I walked into the town centre yesterday, looking for a chemist where I could buy the Spanish equivalent of Lemsip for Phil and something for his sore throat as well. Between the cold wind in Buckinghamshire and the up and down, "now it’s raining, now it’s not" weather we’ve had since we arrived here he’s been snuffling and sneezing and taking to his bed. He blames it mainly on having forgotten his woolly hat and therefore walking around with a cold head when we were out and about with our son. So it goes. Anyway, although there are chemists closer to hand I walked into the town centre.
In the short stretch of Calle Urzáiz that goes from Gran Vía to Calle Colón, no distance at all really, I spotted no fewer than three shops that offer to buy your gold and, presumably, any other valuables you night have that they might consider worth buying. I have no valuables worth selling and I found myself wondering once again who are these people who have gold to sell. Have they ransacked the jewellery boxes of their grandmothers and their aged maiden aunts? Are they professional or semi-professional thieves? Are they good, respectable bourgeois people down on their luck?
One who looks like a respectable bourgeois gent down on his luck is the old chap who still seems to be camping in the doorway of a closed shop in that same stretch of Calle Urzáiz. He’s been there for over a year now. I was quite relieved to see him still there, glad the winter had not seen him off. He has quite a heap of “stuff” with him. I wonder how he drags it around with him if he needs to sally forth from his den. Maybe he never sallies forth. Or perhaps the neighbouring establishments keep an eye on it for him. One thing I am fairly sure of is that if he were camped in a shop doorway in any town centre in the UK he would have been moved on by now.
Spain, well, Galicia anyway, is perhaps a kinder and in some ways more innocent society. I thought this on Friday evening as I walked back from the Nuevo Derby cafetería in the middle evening. Children were still playing, unaccompanied, in the dark street as I walked along Travesía de Vigo. At one point I was accosted by a little chap of about eight years old who asked me if I wanted to buy a poster from him. What was that about? Has no-one told him about “stranger danger”? This is the term used in UK schools when they warn children not to speak to strangers. Maybe it doesn’t figure highly here.
Vigo’s main pedestrianised shopping street, Príncipe, is little changed. Shops have changed hands but mostly remain open: a good sign. I can think of a very sad posh shopping mall (a horrible term but the only one appropriate here) which is like a mini ghost town. A lonely security guard stands amidst the empty shops. A couple of cafes are still open but they won’t last long if there are no shops for people to visit. In Vigo centre there are more fancy sweet shops than I remember. Maybe that explains the increase in rounder people as well.
The street musicians are out in force, continuing to learn their trade at the expense of the public, as are the people who try to sign you up to donate to the Cruz Roja, to Cancer Research and even to an organisation loosely connected to the Islas Cíes and conservation in general.
Returning home, having successfully bought cold cures for Phil, and a woolly hat, I noted that our supermarket beggar has disappeared again. As she wasn’t around on Friday but popped up on Saturday, I begin to wonder if she has a job during the week.