Monday, 5 August 2013

Odd habits.

In the supermarket the other day, I trundled my wheeled basket up to the till and joined the queue. As it got close to my turn I prepared to put my shopping on the moving belt. At that point I heard a shriek behind me: “¡Oye! ¡Soy yo!” More or less, “Oy! It’s my turn!” (“Oye” really means “listen” but said in that special growly shriek that certain Spanish women are so good at it was definitely an “OY!!!”) I explained that I hadn’t seen her in the queue. So she told me that her trolley was there. Oh, yes, so it was but it’s fairly common to see trolleys loaded with stuff in odd places in supermarkets. I didn’t say that but let her continue. I had no choice really: she was going on at length. It transpired that she had moved aside to do work out prices on her calculator but now she was back. Quite why she couldn’t use her calculator standing next to her trolley was beyond me but I let it go and allowed her to precede me. I wasn’t in any hurry and besides I didn’t want to become a supermarket-rage statistic. 

So she unloaded her stuff, quite a lot of it, onto the belt and ... went running out of the supermarket!! The cashier raised her eyebrows and carried on sending items past the scanner. The other ladies in the queue looked perplexed. A minute or so after the cashier had finished her totting up, the runaway returned, clutching two of those re-usable shopping bags. So, she remembered her calculator but not her shopping bags, which she had left in the car. Priceless!! Another example of “I do things my way regardless” syndrome!! 

And then my friend Grant posted on Facebook this morning about someone throwing a lighted cigarette down in the street. Nothing unusual in that. It happens all the time, increasingly, both here in Spain and back in the UK as more and more people smoke on the street. The difference this time was that the cigarette landed in his foot. And he was wearing sandals. And the smoker? He was halfway down the street. Oblivious! 

In some cities in Italy they have local by-laws preventing people from shaking table cloths, dusters, sweeping brushes, rugs and so on from upper floor windows. A brave attempt to make people aware of the needs of others. Imagine sitting on your balcony and having someone else’s breakfast crumbs rain down on you! 

As my friend Colin has often told us, Christopher Columbus, aka Cristobal Colón, is a Galician. Apparently he comes from Poio, Pontevedra. They even have his birth certificate, I am told. Now I’ve found another hero, fictional this time, with Galician connections. I spotted this poster in the centre of Vigo. Apologies for the poor quality of the photo; the sun was just at the wrong angle. Popeye, the Sailor Man, is saying, “I admit it. It wasn’t spinach; it was “grelos”, Galician greens.” 

You can see fine crops of “grelos” growing in the various vegetable plots around this fair city. In between the tall buildings, and behind the tall building where we live, you find the remains of the little communities that used to be there: individual houses and every other house has a vegetable plot. One of those behind us has free range chickens. AND a most annoying cockerel who doesn’t seem to know that dawn is in the morning. Another has a couple of goats. 

This is part of the phenomenon of so many people here being only a generation or two away from village life. You see people busily using gardening implements that wouldn’t look out of place in films from the 1940s.And an awful lot of people still leave the city most weekends to go back to their “pueblo”. I used to know a lady who brought fresh eggs back for her friends. 

A few posts back, reader Perry asked if the “pueblos” in Spain had communal ovens for everyone to bake their bread. Well, a friend of mine once told me about her family having a mill for grinding corn in their “pueblo”. All the residents had the right to use the mill to grind their flour. They had a rota system that still worked in her childhood. And I have read about the communal ovens as well. 

As we walk around the area behind our flats, San Joan do Monte, and in nearby Teis, we come across what used to be communal washing areas, big stone basins with a ridged area, rather like an old washboard, for rubbing difficult items clean. I wonder if busy housewives would give up their washing machines to go back to this system, everyone singing as they scrubbed. 

And there are also in various places along the back roads still functioning taps providing clean drinking water. Presumably these were the water supply for the community before houses had piped water. Every morning I run past one outside the Travesía de Vigo shopping centre, where the big Carrefour store is, and every morning there is a queue of people waiting to fill bottles with water. Do they drink it? After all, I see enough people leaving the supermarket with huge supplies of bottle water to know that many people don’t like drinking what comes through the taps. I don’t have a problem with it myself. Chilled in the fridge, it’s fine! 

Finally, here’s a bit of odd spelling, the result of "borrowed" words being standardised into Spanish. I am currently reading a Spanish novel by a journalist called Javier Reverte, very readable, set in Madrid just before the millennium. The protagonist drinks an amazing amount of alcohol every day. At one point a list of drinks available in a bar appears: “whiskys, gintonics, bladimeris, cócteles” are just a few of them. What puzzled me was the third in that list: “bladimeri”. Then I realised that this was a Bloody Mary. It’s just that so many Spaniards are taught to pronounce the “u” sound as “a” (“pub” becomes “pav”) that when the word has changed its spelling to Spanish style, it bears little relationship to what an awful lot of the UK population actually say.

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