Sunday, 31 August 2014

Budget options!

As I travelled on the bus towards Samil yesterday, at the further end of Travesía de Vigo I spotted a hairdressers with the same name as the one I usually go to here in Vigo. I know this is a chain. They have salons all over the city. This particular one was slightly different. 

Usually the salons portray themselves as being quite smart, perhaps even a little upmarket. This despite the fact that it costs me less than half what it costs in Manchester to have my hair done. And they are clearly cost-conscious. for example, when the stylist asked if I wanted the regular shampoo and conditioner treatment or one with a fancy name, she took pains to point out that the fancily-named one, which she would recommend, would cost me €2 more. A whole €2!!! I did a rapid calculation and decided that my budget could run to that. 

Besides I was curious to see what this fancy-named treatment would consist of. In the event, the shampoo and conditioner bit was much the same as usual. I can't imagine how you could make that very different. However, after that the stylist combed some gunk (which didn't look radically different from conditioner even though she called it a mask) through my hair and then put me under a kind of hood which blew steam all around my head. All this is the name of glossy hair! 

Anyway, back to the one I spotted on Travesía de Vigo. It was obviously the same chain as it had the identical logo. But the main salon sign was bright orange and it had a kind of luggage label image printed on, which said LOW COST!! I have noticed before now that some budget places use bright orange on their signs and notices. Could this be in flattering imitation of a certain budget airline? Hmmm, I wonder!! 

Talking of budget airlines, we have just printed our boarding cards for our flight to the UK at the end of the week. It offered "options" to call up the reservation: passport number or reservation number. Passport numbers (correctly entered this time) were more easily available so we went for that option. Whereupon they told us we had not completed all the obligatory fields. They needed the reservation number as well. So we had to go back into email to find it. Now, option means choice. Or at least, it always used to. "Options" shouldn't mean a list of stuff you have to do. In the end though, job done, boarding cards printed! 

Phil gets regular information from various sites regarding prices of flights. Over the last few days he has been getting updates on the price of the flight we decided not to opt for next Sunday on the grounds that it was already more expensive than we like to pay. It crept up to £170 and then, the other day, it flagged up £200+. 

That is no longer BUDGET! 

Budget, however, is what is offered by a small fruit shop I popped into on Avenida Castrelos yesterday on my way home from Samil I bought two oranges, half a dozen plums and half a dozen strange flat nectarines, like Paraguayans but in the nectarine family, all for the grand total of €1.30. Less than the fancy treatment for my hair! 

Yesterday I commented that the chess players might have a hot and sticky journey to Rianxo, a carful of full grown men. In the event, the ride was probably the best part. The venue was a sports hall, never the coolest of places on a sunny day, without air conditioning. There were several junior competitions going on in the same hall, starting and finishing at different times. Then there was the simple volume of entry for Phil's event, bigger than anticipated. Net result: a late and disorganised start to the noisiest and hottest tournament he says he has ever played in. And he didn't win even the veteran's prize. One of their number did return with a prize though. So all was not lost! 

When I read the newspapers online I occasionally glance at the collections of photos they have available on different themes. In La Voz de Galicia the other day they had an album of bridges of Galicia, bridges connecting Galicia to other parts of the Iberian Peninsula, such as the old railways bridge that crosses the Miño at Tui, and bridges that cross the various rías. 

One of those featured was the Rande bridge, which we see from our window. And a very fine view it is, I must say. From the album I learnt that the bridge is 1558 metres long. When it was opened in 1981 it was the longest bridge of its kind in the world (maybe it still is) and is the longest bridge in Spain. There you go. Always something new to learn. 

I was amused by the picture selected to show a bridge connecting Galicia to Asturias, the Puente de los Santos which crosses the ría de Ribadeo. A fine bridge but the photo was obviously taken on the occasion of a road accident as there is a lorry tipped over on the bridge. Love it! 

You have to admire the style! Perhaps this is budget photojournalism.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Ongoing adventures

Never let it be said that this blogger came to Galicia and did not go to the beach! Well, actually, it has been known to happen. But not this time! Oh, no!! 

Phil was taken off by car this morning to a place called Rianxo, somewhere near Padrón (where the little green peppers come from) to play in a one day, quick play chess event? Had there been room in the car I might have gone with them but the vehicle was full. No room for a non-contender! I suspect they had a rather hot and squashy journey, especially those in the back seat. 

So, here I was, up and about early, shopping done, washing done and hung out to dry on the balcony. A whole day was spread out before me. So I went down to Travesía de Vigo and caught a C3 bus to Samil, Vigo's biggest (I think) beach. It was a rather long and tedious journey. A small boy was travelling with his mother and grandmother and kept informing them, and incidentally the whole bus, that he was going to the beach. "Vamos paya", he said again and again. Despite the correct version being repeated back to him, "Vamos a la playa", his diction never improved. Besides, his grandmother kept teasing him, telling him that they were going to Grandma's house: " Vamos a casa de yaya", causing some consternation. ("yaya" is short for "abuela", a bit like "gran" or "nana" or whatever abbreviation is accepted in your household.) 

Eventually we got there and small boy, mamá and yaya took the packet of biscuits they had been consuming all the way and headed off. I went in the opposite direction to them. The beach was fairly full but I have to say I have seen it fuller. Perhaps by the afternoon it was packed to the gills but by then I was long gone. 

I did that Spanish thing of walking along the tideline, getting my feet wet and coming away with sand sparkles on my toes. People were in the water. Sand castles were being built. Serious-faced small boys transported buckets of water to fill moats, unsuccessfully. My plan, after walking the line, was to walk back along the River Lagares as far as Castrelos Park and then catch another C3 bus back home. 

Before setting off, I stopped for a glass of water at a cafe, sitting myself down outside at an empty table. I had just ordered when a chap came out and said that I had taken his place. A case of, "I nip inside to the loo and lose my seat". Well, he left no indicator that he had deserved that table. I apologised. Anyway he sat down there across from me and proceeded to ignore me. OK. So I ignored him back. 

The place had wifi, so I was going to post a photo on Facebook. The waitress told me that the network was unprotected but it demanded a password and she never reappeared to tell me what it was so I abandoned that project, drank up, paid up and left. 

The walk back along the river really starts after the wetlands section, where the river meets the sea and there are some reedbeds, all signposted nicely in Galician. What they neglect to do is tell you that the track which is paved so well with fine grey stones is not in fact the river walk. It does indeed go along the river but only so far; it leads you to a barrier, beyond which is a major road without pavements. I know this because I followed that path and had to turn back to the point where there was a road-bridge over the river and a sandy path on the other side of the river. THAT is the river walk! 

In a few places there were little platforms overlooking the river, ideal for fishermen if it were not for the notices saying that fishing was forbidden. On one of these platforms I came across an old man doing some kind of Tai Chi exercises. Very good! 

It's quite a pleasant walk with some nice photo opportunities and some interesting graffiti. 


 Also it carries on nicely for quite some time until suddenly you are at Balaidos, home of Vigo's football team, Celta de Vigo. At that point the river walk sort of peters out. You make your way round behind the stadium along the road and the path tries to get going again but it never quite makes a good go of it. 

And then you are at Castrelos Park and effectively back in Vigo Proper. There was some kind of race going on in the park. Before I saw anything I could tell there was a sporting event because I could hear the commentator, droning away in that special tone used by sports reporters. I wonder if they have special training and need a certificate in sing-song speech before they are given a job. I never found out exactly what it was or who won, simply skirting my way round it and setting off for the bus stop on Gran Vía. 

At the stop the useful display told me that there was no C3 bus for 33 minutes. I started walking. A C3 bus passed me. 

Further up Gran Vía I stopped for a clara, spent some time fishing peanuts out of one of those bowls of mixed inedible, rock hard nuts they sometimes offer you. I was given a little tapa of pasta and tuna sauce as well, I hasten to add. Then I set off again, in time to see the next C3 bus sail past me. 

So I caught a 15A to the end of Pizarro and walked the rest of the way home along Calle Aragón. Another little adventure over!!

Friday, 29 August 2014

The Image is All.

In the hairdresser's this morning I caught up with the scandal magazines. I discovered which celebrities are looking really good in their bikinis only five or sixth months after giving birth to little what's-his-name! On the other hand, I also found out who has been letting themselves down and really shouldn't be showing off their cellulite down at the beach. A lot of bitching goes on down at the beach, or so it seems. 

 The holidays of the Spanish royal family gets a lot of coverage. No indiscreet pictures of Letizia in her swimwear. Lots of cute pictures of the little princesses, sometimes dressed identically and sometimes differently, which provoked comment. It is much more common here for siblings to be dressed the same. Outfits are sold in his and her versions so that you can have matching boys and girls. "Posh" kids' clothes (posh clothes, not clothes for posh kids but, on reflection, that might be the same thing) are generally much more traditional, not to say old fashioned, very formal. And little girls still often have big ribbon bows in their hair. When I have shown photos of our smallest granddaughter, six months old, I hear comments about how "modernita" she is. In other words she isn't dressed like a 1950s baby! 

One thing I read in the "prensa rosa" was about measures that King Felipe VI is taking to prevent scandal overtaking the royal family from the same angle as has happened with the Infanta Cristina and her husband. From now on the Royal Family is deemed to consist of King Felipe, Queen Letizia, the Infantas Leonor and Sofía and, of course, the retired (are they retired?) King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía. When or if the little princesses marry, their husbands will be part of the family but under certain conditions, of which more later. The Infantas Cristina and Elena are no longer officially members of the Royal Family, although the press still refers to them as "Infantas". I didn't realise you could be expelled from a family in that way. How very surprising! 

Of course, the big thing that goes along with this is that no member of the Royal Family will be allowed to work for a public company. So if the little princesses' future husbands want to continue working for some public company, then the princesses will have to leave the family. Of course, Leonor won't be able to do that as she is the Princesa de Asturias, heir to the throne. How complicated! Elena and Cristina, ex-members of the Royal Family will not represent the country and the throne any more unless requested to do so by the king and will receive no stipend. All of this, of course, still has to become law but that appears to be what is proposed. What a sensible back-covering King! 

And for now the press appears to have given up suggesting the Felipe and Letizia are on the verge of divorce. Instead they are expressing their concern at how thin Letizia is. 

It's all a matter of how you see things.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Some silly stories.

Last night we called in for a drink and use of internet at the "orgy" cafe. That is not its true name but ever since we accidentally found ourselves at a performance by a seriously unfunny, would-be sexy pair calling themselves "Orgía y Fantasía" that has been how we refer to it. 

It's really called Mid Century and its unique selling point is the excellent music from the mid 20th century that they play there. Added to that, the music is never too loud and although there is a TV screen it doesn't have a rolling programme of news that you can never quite hear. Neither does it have a series of too-loud pop music videos that are almost pornographic. If the screen is on, it usually has a bunch of people jiving or doing the twist or possible a performer from the same era a the music being played. Rarely, however, do the music being played and the onscreen display actually match up. But that doesn't seem to matter. And the decor is fresh and bright as well. 

The young lady who runs it usually dresses almost 1950s / 1960s style. Hair in a ginger pony tail, what she really needs to complete the look is to wear roller skates as they do in some American cafés. They would have to be roller skates, 1950s style, not the modern roller blades, even though I am told these are easier to use. 

Mid Century girl works hard to promote her cafe. As well as the rather odd "Orgía y Fantasía", to my knowledge she has put on concerts by local (I presume) groups and this weekend she has a Magic Workshop. So if you want to hone up your skills at putting a hex on someone or just doing card tricks, that is the place to go on Saturday night. 

When we arrived last night Mid Century girl commiserated with me for arriving in sandals in the rain, pointing out that she was also wearing sandals. Both of us had dressed for the sunshine that was around earlier in the day. Mind you I did have my just-in-case bright pink umbrella with me. Just as well! 

We were escaping from a noisy chess club, full of over-excited children. They had been meant to be having a chess camp down at Samil, at the far end of Vigo, with chess on the beach and other such fun. Then the weather had turned bad in the late afternoon to early evening and they had to abandon the plans and cram everyone indoors. So there we were, in the orgy cafe reading newspapers online. 

Now, August always used to be the silly season for news. So here is a collection of silly stories, gleaned from newspapers here and there. 

From La Voz de Galicia I learnt that a female panda in a the Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre in Chengdu, China, pretended to be pregnant in order to get extra rations, a private room and air conditioning. Who knew pandas were so clever??? 

Buñol has had it's tomatina festival, where 125 toms of tomatoes were thrown around. People from as far afield as Australia and Japan joined in the fun!!! I have never understood food fights and especially the idea of throwing tomatoes at each other. Ripe ones burst and the juice stings your eyes. Unripe ones hurt! Madness! 

An Italian politician, from Liga Nord, who called another politician, of Congolese origin, an orang-utan says it's because the father of the second politician put a curse on him. He reckons all sorts of bad things have happened to him, including his mouth running off in racist drivel. He has apologised and asked for the curse to be lifted!! Do people still believe in such things? Maybe he should attend Saturday's Magic Workshop. 

The Guardia Civil in some place in Andalucía discovered that someone had converted the bullring into a marijuana factory, growing the plants, drying the leaves and so on. They also found another smaller "factory" nearby. Inevitably, some British people were involved!!! 

 A Banksy graffito, Mobile Lovers, has sold for £403,000, enabling the Broad Plain Boys Club in Bristol to stay open for a bit longer. The mural, showing a man and woman embracing while each looks at their mobile phone over the other's shoulder, was on the wall of the club. They managed to take it inside, charged people to see it and were threatened with police action for doing so. But Banksy said they could have it and do what they liked with it. So they sold it. Good for them! 

That's all, folks!!!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Sleep and stuff.

I have just read that there are moves afoot in the USA to start school later in the day to accommodate teenagers and their "need" to sleep later. This is part of what it said: 

"Your typical teenager doesn’t just become lazy and irritable due to attitude problems; their brains and bodies are changing, meaning they need more sleep than usual, and at different times. One of the effects of puberty is it makes the individual get tired and need sleep later than “normal” (e.g. falling asleep after midnight rather than 10pm), but the school schedule requires early rising regardless of bed time. Coupled with the fact that on average teenagers need more sleep than people of other ages, this is a recipe for inevitable sleep deprivation, resulting in poor concentration, lethargy, behavioural problems, and much more." 

At the risk of being unscientific in my response, I am tempted to say, "What a load of rubbish!!!" Mind you, my mother always used to say that the hours of sleep before midnight were more beneficial than those after midnight. Personally, I think it was to get us to go to bed early. More unscientific nonsense! 

Whatever next? A scientific reason for people to eat junk food? I am weary of a such nonsense! 

Another thing I grow tired of hearing about is the ginger debate. I have just read - once again that just reading thing - that Scotland has the highest percentage of ginger people in the world. And ginger people, or so they keep on saying, suffer from discrimination and bullying. As a ginger myself, I fail to see what all the fuss is about. I always enjoyed being different from the average person. Mind you, no-one went on about it so much when I was a kid at school. I did learn quite late in life that my grandmother, also a redhead although I was never aware of it, used to rinse her hair with camomile to try to tone it down. It takes all sorts, I suppose. 

My sleep this morning, not very late in the day, was disturbed by the mournful hooting of a cruise liner, desperately trying to find the wharf so that it could dock. I was rather hoping for a spectacular bump but it never happened. That's two days running that enormous great boats have called in here. At least they managed some sunshine today, once the fog had burned off. 

And here's something else I just read. I thought I had problems with wasps in Pontevedra but this beats it into a cocked hat. There is a family in Winchester who had not been in their spare room for a few months. When someone finally went it, he found a wasps nest on the bed, three feet wide and one foot deep, eating through the bedding and into the mattress. They came in originally through an open window. An estimated 5000 wasps were involved. That's a lot of wasps! No wonder they needed professional help to remove the nest!! 

Finally, a bit of language. I have recently come across odd headlines about someone "owning" someone else. Disturbed, confused, puzzled, I decided to Google it. I discovered that it means to defeat someone severely, as in a verbal argument or in a competition, often to the point of humiliation. To "put someone in their place." It is possible to comment in an argument, "You just got owned!" 

You live and learn! 

Slang is amazing! I may need a long sleep to absorb the new information.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Some time ago I read a book called "Pay it forward" in which the young hero did a kindness to three people, asking only in return that they too should do something nice for three other people. They should then ask those three in turn to pass on the kindness. And so on. And so on. And because it was a book, it worked. The youngster concerned made it his project for the summer, which he had to report on when he went back to school. This was the USA where they tend to do things like that. They even made a film of the book. 

It reminded me of those chain letter things you used to get as a child. You were supposed to send postcards to five people who had in turn to send postcards to another five. After several weeks, the system promised you, you would receive postcards from all over the world. How interesting!! It never worked. 

Anyway it seems that a woman is Saint Petersburg, that's Florida, USA, not Russia, decided to do something similar. She was in Starbucks and decided to pay not just for her own iced coffee but the caramel latte (no comments on weird coffees sold by Starbucks today) of the lady in the queue behind her. This person then paid for the coffee of the person in the queue behind her. And so it went on and on and on until close to 400 people had played the game. They were "paying it forward". Then along came the spoilsport. 

There had inevitably to be one customer who, on being told that her coffee had been paid for by the previous customer and did she want to return the favour, answered that no, she didn't. All she wanted to do was pay for her own coffee and not be bothered by anyone else, thank you very much!!! 

There's always one! 

A similar thing, perhaps more amusing to watch, but not so nice-natured, is the ice bucket challenge which is all the rage on Facebook at the moment. It's supposed to be a way of raising money for charity; that's the nice-natured aspect. You know the kind of thing. A "friend" nominates you to be videoed having a bucket of ice cold water thrown over you. You then nominate others. Very funny. My friend Colin has just taken part, or at least his blog says so, and declares that the video can't be shown because his language is too dire and dreadful. 

I have read that the actor Patrick Stewart, challenged to take part, agreed, had a bucket of ice delivered and proceeded to put some of it in his drink. That was his way of doing the challenge. 

As I said, there is always one! 

So here's another. 

I have never watched the TV show "The Apprentice". All the clips for it that I ever saw put me off. They always consisted of someone being rude and obnoxious to someone else. People were being reduced to tears as they desperately sought to meet certain targets. Is this entertainment? I wouldn't really want to watch a film on that sort of theme, let alone a so-called reality show. Consequently, when I saw an item about someone called Katie Hopkins, I had no idea who she was. A former star of the show, I found out. 

One of her unique selling points is her nastiness. There's a surprise! One manifestation of this is her rude comments about ginger-haired people. Another, is her saying that fat people are innately lazy and that she would never employ one. To drive her opinion home, she now plans to try to gain three stone and then lose it again, just to show that of you really want to lose weight you can do so. This will be televised, naturally. 

Now, there's something of a difference between having a long term weight problem and deliberately putting weight on just to lose it immediately afterwards. Someone commented in the newspaper that it would serve her right if she managed to put the weight on and then couldn't get rid of it. 

 Whatever the result, I have no intention of watching that TV show either.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Haircuts, magpies, airlines and beggars! The price of stuff!

Sitting in the barber's shop while Phil has his hair cut, I just overheard the barber comment that this is a very bad summer. What did I say in my last post? There you go! 

Today is in fact rather a dull day but warm and sticky. However, because of the cloud (perhaps?) lots of ladies are wearing scarves. I suppose it could be that all of them suffer from "cervicales", that curious ailment that only the Spanish, the French and the Italians suffer from, to my knowledge anyway. It's a kind of stiff neck but more so and involves strain of the top of the spine, or something like that. Now, for all I know, the Germans might also acknowledge this as a medical condition but I have never come across an English person who is aware of it. 

 The caged magpie that used to be here in the barber's shop has disappeared. Maybe it just grew too big and they decided to let it go. But no, in fact, it turns out that back in May someone walking past noticed it and reported them to the police. Una denuncia!! They took it away to release it into the wild. Apparently they were in all the papers and even on television. I was never really happy at the thought of the poor bird in its cage. Neither would I like it to hop around the shop as I am not a fan of things that fly around indoors. You should see me when I take the grandchildren to the zoo and they want to go in the batcage !! My idea of torture!!! However, the barber was concerned that the poor bird might never have learnt to fend for itself and might well die in the wild. 

Before the barber's shop visit, we called in a the offices of a budget airline on Calle Policarpo Sanz here in Vigo. On Saturday we cleverly went online and booked our flights from the UK to Oporto, well in advance as we won't actually fly until the end of November. This Portuguese airline asked for passport numbers as we booked, unlike others who ask for the details some time later, between booking and actually travelling. Anyway, we managed to put one of the passport numbers in wrongly. Looking online for a way to remedy the matter, we discovered that there is an office here in Vigo. So we trotted along and sorted it out. The very helpful young lady in the airline office just changed it on the computer and that was that. We didn't ask how much that would cost us. Online it said that any change would have a charge of £60 but she didn't ask for any money and we didn't want to tempt fate by asking. Maybe a bill will come through later but so far so very good. 

Our supermarket beggar is back. For the last six weeks or so, there has been no hand extended, no whining voice, no stories about how she has no money for her son's birthday and so on. And then, as we went out in the early evening on Saturday, there she was, greeting us like old friends. My cynical side wonders if she has been away on holiday! If she is from a gypsy family, which is not impossible, I suppose the whole lot of them could have been away working the harvest somewhere. You never know. Or maybe she now needs some money to fund her son's return to school. After all, "la vuelta al cole" is an expensive business in all countries. Our daughter has been protesting at the amount she has had to spend on uniform for her daughter, moving to secondary school this September. Even the sports socks had to be of a certain brand - the more expensive, naturally!! 

So it goes!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Seguimos bien.

When I went for bread this morning the panadera looked at the blue sky and commented, "Seguimos bien (we're still getting fine weather)". And indeed, we are still getting fine weather. There may be mist on the ría at times but it's still good where we are and the pool is still inviting. Temperatures are down in the morning, according to the information on the advertising board down at the roundabout, to an shocking 18 degrees! I am already seeing people with what look like winter coats on when I go for an early(ish) morning run. 18 degrees would not be a bad late summer temperature all day in the north west of England. Midday temperatures here in Vigo remain in the high 20s. And my weather witch panadera tells me that it could continue through September, which is apparently what happened last year. They even had a decent November, she tells me. I am hoping for the same this time round as we are planning to be in Portugal and then Vigo briefly at that time. 

I was reflecting on the rainy "verano irlandés" that I read about in the newspaper and commented on recently. I've been keeping a kind of weather record since late July, very hit and miss and not exactly the most accurate in the world. However, if my "records" are anywhere near correct, we have had no more than five days rain since around July 20th and even then it didn't rain all day. It may not be quite the scorcher that some people require but I bet the Irish would love a summer like this! Todo es relativo, as they say. 

The other day we finally visited Castrelos Park, more formally known as Quiñones de Leon, here in Vigo. We go there each time we are in Vigo but it's taken us a while to get round to it this time. I have no idea what "quiñones" are but the name explains the lions' heads on the fountain by one of the entrances. 
There is a river walk to the park starting from Vía de Madrid, one of the main thoroughfares into Vigo. It's a lovely walk from there. But first you have to make it to Vía de Madrid. We were trying to retrace the route we had taken in the opposite direction some time last year but, of course, we had no map with us. Nor had we made a note of street names. Consequently we did rather go out of our way. But it's almost impossible to get lost and we made it in the end. 

I said the river walk is very pleasant. It is, except for a stretch that goes through an industrial park. And it doesn't really bear comparison with the river walk in Pontevedra. However, it is quite nicely organised with large notices every so far along the way to let you know which wild life you should look out for. All in Galician, of course! No concessions! Anyone who walks along the Río Lagares should be able to understand Galician. That is generally understood, isn't it? 

One of the first things we saw on entering the park was a signpost about running routes in the park. I notice that "el footing", which has been in use in Spanish for "jogging" for ages, has morphed into "el running". I wonder how they pronounce it. By analogy with their pronunciation of "pub" ("pav" with that final consonant somewhere between "v" and "b") it will probably be "ranning". 

Maybe after you have done "el running" you stop for a while and do "el resting". In fact, I believe we saw a runner doing just that. Or maybe it was simply someone who likes to sunbather stretched out on a stone bench by the path. My other thought about this notice was that people surely don't really NEED to be told where to run in the park. A couple of summers ago I ran regularly round the Castro park and didn't need any advice on what my route should be!! Anyway, the Castrelos park was quite delightful. 

The box hedge maze is STILL undergoing treatment and is out of bounds but that is not a problem. There are some lovely roses. 

 Some of the modern "art work" is a bit suspect, in my opinion. One that might be intended to echo the pattern of roots of trees looks, to my eyes anyway, as if someone has dumped scrap metal on the grass. 

Other work provides some nice reflections but then reflections of trees are perhaps even better. 

On the whole though, the park looked pretty good. 

And then we caught a bus back home, tired but happy as they say at the end of the best children's stories.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Books and Customer service.

I took my library books back on Wednesday. They were overdue. I had had a couple of reminders via email, telling me the books were overdue. Just in case I still wasn't aware of it the librarian looked at me sadly and severely over the top of his glasses and told me they were late back. I apologised and invented a story of how I had had to dash off somewhere "urgentemente", forgetting all about my library books. 

This was partly true. I had been to Pontevedra for chess events and general socialising and tourism. My original intention was to take the books with me and either return them to the library in Ponters or phone up the Vigo branch and renew them. In the event, however, my suitcase was full and I really couldn't be bothered adding more weight to it. So I left them in Vigo and eventually returned them on Wednesday, as I have said already. 

The sad, severe librarian shook his head and told me I was "sancionada" until September 17th. He was sorry about it but that's the way the system works. In other words, I cannot take any more books out until that date, not a great hardship because, as I may have mentioned before, the cataloging system there drives me crazy. I need to pre-select some reading matter before I go again. A little research is needed and then I will cross my fingers that they have the books I am looking for. 

I neglected to tell the sad, severe librarian that in the UK they would have fined me: a smallish sum of money but a fine nonetheless. Maybe I had better not suggest that to them. In the meantime I shall return to my trusty kindle for reading matter. 

I wonder why it is that some people, when put into a position of small responsibility such as checking books in and out of a public library, feel that they can adopt a morally superior tone when dealing with their customers. 

Before going to the library I had seen a perfect example of excellent customer service from a young man at the Vodaphone shop in the town centre. The SIM card we had bought on Monday to give us access to the internet on our laptop was clearly not working. It connected to the Internet fine but then dropped the connection if you stayed online for more than two minutes. So we took it back to shop and explained the problem to the young man who had served us originally. He tried various things, all to no avail, until eventually he exchanged our SIM card for a new one and checked that it worked fine. Good stuff! 

 Oddly enough, all of this process - the purchase of the original SIM card and the replacement with a new one - required Phil to show his passport. Before the SIM card could be activated, the young man had to enter the passport number into the system. To The British this obsession with identification seems somewhat over the top. To the Spanish, our casual disregard for identification systems seems extremely lackadaisical. Different strokes for different folks, as they say! 

 Yesterday was GCSE results day in the UK. There has already been controversy as some schools protest that the goalposts have been shifted once again and it has been made harder for students to achieve pass grades in Maths and English. They keep on fiddling around with the grade boundaries, the marks at which certain grades are awarded, which change each year anyway, thus making it hard to predict how students will perform. Maybe on last year's criteria our granddaughter would have achieved A* for English instead of simply A. How strange to dismiss grade A as not quite good enough!! 

I have been reading a book about Australia and how the penal colonies were set up there. Interestingly enough, at one point the British government, desperately seeking a solution to the prison overcrowding problem, considered setting up a prison settlement in Madagascar. Had they done so, I wonder how much of that island's unique flora and fauna would have survived to be wondered at in the modern age. Perhaps a fortunate accident of history? 

The history of the settling of Australia incidentally gives some insight into the prison system of the 18th century. You had to pay when you went into prison and there were charges for all sorts of things, including food and bedding. A wealthy man going into prison, undoubtedly a minority, could have quite a comfortable time of it. A poor man risked dying of starvation. And of course, it was also a kind of finishing school for crooks, offering the possibility to learn the tricks of the trade from more hardened criminals. Mind you, that might still be true today! 

 On the subject of crooks and evil-doers, we still do not know what the afar was all about outside our flats the other afternoon. when Phil went out in the early evening there were lots of police around but no indication of what had gone on. An unimportant (to us anyway) little mystery of life.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Weather, etiquette and such.

This year Galicia's summer has been described in some newspapers I have read as "un verano irlandés": an Irish summer, unusually rainy. Clearly Ireland is seen generally as the place where it rains all the time. While it's true that the summer has not been a 100% success while we've been here - there have been some dull days and there has been rain - it seems fine to me. Of course, I am looking at it from the perspective of someone whose country goes on heat wave alert if they predict more that 22 degrees temperature. The locals here want it to be around 30 degrees if they are going to call it a "proper" summer. 

On the plus side, and this even for those who complain about the lack of a "proper" summer, there have been no major forest fires around here. Last year the fire-fighting planes were out scooping up water from the bay at the end of June and the fires continued on and off throughout July and August. 

In the UK I have known people be fined for dropping cigarette ends in the street. However, that's usually because they don't want you to litter the streets. And I believe it's an anti-littering bye-law that is applied. Here in Galicia, if you travel on the roads you see signs reminding you that there are fines for throwing cigarette ends out of the car window! Not litter this time but the chance that you might set fire to the countryside. 

 We may be having lots of sunshine here but my friend Isabel's Portuguese friend complained yesterday that it was cold when she left Oporto in the morning: 12 degrees and fog until she crossed into Galicia. Then the sky was suddenly clear and the temperature went up. 

That fog can be tricky. There are reports of a section of road in the hills (only recently opened) having to be closed in some places because of accidents caused by fog. Now, I suspect that the road makers should have thought twice about building a fast road up there as it is well known that they get fog frequently. 

We have had sea mist drifting backwards and forwards up the estuary since quite early this morning. So far it hasn't reached us. It has to get really thick and heavy to affect our bit of Vigo. 

I hear that Merkel and Rajoy plan to walk some of the camino. Maybe they expect some divine guidance in running their countries. I hope they don't get lost like the young lady from Frankfort who got lost close to Finisterre and nearly fell of a cliff. She had to be rescued by emergency services. 

And now here's a bit of nonsense from France? A certain Nadine Murano, formerly Minister for Families in Mr Sarkozy's government, I believe, has been saying that it is a French woman’s duty to wear a bikini on a beach. 

 I didn't know a woman's patriotism was judged according to her beach wear. If so, there are some very patriotic Spanish women, bravely baring bodies that no longer look their best in bikinis. But maybe it only applies to French women. 

Seriously though, Ms Morano has provoked a political row by complaining that she had seen a Muslim woman sitting on a French beach in headscarf, long-sleeved tunic and trousers while her husband stripped off and bathed in the sea. 

 It seems she wrote on Facebook, “When you choose to come to a country of secular laws like France, you have an obligation to respect our culture and the liberty of women. Or you go somewhere else,” 

Equally seriously, I don't think it's anyone's business how someone else dresses on the beach. surely everyone is free to dress as they choose. If I were to appear on a beach in France in my one-piece swimsuit would I be considered culturally offensive? 

 Talking about culturally offensive, our ears continue to be assaulted by women who talk loudly, and I say this as a woman who can natter with the best of them. There was a bunch of them in a cafe where we stopped late this morning. All of them talked at once - no surprise there - but one in particular had that kind of fast-speaking, harsh-toned style that simply grates on the ears. They need a special zone in the cafe. 

As do the smokers. Hopefully, the laws regarding smoking in bars will be adapted some time in the future to insist on a section of the terrace reserved for them. The presence of hardened chain smokers can take away all the pleasure of sipping a drink on the terrace. 

And then there are the men who shout on the street. This afternoon we were treated to a full-scale row down on the street in front of our flats. We are too high to hear what they were arguing about but it was pretty fierce. Sticks and car repair tools of various kinds were wielded. A good deal of pushing and chasing was involved. One man kind of strolled around the bunch with a fierce-looking dog. But unless it appears in the paper and I accidentally come across it, we'll never know what it was all about. 

All is quiet again now, thank goodness.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

IT triumphs and tribulations. Other stuff.

As if I had not spent enough time in Pontevedra recently, today I went back there to have lunch with a friend. Walking around the old quarter, inevitably we ran into my friend Colin in Plaza de Verdura. Where else would he be? He was accompanied by a collection of young visitors. We had a little comment on the smallness of the world; you turn a corner on Pontevedra and come across someone you know. 

Apart from that my visit to Pontevedra was pretty much without incident. We ate in an Italian restaurant which, in my opinion, was slightly overpriced for the rather ordinary fare they offered. A nice enough risotto but I have eaten better food in Pontevedra. 

 It was quite pleasing, however, that before lunch, as we sat in the Savoy Café having a little refresco, my phone chirruped to let me know it had connected automatically to the cafe's wifi. It's always good when technology works. 

Yesterday we tried to make our technology work again, in other words our mobile internet connection. We wanted to do this on Saturday after returning to Vigo on the Friday. We were prevented from doing so by the bank holiday "puente". 

So off we went on Monday, hoping to get it sorted before the day grew too hot. Fat chance. Our intention was to recharge our "dongle" in the usual way with one giga for one month for €25 (IVA / VAT included) but when we got to the shop we found an advert for a new special offer system that would give us 1.5 giga for three months for €15. Who could resist it? So we asked about it. It was a matter of getting a new SIM card and putting it in our gadget. 

The only problem was that the shop we were in had run out of the SIM card packs. "Estamos rodeados de extranjeros" (We are surrounded by foreigners - more like overrun or overwhelmed!!) the shop assistant told us. And everyone tells us that foreign tourists don't often come to Vigo! 

 He suggested we should go to The Phone House, a mobile phone shop, in the A Laxe shopping centre. They were almost sure to have one. No, they didn't. They had never had them but suggested that we should try in the MediaMarkt store where there was a "stand de Vodaphone". (Note the use of "stand" creeping into everyday Spanish.) 

But they couldn't help either because they don't have the right kind of license. I think they could only sell Vodaphone accessories. For anything else you need a proper Vodaphone shop. 

They sent us to the town centre. So off we went, hoping against hope that there was one on Príncipe. Well, not quite but there was one on one of the side roads off the shopping street. Hooray!! We queued for a while and eventually purchased a new SIM card. Mind you, it's not yet working perfectly. It connects us to the internet just long enough to check your email but not quite long enough to reply to everything. If we don't find a solution soon, we'll be taking it back. 

Such a lot of running around for precious little result! And by the time we had stopped off in the Nuevo Derby to check our email using their wifi, we ended up walking home in the heat of the day. Not our plan at all. 

Other stuff. 

A volcano in Iceland, with the preposterous name of Bárðarbunga is said to be about to erupt, prompting fears of a repeat of the ash cloud crisis of 2010!! Most Icelandic volcanoes seem to have odd names but this one could have been chosen by Berlusconi. 

An old chap in California, backing into or out of his garage, drove his car into his swimming pool. He managed to get out of the vehicle and there was no-one in the pool. Good result! This is what happens when you try to drive in flip flops. Maybe he should give up driving. 

Another elderly man, Pope Francis, is talking about the possibility of retiring if he finds he can't do the job properly. Goodness! he's not been in the job five minutes and he's talking of giving up. OK, so he is talking about his deteriorating health but even so! He seemed to be doing very well. I blame it all on his predecessor, a certain Benedict who has been going round setting precedents! 

Whatever next?

Monday, 18 August 2014

After the event.

It's very quiet at our place now. We packed the boys off to Oporto yesterday to catch their plane back to the UK, after a flurry of suitcase weighing and adjustment of what was being carried where. 

 Coming back from the bus station where we saw them off, we stopped at what has been one of our regular wifi cafés for a long time, only to find that its wifi is still not working. That's at least a month now that they have been disconnected. Not good enough. Must try harder. So we read the newspapers, proper printed-on-paper newspapers, instead. 

La Voz de Galicia had a report about the plague of wasps that is afflicting the region. In a place called Cuntis an 80 year old woman died from stings from these nasty insects. Apparently they are not ordinary wasps but "avispas asiáticas", although I am not sure how you tell the difference. Perhaps these immigrant wasps are extra aggressive. Who knows? Whatever the truth of the matter, I got off lightly with my wasp sting in Pontevedra. 

There are also problems on the Rande Bridge, already acknowledged to be too narrow for the amount of traffic using it nowadays, and on the road to the seaside resort of Sanxenxo. A bridge and a beach too far? Or at least too many people using the bridge to get to the beach. 

I note that President Rajoy is promoting exercise and a healthy life style by running on the Ruta da Pedra e da Auga, near to where he is spending his holiday, accompanied by triathlete José Ramón Lete Lasa, accompanied on his run not his holiday, that is. I hope he manages to keep up with the triathlete. I also hope he runs at a sensible time of day, such as the early morning before it gets too hot. I am still surprised to see occasional runners at the hottest point of the day. It must be rather dangerous to run in temperatures close to 30 degrees!!! 

That's the end of the news round-up for today. 

 As usual I could be found cooling off down in the pool early yesterday evening. The officious pool "supervisor" was at his most efficient then, clipboard, at the ready, taking note of which flat everyone came from. Perhaps he wanted to impress as there were quite a few people there. On Saturday when I went down to the pool with the chess boys he merely waved us through, only checking that they were with me. But there were very few people there so, obviously, there was less call to impress. That's my current theory anyway. Or, of course, when I went down yesterday it was later and he had had time to get bored. So perhaps he just needed to give himself something to do. 

Today we get back to something like normal, after a few weeks of being busy with organising stuff. Whatever will we do to fill our time?

Saturday, 16 August 2014


Towards lunchtime on Friday we went along to see what was happening at the chess simultaneous display just near the cathedral in Pontevedra. Coincidentally and simultaneously we almost got involved in a procession from the cathedral. It was a curious affair, vaguely reminiscent of the Whit Friday Sunday school processions back home in Saddleworth, with people marching behind large banners. The difference was that they also had a statue from the church which was paraded around. Small girls in their first communion dresses and small boys in their first communion sailor suits walked in stately fashion, accompanied by proud parents, all dressed up to the nines. 

Curiously, they came out of the cathedral, marched round the square where our boys were playing chess and then went back into the cathedral. Compared with our Whit Walks, it was a very short procession. Compared with the Easter processions in places such as Seville and Salamanca, it was a very short walk indeed. But they did have a marching gaita band, with the gaita players in traditional Galician dress, complete with silly hats. 

Some of the ladies wore very high heels, which looked far too uncomfortable to walk any distance in. (Maybe the procession was short in consideration of these ladies' feet!)
One lady in particular looked almost inappropriately dressed for a church affair: wearing a very chic off the shoulder number, as if she were off to a party. Maybe she was off to a party after the procession. Phil wondered aloud what high heels had to do with religion. I replied that perhaps the wearers of these monstrously high heels felt a little closer to Heaven! 

When processions and chess were over and done with, we were given a lift up to the Mercantil sports facilities where the tournament had taken place. There we partook of a "churrascada", basically a kind of barbecue, lots of cooked meat and chorizo eaten on stone tables in the barbecue area of the Mercantil premises. It was excellent apart from the huge number of wasps who wanted to join in the fun. The insect-bite cream that I have been carrying around for the last week or so came Into its own once more when a small Spanish boy, helping to clear up, was stung by one of these angry insects. Suddenly this very competent little chess player was just a very hurt little boy. So I administered cream and did my bit to further consolidate Anglo-Galician relations!! 

 Then it was off to the station with the boys: a happy bunch of English with our wheelie suitcases. We wanted to get back in time to go to the bus station to buy tickets from Vigo to Oporto for the boys for Sunday when they return to the UK. 

Having discovered that the supermarket next door to our flats was closed, I was afraid that the Alsa office might also be closed. All was well, however, and we successfully bought tickets. All good. 

On our way back I even managed to find a bread shop which sold milk. This was a relief because otherwise a very English cup of tea might have been an impossibility. 

Later, we marched the boys into town to have some tapas at the Porchaba. We HAD to have tortilla but we also introduced them to "setas con jamón" - oyster mushrooms with Iberian ham. A great success. 

This morning the supermarket was still closed. Of course, this a "puente"' a bank holiday weekend. I have no idea why this is a bank holiday weekend. possibly on Friday was an actual holiday and the Spanish have done that thing of "making a bridge (un puente)" and adding Saturday to it, thus making a long weekend. If we were in Italy this would be the "ferragosto", the annual August holiday. Does the same apply in Spain? 

 Whatever the reason, the supermarket is closed and we will be forced to go out to lunch once again. It's such a hard life!!!

Friday, 15 August 2014

When you come to the end of a ...

And so we come to the end of another chess tournament. As I type, our boys are playing in a simultaneous exhibition in the sunshine in front of the cathedral here in Pontevedra. A couple of chess bigwigs, one Grand Master and one Spanish junior star, play all comers, all at the same time, moving from board to board. It's a special kind of chess showing-off. 

The tournament, though, is over. Phil won the veteran's prize once again. He now has two trophies. We have decided that he can use them as book-ends. 

(Sitting here in a wifi cafe, Phil has just asked me if I am logged on. Not at all. I wondered if he was having a slow connection and thought that I was interfering with his logged-on-ness. From now on, that is his title: His Logged-on-ness Philip Adams. To be addressed formally as "Your Logged-on-ness".) 

The chess boys were in a state of nervousness last night, having heard stories of tricks played on sleepers (or even non-sleepers) in the bunkhouse. I hesitate to call it a dormitory as it really is rather barracks-like. There was talk of people being smeared with toothpaste in previous years apparently. They have not reported anything involving toothpaste but one of the boys did wake up to find sunflower seeds around his suitcase. On opening it, he found his suitcase "full" - probably an exaggeration - of sunflower seeds. This could be just what is needed to tip his suitcase over beyond the 10 kilo limit imposed by Ryanair. One of his young compatriots smiled innocently at the suggestion that he might be responsible. Boys will be boys, and all that sort of thing. 

There was a procession of giants making its way past our hotel as we checked out this morning. Quite delightful! I have yet to hear of such a thing going on in the UK. No doubt someone will tell me I am wrong about this. Liverpool had to resort to importing giant puppeteers from France, I think, when they wanted to organise a fantastic parade through the city recently. We do have Morris dancers, I suppose. Does that make up for the lack? I remain unconvinced, although they try to put to on a good show. The dance they do where they end up with woven swords is rather impressive, after all. 

In our hotel there was a collection of books, presumably left behind by other guests, which you could borrow if you wanted a change from watching processions and mad marching bands. I have been perusing one of Stephen Fry's autobiographies. I understand he has written several. This one was about his childhood. At one point he talked about "hello", which before the 1890s was only used as an expression of surprise, à la Bertie Wooster. This is what I learned from Mr Fry: 

"The very word 'Hello' only earned its sense of a greeting after the American phone companies hunted about for a new word with which telephone conversations could politely, unsuggestively and neutrally be initiated, much as the BBC in the 1930s threw open the debate as to what someone who watched television might be called. The wireless had listeners; should television have watchers?" 

 I have some doubts about "unsuggestively". We have a friend who can make "hello" sound extremely suggestive. 

Another odd Fry fact: Alexander Graham Bell is reported to have said he believed that there would be a time when every major town in America would have a telephone. Not very town, just every major town! I wonder what he would think about today's situation, with mobiles everywhere. 

The Apeles charanga band has just marched enthusiastically, rhythmically and loudly (but still rather out of tune) past the cafe. I wonder what they do for the rest of the year!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Dancing, eating and making merry!

Yesterday there was dancing in the streets of Pontevedra. I was on walkabout and heard the music. Along the street came a sort of procession with a band and a bunch of people in traditional costume. They stopped, the band lined up at one end of a square, the procession formed into a circle and then it all started. 

The music began again and the circle people began to dance. White van man tried to run them over at one point but they just ignored him and he managed to manoeuvre himself around them. There was some tutting from the crowd of onlookers. A pretty good spectacle. After that they moved on and, presumably, did the same in another square of the town. 

Later in the day I saw another band who from a distance looked as though they were dressed up as elves. However, when I got close enough to see their headdresses properly I realised that they were In fact dressed as chickens!!! 

I missed the Batalla de las Flores which was scheduled for later in the day, as we went up to the chess venue where I made good use of the pool once more while Phil worked on consolidating his lead for the prize for highest scoring veteran. All I saw of the Batalla de las Flores was lots of confetti on the pavement later. We had arranged to take our boys into Pontevedra to eat in the evening. It seemed a shame for them to be here without having a chance to sample some genuine Galician tapas and to see the town a little. So our friend Colin had booked us a table at El Pitillo restaurant and we planned to meet him there at 8.30. 

Of course, Sod's Law came into play, didn't it? On Monday and Tuesday all the boys and Phil had finished playing by 8. Yesterday at 8.20 Phil and two of the boys were still slaving over a hot chessboard. So I has to contact Colin and tell him about the delay, hoping to get everyone there for 9 at the latest. 

Now, El Pitillo has become a very popular restaurant. Tables are in demand. So poor Colin was in danger of being lynched sitting at a table, in fact two tables together, just quietly waiting while people queued. However, he stoically put up with the black looks and eventually we all joined him and tucked into tortilla, calamares, pescaditos fritos, croquetas, pimientos de Padrón and a very frightening chorizo al infierno. 

This last was a spicy chorizo sausage on a skewer, balanced over a dish of burning oil. A little bit scary, especially as none of us really know how to put the flames out. But we coped. We are British, after all. And I am told that the chorizo was very tasty. It's not really my thing. I have no objection others eating it but I don't do so as a rule. 

So we had a pleasant evening. Everyone was grateful to Colin for his bravery in facing the other customers while waiting for us and to Cris, waitress and owner's daughter at the restaurant, for being her friendly charming self. 

Eventually we put the boys in a taxi and sent them back to the "campamento". As they set off, I phoned the chess camp monitor so that he could go and open the gate for them I assume his went as planned as we have not had frantic phone calls from boys who had to sleep in the road. 

 Today is the last day of the tournament. The moment of truth approaches. Will any of them qualify for prizes or trophies. I wait with bated breath. 

Well, no, not really. I'll be in the pool again.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Early morning stuff and bread.

Out running early this morning I came across swans, not on the River Lérez itself but on the sort of backwater tributary that I assume runs into it. They were busy about their morning ablutions, cleaning up their feet and feathers and such when I first saw them. Clearly someone must feed them because when I stopped for a photo call they glided over expectantly, just like the humble ducks on the canal back at home in Saddleworth. A nice start to the day even though I had nothing to offer them. 

 Also out and about, I saw a couple of ladies with plastic carrier bags full of "grelos", usually translated as turnip tops although I prefer to simply call them greens. I reflected to myself that they had been out shopping quite early when I spotted where they had bought their "grelos". Just beyond the roundabout a group of people had set up a kind of mini roadside market, apparently selling "grelos" and other home-grown produce. Now, that's a sight you don't see close to the town centre in the UK. 

This next is a little something for my friend Colin. Seen in a cartoon in El País yesterday: 

"vacancy for a parent-slapper, in other words someone who slaps parents who let their children scream and shout in restaurants." Are the Spanish getting less tolerant of children in restaurants then? On the whole, I think not. Maybe this is the case in restaurants in the centre of Madrid but in most places no-one minds what kids get up to in restaurants. It's interesting to note that the cartoon wants someone to slap the parents, not the child. I have yet to see anyone giving a child a slap in the supermarket. And you do see that in the UK. 

And now, bread. The restaurant of our hotel charges €1 for bread if you have it with tapas. It comes as standard with the menú del día though. 

The other night they were run ragged because they had so many customers. We only wanted a little something - in this case, " revuelto de setas y gambas" which is basically scrambled eggs with mushrooms and prawns, a really good dish to fill a small hole without you feeling overfed - and they kept coming and apologising for the slow service. Diego, one of the waiters, commented, " es que la cocina está ... " leaving us to fill in an adjective to describe the state of the kitchen. 

At one point, one of the staff had a bit of a hissy fit because they had run out of bread - "¿¡NO HAY PAN?! ¡Imposible! Siempre hay pan." It's a bit like a pub running out of beer. 

Maybe we should all stop eating bread to try to combat the obesity epidemic which I keep reading about in both English and Spanish newspapers. Not to mention sights I see on the streets in both these countries. Here is an extract from an article I found somewhere or other: 

"Britain's last dedicated deckchair manufacturer is making seats an inch wider to accommodate the broader bottom. As well as making their single-seaters 23 inches wide, Southsea Deckchairs report more people buying their Wideboy range, originally devised for two persons, for single use." 

What more can I say?

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


The World Sudoku Championships are taking place in Croydon. The competitors range from 7 to 65 years old. One American chap is there with his seven-year-old daughter, both competing. A couple of twelve-year-olds were interviewed. This is what one of them said:- 

"Some things are difficult and some things are easy," said 12-year-old Kim Yu-jae, giggling next to her teammate Yoo Jin-kyo, also 12. "I love sudoku, I have been doing it for two years. In Korea we go to a training camp for two days where we just do lots and lots of sudoku puzzles. We went to the same academy and that was where we were both introduced to sudoku." 

Now, I do sudoku puzzles on a regular basis. Yes, if a puzzle is too easy it's no good and can get boring but I don't think I could be in their competitions. One of the men interviewed for the news item said he enjoys sudoku because it is totally absorbing and takes him away from the stress of his everyday life as a maths teacher. So why introduce stress from a different angle by making a competition of it? I wonder what they do in the training camp apart from lots and lots and lots of puzzles. Of course, there are strategies for puzzle solving but surely there can't be enough to merit a whole two-day training session. 

I have been impressed with the training that goes on at the chess camp here in Pontevedra that four of our Manchester boys are taking part in. However, somehow I can't help thinking that there may be more training and strategy preparation necessary for a chess tournament than for sudoku. No doubt someone will put me wise, telling me about the different levels and types of sudoku and how you need to prepare for them. 

The attitude to training is different from one country to another. The young Spaniards involved in the chess training camp here will be off to another one in Extremadura once this tournament is over. (I suppose it's one way to keep youngsters occupied during their very long summer break but somehow I suspect that the youngsters at the camp are the sort who would have found ways to entertain themselves anyway.) I've not heard of such training camps in the UK. Maybe they exist around the London area. I get the impression that in most parts of the UK only football training gets that kind of intensive attention. 

Here in tournament world, at the end of yesterday's session Phil and one of his young protégés were on the same score. Young Jake joked about looking forward to beating Phil today if they should be drawn against each other. When the pairings for today's game appeared online, lo and behold, Phil and Jake are playing each other today. how very annoying!!! That young man may have powers he is unaware of!

I finally got in the pool yesterday. A most excellent pool, I have to say. The water was delightfully just warm without being so hot that it felt like stepping into a bath. Because of the size of the pool it didn't matter that there was a mini water polo game being organised for a bunch of smallish children, some of them with armbands; there was still plenty of room for enthusiastic fast swimmers to speed up and down the length of the pool and for more sedate swimmers like myself to plod along doing an almost sedentary breast stroke. 

The only downside was that I was stung by a wasp as I sat in the sun after my swim. These annoying little beasts appear to have reached the stage where they are slightly sleepy, but not a great deal less aggressive than usual. What happens is that they will land on your arm, for example, and crawl around for a while before you realise that they are there. You then have to be careful not to react with an angry swipe because they will retaliate in kind. Fortunately I had a tube of cream for stings and insect bites in my bag so I was able to self-medicate immediately. Since the chess boys complained about mosquitoes at the camp I have been carrying a mini medical kit around with me. Just as well!!! 

Today started grey and gloomy with a bit if drizzle in the air. This does not bode well for a swim this afternoon. I suppose I could still swim in the drizzle though. We shall see. When it's wet, however, it's harder for the chess camp organisers to set up post game analysis under the trees close to the pool, which is one of the charms of the location. Al fresco chess loses its appeal in the rain. 

The Apeles charanga band has been out this lunchtime. Is this a sign that the weather is picking up? 

So, anyway, my fingers are crossed for an improvement by late afternoon.