Yesterday we gave our Spanish visitor an Easter egg, explaining that this is the tradition in the UK. The same as in Spain he told me. Odd, I thought, since you never used to see Easter eggs except in Catalunia. You do see displays of big chocolate eggs in bakery shop windows but, unless it's different this year, the supermarkets don't seem to be full of Cadbury's cream egg eggs, flake eggs, mini egg eggs, Nestlé rolo eggs, smarties eggs and all the other varieties of eggs you get on display in the UK from somewhere around the end of January. Anyway, he looked at it and asked me if it was a whole egg made of chocolate. So somehow I don't think he's in the habit of receiving Easter eggs.
Then I read in the newspaper this headline: "Enjoy your eggs this Easter: they may soon be just a luxury treat." There is, it seems, a crisis in the cocoa industry which will probably lead to a price rise. Cocoa trees are high maintenance and some farmers are turning to easier crops. Then there is a labour shortage as young people don't want to work in coca but prefer to go work in cities. 70% of cocoa beans come from west Africa where there has been major political and social upheaval over the last two decades. And finally there has been an increase in demand from China and Asia, not traditional chocolate eaters but now rushing to join the obesity and bad teeth epidemics of the world. Consumption increases of 230% a year!!! That's a lot of extra chocolate. It's a good job I am not a chocoholic!
Today all our Spaniards, a fair number of them having won prizes in the chess tournament that finished yesterday, were flying back to Galicia. As we had the morning free beforehand, one of the host parents arranged for everyone to go bowling and then have a spot of lunch before heading off for Liverpool airport. This was great success. Phil, who swore he was not going to bowl, not having been tenpin bowling for more than thirty years, proceeded to achieve the highest score of all of us. It must be that competitive spirit!
One of the girls on reception at the bowling alley turned out to be Spanish. Then we found a Spaniard working in Nando's restaurant. Add to this the fact that our waitress in the cafe in Manchester town hall was a Spanish speaker from Colombia and you might begin to see a pattern here! Small world syndrome strikes again!
I shouldn't be surprised really. I already knew that Manchester has an enormous Spanish or Spanish speaking population.
The young man working in the restaurant came over several times to speak to our group of young Spanish chess players. He seemed quite delighted to see them. I found myself wondering if a young Englishman working as a waiter in Spain was in the same situation, finding himself with a group of English school kids in his restaurant, would have been so keen to come over and talk to them. The English adults in our group seemed to agree that he probably would not have done so. English reserve and all that sort of thing!
Anyway, we finally got everyone to the airport with no more mishap than one young Spaniard managing to lose his jacket in the bowling alley. He left it behind and only remembered as we left the restaurant. We went back to look for it. To no avail; no jacket had been handed in and none was lying around in the area where we had been bowling. He was remarkably calm about the loss. I wonder what his parents will say when he gets home without it!
And so another project comes to an end.
Life returns to something like normal and we can start to think about our own travel plans.