Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Mondariz in the rain. And some thoughts about intolerance.

So here I am in Mondariz, where Phil is playing the last day of what is probably his last chess tournament of this summer. One of his young chess playing friends said it would rain today. According to him, it always rains on the last day of the Mondariz tournament. Well, it was rather cloudy when I went out for bread for breakfast but it didn't really look like rain. So when we set out later we didn't even think to put umbrellas in the bag. Silly! This is Galicia after all, where the weather can change dramatically overnight and temperatures can drop by ten degrees! 

I went for a walk around the grounds of the hotel before the rain started, very nice they are too. A very bossy Dalmatian dog saw me off at one point. And now it is raining nicely. In fact, there is even a bit of a thunderstorm going on. So I took advantage of the fact that the hotel hosting the congress has wifi to catch up with my mail and the news and so on. And so far none of it seems very good. 

In Italy they have had an earthquake. At least ten people have died and one small town has been half destroyed. And here I am complaining about a bit of rain! 

In France the burkini rows continue and seem to be taking a nasty turn. Here is a link to a story of how police made a woman on a beach in Nice remove some of her clothing because of the "burkini ban". I find myself wondering if they would demand that a woman wearing a raincoat or a big jumper would be obliged to remove some layers. If you wear a long skirt and a long-sleeved loose top, does this also offend the delicate sensibilities of those who believe you have to strip off on the beach? 

I am finding the whole thing more and more distasteful. In the weeks following the Brexit vote in the UK it seemed that certain elements of society had been given carte blanche to make racist comments in public and to be generally rude to folk who do not conform to white Anglo Saxon protestant appearances. I hesitate to say values as those so called values appear to be disappearing rapidly. And the burkini rulings in France will be giving similar license to those who want to bully others into conforming. 

The strange thing is that France, which many people would call a Christian, indeed a Catholic, country, does not actually have a state religion as such. So why is non-denominational state so upset about religious garb? 

In fact, the burkini was invented in Australia, to give Muslim girls a chance to take part in sports without feeling immodest. It was intended to provide the opportunity for greater integration. Nothing at all to do with religious fundamentalists. Here's a link to an article about it. 

When I go to Italy and visit churches, I make sure I have a scarf or shawl of some kind to cover my arms and shoulders. This is not from any deep religious conviction on my part but from a deep moral conviction that we should respect the feelings of others. 

Surely we should be trying to spread tolerance and acceptance not introduce rulings that further restrict people's, and particularly women's, freedom. This is just playing into the hands of the intolerant extremists. 

And that's another rant over and done with!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Time travel!

Ok, where does one day end and another begin. It should be simple enough to work out. But it's another case of perceptions differing from one country to another. 

The Spanish have a lovely word: madrugada. It basically means the early morning. There's also a related verb: madrugar. That's partly where the confusion starts because it can mean both to stay up late and to get up early. 

One day last week, as we were going out early, I was at the breadshop at 7.30 am. "¡Que madrugadora eres hoy!" said my friendly weather witch. "What an early rise you are!" 

Phil doesn't play morning chess matches unless obliged to because "no le gusta madrugar": he doesn't like to get up early. 

Now, I need to be at Vigo bus station at 4.30 on Thursday morning. I have to catch that bus because the next one arrives at Porto airport after the gate has closed for my flight. So, although I will have to spend hours waiting at the airport, the 4.30 bus it is. Somehow I don't fancy dragging my wheelie suitcase through the empty streets of Vigo in the dark. Neither do I want to be phoning for a taxi at that time of day. So I got on the phone to make an advance booking. 

If I were in England and asked to book taxi for 4.30 on Thursday morning, they would know exactly when I meant to travel. So I explained what I wanted in my best Spanish. And my Spanish is good. No empty boasting there. Years of study and practice. And everyone here, Spanish people, comments on how good it is. A taxi for Thursday "a las cuatro de la madrugada". 

Total confusion ensues. So, the taxi lady wants to know, is that the morning of the 25th or the 26th? A quick flurry while I find my diary to get the date right. The 25th. THURSDAY! 

Well, no. According to the taxi lady that is still 4.30 in the early morning of Wednesday. Well, no, not technically Wednesday as such. The night of Wednesday through to Thursday. So in this case "la madrugada" is not so much the very early morning (of Thursday) but the very late night (of Wednesday). Oh, boy! Linguistic somersaults on a hot Tuesday afternoon. 

I went down to the pool to cool off after getting so hot and bothered. The taxi lady phoned to confirm the date and time. We had the conversation all over again. 

And she called again at about 9.15 tonight, ostensibly to check if I was paying cash or by card. Another repeat performance! 

I hope to goodness I don't get a phone call at 4.30 tomorrow morning saying there is a taxi waiting downstairs for me. Equally, I hope there is one there on Thursday morning and that the driver doesn't think I meant Friday! The taxi lady summarised the booking and it sounded right. 

Fingers crossed!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Anti-terrorist measures! ?

As I sat under a huge sunshade outside the Hotel Cemar in Mondariz late yesterday morning waiting for various people to finish playing chess or talking chess so that we could go for lunch, I watched one of the chess mums feeding her non-chess-playing offspring a range of snacks. The almost constant drip feeding of crisps and pumpkin seeds and snack biscuits perhaps explained why the child, quite a pretty twelve year old, was in danger of gaining more puppy fat than she would really want to have. 

Her mother tried to persuade her to have fruit but she wasn't being successful. When she eventually managed to get her to accept an apple, which she had to peel before the child would even consider it, her daughter took a few desultory bites, declared she had eaten it and asked if she could throw it away. She practically had to have her arm twisted up he back to eat a bit more of it. 

So much for the healthy southern European diet. I hesitate to call it Mediterranean as we are a long way from the Med. Later, over lunch, someone commented that Galician cuisine mainly consists of potatoes with something, be it fish or meat. Well, he is Galician so I suppose he has the right to criticise it in that way. And I suppose that if you count Spanish omelette and croquettes in the potato category he is probably correct. Apart from the last two potato items, I can usually manage without the spuds, even if Galician potatoes are the best world! 

Getting back to the lady with the snacks, when she was trying to persuade her daughter to eat fruit she took out of her fruit bag a large and rather lethal-looking kitchen knife. Obviously she needed a knife to peel the fruit. One of the other chess mums looked at her in horror and asked if she really carried that around with her on a regular basis. Did she not know that if the police found such a knife on her person, in her bag or in her car, she could be find upwards of €300 on the spot. Who knew? And is it true? 

The twelve year old was curious as to why this should be so. Well, explanations went like this: you might drop it on your foot and injure yourself; you might fall with it in your hand and, once again, injure yourself. just about all the explanations centred on the possibility of accidentally self harming. This was why, said the second chess mum, she always carried a penknife for peeling fruit. She took it out and showed it to us. You don't get fined for carrying one of these. Not a word was said about a big knife maybe being a threat to others. Terrorism was not mentioned once. Maybe they did not want to frighten the twelve year old. Maybe it's possible self harm really was the only reason. I kept quiet about it all. 

Besides, apples should just be washed and eaten. None of this namby-pamby peeling! My mother always maintained there are masses of vitamins in the apple skin. Mind you, she also ate tangerine peel. So she really wasn't the best person to consult. 

Talking about terrorist threats, the ban on the burkini continues to cause a furore in France. I read yesterday that the whole hoo-hah began back in 2004. In and around Paris, maybe in other inland cities in France, they have the habit of making urban beaches. Tons of sand are brought in and a beach is created next to a suitable bit of river. The most famous is next to the Seine, right in the centre of the capital. The municipality of Wissou, in Essone near Paris, organised an urban beach. Then they banned the wearing of burkinis at their urban beach. The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) challenged the ban in court, and won. When Wissou reinstated the ban, the CCIF successfully challenged it a second time. 

Clearly there is nothing new under the sun. 

Maybe the only way to fight it is for non-Muslim feminists to start wearing burkinis on all the beaches of France.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Misnomers, mistranslations and visits to spas.

Out and about I have been collecting the ubiquitous English names for places, many of which are usually wrong in some way, often it's not a specific grammar mistake, nothing you can really pin down, just something that we would never actually say. 

There's "Bestdrive", the car repair place I have commented on before. It makes Phil splutter with indignation every time he goes past it. There's a whole chain of carwash places called "Coffee and Wash". The other day we saw a new restaurant, offering vegetarian options and lots of healthy food. Its name was "Feelfood"! Where did they get that from? 

Sometimes, however, it is a case of pure mistranslation. At Pontevedra's nicely refurbished railway station you have to go through a particular door to get to the platforms. This leads you to the X-ray machine that you have to put all your bags through before you continue to the platform. Except, that is, for when you arrive for one of the mid- to late-evening trains and they have already turned it off. On those occasions you can clearly blow trains up with importunity. Come to that, maybe that's what happened to the mysterious platforms 1 and 2, which seem not to exist. It's quite true: the platforms are numbered 3 to 8 and so far nobody has managed to explain this to me. 

Anyway, on the door from the platforms onto the main station area - the door you would normally go through if it were not for the X-ray machine - is clearly labelled "No Pasar". This is nicely mistranslated into "No Trespassing". Which is a different thing altogether! 

But at least they make a token translation. and the announcements on the trains are in Castellano, Gallego and English. The only time I heard of the Manchester trams making announcements in Spanish as well as English was when one of the big Spanish football teams was plying Manchester City. 

On top of he foreigners making mistakes, you get English speakers, and writers, who get the language wrong through over correction. I have come to accept "me and Susie are doing this or that" but I still get rather fretted when someone asks me to do something "for Susie and I". Here's another overcorrection to add to the list: "Whomever invented elastic should be added to Mount Rushmore, as they have done more for Americans than any politician in history." From the Guardian the other day. 

Meanwhile, we have spent the day in Mondariz, where Phil has been playing chess and, indeed, will continue to do for the next few days. We travelled slowly in a bus from Vigo bus station. To call it a bus is actually an exaggeration. So few people appear to come here by public transport that they just put on a little minibus. And the driver seemed to know half of the passengers and where they wanted to go before they said anything. 

We had a nice lunch: ensalada mixta, calamares, croquetas, tortilla - the list goes on - for just over €50 for five of us! Then we walked down from Mondariz to Mondariz Balneario, the spa, with its splendid bath buildings. Phil tried the disgustingly smelly spa water: probably very good for him. Here are a few photos. If you look carefully, in one of them you might just make out Phil pulling faces at the bad taste of the water! 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Cafe culture: Pigeons, Wifi, Childcare.

Sitting on the terraza of the cafe at the Castro Park this afternoon, I had a running battle with pigeons who know no fear and simply land on your table. A small boy at a nearby table was highly amused and got up from time to time to chase them away. In the end I just moved tables - the sun was moving round to mine anyway - and left the bowl of crisps to the flying vermin. 

When the waitress came out and saw that I had moved and heard why, she laughed but went on to say how she hates the cheeky things. She reckons that they are protected and that it is against the law to kill them. I fail to see how they can be a protected species. There are too many of the dratted creatures for that. Far more likely is that it is just impossible to keep your cafe terrace free of them no matter what you do. 

Apart from the pigeons, the cafe up at the Castro Park is a nice spot to sit and watch the world go by. Their wifi is a bit erratic but on the whole it's reliable enough to let you catch up with your mail and read the papers. 

We rely a lot on cafes with wifi. We used to use a mobile dongle but recently had a bit of an argument with the Vodafone people when they ascribed our €20 worth of internet to the wrong number and failed to put it right. So now it's wifi cafes for us. We have a network of them in a variety of places: Vigo, Pontevedra, Sanxenxo pretty much wherever we go! 

While Phil is playing in the chess tournament at Mondariz, he calls me when he is on his way home and I meet him at one of our usual haunts, taking the laptop with me. We both catch up with our internet stuff and Phil finds put from the tournament website who he is playing the next day. 

Last night little Hugo was in the cafe. We have been watching Hugo since he was a tiny thing. He's always been a holy terror. When he had just learnt to walk, and, perhaps more importantly, run, but had not yet learn ANY sense whatsoever, he used to push the door of the cafe open and do a runner down the street. It must have kept his parents fit. He is about three now and has not improved greatly. He no longer does a runner but demands a lot of attention and shouts a lot. His grandmother's way of dealing with his little fits of bad behaviour is to tell him she no longer loves him - ¡Ya no te quiero! - and to tell him to phone his father and have him come and collect him. Next moment she smothers him in kisses. 

No wonder the child is a mess!

Friday, 19 August 2016

Sun and rain and clouds.

Yesterday I decided it was time to go and dip my feet in the ocean once again. After all, August is half way through and summer will be over before we know it. I planned to dip only my feet in the ocean. If I want a solitary swim, there is the swimming pool. Messing about in the sea with grandchildren is one thing but I have never fancied risking leaving my stuff on a crowded beach while I go for a swim. It can be quite hard to get back to your starting point unless there are quite significant landmarks to aim for. 

So, a paddle was the order of the day: that very Spanish thing of walking the waterline. 

While Phil went off to play chess and to try not to lose any more chess rating points, I hopped off a bus just outside Urzáiz railway station and straight into another, this time heading for Samil, Vigo's rather fine beach at the far end of town. A very crowded bus it was too and there was no messing about with chivalry and excessive courtesy. 

It was a splendid day for a walk along the beach: fine and sunny but not excessively hot and with enough breeze to keep you cool. The beach was very full and there were enough waves coming in to keep all the children happy jumping them. I resisted the temptation to wake some of the people sleeping their siesta on the sand, merely shaking my head at the foolishness of such behaviour. Imagine waking later, lobster coloured! 

I returned to Vigo via the path that runs alongside the river Lagares. At the start of the path, just beyond the Lagares reed beds, access to the path proper gets a little confused. Drainage work of some kind which was begun last year, when I did a similar trip, seemed not to have progressed at all in the last twelve months. I assume they must have done something but there is really little evidence to show for it. 

Once I had found my way past the work in progress and got onto the path, it was a really pleasant walk as most of it is under trees. It is a favourite with local cyclists, judging by the numbers I saw. They are actually more careful and respectful of other pedestrians than the ones you come across cycling on pavements around town! 

I left the path at Balaidos, the Celta de Vigo stadium, where further work in progress forced me to make a wide detour. Eventually I came out where I intended, just opposite the entrance to Castrelos park. I strolled up the road towards Plaza de España, stopping for a little clara (shandy) at a cafe on the way. 

The drink came with a small bowl of olives. Then the cafe owner brought a small plate of fried potatoes in a mustardy, spicy sauce: a variation on patatas bravas, I suppose. A couple of minutes later she came back with a small plate of fried potatoes with mayonnaise. All that for just one person! She must have known just how long I had been walking! 

It's just as well I planned my beach walk for yesterday as today began with rain: proper rain, not just low mist. I could tell it was raining before I opened the blinds. There is a particular swishing sound to traffic on wet roads. My weather witch at the bread shop assured me that the rain was for this morning only. By midday, though, the sun was still having difficulty making its way through the murk. 

However, some improvement was evident. You could see across the bay once more and the cloud had moved up from water level to just a little higher in the air. I always associated cloud you felt you could reach out and touch with mountainous areas. Of course, I knew about sea mist. I grew up in a seaside place, after all. But I never saw cloud so low down as you get here. Maybe it's the presence of hills just behind the estuary that makes a difference. But it never fails to fascinate me, the way you see a bank of cloud hanging just feet above the water! 

Later: the weather witch was right, of course. The day did improve.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Politeness and chivalry gone mad!

On the bus two ladies, about my age, perhaps a bit older, in other words old enough for people to give up their seats for them, were sitting on two of those seats reserved for the halt and the lame. You can't miss them; they have a symbol of an old stick man with a stick.

A couple of stops along, an older man got on, an old chap with a stick, accompanied by someone was most probably his daughter. Getting on, he had problems with his green card, the one for paying his fare. Maybe carrying it around in an envelope which then needed opening was not a good idea. He dropped it, twice, almost dropping his stick in the process, but eventually got it to work. He moved, somewhat precariously, down the bus. 

One of the ladies in the seats for the halt and the lame stood up and offered him the seat. Clearly his dignity as a fine old gent was affronted. He blusteringly refused the offer. Both ladies were now on their feet, declaring that they were getting off soon. There then followed almost five minutes of the two ladies, the old gent and the daughter, also probably in her fifties or more, telling each other to sit down and warning each other about the dangers of standing up on a moving bus. The driver could brake, "dar un frenazo", at any moment. Falling was a distinct possibility. 

The two original ladies did indeed get off a couple of stops further along. The old gent and his daughter sat down. All was well. Then, two more stops along the route, another old chap with a stick got on. The first old chap with a stick offered to stand so the second could sit down. So did the daughter. Further extreme politeness ensued. The second old chap said he was fine. He had been sitting all day. And anyway, he suddenly realised he was on the wrong bus and had to get off at the next stop. 

You could not make it up! 

It must be a week for over courteous behaviour. The bus incident was yesterday. This afternoon in the Mercadona supermarket next door, I saw another example. In that supermarket, in fact in most of the supermarkets I frequent here, you almost never see checkout girls sitting at the tills twiddling their thumbs as you do in the UK. They wait until the queue build up and then call assistants by name to go to the till. 

Ths afternoon, there were queues at two tills, the rest being unoccupied. An elderly couple, one of whom was blind, were dithering about which queue to join. The call went out: Señorita blablabla, acude a caja. Ever so polite, using the formal imperative and everything. They always ask the customers to move over to the newly opened checkout in queue order. (This is another thing that does not happen in the UK. A new checkout opens and there is a free for all to get into the queue first. So much for British queuing!) Anyway, this afternoon, one after another, customers indicated that the elderly couple should go ahead of them. Each time they politely declined. Finally, I persuaded them that they should go ahead of me as they had been waiting (dithering) for a while already when I joined the queue. 

Wonderful stuff!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Changes and opinions

Today the weather has done an almost complete turnaround. The last few days have started in gloomy fashion but have developed into pretty good August sunshine as the day has progressed. Good enough for people to organise barbecues and a dip in the pool, certainly. Today, though, the umbrellas are out, and I don't mean sun umbrellas. 

It's not what you might call proper rain, a steady pouring of water from the skies. No, it's more like being in a thick, low cloud with constant drizzle. And visibility is down to almost zero. However, it is still only a partial turnaround in my books because the temperature hovers at around 20 degrees, not cold even for most of the locals, who are out in t-shirts under their umbrellas. Well, most of them. Some, the most "frioleros", have their big coats on with the hood pulled up! 

So what can you do when the weather turns this way? Drink tea! I confess to growing a little tired of being asked if I have drunk much tea today or to confirm that it is at four o' clock (that's right, isn't it?) that the British drink tea. All of that might change. And the English text books in schools might have to change with it. Statistics show that we are drinking less tea - as a nation that is, not Phil and I. Sales of teabags, research shows, have dropped by 14% between 2013 and 2015. They don't mention loose leaf tea. It's so hard to find that probably only those who do have afternoon tea at four use it. 

Apparently, young people are to blame for the falling sales. Some are afraid tea will stain their teeth (what kind of really strong tea are those young people thinking about?) while others are concerned about the caffeine content (but they don't seem to worry about buckets of coffee from Starbucks and the like). And then, it's not cool to drink tea except when you go to visit your mum! 

There you go! 

Another question people ask, not just here but almost anywhere, is about whether I am a cat person or a dog person. Now this is a question it would never occur to me to ask anyone but for some people it is quite an important indicator of personality. The other day I came across a short article which I might have written myself. Indeed, I quite wish I had. I can't remember which newspaper it was or who wrote it but here it is: 

"As I read through the descriptions of things cat people like – reading The Hobbit alone in a basement, apparently – I was like, “Thank god I’m not a cat person.” And as I read through the things that dog people like – watching Duck Dynasty in a group – I was definitely like, “Dogs are the worst.” I am, as scientifically confirmed by my dislike of all the things cat people and dog people love (including cats and dogs), not a cat or dog person. But try as I might, the cat v dog debate is not one I’ve been able to avoid. 

I’ve always been a little surprised how often it comes up. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be light-hearted fun, but it’s still everywhere. I’ve been asked if I’m a cat or dog person in job orientations, on online dating questionnaires, at cocktail parties. My answer has usually been, “I’m whatever type of person doesn’t ask pointless questions.” 

 I don’t want your dog’s slobber on me, and I don’t want your cat’s hair on me. I can’t tell if that picture you posted on Facebook is of a new cat or an old cat because all cats look like cats to me. I will not attend your pet weddings. I will not celebrate your pet birthdays. And unless your pet has learned how to tell some great jokes, I firmly believe it has no place in dinner party discussion." 

 Enough said! My feelings exactly! 

Later: the sun came out mid afternoon. Suddenly the world was brighter again.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Bits of silliness. Bits of magic.

It would seem that in Huddersfield, not that far from the relatively sensible part of the North West of England where we have our house, there is a shop called Mystical Moments. Among other things, the owner of the shop sells handmade wands. Who would have thought that there was a demand for such things in the 21st century? However, Richard Carter, owner of the shop, has said, "You wouldn’t believe how many real witches and wizards there are knocking about. You would be amazed." Well, yes, I am prepared to be amazed. He added, “They know they can come here and reveal themselves without people thinking they’re mental." So they do recognise that some people, such as myself, might regard them as odd. Mostly harmless, I am sure, but still odd! 

He has been in the news because Harry Potter fans have been going to his shop to buy wands. He was not happy with this and, according to one newspaper, banned them from entering his shop. Further comments of his include the following: "I don’t have customers who have been Harry Potterfied.” “Harry Potter is for children”, and “If I had someone come in wanting a wand just because they liked Harry Potter I would not sell them one, no matter how much they were offering”. 

You see, according to Mr Carter, Harry Potter fans are not real wizards. J. K. Rowling has responded by saying, "Oh yeah? Well, I don’t think they’re real wands.” Which leads me to ask if Ms Rowling even believes in magic. Apart, that is, from the magic of making a lot of money by creating good stories for kids. 

Mr Carter says he has been misrepresented. He explained further: “I said that if Harry Potter fans wanted a wand they should go on eBay because what they’re basically after is a toy. But I have not banned them from the shop. I have nothing against Harry Potter and actually liked the films. The wands I make, though, whether you believe it or not, are real and spiritual. If a Harry Potter fan came to the shop, whether they would be able to buy a wand would depend on why they want one. If for a toy, then no, but if they had watched Harry Potter and been inspired to start their own spiritual journey, then yes.” 

Oh dear! He clearly believes his wands are real! 

Spiritual journeys are a different matter. I am told that a lot of people who walk the Camino de Santiago go on a spiritual journey, regardless of whether or not they believe in a supreme being. They tend to have sticks rather than wands though. 

I hear also that there has been an increase in paganism. Hence the success of shops like Mystical Moments. I know a few people who are constantly putting stuff on Facebook about the power of crystals and stones to help you find inner peace. And I suppose that in the chaos of the modern world people will try all kinds of ways to sort things out for themselves. Although, personally, I stopped believing in magic, the type that needs wands and spells, a long time ago. It was around about the time when I gave up on the tooth fairy and Father Christmas. 

I still believe that aspects of modern technology are a form of magic, especially stuff like Pokémon Go, superimposing cute cartoon characters onto GPS systems. (How DO they do that?) Proof of the magic of this is in the story of a man called Gary Dear in Washington State, USA. He has an ice cream shop, Mad Hatter's Ice Cream. His business was in difficulties. Clearly, too few people were impressed by the excellent name of the shop name to stop and buy ice cream. 

Then along came Pokémon Go and virtual creatures started popping up in the vicinity of his shop. Perhaps they like the Mad Hatter. Pokémon Go-ers caught their Pokémons and celebrated with ice cream. Takings have doubled and tripled on some days. 

Now that is real magic!

Monday, 15 August 2016


Yesterday's mist that rolled in off the Atlantic, bumped into the promontory of A Guía and spread itself all around was still around, even denser, at nine o' clock this morning. The billboard temperature gauge read 16 degrees, ten degrees lower than some mornings last week. And the day was unnaturally quiet, partly as a consequence of the blanket that muffled everything and also because today is a día festivo. I swear they have more holidays here than in other countries. But then, it's also "ferragosto" in Italy. 

Today is also odd because we didn't need to run around making sure we had everything organised to set off the Pontevedra for the chess tournament. That one is over and done with for another year. However, it all starts again on Wednesday when the Mondariz chess tournament starts. This is the one where Phil on e famously won €800 and suddenly felt almost like a professional! 

I have been exchanging stories about childbirth with our daughter, who is about to experience it once more in a couple of weeks time. Well, not really gory stories but comments resulting from an article I found in the Guardian. They had asked people to send in stories of births they had stories included one about a child born on a bus in Liverpool! 

All of this was triggered by Jamie Oliver, who has always liked to be a bit different, having his older children witness the birth of their new sibling. My daughter and I agreed that this was more than a little over the top. It could traumatise the children and put them off having babies forever. Maybe that was JO's idea: instead of a strict talk on "being careful", a real-life presentation of the pain and messiness of childbirth! 

 A friend of mine had her toddler in the room when her second child was born. She wanted it to be a family affair. And then, she also had photos taken of the various stages of the birth - and showed them to friends in the weeks after the child was born. My daughter and I agreed on the wrongness of that as well: there are bits of me I do not want photographed! 

But, chacun à son gout!

I assume Jamie Oliver had already told his children how the baby who needed to come put had got inside their mother in the first place. I have recently got around to reading Harper Lee's novel "Go Set a Watchman" (the 'sequel' to "To Kill a Mockingbird") which concentrates on Scout, the lawyer's daughter. At the age of eleven or twelve, Scout, raised without a mother, is totally ignorant of the facts of life, and thinks she is dying when she starts her periods. Later she is convinced that she is pregnant because an boy in her class kissed her and stuck his tongue in her mouth. Her female classmates had told her what pregnant meant and that French kissing was what caused it. Logical!!! 

She only learnt the truth of the matter after she was prevented from throwing herself in a water tower to end it all. Finally someone put her wise!

Two completely different ways of going about things. 

Personally I think talking to your children is pretty good.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Endings, time pieces and chess pieces.

And so another chess tournament comes to an end. MY chess player is not over-impressed with his own performance but then, he rarely is these days. He is a hard task master to himself, very self-critical. Unlike others who this morning have just not turned up, leaving others without opponents - an easy point gained but that's not really what it's all about. 

The young chess player whose parents gave us a lift this morning was wandering the playing area a bit aimlessly, his opponent having opted not to arrive. We suggested to his mother that they might like to leave early and we would get another lift but the young man was almost certainly in for an age-related prize so they would be staying for the prize-giving. It's really only polite to do so anyway. 

The day started with mist and lower temperatures. I was at the bread shop early. The older bread shop lady was all wrapped up in her woolly shawl, telling me how cold it was. Actually it was quite a welcome change! And at least the playing area at the tournament was, for once, not too hot. 

I was reading about new apps for the Apple watch. It's strange how things come around. For quite some time now, young people have not been wearing watches. In fact, it's not just young people. It seems that the majority of people use their phone as a time piece. I am in a minority, being a person who prefers to wear a wristwatch. 

But the Apple watch of the future is apparently going to be able to monitor the state of your body even more than it does at the moment when it just seems to count steps and calories. Our daughter and our eldest granddaughter both has Apple watches. How long before the younger grandchildren also acquire them? Will the ability to read an analogue timepiece become a thing of the past? 

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said, “One day, we will look back and wonder: how can I ever have gone without the Watch? Because the holy grail of the Watch is being able to monitor more and more of what's going on in the body.” 

Who knew that such a thing was so essential?! It's amazing how quickly you find yourself behind the times. Maybe I should ask Santa to bring me an Apple watch next Christmas! 

Later: well, against all his own predictions, Phil won yet another veteran's trophy. The ones from the Pontevedra tournament take the form of large pawns. If this continues, and if they were to decide to make some in the shale of other chess pieces, he could eventually have a whole oversized chess set!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Beggars and Burkinis and other stuff.

At Pontevedra station, which we have seen much of over the last week waiting for the bus to take us up to the chess tournament venue, there is a parking beggar. This is one of those chaps who helpfully directs cars into parking places already selected by the drivers who really need no assistance in slotting their cars into the spaces. Then they hold their hand out for a "contribution", with the possible implied threat that, should you decline to help maintain their lifestyle, your car might suffer some damage during your absence. 

This one appeared to have set up home in the entrance to the bus station. His little dog (sympathy gatherer) was tied to the railings and all set up with a pot of water: fortunately, as it has been very hot. At the other side of the steps is a telephone kiosk of sorts, where the beggar keeps his belongings, all nicely arranged on the various "shelves". Among his possessions yesterday was a bottle of wine, lightly disguised by being wrapped in a plastic bag, rather like the brown paper bag used by Americans in old films. 

As he wandered around, making sure that the taxis' boots were properly closed before they set off and trying to cadge cigarettes of the people waiting on the steps, he would go from time to time for a quick swig. No wonder he was talking to himself most of the time! 

One of our travelling companions remarked that those who sleep on the street do so by their own choice. There are, she declared, plenty of shelters for them to sleep in at night. The problem is that these places close their doors at 9.00 pm and the rough sleepers want to be out and about drinking with their friends. This may be so for some of them but it's certainly not the case for many of those I see in the UK where they often have to gather together enough cash to pay for a night in a shelter. Not much of a life! 

On our way home from the chess jamboree, we have been stopping most nights in one or other of our favourite wifi cafes to have a beer and to check our email and read the papers. In the one we stopped at last night I noticed a family group who were obviously Muslim, just getting on with a family stop-off, a little refreshment, young dad, young mum with her headscarf, a couple of kids, one in a buggy asleep. Now, that is a sight you would not see in an English pub at 10.00 at night. 

It's possible here in Spain because of the culture that accepts as normal that kids are in the bar with their parents late on a summer evening and because cafes serve a range of stuff, snacks and soft drinks, coffee and other hot drinks, unlike English pubs, dedicated in the evening to serious drinking and even if they have a restaurant, it's not usual for kids to be their late in the evening. 

Perhaps we have lost something with our pub culture. No doubt here in city centres there are cafes and bars which are more frequented by the young and trendy, but as a rule all ages go to the same places and just get on with their lives! That's the way it seems to me anyway! 

On the subject of tolerance, or otherwise, I read yesterday about the mayor of Cannes on the Côte d'Azur having banned the wearing of burkinis, full body swimsuits, on the local beaches. His law states that Muslim women wearing burkinis could be a threat to public order and will be cautioned and fined €38 (£33). 

“Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order (crowds, scuffles etc), which it is necessary to prevent,” it says. 

I don't have any idea how many Muslim women want to wear burkinis on the beach but it would seem to me to be perfectly acceptable and probably less offensive than some of the fatties in bikinis or the topless ladies. surely you can wear what you like on the beach! 

And I can understand the rationale behind the mayor's ruling - well, sort of - in view of the attacks that have taken place. But surely a law that promotes further intolerance and segregation is not the answer. 

And here's a thought: last year or the year before, maybe even further back in time, Nigella Lawson hit the gossip news by appearing on the beach in a burkini. She wanted to protect her skin, ALL her skin, from the sun's damaging rays. Her choice! 

Presumably she would also be fined.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Fires and female athletes!

On a quite crowded train yesterday the conductor, inspecting tickets, was joking about people travelling to Pontevedra to see the fires!!! A joke in poor taste if you ask me. Fires are also raging in Portugal and hundred of people have been evacuated from their homes in parts of Marseilles in southern France. Perhaps there is something to be said for rain after all. 

I haven't worked out whether the smoke and ash clouds hanging around in the sky are making it hotter or not. Either way, it remains sticky. There is a small group of us who have found the cool spot here at the chess tournament: just outside the back door, in the shade and with an occasional touch of a breeze. So long as the wasp who was pestering me a few minutes ago does not come back, all is well. 

With all our coming and going, I have seen next to nothing of the Olympic Games. Not that I would have been glued to a screen anyway but it's always good to know what is going on. Last night, finally, I saw a bit of the gymnastics. I was just about to comment to Phil that at least the girls competing did not look pre-pubescent, like the young Rumanian Nadia Comaneci back in 1976 (even though she was actually 15), when along came one who looked to be about ten! 

What did strike me was how over-made-up the female gymnasts were. Perfect matt foundation, blusher, elaborate eye make-up and hair smoothed up into a tight bun. That last element is understandable, indeed a sensible idea. But why do they have to be made-up at all? Why are their leotards made of such shiny fabric? Why are they tarted up? 

You don't see the girls running or doing the long jump or the high jump dressed up as if for a beauty competition. Does this imply that gymnastics is not a sport in the same way that athletics or football or basketball are? The same seems to apply to synchronised swimming. Mind you, I tend to regard that as a bit of a joke sport. I recognise that it demands a high level of skill but even so! 

However, even the women athletes in "serious" sports outfits are criticised by the press far more than those of the male athletes. I have even seen interviews where they have asked female medal winners why they are not smiling! 

Sexism seems to be alive and well in the world of sport.

Thursday, 11 August 2016


We woke up this morning to a haze in the air. Not mist but smoke and ash. Looking out from our balcony, Vigo was lost in a cloud. The Islas Cíes had disappeared completely. I felt quite sorry for anyone who might have booked for a boat trip to the islands today, expecting some fine views on the way. 

When I went down to the pool later, you could almost see ash suspended in the air. According to the breadshop weather witch, there have been seven forest fires at least in the area. On our way back from Pontevedra last night we could see a great pall of smoke rising up from behind Redondela. The chap who was clearing leaves off the surface of the pool this morning told me he was going to Redondela later to check on a house he has there, close to the area when the fire was. He was hopeful that the fact that nobody had contacted him with bad news meant that all was well.  Travelling to Ponters on the train this afternoon, you could see smoke rising from a number of places still. 

A fair number of the fires have been set deliberately. One of our companions in the car returning to Vigo last night declared that 99% of them are deliberate, "provocados" as they say here. I think, indeed I hope, that his estimate is rather exaggerated. What is certain is that, with everything so dry at the moment, it just needs a bit of carelessness, even just leaving a bottle behind after a picnic for the sun to shine through, and a fire can break out. 

An Australian friend told me that eucalyptus tree burn particularly fiercely. In fact spontaneous fires are almost a part of the natural life cycle of the eucalyptus. Well, that's what she said. And there are certainly plenty of eucalyptus around here. Some people would like to get rid of them as they are not at all native to the area and actually prevent growth of more native species. Unfortunately you can't burn down the eucalyptus without getting rid of the other trees as well. 

As regards the deliberate setting of fires, there is almost certainly some of that going on. Apparently you can change the use to which a piece of land can be put once the trees that prevented it from being used, for example, for construction have been removed "accidentally". But, oh, what a short-sighted way of looking at things! 

Two of Phil's chess playing mates have commented on the fact that the school where the tournament is taking place is up on the hillside, pretty well surrounded by trees. Are we safe here? they both wondered on separate occasions. Their chess playing minds must work the same way. 

And, heaven knows, it's quite hot enough here today for everything to spontaneously combust, not just the eucalyptus trees. (It's actually much hotter here than in Vigo, by about five degrees by the feel of the wall of heat that hit us as we left the train station!) I dread to think about the possible evacuation procedures. And there is an awful lot of expensive equipment in the playing room. 

The top tables are linked to internet, so that the games played there are broadcast live, a usual procedure at properly run tournaments! One of Phil's chess playing mates was a little cross yesterday to lose extremely quickly on one of those boards, not least because his "disaster" would be seen by just about anyone who mattered. 

But it's all right; he won the next two games!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Day three of the Ponters chess jamboree.

Some people got up early this morning to get to the chess venue ready to start playing at ten. Not us. Apart from final rounds, when there is no alternative, if there is a morning game as well as a late afternoon game Phil takes a bye in the morning and earns a half point. A young chess playing friend of his was complaining bitterly yesterday about people who took byes for rounds one and two, mostly because they were playing in another tournament in nearby Cambados, which finished yesterday. That was a bit of brilliant organising and coordinating by the Galician chess people. Both Cambados and Pontevedra had good reasons for wanting the dates they chose but surely someone could have worked out some kind of compromise. 

Anyway, our young friend was quite indignant about the host of people joining the tournament at round three, with one point under their belts but no games played here. He regards it as unfair. But rules are rules! And it works the same way for everyone. 

We thought it had been hot playing here in Pontevedra but some friends who played in Cambados were adamant that it had been worse there. Temperatures soared up to beyond 40 degrees. What made it even worse was that the playing room was a sports hall with walls made largely of glass. Consequently it was rather like playing in a greenhouse. 

After a slow and cool start today, 18 degrees at the bottom of our street at 9.00 am, it hotted up again. We had lunch with our friend Colin in Pontevedra and my plan had been to say in the centre and visit the Castelao exhibition at the museum once more. However, after a walk from the train station to the centre and then a couple of hours in the centre, with the temperature gradually creeping up, I decided I didn't want to carry my rucksack around any longer and joined the chess players on the bus up to the venue. We shall see what the rest if the day brings. And there are cool places to sit here if you are not tied to a chess board. 

We were almost in danger of missing the bus from Plaza de Galicia this afternoon. At the last minute they moved the pick-up place. Had we not spotted a friend we might have simply watched the bus drive off into the distance without us. I doubt if we could have run for it, unlike the person in this news report who went to great lengths to catch his plane. The lengths some people will go to in order not to miss their holiday are quite amazing. 

As the Galicians are rather like the English, everyone has been talking about the weather, assuring us that this heat is not usual: esto no es normal. It certainly seems that, whatever the climate change deniers might say' something odd is happening. My Italian poolside friends told me about a friend of theirs who has his own beach - almost all the beaches being private in that country - who has been complaining that he has not been able to use his beach much because the tides have been too high. Poor man! 

He should be condemned to use one of the few public beaches. And then I read that they are changing the rules about the use of those public beaches, making it illegal to leave towels, sun umbrellas and the like in prime spots to reserve your place on the beach. People have been doing this apparently. And the local authorities have been going round confiscating stuff left to that purpose. Here's an extract: 

"Authorities from the coasts of Tuscany to Sardinia are cracking down on holidaymakers who seek to reserve prime beach territory by leaving their gear out overnight, with those responsible facing fines of €200 (£170). The forces behind operation Safe Sea say the use of deckchairs and umbrellas by tourists who want to stake optimal spots is widespread and unfair to others who follow the rules. 

On Saturday, the Livorno coastguard seized 37 deck and beach chairs, 30 umbrellas, towels and even some bathing suits, according to a report in La Repubblica. The paper called the reservation of beach spots an “ancient and ingrained habit” that began as the first big waves of tourists started to visit Italy after the second world war. Attempts to claim back chairs and umbrellas could be an expensive exercise, as some areas are ready to dole out fines." 

It's a hard life! Even for holidaymakers! 

Later: the chess player won!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Getting to know people and places.

I am making a determined effort to have what used to be called a "nodding acquaintance" with the people I see on a regular basis as I run around the area. Back in the UK it's accepted as fairly normal that when you are out walking in the countryside, you greet the people who cross your path, even if they are complete strangers. I have tried this here in Spain. It doesn't work quite so well. In neither country does it work as you walk around the streets. Here, it's fairly normal to greet the people you cross going in and out of the block of flats or the lift. Around the pool, you gradually get to "hola" and "hasta luego" but it takes a while to get much beyond that. 

However, running up the hill towards San Joan do Monte and round the back of our area, there are people I see every day who are gradually getting used to seeing me and quite literally nodding as I run past. The man who walks with a couple of orthopaedic sticks has got as far as "Hola, buenos días". There's a little old lady who walks a little old dog. As our paths have crossed on the threshold of the breadshop on an almost daily basis for a few weeks now, we have taken to exchanging a nod and a smile. Yesterday her little old dog was making slow progress across the road. I commented on this and she told me she, the dog, suffers from the heat. She has to put the fan on for her. "She's getting fat, the dog", she told me, "and she's grown old. As have I. Somos dos viejecitas." Two little old ladies, out in the morning, quite early before it gets too hot. 

Today we were coming to Pontevedra by train for the chess event. So my plan was to swim before breakfast and I stopped off to check the situation on my way back from buying breakfast bread. There was a padlock on the pool gate and a notice: Piscina cerrada por tratamiento de fluocación. So that was that. I have no idea what fluocación is but it put paid to my plans. 

Coming to Ponters by train was, on the whole, more pleasant than coming by car. Less sticky as the train was air-conditioned. I know you shouldn't look gift horses in the mouth. When someone offers you a lift, it is meant with the best of intentions but sometimes you need to find an excuse to turn it down. The tournament organisers have sorted out a bus to ferry people from the station to the posh school which is the playing venue. Very efficient. 

Phil is playing an Indian International Master today. In their pre-match chat the Indian IM told him he rarely plays in India any more. He ends up playing against promising youngsters who then steal his rating points if he loses to them. Phil explained he has exactly the same problem, at a rather lower level, here in Galicia. Such are the problems of chess players! 

It could be worse. I read about a Chinese tourist in Germany who had his wallet stolen. When he went to report it, speaking no German, he ended up filling in an application for asylum instead of a stolen property report. He ended up spending two weeks in a refugee centre. The mistake was discovered only when the German authorities, in desperation, asked the people from a local Chinese restaurant to interpret for them. 

A completely different way of getting to know a country! 

Later. Much cooler today both inside the chess venue and, as the afternoon wore on, outside. Phew! What a relief! The chess player put up a valiant struggle but eventually lost - said he messed up the endgame. So it goes!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Feeling the heat!

25 degrees at the bottom of the street this morning! Two degrees less than yesterday but the day heated up much the same. When you get into 30+ degrees you really stop noticing the odd couple of degrees. Somebody told me later that they had 41 degrees in Orense yesterday. All I can say is that I am quite glad I wasn't there. I'm not really surprised as Orense is famous for being very, very, very hot in the summer time. 

Knowing that we were going to lunch quite early today, I went down to the pool a little earlier than usual this morning. However, all my plans to get some exercise and cool myself down in one fell swoop were in vain. There was a man cutting the grass and filling the pool with cuttings. I think I would have accepted swimming with grass cuttings but he looked at me and said the pool was out of use today, "por tratamiento del agua". Well, it has been looking a bit cloudy the last few days but I was looking forward to my daily dip. 

Still, tomorrow is another day! 

So today we lunched earlier than usual and get sorted out to travel to Pontevedra in a hot car. It's that time of year again when Phil takes part in the Ponters chess tournament and I go along on day one to make sure all is well. They are playing this year in the sports hall of a rather posh-seeming "international" private school. Very nice looking premises they have here but in the end a sports hall is a sports hall and I suspect that after an hour or so of masses of people playing chess in there it will very hot and not a little smelly. 

So I took refuge in the "cantina", a little low building round the back, smelling of fresh paint but with a very effective fan. Ten minutes before play started, they were in a state of disarray in the cafe/cantina. The coffee had not arrived. Neither had the cold water. Chess players were demanding caffeine and water and getting neither. But it all got sorted. This is their first day running the cantina. They promise improvements. 

Tomorrow is another day! 

Later: the playing room WAS hot but the cafe was cool. Oh, and Phil won! 

Tomorrow is still another day!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Fireworks, heat, rules and outdoor activities!

We had fireworks last night. Well, not us personally. At around midnight we started to hear explosions and there they were, huge fireworks going off a bit further inland the estuary. We guessed it might be Redondela or somewhere between Teis and there. It was a fine display. An awful lot of money went up in smoke. Who pays for such displays, I wonder. Is there a local committee, rather like the "Light Up Delph" committee that exists at home to organise the Christmas lights in our village centre? Do they go round collecting money from the local residents? Do schoolgirls go round knocking on doors, the way they do in our block of flats when they want money for the end of term party, the "fiesta de fin de cursos"? Or when the local council is allocated a budget, is there a special section dedicated to fiesta fireworks? Whatever the source, for a country with financial problems, it seems to me that an inordinate amount of money goes on this sort of thing at this time of year. 

This morning when I was out for a run - the only time of day when you can run given the heat - I noticed that the temperature gauge at the bottom of the street was already registering 27 degrees at nine o' clock. 27!!!! Granted the gauge is in the sun but it was in the sun on other mornings when it showed 19, 20, 21 degrees. 

So by the end of the morning I was in the pool, while it was still empty enough for a good long swim and while there was still shade to sit in post-dip. Definitely too hot to sit in the sun for more than a few seconds! 

Our block of flats, like most places here, has a sort of residents' committee who oversee the employment of cleaners, pool technicians and general maintenance checks. They should have such things in England but I can't say I have ever lived anywhere with such an organisation. A couple of years ago the committee set up a system of residents' cards for use of the pool. Outsiders had been getting in and using the pool - shock! horror! And so, for a while, there was someone checking that you had your little "Acceso a la piscina" card when you went down. I still have the crumpled blue card but nobody has asked for it this year, or last for that matter. 

However, there are still the printed sets of rules: Normas del Uso de la Piscina. They are on the noticeboard on the ground floor, on the door to the garden and, in laminated form, by the shower at the side of the pool. They remind you how many guests residents can take to the pool, that children under ten must be accompanied by an adult (presumably eleven-year-old non-swimmers can drown with impunity!) and that drinking, eating and smoking are not permitted in the pool zone. It also tells you that you cannot use inflatables in the pool, or beachballs, or water pistols, or indeed anything that can get in the way of other swimmers. 

So yesterday when I went down to the pool I saw a couple, probably in their late twenties, floating around in the water on a sort of double inflatable ring, with inflated pillows for their heads. They looked really comfortable! Blatant disregard for the "Normas del Uso de la Piscina" but the pool was pretty much empty and neither I nor the other people there objected in the least. There was plenty of room to swim round them.

Score one for pool users against the pool police! 

I am uncertain whether Pokémon Go has reached Spain yet. It almost certainly has. The other day I looked down from our balcony and saw four young people walking along staring intently at their phones. I suspect they might have been seeking Pokémons out and about. 

I read an article the other day about someone who crashed his car while playing the game. This was a young man of 28! Quite old enough to know better. Here is his justification for playing the game: 

"When I was about 12, I got the original Pokémon Yellow game on my Gameboy. My friends and I used to play it on the bus on our way to school. It was a big part of my life, so I was excited about Pokémon Go: it’s a big development in location-based and mobile gaming. I downloaded the app, and when my mother and I went on a road trip to a family get-together, I spent a lot of the journey getting to know the game. 

For a lot of people around my age (I’m 28) it reminds us of our childhood. Plus there’s the cool stuff, such as the characters you’re looking to catch being brought into the real world, and outdoor elements: to collect the water-type creatures you have to be by water, and you’ll find rock types near mountains. There’s the social experience, too, of meeting other players who are out looking for the same creatures." 

So it's a bit like birdwatching (the old-fashioned form of tweeting, or it is twitching?) or trainspotting. Here's a link to the article.

Never having played the original Pokémon, I have not got into Pokémon Go either. Another bit of modern life is passing me by!

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Fiesta time.

Our late evenings are regaled at the moment with music from concerts up on the nearby promontory of A Guía. Too distant to be recognisably any music we might be familiar with, it is just loud enough to keep us awake in the hot nights. The season of fiestas is clearly upon us. 

Yesterday it was the sound of the religious bit that floated through our window in the late morning and went on for what seemed like hours. There was the voice of the priest intoning, again too distant to hear clearly what he chanted, but in that special style that seems international and which they must teach them at priest school. Then there was the singing of the congregation/choir. I assume the sound came from the church just a short distance up the road but it could have carried from somewhere further off. 

I don't know what is special about the 5th of August. Perhaps someone can enlighten me. 

It could have been something to do with el Cristo de la Victoria de Vigo. This might have explained some of the explosions or gunshots which I also heard. The Cristo de la Victoria is apparently quite important in Vigo and he is believed to have helped with the victory over Napoleonic troops who invaded the city in 1809. I always feel it must be quite confusing for poor old God when both sides in a battle believe in him and expect him to support them. In 1809 he is supposed to have plumped for the Spanish rather than the French. I wonder what they did to upset him. Maybe it was that presumptuous Napoleon's fault. 

Anyway, el Cristo de la Victoria is due to be paraded through the streets of the city on Sunday, or so I read in the newspaper in the barbershop while Phil was having his hair cut. 

If not el Cristo de la Victoria, then the celebrations could be for Nuestra Señora de la Nieves, another of Mary's many incarnations. Quite what Our Lady of the Snows has to do with Vigo, a place which does not see snow except on television, I do not know but she has her fiesta around now as well. Or that's what it said in the newspaper. 

I also read about the continuing "success" of Vigo's Peinador airport. They called it a great success because the other day 20 planes took off in one day for 11 different destinations. Wow! Never before have they had 20 planes taking off in one day! So I suppose that for a small airport it was a big step forward. 5000 travellers went through the airport on that one day! I should not mock but it really is a very small success. But then they have spent quite a lot of money developing the airport so we should wish them luck. 

Also deserving of our wishes and hopes for their success are the 14 Gallegos who are part of the Spanish Olympic team off to Río, where they hope to exceed their record of 17 medals which they won in London. 

Not a bad contribution for one region of the country.

Friday, 5 August 2016

A little bit of a moan.

For various reasons this post did not get posted yesterday, so, with a little tweaking, here it is today. 

On Wednesday evening the clouds moved in and yesterday morning we woke to a muffled Vigo. Here it's rarely just high cloud. When the cloud moves in it's barely above head height. All right, so I exaggerate a little but looking out from our seventh floor balcony you can actually see levels of cloud. At this time of year it's a combination of cloud in the sky and sea mist rolling in off the Atlantic. Everything except the nearest buildings disappear into the murk, and a fine drizzle, more a sort of suspension of water in the air, is everywhere. Only at around midday did some blue sky start to appear yesterday but really it didn't get going until the evening. 

Nonetheless, it was already 21 degrees at nine o'clock in the morning and by midday it was sticky kind of warm. 

Today, the sunshine and blue sky are back, although the temperature at nine o' clock was two degrees lower. Up to 27 by early afternoon and promising hotter for the weekend! 

That's the weather report over with. 

Sorry about that! 

I apologise with purpose. Public apologising is one of my bugbears. The world has gone mad for saying how sorry they are for things somebody else did or for things that are just a normal part of life. Here's an example which I picked up from a newspaper recently: 

"I first saw it on Facebook: a little bag filled with candy, earplugs and a note, given to fellow passengers sitting by the parents of 14-week-old twin boys taking their first flight. The note was written as though it was penned by the babies themselves and read in part: “We’d like to apologize in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared, or our ears hurt.” At the time I thought it was cute, nothing more. But as dozens of other parents have followed suit and the practice of handing out goodie bags in order to pre-emptively apologize for the inconvenience of a child crying has gained in popularity and become a thing, it’s also become unsettling. No parent should feel it necessary to bribe others to accept the presence of their children in public spaces. Period!" 

Wow! I have often been mildly annoyed by children on planes but usually not by crying babies but slightly older children whose parents allow them to stand on seats and put sticky fingers everywhere or smile indulgently while their offspring sing loudly at the top of their voices. The same applies in cafes and restaurants. No apologies forthcoming there! 

Sometimes an apology is not sufficient and an official investigation has to take place (also often an over the top reaction), as in the case of a British Council employee who recently was silly enough to put rude comments about little Prince George on Facebook. She should be made to apologise for being so daft as to express her opinions in writing on social media. 

All this apologising and investigating is getting to be a little too common for my liking. The apologising smacks of drawing attention to yourself as a right-thinking, all round good person (and incidentally in the example above making everyone look at your cute twin babies and encouraging them to comment on what awfully sweet parents you are!) but the investigating is more sinister. Soon we will be expressing our opinions in whispers in case anyone is recording us! 

While I am having a little moan about stuff that annoys me, here are a couple more: grown up people chewing bubble gum and blowing bubbles in the street and equally grown up people walking along sucking those little round sweet lollies that the Spanish call chupa-chup! I see examples of the first in the UK and of the second here in Spain. Granted, in both cases they are usually young adults, and I mean in their twenties rather than old teenagers, but even so, such behaviour should not be seen performed in public by anyone over the age of twelve! 

That's my opinion anyway!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Some of life's little anomalies.

We have been told that while we were in England Vigo had the hottest and driest July in a long time. According to a friend of ours, we would have melted. Well, we did have a week in The Manchester area when we very nearly melted. In that typical North of England way, the weather went from cool to scorching almost overnight. I crossed paths with a friend one morning while out for a run. She had been caught in the thunderstorm that had delayed my departure and was quite soaked. However, she was glad to have been given a shower as she was feeling so hot already at 8.30 in the morning. Contrary to some people's belief, we do have baking hot weather in England from time to time. You just have very little warning, no acclimatisation period and no guarantee that the "summer" will last more than a few days. 

So there it was, a hot Vigo July that we missed. What I want to know, if it truly was the driest July, is where did the huge puddle come from on the carpark down the road. This is one of those patches of waste land which people park on, not an official carpark but regularly used. Whenever it rains the middle of the area becomes muddy and eventually turns into a huge puddle. We went past it yesterday and there it was: a large puddle in the middle of the carpark. One of life's mysteries! 

Another mystery is why Facebook translates some posts in foreign languages into English but not all. In fact, the real mystery is why any of the posts are translated at all as the translation is almost always so poor as to be almost incomprehensible. One friend commented about her wedding anniversary: "Sono 24 anni" or something like that, meaning that it's been 24 years that she and her husband have been married. It translated to "I am 24 years". Surely there must be some way of programming an automatic translation programme to recognise that Latin-based languages don't do ages that way. 

Even better was a young friend's status update: "I am of cows!". Intrigued, I found the original Spanish: "¡Estoy de vacas!" Word for word the translation was correct but made no sense. My young friend was using the youth slang abbreviation "vacas" for "vacaciones". Autotranslate can't do slang or it would have said "I'm on my hols". 

Autocorrect is no better, giving weird and wonderful versions of what you really want to say. "Más tarde" changes to "mad stare", especially if you are typing it quickly in a text message and don't put the accent on the a of "más". Technology is a wonderful thing! Always proof read your text messages before hitting "send". 

 In view of the continuing fine and sunny weather, I expected our pool to be full when I went down this morning. But no; there were just a few people sunbathing, and all of them my age or older. Where is everyone? Are there no children around? Or has everyone gone to the beach? Of course, it is August so quite a lot of folk will have gone on holiday or at least gone off to their pueblo to see family or to stay in their place closer to the beaches. Not that I am complaining! Far from it! I really enjoy having an empty pool to swim in. 

And then I found myself having a strange conversation in a mix of Spanish and Italian. Strange only because of the language mix. A couple I have seen numerous times and assumed were Spanish were switching to Italian when answering the phone. They turned out to be Spanish, having been born here, but from an Italian background originally. And when you speak to them, they sort of drift from one language to the other. 

Life is full of curious things!