In the UK I have a senior rail card. For around £30 a year I get a smart plastic card which gives me the right to a discount on rail fares around the country. Here in Spain I have a "Tarjeta Dorada" or Gold Card, for which I pay €6 a year, a scruffy looking piece of card, looking for all the world like the tear-off end of a printed ticket and rather easy to thrown away by mistake. This also gets me a discount on rail travel all over the country. The UK card is smarter but the Spanish card is much cheaper and gives me, I think, a slightly higher percentage discount on fares that are already considerably cheaper.
Last year's Tarjeta Dorada reached the end of its useful life on Friday so on Sunday, before buying tickets back to Vigo, Phil and I renewed our cards at Pontevedra railway station. As I explained what we wanted to do, I asked the ticket clerk if he needed to see our passports. No, it was fine, the number he needed was in he "tarjetas doradas". Several minutes later, he asked for the passports. So it goes.
He got in a bit of a muddle as to which was Phil's surname and first name. I believe he was looking for a second surname. We explained about being English and our shortage of surnames. That sorted, he had a wobble about Phil's date of birth. We solved that problem too and had a little discussion about his star sign.
Then followed an odd interlude during which he said that he saw that we had bought last year's tickets at one of the Granada stations. No explanation as to why he thought this might be the case. Not true, we told him. Most likely at Vigo Guixar station. We have not been near Granada for years and years! We let that one go and he moved on to my ticket.
He showed off his knowledge of English by reading my passport number out in our language. Very good! Then, despite my reminding him that where it says "surname" in the passport, that means "apellido", he proceeded to read out "'Margaret Adams" as my surname. I tried to tell him this was wrong, that my surname is simply Adams but that, just like many Spaniards of my acquaintance, I happen to have two Christian names. No good. He felt it did not matter. Perhaps this was because he could not be bothered to put it right. And so, on yet another occasion I am to be known as Señora Margaret Adams, or even just Señora Margaret.
But he had already moved on to the subject of tea as he sorted out our tickets to Vigo. Was it true, he asked, that the English have tea at four o' clock? I had had enough of stereotypes and told him that we drink tea at any hour of the day that takes our fancy!
When he pointed out to us that the train would leave from platform three, I gave in to the temptation to ask him where platforms one and two are. Since Pontevedra station was refurbished, very nicely indeed with lifts and escalators, the platforms are numbered three to ten. Platforms one and two are as non-existent as the magical platform the pupils going to Harry Potter's school get to use. But my question fell on deaf ears. I was expecting to hear something about the numbers being reserved for new platforms to be introduced when the high speed train comes through. None of that. Anglo-Spanish diplomacy was at an end. He just mumbled about platform three being right outside the door to the ticket office and turned away.
Such a disappointment.