” I chickened out though. Wherever she was going to, she was going to get there in style! But why?
Some of the “gentlemen” of this fair city have no such scruples about making themselves comfortable. Why is it that so many of them appear to feel that it is quite acceptable to relieve themselves in almost any quiet spot along busy streets? On Sunday morning, as I made my way up to the Castro, there was one behind the entrance to the underground car park. Now, that entrance is made of glass; hardly the most concealing of places to stop for a pee! On my way home after my run, as I approached the door to our building I realised that there was someone getting up close and personal with the rubbish containing on the other side of the road. Yes, another one who mistook a large green bin for a urinal. His mate noticed me and fell about laughing as he pointed me out to his friend. Who had the decency to go behind the rubbish container, from where he popped his head up and grinned as he called, “Hola”.
Of course, this was Sunday morning and, although not quite the crack of dawn, it was still quite early. So I expect that all these (I was going to say “young” but they were not exactly teenagers) men were just on their way home from a Saturday night out. But why, in a country where cafes abound, did they not just pop into one and use their facilities? And what do the girls do? You don’t see them squatting in alleyways. If they do so, they must do it very discreetly.
While I’m in what seems to be turning into the “bog blog”, here’s something else. Later on Sunday we went out for a walk which took us past the bus station where we popped in to use their facilities. One lot was closed but the other, although open was in such a disgusting state that I declined to use it. Phil told me that the Gents’ was not a great deal better. What kind of message does this give to people arriving on the bus from the pristine brightness of Oporto airport? They might be tempted to get on the next bus out of town. Vigo is not the only place either; the toilets at Pontevedra bus station also need some attention. And it’s not rocket science, after all.
I am seriously thinking of doing a study of ladies’ loos in cafes and restaurants. It’s astonishing how many of them have their lights on timers. This works fine in those where the lights are movement sensitive but in those which work rather like the lights on staircases and go out after a certain length of time it can be really disconcerting. If you sit too long you end up sitting in the dark. Mind you, we once stayed in a hotel where the whole bathroom was on a movement-sensitive lighting system; you had to be careful to keep moving in the shower. If you just stood and enjoyed the water for too long, the lights went out and you had to wave your arms around in just the right area to get them back on.
What really amuses me though is having to collect a key to open the ladies’ in the restaurant El Puerto. Whether they don’t trust the men not to use it or what the reason might be, I have no idea, but ladies need to get the key. It takes me back to my first visit to Spain as a student in 1968 when ladies were just not expected to go in ordinary bars or at least ordinary bars were not properly equipped to cater for them. There were places where you had to go and ask for the key and then you were escorted to a loo in some other part of the building or even at the end of the garden. Presumably proper ladies only went to posh restaurants or, being proper ladies, did not go to the loo.
More reports on interesting loos in future posts!