Thursday, 21 November 2013


Our eldest granddaughter writes. She has files and folders full of stories, ideas, character descriptions and so on. The majority of her stories go onto her computer and out into the internet where she shares them with young writers’ websites all over the world. And she gets positive feedback. 

I find this quite amazing but I understand that she is not unusual in doing this. I am moved to comment on this because of something I came across in the Guardian. Broadcaster and children’s author Simon Mayo was writing about the fact that boys don’t like to write. The National Literacy Trust has surveyed 35000 eight to sixteen year olds and found that while 35% of girls think writing is cool, a similar percentage of boys actively dislike writing. One of Simon Mayo’s conclusions was that, just as the way to encourage boys to read is to find stuff they WANT to read, so you need to find stuff that boys want to write about. 

I find this dichotomy rather odd, bearing in mind how many more men than women have always had books published. I know that there are all sorts of historical and sociological reasons for this is the past but I rather get the impression that it still is the case today. 

 Certainly, looking at our grandchildren, it seems to be true that the girls write for pleasure – the middle grandchild, a girl, also writes her thoughts down and I recently caught her entertaining her brother by reading out loud her diary from a couple of years ago! – while the boy, youngest of the three, has to be coerced into completing his written homework. Maybe, as Simon Mayo says, they just haven’t captured his imagination yet. I

s it also the case that more women than men use Facebook? I wonder. 

On Facebook today a young friend of mine was asking about the word “tardeo”. She was trying to find an English translation for this term which is apparently a portmanteau word made up of “tarde” – afternoon, evening – and “tapeo” – going out for tapas. This young friend studied Spanish so she understood the idea but couldn’t find an English term that was equivalent. 

It would seem that back in September the Guardian’s “Life and Style” section published an article about a phenomenon which Alicante claims to have initiated: starting Saturday night early, almost immediately after lunch and going out drinking and dancing in clubs. This often means that their night out finishes early as well; the place is often livelier at 4.30 pm than it is at 4.30am, something of a reversal of Spanish social trends. As you might expect, other places, notably Murcia and Albacete, say that Alicante is just copying their idea. The Guardian’s article  also got mentioned in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. 

One thing that the article stresses is the importance of the midday meal – well, 2.00pm onwards meal – in Spain as the main meal of the day, rather than the evening meal as in England. Funnily enough Phil and I change our eating habits from one country to the other, In Galicia, we follow Spanish habits and eat a full meal at lunchtime, just snacking in the evening. Here in England, we generally skip lunch and have an early evening meal. How odd! 

 Through Facebook, once again, I was made aware of a website about how you can tell if you are a “gallego”. You know you are a Galician when you do certain things. One of the principal ones is: “Tienes aldea, eres de aldea, o has pasado gran parte de tu vida en una aldea” – “You have a home village, you are from a village or you have spent a large part of your life in a village”. This is very true of lots of people I know in Vigo. They don’t consider themselves “vigueses” but will tell you they come from Redondela, or Vilagarcía or some small place near Ourense. What’s more, they usually go back there almost every weekend. 

 I know people who feel something of the same attachment to the city of their youth but it’s not usually as strong as what the Galicians, and many other Spaniards, profess to feel. Maybe cities are just too big but individual districts are not quite separate enough. At the moment there are various quizzes around which allow you to assess how “Northern” or how much of a “Londoner” you are. I have not yet given in to the temptation. 

The other proof of being Galician that I really liked was the one that said that you have your own recipe for “licor de café”, one of the favourite after-meal alcoholic tipples, often provided free of charge in restaurants where you have just spent a lot of money, and usually just the final bit of alcohol needed to give you a good hangover. 

 Having your own recipe for “licor de café” is rather like having your own recipe for Lancashire hotpot; every true “Northerner” knows one! 

When my mother was taken ill and my father took over the kitchen – he was a pretty good cook – my mother’s only complaint was that he added garlic to everything. This was a consequence of travelling to Spain too often. For the most part she didn’t really mind but when it came to garlic in the Lancashire hotpot she felt it was a step too far. 

Some things should not be messed about with!

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