Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Sports stuff. Mobiles. Weather.

It was rather dull and damp all day yesterday. We went to the shopping centre at the end of the street, not to shop but so that Phil could play some informal, practice chess games against one of the young stars of the area.

The shopping centre has a nice area with stools and tables, and wifi access, where you can sit and socialise without coming under any pressure to purchase refreshments. Some people go there to use the internet, others to play cards or chess, grown up people to chat and young people to get excited about the latest apps on their mobile phones.

My conversation partner, mother of the young chess star, tells me that her son, aged 13 I think, does not have a mobile. He doesn’t need one, she maintains. He doesn’t hang around places like the shopping centre on his own with friends (she thinks there are too many youngsters with too much freedom nowadays) and so he doesn’t need to phone home and she doesn’t feel the need for him to have that extra security gadget. If they are out and about he uses her phone to look up stuff on the internet.

I tell her that our grandson, the same age, has had a mobile since starting secondary school. But then, he travels to school, like so many English kids, on public transport and may need to contact his mother if there is a problem. The young chess star travels to school, like many Spanish kids, on the designated free school bus which picks him up and drops him off more or less outside their home. Different ways of doing things. However, I suspect he is unusual in not yet having a mobile of his own.

And now I find myself wondering if all Spanish schools organise buses to collect their pupils. I am pretty sure young Madrileños travel across the city to school using the Madrid metro system. Teenage Madrileños that is, not very young ones. But then, capital cities are always that little bit different.

The young chess star is off to Pontevedra tomorrow to a chess camp prior to taking part in the chess tournament there. A week of chess training and other fun and games - football, swimming, trips and probably sitting up late talking! He and Phil might get to play each other more seriously during the chess tournament. After that they will both play in another tournament in Mondariz.

So, having played in age-group championships earlier this summer, the young chess star will have spent most of his long summer break playing chess. Not bad!

It’s a bit like the cyclists who have done the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France and are now gearing up for the Vuelta a España which starts on the 25th of August in Malaga. They could follow that immediately with the Tour of Britain, starting on September 2nd.

Summer is a busy season for sportspeople.

Reports suggest that neither Geraint Thomas nor Chris Froome will be in the Vuelta a España. Froome, after all, went straight from the Giro d’Italia to the Tour. He must be a bit tired. And the Welshman is probably going to be celebrating his success and then training for the Tour of Britain. The sports reporters suggest that the Sky Team will be pushing a young Scot for the Vuelta. He has the unlikely name of Tao Geoghegan Hart. Tao sounds positively foreign. Geoghegan sound like a good Celtic name. And I suppose Hart is pretty Celtic too.

It will be interesting to see how the Spanish commentators get their tongues round his name though.

Today the sunshine came back. Here's a view from the promontory of A Guia.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Bits of news stories.

Well, I finally saw a little bit of the Tour de France. In the bar last night they were showing a recording of what looked like most of the final stage: shots of the peloton riding through the rain in the outskirts of Paris, dangerously thin racing tyres on wet roads, the Sky Team riding into the centre of Paris, lovely shots of Paris seen from the air. Of course, you could not hear any commentary because the other television set in the opposite corner was belting out pop music videos. So it goes! 

Our daughter tells us they have had torrential rain over the weekend - probably the same weather front that gave them rain in Paris. This morning we had cloud and drizzle. And it continued all day. But both here and in the UK the summer is predicted to return. A friend of mine back in Manchester has been complaining and putting in her central heating. I think she exaggerates! 18 degrees does not really call for central heating and big jumpers!

Now for some odds and ends I found in the newspapers.

From the Sunday Times:

“Ministers have drawn up plans to send in the army to deliver food, medicines and fuel in the event of shortages if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal. Blueprints for the armed forces to assist the civilian authorities, usually used only in civil emergencies, have been dusted down as part of the “no deal” planning.

Helicopters and army trucks would be used to ferry supplies to vulnerable people outside the southeast who were struggling to obtain the medicines they needed.”

I couldn’t read any more than that as the Times online demands a subscription.

Stingy tory paper!

Note that the article talks about having to ferry supplies to “vulnerable people outside the southeast”. Even in a crash-out-of-Europe-with ;o-deal-Brexit situation it seems than other southeast will still be more privileged than other parts of the country! More seriously what kind of mess is the UK staggering into?

From the Independent:

“Trump has threatened to “shut down” the government unless Congress passes legislation that would fund his proposed wall across the US border with Mexico.

In an early morning tweet, he demanded a raft of changes to the country’s immigration laws, adding he wanted “great people” coming into the country. “I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” he wrote. “Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!” “

That sounds like a plan!

And from I don’t remember where, but possibly somebody’s post on Facebook:

“People who want British citizenship have to make an affirmation of allegiance to the Queen and loyalty to the UK. Now I'm a British citizen, I have been all of my life, I was born here, however I have never made an affirmation of allegiance to the Queen and have no intention of doing so. So why do people who seek British citizenship have to make this ridiculous pledge?
It boggles my mind. What do the government think it will achieve? Does it mean anything? If a person was intent on doing harm to the UK and wanted citizenship to enable this in some way, they would make the pledge, so it doesn't protect the country. Why bother with it?”

Personally I have not pledged allegiance since I left the Brownies, where we all had to say: “I promise to do my best, to do my duty to God and the queen...” The rest of the promise I have completely forgotten.

 How long before the PM ends every speech with “God belss the United Kingdom”?

And finally, I read about an ice cream parlour in downtown Washington called Presidential Scoops, supposedly so named because when ice cream is served in the White House President Trump gets two scoops while everyone else gets just one. And so customers are not asked if they want their ice creams super-sized but “Do you want it Trumped?”

The owner has named each ice-cream after an American president as chosen by an online poll, including Nixon’s cookies and cream crumble, Lincoln’s decadent pretzel, JFK’s America’s birthday cake, Jefferson’s Monticello ripple, Carter’s patriotic peanut, Reagan’s raspberry truffle, Obama’s strawberry jubilee and Trump’s extra rich chip. His own favorite is Washington’s vanilla beans.

And the slogan of the shop is “Making America sweet again”!

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Cycling fame!

Geraint Thomas is winning, indeed by the time I get around to posting this, will already have won, the Tour de France. Short of falling off his bike, there is really no way these days that whoever wears the yellow jersey at the end of the penultimate stage will not win the Tour. Very occasionally there has been a close call and an actual race on the cobbles of Paris but as a rule tradition has it that the Tour winner has already been decided and is not challenged on the final Sunday.

And besides, Geraint Thomas has an almost two minute lead over the next contender.

And so he becomes the third Briton to win the Tour de France. I almost wrote “the third Englishman” but he is a Welshman and that is different, despite the fact that to most Europeans the English, Scots and Welsh are all regarded as English. We are all inhabitants of the bigger of the British Isles. Maybe that’s what does it. Irishmen are a different matter, at least in Spain, but maybe that has something to do with the long friendly relationship that seems to exist between the two countries. It probably goes back to when England and Spain were sworn enemies.

Anyway, the Tour de France comes to an end today and I have not seen any of it. There has been rather a lot of resentment and nastiness. However, the news reports tell me this:

 “Yet Thomas is widely liked by all the peloton – and by most fans too. They admire the way he rode during the 2013 Tour de France with a fractured pelvis, which required him to be lifted into his saddle. He described it as “the worst pain I’ve ever experienced on a bike” – yet never took anything stronger than ibuprofen for the pain.

Eight years earlier he also needed an operation to remove his spleen, after a piece of metal flicked up from the road into the spokes of his front wheel, in Australia. Yet on Saturday evening all the struggles and strife were suddenly worth it.”

Now, that is what I call dedication! He must really enjoy his cycling to put up with all that stuff. He appears to be quite modest about his success too. “I know people won’t believe it, but it was only on Friday night that I started to think about it,” he said. “That last mountain stage was just a fight and I knew I had to just follow Tom like poo on a shoe. On Saturday I won’t celebrate too much because if you switch off the Champs Élysées is hard. I’m going to have a burger and certainly a beer or two but I will save the real celebrations for Paris on Sunday night.”

He just had to follow Tom Dumoulin “like poo on a shoe”. That must be the poetic Welshman speaking! A very well thought of Welshman, as indicated by the final line of yesterday’s news report: “He has ridden with maturity and class throughout this Tour. And he emerges as the most worthy of winners.”

Isn’t that nice? I wonder if his mum has a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Disappointing moon. Manchester bees. Job titles. Food.

Well, as I predicted, we did not see hide nor hair of the moon last night. Too much cloud. So no views of the much talked-about blood moon. No sightings of the eclipse. All in all, a big let down.

The last time there was an eclipse of the sun in the UK it was a fine day. I was out running and kept seeing the sun with a chunk missing out of the corner of my eye. It was very hard not to look at it although I knew that it was dangerous to do so. When I got home I had fun following some instructions I found online about casting shadows onto the floor through something with holes in it, such as a colander, and seeing interesting patterns showing the progress of the eclipse. Why did we never do stuff like that in science when I was a kid in school?

But, as I said, the total eclipse of the moon was a big disappointment. The same thing happens back home whenever they say that there will be a meteorite shower. The cloud moves in and there is no chance of even trying to catch a falling star!

The bee is a symbol of Manchester. I was never aware of this before the Arena bombing after the Ariana Grande concert. Then suddenly everyone was sporting bee symbols on their cars, getting bee tattoos and generally showing off their bee-affiliation to the city. Here is a link to photos of bee statues that have apparently been put up all over the city centre.

Here is a link to yet another article about women’s size and body image and so on. It has a lot of the usual stuff that you can’t argue with about how important it is for people not to be pressurised to conform to social pressures. A couple of things struck me as I read it.

Firstly, describing a young woman featured in the article it said:

“This year, for the first time, she wore a bikini on holiday. When she posted photos of herself by the pool, she received vicious abuse, but the freedom was revelatory, and the memory of it continues to make her smile.”

Now, here in Spain I see women of all shapes and sizes, and ages for that matter, wearing bikinis. (That’s another thing: there is a kind of unstated belief that beyond a certain age you should stop wearing a bikini!) Do Spanish women not post photos of themselves in bikinis? Or does nobody worry about it and so the abuse does not happen? Or is it just that I have not heard about it?

Secondly, I came across the description of someone as a “certified eating counsellor”. Not just a nutritionist but a certified eating counsellor. This approach apparently “rejects restricted eating in favour of recognising the body’s own signs for hunger and satiety”. Presumably this means learning to recognise when you have had enough to eat rather than alternately binging and starving. Eating sensibly in other words. But, what a curious job description!

On the subject of nutrition, I found some facts about how the heatwave is affecting food production in the UK.

Lettuce is struggling, wilting, you might say! Average wholesale prices for lettuce are up nearly 22% year on year as the long spell of warm weather has lifted demand by 40%, while yields are down by 25%. Lettuces stop growing in high temperatures and the heads can be damaged by heat. Wholesalers and farmers have been forced to fly in supplies from abroad to meet contracts with supermarkets. Yet here, in the Mercadona supermarket next door, iceberg lettuce still sells for €1 here, in fact down to 70 céntimos yesterday.

Apple growers would like some rain but the long sunny spell will mean sweeter fruit. However, they might need to negotiate with supermarkets to persuade to accept smaller fruit. We have all grown too accustomed to standard sizes for our fruit.

Dairy farmers are having to use fodder intended to feed their cattle later in the year as the hot weather has made much of the grass dry up. And as a result milk yields are lower than usual.

On the plus side raspberries are having a longer season than expected, making up,for a late start with the slow start to spring. And cherries are having a bumper crop.

It’s not all bad then!

Friday, 27 July 2018

Boats. Sizes. Consequences.

Holiday cruise boats, like clothes, come in a range of sizes: small, medium, large, extra-large. Mostly medium and large. I have never actually seen a small one but I have seen adverts for select cruises with a maximum of about 30 or 40 passengers. And I suppose a large yacht could be considered an extra-small.

I am pretty sure I read last year that there were going to be fewer cruise boats calling in Vigo. Well, this week we have had four: an extra-large on Wednesday, a large and a medium yesterday and a large today.

The city centre shopping streets yesterday were full of English, and Scots, surprisingly (maybe they came on the medium boat) all frantically shopping, enjoying the delights of C&A, that no longer exists in the UK, and buying stuff from H&M that they could get at home. Do they do this at every stop. Do they bring half empty suitcases to accommodate their purchases? A mystery!

I was in town looking for shorts for Phil, finding the sizes of them confusing as well. The same apparent size can mean different things from one shop to another. Another of life’s mysteries! 

Mysterious and strange stories abound concerning what life will be like in Britain after Brexit. Even the Rees-Mogg seem to say that it will take fifty years for the economy to right itself. Maybe some forward planning, and I mean prior to the referendum, might have been useful.

One of the latest horror stories is that there will be food shortages, not just of luxury items but of basic foodstuffs that it simply isn’t possible to grow enough of on our small island. Or maybe we have just stopped growing too many items.

Be that as it may, someone posted a tweet, supposedly from Angela Merkel: “

Dear British friends. Having grown up with food rationing and medicine shortages in the GDR, I can reassure you there is a solution. We fixed it by joining the European Union.”

In the meantime, maybe we should all start stockpiling baked beans, dried pasta and so on. Have a few chickens in the back garden. Possibly a pig, as during World War II.

Maybe this is the solution to childhood obesity, or indeed obesity in general: a return to food rationing and a restricted diet!

A Swedish student, Elin Ersson, refused to sit down on a plane on Monday and managed to stop the deportation of an asylum seeker. This being the age of social media, she live-streamed her protest. And, this being the age of mass-selfishness, other passengers tried to snatch her phone from her and make her sit down.

Her video has been viwed more than two million times and she has received prasie from around the world. And yet she still faces a possible prison semtence for her action.

The young man who protested against Donald Trump by smashing his star on the Walk of Fame was charged with felony vandalism and held on $20,000 bail. That seems an awful lot of money to me. I know he smashed some fancy, and expensive, paving stones but he didn’t damage people.

Now it turns out that his bail has been paid by a certain James Otis. Two years ago James Otis also attacked Trump’s star with a pick-axe and a hammer. So he probably felt some solidarity with the new offender and apparently plans to meet him. Plotting future action perhaps.

And finally, tonight there is going to be a total eclipse of the moon. Here is a bit if explanation from a news item:

“A total lunar eclipse happens when the sun, Earth and the moon perfectly line up. The most spectacular part about a total lunar eclipse is that when the moon is fully in Earth’s shadow it turns red. This has earned the phenomenon the nickname of blood moon. The red colour happens because sunlight is deflected through Earth’s atmosphere. The process is called refraction and it bends red light from the sun like a lens into the space behind Earth – and so on to the surface of the eclipsed moon.”

We have had some fine and clear nights around here but also some dull and cloudy ones. It would be fairly typical, I suppose, for tonight to be dull and cloudy just to prevent us seeing the sight!

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Earning money. And beach attitudes.

Leonor is the eldest daughter of King Felipe. Still quite a young child she is nevertheless the heir to the Spanish throne and is known as the Princesa de Asturias. This, Prince or Princess of Asturias, is the title given to the heir in Spain, the equivalent of Charles being the Prince of Wales in the UK.

My Spanish sister posted this on social media yesterday:
“Leonar ganará €102.000 al año como Princesa de Asturias y los comedores escolares para niños desfavorecidos no se abrirán este verano por falta de presupuesto.”
Basically, that little girl will “earn” a large amount of money each year because of who she is, while school dining rooms which usually provide for children in need will not be able to open this summer because there is no money in the coffers to pay for them.

The simple unfairness speaks for itself.

I suppose little George in the UK also has a budget allocated to him. I don’t really know. However, it seems to me that until a child of a royal family is old enough to start carrying out proper royal duties, then surely their parents should support them out of their “earnings”, just like ordinary parents have to do.

I say this with absolutely no belief that we need royal families at all.

There are, of course, those who have no royal connections but still consider themselves a kind of “people’s royalty”. The rich and famous who have their stars on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. Yesterday I read that Donald Trump’s star has been destroyed. Someone took a pick-axe to it and left a vaguely star-shaped hole in the pavement.

Direct action!

It’s not the first time the star has been involved in anti-Trump protest. A wall was built round it in 2016 to symbolize the president’s policy on immigration. But now it’s well and truly messed up.

I wondered why Donald Trump has a star in the first place. After all,who would award him such a thing? Then I read that a committee considers applications from people who want to purchase stars for £30,000. So really it’s a case of self-aggrandisement, especially in his case.

But maybe in many other cases too.

As the heatwave continues in the UK I read about travel problems caused by the hot weather.

Trains have been cancelled in some parts of the country because of fears that tracks will buckle. So, in winter you can have the wrong kind of snow on the line, leading to train cancellations, and in hot summers you can clearly have the wrong kind of sunshine!

And there have been problems on motorways because the hot weather leads to mor breakdowns and more punctures. The British motorist is just not prepared for extremes of weather of any kind!

Do other countries suffer in this way?

Escapes to the beach are called for.

Main roads leading to the most popular beaches around here have been at a standstill at certain times over the last week or so by all accounts.

Nothing quite like sitting in a queue of traffic on a hot afternoon. Especially with kids and buckets and spades in the car!

Zoe Williams in the Guardian yesterday gave her view of the beach:-

“The beach: my idea of an existential crisis Whenever I get on to a beach, my first thought is: how long, realistically, do I have to stay here? It’s nothing in particular – I don’t mind being too hot or ingesting sand, the sea is fine – it’s just the absence of meaningful activity, the enforced peace, all possibilities collapsing down to two: staring, or napping. At least when you’re a child, you can add “fighting”. My offspring argued yesterday about whose idea it was to dig a hole. Pacing and foraging for food don’t count; they’re what you do as a prelude to telling everyone you want to leave. But look around; everyone is pacing or foraging. Everyone feels this way.”

Now, somebody needs to introduce into England the Spanish habit of walking up and down the tideline, usually in your swimsuit but some people topless, maybe dipping your feet in the water, getting some exercise and some sea air.

That’s the way to do it!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Burning issues!

Fires in Greece. Fires in central Portugal. Fires in Corsica. Here is a link to pictures.

Fire makes for strangely beautiful photos.

But it’s serious stuff. Over 70 people died in Greece. Others had to be rescued from the sea where they took refuge. A whole holiday village was destroyed. Some of this has been going on within 20 miles of Athens.


I recently read about wildfires raging inside the Arctic Circle, which we imagine to be cold all year round! Sweden called for emergency assistance from the EU. (Another reason why we should not be leaving but trying to make the EU better so that we can help each other.)

In western Sweden, they had an extra problem because of unexploded ordinance in an artillery training range. The stuff might explode!

As if they did not have enough problems.

It’s all down to the jet stream apparently. Blowing around up there, not just disrupting flight paths for planes but doing odd things to weather all over the place. The UK is sweltering but Iceland has had an unusually dull and stormy summer so far. Here is a link to an article with technical explanations.

Some people are moaning about the heat in the UK but I think most are enjoying a good summer, positively basking in it. But if some of the changes were to become permanent then the UK would become a very different place. It might no longer be possible for the Spaniard who once told me England was “too green” to say that any longer.

Looking at the wider picture too, some parts of the world could become barely habitable, leading to a different sort of migration problem. It’s time we cooperated to find a world solution, a way of at least preventing things from getting any worse. Time to forget about each of us putting our own interests first (America First! Britain First!) and to start putting the world first. We only have one and it’s only in science fiction stories that you can get in a space ship and find a new planet.

Here is Galicia there has been drama of a different sort and, fortunately, of a less serious nature, although it did send plumes of,black smoke out over the sea, a catamaran, on a tourist trip, collided with another boat off the island of La Toxa, just a but further up the coast, beyond Sanxenxo. It collided with the other boat and then burst into flames. Some passengers threw themselves into the sea and had to be rescued. Five people were reported injured but there were no fatalities.

And that is the end of today’s gloomy and smoky blogpost.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Meeting expectations.

Yesterday was fine and sunny, sunny enough for a number of sun worshippers to be down in the gardens working on their tan beside the pool bu not hot enough to cause many people to return from work at lunchtime and simply HAVE to have a brief dip before going in to eat. It was not as hot as Sunday when we walked up to the Castro and admired the blue of the sea.

Sunday was one of those days when the heat is still bouncing off the walls at ten o’clock at night, the temperature gauges on the chemists’ shops still registering 27 degrees. Yesterday evening the temperature gauges shoed 22 at around nine o’clock. This is probably what provoked María in her MidCentury Cafe to comment that this summer just can’t get going.she backtracked almost immediately, saying that actually she prefers it when the maximum temperature is around 24 or 25 degrees. The upper 20s and into the 30s and she starts to wilt and burn. Quite so!

Over the last ten years or so we have come to expect hot summers here in Galicia. And not just in Orense, further inland, extra hot in summer and extra cold in winter. And yet the first few times we came to Galicia, we had the sort of summer weather that this year is offering: some dull days, some like today starting with with cloud cover and improving later, some bright days but with a chance of rain, and occasional baking hot, scorching, dash-for-the-shade days.

The very first time we visited Vigo was a day like that. We trailed up to the Castro in the heat, stopping en route for cold water at a cafe and taking refuge in the Don Bosco bookshop - air conditioned - before discovering that it is largely a religious bookshop! Bot our sort of place at all!!

People seem to have forgotten that the rich used to head to the north of Spain to escape the summer heat. The royal family used to have a summer residence in San Sebastián, I think, before they had one in Mallorca. But that was before summer was all about getting a tan! So this summer is puzzling the Galicians, who have come to expect hot, hot, hot!

We quickly adjust our expectations, including our weather expectations. Our son, who lives just outside London and works in the capital, tells me that he has grown used to the hot weather that has been going on there for weeks. He no longer looks at the weather forecast. He simply expects the weather to be good!

Such is human nature.

Not so long ago I saw a young lady walking a little dog, a chihuahua or similar, one of those dogs that looks as though it is not truly canine. As it sped off along almost the full length its extending lead she called it back: “Odín, ven aquí!” This morning I saw her again, this time with two little dogs, Odín and a sort of miniature terrier kind of dog, no more that six or eight inches tall. The leads extended on both sides of her - I was clearly going to have to dodge round them - as the little terrier did its business on the pavement and Odín went exploring interesting smells. As she poop-scooped the tiny terrier’s droppings, Odín decided it was his turn. And so, as she moved to poop-scoop for Odín, she called the other little dog to accompany her: “Thor! ven aquî Thor!” Odin and Thor!

I hope she was being ironic. Maybe someone had told her that her small, yappy-type dogs, notorious for their snappiness, needed fierce, warlike names to match their personalities.

After all, a friend of ours used to have a very snarly-looking dog that might have had some pit-bull in her mixture, and she had the unlikely name of Mitzi! Once you got to know her, or perhaps more importantly, once she got to know you, she was fine. She just had a loud and frightening bark.

I wonder of Odín and Thor and the little dogs we hear yapping in the flat next to ours whenever anyone opens the door to the landing where the lifts are!

Mañana es festivo. Tomorrow is a holiday. That’s what I overheard in the baker’s shop. Someone was ordering a cake and there was some doubt as to whether it would be available tomorrow as “mañana es festivo”. So I checked with the panadera what feast day it was: Santiago, Saint James, of course. I had quite forgotten that tomorrow is the 25th of July, feast day of Galicia’s patron saint, Santiago Matamoros, Saint James the Moorslayer, even though many claim that the Moors never got this far north. He might not have done much Moor-slaying here but he is still often depicted on horseback, sword in hand, sometimes surrounded by slain Moors!

And tomorrow is his day. The cathedral in Santiago will be lit up with fireworks. And we had better make sure we have all we need from the supermarket today as almost everything will be closed.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Sports stuff.

We sat in a bar last night, sipping a beer and catching up with our internet business. On the television in the bar was motor racing grand prix. I confess to knowing little about motor racing but I have to say that it does not, in my opinion, make for great television spectator sport. I totally fail to see the point in watching the same cars whizz round the circuit again and again. But, as I say, I know nothing about it and am not the best person to judge it.

Cycle races are a different matter as I am familiar with the names and performance of certain cyclists. There was a time when we watched the highlights of the Tour de France regularly, religiously even, throughout the three weeks of the cycle race. It was conveniently on one of the TV channels at about 7.30 that I could get in from work, we could have something to eat and then catch up with the day’s excitement. It was always delightfully commentated up and interesting bits of French scenery were pointed out. A sort of mini-holiday at the end of a working day. And because it came at the end of the summer term it was part of the wind-down to summer holidays.

 Then as the final day was always a Sunday we would watch the end of the race live. In recent years the final day has been something of an anticlimax as it is already known who will win, or rather who has already won, and the winner’s team do a kind of victory approach to Paris, quaffing champagne as they go. Any excitement is about who will come second and who will win the sprints or perhaps who will win certain of the jerseys.

One year we went off on a family camping holiday just before the end of the Tour. The leader - maybe it was Induráin - already had so strong a lead that whenever we stopped anywhere that had tv coverage in a cafe, not the certainty that it is now, we would ask, not who was in first place but, more interesting to us, who was coming second.

A few years ago I sat on a hillside outside Holmfirth in Yorkshire, not far from where we live, with my son, his wife and their tiny, just sitting up daughter, and watched stage three of the Tour belt through the Yorkshire hillside. That’s the closest I have ever come to following the race live, something my son and I used to fantasise about long ago.. I did once meet however, someone who had actually done the ride up the Alpe d’Huez, just to see what it was like: a very hard ride up and a scary ride down!

This year I haven’t seen a single stage and by the sounds of it I have been missing a very odd Tour. Because of all the controversy about whether Froome would be allowed to participate, and because some people still think he should have been banned from taking part, there has been a lot of ill-feeling towards him and towards the Sky team. Booing and hissing and spitting have been involved. Chris Froome was slapped by one fan. The Tour director had to publicly appeal to fans to remain calm and to let the race continue without further aggression.

Meanwhile Britain’s Geraint Thomas has been doing very well, up there in the lead, wearing the yellow jersey. But he is in the Sky team and has had to put up with all the nastiness and can’t enjoy his success to the full. “It’s not a nice situation because this is a highlight of my career,” Thomas said of the continuing hostility towards him. “It’s a massive honour and a privilege to be wearing the jersey and it’s been an incredible race so far. There’s obviously been a bit of negativity which isn’t nice, but you have to stay strong in your head and crack on.”

Just so, Geraint!

And then yesterday one of the Sky team riders was kicked out of the Tour and sent home after raising his fist to threaten another rider. He has form and admitted to racially abusing another rider in 2017. He was also investigated for allegedly pushing another rider off his bike in a race last autumn. On top of that he was disqualified from the World Championship road race for holding onto the team car. 

This is not what we expect of professional cyclists.

They’ll be throwing themselves off their own bikes and rolling around in agony like footballers before we know it.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Poolside, swimwear and stuff!

Timing is everything. I went down to the pool late morning today. Some people like to stay in the pool for two minutes and then get out and sunbathe. I prefer to swim a good distance. Swimming is good exercise - un ejercicio completo, as a Spanish friend said to me once. But swimming a good distance in our small pool involves doing circuits, which is easiest if you have the pool more or less to yourself.

And my timing was good because I had practically completed the number of circuits I had set myself before the swimming lessons -usually daddies with small children - and the watch-me-jump-in teenagers arrived. And suddenly there were plenty of both categories

Yesterday I had the place almost entirely to myself but then yesterday was mostly cloudy, albeit thin cloud with intervals of sunshine. I find the locals don’t use the pool much in such weather. Of course, they might all have gone to the beach.

Today, in contrast, was clear and sunny, forecast to remain so all day. And tomorrow as well. So lots more pool users. No barbecuers though. Maybe it has not been consistently sunny enough to promote barbecues!

My younger sister, the one I usually refer to as my Spanish sister, has been spending a few days with our older sister, my English sister, since we came back to Galicia. Just as she did at my house, she has been hunting for old photos of our childhood at my English sister’s house. Today she messaged me a photo of me, herself and our brother standing on Southport beach, probably circa 1960, three quite scrawny kids on the sand with the sea remarkably close for Southport. Which might mean it was Ainsdale beach rather than Southport proper. My sister and I are wearing those odd elasticated swimsuits that girls wore back then.

No mini-bikinis that you see even on tiny girls these days. And certainly no suntanned buttocks on show! There were a number of those down at the pool this morning, not all of them terribly shapely either! I find it a strangely unflattering fashion in swimwear, a kind of thong affair exposing as much bottom to the sun’s rays as possible.

Once again I seem to growing grumpily intolerant!

Sitting in a bar yesterday evening, we heard a familiar theme tune from the television and realised it was Montalbano, the Italian detective series. When it is transmitted in the UK it is in Italian with English subtitles but it is rare for films and series to be transmitted in their original language here in Spain. Montalbano sounds all wrong in Spanish, and yet the voices sounded vaguely familiar, probably dubbed by the same team of actors who dub everything.

I read about people paying to socialise with Prime Minister Theresa May. Eighty-one Conservative Party donors, including Jacob Rees-Mogg’s business partner and the wife of a former senior minister to Vladimir Putin, have paid more than £7million, not individually I hope, for the privilege over the last year.

What an odd thing to do! I hope they were well fed or were served the best cocktails and wines. I suppose they could then dine out on the stories for years to come but personally I would pay not to have to be in the same room as that rather stiff lady.

 Chacun à son gout!

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Some ramblings about stuff people put on Facebook.

Back in the days before we all had clever phones that send photos and stuff like that, we came to spend a year in Spain and my daughter signed me up to Facebook so that she could send me photos of the children. Coincidentally a friend of mine joined Facebook for a similar reason as a way of keeping track of her daughter who was spending a year in Guadeloupe and was rather unreliable about sending emails or making (probably rather expensive) phone calls.

Almost immediately I was on Facebook a host of old friends and former students, who all had my email, discovered me and friend-requested me. And so began a habit of observing the lives of people connected with me one way or another. But I do not tweet or twitter, I don’t have Instagram and I see no point in being Linked-in. Nor, despite the moans and groans of certain friends do I have Whatsapp.

However, Facebook has given me more regular correspondence with some old friends and allows me to laugh, usually in a gentle manner, at the oddness of some people’s lives.

A friend of mine, a former student, has been posting photos of her tiny daughter all dressed up to go to her nursery leaving party. Very pretty she looked too. I am rather surprised though it wasn’t called a prom! She followed it with photos of her graduation ceremony, complete with mortar board!!! And videos! Lots of tiny people wearing silly hats (but fortunately and very practically not wearing academic gowns!) scuttled across a makeshift stage to receive a leaving certificate.

All very American!

Our daughter posted a picture of the mountain of presents she received from her primary school class for the ending of the school year. A nice gesture appreciation from the parents but such a HUGE amount of stuff. Lots of wine and chocolate. Mind you, she also gave each child a small gift, as she did at Christmas. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that she also gave them Easter eggs. She has a much larger bump of sentimentality than I do.

Of course, there is a large amount of commercialisation involved in this gift-giving. The kind of shops that specialise in cards and tat (sorry, gifts) for all occasions, have been advertising certain items as ideal gifts for teachers for the last few weeks.

A thank you card used to suffice!

Which brings me to something posted by the daughter of a friend of mine. It was a piece of “gorgeous art work” made of all the hearts cut out from the cards she and her husband received for their wedding. (“They’d only been sitting in a box in the loft for the last 3.5 years anyway! And we kept the messages so can still treasure what people said to us 😊”, she said.) No, she did not make it herself. She found a local crafts business person who will make such a piece of work from any set of cards you sentimentally want to display: baby-congrats cards, christening cards, significant-birthday cards, retirement cards - you name it, there will be cards to celebrate it!

Full marks to the enterprising person making money out of people’s sentimentality but how much more satisfying to make the collage and frame it yourself!

Oh dear! My inner grump appears to have surfaced!

Friday, 20 July 2018

Counterfeit life!

Down near the port here in Vigo you see once again groups of Africans selling sun hats, useful for people off on a boat trip to the Islas Cíes, having forgotten to pack something to protect their head. They also sell replica handbags, copies of expensive brand name goods.

We saw them first, I think, in Venice years ago. There they were referred to as the “vu compra”, a garbled version kf the Italian for “do you want to buy?”. They displayed their wares on a blanket so that they could pick up the four corners and convert it into a holdall and do a runner if the police appeared.

Here they seem to be quietly tolerated, although they did disappear for a while.

I read yesterday that the British fashion label Burberry destroyed more than £28m worth of its fashion and cosmetic products over the past year to guard against counterfeiting. Such counterfeiting as the products sold by the Africans down at the port! Burberry’s annual report said that they burned £28.6 million worth of products.

Apparently it’s a common practice across the retail industry. They claim that this measure is “needed” to protect intellectual property, whatever that means, and to prevent illegal counterfeiting by ensuring the supply chain remains intact.

Burberry said that they for the burning of their products only worked with specialist companies able to harness the energy from the process in order to make it environmentally friendly. How very reassuring!

What a prodigious waste of resources! I wonder of it has occurred to anyone that they Re producing too much stuff. Or that if they brought the prices down more might be sold and there would be less waste.

They sell men’s polo shirts for up to £250 and their famous trench coats go for a silly £1,500. Even Burberry shareholders questioned why the unsold products were not offered to private investors.

This is a completely different way of living to what ordinary people experience!

Maybe the big fashion brands CEO’s convince themselves that their version of the truth is the correct one, rather like a certain American president who last week said in an interview recorded in Scotland: “Don’t forget both of my parents were born in EU sectors – my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany.” It seems his mother, Mary MacLeod, was indeed born in Scotland, on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. But his father, Fred Trump, was born in New York City, in the United States of America. Not Germany.

Fudging origins may well be a family trait. Fred’s father, Friedrich, was born in Germany, but when Fred took over the family real estate business he apparently used to maintain he was from Sweden. This was in order to be more “palatable” to Jewish tenants!

A little lie to make life, and money making, easier.

How the other half live!

Then there is the thing about repeating a lie often enough so that it becomes a version of the truth. And sometimes even when the lie is brought out into the open, as with the cheating that they Brexiteers were involved in, it seems to be too late to do anything about it. And people accept a fait accompli.

What a topsy-turvy world we live in!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Getting back in the old routine!

Here we are, back on Vigo.

We appear to have left the continuing summer behind us in Manchester. Okay, we did have some late night rain there on Monday, I think it was, but not a lot to speak of. We landed in a cloudy Porto. Not quite so cloudy as we left it but still rather dull.

Oddly enough, considering that we flew from Manchester, a cockney family sat behind us on the plane, with occasional forays to see other members of the family closer to the front of the plane. They had with them a whiney toddler who protested loudly about putting on his seatbelt. I was tempted to ask if he made the same fuss about being fastened into his child seat in the car, but I managed to restrain myself.

They were on their way to Nana’s house on Portugal. I could not help overhearing the loud conversation about what the house was like, who would have which bedroom, what the garden was like, whether there would be a bit more life in the village now that summer was here, would they be able to make sandcastles, what else could they do and so on and so on and so on.

And as we came down through thick cloud to land I heard one of them ask, “Does it look sunny?” Which but of descending through cloud di she not understand? Ah well, so it goes.

The AUTNA bus from the airport to Vigo arrived on time. The driver insisted that those with “tickets internet”, which included us, should be allowed to get on first. We watched the usual scramble as first time users tried to find non-existent seat numbers. And off we went.

And we arrived at Valença where we all had to get off and wait for a replacement bus as apparently one of the wheels had punctured. Once again, so it goes!

The last week to ten days has been rather hectic. We arrived home late on Monday the 9th. Tuesday I scuttled around making sure beds were changed for soon to be arriving visitors and that food was bought.

On Wednesday I went to catch a bus so that I could catch a tram to the airport to meet my sister who was flying in from Andalucía. I watched the bus approach the crossroads and, instead of coming across the crossroads and into the village to turn around before heading for Oldham, simply turn left, cutting out the village circuit altogether.I was a bit cross! But eventually I made it to the airport and met my sister.

Thursday I took her for a long walk and made her cross the river on the stepping stones! She has not done such daring things for a while! I compensated for this by having a picnic in the park and a rather nice ice cream.

Friday we set off together for London, the main purpose of her visit, and for my return to the UK being so that we could celebrate my son”s birthday by going to a concert in Hyde Park.

His birthday celebrations have gone on and on, it seems. On the weekend of then birthday he was given tickets through colleagues at work to go to Hyde Park and see The Cure. Then on the following Wednesday, the day of my sister’s arrival, he and three friends, the original four who went through university sharing lodgings, went to see Pearl Jam, a group I only know by name, at the Madrid Cool festival. Madrid, he told us, was only slightly hotter than London.

He returned home the day after my sister and I arrived at his house and on the Sunday we all went off and danced barefoot in the park to the songs of Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and Paul Simon.

We ate our evening meals in the relative cool of the evening in my son’s garden, watching red kites float around on thermals. Sipping white wine in the late evening is no bad way to spend your time! This was not actually London but Buckinghamshire - close enough for Northerners to continue referring to it as London!

Even when my sister and I returned from London, we continued the rather hectic life style, going out on family outings with my daughter and her crowd, including an evening meal for eight and a half (the toddler) in a local Italian restaurant.

Consequently, for the last week and a bit everything has been neglected: my fitness routine (although dancing in the park might count), my normal eating patterns, keeping up with the news and this blog. Too much fun and games and reminiscing over old photographs. All activity has been haywire!

But yesterday I shipped my sister off to stay a few days with our older sister before she, the younger one, flies back to Andalucía.

And today we returned to Vigo. There is not quite so much sea mist around the A Guía promontory as when we left but the local dogs are still barking noisily.

Normal service will perhaps be resumed!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

This and that - a bit about POTUS and educational stuff.

It sounds as though POTUS is having a good visit. There are reports of him walking in front of the queen, photos of him taking Theresa May by the hand once again and this morning I read that he has advised the Prime Minister that she should sue the EU instead of negotiating! There you go!

Here’s another Trump fact: “The Washington Post calculated that Donald Trump made 2,140 false or misleading claims during his first year of office, an average of 4.9 a day.”

Maybe he should go back to school! We have all been annoyed at times by the crowds of cars blocking the way at school start and finish times. Now people are growing concerned about the air pollution caused by all these cars and the impact on the health of the schoolchildren. And so local authorities, or at least certain schools, are taking steps to cut down the congestion outside school gates. These include closing roads, setting up “park and stride” schemes, walk-to-school initiatives and “playing dead” protests.

Kathryn Shaw, of a charity called Living Streets, said “When parents drive up to the school gates, it’s not just their children they’re dropping off for the day. The toxic fumes from the cars stay too. A lot of parents don’t want to drive all the way but feel there is no other option.”

Jolly good!

Our primary school children have to learn a whole lot of stuff that I don’t think had been invented when we were are school. Okay, I exaggerate but I am not sure that being able to identify dangling participles and the passive voice is an essential skill at primary level.

Here is a collection of jokes about all these linguistic points:-

 “A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.

 A bar was walked into by the passive voice.

An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.

 Two quotation marks walk into a “bar.”

 A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite. 

Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.

A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.

Papyrus and Comic Sans walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Get out -- we don't serve your type." 

A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.

Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They converse. They depart.

 At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar -- fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.

 A figure of speech literally walks into a bar and ends up getting figuratively hammered.

 An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.

 The subjunctive would have walked into a bar, had it only known.

 A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned a man with a glass eye named Ralph.

 The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.

 A dyslexic walks into a bra.

 A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.

 An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television getting drunk and smoking cigars.

 A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.

 A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget. 

A hyphenated word and a non-hyphenated word walk into a bar and the bartender nearly chokes on the irony.”

 I can’t take credit for these, but the malapropism is my favorite.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Travel, aunshine, role models for girls!

Well, my sister and I travelled to London yesterday, managing to avoid anti-Trump protesters. We were mildly chastised by a lady for talking too loudly in the quiet coach. Nobody accused me of talking too loudly before. I am fairly sure we were not being loud and rowdy but maybe the lady in question had sensitive hearing. Maybe she was over-tired. She did put her head down and go to sleep before we got too far into the journey. But we spoke in whispers after that, just in case.

We caught a train on the Metropolitan line to Chesham. When we arrived there we saw young women with placards, obviously fresh from a protest. And apparently Trump flew over Chesham in his helicopter but we didn’t see him.

We left rain behind in Manchester, or rather in Oldham for by the time we arrived in Manchester it was all clearing up and we were able to pack our raincoats away.

And the sun was shining in London.

And in Chesham, where we stood in the garden and marvelled at six or eight red kites flying around, drifting on thermals and letting out raucous cries. Later we sat out eating chicken salad and sipping wine late into the evening.

The sun was shining again this morning, so walked into the town centre to have breakfast. Then we strolled round the market and popped into Waterstone’s bookshop. There we saw one author, an adults’ author, being interviewed for local radio and children’s author doing book signings.he turned out to be the father of a small girl who goes to pre-school with our granddaughter. So we were invited to sit and listen to a reading of the book, “Space Bugs and Selfies”, a story intended to remind little girls to be their OWN selves and not give in to the pressure to conform to looking pretty and feminine all the time.

He explained that he wrote the story after a six-year-old girl of their acquaintance coming home from school in tears, having been told by her classmates that her thighs were too fat! At the age of six! There are lots of books for older girls aimed at encouraging them to recognise their own self worth but he felt that there was a need for something for even younger girls. So there it is! A gap in the market has been plugged!

And I bought a copy so that my daughter can use it with her primary school class and with her own small girl.

 An interesting morning!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Turning things around!

In the spirit of the #MeToo times the organisers at Pamplona have taken steps to prevent female harassment during the bull running. I suppose it’s almost inevitable that such a very macho event would attract some male chauvinist pigs but it seems that in the last few years the male chauvinist pigs have been more daring than usual. Or else the women have felt less willing to put up with it and more willing to complain.

One of the organisers said, “We’ve got a series of measures and barriers that mean people won’t be able to get through. We’ve also come up with a very simple app. If someone’s suffered an assault, they press a button on their phone, their location comes up on the screen at police headquarters, and a patrol is dispatched.” A second button on the app allows anyone to report an assault, whether as victim or witness, while a third lets the user choose someone from their address book to track their journey home on a map to ensure they arrive safely.”

Such are the wonders of modern technology. As the spokesman said, “Women should be able to have fun, to laugh, to drink, to dance and to walk wherever we want – whether alone or with others – so that we can exercise our right to enjoy the festival however we want and without fear of being attacked because of it.”

I would not choose to get my fun by watching a load of bulls run down a street, much less by running with them, but that’s just my personal point of view. Each to their own!

Yesterday we spent the morning running around deciding what to take with us on a quick trip back to the UK. Hopefully the summer which has finally got going will still be around when we come back in about ten days time. I overheard someone at the pool commenting that summer had kept us waiting this year - “Nos hizo esperar”. It must have gone off on its holidays to the UK, where it is forecast to continue for a while yet. We have brought our waterproof in our suitcases as an insurance policy however. Failing to take them is a sure way to make it rain.

The weather was odd yesterday, in a very Vigo manner. Up on the heights of Calle Aragón the sun was shining and the heat was building up throughout the morning. Looking down from our flat though the estuary was shrouded in the mist that rolled in from the sea overnight. It’s more like very low cloud that mist. At midday it has still not shifted. You could hear the boats hooting mournfully. Down at port level they must not have been able to see anything much at all.

Bits of localised strangeness! Maybe!

We walked to the bus station and caught the bus to Porto airport. All the way we saw accumulations of low cloud in the valleys.

By the time we reached the airport the mist was fairly solid.

By the time we got on our plane, at about 7.30 pm there were mutterings about fog. People were getting extra layers of clothing out of their suitcases. And we sat on the plane, and sat and sat. They went through the safety procedure stuff - seat belt, life jacket, emergency oxygen - and still we sat.

Eventually the pilot told us that because of the deteriorating weather conditions the flight controllers were only allowing one plane to taxi down the runway at a time. So finally we set off about twenty minutes late.

We arrived in Porto in early June to damp and gloomy conditions and we left it in a similar state. 

Today, after a cool and cloudy start, the summer continues in Saddleworth - blue sky and sunshine! We blame the jet stream!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

A bit of sport and adventure stuff!

Futbolisticamente - that’s a word to conjure with! It’s a word I heard in television commentary after the game in which England defeated Sweden. Contundente - as in una victoria contundente - is another. A resounding victory! Well, okay, I suppose so!

Female Swedish fans were filmed weeping. Did they weep because they knew the cameras were on them? Could they see themselves on the screens around the stadium? Oh, dear! My inner cynic must be strong! But it’s only a game after all!

The Tour de France began yesterday. After all the hype about could he or couldn’t he ride this year, Chris Froome fell off his bike about ten kilometres from the end. Well, really his bike slid off the road on a bend. Others had slid off at the same point. I suspect their tyres skidded on the painted lines on the roadside which are slippery even when not wet. Froome said he was just glad he wasn’t injured. He got back on his bike but was unable to rejoin the leading group.

A Colombian called Fernando Gaviria won the stage. It probably makes for a more interesting race if the big names, last year’s winner included, have to fight a bit to gain leading position in the new race. A little bit of interesting jockeying for position to look forward to.

Meanwhile the bullrunning in Pamplona has also got off to a start with the usual set of injuries. Five people have been hurt, at least one of them gored by the bulls’ horns. The bulls weigh between 550-630 kilos (1,100 to 1,400 pounds) each. So running in front of a load of charging bulls is rather like dashing across the road in front of a lot of speeding cars. And people do this for fun!?

Rain had made the narrow cobbled streets more slippery than usual, adding a bit more spice to an already dangerous situation. Hmm! Wet and slippery roads, eh? That sounds a little bit like the usual start to the Tour de France.

Some people will do anything for a thrill! I still haven’t discovered what kind of adventure the 12 boys trapped in a cave in northern Thailand were being taken on by their coach. Rescue attempts are still going on, working against the clock as monsoons approach. I read somewhere that one of the rescuers had died. What a sad end.

Apparently the parents of the 12 boys have written letters to them, and to their coach, delivered by the fescue team. They have told the coach: “Please don’t blame yourself.” One mother wrote to him: “We want you to know that no parents are angry with you at all, so don’t you worry about that.” And a letter to one of the boys went like this: “To all the kids, we are not mad at you at all. Do take good care of yourself. Don’t forget to cover yourself with blankets as the weather is cold. We’re worried. You will come out soon.”

Let’s hope they do!

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Rude words and other stories!

I saw a man yesterday wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “ke te joden”, which I guess means “f**k you”. Just one of those polite messages you see on T-shirts these days.

Swearing is odd, usually a mixture of references to “rude” body parts or functions and religious references. This website gives information about a range of Anglo-Saxon swearwords. My grandson thought I was making it up when I told him “bloody”, which he maintained was not swearing, was derived from “by Our Lady”, but that religious reference probably passed him by as well. The website talks about ‘gorblimey’ as a mangling of ‘God blind me’, crikey’ disguising ‘Christ’, and ‘jeepers creepers’ as a replacement for ‘Jesus Christ’. I knew all that, but, come on, who says ‘gorblimey’ even in its shortened form as ‘blimey’ or ‘crikey’ or even ‘jeepers creepers’ these days? It sounds like something from a 1950s comic. Maybe Jacob Rees-Mogg, who does look rather like Lord Snooty after all, says such things!

No, that kind of swearing sounds very innocent nowadays. Modern swearing is a lot cruder. And a lot louder and a good deal more frequently heard! Unfortunately we cannot go back in time to an age of gentler, if perhaps more inventive, swearing.

Mr Macron would like to go back in time, or so it seems, as he wants to reintroduce national service for all 16 year olds in France. The options being looked at include voluntary teaching and working with charities, alongside traditional military training with the army, police or fire service. Mr Macron himself is too young to have done military service himself as it had been abolished before he came along.

A poll reportedly found 60 per cent of the adult population approves of national service. However, that number fell below 50 per cent when younger people's opinions were taken into account. I am a little surprised at the percentage of adults declaring themselves in favour. Surely the majority of the adult population are my sort of age or younger and so most of them will not have done military service themselves. A case of “don’t do as I did, do as I think you should”. Curious!

My Spanish brother-in-law did military service back in the 1970s but it no longer exists here. I read that Greece, Russia and Finland still have it. Is it a solution to youth unemployment? Does it make the youth more disciplined? Do girls do it as well as boys? I wonder!

A large, probably undisciplined, blimp is going to be flying over london, a baby-Trump lookalike apparently. However, they plan to keep Mr Trump away from London for most of his imminent visit. He will be meeting the queen and the Prime Minister away from the capital I understand. Presumably this will avoid confrontation with demonstrators. And then he can go off the Scotland to his golf course without any hassle.

And my own planned visit to London can also be hassle-free, hopefully without the propsed disruption to underground travel.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Going on a bit about fashion.

After I finished at the hairdresser’s yesterday I went window shopping. Window shopping - what do you call it when you actually go into the shop and look at stuff on the racks? It’s not the same as strolling along looking at the displays in the shop windows. The French for window, bybthe way,  shopping is “faire la lèche-vitrine’, literally to “do the shop window licking” - quite disgusting as an expression really!

Everywhere has sales. So most of the shop window displays consist of dummies wearing white t-shirts with the word REBAJAS printed on in red or, confusing the English statement I AM ON SALE! So I just had to go inside the shops and have a look. This was probably a mistake as I find sales really depressing: racks of rather sad-looking items that nobody has bought earlier and which probably nobody really wants now.

I once had a friend who was an absolute expert at finding bargains. She would turn up wearing something stylish. When asked where she had bought it, she would tell us it was from such and such a bargain shop or the sales at such and such another shop. Me, I find rooting through the racks of potential bargains really depressing! And as a rule any genuine bargains are only available in tiny sizes or enormous sizes. Shoes are especially bad. If you wear a size 3, you can always find a sales bargain! Size 5 or 6, no chance!

Anyway, I looked in Desigual and womanfully resisted paying €55 for a very nice red leather jacket. Then I went to Mango and equally womanfully resisted the temptation to pay a similar amount for a very nice lilac leather jacket. Had I been a size 8 I could have got one for €25? Do I need a leather jacket? Probably not. But they were both very nice. And in the end you can only wear a certain number of jackets. It’s rather like having six cars. You may have one for almost every day of the week but you can only drive one at a time.

A friend once told me she had over sixty coats. Like me she is careful with her clothes and so some of her coats date back years and years but remain wearable. She doesn’t like to throw stuff out. The advantage of such careful behaviour is that when something comes back into fashion you can recycle something you bought years ago. But sixty coats is excessive. At the other extreme is the friend who swears that when she buys something new to wear, something old is sent to the charity shop: one in, one out and no wardrobe overcrowding.

Both types of behaviour border on the obsessive!

Since today’s post seems to have turned into some kind of fashion blog, here’s something on men’s clothing.

Nicholas Lezard, writing in the Guardian, declares that “waistcoats are amazing – and not just because of Gareth Southgate”. Almost everyone must have seen England’s football manager walking up and down looking dashing in his waistcoat. Marks and Spencer is reporting a 35% surge in waistcoat sales. I suppose they are quite a flattering garment, a bit like a corset worn on the outside, covering or even holding in a fair amount of girth in some cases.

Mr Lezard has this to say about waistcoats:

“Wearing a waistcoat without a jacket is, of course, the best way to wear one. It signifies that one is at work, but also that one is ready to roll up one’s sleeves to get that work done. It frames the body nicely, and is probably the only item of male clothing that objectifies the body in such a way as to make it alluring. (Of course, this depends on the body, but still.) And even better, it has pockets. All the pockets a jacket has, but without the sleeves, which get grubby, wrinkled, frayed.”

He goes on to talk about his own waistcoat.

“My own waistcoat, brought back by a girlfriend from a trip to Nepal (after she’d asked me if I wanted anything from there) didn’t come from a suit. It is my single most indispensable item of clothing, and not just because of the person who gave it to me. And now that Southgate has brought them into the limelight, my foresight and excellent taste have been vindicated. The only snag is that now anyone who sees me in it will think it’s because of him.”

Where your waistcoat with pride, Nicholas, say I.

Mind you, if anything I think they look even better on women!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Catching up with the celebrity gossip.

This morning I took myself off to the hairdresser’s. They recognise me there and seem to have adjusted to the fact that I turn up once in a while and ask them to fix the colour of my hair as the roots have started to show. They no longer try to persuade me to have a re-style or a manicure or even a pedicure. And so it has become a fairly relaxed procedure.

Indeed, I could quite happily spend an hour or so every few days having someone wash my hair, give me a head massage and generally mess around with my hair. Is this how the rich and famous keep themselves looking glossy and well groomed? It’s quite likely!

I read in one of the gossip magazines in the salon that when Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex or somewhere, moved to London, Amal Clooney gave her the details of her hairdresser in the capital. Networking, you see! It’s all about networking!

Now, I want to know how the gossip magazines KNOW that Harry is the queen’s favourite grandson. Several of the magazine’s said so and they must have got the idea from somewhere. Because of course, all the latest magazines are full of reports of that wedding and the rivalry - no, not rivalry - now it’s friendship and cooperation - between Meghan and Kate. Excellent descriptions were given of what the two ladies wore to what one magazine called the “Tropping of the Colour”. Oops! Someone needs a better proof-reader! And besides, no description was really needed as there were numerous photos.

There were also details of the cost of some of the outfits. But Kate wins the prize as the sensible one; when she took the children (but not the baby) to watch daddy play polo, as you do, she wore a dress from Zara - which has probably sold out since then!

Just to prove that members of the royal family are not averse to silly names, there was a picture of Peter Phillips, sone of the very sensible and apparently hardworking, Princess Anne, with his wife and daughters. The wife is called Autumn! And the daughters are Savannah and Isla! Okay, I suspect the second one is a good celtic name, pronounced something like “aisle-a” but I read this in a Spanish gossip magazine and so mentally pronounced it as the Spanish world for Island. It makes perfect sense. If you can have a child called River or Ocean, why it one called Island?

Lots of famous people are always getting married and divorced and remarried to different people.

I learnt a new bit of vocabulary to describe going on holiday with the person you are going to marry sometime in the next few months: “preluna de miel” which means a pre-honeymoon! How very charming! Stag parties and hen parties, by the way, are known as “despedida de soltero/soltera” - a farewell to bachelordom/spinsterhood!

It is also amazing how many famous people keep on having babies. Still, I suppose they can afford to have them.

There is reported to be a serious drop in the population in this area but you would not think so judging by the number of prams and clearly-pregnant ladies you see around the centre of Vigo. Maybe they all reach a certain age and mkve away!

Thinking of famous people in the news and what can be afforded or not afforded, I read something about President Trump’s imminent visit to the UK. I thought he was going to London, coinciding annoyingly with my own visit there, but the report talks about him going to Scotland to play golf. (Does he not have a country to mismanage and world politics to mess up?) Apparently the UK government has pledged to cover up to £5m in extra policing costs if he does in fact go to Scotland to play golf. They estimate that it will need an extra 5,000 officers to police the thing.

Does he not have his own security team who go around with him?

Maybe the 5,000 officers will be used to form a human wall.

I am gobsmacked!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Last minute developments!

Back in 2010, we watched bits of the football World Cup on television in the flat we then lived in. When Spain played in the semi-final, every time they scored a goal, or indeed went near the goal, a great roar of triumph went up from our block of flats. And the one next door. The same performance occurred when the played the final. When they won the match, and the cup, the place erupted. People ran out cheering into the gardens, tore around the place with Spanish flags tied to their shoulders lied cloaks and streaming put behind them. Many of them jumped fully clothed, flag-cloaks and all, into the swimming pool.

The place went bonkers!

So a few days ago when Spain was being eliminated from this years World Cup, which we didn’t see as we don’t have television in our current flat, when we heard similar shouts we assumed that Spain was winning. It was only later when we went out to a local bar to check our internet stuff that we saw the sad faces and discovered the truth.

It was the penalties that did for them.

Yesterday, as the weather cleared up somewhat we went out for a longish walk in the early evening. Consequently we did not get down to the bar where the England-Colombia match was on screen until it was well underway. And England was winning 1-0! And then at the last minute Colombia equalised and it stayed that way all through extra time.

And they moved on to the dreaded penalties.

My pessimistic husband said that England NEVER wins on penalties. My nervous niece, watching the match in Jersey and commenting every so often on Facebook was in such a state of tension that she had to stop watching and go outside with a glass of wine until it was all over.

And then England managed to win.

What a nice surprise!

One of my favourite sporting events, the Tour de France, starts on Saturday. There has been much discussion about Chris Froome because of the asthma drugs that apparently tipped his drug testing over into illegal! Last we heard was that the Tour organisers had banned him from taking part this year. Then at the eleventh hour cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, announced that it has closed its case against Chris. So now he’s going to be riding the Tour after all. The Sky team have a few days to put their final touches to their organisation.

Changes at the last minute! So it goes!

Now for some language stuff.

First of all those penalties. I wince every time I hear the Spanish football reporters talking about “penALties”. Pronunciation rules put the stress on the penultimate syllable in Spanish. So their mispronunciation is understandable. But they have a system of putting a written accent on a word when the stress is in the “wrong” place. So why not make the word “pénalty”?

Mind you, I suspect it’s too late now.

The mispronunciation is too deeply embedded, like “lingerie” becoming “lonjeray” in the UK and “chorizo” turning into “choritso”.

 It’s enough to make a poor linguist cry.

But I came across an amusing one yesterday. I went to a chemist’s looking for some special eyedrops containing a particular element for Phil. To make things easier I took the old packet with me, explaining to the chemist what I wanted and showing the packet with the list of “ingredients”. She told me she thought they had the very same brand. Indeed they did. She brought out the packet of Viscotears, or as she said it “bee scot tay ars”, with the emphasis on “scot” and “ars” pronounced Scottish/Spanish fashion with a nicely rolled “r” and a good hissing “s”.

I refrained from telling her that “tears” are “lágrimas”. Nor did I correct her pronunciation. I find people don’t appreciate it.

And finally, from a clothing company’s online selling site, here is a new description for a long cardigan: a lightweight open front duster sweater!

The mind boggles!

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Some observations about language! And sexism!

Outside a cafe bar near us, as I came back from my run, in a list of things to eat I spotted this item:- hamburguesa de vaca vieja. Sounds appealing! Old cow hamburger! Really? I have no idea what the equivalent meat in English would be. Not being a red meat eater, I don’t bother to memorise such vocabulary.

In fact, when I taught French for caterers, long ago now, I had to make myself learn the French terms for different cuts of beef. Crazy! I could have a detailed and complicated discussion about things philosophical or political or cultural but cuts of meat were a huge lacuna in my language knowledge. Also, it’s not the kind of vocabulary that came up in the French taught in a girls’ grammar school. 

Good grief, our teacher got as far as telling us that “toilette” did not mean “toilet” in the sense of “loo”. She never actually taught us a word for toilet and so when friend and I went off to Paris pre-A Level exams and needed the loo we went through a whole range of circumlocutions to ask where it was. And then, light finally dawning, the waitress in the cafe said, “Ah! la toilette!”

Language had clearly moved on since Miss Scawthorne had needed to ask where the toilet was. Although we did suspect that she probably never needed to do so. Ladies clearly never needed to do such things and, just as a stick of our local rock had Southport written all through it, so you could have cut Miss Scawthorne open and you would have seen the word LADY!

 Ladies, of course, have to look ladylike. One consequence of this is the decision by many secondary schools in the UK to have what they refer to as “gender neutral uniform”. What this means is that girls have to wear trousers, not that boys can wear skirts of they so choose. This prevents girls from rolling the skirt up at the waist to make it shockingly short and rather tarty! It also means that girls can sit cross-legged on the floor, probably in drama lessons and the like, without revealing thighs and knickers to all and sundry. One journalist had this to say on the subject:-

“Some of the language has a tellingly Victorian whiff. One school has placed skirts on a list of “unacceptable items”. Another deems them “undignified and embarrassing”. Wade into this messy subject (preferably in trousers, for practical reasons) and you will come up against strong words such as “modesty” and “inappropriate” before long. But it is not the skirt that is immodest or the girl inside it, in the same way that it is never relevant what a woman was wearing when she was raped. Raging feminists manage to wear skirts and maintain their principles every single day. Skirts, in short, are fine if you want to wear them.

The real issue is the way girls are sexualised: both in school and beyond the gate. The real problem is upskirting and an epidemic of sexual harassment of female teachers. The real problem is misogyny, which in those tribal, traumatic years is both rampant and unmentioned: a particularly toxic combination. A gender-neutral uniform is part of the solution, but that means trousers or skirts for everyone.”

You could, of course, just get rid of school uniform. Many European countries do without it altogether. Pupils just wear ordinary clothes. Here in Spain you can tell the girls who go to the posh private school because they wear rather antiquated tartan kilts and matching cardigans. The boys wear smart short trousers and jumpers over shirt and tie. Maybe they should also wear kilts.

One advantage of banning skirts is that upskirting cannot happen. Now, I read about a chap in Wisconsin who was injured when the upskirting camera he had hidden in his shoe exploded. There is karma for you! When he revealed the cause of his injury to the police he was let off with a warning, instead of a possible maximum sentence of three-and-a-half years in prison and a $10,000 (£7,600) fine, because he had not actually succeeded in taking any photos!

The world continues to be a strange place!

Monday, 2 July 2018

Rain. And the lack of it. And idiots.

I went out running in the rain this morning. A rather gentle summer rain but rain nonetheless!

By a strange reversal of weather patterns we have dull and damp in Vigo - not unusual for Galician summers but not what we have grown used to over the last few years - while the UK basks in sunshine. And that includes the Northwest of England, and Greater Manchester and even usually rather soggy Saddleworth!

Friends are complaining about it being too hot, something I feel they should stop doing as they complain fast enough when the sun fails to shine. Hose pipe bans are being put in place. People are being asked to refrain from watering their gardens and even to take shorter showers. As for lengthy baths, forget it! Will there soon be restrictions on paddling pools for the tiny tots?

Hot weather apparently increases the demand for salad. And there I was thinking it just made people have barbecues. When it was still sunny here I saw lots of people leaving the supermarket laden with supplies of red meat to burn on the barbecue. But in the UK salad is the thing, or so it seems. As for me, I eat it all year round, rain or shine and tend not to be a great fan of barbecues.

But last week a record 18 million heads of lettuce were reported to have been sold in the UK, 40% more than at the same time last year. And so we, or rather they in the UK, approach a lettuce crisis. A spokesperson for British Leafy Salad Growers, said: “When the mercury hits 30C, lettuces can’t grow.” High temperatures have been affecting salad growers all over the place and supermarkets will be running out. Southern Europe cannot fill the gaps on the shelves as they too are affected by high temperatures. (Is it just Galicia then?) I am tempted to make silly remarks about these Europeans sending us their hot weather and then not being able to provide us with salad!

All is not lost, however, as salad can be sent from across the Atlantic. This puzzles me. Does lettuce not wilt fairly quickly? Will it withstand the journey from the other side of the world? What are things coming to?

A more serious consequence of the lack of rain in Northwest England is the outbreak of fires. Here is a link to a report about possible arson attacks on the countryside. What kind of idiot does that sort of thing? I imagine the scenario: “I’m bored. There’s nothing exciting to do around here. I know! Let’s go out and set fire to the hillside!” I am told a similar thing happened here in Galicia during the forest fires last year. Some people were going round setting woody places close to the centre of Vigo alight. Just to add to the chaos!

 It beggars belief!

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Language matters!

Last night we went along to María’s Mid Century bar where the music is always good for a beer and to catch up with our internet stuff. As a rule the atmosphere there is really pleasant. María is friendly and usually bubbles over with enthusiasm for things musical.

Occasionally there is a group of strident women there having a conversation they simply MUST share with everyone. Maybe it’s the years of having been almost second class citizens in their own country in Franco’s time, when women needed their husband’s or father’s permission to do things like open a bank account, but some modern Spanish women really overdo the assertiveness thing. It’s a bit like smoking; women smoking was so frowned on for so long that you get the impression some women smoke just because they can. I say these things as someone who has spoken up for feminist issues at teachers’ union meetings. I simply find that when assertiveness tips over into aggressiveness, it gets a little harsh! That’s all.

Anyway, they weren’t around last night. Everything was calm and the music was foot-tappingly good. And we made the acquaintance of an Anglo-Argentinian family: fairly outspoken English father, very calm Argentinian mother and a pair of sandy-haired boys who might have been twins but turned out to be a short (his own description) twelve year old and a tall nine year old. The father was getting so amusingly agitated, in two languages, at the family ganging up on him to sit inside, when he wanted to sit outside so that he could smoke, that I just had to strike up conversation with the mother. Which developed into a conversation with the whole family.

Later María commented that there had been more English-speakers than Spanish-speakers in her bar that evening. That was not strictly true as the English-speakers were also Spanish-speakers but I knew what she meant.

At some point we asked about the boys’ bilingualism, for they seemed to slip easily from Spanish to English. The parents said they had always used both languages but now spoke mostly English when the family was all together. A few years ago, when the younger child was five or six, living in Spanish-speaking places, they had realised that his English was slipping away. His Spanish was secure as he spoke it in school and out of school with friends, but they wanted his English to be as good. And so they decided to speak English at home. It seems to have worked.

I must say I was impressed by the boys. I have come across some quite brattish ex-pat children, especially one or two home-educated ones, who have been allowed, even encouraged, to consider themselves the most important centre of attention in a group of adults. These two had the confidence of children who are used to being around a lot of adults, but adults who speak to them as if they are sensible mini-adults. However, when their mother thought they might be getting a bit too chatty, she quietly reminded them that we interesting new adult people might have our own agenda for how we planned to spend our evening. No fuss, just a gentle hint!

The older boy gave me his opinion of regional languages. After all, they are going to be living here, in Redondela as it turns out, and will undoubtedly have to learn some Galician at school. They have been living in Valencia for the last few years, where they have had Valenciano inflicted on them - “if you can call it a language,” said the young boy, “Where else in the world would I need to speak Valenciano?”

He’s probably right. Valenciano, Mallorquín and probably a few others around there are all variations of Catalán, as I see it anyway. There are almost certainly experts who would disagree with me but I have heard enough discussion about the difference between the Galician spoken in Orense and the Galician spoken in Lugo to be fairly convinced that I am correct. There are vocabulary differences from one area of Greater Manchester to another. Fifty years ago you could probably have called their dialects different languages. I have a friend who slips back, depending on who she is talking to, into the dialect of the district of Oldham where she grew up and where her parents worked in the local cotton mills.

Nobody published any works of literature in that “language” though, and so nobody is standing up to defend its being protected.

 Or taught in schools!