Thursday, 4 July 2019

Cards, queues and cunning insects!

Our son is about to have another birthday, not quite so significant a number as last year when he hit 40, but still, a birthday is a birthday. Last year he celebrated his birthday “en grande” as they say around here. He and some friends went off to Madrid to a music festival and when he came back we all went to a concert in Hyde Park. This year might be a little more low key.

So this morning I went out looking for a birthday card to send to him. It used to be very difficult to find birthday cards here in Spain. Not quite so difficult as it once was to find Christmas cards but still something of a problem. The card manufacturers have recognised the market here though in recent years and now they are more available even if you still need to hunt for them. And it is surprisingly common to find that the cards wish the recipients a HAPPY BIRTHDAY in English!!

 In the UK just about every supermarket has a section where you can buy stationery and cards and the like. This is not the case in Spain, not in your bog-standard local supermarket anyway. El Corte Ingl├ęs and Carrefour may be different but your regular Mercadona or Froiz or Eroski do not sell such things, just as they don’t sell aspirin or ibuprofen or paracetamol. Just food and household items and essential toiletries.

I knew this already but I also knew that the tobacconist up the road sold cards and, what’s more, I knew I could acquire a stamp there as well. Whether the card will reach him on time is a different matter but it should arrive before I see him at the end of next week.

I had a nice little chat with the friendly assistant in the tabacalera. She wondered whether England still counts as Europe, for postal rates that is. We agreed that for the moment we are still Europeans but goodness knows what will happen over the next few months. She went on to tell me that she con’t understand why we want to leave or, at any rate, why we have not yet given up on the idea as it is causing so many problems. Well, exactly! In her opinion we are all better off without frontiers and she thinks the UK should stay. Which confirms a sneaky suspicion I have had that, even if the politicians tell us that Europe wants the UK out, most ordinary people are quite happy for us to stay. 

My next stop was the Froiz supermarket where they sell the coffee we prefer and then Mercadona for milk, as their milk is more reliable than the stuff provided by some of the other supermarkets. As I stood in the queue in Mercadona, patiently waiting my turn with my one item of shopping, a lady in another queue gestured to me, indicating that I should go in front of her. So kind! Such a level of consideration is rare in supermarkets anywhere. Here in Spain it is more common for someone with two or three items to ask brusquely if she can go ahead of you as she has a bus to catch / a car double-parked illegally outside / children waiting in the car / an elderly relative she has to visit immediately! All this while completely disregarding the fact that you too have only a couple of items of shopping on the conveyor belt!

Waiting for us to return to Vigo after a week and half of chess in Sanxenxo and some gourmet tapas-eating in Poio was a mosquito. He did not make his presence felt immediately, of course. In that sneaky way that mosquitos have, he waited until the small hours of the morning to feast on Phil’s arm. I have a vague recollection of hearing a splat at some point but it was not until this morning that the reluctant-to-get-out-of-bed mosquito-bite sufferer regaled me with stories of his middle-of-the-night hunt for the little beast - a successful hunt, leading to the need to clean the resulting splodge off the wall.

As a rule we do not suffer much from mosquitos in Galicia. Well, I never really suffer from them but Phil has spectacular over-reactions demanding anti-histamines. Galicia, as I said, is a much less mosquito-prone area than other places we have visited. However, it could be that, despite the continuing lack of heat wave here, global warming is having an effect and the mosquitos might be heading north.

How very annoying!

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