Friday, 31 July 2015

Libraries, book stores and such like.

A few weeks ago I bought a book by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, "El Prisionero del Cielo". The book promised to take me back to the Barcelona he had described in the book that made his name some years back, "La Sombra del Viento", set in post-Civil War Barcelona. I had enjoyed reading that book, now translated into umpteen languages and probably making Mr Ruiz Zafón into a wealthy man (I hope), so I decided to give this one a go. As a result, I decided I wanted to reread "La Sombra del Viento". I lent my copy to a young friend last year and doubt whether I will ever see it again. So we have now bought both "La Sombra del Viento" and its sequel "El Juego del Ángel" for the kindle. 

In "La Sombra del Viento" we are introduced to a place referred to as "El Cementerio de los Libros Olvidados" - the cemetery of forgotten books. Books that are no longer read have a place there. Those who are introduced to its labyrinthine corridors must choose a book, or let a book choose them, which they will vow to preserve and protect. (Hence the title of the novel, for the protagonist selects "La Sombra del Viento" and opens a can of worms when he tries to find out more about the author and why he can find no more of his books anywhere.) It's an interesting concept. 

My only quibble is that one of the characters in the novel selects "Tess of the d'Urbevilles", not really a forgotten book! But that is by the by. We are told that whenever a library or bookshop closes, its contents find a home in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Now, the Cemetery must be getting very full of English libraries, which have been closng at a furious rate of knots in the last few years! And I have never found out who, if anyone, pays the chap who works as a kind of curator of the place. Its existence appears to be unknown to the general public and only certain selected people are told of its whereabouts and initiated into its mysteries! These are the kind of things you have to accept in novels at times. 

I have moved on now to "El Juego del Ángel" where I came across an interesting expression. "Un señorito de cierto postín" seems to be a young gentleman of a certain class, of some standing. I found myself wondering if that word "postín" started life as one of those falsely created "English" words, in this case "posting". It is not beyond the bounds of possibility, especially as it could then have been "hispanified" into "postín". I must google it to confirm my suspicions. 

 Talking of libraries (well, I was a little earlier), I took some books back to Vigo library yesterday. They were overdue! One of the things I meant to do this time last week was phone the library and renew them but time slipped away and that task slipped my mind. So yesterday evening, I walked into town with the books, fully expecting the library to be closed. It usually operates a mornings-only schedule in the summer time. To my surprise the doors were open and people were going in and out. Ah, well, I thought, perhaps I should go in and return the books properly, facing the librarian's lecture about how I would now be banned from borrowing books for the next two weeks, and so and so forth. However, although I could get into the building, the inner door to the library itself was firmly closed. So I avoided the walk of shame and posted the books into the external letterbox labelled "buzón de devueltas". 

This is a splendid idea. All libraries should have such a letter box so that people too ashamed to return long overdue books could just post them anonymously! 

Post-script: I just looked up "postín" in an online dictionary. It gives me this: postín = elegance; de postín = posh; darse postín = to sow off, as in "se da mucho postín de que su padre es ministro" = he boasts about his father being a minister. 

There you go! No joy on the etymology front though.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

A bit of plumber philosophy and politics. A bit of drama.

On Tuesday the boiler in our flat was finally repaired. We now have hot water once more without having to clamber on a chair and reach behind the fridge to switch the mechanism on and off. The wonders of modern living! 

After I had talked to the plumber for some time about boilers and followed his instructions to switch taps on her and there or to please let him have a drink of water and so on (each time being told, "Muchas gracias. Muy amable.") he eventually twigged that I was not Spanish. Or at least, not Galician. "¿No eres de aquí?" he asked and I confessed my Englishness. 

And the next question was ... ¿De Londres? That often happens. Someone discovers you are English and assumes that you are from London. Now, me, I ask Spaniards where they are from. Rarely do I assume that they come from Madrid. Or that French people come from Paris. Spaniards almost always ask if I come from London. Curious! Maybe London is the only place they know of in the UK. Although, having said that, conversation revealed that my plumber was reasonably well acquainted with the geography of the UK. 

The next assumption that I hear a lot, as well as the old chestnut about our drinking tea at four o' clock, is that England, and especially London is foggy. This is a common misapprehension, despite the fogs of my childhood having long since largely disappeared. And it's not just the Spanish who do it. I read the other day that Tom Cruise included this comment in the production notes to the new Mission: Impossible movie, talking about a chase through a misty bit of London, "It’s a city that I love and we get to create a bit of a love letter to London in this chase: you get the cobblestone streets, the fog, the Tower of London.” 

My plumber did not fall into that trap. Oh, no! Instead we had a long discussion about Europe, the EU, the state of Greece, unemployment in Spain, government by the wealthy for the wealthy and much, much more. Apart from his insistence that Turkey has been a member of the EU since 2005 (?!?), he seemed very well informed and certainly opinionated. 

After the plumber had left, I walked out to meet Phil at the chess club and we called in at the Midcentury cafe for a beer. There we witnessed a little bit of drama. A group of people sat a table near ours, a group of thirty-somethings with the small child of two of them. This child seemed to be being brought up bilingual; her mother spoke to her in both English and Spanish and the child responded accordingly each time. I wasn't sure if the child's aunt was English. She certainly looked English but also spoke very good Spanish. (I really should stop eavesdropping on other people's chat!) Amazingly, this child was frequently reminded not to shout and was not allowed to interrupt the adults' conversation. That, however, was not the drama I was talking about. 

Suddenly one of the men in the group spoke quietly but firmly to a woman sitting on the table directly behind theirs and demanded that she hand over a purse that was in the top of her bag of shopping. From what I could gather (there's that eavesdropping again) she had calmly dipped her hand into the bag of the English-looking aunt and lifted the purse out. She then took a look inside and slipped it into her own shopping bag. After which she quietly got on with her beer, as if nothing had happened. Admonished by the young man from the group, she simple ignored him and carried on drinking her beer, not responding to anything he or María, the cafe owner, said to her. Only after she had finished her beer did she pick up her shopping bag and walk out, still without a word to anyone and without looking anyone in the eye. Odd! 

Now, this woman did not look like a drug addict or a beggar or a vagrant but I overheard María say something about her having a pill on the table next to her beer. So perhaps she was on medication for something. That could explain her behaviour and her oddly detached attitude. Certainly the group around the table recognised something unusual about her. They admonished as if she were a naughty child who did not quite understand what she was doing. Having established that the contents of the purse were all there, nobody suggested calling the police. But the young man who had told her off to begin with warned her that he would be looking out for her on the street from now on. 

Care in the community?

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Travel and stuff!

Well, I made it back to Spain without any delays this morning. Unless, that is, you count the fact that the Autna bus from Oporto airport, due at 10.45, did not arrive until almost 11.00. That, however, is par for the course. I am quite surprised it ever manages to arrive in time. 

I was up at the crack of dawn: 4:45 English time, which is still early even if you adjust to 5:45 Spanish time. So I was at Manchester's Terminal 1 just after six. Just as well, for there was a huge queue at security. Airport employees were running around calling out for anyone with flights leaving 6.30 or even earlier to make their way to the front of the queue so that they could be processed in time to catch their planes. Mind you, most schools in the UK broke up for summer holidays last weekend and so this week there will be masses of people going off on holiday. 

And then, they slow down the process of getting through security with extra checks. Nowadays you don't just have to show your computers and iPads as you go through security but also get out of your suitcase any electrical gadgets above really small size. So all the hairdryers and straighteners have to be removed, just in case the scanner thinks you are carrying strange weapons onto the plane. 

My bag was even picked out for a random swab test. They rub a swab all over your bag and then subject it to rapid analysis to make sure it has not been contaminated with unwanted substances. This is the second time this has happened to me. I would start to feel quite paranoid about were it not for the fact that the plastic box selected for swabbing its contents ahead of mine contained nothing but a straw hat and a small boy's hoodie! I think it really is completely random. 

The first time it happened, I asked the chap with the swab what he was looking for. "Anything that should not be there!" he growled at me. No, I shouldn't have given in to the temptation. Curiosity got the better of me! I really should have known better. 

 The security thing has become a little extreme however. Not only do you need to take off boots and high-heeled shoes but you must remove your watch! And on one occasion I beeped as I went through the body scanner and the only cause we could find was a hair slide!

So it goes! So here I am, back in Vigo, after a weekend of family get-togethers. It was quite chilly and distinctly rainy when I left Manchester. The sun shone in Oporto. Blue sky and everything. The nearer I got to Vigo, the more cloud there was. And once I arrived here, it was positively muggy. There's probably nothing quite so wearing as a steamy heat! Except perhaps, riding over cobbles in the rain! 

I mention the cobbles in the rain because I finally got to watch some Tour de France this weekend, including the final stage, into and round and round and round Paris. Last year and this year they organised a women's cycle race around the centre of Paris, doing the circuit that the Tour riders do when they get to the centre of the French capital. I suppose it gives the spectators waiting for the Tour proper to arrive something to watch and goes some way, albeit a very small way, to making up for the fact that women are not allowed to compete in the Tour itself. 

I don't know how many times the women rode around the circuit but it was enough for one corner to establish itself as the place for crashes. Riding on cobbles is bad at the best of times but then the rain is coming steadily down and the surface is not just bumpy but also slick they are absolutely treacherous. We saw some spectacular crashes. How nobody was killed remains a mystery. And the winner was quite filthy when she finished the race. 

Having got the women's race out of the way, the men finally turned up. They gave all the riders their final time at the end of the first circuit of the capital. Have they always done this I wonder? I'm sure there have been years when the top riders needed to complete the Paris stage to actually decide who had finally won. Maybe it was because Froome had quite a good lead. Whatever the reason, there it was. The leaders had their times and we all knew Froome was the winner well before the end. So the race round the capital was really just to decide who would be the stage winner: André Greipel, a future Tour winner no doubt. 

And Froome and his team were able to do their little bit of theatre, riding along stung out across the road, arms across each others' shoulders. Big boys showing off their skill at riding no-hands, if you ask me. But no, it was all good. And Froome made a nice little speech when he received his trophy, thanking his team, his family and so on and talking about how much he respects the yellow jersey and how he will never do anything to dishonour it. Hmm! I wonder who that was aimed at! He even managed some of his speech in reasonable French. Good for him! 

Not a bad weekend on the whole?

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Things go in threes.

Well, there it goes, three in a row. My mother always said things run in threes. On Friday night, I travelled back to the UK to see my family. For the third time on the run, the third time in a month, the plane I was due to travel on was delayed. How can that happen? I reckon I have had enough delayed flights to last me for a good while now. Either the plane was late setting off from France to come to Oporto to pick us up or air traffic controllers caused problems for planes passing through their airspace. Whatever the cause, the outcome was that the plane which should have set off at 8.40 in the evening did not even arrive until well after 9.20! 

We finally arrived at Liverpool at well past midnight and then had to negotiate roadworks on the motorway homewards. So much for plans to be asleep not long after midnight and up bright and early on Saturday morning. 

All in all it was quite an odd journey. First the Autna bus was full to the gills. This bus which usually travels at least half empty to Oporto had no empty seats. A whole host of people had successfully booked tickets online. How did they do that? The last few times we tried to do that we had immense problems and have more or less stopped trying. In view of the crowding on Friday's bus, maybe we should pre-book in future. Foreign travelers (in other words, not Spanish) wandered up and down the bus insisting that they should have the seat their ticket indicated. Spanish travelers regarded them with bemused amazement. Clearly these people were unaware that Spanish custom says that you ignore the numbers and just sit wherever you like! 

When I arrived at the airport, I had a mission to complete before going through security. Our daughter and family will travel to Spain, via Oporto, next Sunday, arriving just in time for the 10.45 Autna bus to Vigo. Last time I travelled that way I had to race through the airport to catch the bus as the plane was slightly delayed. If the same happens next Sunday, our daughter and three kids will have to negotiate an unfamiliar airport and could well miss the bus. Because it is Sunday, there will be no more Autna buses until the evening. Very annoying. However, there is an Alsa bus at 1.00. So that's OK? Except that you HAVE to buy tickets for Alsa buses in advance. Impossible to buy on the bus as with the more user friendly Autna. 

At one time you could buy these tickets from an information desk in the arrivals hall but for the last couple of years there seems to have been no such facility. So, my mission was to find out what to do. I located a tourist information desk and explained the problem. The girl at the desk totally denied that it had EVER been possible to buy such tickets on the ground floor of the building. No, not possible at all, ever! Clearly I was suffering from false memory syndrome. What I should do was go upstairs to departures and seek out a particular travel agency there; they could sell me tickets. So up I went. 

In the aforementioned travel agency, the smiling young lady first of all told me I needed to go to the arrivals hall!!!! NO!!!! They had me sent me up to departures! So she passed me on to a colleague. This one told me she had never heard of Alsa buses. The situation was turning a little Kafkaesque! So I tried another tack. Did she sell tickets for buses to Vigo? Oh, yes, with Internauta - another name for Alsa. Jolly good! I made sure that there was a bus at 1.00pm on Sunday and that the travel agents would be open and went on my way. 

Now, I struggle see the logic in having the office that sells tickets for onward travel (I think that is the term they use in the trade) in the departures hall instead of the arrivals hall. You arrive at Oporto, coming out onto the ground floor. You need to buy a ticket for a bus that might be leaving very shortly. So you have to go back up two floors to departures to buy your bus ticket! And nothing is clearly signposted! 

(Once you have gone through the security checks and into the bit of the airport from which budget airline flights depart, on the other hand, you will find a nice little desk selling you tickets for Terravision buses for your onward journey from Liverpool to Manchester.) 

Life is full of odd contradictions.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Getting things done.

Down at the pool this morning I watched pool technicians at work. Well, I suppose you could call them pool technicians. First there was a young woman with what looked like a long-handled fishing net. I have seen her before. She kind of trawls the floor of the pool catching odds and ends of stuff that might be lying there. The front of the net has a lip, similar to the edge of a dustpan, to catch and pick up bits. The net also serves to collect floaters from the surface. She also checks the chlorine levels in the water and, presumably, adjusts things accordingly. Another aspect of her job appears to be scrubbing the white tiles at the waterline, removing any collected grime. I can't say I would fancy scrubbing a bathtub the size of a swimming pool but someone has to do it. 

Today she was accompanied by a chap in a wetsuit, a kind of mini wetsuit anyway. He put on goggles and his snorkel tube and went down to look at a patch on the floor of the pool where the little blue tiles have come off. He appeared to have some difficulty staying down as at one point his lady workmate selected a huge chunk of stone, washed it and stuffed it down between his wetsuit and a kind of weighted jacket affair. Suitably heavier, he seemed to have no more problems and spent quite a long time bobbing in and out of the water, sticking pre-prepared sheets of little tiles in place. Who would have thought at you could do such repairs without having to drain the pool? 

So now we have a reasonably well-maintained pool once more. 

And soon we will have a well-maintained, or at least working, hot water boiler again. Our landlady has finally organised for repairs to take place on Tuesday of next week. Just a few more days of clambering on chairs to switch the mechanism on and off every time we need hot water. Hurray! 

This is clearly a day for getting things organised. When we took on the tenancy of this flat, it came with a parking space in the underground garage. This is the same one which we discovered some rascal was using without permission when we wanted a parking space for our son's hired car during his visit. Well, our landlady has just rung to let me know that I should expect a visit from a young man called Dany who is now renting her other flat in this building and is interested in renting the parking space. 

Now, do I need to come up with a fancy contract for this arrangement?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Cycling, sexism and seagulls!

Apart from very briefly, while paying for coffees in the Maracaibo, seeing footage of cyclists slogging up hills in the sunshine, we have seen nothing of the Tour de France this year. Years ago we used to watch a summary of the day's activity every afternoon at around 4.30, courtesy of Channel 4 I believe. One year when it was perfectly clear who was going to win - one of Induráin's successes I think - we set off on a family camping holiday just before the final weekend and spent the first few days of our holiday trying to find someone in Brittany who could tell us who came second. Last year, on my son's birthday, we sat on a hillside above Holmfirth, a shortish drive from our house, and watched stage three of the Tour go through that bit of Yorkshire. But this year, nothing! No TV in our flat here, and we just haven't been in a bar with sport on the TV at the right time. 

I have felt quite sorry for the Madrileño, Contador, hoping for success this year and just not finding his form. You see, we have been reading the reports in the newspapers. He is up there in the top ten or so but not quite managing to be in among the real leaders. It seems he found the mountains in France very hard and had some difficulty breathing with the heat on the way up. 

Our boy Froome has a nice lead and may well, barring nasty accidents, make it all the way to Paris in the yellow jersey. Tour followers have not all been kind to him though. Apparently he has had had urine thrown at him by cycling fans who believe he may have been taking drugs. They are all tested over and over again but, of course, it's hard to be certain about the innocence of riders. However. I don't think it's down to the fans to judge them. It must be particularly unpleasant to be slogging away, riding all out (with or without drugs) and suddenly find someone throwing pee in your face! I could quite understand his swearing at the fans, although I really don't know whether he reacted that way or not. 

Someone who did swear was one of the candidates for the Labour Party leadership. She is slender, has a good figure, goes running to keep fit and so on. None of this has anything to do with her politics. And yet a journalist felt the need to comment on this when interviewing her, going so far as to speculate about her weight. Was she not perhaps about the same weight as the Duchess of Cambridge? She told the reporter to **** off! Quite understandable! 

Reporters tend not to ask male politicians such questions, although I can quite see that day coming. More and more attention is paid nowadays to their image. Perhaps we should only ever be governed by the beautiful and extra-presentable. Surely it is more important that they have policies and opinions about crucial matters of the day. Such as seagulls! 

Yes, seagulls! A Cornish MP has appealed to the environment secretary for something to be done about seagulls. Culling them perhaps! It seems they have been attacking people's pets, even overturning someone's pet tortoise and pecking it to death! David Cameron says it needs careful thought! Well, yes! 

Seagulls are quite frightening birds, large and often very aggressive. I have seen what they do to stuff left on cafe tables, sometimes while the occupants of the tables are still there. I reckon Hitchcock must have seen some thing similar before he made "The Birds"!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Going to Castrelos again.

Yesterday we finally went to Castrelos Park, the old "pazo", or stately home, on the other side of Vigo. The house stands in the middle of the park and has formal, English style gardens behind. We like to go there every time we come to Vigo but for one reason or another this time we had not managed to do so until yesterday. 

After a dull start, the day had turned very hot and sunny. At this time of year mist often rolls in off the Atlantic, up the estuary, climbing like a strange sort of living creature over envy thing that gets in its way. We once had it come down on us during a visit to the Islas Cíes. Everything disappeared in the mist and our granddaughter was rather concerned about how the boat would find its way back to Vigo. It's rolling over the A Guía promontory as I type - 7.15 in the evening. Strange weather! 

Anyway, yesterday, late in the afternoon we caught a bus up to Plaza de America. The bus weaves its way back and forth through just about every street possible. Forget about the tourist bus; just get on the C4 and you'll see most of the city. As a result of all the to-ing and fro-ing the bus takes a good thirty minutes to get up to Plaza de America. 

As we got off the bus, the heat hit us. It was noticeably hotter than at our end of town. So we walked on the shady side of the street down the Avenida de Castrelos to the park. Lots of people there. The playground, in shade now, was full of children and parents. Amazingly some people were jogging round the park. I fail to understand jogging in the heat. Is it some kind of masochism? Some were doing stretching exercises on the railings of the bridge over the river. The suspicious bit of me wondered if they had actually run or were just posing! 

In quiet, shady places of the gardens, some people just sat on the grass and enjoyed the cool places. Others had abandoned their bikes across the path, with total disregard for those who might also want to use that path. 

The box hedge maze behind the "pazo" is still being treated with something or other to improve it. This has been going on for at least two years now. The treatment is either very thorough or very slow. Or perhaps they have just forgotten to remove the notices. 

Having checked that the roses are growing nicely (they are), we found that we could not go and stand under the oldest eucalyptus trees in the area. At any rate, that is what a friend told us about them the first time we saw them. And they are pretty impressive. But they are taped off with a notice about "Perigo de caida de palas", danger of something falling, possibly branches! 

So we headed back towards the "pazo" again and eventually to the point where you can leave the park and walk along the path by the river Lagares. In the other direction, starting from the other side of the park, the path takes you eventually to Samil beach. We were walking back towards our end of town. The path is quite nicely maintained, with notices every so far along telling you which birds you can see along the way. We saw none, although we heard a few. We did see a lot of cyclists. Mostly without bells to warn of their arrival! 

At several points the path goes past or through industrial parks, where we saw some impressive graffiti. It picks up again until it finally runs out close to the Avenida de Madrid, one of the main highways into Vigo. Crossing this huge dual carriageway is a little frightening to say the least. But we managed it, in several careful stages! 

Then we had to weave our way back towards our end of the city, following a route we planned carefully a year or two ago and always have difficulty sticking to. Street names have a way of disappearing when you need them most! 

 We timed our return walk: an hour and a half from leaving the park to going through our front door! Just in time for some interesting sunset skies from the balcony of our flat.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

State of the art. Some comments on toilet facilities.

In the centre of Manchester there are a number of Spanish restaurants. The quality and authenticity varies. At least two that I know of are part of chains of supposedly Spanish restaurants which you can find in various big cities throughout the UK. At the moment, one of my favourites is La Viña on Deansgate. I know that this is part of a chain of sorts as a young friend, ex-student, of mine worked there for a while in sixth form and then transferred to their Leeds branch when he went off to university. The food is good. Whenever I have been there recently, the staff have all been Spanish or Spanish-speaking. It adds a certain someone to the atmosphere. 

In most of these places an effort has been made to make the toilet facilities also look authentically Spanish. In La Viña and La Tasca you go down steps nicely decorated with Spanish or Spanish-looking tiles to toilets in the basement. They bear a remarkable similarity to the basement toilets in La Porchaba, here in Vigo. They lack, however, that establishment's basement's similarity to one of the circle of hell. How can a place be so very hot!!! 

They also lack the rather disgusting graffiti which can be seen on the inside of the door in the ladies' loo in the Maracaíbo, on Plaza de Compostela in Vigo. I have commented before on the fact that for the last two years those toilets have had no lock on the door. You would think that a would-be classy establishment in an expensive part of town could afford to clean up the doors of the loo and put a lock on them. 

The Midcentury cafe, one of our frequent haunts, notable for its excellent mid-20th century music and its good wifi connection, not to mention the friendly, music-loving, redhead who runs the place, has toilets with room to swing several cats. Nicely decorated too, in keeping with the rest of the place. You could almost move in! 

One of the places we often visit in Pontevedra, the Meigas Fora, has toilets with views of the original walls of the city. They are behind glass. Someone obviously decided that the old walls should not be covered up and made the "musealised" toilets a feature of the place. 

Another loo worth a visit is in the Cafetería Sanfrancisco, not far from the Peregrina chapel in the centre of Pontevedra. We have been told that this cafe is more expensive than other places - coffee €1.50 instead of €1.40 probably won't break our bank - and that it is where the "pijos", the snobby, posh people go. We can do "pijo" with the best of them and so we have no qualms about sitting in its cool, discreetly soberly furnished interior, sipping café con hielo. You can find all sorts of weird and wonderful recipes for iced coffee but by far the best is the simple Spanish method: a cup of espresso coffee poured over the ice cubes in a glass. No fuss, no fancy ingredients, no cocktail shaker involved. Just coffee and ice! It also works with green tea. 

But one of the most impressive things about the Sanfrancisco must be the toilet facilities. The very approach to the loo is quite something. You turn the corner, going past the collection of that day's local and national newspapers and come across a tasteful, dark wood bookcase, floor to ceiling, full of books in several languages. Presumably this encourages people to start reading and then stay to finish the book, all the while having extra drinks and nibbles. Do they ever lose books? Surely some people are tempted to walk off with them. Or maybe "pijos" don't do such things! 

Beyond the bookshelves, like superior IKEA in their design, you come to the toilets themselves. No little stick drawings of male or female figures, no "señores" and "señoras" or anything of the like. The doors are labelled "ÉL" and "ELLA", he and she. I couldn't speak for "EL" but "ELLA" is decorated in green and black and is probably the cleanest and smartest ladies' loo I have ever come across. The ladies' loo in the Meigas Fora restaurant may have its bit of the old, original city wall behind glass, impressive in its way, but the Sanfrancisco beats it hand down for general smartness! 

Last time we went to Pontevedra, we travelled back to Vigo on one of the faster trains going directly to the new Vigo Urzáiz station. We would have been quite happy to go to Guixar on a slower train but the Urzáiz train fitted out timing better. So we had to put our luggage through the security scanner at Pontevedra station, explaining why we had to walk the length of the station to gain access to the platforms instead of being able to go through a door close to the ticket office. The long walk door forced you to pass through a narrowish access where the security chap stopped you. I wonder if they ever stop anyone and make them open their baggage. But we got through without incident and were soon on the train and whisked away through tunnels into the new, smart Vigo Urzáiz station. Very nice, but in the end, just a station. 

Curiously, as we walked towards the exit, there was a queue of people waiting to be ushered onto the platforms. For all the world like the queues you see at an airport as you head for passport control and the luggage carousel. Maybe the Vigo Urzáiz has ideas above its station! 

I tried out the loo on the new station. Not as classy as the Sanfrancisco but bright and clean. Having experienced the disgustingness that is the ladies' loo at Vigo bus station, I must say it is nice to come across a pleasant one in a public transport facility.

Saturday, 18 July 2015


Out and about recently, we came across a bar which declared itself to be an "areparía, tapería". What was an "areparía"? we asked ourselves. And then we went on our way and forgot about it for a while. And then, on another occasion, we saw "arepas" in the list of items available on a menu somewhere. Clearly these two words, new to us, were connected. But we had never even seen them before. Phil wondered if "arepas" were connected in some way with "wraps", that item of Mexican food that has become popular as an alternative to sandwiches. Was "wrap" an Anglicisation of "arepa"?

I was not convinced but further research has shown that he could well be right. I finally got round to looking it up in an online dictionary. Naturally enough, the word does not figure in the small Collins paper dictionary that we have here. And there it was, large as life and, in my opinion, just an unappetising: "una arepa - a corn pancake". So, despite the fact that the supermarkets here sell "wraps", for once it may well be that the word has gone from Spanish to English in an altered form. Not too strangely altered, it has to be said. After all, the English speaking world would not relate to "arepas" but "wrap" simply describes the process of filling a pancake with cooked meat or vegetables or whatever and folding it nicely to make the kind of food that you can eat as you walk down the street. Which, sadly, seems to be what so many people want nowadays. 

More about words. In Spanish, adding "ón" to the end of a word usually indicates a larger version of the original word. Often it's a feminine word that becomes masculine in the process of adding the letters. Sometimes the meaning changes slightly as well. So "caja", meaning "box", becomes "cajón", meaning "large box" and also "drawer". After all a drawer is just a large box that fits into a piece of furniture. Similarly "mesa", meaning table, becomes "mesón", now used as one of the words for "restaurant" but originally, I think, used for an inn, back in the days when travellers sat round a large table to eat in an inn, rather than at individual small tables. 

And then the language sets out to confuse you by turning the rule around on its head. "Rata" means "rat" but "ratón" does not mean "large rat", as logic would indicate, but "mouse". When Spanish children lose their baby teeth, they leave them under their pillows, not for the tooth fairy to take away but for "Ratoncito Pérez", "Pérez the little Mouse". I am unsure which is more unsavoury, the idea of a supernatural creature spiriting away baby teeth or the idea of a little mouse scrabbling around under your child's pillow. Still it could be worse; a Mexican friend of mine had an interesting necklace. Friends would ask her if these were pieces of ivory hanging from a gold chain around her neck. Perhaps the necklace was some kind of Southern or Middle American totem? No, these were her children's baby teeth, mounted on gold and suspended from a gold chain. Quite gross! 

All this reflection on language came about as a result of my seeing an advertising hoarding for shellfish. "Namórate dun galego", it implored. "Fall in love with a Galician". The Galician in question was a mussel, "un mejillón". And I found myself thinking about those "ón" words. Was "mejillón" derived from "mejilla", which means "cheek" (not insolence but the part of your face)? It seems unlikely until you consider the shape of mussel, out of its shell. It could just about be a rather fat cheek! 

The other kind of cheek, by the way, insolence, is "cara", the word for face. When we say, "What a cheek!" or "You've got a cheek!", the Spanish say "¡Qué cara!" Or "¡Tienes mucha cara!" But then I have heard English people talk about someone have "the face to do such and such a thing". 

Interesting stuff, language.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Making connections.

Last Saturday, on the dot of midnight our mobile internet gadget ran out of credit. Just as poor Cinderella's fine frock turned into rags as the clock chimed twelve, so our dongle turned into a useless bit of plastic. 

So on Monday we went along to the Vodafone shop to see what splendid offers they had for us. This being summertime they had a special summer offer for 1.5 giga for €15 with a three month period to use it in. Not enough to download films and music but enough to keep us going for a while checking our email and such. The shop didn't have the correct pack for the offer so we sat around while a helpful young man spent three quarters of an hour on the phone getting a mobile phone sim converted into a data only sim and then getting the right amount of credit on it. It seemed to work. Sorted!

At some point on Tuesday night we found that our internet connection was dropping after just a couple of minutes. Not sorted after all. So on Wednesday, after a pleasant lunch with friends, we went back to the shop, armed with the dongle, the relevant bits of information and the computer. A very helpful young lady called Ana had a go at sorting it for us. The conversion from mobile phone sim to data only sim had not been done correctly. That should have been easy to sort out. Then it transpired that the sim now had no credit. We needed to pay another €15 to get our data allowance. It's amazing what a bit of indignation can do for your Spanish. Phil was suddenly all indignation, quiet, calm indignation but indignation none the less. And in beautiful Spanish. 

So the very helpful Ana got back on the phone and spent a good hour going round in circles, explaining the problem, being passed on to someone else, explaining again, arguing our cause in fact. At one point she thought she had it sorted. Verbally the central organisation had guaranteed that all was well but she wanted to wait a few minutes and then request further confirmation. Just as well she did, for the cycle began again! Eventually she achieved the near impossible and got us the €15 credit, guaranteed data only!!!! What a heroine? 

Earlier, while we waited for the shop to open (we had 4.30 in mind but the notice in the door said 5.00) I found myself being perhaps a little rude to a novel kind of beggar. A young man with a clipboard saw us standing in the street and sauntered over, asking for a few minutes of our time. He commented on our apparent admiration of the clothes in the posh frock shop. I put him wise and told him we were waiting for Vodafone to open. 

Then he went into his spiel. Would I like to give him a euro for the sheet of paper on his clipboard? Well, no, not really, but what was it? Something poetic! Something interesting! Okay, what was it for? To inform, to educate, to help me understand life and death! It seemed to be a photocopy of a handwritten sheet and in the absence of further explanation I was not prepared to hand over even a small amount of money. Did I not want to read it? No! Well, did I not want to give him a euro to find out what it was all about? No! That, I am afraid, was all I said. Harrumphing about Vodafone, he walked away. 

I was not really rude but I suppose I was abrupt. Had he explained what it was all about without all the nonsense about reading a life-enhancing piece of paper, I might have given him some more attention, time and even money. It is entirely possible that he was not a beggar but working for some organisation, I suppose. But I was not in the mood for airy fairy nonsense and gave him short shrift! 

Something rather different: at the barber's shop the other day, the barber showed me some old photos of Vigo. Very interesting they were too. I love old photos of places I know. One of the photos showed the Castro without trees. All you could see was a huge rocky outcropping with a fortress on the top. Of course, when the fortification was an actual military establishment they would not want trees around it. They would require a clear line of sight for firing their cannons and no chance of anyone sneaking up on them through the trees and underbrush. 

So when, I wonder, were the trees planted. For now they look as though they have always been there. The Castro Park is one of the green lungs of the city. At some point the decision must have been taken to plant trees and flowers, to make pathways up to the top and to make the fortification into a park: to parkalise it! 

Does such a word exist? Probably not. However, up at the top of the Castro there is a notice about the "musealisation" of the Roman and pre-Roman settlement remains up there. I have my doubts about the Spanish verb "musealizar" and even more serious doubts about the cavalier translations of that into the English(?) "musealise". So I feel justified in creating the verb "to parkalise".

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

It beggars belief!

Strolling out yesterday evening to meet Phil after his "training" session at the chess club, I was just getting into the Calvario district of Vigo when a cheerful voice greeted me, someone clearly pleased to see me. I looked round. "!Hola, señora! Me alegro de verle." The little beggar girl from the supermarket. I say little, meaning physically small. She is old enough to have an almost seven year old son, even though she looks about 15 and is not much more than a head taller than her offspring. 

She chatted to me quite pleasantly, in perfectly normal Spanish, introducing me to her rather podgy offspring. Then suddenly, as if she had just remembered her role as "Soy-muy-pobre", her voice changed into the begging whine and she told me how she has no money to feed her child. Not even enough to keep him properly clean. "Mire su pelo, Ni tengo para lavarlo," she told me - look at his hair, I can't even wash it for him! I had to give her some small change just to get rid of her. No wonder she is pleased to see me! 

As I already mentioned, her son did not appear to be underfed. Perhaps he has succumbed to the obesity problems caused by poor diet. What happened to the romantically skinny and big-eyed gipsy children I saw begging when I first came out Spain in the late sixties? 

Then there are the parking beggars, the men who direct drivers to parking spaces they can we perfectly well and which they have to pay for anyway. These men ask for payment for this is invaluable service. Several time recently we have seen a group of then string together having a chat. Maybe there is a parking beggars union! 

Seriously though, there is something wrong when people in a first world country in the 21st century are still begging on the streets. Today we woke up to fog. Someone had clearly stolen the whole city, the estuary, everything. By lunchtime the sun had burnt most of it off, although there was still a roll of low mist on the water as we walked into town to meet friends for lunch. At lunch we came upon the linguistic problem of "patatas fritas" once more. 

On the menu at the restaurant was "merluza a la gallega" - hake Galician style, in other words with boiled potatoes. So we asked if we could have chips instead of boiled potatoes. No problem. Except that the fish, very fresh and very tasty, came with freshly cooked, home-made crisps. This is because "patatas fritas" serves for both these items. 

Among other linguistic oddities spotted today is a tendency to run words together. There is a shop near the Carrefour supermarket which calls itself "". This should be "yo lo reparo" - I mend it. The shop offered to fix a range of electrical items. And then I saw an advert for a cheap tent on sale at Decathlon. The advert offered "todolopocoquenecesitas" or "todo lo poco que necesitas" - the very small amount that you need. In this case, it was a two man tent for less than €10. A bargain, I should think. 

Language is odd! But interesting!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Life's little mysteries!

When we were in Sanxenxo I would get up in the morning and run down the promenade, past the marina, along to the lighthouse and back. On my way back I would go down the steps onto Silgar beach, take off my running shoes and socks and walk back along the beach. Some of the time I walked in the sea. You have to do these things. 

Coming off the beach I would put my bare and rather sandy feet into my running shoes and walk the short distance back up to the hotel where I would shower the beach off my feet. I also tipped the sand out of my shoes. I emptied them again when we came back to Vigo, just to be on the safe side. I can see no trace of the beach in my running shoes. 

So how is it that when I come back from running up the hill, around the back and down to the breadshop, here in Vigo where I am quite a distance from the beach, when I take off my running shoes and socks I find I have sand between my toes? The invisible remaining bit of sand in my running shoes makes its way through my socks and deposits itself between my toes. The ghost of Silgar beach! How long will this go on before the supply of sand runs out? This is one of life's little mysteries. 

Down at the pool, in the late morning, I regularly see an elderly couple (a good few years older than I am anyway), she on a folding recliner chair, he on a towel on the ground. She has her earphones in and listens to music, I presume, on an early version iPod. He just sleeps in the sun. As a rule they are both on their backs (I don't suppose there is another position for the lady in the recliner chair) with their arms out to the side and bent upwards. It's that classic relaxed sleeping baby position. Their hands are open, loosely open in relaxation. The symmetry is perfect. Now, I find myself wondering, are they trying to extend their suntan onto the underside of their arms and their armpits? (Both are as brown as berries - presumably from years of coming down to the pool and stretching out in the sun.) Or is this a form of third age yoga relaxation that I have not heard about? 

Yesterday I went down to the pool in the evening instead of the morning. We were busy recharging the mobile internet device and putting money on our bus cards and other sundry town-centre-based activities during the morning. By the time we got back it was decidedly too hot to be outside in the sun. I could have swum, I suppose, or simply stood in the pool to keep cool. As it was, I went down much later for a swim. 

The evening clientele is quite different. Late mornings at the pool are quieter, some dedicated sun worshippers and a few swimmers. The occasional young girls practising their synchronised swimming routines. In the early evening there are children learning to swim, small boys who jump in on top of everyone regardless and young people throwing balls around and playing a kind of water based piggy in the middle. One young man was intent on showing off how many different swimming strokes he knows. It really is not worth doing the butterfly in our little pool - a couple of strokes and you are at the far end. 

This is what life is reduced to when the weather is hot!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Running. Water. Height. Modern life.

This morning I ran again, for the first time in about two weeks. Ever since we left Sanxenxo, in fact. 

At our friend Colin's in Poio, I did not run but walked down the hill to buy bread for breakfast and back up again, hoping against hope that the door to the garden remained open so that I did not have to take the longer route round by the road. On both occasions I was lucky. The gardener did tell me something about a code to open the gate but as I could see no kind of keypad into which to put a code I remained mystified. Perhaps he was making some kind of Spanish joke. 

Back in England for babysitting duties, somehow I did not organise myself for running. It might have involved running with the small dog. A run too far for me. And then I returned from England with a cold. I cannot actually blame England because my throat was already prickling when I stayed overnight in Porto a Spanish summer cold then! But running while coughing and sneezing is not to be recommended. 

Anyway, this morning I finally felt ready to run once more: down the road, up the hill, round the back, down to the breadshop, for a weather consultation, and home. Home, this time, to a cold shower. This was not from any crazy Spartan philosophy of good health. One result of the water pipes investigation at the end of last week was the discovery that our water heating boiler is faulty. The pressure is too high and, if left switched on, it wastes up to a litre of water per day. Water which we pay for. Looking at the water bills, this seems to be a very recent problem, fortunately. However, the immediate solution, while our landlady decides whether it is more economical to do a rather costly repair or replace the boiler, has been to switch it off and show us how to operate the switch mechanism. This involves clambering up and reaching behind the fridge-freezer, which is one of the things - along with reaching stuff from high cupboards, getting out and putting away stuff on the top shelf of the wardrobe - for which I am just a little too short. 

I have often thought that it would be useful to be an inch or two taller. It is not that I am excessively short but a little extra height could be useful. While I worked in Salford I was, unusually, regarded as very tall. I decided that everyone there must see the world differently from the rest of us. Possibly as a result of having a low average height! 

That, then, is how I came to have a Spartan cold shower this morning. I

It has nothing to do with austerity measures either. On the other hand the man I saw toting his shoe-shine kit around the port area the other day may well have been motivated by such things. At one time the "limpiabotas" was such a regular feature of the Spanish street scene that school text books for teaching the language in England did not fail to include one. Gentlemen standing at the bar would be approached by a chap with a wooden box containing the shoe cleaning kit and could have their shoes polished while they drank their coffee. Mostly those who offer the service have disappeared. Perhaps people clean their shoes less than they used to. Shoe shop assistants are certainly less assiduous in selling you polish than they used to be. But there he was the other day, the "limpiabotas" with the standard traditional box. Hard times lead to desperate measures. 

 And finally pedestrian crossings. You really need to catch the driver's eye to be sure it is safe to cross. This does not always work, however. Sometimes they look you straight in the eye, smile, give a cheerful wave and continue. The wave presumably to thank you for letting them go. Modern life!

Sunday, 12 July 2015


The other day we went to the hairdresser's, both of us. I went out in the morning, had my hair done and caught up on the scandal magazines. These are full of cute photos of the christening of the UK's Princess Charlotte. Amazingly the Duchess of Cambridge, her sister and her mother all managed to coordinate their outfits, tasteful retro pale cream affairs! If I were Kate, I might feel that my female relatives were trying to upstage me. 

There were also pictures of the king and queen of Spain visiting Mexico. The wife of the president of Mexico, I now know, is exactly the same height at Queen Letizia. (Do we really need to know such random facts?) Queen Letizia is one of the president's wife's role models in fashion matters, as is our very own Kate Middleton, in fact. The article declared that she is very much influenced by "los royals y los celebs". There you go, the ubiquitous use of English!!! The pale cream outfit that Kate Middleton wore was described as "un coat dress". Surely the Spanish and French and Italians have their own terms for such things. So it goes. 

Something odd is happening to the Spanish press in its way of referring to the UK royal family. Usually all the names are hispanified but this is slowly altering. Prince William remains Guillermo but Kate, who is usually Catalina, is now Kate, just like that. And the children are not Jorge and Carlota, as tradition would demand but very Englishly George and Charlotte. Do you think someone has complained? 

After the hairdresser's I went to the library, looking for something in Spanish for Phil to read. I have not been there since last summer, or maybe the summer before. No problem. My card still works. The library is as frustrating as ever. The computer system, the only way of locating books because of their crazy filing system, seemed to have no way of returning to the previous page looked at. You had to go back to the start whereupon the screen went blank and then you followed the instructions in Gallego on a piece of card in front of the computer. Then you had to hunt the shelves to find the number of the book you seek. Browsing the shelves is impossible as all the authors are jumbled up. How reassuring that some things do not change! 

Phil and I met for lunch - chipirones encebollados at the Rosalia Castro down near the port - and then coffee at the Maracaibo on the alameda. Since we were last here the Maracaibo has acquired wifi but the ladies loo still does not have a functioning lock on the door! 

And after lunch Phil went for haircut. Two visits to hairdressing emporia in one day: is this a record?

Thursday, 9 July 2015

High rise living!

Yesterday was noisy at times. There is a special quality to the sound of "obras y reformas" in Spanish blocks of flats. It has a tendency to reverberate through the building. Often there is the high pitched squeal of tile cutters. Yesterday it was mostly a lot of banging, outside our door!!! 

Earlier this year, while we were in England, our landlady's daughter, Marisela, who does all the communicating between us, got in touch to say that the "comunidad", the residents' association, wanted access to our flat. Lower flats were suffering from damp and they were trying to find out where it came from. We assured her that it was unlikely to be from our flat as we always turned off the water at the mains when we left the place empty for a longish period. But we gave her permission to go in with the plumbers and check. This she did and, as expected, nothing untoward was found. She refused permission for the plumbers to investigate further by making holes in the bathroom wall!!! 

On Friday, while I was in England babysitting, Phil had a visit from the plumbers. They wanted to look under the sink as there was a problem with a drainage pipe for the whole building that takes waste water away from the flats. After examination, they asked him to contact Marisela and ask her to get in touch with them. This we duly did and it was arranged that yesterday Marisela would meet here with the plumbers of the "comunidad" and with one from her insurance company. 

The "comunidad" plumbers made a fair-sized hole in the wall outside our flat. Hence all the banging. It seems that there has been a leak in the drainpipe inside that wall. For some reason, in order to complete that repair they needed to replace the outlet pipe that went from our kitchen. It was quite interesting to watch the negotiations going on between Marisela and the plumber: she just about managing to hold her temper in check and remain calm and polite, he blandly denying any knowledge of previous things that had gone on regarding plumbing in the building. 

At one point, Marisela and I went down to the flat below to see the damage caused. The young woman who lives there with her husband and small baby is at her wits' end. Her kitchen cupboard doors are swollen from all the wastewater from higher floors leaking into her kitchen. That is not the only problem. One of her bathrooms, the main bathroom, is out of use because her landlord gave permission for a hole to be made in the wall during the earlier investigation and, several months on, the hole is still there. She was in the process of packing up, ready to give notice if her landlord did not get it sorted pronto quick. Marisela's denial of permission to make holes in our bathroom wall during the original investigations was clearly justified! 

Such are the joys of flat living. 

Another joy is the junk mail. By the entrance is a notice, "¡NO ACEPTAMOS PUBLICIDAD!". It's all very well saying you don't accept junk mail but if you leave open the outer door, the one allowing access to the letter boxes, then junk mail you will get. 

When we first viewed this flat, that door was always locked but for at least two years the lock has been broken and many residents just leave it propped open. Clearly they do not regard it as a problem; the inner door, giving proper access to the building itself, remains locked so all is well, apparently. And so the letter boxes are stuffed with advertising for pizza delivery services, furniture sales, supermarket promotions and almost anything under the sun. We rarely receive any other mail but we duly remove the illegal, unwanted, unasked-for "PUBLICIDAD" and put it all in the paper recycling bin. Not so all residents. There are some who simply drop it on the floor for others to pick up. We do so and I have seen other good citizens do the same. 

Among the junk yesterday we found a small paper rectangle offering the services of MAESTRO OUSSOU. This "great astrologer, scientist, spiritualist and trustworthy African healer" will solve just about every problem imaginable. Getting your lost love back. Attracting the person you love. Impotence. Doing well in your business, your job, your exams. (Presumably a bit of magic is better than working and studying hard!) Keeping your job. Removing the evil eye and other curses. The list goes on and on. Maestro Oussou promises to resolve desperate cases quickly; in fact he guarantees to do so within seven days. 

And to think that I have been throwing such amazing stuff into the paper recycling bin! 

I wonder if he deals with the noise of "obras y reformas".

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Delays and more delays!

Yesterday I arrived back in Vigo after a long weekend of non-stop activity back in the UK, some of it self inflicted, I must confess. Well, you can't go back to the UK to help out your daughter without doing a bit of socialising yourself. This is why there have been no posts for the last week. 

What I wrote on our return from Pontevedra, around a week ago never got posted, for one reason or another, and will be recycled for another occasion. 

 Here is what led to my brief return to Blighty. Shortly before we set off to spend the summer in Galicia - and I really mean shortly - a matter of a few days notice - our daughter put in a request for some babysitting presence. It turned out that on the first weekend of July she was invited to go on a friend's hen party weekend. Now, I am not entirely convinced of the need for stag and hen parties. The Spanish call them "fiestas de despedida de soltero/a" - a party to say farewell to your bachelor/spinsterhood. Don't get me wrong. I am not opposed to people going out for a drink with their mates before they get married. There is a long tradition of the groom being taken out by his friends on the night before the wedding and being made to drink copious amounts of alcohol. In this age of equality the friends of the bride feel they have a perfect right to do the same. Nowadays the bride and groom usually have the best man and the chief bridesmaid organise it. And it is understandable that the happy couple might want to do this a good few days before the wedding in order to avoid wedding day hangover problems. Consequently it usually occurs some weeks before the wedding day. 

No, my objection is that the whole thing has got out of hand. The "party" has morphed into a mini holiday, a weekend, or longer, away somewhere. Many a historic city has been ruined for other tourists, cultural travellers, by gangs of drunken (usually British) young men playing tricks on the groom and young women dressed in pink with t-shirts declaring who they all are. The pink t-shirt brigades often include the mother or even the grandmother of the bride and possibly the mother-in-law to be. And then there's the question of "saying farewell to bachelor- or spinster-hood". Often the happy couple have been living together for years already while they saved up for the expensive wedding. Surely they have already said goodbye to their single status long ago? Ah, well! So it goes! 

My daughter assured me that she and her friends had no intention of wearing pink tutus or bunny ears or anything of the sort. They had an evening of learning to make cocktails .... and then drinking them. The next day they put on their posh frocks and fascinators and went off for a day at the races. An apparently sophisticated couple of nights away. But still ..... 

Anyway, as her partner is away on holiday somewhere else, she needed someone to care for her children and dog: yours truly! At a pinch the oldest grandchild could have done it but whether the house would still be standing and the younger children and the dog still safely around was a different matter. 

So I arranged to fly home to Manchester on Thursday of last week. This involved an overnight stop in Porto as the flight was due to leave at 10.20 am and the first bus from Vigo to Porto left Vigo at 9.00 am Spanish time and arrived at Porto at 9.45 Portuguese time, just a little too late to ensure getting through security and to the gate in time to board the plane. After sleeping in a room with a view of the airport, I arrived in plenty of time to have breakfast at the airport cafe and get through security without problems. So far so good! The gate for my flight was on the board, as was an ominous "more information" notice. 

More information was not forthcoming until we had gone through the final security check and into the holding area for budget-flight passengers. Then they told us, at around the time we should have been boarding, that the flight had little or no chance of departing until 12.30. After some time we all received a kind of credit card with €4.50 on it so that we could purchase refreshments at the airline's expense. We were advised to hang onto the card in case they needed to re-charge it later. (Some budget airlines are more considerate than others.) However, no re-charge was needed; we finally set off at around 1.00 pm. It was only when we were on the plane that the pilot explained that there had been a huge electrical storm over Manchester on the night of Wednesday to Thursday. Friends have since told me horror stories about hail stones the size of golf balls! The plane which should have left Manchester at 7.20 am on Thursday morning had not been able to land there and had been diverted to Birmingham. A replacement plane had been flown in later but had had to wait in a queue to land at Manchester which was still in state of chaos. 

So there was some small consolation, we told each other. Imagine having arrived at Manchester at 6.00 am for the flight to Porto and having to wait around for hours in a state of semi-somnolence for a delayed departure! (More about this kind of thing later.) 

I had a pleasant weekend with the grandchildren, who all behaved perfectly, in some instances charming friends of mine. The smaller ones kept a friend's even smaller granddaughter entertained while she and I caught up with the gossip. And after my daughter returned the older one accompanied me to Manchester centre for a shopping trip (mostly clothes for her) and was good company at lunch with another old friend of mine, who had not seen said granddaughter since she was about eight years old. So, not at all bad! 

They say lightning does not strike the same place twice. Is that true? I don't think so! 

On Tuesday morning, yesterday in fact, my daughter drove me to the airport for the 7.20 am flight to Porto. Yes, THAT 7.20 am flight. All went well. To begin with! We boarded the plane on time. Then the captain said there were problems with air traffic controllers on a go slow over French air space. Or it might have been something entirely different. What it meant, though, was that our plane taxied out away from the boarding point and sat on the runway for best part of an hour before taking off. Brilliant! 

We landed in Porto at 10.30 am. My mini-marathon began. The bus to Vigo was due to leave at 10.45. Fortunately I was able to get off the plane quite speedily. I scurried through the airport to get to passport control. Fortunately, again, there was no queue and I was through as fast as possible. It was now past 10.40! No time for a toilet stop! I ran out of the arrivals hall, amazingly managing not to knock anyone over en route, and reached the Galiza bus stop at 10.45 on the dot. 

Of course, the bus arrived some ten minutes later, as you might expect!