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.