Thursday, 30 August 2018

Assorted bits of nonsense!

In Galicia, I read this morning, there are 63 communities where there are more cows than people.

In Galicia as a whole there are about a million cows, which amounts to one cow for every 2.7 inhabitants.

More than 8,400 families run farms that produce more than half Spain’s milk. And there I was thinking that Asturias was the milk producing region of the country!

And so, to remind people of their milk-producing importance to the country, La Coruña has allowed one of its pedestrian crossings to be painted black with white splodges, like a Frisian cow, instead of the usual black and white stripes. The district, they say, has more in common with cows than with zebras! "A los gallegos las cebras no nos representan, pero las vacas son parte de nuestra esencia", says Jessica Rey, the marketing manager of Casa Grande de Xanceda, thebplace that came up with the idea and proposed it to La Coruña. She hopes other places will follow suit. "No queremos que este paso de vaca se quede como una anécdota, sino que se exporte como idea para las calles de otras ciudades y pueblos de Galicia. Este primero solo es el prototipo".

On the other side of the world, in New Zealand to be exact, in a place called Omaui the local council proposes to ban cats. They want to put in place something called ‘Pest plan’ which means that when a domestic cat dies, Omaui residents would not be permitted to have another. They want all domestic cats in the region to be neutered, microchipped and registered. This is all to protect native birds and animals.

Not everyone is happy with the idea but it fits in with a wider New Zealand plan to rid the country of artificially introduced species of rats, stoats and possums. Ambitious!

Meanwhile, closer to home, Brittany has been having trouble with dolphins:-

 “A mayor on France’s Brittany coast took the rare step of banning swimming for several days after a solitary frisky dolphin tried to get too close to bathers. Roger Lars decided last week that it was safest to ban swimming and diving on the coast near Landévennec, where the over-friendly dolphin had been spotted.

He banned anyone getting closer than 50 metres to the rutting three-metre dolphin, whom locals nicknamed Zafar. The dolphin was not aggressive, but he had taken to trying to rub up against swimmers and boats, the local paper Le Télégramme reported. Zafar had enthusiastically sidled up to several swimmers who he had then prevented from reaching the shore. One had to be rescued by boat.

“Several swimmers were very frightened,” the mayor told the paper Ouest-France.

One local lawyer told Agence France-Presse he wanted to lodge a legal complaint against the ban because it was excessive. “How many dolphin accidents have there been in Finistère since our two species have co-existed? None.”

He said it was unfair to dolphins to present them as dangerous or unpredictable. Local media reported on Monday that the swimming ban had been lifted after Zafar moved away from the coast.”

This is clearly the silly season for animal stories.

I went into the centre of Oldham for a few things today. No problems with animals but I was astounded to see that the Thornton’s shop has a full window display of advent calendars.

Now I am still of the opinion that advent calendars should not have bits of chocolate behind each door you open. I can remember when the most excitement you got from your advent calendar was a picture. But I have given in and accept that no child expects to open a door and look at a picture of a star or a lamb and eventually of the baby Jesus. They want their sugar fix!

But really, what is going on? It’s August 30th, for goodness sake! Surely even the most organised and forward-planning Christmas lovers don’t start yet. And what state will the chocolate be in by the time December comes along?

 However, Thornton’s shops are not alone in starting Christmas early. At Tesco yesterday I spotted jars of mincemeat.

When will the first mince pies appear?

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Getting on with things.

It’s amazing how quickly you can get back into old routines. So there I was, up and running bright and early this morning. Along the bridle path to Uppermill, a quick run round the market - fish and fruit and veg - a new mop from the hardware shop and onto the bus back home in time for a quick shower and a latish breakfast.

Later in the day our daughter brought her smallest offspring round to show off her developing language skills. Quite impressive! She also showed off her assertiveness skills. Increased language brings with it an increased ability let people know what you do and don’t want people to do. Fascinating stuff!

When our daughter picked us up from the airport on Tuesday evening she brought along my great niece, my English sister’s granddaughter, now a very together young lady of almost twenty. She’s in a bit of limbo at the moment however. I think her plans were to get her A Levels and go off to university, where her boyfriend was already studying. But like many young people who have done well up to GCSE, in the controlled environment of the secondary school they attended from age 11 to 18, in her case an all girls’ school, the reincarnation as a comprehensive of the girls’ grammar my Spanish sister and I attended, she did not adapt as well as expected to sixth for college.

At the comprehensive, then a specialist language college, she had done Russian and Spanish for GCSE. Unable to find anywhere offering A-Level Russian, she had resigned herself to studying Spanish and a couple of other subjects. After all, as I reassured her, if she wanted study Russian to a higher level at university, it should be quite possible with a decent grade at A-Level Spanish.

And that’s where the problem arose.

Somehow the A-Level teacher of Spanish failed to maintain her student’s interest. Or rather, the failure on the teacher’s part to support all her students and not just the most able demotivated my great niece and she just fell further behind and came away with a mediocre grade. And a pile of resentment against the teacher. At least that’s her side of the story.

I don’t know the teacher of Spanish at the college concerned but I do know the principal and other people who work there. So I am in two minds about the whole thing. There’s a part of me that sees it as a very familiar story, one affected by the pressure on all schools and colleges to meet targets for the percentage high grade passes. Often students are nursed through GCSE and then find A-Level really hard.

And so, instead of going off the university, my great niece continues with her part time job at Sports Direct, aware that she can do better than that but not seeing any opportunities opening up.

And what is a youngster to do, when she has set her heart on one path and then needs to find a new one? We have suggested maybe seeking work as a foreign language assistant in Spain. She could hone her Spanish skills, maybe retake the A-Level and hen apply to university as a mature student. There are ways round the problem. Although Brexit will probably not help with that idea.

Which brings me on to other matters. It seems the Royal Academy puts on an exhibition and sale of works of art every year. This year a portrait of Nigel Farage was put up for sale - Mr Brexit on canvas - and there was not a single bid for it. Here’s a link to an article about it.

Really, though, why would anybody want to bid for such a picture? If you want something to throw darts at there are cheaper alternatives.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Leaving Galicia.

We had a most impressive thunderstorm on Monday night, starting around midnight and, as far as I could fell continuing on and off until about five in the morning. The it closed with just about the biggest thunderclap I think I have ever heard. It began with a sort of creaking sound, as of giant fingers were poking into a hole in the fabric of the sky, and the progressing to a great tearing noise as if the giant hands were pulling the sky apart. The gods of Galicia were giving us a fine send-off!

On Tuesday morning, this morning, as we wanted to be on our way to the bus station in plenty of time, I went out to buy bread a little earlier than usual. When I reached my usual panadería-cafe she was only just opening. “The bread has not come yet!” she told me. Bother! I spotted a new-looking place across the road, all bright and shiny with mirrors all over the pla e. SomI decided to give it a try. I asked for my normal “barra artesana”, an ordinaary locally made loaf, nothing fancy. “We don’t call it that here”, said the assistant, “Other places do but here it’s ciabatta”. Okay! I refrained from telling her that ciabatta bread is something quite different and bought a loaf anyway. It cost me 15 cents more than my usual loaf! Not a bank-breaking amount but I rather felt I was payong for snobbiness. Especially as it came in a bag with a “recipe” printed on it: three bowls of kindness, a teaspoon of patience, a pinch of tenderness - that sort of thing! I doubt that I shall be returning there. The bread wasn’t as good anyway!

Then we scuttled round after breakfast, throwing out the few remaining perishables, locking windows, turning off the water, checking cor the umpteenth time that we had everything. I had a nightmare recently about getting almost to the airport and remembering that the passports were still under the bed! All seemed to be in order this time.

I have only once been without my passport at a checkpoint. I was going to Porto airport to see my daughter and her children onto the plane back to the UK. I had done the run from Vigo to Porto many rimes and never once had there been a check at the border. So when I remembered that my passport was in the flat I was not worried. Then at Valença police got on and asked to see documentation! The only photo ID I had with me was my Vigo library card. Fortunately it was not an errant, forgetful Englishwoman they were after. The policeman advised me to be more careful in future, and that was that!

My daughter, however, was almost catatonic with embarrassment!

Monday, 27 August 2018

Not everything is what it looks like!

You look out of the window in the morning and summer seems to be continuing in a normal way. Blue sky and sunshine. And then you go out for a run and realise that there is a pleasant, but by now unfamiliar, crispness to the air. It’s quite refreshing to run at 17 or 18 degrees in the morning instead of already at 24. I don’t think the early morning freshness quite merits the wearing of a jacket buttoned up to the throat, in the manner of the dog-walking lady with whom I have a nodding acquaintance, but there it is. I have mentioned before that I have only once seen her in summer clothes and that was when the heatwave was at its height!

As well as the morning freshness, there are increasing piles of fallen leaves for the street sweeper, another nodding acquaintance, to clear up. Some of the trees are turning interesting colours. And the sun, which until recently set, dazzlingly, blindingly, directly opposite the flat, has now moved it’s setting position further south, as well as going to bed earlier than it used to.

 Signs of autumn are around, even though it’s quite possible that, like last year, a summer of sorts will continue until mid-October. We will be long gone, heading back for the UK tomorrow, but something of an Indian summer is forecast there as well. Fingers crossed! Ideally, pleasantly warm but not too hot. The kind of English summer my Spanish sister gets nostalgic about.

 Yesterday we decided to go for a walk before it grew too hot. So mid-morning we set off to walk to the top of the promontory of A Guía. On the side of the chapel there was a huge poster, giving some information but mainly asking people to contribute. It turns out that the chapel, which we had thought to be quite ancient, was not built until the 1950s. Part of the original plan had been to put a huge statue on the top of the building. This was to be the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or rather the figure of Jesus holding his Sacred Heart. Plans are afoot to continue with the project. A six metre tall statue will be placed on top of the tower.

It will be visible from all around the area, rather like the huge statue on the outskirts of Baiona.

Pontevedra regional government and Vigo city council are working together and appealing to people to collaborate. Which I assume means contribute money, not actually get involved in sculpting and erecting. We have seen the results of local people getting involved in renovating works of art in churches in Spain and it has not been good!

But we were surprised at how relatively recent the construction of the chapel was. I suppose that having been built in a traditional style it can seem much older.

It just goes to show that not everything is as it seems.

Rather like hearing once again the Pop! Pop! Popopop!! POP! (Or KRUMP! as Phil likes to describe it, reverting the vocabulary of the comics of his childhood) of fireworks late last night and thinking it came from a certain direction but being unable to spot anything. Then I went into the bedroom, looking out of a window in another direction, and there, in Cangas across the bay, invisible from the living room window, was the firework display! The usual display but not where we expected it to be! 

And then I went down to the pool this morning. There were very few people there, despite the sunshine and the increasing temperature - the early morning crispness had long since disappeared. A Spanish-Italian couple I have got to know were there as usual but that was almost all there was. Instead of a host of people toasting themselves to a crisp, there was alone man doing yoga on his yoga mat in the shade.

He was following instructions from something on his iPad but he was clearly an advanced yoga man. Not just a salute to the sun but the complicated yoga where you balance on your hands while your feet are tucked up behind your ears! Rocking back and forth with your feet crossed behind your head. Tying your arms in knots behind your back, almost at the level of your shoulders. He had clearly done this before.

I reckon it takes a special kind of confidence and a zen-like ability to shut out all that surrounds you to put on a display like that in the communal gardens of two blocks of flats.

Always expect the unexpected!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Demonstrations of support for one thing or another!

As I swam round and round the empty-except-for-me swimming pool on Friday - the smallish boys who had been playing a goal scoring game with a football in the water had gone off to do something else and the few other people around were clearly just sun worshippers - I heard a series of bangs. Pop! Pop! Pop! POP!! Pop! Pop! Pop! POP!!

Now, there seems to be some kind of artillery range in the hills on the other side of the estuary, behind the A Guía promontory. We regularly hear the pops and bangs and see the puffs of smoke. But this popping and banging had a different quality and came from a slightly different direction.

Mind you, it’s hard to judge the direction of sound when you are in the swimming pool in the garden of blocks of flats and with other buildings all around. But there it is!

Had the revolution started? I wondered. Would I get out of the pool to find all of society changed utterly? Or was it just fireworks? Setting off fireworks in the middle of the day always seems to me a great waste of pyrotechnics but it happens here quite a lot. I suppose if what you want is a lot of bangs then it’s worthwhile. Anyway, I swam for a while, got out of the pool and organised the rest of my day, forgetting Pop! Pop! Pop! POP!!! until later.

And then later, at around midnight, as I was reading in bed I heard it again. This time I was pretty certain it WAS fireworks. And there, on the other aide of the estuary, probably in Moaña, they were setting off fireworks. Not the best display we have ever seen but not bad. Presumably this was to mark the beginning or the end of a fiesta. It is fiesta season, after all!

In the breadshop cum cafe the other morning as I waited my turn I half listened to a relevision news report about the exhumation of Franco’s remains from the Valle de los Caídos. One lady, probably my age, old enough, therefore, to have grown up under Franco and to have seen the changes since, commented to the effect that everyone knows he was bad but not all bad and, in any case, the past is the past and should remain so. I wonder how many people feel that way.

The Valley of the Fallen may have been meant to commemorate the dead of both sides in the Civil War but it WAS built largely by the forced labour of Republican prisoners and has long been seen as more of a memorial to fascism than anything else. No doubt demonstrations will continue to take place to leave the old fascist where he was buried. But others think differently. As Spain’s deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo, commented on the decision: “Democracy is not compatible with a tomb that honours the memory of Franco.”

I wonder where they plan to put him.

Another leader in the news is Donald Trump. Stories abound of his getting closer and closer to impeachment.

“Donald Trump has been warned the “countdown” to impeachment is underway, after his former lawyer implicated the president in crimes committed during the 2016 election.
On Thursday, Mr Trump publicly addressed the prospect of impeachment for the first time, claiming the market would “crash” if his presidency was threatened.  “I don't know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job,” Mr Trump told Fox News. “I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor because, without this thinking, you would see – you would see numbers that you wouldn't believe, in reverse.””

You have to admire the confidence of the man!

Friday, 24 August 2018

Getting awards!

The Galician chess season came to an end for Phil yesterday. So that’s it for another year, for him anyway. No veterans’ prizes this year but an odd award for being a “Chess Legend”, which we think means having played in Mondariz for years and won the veterans’ prize several times over.

Some people are carrying on with more competitions, one young chess-playing companion squeezing in another week of chess before he has to return to school in mid-September. There was one tiny boy playing in Mondariz, ten years old but very small for his age, playing the socks off people older and more experienced than he was. Phil played and won a long game against him early in the tournament and, as the week went on and the child defeated others, grew more proud of his achievement. We shall look out for him over the next few years: no doubt a future grandmaster!

We waited in this morning for a workman to arrive to fix a wonky shower and a couple of cupboard doors. Our landlady had told him he did not need a stepladder to do the repairs as the cupboard door was low enough for him to fix. We think she was distracted by her cranky toddler when she came to assess the problem as one of the cupboards is so high that I have difficulty reaching it.

No stepladder? A bit of improvisation with a kitchen chair and all was well!

So everything will be back in working order in time for us to go back to England next week.

The workman told us that he has visited England. Where has he been? London! Hardly truly representative. And Edinburgh. Which is not in England at all!

I read a story about a policewoman in Argentine receiving a promotion after breastfeeding a baby while on duty. Not her own baby, mark you! Officer Ayala was on duty at a children’s hospital near Buenos Aires when she heard the baby crying and asked permission to comfort him. Realising he was hungry she fed him. Not the kind of thing police officers do on a routine basis!

It turned out that the baby was one of six siblings, all undernourished.

One of her colleagues posted a picture on Facebook of her feeding the baby. He wrote: “I want to make public this great gesture of love that you made today with that baby, who you did not know, but for whom you did not hesitate to act like a mother. You did not care if he was dirty or smelly … Things like that are not seen every day.”

Indeed they are not.

The post has been shared more than 100,000 times.

And this took place on 14 August, which coincidentally is national day of the female officer in Argentina.

Another one of those DAYS!

Announcing Officer Ayala’s promotion from officer to sergeant, Cristian Ritondo, the minister of security of Buenos Aires province, tweeted: “We wanted to thank you in person for that gesture of spontaneous love that managed to calm the baby’s cry. That’s the type of police we’re proud of, the police we want.”

Also a bit of good publicity for the police force, I think.

But I wonder what happens to the baby and his brothers and sisters now.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Travelling to Mondariz. And some money matters.

Today I took the bus to Mondariz once again. Phil had gone earlier by car as his chess game began at 10.00. I had a few things to do and besides the car is a bit crowded with all of us in it. And so I walked down to the bus station later through the morning fog. For this morning we woke up to one of those Vigo days when you can see the cloud swirling round the buildings. Not really fog but just low cloud.

By midday the fog had already dissipated and the temperatures were rising again. It’s just as well they were playing this morning in the relative cool. Especially as by the afternoon Mondariz was an oven!

It’s a pleasant bus ride from Vigo to Mondariz, passing though some rather fine countryside. And I am still amazed at the prices: almost an hour’s bus journey for less than it costs to travel from our crossroads to the nearest village at home in the UK.

As the bus gets into Ponteareas, where it stops and waits at the bus station for a few minutes, it goes along what looks like a fairly main street lined with abandoned houses. It’s such a shame that nobody has invested money in refurbishing them as they look like good old traditional stone houses. Maybe nobody wants to live in such places any more. Or quite possibly, this being Galicia, there is some legal problem with an owner, absent or possibly dead, who has not given permission to renovate. So it goes! Somebody could make money out of it.

Talking of money, I came across an item about how much money George Clooney made in the last year. “Between 1 June 2017 and 1 June 2018, George Clooney made more money than any other actor has ever made in a single year, Forbes magazine has found. The star’s film-based enterprises accounted for only a fraction of his income, however, with most coming from the sale of spirit company Casamigos Tequila.”

However he made his money, he has plenty.

Here is the Forbes’ list of the world’s best-paid male actors 2018:-

George Clooney – $239m
Dwayne Johnson – $119m
Robert Downey Jr – $79m
Chris Hemsworth – $64.5m
Jackie Chan – $45.5m
Will Smith – $42m
Akshay Kumar – $40.5m
Adam Sandler – $39.5m
Chris Evans – $34m
Salman Khan – $33.5m

And, for comparison purposes, the Forbes’ list of the world’s best-paid actresses 2018:-

Scarlett Johansson – $40.5m
Angelina Jolie – $28m
Jennifer Aniston – $19.5m
Jennifer Lawrence – $18m
Reese Witherspoon – $16.5m
Mila Kunis – $16m
Julia Roberts – $13m
Cate Blanchett – $12.5m
Melissa McCarthy – $12m
Gal Gadot – $10m

So the highest-paid actress (I refuse to say “female actor” - what a load of nonsense!) earned the same as the seventh highest-paid actor. There is clearly something wrong there.

It would be interesting to compare earning for film actors with earnings for theatre actors. No doubt somebody has done the research.

The amount of money that top actors - not to mention top footballers - earn is quite crazy. Some people say that it is because they only have a limited “shelf life”. Well, maybe when they can no longer get the high-paying roles or play for the top football teams they could do something revolutionary like get a different sort of job.

And the limited shelf-life argument should surely mean that actresses should be paid more than actors as the number of roles for ageing actresses is considerably smaller than for ageing actors. After all Robert Redford has recently made what he declares will be his last film, at the age of 80!

Actors, of both genders, and footballers for that matter, should be doing what the rest of us are advised to do, putting money away for their retirement. Personally I suspect they enjoy their work too much. Take Ringo Starr (okay, not an actor but still in the entertainment business). All summer I have been seeing posters telling me that he has been appearing in various places around Galicia.

Surely he doesn’t need the money. I guess he just likes to be up there on the stage!

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Things that happen when it’s hot!

The best time of day to head for our pool is late morning. At that time it’s normally not too busy and so it is possible to swim without too much interruption. After all a swimming pool is meant for swimming, not just for standing in the water to keep cool. Also in the late morning it is still possible to sit around at the poolside without feeling that you are instantly cooking. Which is what happens later in the day. Which is why people stand in the water to keep cool as they chat.

Such are the consequences of heatwaves!

Further north in the planet the consequences of the hot weather are also being felt. The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer. This is something which has not been recorded before but which has now occurred twice this year. And it’s all down to climate-change and the odd weather conditions that have given the UK a good summer and other parts of Europe some unusually hot weather.

Here’s something I found about this:-

“One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest. The sea off the north coast of Greenland is normally so frozen that it was referred to, until recently, as “the last ice area” because it was assumed that this would be the final northern holdout against the melting effects of a hotter planet. But abnormal temperature spikes in February and earlier this month have left it vulnerable to winds, which have pushed the ice further away from the coast than at any time since satellite records began in the 1970s.”

Nobody expected that!

Or maybe some did but their warnings were ignored.

One way to keep cool in hot weather is to dip your feet in fountains, an activity generally disapproved of by people in authority. In Rome recently two male tourists were filmed skinny dipping in a fountain at the Altare della Patria. This is a monument dedicated to all fallen soldiers and including the tomb of unknown soldier killed in the first world war. Police said in a statement that the tourists’ behaviour was outrageous and that it “seriously offended the national feeling and the memory of the fallen to whom the monument is dedicated”.

And the incident has been filmed and is out there on social media. So the police think they can trace them. They could face fines of at least €400. Rather an expensive frolic in a fountain!

I blame Federico Fellini. Allowing Anita Ekberg to frolic in the Trevi fountain in La Dolce Vita set a precedent!

A police source said the men had yet to be traced but if found would each face a fine of at least €400 (£359). They were identified as English speakers by a tour guide, who captured the incident on video. “This enters into the history of Rome … mamma mia … it’s absurd,” he said while filming.

And now, here’s an art story.

In an art exhibition in Porto, “Works, Thoughts, Experiments”, Anish Kapoor has a series of works, including one called “Descent into Limbo”. The 1992 work is a cube-shaped structure which small numbers of visitors enter. Once inside, they encounter a black hole which they are warned not to go near. That must be tempting fate a little. It gives the impression it could go on forever but is in fact about 2.5 metres (8ft) deep.

One visitor to the exhibition proved that it was not an optical illusion by falling into it! An understandable mistake, I suppose. After all, optical illusions of holes have been used on roads to make drivers slow down. And might it not make more sense to paint on the floor of the exhibition hall something that looks realistically like a hole rather than actually digging one?

 I remember seeing a work of art in the Tate Modern; “Shibboleth” it was called. Basically it was a gigantic crack in the floor of the hall. Impressive! at least ten people fell into it. This was despite warmings.

Such works of art lack permanence. Unlike fountains in Rome. But all of them seem to invite people to enter them.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Getting heated about language learning!

Yesterday I went out to buy a few things at the Chinese bazar at around 6.30. The sign outside the chemist’s shop down the road registered a temperature of 38 degrees! Now, that is an insane temperature and makes it hard to think, let alone do anything productive.

Before I went to bed I checked the app on my phone. It said the temperature had gone down to 27 degrees. Not a good temperature for sleeping.

Coming back from my run this morning, just after 9.00, I noticed a sign giving 25 degrees already. There are people around here who will tell you that it isn’t a proper summer unless the temperature tops 30. Personally, I could be quite happy with 25 or so!

Phil has been travelling to Mondariz every afternoon for a chess tournament. Just under an hour in a hot car. He must be almost melted by the time he gets there. Fortunately the playing area is cool!

Slaving over a hot chess board is not to be recommended. But supposedly it keeps the brain active. 

Language learning also keeps the brain active.

Which is one reason why some of us were horrified when a drop in the number os students taking A-levels in Modern Foreign Languages was once again reported on A-Level results day.

I know a number of teachers whose A-Level German, Italian, French and Spanish classes have a high percentage of native speakers among the students, often outnumbering the non-native speakers. This might keep numbers up in the classes and, okay, it provides native speakers for everyone to practise on but it actually makes it harder for non-native speakers to achieve high grades. The ability of the native speakers pushes the grade boundaries up.

 A friend sent me a copy of an article from The Times: “We can’t afford to let language teaching die” by Edward Lucas. At one point he writes: “the plunging A-level entries for modern languages, down by a third in ten years, dismay me. German has collapsed by a sixth this year, to a mere 3,000, eclipsed by the (still tiny) numbers prudently taking Chinese. Other countries regard basic foreign-language competence as a vital life skill, not an academic subject but our education system overvalues good grades. Languages are seen as difficult. Results-conscious schools therefore discourage all but the best pupils from taking them.”

He mentions the numbers taking Chinese. Ten years ago, when I retired from working as a teacher of French and Spanish, we were just introducing Chinese and Arabic at GCSE level at my college. The level of competence required to achieve a good grade was, I was told, lower than that required for European languages. We didn’t offer A-Level but a number of my students of French or Spanish went to study Chinese, Japanese or Arabic at university. To qualify for the course they had to demonstrate competence in a European language (i.e. a high grade at A-Level) as prrof of their language learning ability.

Mr Lucas is correct when he says! “Languages are seen as difficult. Results-conscious schools therefore discourage all but the best pupils from taking them.” At enrolment for one of the colleges where I worked, I would encourage able students to take more than one language, only to find someone else advising them to take only one, “just in case they didn’t get the grades”! Oddly enough, Maths and Physics are also seen as difficult but they didn’t get the same treatment!

Mr Lucas also says, “Technology also devalues linguistic competence. The Babelfish of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is still fiction, but Google Translate and other services outstrip the capabilities of all but the most able linguist.” Personally I have a very poor opinion of electronic translation services but I suppose they have improved enough to deal with very short phrases. Anything long and complicated gets very strange results.

Someone pointed out in another article I read recently that you never hear anyone say, “Well, I did Maths at school but i have forgotten how to add up and subtract and so on” but they happily say the same sort of thing about the foreign languages they learnt at school. This could, of course, be because they use arithmetic in their everyday lives.

Almost everyone forgets how to do algebra though and with calculators on phones the ability to do mental arithmetic is reducing!! Actually, if you take into account the fact that people are reading less and consequently the average vocabulary is smaller than it used to be, really we are just getting more and more stupid! This is turning into a pessimistic post!

The Spanish are as self-critical of their ability to learn languages as the English but at least they recognise the importance of trying to do so. And so language schools pop up all over the place, almost like mushrooms overnight!

As for me, I am currently trying to get my head around Greek, battling with the alphabet and listening to recordings. Everyone needs a challenge!

Monday, 20 August 2018

Modern ways!

In the business section of the local paper yesterday I found “la startup”. Another English borrowing and one that won’t need much adapting to become a Spanish word. Unlike “boom” which has become “bum”, as in “el bum de la moda ‘vintage’”. I see that no-one has yet found a replacement for vintage.

I love the curious blending of language that goes on through such borrowings. My favourite is probabaly what the French have done with the English “look”, as in “J’aime ton nouveau look” (I like your new look). They even made a new word: “relooker” - to remodel, to get a new look.

Discussion of the botellón also figures in local papers. Maybe the botellón arose from copying British youngsters determinedly getting as drunk as possible on a night out. British youngsters have long hung around outside corner shops and mini supermarkets asking people to buy alcohol for them. But they never organised themselves to get together in large groups with music and food as well as alcohol, or atleast  not to my knowledge. So maybe there is a climate element in there as well. Long warm summer evenings lend themselves to botellón rather more than damp, drizzly and rather chilly evenings.

Anyway, some places have been fighting the botellón. Redondela banned alcohol from their concerts in the Festival de Verano, stating that it was a family event and they did not want drunken youngsters. In Vaiona they accept it and have ambulances standing by and patrols to keep an eye out for untowrd behaviour. Vigo has been trying to remove botellon from the port area. Discos on Arenal make it hard to get rid of it completely.

And there has some concern about what happens if the botellon is chased away from the port and onto Plaza de Compostela, leaving the rather tasteful Alameda full of bottles and the well-to-do residents more than a little annoyed. But apparently in summer they tend to disappear a little from the centre of the city to go to outlying areas and their local fiestas. Spanish problems!

In our flats, the complaints are about the pool being locked up at 10.00 pm. On these hot nights, people were saying down in the gardens, some might want to linger longer in the water. More Spanish problems!

Now for a British thing. I read that almost one in 10 Britons say they buy clothes online just to post an image on social media, before sending them back immediately for a refund; among those aged 35 to 44, this rises to nearly one in five.

What a strange thing to do.

It seems that it is because of the popularity of the hashtag “outfit of the day” (#OOTD). Instagrammers upload a picture of themselves to showcase what they are wearing – in a bedroom, on a beach or on the streets – and the hugely popular hashtag has more than 2m posts. And some order clothes just to post a photo and then send the clothes back. Truly odd!

Caryn Franklin, a fashion commentator and an activist for sustainable fashion (whatever that really means), says that fashion at its best gives us the chance to explore and create our identity, to figure out who we want to be. She worked as personal stylist in her early career and comments: “I saw beautiful miracles at the mirror, as ordinary women witnessed their indisputable magnificence. Clothes are firmly embedded in our emotional experience of ourselves. We dream of who we wish to be and feel better connected to that person through the garment we inhabit.”

She waxes a bit lyrical about the clothes business: “My clothes are like longstanding loyal friends. They make me feel joyous, brave, excited. Does buying, Instagramming and returning an entire outfit in a day provide us with any but the most superficial feelings?”

And she remembers a pre-digital “fashion experience” that involved yearning for a longed-for dress or coat or pair of shoes, saving up and finally making the trip to the shops before rushing back to enjoy the new purchase. “The experience of buying, bonding with the newly acquired item and returning home for the subsequent styling session would signal the beginning of yet another fulfilling relationship. All this, without cameras.”

She goes on at greater length about “narcissism and dysfunctional consumption” and a reduction values, which has, she says, implications for the environment and the economy, as well as for our souls.

And okay, I find myself agreeing with her. I would put that with instant streaming of music, individual tracks, rather than albums that artists have given thought to, selecting the order of tracks with care. Where is the joy of waiting for an album to come out, saving up to buy it, then going home and playing it again and again and again?

Oh, dear! I am beginning to sound like a sentimental old fuddy-duddy!

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Shouters. And generation names!

Late on a Saturday night into the small hours of Sunday seems to be the optimum time for standing on the street below our flats talking at the top of your voice. It’s quite understandable that people choose to talk then. By then the street has cooled sufficiently for it to be a comfortable place to stand and chat. And of course, as everybody has a strong opinion on everything they all talk at once and each voice gets louder in order to be heard above the rest. Which is all very well unless you are inside the building trying to go to sleep, with the window open and the blinds closed enough to keep the bugs out but open enough let the air in and, of course, the noise! Such are the trials of hot nights.

It was already showing 23 degrees at 9.00 this morning on a chemist’s sign down on Travesía de Vigo. Despite the already rising temperature that is a good time to be up and running. I see people out running in the early evening but by then the very air is warm and heat is radiating off the walls of buildings. So unless you really believe that you have to sweat as many toxins out of your body as possible, by whatever means, then early evening is not a good time for running.

That talking at the top of your voice is a common phenomenon. We travelled to Mondariz by bus this afternoon and all the way to Porriño there was a shouter, sharing bus conversation with the rest of the bus. I thought at first he might be one of those benighted people who think that when you talk on the phone you need to shout. But, no, he was talking to someone sitting next to him, someone who responded in quite normal tones. It was a great relief when the shouter got off the bus. I suspect his seat companion, who remained on the bus, thought so too. It’s a good job also that the bus was air-conditioned. A shouter on a hot bus (33 degrees outside) would have been too much to bear!

The other day I found this curious item in one of the newspapers online:-

“If you were born during the late 70s or early 80s, you are most likely grouped in with the annoying millennials or pessimistic Gen X's. Good news, you're neither! There is now a micro generation between the years of 1977 and 1983 called Generation Xennial. If you're born in one of these seven years, you've probably found that you don't fit into either of the existing generations surrounding you, this is because you shouldn't! Xennial's are different and therefore they get their own mini generation.

Typically, Xennials don’t have the cynicism associated with the Gen X generation, but they also lack the excessive optimism of millennials, who are said to overestimate their potential. Xennials fall somewhere in between these two extremes People born during this specific time period did not grow up in world where the internet and cell phones were always there, like the millennials who came after them.

Xennials can distinctly remember when these technologies emerged. But unlike Gen X, they were able to adapt to these new technologies very quickly and easily. When new technology came out, it grew as they did. They were old enough to get used to it and young enough to adapt and understand it. They are now able to use technology just as proficiently as millennials but can still remember a time without it.

Xennials take the good from both generations surrounding them, and leave the bad. If you were born around the time of 77 to 83 and feel like you never belonged as a Millennial or Gen Xer, it's because you're neither! Congratulations Xennials, you've waited long enough and now you finally have your very own micro-generation, that also has some pretty awesome traits.”

So there you go! Both our offspring are Xennials and, naturally, they are pretty awesome! They understand technology. And they don’t shout either!

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Paying the cost of things. Some possible solution.

Somebody gave me this link  to an article about the British public footing the bill for the wedding of Princess Eugenie, 9th in line to the British throne. She’s one of the daughters of Prince Andrew and his former wife Sarah Ferguson. As far as I know, she and her sister are mostly famous for wearing awful but expensive outfits to royal weddings.

When I saw the link I was reminded of a thought that came to me in the middle of the night, possibly provoked by thinking about Arethe Franklin singing at President Obama’s inauguration. It was all about public celebrations. The Americans really go to town on their presidential inaugurations, celebrating the election of a new president. In the UK the new leader of the government gets to meet the queen and we have the state opening of parliament but it doesn’t lead to millions of people lining the streets of the capital to see what’s going on. They do turn out though for royal weddings, funerals and, of course, coronations.

So it struck me that what we should do is rotate the head of state job ebetween the members of the royal family. Each one, once they reached a certain aga, should be king/queen for a four year period. That way we could have a coronation every four years with lots of ceremony and we could get rid of the problem of Charles hanging around until he is 70 without the least sign of his becoming king.

That should work!

Except of course that someone would have to foot the bill!

Of course, another solution is just to pension them all off.

Here are a few things I found in the local newspaper, the proper, printed version, not an online job:- 

One of the odd things about the accident at the cincert last weeked is that people trying to claim compemsation might have difficulty. It was afree concert apparntly. No tickets. So as well as a medical report, claimants need to prove they were there!!!! That sounds like somebody trying to duck out of responsibility to me.

The university of Vigo is very proud to be “a las puertas” of the top 500 universities in the world, according to some kind of ranking done by Shanghai. Was the newspaper being ironic in their reporting of this? Somehow I doubt it.

The top ten universities in the world are as follows:-

1. Harvard University
2. Stanford University
3. University of Cambridge UK
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
5. University of California, Berkeley
6. Princeton University
7. University of Oxford UK 8. Columbia University
9. California Institute of Technology
10. University of Chicago.

Are there so many American universities in the list simply because they have such a lot. Itks nice to see Oxbridge still there.

Now, how does a “leyenda del pop-rock español” have a name like Enrique Bunbury? Goodness knows! He had a concert the other day in Pontevedra! And has anybody even heard of him?

And now, another oddity on the food fad front has come to my notice. The trendy people of Brooklyn are in crisis because there is a shortage of oat milk. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I can just about get my head around “milk” made by grinding up nuts such as almonds but I didn’t know you could do it with cereals as well. And I can understand that some people have allergies and other health problems that mean that they need a substitute for cows’ milk. But the food faddists consume it because it’s the latest fashionable to add to your diet. Demand goes up! Supply can’t meet it! Crisis ensues!

First world problems! And finally, a little comment on Brexit that someone or other posted recently:

 “The irony of French-made blue passports that cannot be imported to the UK because a no-deal Brexit means that no trade agreement will be in place to allow the blue passports to enter the UK.” 

No comment!

Friday, 17 August 2018

News. Media. Días festivos.

Yesterday we received news that an old friend, someone we had lost contact with over the years, had died suddenly. Later in the day I saw that Aretha Franklin had died. Two strong women no longer around.

The former I remember especially from a school holiday where we took a crowd of youngsters camping and doing everything in French. Such was her quirky way of doing things that she organised a midnight swim - in the sea, in the dark, no less. The French, she told us, do this all the time. Well, I suppose she should know. She was French, after all. We went along with it but I made sure my children, aged 8 and 10, perfectly competent swimmers though they were, stayed holding my hands in the shallow water. You wouldn’t get away with such activities now!

Aretha Franklin might have said, like Leonard Cohen, but without the irony, “I was born like this, I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice”. She sang for Barack Obama at his inauguration.

Both Obama and Trump tweeted her praises when the news of her death came out. Typically the media have made a thing about it, saying that Obama praised her wonderful talent while Trump made the personal connection, remembering that she had once worked for him. The media can make a perfect storm out of anything.

Yesterday turned out to be another día festivo. Wednesday was the Feast of the Assumption, Mary going up to heaven, but I have not worked out yet why yesterday was a holiday as well. It might have been something to do with San Roque, a saint whose name means nothing to me except as the name of an Italian restaurant not too far from where we live in Greater Manchester.

I only realised it was a holiday when I went out for bread in the morning and found all the shops still closed. Bang went my plans for buying fruit! In the evening, when we went out to check our internet stuff in a local cafe, I picked up a paper and found one section full of photos of processions in various parts of Vigo, and one of San Roque meeting the Virgin - that thing where they make the statues bow to each other in greeting. It’s always quite impressive.

In Vilagarcia, the paper told me, they were having a Fiesta del Agua, presumably throwing water at each oter. Across the bay in Cangas, however, they were having Danzas Ancestrales. Some people know how to maintain tradition. Both will no doubt attract tourist-spectators if marketed properly.

Of course, it is quite possible they don’t want tourists. In one of the papers I skimmed online I discovered a whole lot of places - Oxford, Cambrideg, Cornwall, the Isle of Skye, Venice - whinging because they have too many tourists. Honestly!?!? Do they not want the tourist income?

Actually I can understand the Venetians getting a bit cross; it gets to a point where the locals are seriously outnumbered. And then they had the problem of the gigantic cruise liners trying to go down the Grand Canal.

It seems, however, that some people only visit places to take selfies. Cornwall has become attractive because people have seen the remake of the Poldark series in the television and they want photos on the “locations”. In Skye it seems to be “fairy holes”.

“In Cornwall, it’s social media driving people to two beaches in Poldark,” says Alistair Danter, project manager at destination management organisation Skye Connect. “In Skye, it’s social media driving people to five iconic destinations to take a selfie.”

I have to confess to our having done a bit of TV series tourism. We went to Sicily and visited places where the Montalbano series was filmed. But we didn’t take selfies, just pictures of places. There is a limit to our “groupie” behaviour! 

One of the spokespeople in this article about the selfie-tourism  pointed out that in the case of Cornwall it’s important to recognise the economic need. “It’s one of the poorest counties in England,” he said. “And the second-poorest region in northern Europe. One quarter of children live in poverty. So Cornwall desperately needs tourists. It’s also the county that’s most dependent on tourism in England as a part of its total revenue.”

 You have to put things in perspective.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

We need to be more careful!

Newspapers here are saying that insufficient safety checks were carried out on the seating structure that collapsed in the concert down in the port in Vigo. I had heard emergency vehicles screeching past our flats late that night. I assume that’s where they were all going. They do concerts there every year. Maybe somebody got complacent. After all, it only takes one screw missing or not properly fastened to cause havoc.

And in Genoa, Italy, they have had a bridge collapse, killing dozens of people. It seems warnings have been going out since 2013 about a possible collapse but the government dismissed them as a “favoletta”, an Italian word meaning a children’s fantasy tale or fairy story. The bridge was built in the 1960s and some people are saying that there were “design flaws”. That’s putting the blame on the designers then. But surely the major design flaw is that it was built for 1960s traffic and has been dealing with 21st century traffic.

We don’t seem to be looking after our world very well at present. The hot weather continues in places that normally don't expect hot summers. One report I read said this:

“The world is likely to see more extreme temperatures in the coming four years as natural warming reinforces manmade climate change, according to a new global forecasting system. Following a summer of heatwaves and forest fires in the northern hemisphere, the study in the journal Nature Communications suggests there will be little respite for the planet until at least 2022, and possibly not even then.”

In the short term we can enjoy the summer weather but if this pattern continues, surely it will lead to more bits of the world becoming uninhabitable and greater waves of refugees seeking somewhere else to live. The wealthy will be fine whatever happens unless, of course, a major revolution takes place. But inequalities are already showing.

In the Canadian province of Quebec, the heatwave has shown clearly the differences between the haves and the have-nots. The richer residents of Montreal all had their air-conditioning working nicely at home and in the workplace. The homeless had no way of escaping the heat, especially as they are not usually welcome in nice cool shopping malls. Benedict Labre House, a day centre for homeless people in Montreal, wasn’t able to secure a donated air-conditioning unit until five days into the heatwave. “You can imagine when you have 40 or 50 people in an enclosed space and it’s so hot, it’s very hard to deal with,” says Francine Nadler, clinical coordinator at the facility. People have been dying. That’s the difference!

If that’s happening in Canada, similar things will be going on elsewhere.

It’s time for a bit of joined up thinking!

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Conversations and post boxes!

Last night we got back quite late from Pontevedra.

The chess tournament came to its end late in the morning. An unconscionable time seemed to go past before the prize giving took place but eventually prizes were given - none to any of our group of players - and finally I was able to answer the question that our “responsibility”, aka junior chess player Xulio, had been asking me since he finished his game mid morning. The oft-repeated conversation went like this;

‘What time does the bus go to get back to Pontevedra?’

‘I don’t know. It depends on when everything finishes.’

‘So how will we know when to go to the bus pick-up place?’

‘Because they will announce it after the prize-giving.’

‘Are you sure?’


And finally I was able to say, “Almost immediately. Do not move from here while I say goodbye to someone.” Whereupon he disappeared as soon as my back was turned. Of cours”

But eventually we gave him back to his father and went into Pontevedra to meet our friend Colin and have a well-earned bit of refreshment.

In the evening we ate at the Bar Pitillo, one of our favourite watering holes. Gambas al ajillo, pimientos de Padrón and calamares, washed down with a nice bottle of Albariño. What more could you ask for?

Except for maybe some zamburiñas al ajillo, which were not available unfortunately.

And after that we strolled through streets still registering 30 degrees to go and catch theu. 10.26 train to Vigo. The last time we did that stroll, only a few nights previously, we had got ourselves tangled up the procession to the Peregrina chuch, marking the end of the fiesta of the Virgen de la Peregrina, I think. Lots of people in fancy dress, oops! sorry! national costume, moving slowly and solemnly in time to a rhythm beaten out by a man with a stick. After we had outmanoeuvred the traditionalists our stroll became a forced march at full speed, almost a run, to get to the station in time to,avoid waiting until almost 11.00 pm for the last train to Vigo.

No problems of that nature last night, but we did treat ourselves to a taxi from the station when we reached Vigo. Our very chatty taxi driver told us that the maximum temperature in Vigo had been 26, a much more manageable temperature in his opinion. Well yes, I think we would second that.Today, however, my phone app suggested a high of 29 was on the cards for Vigo for today.

Anyway, last night we got back quite late. Before taking the lift we checked our mailbox. There is rarely anything of significance. Anyone who needs to contact us here usually does so electronically and as a result we get little more that junk mail in the post box. But we empty it from time tor time just to stop it overflowing into the hallway.

On this occasion, along with the brochures for this and that, which we threw away, there was a little note. Written in English it began thus:-

‘Hello, My name is Ifan and I write you because I tryed to find you at home but I couldn’t. I was trying to show you this brochure, the one which is with this letter. (Oops! The one we threw away?!) It talk about : “What is the key to Happy Family Life?”’

Then there were bible references and the suggestion that perhaps Ifan would be back sometime in the future. Not if we can help it!

Probably Jehovah’s witnesses, we decided.

I’ve seen them on Príncipe, the main shopping street, with their stands, identical to the ones on High Street in Manchester, offering leaflets that ask questions about happy family life and how to make sure you have one.

Funnily enough, when I have been out running in the mornings recently there has been one of their gang around. A woman in her fifties, she very tentatively asks passersby if she can speak to them for a moment, ask them a few questions. I shake my head at her and run on. Consequently she has stopped asking me. Most people don’t even acknowledge her presence, which is harsh. Maybe that is why the other day I saw her sitting on a bench, looking very dejected.

It must be quite hard when your religion sends you out doing missionary work before 9.00 in the morning. So it goes!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Odd summer stuff!

A while ago, when there was the eclipse of the moon, the one I didn’t see because of all the cloud (as usual!), there was a lot of stuff about it also being a “blood moon”. I read an explanation of why the moon looked red, all of which I have now completely forgotten.

Well, yesterday evening, 10.15 or thereabouts, we could see the moon, a thin sliver of silver against the darkening sky. I have no idea whether it was waxing or waning. That’s another thing I read about, how to tell which way the moon is going, which I have forgotten. There had clearly been a bit of a sunset, one of those where all the horizon turns pinky-orange, and the horizon still showed traces of colour. We were not really concentrating on that as we wanted to get down to the Cairo cafeteria to do some internetting before they closed.

When we got back to the flat some time after 11.00, when the cafe closed, I went out onto the balcony to get the washing in and looked out over the bay. And there was the setting moon, looking for all the world like a slice of watermelon, but without the rind obviously. A pinky-red crescent sliding down below the horizon. How odd!

Now, I always thought, when I was a child, that the sun was out in the daytime and the moon at night. But it turns out that sometimes you see the moon in the late afternoon and sometimes you see it in the morning. If it sets before midnight, at what time does it rise? Also, if it sets before midnight, how does anybody manage a moonlit walk late at night? One of life’s mysteries!

It’s a good job it was not too hot last night because the wind had got up and we had to shut all the windows. When the wind bows from a certain direction it resonates through the building with a consistent whine. No way to sleep through that!

More consequences of the heat in various countries keep popping up in the news. From Germany comes the strange story of a nan who had to be rescued from a baby squirrel:-

“German police have rescued a man after he called for help saying a baby squirrel would not leave him alone. Emergency services received a call on Thursday from the man, who claimed he was being chased down the street by the tiny animal.

Police in Karlsruhe said the unnamed man called them in desperation after he was unable to shake off the small rodent. Officers sent a patrol car out to investigate and arrived to find the chase still in full flow. But the drama ended suddenly when the squirrel, apparently exhausted by its exertions, lay down abruptly and fell asleep.

Officers took pity on the animal, which had probably become separated from its mother. Police said it likely targeted the man because it was in search of a new home.”

That brings to mind one of our family stories. When our children were small, we regularly visited the red squirrel reserve at Formby point, patiently trying to persuade the little creatures to eat from our hands. On one occasion my brother, ever a joker, told the children on our way to the nature reserve, about a mysterious giant, bottom-biting squirrel that had appeared in the pinewoods. After we parked we had to work hard to persuade the children to leave the car!

Such is the fear of squirrels!

Monday, 13 August 2018

Life lessons. And crazy summer crises!

The other day up at the chess tournament I watched a small boy emerge from the playing area, and run and hide behind some parked cars to cry his little heart out where he thought nobody could see him. Except that a friend and I did see him and we concluded that he had just lost a game. But no, after having a bit of a weep he went back in and resumed playing. After a while he came out again with his opponent, an adult player. The little chap was crying again. We worked out that he might by now have drawn but, earwigging on the conversation, we decided that he was crying with frustration because he is considered to be quite a talented young fellow but he had not managed to win a single game so far in the tournament.

Life is full of hard lessons for a bright little chap to learn.

That you can be clever and still not win everything is what a hot summer week in a hot sports hall has hopefully taught that young man.

Elsewhere the summer is having odd consequences. Earlier in the summer there was a salad crisis. Prices for lettuce, especially iceberg, were going up. There was a shortage because lettuce does not grow well when the temperatures are too high. And so, just when everyone suddenly wanted salad it was not so easily available! Who’d have thought it?

And in Belgium, for the same reason, they are suffering from a potato shortage. Now, chips are the country’s national dish. This makes Belgium the butt of all sorts of jokes. But the fact remains that chips are a regular cheap snack in that country. The lack of rain makes the crop smaller and tougher, harder for potato-peeling machines to deal with.

It’s causing havoc for the “frites” sellers!

No, I am not joking. This is serious crisis stuff.

Bernard Lefèvre, the president of Unafri-Navefri, the stallowners association, said: “Prices have already increased and potatoes will be smaller but it isn’t clear yet. We are hopeful. It’s the first time Belgians are praying for more rain ... Frites are essential. It is vital. It is part of our culture. It’s more than a product — it’s a symbol of Belgium.”

It’s so serious that Belgium has appealed to the EU for emergency funds to help deal with the drought. Who would have thought it could come to this?

Meanwhile, tomato growers are really happy. Janet Street Porter wrote in the Independent about people posting pictures on tomatoes on social media. “Yes, tomato porn beats the real thing any day. Conventional miniature plum varieties are considered unadventurous and dreary, whereas anything black, dark red or purple is highly fashionable, the veg equivalent of the designer trainer or Gucci bag.”

She continued: “Year after year, I have failed at tomato growing – crops have been struck down by blight, greenfly, rotting leaves, or ended up the size of marbles. I’ve begged them to thrive, and prayed to the tomato goddess in the sky, to no avail. This year – bingo! I couldn’t resist joining the gloaters and tweeting a snap of my perfect yellow sungold lovelies – only to be trumped mostly by people growing massive red beefsteak monsters. I retaliated with another shot of my noire de crimee, ruby red tomatoes with deep burgundy flesh. I admit tomato porn has become obsessive, but nothing gives me more pleasure this weird summer than eating a juicy specimen on toast! Yes, I admit I am a tomato snob.”

Summer makes strange things happen! But then you can boast about anything at all on social media. 

Then there is Barbara Ellen writing about people being silly and getting too much sun:

“A&E departments reported record admissions during the heatwave, sometimes for minor-sounding complaints. I like to think that this supports my admittedly unscientific thesis that certain British people may have finally accepted that they can’t hack hot weather. These are probably the same smug characters who sneer at people like myself for our constant, wholly justified whingeing about hot weather.
If I were an overpaid Ibiza DJ, I’d do a “scratch-mix” (or whatever the Young Folk call them now) of their righteous opining: “Get over it/ Embrace life/ Stop being such a miserable goth/ Look at fabulous-me, I’m sat cross-legged, meditating in the park, wearing the same tie-dyed pantaloons I wore on my trip to Goa/ Oh yum, this watermelon and frog spawn ice lolly is so thirst-quenching, and only £9.99 from a pop-up shop in Hoxton/ Hey everybody, look at my little hand-held fan, which I’m holding rigidly right in front of my face, because otherwise I’d faint going all of three stops on the bus…”
Then along comes a genuine “scorcher!” and they all end up in A&E like the pathetic cry-babies they really are. OK, it might not be the same people. Still, surely now it’s obvious, even to sun-worshippers, that hot weather in the UK is a human rights calamity – sunburn, dehydration, sticky cream, surreal, sweaty nights, with whirring fans that bring on fitful dreams that you’re trapped inside Gene Simmons’s codpiece at a Kiss revival concert. And you’re not on holiday, you’re working, so where are the crowdfunders and GoFundMes to get this country adequate air-conditioning? However, while people like myself have always complained about the sun, and probably always will, we don’t generally end up in A&E. Who are the sun-wimps now?”

Life can be strange!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Things we do!

We seem to have become accidentally responsible for a child at the chess tournament. The child’s father accompanies him to Pontevedra on the train, sees him onto the tournament bus and goes off to wander around Pontevedra. Quite how many days you can spend walking around the centre of Pontevedra without going crazy is questionable, even during Semana Grande with processions and mad music bands going around.

But the father says there is nothing up at the tournament venue and so he doesn’t go. I wonder if he has thought of purchasing a newspaper or even a book!

And therefore he casually gave me his number and asked me to call him when we were on our way back to the station at the end of each day’s play. Not that I mind, not a great deal anyway, but it is just possible I too might decide to spend a day in Ponters. Or even remain in Vigo. Or go to the beach, something that someone yesterday asked, in tones of total amazement, why I was not doing. As if the only thing any woman wants to do when the temperature is 25+ degrees is go to the beach!

Now, I quite like beaches when I have kids with me who want to explore rock pools and make sandcastles. I love a stroll on the beach in good company in the late afternoon or early evening. But I get bored sunbathing, or would if I spent any time doing it, which I don’t as I burn easily. It’s really hard to read and sunbathe at the same time. And swimming in the sea is lovely but I get a little paranoid about not being able to find where I left my stuff. And besides, if I am on my own I don’t really want to leave my stuff abandoned with nobody to keep an eye on it. So that’s that!

Anyway, yesterday Phil finished his game early. Our first instinct in such a case is to set off walking down the hill towards Pontevedra town. We’ve done it before. It’s a fair walk - about half an hour - along a road but the road is not busy and by early evening it’s all in shade. It beats waiting a couple of hours in a hot sports hall, or even in the cool, breezy area outside the hot sports hall, for the tournament bus down to town. But then, yesterday there was the question of the child.

Well, he too had finished his game early. He’s a fairly tall eleven year old and has legs and so we took him along with us, much to his surprise! Maybe he’s never done a walk like that before. We had to remind him several times over not to walk in the middle of the road! And not to just randomly cross over to look at something on the other side; the road isn’t busy but when cars come, they come fast! And we had to explain at every turn-off that we were not going to take a left turn and go back on our tracks. And we had to explain that we were not going to stop at the Carrefour to buy snacks. We had already phoned his father and arranged to drop him off somewhere near the Peregrina church in the town centre. His father could then provide snacks!

Eventually we got into the old quarter, which was fairly busy, this being Semana Grande. We located a friend to have a drink with and Phil battled through the crowds to deliver the child to his father, inconveniently waiting on the wrong side of the Peregrina church!

But finally we had a pleasant drink and a chat before heading for the station and the train back to Vigo. Not a bad evening in the end: a stroll, a drink, a chat!

What better for a warm summer evening?

Friday, 10 August 2018

Sometimes life is hard to organise!

Wednesday turned into an odd sort of day in some respects. Everything began fine, all as usual. I got up and ran, bought bread for breakfast, returned home and showered and got ready for the rest of the day. No problem there. Then I went out again, still before breakfast, to go to the Chinese bazar as soon as it opened.

Phil was due to start playing in a chess tournament in Pontevedra. He usually takes a flask of coffee with him. Where was his flask? Well, it turned out that he had managed to leave it behind when he played in Sanxenxo in June!

Why did I not know that? Goodness only knows.

So I trotted off to the the Chinese bazar to buy a new one. At the same time I popped into the fruit shop to pick up this and that. The fruit shop lady was busy telling us all how hot it was going to be that day. And there I was, thinking that the temperatures looked like being much more manageable. And mostly they proved to be so.

Late morning I went down to the pool - still a bit murky-looking but better for not being over crowded. (On Thursday, by the way, the grass was cut again and no doubt the filters are already filling up with cuttings. One of my poolside acquaintances told me she had remonstrated with the chap doing the mowing and had got almost nowhere. He simply follows instructions. If nobody tells him specifically that he needs a mower that picks up the cuttings then he doesn’t bother. The pool is someone else’s problem. So it goes.)

After an early lunch we set out for the train station and off to Pontevedra. The first day of a chess tournament is like a reunion of old friends; everyone wanders around greeting each other and catching up on news before the serious business begins.

There is a bus organised to take players, and their companions, from the bus station at one end of town to the venue, a school up in the hills at the other end of town. On the bus I found myself explaining stuff in French to some players who had come from near Paris. Discovering that I spoke French, they asked if I knew anything about transport to a place called Grube. Grube? I had never heard of such a place. About thirty or forty kilometres away they said, on the coast. And then I realised that they meant O Grove! Buses from Pontevedra bus station? No problem!

About an hour after play started, so at about 6.00pm, an Italian I had met at the chess club in Vigo turned up. He had come from Vigo by bike! He had told me he planned to do this and I had taken it with a pinch of salt. But there he was, in his cycling gear!

And I set about practising my Italian. This is what language geeks do!

Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and cloud had moved in. The next time I looked out, maybe half an hour later, it was raining! What a surprise! My phone app has suggested the slight possibility of some rain but this was quite serious stuff. And it went on for a couple of hours.

We had rainbows, but much later!

The Italian cyclist was a bit concerned. A ride back to Vigo in the rain was not appealing. To get back to the centre of Pontevedra and then catch a train didn’t seem good either. It’s a long, fairly steep slope down to the town and could be rather dangerous in the wet! In the end we organised for him to pack his bus into the tournament bus back to the station later.

Eventually the chess games came to an end and people, including us, went to the rendezvous point to get the bus back to the station. We stood a good chance of catching the 9.36 train. And then we waited and waited and waited for the bus to be ready to depart. Lots of phone calls seemed to be taking place to check that all possible passengers were there. Nobody was to be left behind.

We were still in with a chance for that train! But the bus did a drop-off in the town centre before going to the station, where we arrived just as the train left. Forty minutes wait for the next one!

Baxk in Vigo, I wanted to post my blog. Phil wanted to check some info about the next day’s play. So we caught a taxi to one of our local wifi bars. Which was closed! According to the taxi driver, places on the edge of town were closing early because of a concert in Castrelos park. Some singer I had heard of but never heard. Maybe I had heard him but never consciously listened to him. Whatever the truth of the matter, so many people had probably gone there that edge-of-town bars were short of customers and closed early.

So we went elsewhere, had a drink and very meagre tapas - well, if you had an almost empty bar you would not go to town on making tasty tapas, would you? But their wifi was working. At least it was working for Phil’s laptop and it was working for my iPhone but it would not let my iPad access the internet! I tried switching off and starting afresh, all to no avail!

So I gave up and ended up getting up on Thursday morning to post Wednesday’s blog from the cafe down the road from our flats. A crazy day! Thursday worked better! Today’s post is from the local cafe, just in case!

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Some things don’t change!

On the television in the Cafetería-Panaderîa where I go each morning to buy bread there was a news report of wildfires in the Valencia region of Spain. There’s another bit of the country going up in smoke. It’s a regular problem for the summer time. Of course, this year we had the same problem in the Northwest of England. Now, that’s an aspect of European culture that even a Europhile like me can do without.

A few days ago I heard the tin whistle tune of the knife grinder out on the streets of Vigo. It was like a step back in time. We just needed somebody shouting put “rag bo-o-o-one” to take us back to my childhood. And then we could do with the fairy tale cry of “New lamps for old!”

The itinerant knife grinder is not the only throwback that continues to exist in Spain. There’s a shop on Travesía de Vigo where you can buy bags of ice. Then there are the numerous ferreterías, the individual, independent hardware shops where you can still go and buy two screws of the size you require, or even just one for that matter. Almost as common as bars. You don’t have to head to a huge complex like B&Q on the edge of town where you are forced to buy a pack of twenty-five screws, or fifty if you are really unlucky, the majority of which you then put away in a safe place and lose. That is, until after you have bought another multipack the next time you need a single screw!

The little hardware shops often also offer knife and scissor sharpening, in case you missed the itinerant chappie. Other things you still find here that have largely disappeared in England are haberdashers’ shops, frequently offering to do alterations, shorten trousers, replace zips and the like. Along with them are the shops selling fabric by the yard. And wool shops.

Of course, it’s all a question of supply and demand. If nobody sews or knits properly, then the shops close down.

I exaggerate a little about the state of things in the UK. There are stalls on Oldham market which will replace zips for you. Another repairs shoes. There is also a stall selling wool, and it doubles as a haberdashery, selling zips and braid and buttons and embroidery silks. Knitting has become trendy and I know people who order all their wool online but personally I still like to go to the wool stall and browse her books of patterns and choose the wool there and then.

As for fabric by the yard, you have to be in the know in our area. Oldham’s outdoor market has masses of stall selling fabric, but only on Saturdays. And the last time I shopped there I was the only non-Asian woman purchasing. One lady even expressed her amazement: “So it’s not just Asian women who know how to sew!” 

But these, like the shoe repair stall and the watch repair man seem to be a dying breed.

Changing times!

Much is spoken about plastic carrier bags and the problems they cause. Most places nowadays, both here and in the UK charge for them, trying to encourage people to take their own reusable bags when they go shopping. If you are really organised and ecologically-minded you take along a container and ask the but her or fishmonger to put your purchases into that instead of wrapping it in plastic. Anyway, Mercadona supermarkets are trying to be at the forefront of the anti-plastic struggle. In Valencia, Barcelona and Vizcaya provinces, their supermarkets paper bags or bags made from woven rafia instead of traditional plastic. If plastic bags are available, they are made from recycled materials. They plan to ban all plastic bags by the end of 2019.

I wonder if they will extend the policy to the bags currently available to put your purchases of fruit and veg in within the store. Not to mention the plastic gloves you are encouraged to wear, and then discard, while selecting fruit. We shall see.

Changing times again!

Fireworks continue though.

At midnight on Sunday we were treated to a fine display from Teis. During the day they had had processions for the feast of San Salvador and I think the fireworks were for the start of their Semana Grande.

Fiestas season is underway. No change there.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Important things!

¡AVISO IMPORTANTE! There it was in the lift this morning! I spotted it when I went out for a run. It wasn’t there last night when we returned home at around 10.00 pm. An IMPORTANT NOTICE! All about the swimming pool. The pool will be open from 10.00 to 22.00. At 22.00 the gate to the pool will be padlocked!

That sounds a bit draconian. Bang go my plans for a nine o’ clock swim!

What has provoked this? Have naughty people been having poolside parties? Or has the hot weather simply got to people to such an extent that some have taken advantage of having a pool in the garden to go and swim or just stand in the water in the late evening?

It has to be said that as the summer has gone on, and particularly as the heatwave continued, the water in the pool has not been at its best. Not what you might call crystalline. In the morning it’s not been bad but by early evening it’s been in a pretty parlous state, murky, not to say turgid! It must be all the sun creams washing off in the water but the children who play games throwing small plastic rings into the water and then diving in to find and retrieve them must have had some difficulty seeing the rings on the bottom of the pool.

There have been rumblings and grumblings about the filters not working properly and the pressure of the water which splashes in at one end not being up to standard. And on more than one occasion I have been in conversation with a technician who comes and checks things and chlorinates the water. He moans about the grass being cut and left to lie, so that it is blown and walked into water, and the numbers of people who think the shower is there to rinse the chlorine off you when you get out of the pool rather than to wash the dust and stuff off you before you get in!

Personally, I would campaign for people to have to tie back long hair. There is something quite off-putting about swimming along and realising that you have somebody else’s long black hair tangled around your fingers - only a single hair, not a whole headful, but even so! There’s a chap who arrives at the pool with his hair in a man-bun, not my favourite male hairstyle but at least tidy and under control. Preparing for a swim, he releases the man-bun, shakes out his glossy locks and there you are, a few more hairs to clog up the filter!

Anyway, by the time I returned from my run this morning, somebody had scrawled a response to the notice, a nicely printed notice by the way, signed by the president of the comunidad and everything. In large letters, in scratchy-looking ballpoint pen, someone demanded to know when and where and by whom that decision had been taken.

A little bit of indignant reaction there!

I now wait to see if there will be a response to the response, a whole correspondence on the walls of the lift. Is this the start of the Torres Doralta (our flats) pool wars?

Out in the wider world, here is another bit of craziness. Beyoncé has been talking about how she is descended from a slave-owner, who did what a lot of slave-owners did and had a child by one of his slaves. It sounds a little as though she was rather surprised at this. Surely she is not the first mixed race American to discover exactly that bit of family history.

What surprised me, however, was the rest of her reaction; “I researched my ancestry recently and learned that I come from a slaveowner who fell in love with and married a slave,” she said. “I had to process that revelation over time. I questioned what it meant and tried to put it into perspective. I now believe it’s why God blessed me with my twins. Male and female energy was able to coexist and grow in my blood for the first time. I pray that I am able to break the generational curses in my family and that my children will have less complicated lives.”

Apparently she feels that her family has a “lineage of broken male-female relationships, abuse of power, and mistrust”. But her twins, Rumi and Sir, will be able to put all of that right. That’s why God gave her the twins!

Well, hooray!

I suppose if you live your life in the public eye you have to have such ideas.

But oh, what a responsibility for the poor children!

Monday, 6 August 2018

Wish fullfilment and names!

They say you should be careful what you wish for. Well, people have been moaning about it being toooooo hot and so today we woke up to fog. A friend of mine posted a picture of sunset at Samil, a watery sun through some murky-looking mist. So the low cloud cover was clearly on its way in yesterday evening. It’s curious how we can have clear skies and sunshine at our end of Vigo, the Teis end, while she complains of mist and musk at Alcabre. They get the brunt of the Atlantic blanket coming in, I suppose.

The temperature gauges show a marked drop in temperature but this morning’s fog was still very clammy. It certainly made little difference to the night-time temperature - sticky weather for sleeping. Add to that the festivities that are going on at A Guía - the promontory you can see from our flats, a place we often walk to - and sleep is not going well at the moment.

We wondered the other day what was the origin on double-barrelled names in England. In Spain there is a long tradition of having two surnames, one from your father and one from your mother. This leads to much confusion when they discover that we British as a rule have only one. They often try to make my second forename into my fist surname. And so I find myself being addressed as Señora Margaret, as they assume that, of course, I will expect to be known principally by my “first surname”. A young friend of mine is often addressed as Señor George for the same reason.

When last we renewed our “tarjeta dorada”, the rail travel discount card for old biddies, the official at the station could not bring himself to leave one of the surname slots on the form empty. Consequently Phil’s card reads Philips Philips Adams. He has the added complication of having only one forename and so they invented one for him. Heaven help us if ever the cards are checked against passports. And then there is the fact that Philip became Philips this is another fairly frequent phenomenon. Our grandson, Matthew, was often called Matthews when he visited us.

Mind you, the British can be as bad with names. At least in my family. My Spanish nephew is called Andrés, a name my sister and her husband chose as being one the English relatives could relate to without difficulty. Besides, this followed another good Spanish tradition of giving the son his father’s name. We thought his father was called Avelino but it turned out he was really Andrés Avelino. (Like my Aunt Elizabeth Ethel, he was always known by his second name. Quite why my aunt preferred Ethel to Elizabeth I do not understand. On reflection though, she was of an age to have been named after the Elizabeth who later became queen, so maybe that had something to do with it.) The non-Spanish-speakers on the English side of the family moved the stress of Andrés to the initial A, making it more like Andrew. My brother, the joker, decided this was like andrex and proceded to call him Bog-Roll. Sometimes you can’t win.

Here’s another example: my Spanish niece’s partner is Miguel Angel, a common enough name, shortened to Migue, stress on the first syllable, by friends and family. When my English sister and I visited our Spanish sister earlier this year and met this young man, my English sister could not bring herself to call him by the shortened version of his name. She heard it as “Me gay” and felt embarrassed that she might be insulting him!! We had to change his name to Migui. Oh, boy!

Anyway, I did a mini-research project on English double-barrelled names and found this: “In British tradition, a double surname is heritable, and mostly taken in order to preserve a family name which would have become extinct due to the absence of male descendants bearing the name, connected to the inheritance of a family estate. Examples include Harding-Rolls and Stopford Sackville.”

Most of us associate it with poshness and snobbiness. Hence the Sackville-Bagginses in Tolkeins’s hobbit society.

“A few British upper-class families have "triple-barrelled" surnames (e.g. Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe; Cave-Browne-Cave; Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound; Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby; Smith-Dorrien-Smith; Vane-Tempest-Stewart). Not all of those with multiple names were of the nobility; landed gentry such as George Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers consolidated the estates and wealth of several families in their multiple names. These are sometimes created when one spouse has a double-barrelled name and the other has a single surname.”

“Captain Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache is sometimes quoted as the man with the most ever "barrels" in his surname (six), but in fact all but the last two of these (Tollemache-Tollemache) were forenames.”

What it didn’t mention was the fact that some children are now given two surnames as feminist mothers insist of their offspring having the mother’s name as well the father’s. Fair enough! You have to consider, however, the level of difficulty for the poor child learning to write his or her name. Our daughter’s latest offspring has an English name, Lydia Mei (the last spelt Chinese fashion like her Chinese grandmother’s), then a Chinese name, Wai Yin (which she will no doubt have to learn to write in Chinese characters at some point), but only one surname, her father’s. Her parents decided that to call her Wong-Adams or Adams-Wong would just give her altogether too many names!

These are the important things to take into consideration.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

The heat. And First Ladies of France!

You know that it’s hot when the lady who walks her dog every morning at 8.30 and ALWAYS wears her coat and scarf (I swear she only gave up gloves and a wooly hat in June) is wearing a summer dress. Okay, I exaggerate about the hat and gloves but it remains a fact that she wore her coat, all buttoned up, and a scarf wrapped round her throat right up until last week. I know it can be cool first thing in e morning but not that cool.

This morning the temperature gauges were already marking 26 degrees at 9.00! We all have short memories and have forgotten that not long ago we were complaining that summer was not getting going so that now we can moan about it being too hot. Down at the pool the cries about the water being tooooo coooold - ¡Está congelada! - to comments ablut how warm it is and how it is not refreshing - ¡Está calentita! ¡No refresca!

The shower is colder than the pool water so at least people are showering before getting in the pool. Well, more people are showering before leaping in. Others just throw their stuff down on the grass, remove their outer clothing and leap in regardless of how they might splash all and sundry in the process. And that’s just the adults! The ten- to thirteen-year-olds are busy showing off that they can do summersaults as they leap in!

But the pool remains an excellent way to cool off.

 Here are a couple of odd heat-related facts:-

In the Netherlands, authorities closed some motorway sections after the heat melted the road surface.

In France, four nuclear reactors have been closed to avoid raising the temperature of rivers whose water is used to cool reactors and then returned.

At least so far we just have heat!

In an article about Brigitte Macron and what a popular First Lady of France she is I came across this comment: “It makes a nice change from recent French first ladies such as Cécilia Sarkozy or Valérie Trierweiler, the former partner of François Hollande: both women always looked uncomfortable.”

That’s odd, I thought to myself, I have never heard of Cécilia Sarkozy!

So I looked her up on the internet.

She is a former model and public relations person. Sarkozy, not yet president of France, officiated at her wedding to someone or other. In 1988 she left her husband for Sarkozy. They married in 1996. She was a kind of political aide as well as wife to Monsieur Sarkozy but in 2005 she left him for somebody big in media. She clearly is a lady who gets around.

Sarkozy and Cecilia finally divorced a month after he became president. That explains why I had never heard of her. She was already out of his life.

In the meantime Sarkozy had met singer/songwrite/bit of an actress Carla Bruni not long after separating from Cécilia and before we knew it they were married. I already knew about her because I sued her songs in my French lessons.

Now, I have a theory that it was Carla Bruni, all slim and fashionable and used to being in the public eye, who made the role of wife of the President of France into that of First Lady, American style. Before that you never really heard much about the wives. Or in some cases about the mistresses for that matter. Governing France was a serious business and not to be mixed with social stuff like wives and what they got up to.

But Mrs Macron is apparently a popular lady.

“A recent poll by Paris Match found that 67% of the French had a very good opinion of the president’s wife. They were fonder of Brigitte Macron than of any other French first lady in history except Bernadette Chirac. She is said to receive 100 letters every day at the Élysée palace, far more than her predecessors. Supportive yet discreet, an independent woman with character and style but without political ambition for herself, she seems to have struck the right chord with the nation.”

“But her popularity goes beyond the day-to-day job. The fact that she faced the scandal of leaving her husband for a former pupil who was the same age as her children, in provincial France, is seen by many as showing her resolve. In fact, being 25 years older than her husband perhaps increases her appeal with the French. The country has always boasted alluring mature female figures. Remember the 1940s star Arletty; think chanteuse Juliette Gréco, actresses Jeanne Moreau, Isabelle Huppert and Juliette Binoche: all women whose talent, wit, intelligence and character played as big a part as their beauty.”

One suggested reason is that she comes from a family of chocolatiers. Maybe she gives sweets out at meetings and on walkabouts.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

On feelng one’s age. And reflection on fashion and hot weather.

John O’Farell (yes, I am still reading his memoirs) wrote:

“David Cameroon became leader of the conservative Party at the age of 39. That was the day I officially became old. When even the leader of the Tory Party is younger than you, you’re officially inducted onto the association of decrepit old blokes. Top listening to 6 Music, it’s Classic FM for,you now; you’ll find the details in your Radio Times, which you must keep in its own special binder on the coffee table by the National Trust coasters.”

I know the feeling. The new leader of the Spanish Partido Popular looks like a teenager. President Macron of France doesn’t look much older. Mind you, the older political leaders around the world don’t seem to be doing a great job. It’s time we stopped judging by appearances and considered their opinions and policies instead.

Not that I have ever been impressed by the opinions and policies of the Conservative Party or the Partido Popular.

On to more serious matters: fashion!

And the heat!

We all moaned that summer was slow to start and now all the talk around the pool is about how difficult it is to sleep at night because of the heat. Or in my case, because my phone pinged at 1.00 am - my daughter letting me know she had arrived safely at her brother’s house after a long slow journey with roadworks all along the M1. Okay, it was only midnight in the UK but even so, she must have mistaken me for her grandmother who always needed reassurance that we had arrived safely at whatever destination we headed for.

I think I could have waited until this morning to hear from her.

And then there were the very noisy people down in the street at about 7.00 am. It is quite likely they were revellers on their way home from a night out. Good for the, I hope they had a good time but I think they could have been more considerate. By 7.00 it was cool enough to sleep and I would have preferred have remain comatose a little longer!

Annyway, the fashion thing.

And the heat thing.

The heat here at the moment is that sticky kind of heat. The sky is not properly blue; the heat haze makes it a sort of whitish colour. Consequently the sea is also a silvery blue rather than a proper deep blue.

The coolest, temperature- and comfort-wise rather than being at the cutting edge of fashion, things to wear in such weather are long, loose dresses. I realise that this is rather hard on men but that’s just how it goes.

When I visited my son and his family in mid-July, we wandered down into their small town centre on a hot Saturday morning and strolled about the market. On impulse I bought a fairly long linen dress in a dusty rose shade of pink. A very comfortable summer dress. And now Jess Cartner Morley, writing in Guardian confirms my choice.

She might have a posh-sounding name but usually she makes sense about clothes, apart from the occasional ridiculously priced item.

She wrote:

“Rosé has gone from being the third colour on the wine list to the default choice from May to September. It is summer, distilled into an oversized glass. I write this knowing absolutely nothing whatsoever about wine, but I don’t think that matters because the point of rosé is that it is wine for people who don’t know their way around a wine list. To choose a white or a red wine you need to know about grapes and vineyards and climates. To choose a rosé, you just ask for the palest one they’ve got, right?”

Well, personally, I find a nice crisp white wine preferable to rosé. Although last year a group of us enjoyed chilled rosé wine while we listened to Tom Petty in Hyde Park.

But rose is her colour of choice for the summer:

“Choosing rose to wear, just like choosing rosé to drink, depends on getting the shade just right. Too lurid a pink translates as too sugary a taste. This is true on the eye, as well as on the tongue. The shade you want is in the region of the subtle blush that you would drink over a long lunch under the shade of a tree in, say, Provence, as opposed to the diluted-Ribena shade you find on the shelves of a basic off-licence for £6.99. Or, if you prefer to think in petals, the colour of a charming old rose from a David Austin catalogue rather than the toxic pink of forecourt flowers.
I have worn a lot of pink over this summer’s heatwave. I think this is because I am wearing longer, looser clothes than I used to in hot weather. It’s not a modesty thing, or even an age thing, or at least not consciously; I just find that these days I feel more comfortable, less exposed, better able to take the heat in my stride, when I’ve got a long hemline and a floaty sleeve. But floor-length black looks slightly alarming for daytime; white is a bit ghostly; yellow is hard work. Rose, on the other hand, works well when there’s lots of it. Just like rosé, then. Make mine a large one.”

So that’s that then!