Saturday, 31 August 2019

Last day of August thoughts.

It’s the last day in August. Various female columnists are writing about their relief at the prospect of their children going back to school, banging on about how hard it has been to have their children around all day, every day. In some cases they have been able, maybe obliged, to reduce their working hours over the summer to accommodate the children. If they are fortunate enough to be able to afford to do that, they should be making the most of that time and enjoying spending it with their children. For those children will not be children forever. Enjoy them while you can. SOme people don’t have that luxury.

Here’s Lucy Mangan on that subject. She also has stuff to say about the queen and the prorogation business. Here is what Craig Murray has to say about that.

Before prorogation Sajid Javid apparently tweeted this: “You don’t deliver democracy by trashing democracy. You can’t just shut down Parliament”.

It would seem that he changed his mind. Are we surprised at this?

I did plan to go into Manchester today to join in a Stop the Coup demonstration but the morning ran away with me.

So here I am, baking a cake. This was sort of commissioned by my small granddaughter:

 “Shall I bake a cake for your birthday?“
 “Yes, I would like a princess cake. And it’s Rapunzel. So she has ginger hair.”

There you go. A bit of art work with the food colouring is called for, I think.

Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian  is urging us to shop less and live more. Does buying food colouring count? Who knows. She tells is that Oxfam has launched a Second Hand September challenge to buy no new clothes for a month. Presumably buying no new clothes does not include buying “new to you” from the Oxfam shop.

Ms Hinsliff also urges us to shop locally instead of online, if we must shop, thus helping to slow down the decline of high street shops. And she advises spending on experiences rather than things. That sound okay.

Experiences usually get recorded too, one way or another! There has been some correspondence in the weekend Guardian about the use of cameras in art galleries. People, one shocked letter-writer tells us, ignore the “no photos” and “no flash” signs all around the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and, what’s more, are in turn ignored by the museum staff, who surely should be keeping an eye put for such things.

I was once tapped on the shoulder by such a museum employee in a museum of Roman stuff in the south of Spain and reminded that I could not take photos. It was too late. The photos were already in my camera.

I confess to taking photos frequently of pictures that really impress me, although I also like to buy postcards and prints. Here are two letters that amused me:

  •  “I spotted a person taking the perfect photo of L’Étoile by Degas on a fridge magnet in a Paris gift shop. Surely the ultimate simulacrum?” 
  •  “Overheard in the Uffizi gallery; ‘oh, for God’s sake, George! If you’re going to stop and look at everything, we’ll never get round!’” 
 Which just goes to show that there is experiencing stuff and ticking off experiences on your to-do list. There’s a difference!

Friday, 30 August 2019

Stuff going on this week.

On Wednesday my middle granddaughter came round and made jam tarts in my kitchen. For some reason baking in Grandma’s kitchen is more satisfying than baking in Mum ‘s kitchen. I’m not complaining. She was good company. And we listened to quite a lot of music and chatted and set the world to rights.

On Thursday my old friend reneged on a walk in favour of political activity. (See yesterday’s post.) After she had finished her various administrative tasks, she took herself off to an anti-Boris demo in Manchester, then returned late to her home where she answered messages until close to midnight. Consequently she was in no state to go for a walk today, which was what we had planned.

So today I went for a run and then opened Grandma’s cafe to my daughter, the teenage grandson and the tiny granddaughter, the teenage granddaughter having gone off to a friend’s birthday celebration in Manchester. They were going to be locked in a room from which they had to make their escape. I do not know yet whether they actually managed to get out.

 The day turned out to be much better than the weather forecast had suggested earlier in the week. So my friend missed her chance to admire the scenery. Late in the afternoon I took myself off for a walk up what we call the Quarry Road, which is actually called Lark Hill, and almost got blown away. Summer lasted through last weekend and a few days beyond and Autumn seems to be blowing in with warm wind.

So it goes.

While my daughter and I were out and about in the late morning, she received a message about her daughter’s spending. Both her mid-teen offspring have a card on which she outs credit. When they spend money from the card, the system lets her know. Another aspect of social media controlling things! On this occasion it was notification of her daughter spending money in MacDonalds. We hoped that she was treating her friends and not spending £12+ on snacks for herself.

This article talks about the increase in snacking in this country.  “From quinoa bars to salmon skin chips: what's behind the snacking revolution? Forget breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the space of a generation, Brits have tripled their consumption of snacks – and the options are endless”, it tells us. People can organise regular delivery of snack boxes to their places of work. So instead of having breakfast, even en route, stopping for lunch and maybe having a tea break mid afternoon, people can dip into their snack box whenever they feel like it.

This strikes me as an odd way of running your life and may contribute quite a lot to the obesity problem, even if the snacks are supposedly healthy.

 Meanwhile Manchester is full of protests. As well as the anti-Boris stuff my friend has been attending, there have been environmental protests closing down Deansgate, one of the main central Manchester thoroughfares.

Here is an extract from something in one of today’s newspapers:-

 “The fires in the Amazon are “extraordinarily concerning” for the planet’s natural life support systems, the head of the UN’s top biodiversity body has said in a call for countries, companies and consumers to build a new relationship with nature. Cristiana Paşca Palmer, the executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, said the destruction of the world’s biggest rainforest was a grim reminder that a fresh approach was needed to stabilise the climate and prevent ecosystems from declining to a point of no return, with dire consequences for humanity. “The Amazon fires make the point that we face a very serious crisis,” she told the Guardian. “But it is not just the Amazon. We’re also concerned with what’s happening in other forests and ecosystems, and with the broader and rapid degradation of nature. The risk is we are moving towards the tipping points that scientists talk about that could produce cascading collapses of natural systems.”
The world’s environmental crises are an increasing concern in international politics. Deforestation of the Amazon was high on the agenda of this week’s G7 meeting in Biarritz, France. In September, world leaders will gather in New York for a climate action summit. Next year, they are scheduled to get together again for a nature summit before a UN biodiversity conference in Kunming, China, in October.”

 Time for us to work together the serious stuff - instead of spending large amounts on adverts to persuade us that a No-Deal Brexit is okay!

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Leisure activities prorogued! And food fights!

Today I had planned to take an old friend for a walk around the area. We do this about once a year, maybe more, admiring the stuff in bloom - at the moment heather (and Indonesian balsam, but we don’t mention that) and at other times bluebells, cherry blossom, snowdrops, or just autumn colours in the trees. We had worked out that today was a convenient day, although the changeable weather forecast did have a go at scuppering our plan. But things settled down. Today is not spectacular but fine and blowy with little chance of rain.

And then along came Boris Johnson and his proroguing parliament and suddenly my friend is busy saving the UK, maybe saving Europe, certainly doing her bit to save democracy. Since she retired from teaching she has been increasingly politically active, possibly as a result of not having been able to vote in the referendum and finding her fate as an EU national living in the UK rather precarious. And now she is spending hours poring over stuff on the internet, answering messages from different groups, and doing admin for this that and the other.

And I occasionally feel like a guilty fraud for not following suit. But only occasionally.

The Boris Johnson move had really stirred things up. All sorts of people are discussing the legality of it all. Her Majesty has come in for some criticism for approving his request ton prorogue parliament but really her hands are rather tied by the system. She’s not supposed to take a political stand. Would Charles have dealt with it differently? Who knows?

So my friend and I have postponed (or perhaps we should say prorogued) our outing until tomorrow, weather and Boris permitting. There is a Spanish verb, by the way, “prorrogar” which means to postpone.

In the meantime, here is a link to some photos of one of the silliest festivals anyone could imagine, La Tomatina in Buñol, in the Valencia province of Spain. It takes place on the last Wednesday in August, yesterday, and seems to have grown almost out of all proportion so that nowadays tickets are sold for the event, with a limit of 22,000 participants.

Less dangerous than the bull running in Pampona, it must still be a bit hazardous - I have never fancied having tomato juice in my eyes, for example.

The whole thing began by accident during a parade in the Buñol fiesta week in 1945, one of those parades they do in that part of Spain with “cabezudos”, the big-headed giants on stilts, and musicians and such like. Some youngsters made one of the participants fall down, knocking over everything in bis way. The crowd grew angry and began throwing tomatoes from a nearby fruit and veg stall. And so a tradition began.

It was banned for a while in the 1950s by Franco - such a spoilsport! - but the locals protested and it was reinstated. And people now travel from all over the world to throw tomatoes at each other. Personally I can think of nothing worse than voluntarily going and getting soaked in soggy tomatoes, especially as you would undoubtedly have to throw your clothes, and even your shoes, away afterwards. Even a tiny blob of tomato on clothing is really hard to wash out!

However, I suppose paying good money to take part in a food fight is just another form of escapism!

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Trying not to despair!

Well, the weathermen were right. Change was on the way. Today I ran in the rain - not real, pouring down rain, more drizzly rain, but still rain. By mid morning it was falling steadily. But at least we didn’t have the promised thunderstorms overnight. Or if we did they did not wake me.

There might be metaphorical thunderstorms about to take place. Breaking news from the BBC (and other sources) :-

 “The Queen will be asked by the government to suspend Parliament just days after MPs return to work in September - and only a few weeks before the Brexit deadline.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says it will make way for Boris Johnson's new administration to hold a Queen's Speech - laying out the government's plans - on 14 October. But it means MPs are unlikely to have time to pass any laws that could stop the prime minister taking the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October.

A No 10 source said: "It's time a new government and new PM set out a plan for the country after we leave the EU." The idea of shutting down Parliament - known as prorogation - has caused controversy, with critics saying it would stop MPs being able to play their democratic part in the Brexit process.

Laura Kuenssberg said only a small number of government ministers knew about the plan before its announcement and it would inevitably cause a huge row. She said the government would argue it was "a bog standard Queen's Speech process", despite all of the surrounding noise.

 Utterly scandalous'
Mr Johnson says he wants to leave the EU on 31 October with a deal, but it is "do or die" and he is willing to leave without one rather than miss the deadline. That position has prompted a number of opposition MPs to come together to try to block a possible no deal, and on Tuesday they announced that they intended to use parliamentary process to do so.

But if Parliament is suspended on 10 September, as is suggested, it will only give them a few days next week to push for their changes. Labour deputy leader Tom Watson tweeted that the move was an "utterly scandalous affront to our democracy". Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said MPs must come together to stop the plan next week, or "today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy". But Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly defended the plan as what "all governments do".”

Once again, Brexit prevents other stuff being debated or decided upon. How many more years must we have only Brexit on the agenda? Please can we stop it now! Surely the government needs to be working.

Maybe we need some more junior activists. We’ve heard a lot about young Greta and her campaigns to save the world. This morning I read about an “education activist” called Marley Dias. She is 14 and has been busy since she was 10 getting indignant and active about books in schools and the fact that most books have white boys as their protagonists.

 “We live in an unfair world and we have to fight,” she says and explains her aim to “motivate young girls, regardless of their race or their experience, to get out there and do the things you love and that will help other people”. So she set about seeking books with black girls as protagonists. Wonderful! 

Goodness! When I was fourteen I was nowhere neat as aware or confident as that. I suspect that this is one pf the offshoots of the world of information that youngsters are now immersed in.

There’s a lot wrong with the modern world but it just may be that some things are going the right way!

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Random thoughts about dreams, things educational, politicians and butterflies.

When I have anxiety dreams they are usually somehow related to education, to something going on in a classroom. It’s just over ten years since a classroom was my regular place to be for a good part of the year. So why do they figure so highly in my anxiety dreams? Come to that, why do I still have anxiety dreams in my low-stress life?

Last night’s anxiety dream went a step further. It must be thirty years since I taught GCSE Spanish but last night’s dream had me administering, or mal-administering, spoken exams. Everything that you could do wrong, I was doing it. i was failing to follow procedure for identifying the education centre and the students on the tape. People wandered in and out of the room where we were conducting the exams. Those people were suggesting answers to the candidates. Altogether a nightmare!

The content, spoken exams in a foreign language, is easy enough to explain as I hade been discussing it with my 16-year-old granddaughter who has, much to her surprise, just achieved a pass grade in GCSE Spanish. Why I should be having nightmares about it remains a mystery. Random stuff!

Here is a random thought about education. Boris Johnson’s parents must have paid a lot of money for him to go to Eton. I can’t help feeling they were sold short. He might have learnt some academic stuff but he does not seem to have learnt how to behave. A President or Prime Minister should know how to behave in a presidential or prime ministerial fashion. That includes not sitting like a slob with your foot on the coffee table during talks with your opposite number in some foreign country. Just a thought.

And here’s another one. Does it matter what a politician’s partner/spouse looks like? Come to that, does it matter what a politician looks like? Surely all that really matters is how they do the job they’re in office to complete. So Brazil’s President Bolsonara should not be publishing or endorsing rude comments about France’s President Macron’s wife. That has got nothing to do with their respective countries’ political situation. Once again, just a thought!

I can remember a time when you hardly heard about the spouse of a politician. The politicians just got on with the job. And in the end, that’s what is is, a job. Yes, they are in the public eye and don’t want their spouse to be an embarrassment but what that spouse looks like should not matter any more than what a librarian’s spouse looks like, for example.

Today has been the fourth day on the run to dawn fine and sunny. Well, actually yesterday dawned dull and misty but very soon turned into fine and sunny. Today, however, has seen the cloud move in over the afternoon. Yesterday we walked down the path to a local beauty spot, a path lined with buddleia bushes, which were full of butterflies. More than I have ever seen together outside a specific butterfly centre. I didn’t have my camera with me, or my phone, and so no photos were taken. Today I deliberately walked down the same path and saw a grand total of two butterflies, neither of which seemed prepared to preen itself for photos like yesterday’s crowd. And I wonder if this is an air pressure thing, the butterflies being aware of possible rain in the way and thus staying away.

It’s possible.

In the meantime I have a line full of washing in the garden and am keeping an eye out for the start of a downturn in the weather.

So it goes!

Monday, 26 August 2019

Burning issues. And good weather.

The Amazon rainforest is burning. Lots of people are up in arms about the lack of publicity for this compared with the outcry when Notre Dame caught fire in Paris. They probably have a point! The environmental impact is hugely different. However, French authorities are under growing pressure over possible health risks from the Notre Dame cathedral fire after an environmental group filed a lawsuit saying swift action was not taken to contain potential lead poisoning, and a firefighters’ union raised concerns. Hundreds of tonnes of lead in the cathedral spire and roof melted in the extreme heat of the fire in April, dispersing lead particles into the air that settled on streets and buildings in surrounding neighbourhoods.

We have had a surprisingly hot and sunny bank holiday weekend here in Saddleworth. This may well be another result of climate change. People have expressed great surprise at having three days of sunshine on the run. Personally I have had a ssplendid weekend with my children and their children doing stuff in the sunshine.

According to the weather forecast, however,  things will get back to normal tomorrow and Wednesday: rain.

On Thursday, unless the rain extends itself another day, I have had a request to take a friend out for a walk to see the heather. At other times of the year she comes to see the bluebells. I hope I can find enough heather-covered bits of hillside to satisfy her.

Here is a link to pictures of Notting Hill carnival, which has also benefitted from wonderful weather. If you are going to parade through the streets in skimpy costumes it’s much better to do so in the sunshine. 

And here is another link, this time to an article about how optimism could help you live longer.

 I am a most optimistic person. I shall be around forever!

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Out and about, getting away from stuff!

This morning we had a plan. We were going to go out for breakfast at the cafe in the village before going to meet other branches of the family at Dovestone reservoir for a family day out.

It began well enough. We got up, got organised and walked into the village, only to find that on a Sunday the cafe does not open until 10.30. By that time we wanted to be in the reservoir car park meeting the rest of the gang. So we revised the plan and bought croissants and pain au chocolat at the co-op and returned home for breakfast.

Breakfast over, we set off a little later than planned to drive to Dovestone. Going though Uppermill we got stuck in a queue of traffic waiting for the Morrismen to stop dancing in the road. Some rude words were said! To avoid the dancing men we did a u-turn and went the back way, via the road that leads to the golf club, only stopping once to make room for someone coming in the opposite direction.

As we got close to Dovestone we phoned those of our party who had already arrived, asking if there was parking space and getting mixed messages. The sunshine brings people out and the reservoir carpark could well be crowded. One of our advisers said there was no chance. The other said the early-morning dog-walkers were already leaving so we were in with a chance. We took a chance and it worked.

In the end we did not walk all the way round the reservoir but stopped not far into the walk to allow the small people to paddle in the river. Which, by the way, was extremely cold!

By late morning some of our party were getting hangry -grumpy from hunger - so we headed off to Diggle for lunch and an excellent ice cream. This was followed by some adventures in a nearby park and eventually back to my house for tea and cake.

This - all the family activity - is what I have been doing to take my mind off the suggestion that Boris Johnson wants to try to close government down for five weeks before Brexit, allegedly to prevent parliament from doing anything to extend the deadline for leaving the UK. The mind Boggles! We are in the middle of important stuff, the government has had a summer recess and now Johnson wants to close things down again!! Do they get paid through all of this? And can he democratically do such a thing?

Another means of escapism is to stop watching the news and just watch box sets and films on Netflix. It seems they have just announced that they will release a new Breaking Bad film, bringing Jesse Pinkman back to the fore of the story. The film is called El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. It was written and directed by the show’s creator Vince Gilligan and will be released on Netflix on 11 October. There is some debate about whether or not Walter White will be resurrected for the film. Why? And how? He looked pretty dead at the end of the final series.

Why can’t people be content with a good series, rounded off with the ends tied off? Can they not find something new to occupy their minds and their time?

In the meantime, actor Aaron Paul who played Jesse Pinkman so well commented this : “All I can say, I think people will be really happy with what they see.”

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Saturday stuff.

Sometimes Saturdays, or any day for that matter, can just turn ridiculous.

 I think it really began last night when I had decided I wanted to bake a cake. You know the thing - you have people coming to visit so you think it would be good to male a cake. So I checked that the necessary ingredients were in my cupboard. Yes and no. I wanted to check how much of various things I had in store. That was when I discovered that the battery in my digital scales was dead. I threw away the old scales long ago. Technology was beating me.

 So when I went for a run this morning I popped into the co-op to pick up various ingredients. And, despite having a list, I managed to leave half of them behind. Fortunately my game plan was taking me to Uppermill later. Firstly I could buy olives and sun dried tomatoes at the nice delicatessen. Secondly I could buy the forgotten ingredients. Thirdly I could go to the hardware shop for a battery. 

It was all going well until I remembered that I had left the expired battery on the kitchen table. In the hardware shop I explained the problem and was informed that it all depended on the number on the battery. And that is how I ended up with a selection card of appropriate-sized batteries, hoping that one of them was the right size. Two of them were! Hooray!

 Leaving the hardware shop I spotted what looked like a queue at the bus stop across the road. It was just about time for my 350 bus to come along and so I crossed over to find out what was going on. It was not a bus queue. It was a bunch of people waiting to watch the rushcart go past. The rushcart is an old tradition around here, originally to celebrate the completion of the harvest, I think. A cart is built of rushes, hence the name, a man in a silly costume sits on top and is pulled from village to village around Saddleworth. Every so often they stop and the Morrismen dance. And today they have a splendid day for it.

 Anyway, I asked one lady if she had seen the 350 bus go past yet. Sometimes people can be very vague and daft. She told me she hadn’t been watching bus numbers. Well, had any bus gone past? She didn’t know!

I asked someone else who assured me no buses had gone by in the last ten minutes. And then, lo and behold, the bus showed up a bit further down the street.


 The cake is in the oven. The family is about to arrive. The sun is still shining!

 Saturday has improved!

Friday, 23 August 2019

a late blogpost about competitions and winners of one sort or another.

Phil sent me a photo of himself having a glass of shandy after winning a chess game today. This is the fifth game in a row he has won in the Mondariz tournament. When I left Spain on Monday he was considering withdrawing from the tournament. He had asked for a “bye” - an agreed no-show which gets the player half a point - for the first three rounds as he was decidedly under the weather. Then he had lost Sunday afternoon’s game, much to his chagrin. So the general mood was one of gloom and, had he not won on Monday, he was considering pulling put altogether. But he won. And again on Tuesday. And on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday (today). This won him a prize. Clearly I should abandon him to get on with the chess business on his own more often.

I went into Manchester in the rather dull and gloomy morning to get my hair cut, to have my eyebrows tidied up, and to do a bit of shopping. On the tram gong into Manchester everyone was wrapped up, not quite hats and scarves but not far off. By the time I emerged from the hairdressers at lunchtime the sky had cleared, the sun had also emerged and the temperature had gone up. I regretted not having taken my sunglasses with me. The weathermen promise us more sunshine for the bank holiday weekend. We shall see!

Having done most of my Manchester errands, I phoned my daughter as there had been talk of visiting a phone shop to do something with the 16-year-old’s phone. It turned out she was a matter of two shops away from me with her partner and their small daughter. So we got together, did a bit of wandering and went for a late lunch at a place called Solita in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Like so many people I know, my almost son-in-law gets vouchers for eating places one way or another. Consequently we ate quite well for half price. Not a bad deal at all.

People were busy on the streets with their phones, videoing indifferent musicians on Market Street, which sometimes has excellent musicians busking there, far more worthybof being put on Youtube. Inevitably they were also taking selfies. You have to prove that you were out and about! Yesterday I saw two people taking photos of themselves eating ice-creams in the rain. More specifically taking photos of the ice creams! The mind boggles! Mind you, we have no room to talk. After all, Phil sends me photos of himself drinking shandy!

Looking through my notebook for my shopping list later in the afternoon, I came across some notes I had copied from a Pontevedra paper a few weeks ago. This was about fiestas in a place called La Cañiza.

On the Wednesday, at 19.00, there was going to be a Masterclass de corte de jamón - a ham slicing masterclass. Well, it would be jamón serrano, which must be sliced as thinly as possible from the bone. Quite an advanced skill!

On the Thursday, at 11.00, they planned to start selling tickets at €5 each which entitled people to buy servings of jamón serrano. The price included ham, a glass of wine, bread and a napkin. 

Simultaneously the VI Concurso Nacional de Cortadores de Jamón, the national ham-cutters competition, would begin. Presumably this is the ham that people could buy servings of. But, just imagine a ham slicing championship!

At 12.00 the ham procession would take place, from the town hall to a designated square where at ... 

12.30 prizes would be awarded to the winners of the ham slicing competition. Oh, to be champion ham slicer!

In the evening, there was to be an “Espectácula infantil de animación”, basically a children’s theatre troupe. It was called “Laia, aprendiz de bruja”, which translates as “Laia, apprentice witch”.

Witches, as we all know, are a common theme in many Galician arts and entertainments. But, somehow, I was surprised and a little disappointed that no ham was involved!

Thursday, 22 August 2019

The business of buying and selling places,

Yesterday got a little busy and the blogpost got lost along the way. Here are some thoughts for today, which has also been busy but slightly less so than yesterday.

Buying and selling countries used to be quite a thing in the past, or so it seems. The Europeans went out into the world and just took over places and then argued or fought with each other about who owned what.

Someone suggested to me that Gibraltar was “given” to Britain by Spain but, from what I have read, I’m not so sure. It’s only six square kilometres, and most of that a great big rock! The Moors settled it in 711, around the same time as they took over a lot of the Iberian Peninsula. One source tells me this:-

“The position of Gibraltar guarding the entrance to the Mediterranean is unrivalled, and has for many years been fought over by Spain, France and Britain, all claiming possession. Gibraltar was captured by the British Fleet in 1704 during the war of the Spanish Succession.

On 4th August 1704, an Anglo-Dutch fleet under the command of Admiral George Rooke took Gibraltar from the Spanish. From dawn on that day and for the next five hours, some 15,000 canons were fired from the fleet into the city. The invaders, led by the English majority, landed the same morning and not surprisingly encountered little opposition.

Under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 Gibraltar was ceded to Britain. This treaty stated “the town, castle and fortifications were to be held and enjoyed for ever without any exception or impediment whatsoever.”

This treaty was renewed again in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris, and in 1783 by the Treaty of Versailles.” It seems that everyone wanted it. The people who live on Gibraltar have had their say. 

“In 1968 a Referendum was taken on whether the people of Gibraltar wanted to remain with Britain or with Spain. 12,762 voted to stay with Britain and ONLY 44 voted for Spanish sovereignty. In the more recent referendum of November 2002, the people of Gibraltar again showed their desire to remain British by an overwhelming margin.

The Chief Minister of Gibraltar at the time, Peter Caruana eloquently summed up the feeling of the its people when he commented “There is more chance of hell freezing over than the people of Gibraltar accepting Spanish sovereignty in any shape or form.”

Whether Gibraltar will remain a British rock however appears another question! Recent events have suggested that the current British government may want to abandon the Treaty of Utrecht and subject the 30,000 people of Gibraltar to Spanish rule against their will.”

Well, the government of the UK taking such a decision would come as no surprise to me.

And just as Spain would like to claim Gibraltar, so Morocco would like to claim Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. But like Gibraltar they have been bandied about. Here’s a thing: “On 1 January 1668, King Afonso VI of Portugal recognized the formal allegiance of Ceuta to Spain and formally ceded Ceuta to King Carlos II of Spain by the Treaty of Lisbon.”

“Ownership” of these places is more the result of battle than buying and selling though. But on the other side of the Atlantic selling countries has been going on.

Louisiana is a case in point.

“For a mere $15 million, Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the United States, buying 800,000 square miles from the French that stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains in 1803.”

 It is a patch of land which has changed hands a fair few times. “The French controlled this region from 1699 until 1762 when it became Spanish property because France gave it to Spain as a present, since they were allies. But under Napoleon Bonaparte, France revived the aspirations to build an empire in North America so the territory was taken back in 1800. However, those big plans were not meant to be because Napoleon needed to concentrate on preparations for war with the British Empire and so the land was sold to the United States.”

 I bet the French are a bit peeved about that.

 Then in 1867 the United Staes bought Alaska. 586,412 square miles, from Russia and made America greater than it was before. And I understand that this was before they discovered oil and other riches. 

And now Donald Trump has suggested that he would like to buy Greenland and make America even greater. The Danes have said that Greenland is not for sale. More importantly, Greenland has said it is not for sale. Consequently, or so we are given to believe, Donald Trump has cancelled a state visit to Denmark.

I wonder what we could refuse to sell him so that he would decline to come to the UK.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Smuggling sand and sea shells!

If you travel to the Islas Cîes or the Isla de Ons, any of the islands in the Atlantic just outside Vigo bay, they ask you, no, they TELL you to leave nothing behind and take nothing away. The wrappers from your picnic sandwiches must be folded up and taken away when you leave. I am not sure how they police the smokers to prevent them from leaving their cigarette endings all over the place. Sometimes they issue you with bags to carry your rubbish back to the mainland when you leave,

Neither can you pick flowers or collect seashells to carry off as souvenirs. The islands are a nature reserve. Rare species of all kinds are found there.

Almost everywhere else I go picking flowers and collecting sea shells are two minor occupations of mine. I selectbitems as i stroll around or walk the tideline. Small flowers are pressed between the pages of a notebook. The best might go into frames. The best shells come home with me and are much admired by small grandchildren.

It would seem that visitors to Sardinia are going a step beyond smuggling home the odd sea shell. They are taking HUGE amountsbof sand. This is a report from yesterday:-

 “A pair of French tourists could face up to six years in jail after allegedly stealing 40kg (6st 3lbs) of sand from one of Sardinia’s pristine beaches. Border police found the white sand, taken from Chia beach in the south of the Italian island, stashed into 14 large plastic bottles in the boot of the couple’s car. The pair were about to board a ferry for Toulon, in southern France, from Porto Torres. They told police they took the sand as a souvenir and did not realise they had committed an offence. But they now face between one and six years in prison as Sardinian authorities get tough on an issue that has blighted the island for years.

Police said there had been a “boom” this summer in the quantity of sand, shells and other beach objects found in people’s luggage at the island’s airports, with 10 tonnes seized at Olbia, close to the Costa Smeralda, in recent weeks alone.

People also risk fines of up to €3,000 (£2,700), but police struggle to apply the penalties due to most culprits being visitors. “When those responsible for these episodes are foreigners, it is difficult to collect the fines,” Antonio Casula, the chief of Sardinia’s forest rangers, told La Stampa, adding that the incidents were becoming more frequent. Vigilantes patrol the beaches and signposts clearly warn it is forbidden to take sand.

But unaware of the seriousness of the offence, many tourists find the sand an irresistible keepsake. The sand is usually placed in plastic bottles or bags and labelled with the name of the beach from which it was taken. Although the practice is seemingly harmless, it is not only an offence but is detrimental to the island’s environment. Some sand thieves do repent, however. A man from Rome recently returned a bottle of sand he had stolen as a child to the mayor of Cabras.

In 2016, a woman who took sand from Budelli, an island off Sardinia that is famous for its pink sand beach, returned it after 29 years. The woman sent the sand back with an apology, writing: “I read in some newspapers and heard on the TV what this sand is and how it is made. I understood how unique Sardinia is. I felt guilty.””

I am amazed that people put large quantities of sand in their suitcases. Containers of the stuff in the boot of your car is one thing, although I do wonder what they do with it when they get it home. Do they mix it with the soil of their flower beds or vegetable plots to improve the yield? Do they use it for ornamental purposes? This must be so with coloured sand, surely. But putting it in your suitcase - well, that’s a surprise. It must make a big difference to the weight of the luggage. 

Clearly such sand-smugglers do not travel with RyanAir and their strict limits on weight and size of items of luggage!

Monday, 19 August 2019

Travelling light. And this and that.

As my last day in Vigo for a while has dawned fine and sunny but a little cool, I reflect on summer’s oddness. It is highly likely that, as in other years, the weather will radically improve as soon as I leave and they will have a brilliant September and even October. We always used to have brilliant Septembers in the Northwest of England back when I was teaching full time. The sun would usually shine on enrolment for sixth form college day and continue to do so for the first three or four weeks of term.

This often led to an invasion of wasps in the classroom. It is astounding how shrill and squealy 16 year old girls, and boys for that matter, can be when a wasp is around. They were equally shrill and squealy when I rolled up a magazine and dispatched the wasps to wasp heaven. Quite what they expected me to do I have no idea.

Since I retired Autumn in the UK has generally not provided the same kind of Indian summer. So it goes. I can live in hope. And maybe it will work and I can get my bike out once again. Unlike the cycling lady I see most days at the Wednesday market in Uppermill, I am very much a fair weather cyclist. Running in the rain is one thing. Cycling in the rain is a different matter.

So my bag (a very small bag as the extra cost of taking a larger one made the price of my return ticket quite astronomical) is packed and I am ready to go.

Here is an odd item of news I gleaned yesterday:-

A customer fatally shot a waiter at a pizzeria on the outskirts of Paris, apparently enraged at being made to wait for a sandwich, according to witnesses.

Goodness, had he not heard of the complaints book. I have heard of, indeed witnessed, road rage but restaurant rage is something else again!

The gunman, who a witness said lost his temper “as his sandwich wasn’t prepared quickly enough”, fled the scene. Police have opened a murder investigation. With the shooter still on the run on Saturday, shocked residents gathered outside the pizza and sandwich eatery. “He was killed for a sandwich?” one asked, unbelievingly. “It is sad,” said a 29-year-old woman. “It’s a quiet restaurant, without any problems. It just opened a few months ago.” Others noted high crime levels in the area, notably drug-dealing and public drunkenness. Amazing

This article talks about the decline, or lack of decline depending on your point of view, of the English language.

As a person who moans a lot about the way some people speak and write, I know I can be a bit of a pedant, but I found the article interesting. I particularly lliked this bit:-

 “This is what the author Douglas Adams had to say about technology. Adapted slightly, it could apply to language, too:

– Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

– Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary.

– Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.”

 That could also apply to how we feel about fashion - the shortness of girls’ shorts, tattoos, multiple piercings - or music or art. Anything in fact! Even the weather, I expect!

 We grow older and try not to grow more intolerant. Sometimes it is difficult.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Summer weather? Kids!

The weather app on my phone tells me there is a 0% chance of rain today. That’s ZERO per cent. No possibility of rain! So why did I wake up to the sound of car tyres swishing on a wet road? Because it was raining! Which just shows that you cannot trust your apps! By 10.00 the sun was clearly trying to shine on the Islas Cíes, standing out on the horizon but it was still dull here.

The day tried to brighten up but up to late morning was largely unsuccessful. I hung the washing out anyway. The rain that had fallen was not proper heavy rain, more damp in the air than anything else, so I thought the washing was in with a chance of drying.

The damp does not stop it being quite warm still, although yesterday I overheard someone complaining about how cold it is the mornings, causing problems about what to wear. You wrap up warm first thing and by lunchtime you are sweltering. Personally I just find it refreshingly cool first thing. One of the good things about Galicia is that as a rule even when it is warm (even hot) and sunny in the day time it is still cool enough to get a good night’s sleep.

By mid-afternoon the sun was out and the sky was almost totally blue. Several seasons in one day!

Even though schools don’t start until mid-September back-to-school adverts are around. Let the kids, and the teachers, enjoy their summer holidays, say I.

According to Tim Dowling, writing in the Guardian one weekend recently,  parents are asked as many as 55 questions a day by their children over the school holidays. He got the information from a survey done by some children’s show or other. The questions, he said, include everything from philosophical queries to badgering. He gave us some examples, of which my favourites are:-

Qu.  Are we nearly there yet?

Ans. Allow me to point out your mistake: you have not named a destination; you just said “there”. We are always nearly “somewhere”, which is why it’s not a lie when I answer “Yes, nearly” every time you ask.

Qu.  Why can’t I stay up late?

Ans. The real reason is because I need three hours at the end of every day where I don’t have to answer your questions. But I was worried you might repeat that to your teacher, so I made up the thing about how you only grow when you are asleep.

Qu. Why do I have to go to school?

Ans. You can’t blame me for this – it’s the law. I voted for the guy who wanted to ban school, but he lost. Fingers crossed for the next election.

Qu. Why do I need to eat vegetables?

You need to practise eating vegetables so you know how to pretend to like them when you get invited to other people’s houses.

We have a small person’s birthday coming up in a couple of weeks’ time. Fortunately my daughter seems not to have given in to the trend to invite all the nursery class for a party. That will probably come when she starts school properly. In the meantime, we’ll just organise a small family and close friends affair. At the let’s have a big “do” extreme, I found this posted on Facebook by the daughter of a friend of mine:

 “Looking for someone in Greater Manchester who can do me a 1st birthday cake for less than £50 for the end of October. Anyone know of any budding cake makers who'd be interested?”

 What’s wrong with a nice home-made sponge cake with a bit of icing and a candle on the top?

There’s time for expensive birthdays when the child is old enough to remember the party!

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Organising things! Some fun and games! Different times!

Trying to organise transport for Phil to Mondarîz so that he can play in a chess tournament there has been fun and games. I am flying back to the UK on Monday for family business but Phil is staying on here to play chess. At least that was the original idea. Then he was feeling a little out of sorts and was not sure whether he was playing or not. Which left me unsettled as the whole point of his staying on was to play chess! The decision was finally taken: he would play. So, on to the next problem.

Mondaríz is accessible by public transport but the last bus back to Vigo is decidedly not convenient for chess players whose games might go on until well after the last bus has already left. So a lift was needed. Our regular go-to lift providers were not available as they were committed to other things. So I have been on and off the phone trying to make other arrangements. At last we got it sorted but there was still a little matter of Phil not playing a morning round tomorrow and needing to catch a bus even though he would have a lift home later. So I called the bus station.

Normally this is another kind of nightmare. You ring and the number is engaged. You wait just a short time and ring again only to have the number ring and ring and ring ... unanswered. This can go on for ages until eventually you get through. Today something new happened. I rang and the phone was answered immediately. I asked for the information I needed and heard a bemused lady ask me exactly what it was I needed to know. I repeated my request. Who, she asked me, did I think was calling? Well, the bus station, of course. But no, this was a private number! My phone had gone berserk! I apologised for the inconvenience caused and rang off.

Checking in my phone, I discovered that this was Eugenia someone or other, a name I did not recognise but which was in my contact list. Who is she? Why do I have her number? Her phone clearly did not tell her it was me calling, or if it did, she did not recognise me either!

Another one of life’s weirdnesses!

 It seems to be a time of anniversaries at the moment. 50 years since Woodstock, which Joni Mitchell wrote a song about although she never made it to Yasgur’s farm. Now two different sets of people are trying to recreate or at least commemorate the event, after a fashion, in two slightly different but pretty much adjacent locations. It’s also possible, apparently, to buy a box set of DVDs or CDs and watch or listen to hours and hours of the original happening. Personally, I suspect a little editing might be called for. 

Then there is Peterloo, our own Mancunian commemoration. This article talks about Sue Stennett who lives with her husband in Lincolnshire. Her great-great-great-grandfather founded the Manchester Guardian as a result of wanting to publicise information about the Peterloo massacre. I remember the Guardian being called the Manchester Guardian, because on Friday nights my father, a printer, used to travel from Southport to Manchester where he was paid well to print the Manchester paper. The interconnectedness of things.

Sue Stennett explains how she only really became aware of the whole Peterloo affair and the family connection later in her own life.

 “When did you first become aware of your links to John Edward Taylor?
For my wedding, my aunt gave me a veil, and I was told the story behind it, and how John Edward Taylor’s daughter Sophia had worn it on her wedding day. It was cream, and I chose a dress to match. I was so young at the time, and didn’t really appreciate the significance of its story – it was only after my father died that my interest was sparked. I found a book in among his things called A Family Biography – a limited-edition book collated by Catherine and Isabella Scott (Sophie’s nieces and the sisters of the Guardian editor CP Scott).”

So how did her great-great-great-grandfather come to found what later became The Guardian?

 “He came from a Unitarian background, where a core belief was that people come to salvation through education. In this context, what he witnessed at Peterloo, and in its aftermath, galvanised in him a belief that education in the form of balanced, honest, well-researched reporting could be the spark for renewed hope. He teamed up with 11 liberal-minded textile owners from Manchester to finance the venture, at a cost of £1,050. The first four-page edition of the Manchester Guardian appeared on Saturday 5 May 1821 and cost 7d. Like all newspapers based outside London, they could only afford to publish once a week, but it wasn’t long before the introduction of the railways enabled wide and fast distribution of newspapers, making them accessible for the masses.”

 That’s the sort of thing wealthy industrialists used to do!

What happened to change things?

Friday, 16 August 2019

The importance of certain days!

They know how to do public holidays in the good old-fashioned way here in Spain. Yesterday was the Feast of the Assumption, Mary going up to Heaven and all that, a public holiday all over Spain, and Italy for that matter, the 15th of August marking the Ferragosto, the start of the August holiday for Italians. Today is also a public holiday, but only in Vigo as far as I know. It might be the feast of San Roque or it might be someone or something completely different. Whatever the cause, Vigo is shut today. And, yes, just about everything closes - shops, supermarkets, banks. But cafes and restaurants remain open, as do breadshops, of course, as people want fresh bread and even cakes. If you are off to lunch with the in-laws you really should take a cake with you.

So Vigo has had two “festivos” on the run. The local wifi cafe has closed at midday as a consequence. The people who make a bridge when there are festivos, making a long weekend out of it, will have been making a huge great suspension bridge out of this one.

 When I was a teenager, working the summer holidays in a shoe shop, because we were a seaside town we stayed open on Bank Holidays, presumably in case anyone wanted to buy sandals on their day out at the seaside. Most places closed. The town was sort of half open, expecting to be full of visitors instead of local people. Those of us working the Bank Holiday in the shoe shop were paid time and a half to compensate for missing the holiday. The shop also cancelled its half-day closing - those were the days when shops closed one afternoon a week and town centres went quiet - for the duration of the summer. We didn’t receive extra pay for that though; instead we had another afternoon off some time during the week.

Nowadays Bank Holidays in the UK for small shops, big shopping centres and retail parks are pretty much the same as any other day. I doubt if anyone gets extra pay now for working the Bank Holiday. Sometimes bus services are reduced but it’s really only on Christmas Day that everything goes properly quiet. On Boxing Day and New Year’s Day they all go mad with the start of sales.

Another thing that happens here in Spain is places, small shops and cafes and restaurants, closing for a couple of weeks while the owners go on holiday. Or they put notices up about their reduced opening hours for the summer period. Even the library has summer opening times. They expect people to go to the beach instead of the library! Now, that does not happen in the UK, or at any rate not in the places where I have lived.

Yesterday was not a public holiday in the UK but it was an important day for some: A-Level Results Day. The papers all had photos of delighted students showing off their high grades. You rarely see pictures of the ones who did not make the grades they needed for university entrance.

We have long expressed our belief that a higher percentage of students receive top grades than when we were taking those exams, just as more students graduate with first class degrees than ever used to happen. We don’t believe that it is because students are cleverer than they used to be either! Whatever the cause, attempts have been made to “tighten up”. And this year, apparently, official figures show that the proportion of A-Level students achieving top grades is the lowest for more than a decade. Here’s some more stuff:-

 “The data also revealed that for the first time, there were more entries from girls than boys for A-level science subjects, while Spanish overtook French as the most popular foreign language to study. 

Overall, 25.5% of UK candidates were awarded an A or A* grade, the lowest proportion since 2007 when it was 25.3%.

Girls narrowly took back the lead in terms of top grades with 25.5% receiving at least an A, compared with 25.4% of boys.

* Boys took the top spot in 2017, following a long period in which girls had been ahead. However, boys still outperformed the girls based on A* grades alone, with 8.2% of entries getting the highest result, compared with 7.5%, respectively.”

Oddly, in my opinion anyway, the most popular subject this year was maths, being taken by 91,895 entrants but down 5.9% on last year. And, because there needs to be a bit of scandalous stuff, just hours before the results were revealed, leaked documents showed that students needed only an overall score of 55% to get an A grade in this year's maths A-level exam.

 There you go!

 We have no personal interest in the A-Level results this year. Of more interest to us are the GCSE results, due out next Thursday, which will decide what our 16-year-old granddaughter does next!

Thursday, 15 August 2019

A bit of culture, of one kind and another.

Spotted on a menu yesterday:-

 Croca de vaca a la plancha  - Grilled “croca” (rump beff)

 Natillas de chocolate “sin” -  Chocolate custard “whitout”

On their printed menu the English translation has been checked and corrected but this was one of those big plastic poster affairs that some companies specialise in producing for you to hang on walls and fences. So I suspect this was a case of typos by the company and lack of proofreading. Still, rather a shame when a lot of effort has gone into making something look as professional as possible. 

And this last one, not a typo this time, just amused me because of the Spanish terminology:- Hamburguesa de vaca vieja Beef hamburger Literally it translates as “old cow hamburger”. Curious!

We had planned to have lunch with our friend Colin but by the time the chess tournament and prize giving was over and done with it was far too late for lunch.

Here, by the way, is a picture of Phil receiving his “best veteran” award. A similar photo was sent to a younger chess playing friend, and incidentally a very successful ex-chess student of Phil’s, by the family he stayed with while doing his stay in Spain as part of his Modern Languages Degree from Durham University. The family hosted him for sixth months free of charge, in exchange for English conversation and a bit of chess coaching for their children. Such is the generosity of the people here. I am unsure of how successful his English coaching for the children was as the photo sent to him was accompanied with the message : “Phil win Best Old prize in tournament”.

After the prize-giving we got a lift down into Pontevedra with a chess playing family - another example of the impressive kindness and helpfulness of the people here - instead of waiting for the tournament bus. Then we had a quick snack and a refresco at the typos cafe, discovered that we could not access their wifi and went on for coffee at another place where we knew the wifi was reasonably reliable.

Having missed our lunch with Colin we had rearranged things so that we would meet for a dinner in the evening. With some time to kill, we went for a look around Pontevedra’s museum and art gallery. They have a good collection of modern Spanish but mostly Galician art and in particular an impressive section devoted to the work of Castelao. He is one of my favourite Spanish artists. His prolific work ranges from very simple line drawings, almost caricatures where a few strokes create a telling image, to extremely detailed works. There are some huge paintings as well. Some of the most heart-rending are his social commentary drawings, scenes from the civil war and scenes of loss and suffering on the part of fishing families. Pictures of Galician life abound. And some of the nicest are small, brightly coloured painting of stylised Galician dancers and musicians. I would happily decorate a small child’s bedroom with those.

What the museum and art gallery lacks is a museum shop. In the UK you cannot exit a museum or art gallery or, for that matter, a cathedral without going through the shop. I would happily have bought a set of postcards of the Castelao works, especially the dancers and musicians. A retail opportunity lost!

After our dose of culture we went for dinner at the Pitillo restaurant, easily the best tapas bar anywhere. We were early diners and had no problem getting a table. By the time we left there was a queue trailing up the street and round the corner.

It’s the early bird who gets the gambas al ajillo!

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Striking stuff!

So here we are, last day of the Pontevedra chess event. Most rounds begin at a very civilised 5.00 pm but, because this is the last round and there has to be a closing ceremony and prize-giving, today play started at 10.00 am. Therefore, much against his will, Phil had to get up early this morning. And we couldn’t have our usual breakfast of fresh bread as the cafetería/panadería where I usually buy fresh bread in the morning does not take delivery of its bread until after 8.00. We couldn’t even supplement our breakfast with a coffee at the Entre Sartenes cafe in the bus station as there really was not time when we arrived at Pontevedra.

And then the bus from town to the tournament venue, arranged by the tournament organisers, was running very late. This turned out to be because of heavy traffic but as there were transport organisational problems on the final day last year the waiting chess players were all a little stressed. But all was well in the end and everyone arrived in time to start playing! Phew, what a relief!

We should really consider ourselves lucky to have been able to travel by train in the first place as we discovered yesterday that there is another rail strike planned for today. Fortunately it turned out to be between mid-day and 4.00 pm and so the 8.50 am train we planned to catch was not affected.

I found a leaflet about the strike, all in Galician, of course. FOLGA NO FERROCARRIL. The vocabulary interested me. Years ago, when first we came to Galica, I used to see notices around calling for a “greve geral” - a general strike. Now, “greve” was clearly borrowed from the French “grève”, nothing like the Castilian Spanish “huelga”. But it seems that, perhaps with the passing of time, someone has decided that there has to be a good Galician word for it.

It is very common for words that begin with “h” in Castilian Spanish turn into words beginning with “f” in Galician or Portuguese. Accordingly “stove/oven” is “horno” or “forno”, depending on the language. The “ue” diphthong also often reverts to the vowel “o”. So it is logical the “huelga” should become “folga”. There seems to be no separate word for “railway” - “ferrocarril”.

Anyway, there it is. Strikers are calling for “menos xestores e mais traballadores” - fewer managers and more workers.

Here come some statistics:-

  • In 2018 more than 100 trains in the region were replaced by buses because there were no drivers available for the trains. This is beginning to sound like Northern Rail in the Northwest of England, except that there trains are simply cancelled. No replacement buses! 
  •  More than 5,200 trains ran without conducters. Another Northern Rail problem, but in Galicia it has led to a serious loss of income as the smaller stations are often unmanned and so people have been able to travel for free, 
  •  Not enough ticket sellers in the manned stations, resulting in long queues of exasperated people. We know that one! 
 Oh, boy!

And Phil won the veterans’ prize, despite feeling full of a cold and generally out of sorts all week.

Sometimes you can win, if not it all, then at least something.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Cycles and scooters and slides in odd places!

Arriving at Pontevedra bus station the other day, we were rather amazed and amused to see a bloke ride his bike up the ramp, the one that surely is intended to make it easy for travellers to get their wheeled suitcases up into the bus station. Up he went and then he calmly continued riding in the interior.

Not long after that I saw one of the employees from the Entre Sartenes cafe get his bike out of a storeroom and ride off through the main area of the station and presumably down the ramp. I suppose it’s a logical extension of riding your bike on the pavement around the city.

And then I have also seen someone on one of those electric scooters ride in through the door of our flats and up the ramp towards the area where the lifts are situated. It’s a different way of looking at the world.

The city of Bruges has taken a stand against electric scooters, which they don’t think go well with their cobbled streets. The mayor, Dirk De Fauw said, “It is not right for our city. We have the cobblestones and those kind of vehicles are not prepared for that kind of street. One of the companies said that they have a special kind of scooter with larger wheels and that could work on the cobblestones. We have said that they could lend us a scooter for us to test for a week but, really, we don’t think it is for us.”

City authorities feared riders toppling over Lovers Bridge, causing chaos under the Belfry or colliding with the swans and tourists by the Beguinage, the 13th-century closed garden once inhabited by single women or widows devoted to God.

So, despite months of negotiations the scooter-hire companies are not going to be able to set up in Bruges.

This is the situation of E-scooters in various other countries:-

UK: Riding an e-scooter on the pavement is an offence against the Highway Act of 1835. Riding one on the road is an offence against the Road Traffic Act 1988 unless you have a driving licence, insurance, helmet, road tax and a registration plate which the DVLA will not provide to “unroadworthy” vehicles such as scooters. 

Paris: A spot fine of €35 (£32) can be levied for bad parking and those those caught riding the pavement will be hit with a €135 (£124) penalty. A speed limit of 20 kilometres per hour (12mph) on the road has been imposed across the French capital.

Shanghai: They are banned from the roads and public pavements. Those infringing for the first time face a fine of 100 yuan (£12). Repeat offenders will have their vehicle impounded and be given a 500 yuan (£58) fine. E-scooters are only allowed to be ridden on private roads, residential estates and some parks.

New York: After holding out against the craze, the state is on the verge of legalising the riding of e-scooters on a road for those aged 16 and above. But local jurisdictions can still prohibit them as New York City currently does.

 Rio de Janeiro: E-scooter companies must provide insurance and helmets to users, the wearing of which is mandatory. The scooters are banned from the Brazilian’s city’s pedestrian areas.

 There you go.

 Pontevedra’s Alameda has a funfair in full swing, big wheel and everything.

Someone must have told the Rev Canon Andy Bryant, of Norwich Cathedral that fairground rides were a good idea for he has set up a helter skelter in the nave of his cathedral. To see a picture go to this link.  He says it’s so that visitors can get a better view of the cathedral’s apparently magnificent roof. He claims he got the idea when visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome. He said: “I had the slightly risky thought of ‘I know this is amazing, but actually the ceiling at Norwich Cathedral is every bit as wonderful’.”

 I think however that it is a gimmick to get more people into the cathedral, especially as they are charging £2 for people to go up to the “viewing platform”, from which they can admire the roof. This charge will pay for the hire of the helter skelter while any surplus goes into cathedral funds. Now, will those who consider it too risky or beneath their dignity to go down the slide after admiring the architecture be able to go back down the steps? That might be a bit of a problem. And some people are already complaining that the fairground ride stands in front of a fine stained glass window that visitors might want to see in its full glory.

Which just goes to show that you can’t please all the people all the time.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Sunday night concert-going!

On Saturday Phil finished his chess game early. Yesterday, Sunday, when an early finish would have been desirable, his game went on and on. He did win eventually but it must have been almost the end of the session. An early finish was required really because we were meeting our friend Colin down in town and then going to a concert. But an early finish was not to be.

So we caught the tournament bus down into the town centre, sweet-talking the driver into dropping Phil and me on the edge of the old quarter rather than having to go all the way down to the train station and back into town from the other side.

We met Colin, had some rather nice food and headed for the Plaza de España where veteran singer-songwriter Ana Belén, a long-time favourite of mine, was performing. On our way down to town in the bus we had an entertaining conversation with some of the younger chessplayers of our acquaintance. Phil told them we were going to see Ana Belén. Their response was, “Who?” They are clearly too young and had never heard of her. Their parents must not have given them the right musical education. Our children are well aware of the music of our generation. We have brought them up properly!

There has been some controversy about the age of the aforementioned veteran performer. According to Colin’s sources she is 65. My sources have her as 68. Naturally, I think my sources are more accurate. I suspect that she has taken a few years off, as most of us do. Either way, she is very well preserved and puts on great performance.

The young people on the chess bus may not have heard of her, but a phenomenal amount of older folk, by which I mean our sort of age -old enough to repaint but young enough to sell as some song’s lyrics went - clearly did remember her and the square was packed. I had to keep manoeuvring myself into a losition where I could see between other people’s heads. Still you should not complain about conditions at a free concert. However, someone should tell the organisers about the value of big screens so that everyone can see the performers in all their glory.

A large number of people were busily videoing her performance on their phones. This is a practice I have never really understood. Apart from being able to prove to friends that you were actually there, the video, and its sound quality, is always of doubtful value. Much better to buy a DVD of the performer.

And, of course, in the end it’s all about the me-me-me thing. So some people were just taking selfies - and not even selfies with the stage set in the background.

In some cases they must be looking at the pictures and wondering who is the unknown woman (me) in the picture with them.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

A bit of witchery is no bad thing!

We came across another little quirk of Galicia travel arrangements yesterday. Phil finished his chess game relatively early and so, instead of waiting for the tournament bus to take us down to the station just in time to miss the 9.36 pm train to Vigo, we had the chance of earlier travel. We were prepared to walk down the hill but someone offered us a lift, which we gladly accepted. Most of the folk involved in Galician chess are amazingly friendly and helpful.

So we arrived at the station just in time to miss the 7.36 pm train to Vigo. The next was at 8.55 so we walked across the road to the bus station to suss out possibilities there. The next Vigo bus was at 8.10. Much better. We had a beer in the Entresartenes (between frying pans) cafe in the bus station and then went down to buy our tickets. At the ticket office the clerk kept me waiting while she made a phone call. Rather rude, I thought, although later all was to be revealed. Her phone call done, she sold me two tickets and said the bus was almost ready. An odd remark!

Out at the bus bays was a bus with a driver in one of designated buses-to-Vigo bays. Was he going to Vigo? I and several others asked him. Wait, he told us. So we did. Another bus arrived, labelled Coruña to Vigo. Okay. We all presented our tickets. Some people were allowed to board. We and several others were told that our tickets were not for that bus. What? How could that be? The other driver, the one who had told us to wait, came over and examined our tickets. This was when we discovered that the tickets had a specific bus number printed on them. In our case it was 2326, the number I had overheard the helpful bus driver tell the ticket clerk when he came into the ticket office, in response apparently to her phone call. What number was his bus? she had asked him. 2326. I think she had found out that the bus coming from Coruña was quite full and had hesitated to sell us tickets until she had organised a back-up bus.

And so, instead of riding on a crowded bus, five of us rode to Vigo on a bus all to ourselves. I am impressed by the service! I bet they don’t put on extra trains when all the tickets have been sold!

Maybe it’s a form of bus-service magic. For magic is all around, or so they say.

If you look in the windows of tat shops (oops, sorry, souvenir shops) here in Galicia, as well as pilgrim dolls you are sure to find witches. “Brujas” in Castilian Spanish, they are “meigas” in Gallego. Cafes and restaurants incorporte them into their names and use cartoon witches as logos. They are a big part of Celtic culture.

Oddly enough the USA, home of fundamentalist Christianity as far as I can see, also has a thing about witches. I suppose that if you believe in angels then it’s logical also to believe in witches. Mahdawi, going on about this and that in the Guardian, wrote, ‘We need to go full witch’ Witchcraft is having a moment. “Whether it’s hexing the president, chatting in WhatsApp covens or featuring in TV reboots, radicalised women have been finding strength in the ancient pagan arts,” according to this bewitching piece in the Guardian.  If anyone’s got a good hex, please let me know.”

Here’s a short extract from the article she referred to:

 “This is the time for getting scary,” the writer Andi Zeisler told Elle magazine on the eve of the 2017 Women’s March. “We need to go full witch.”
At the dawn of the Trump administration, witches were suddenly everywhere in the US. Neo-pagans used blogs and social media to circulate popular rituals for hexing Brock Turner (who served less than three months in jail after he was convicted of sexual assualt), the supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh (accused of sexual assault, which he denies), and Donald Trump himself.

The Trump curse was enacted by thousands of people, including the singer Lana Del Rey. “I’m a witch and I’m hunting you,” declared Lindy West in the New York Times; Jess Zimmerman and Jaya Saxena wrote a self-help book, Basic Witches, in which they explained: “If you speak when you’re told to be quiet, take pride when you’re told to feel shame, love what and who you love whether or not others approve, you’re practising witchcraft.” Half the women I know called their group chats “covens”. Trump developed a penchant for tweeting the phrase “WITCH HUNT” in caps whenever he felt persecuted.”

Of course, women who got too uppity have long been designated “witches”. Most of the ones burnt at the stake or innocently drowned on ducking stools were just women who made it plain they knew a lot, maybe more than their menfolk, and generally made a nuisance of themselves. So it’s nice to see witch label reclaimed by the witches.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Weather, queueing and people watching.

Things are looking up. The weather app on my phone says there is only a 10% chance of rain today, which is a big improvement on 50% and even 80% that we have had over the last few days. We didn’t get rained on at all yesterday but this morning I went out running first thing under an almost completely clear sky only to have it start to rain on me half way round my normal route. It seemed like just a few spots so I was not especially bothered. By the time I approached the breadshop, however, it was really coming down and I was soaked through. By lunchtime it had cleared and the sun was shining, but those banks of cloud were still there - ominously waiting for their chance to move in.

My friend Colin has written about his frustration at the queues for buying tickets at the railway station. We had the same experience yesterday, not for the first time. There are ticket machines but they are not very user-friendly (even Spanish friends agree with us in that), especially if you want to get your old-dear discount on the “tarjeta dorada”. Besides, there was only person ahead of us in the queue so it hardly seemed worth going through the vexation of making the machine understand what we wanted. That one person moved up and the ticket clerk proceeded to take almost ten minutes dealing with her request to change a ticket. There was some problem with the card she had used to pay for the original ticket. By this time the queue had built up behind us. The two ladies behind us had hedged their bets, one of them standing in the queue and the other doing battle with the ticket vending machine. Eventually, but only just in time to get our tickets within the required five minutes before the train was due to leave, we moved up to the “taquilla”. The lady battling with the ticket machine surrendered and came back into the queue! Today we shall probably go by bus!

At the chess tournament yesterday an appeal went out for people, please, please, please, to fill in their score sheets properly. For those who are unfamiliar with such events, in a serious competition game of chess the two players record their moves on a score sheet, which has a carbon copy underneath. The names of both opponents go on the score sheets, as does the number of the table at which they are playing and a range of other details. In this particular tournament in Pontevedra they must add another important detail: which section of the tournament they are playing in. For there are really two events going on, an amateur event for weaker players and a more difficult section, where the Chess Masters and International Masters and Grand Masters take part and take apart the otherwise generally strong players in the event. It seems that some people have not been putting names on their score sheets but have simply written “Him” and “Me” or “Me” and “My opponent”. I presume that those guilty of such practices are children, or maybe just jokers, but it must make for quite a nightmare for the organisers when they try to organise who is playing whom in the next round!

I have been doing a spot of people-watching. Some people, like me, walk around pretending to understand what is going on across the various boards. Others really do understand what is going on and stop and observe the progress of complex games. Some of the accompanying adults simply sit and read, potter on their mobile phones, or, like me, read and complete sudoku or crossword puzzles. Yesterday another spectator tried to convince me that I should progress from sudoku to kenken, a much more mathematical kind of puzzle. Life may be just too short for such things.

Then there is the dress code, if such a thing can be said to exist. Many of the youngsters playing sport t-shirts from various chess clubs, from here in Galicia, from Catalonia, from Portugal and from France. The older gentlemen vary from very dapper to smart casual to just plain scruffy. The young men fall mostly somewhere in the smart casual to just plain scruffy range. Some of the young girls playing wears very short shorts. I don’t suppose her opponent notices them from where he is sitting. Others might though. Another young girl wears her summer best, including glittery gold sandals. Most just wear jeans and t-shirts.

The prize, though, goes to a mum. She has two daughters playing in the amateur section. One of them seems very small, but I have been told that she is nine. The other is a bit older, maybe 12. So unless she had her first child when she was barely in her teens herself, she must be pushing thirty. Like many a trendy thirty-something she wears ripped jeans, a fashion I fail to understand, but that’s how it goes. On Thursday she wore a sort of off-the-shoulder cropped top, unbuttoned to reveal quite a lot of cleavage. Yesterday she wore an even shorter top, showing less cleavage but very figure-hugging and revealing a belly-button piercing. She wears her blonde hair in high bunches with a thick fringe falling over her forehead. I have seen her at other similar events, dressed in a similar fashion. Sometimes she and her daughters all have the same hairstyle.

It’s a free country. She can dress as she chooses but I do think she might have mistaken the chess tournament circuit for the music concert circuit. And a friend of mine expressed some concern that one day soon her older daughter might turn round and say that her down-with-the-kids style is just a tad embarrassing. I am not suggesting that she should dress like an old fuddy duddy but maybe a little restraint is called for.

 Of course, my friend and I may be mistaken she could be the older sister of the young chess players but I doubt it.

And again, maybe it’s the case that I am turning into an old fuddy-duddy who fails to understand the younger generation.

Friday, 9 August 2019

A fine time for tourism!

I haven’t seen any statistics but I should say that a prodigious amount of rain fell around her yesterday. Until then any rain that fell had been of the drizzly, damp hanging in the air sort of rain, summer rain, in fact. This was serious stuff - la tromba - coming down in stair rods and battering anything that got in its way. So much for August!

Today has been rather better. So far anyway! I woke up to grey skies but at least it was not raining, although rain was forecast for later in the day. But by midday the sun was trying to come out. It’s a good job we are not sun worshippers who want to go to the beach every day. The beaches around here are, however, very fine and worth visiting. That cannot be denied but if guaranteed sunshine is what you are after, maybe this is not the place to spend your holidays.

Note to self: take umbrella AND raincoat in case if further torrential downpours!

The love-hate relationship with tourists continues in some big tourist hot-spots. The latest I read is that in Rome police are moving people on if they sit down on the Spanish Steps. You can be fined for loitering. I can understand the authorise not wanting folk to stop and picnic there, to get out their camping stoves like the pair did in Venice. However, sitting down for a bit of a rest when you have walked around Rome on a hot day and finally reached the Spanish Steps and feel daunted just by the sight of them. And there are always loads of people there; it’s in their nature to be crowded. After all, Joni Mitchell sang about it!

Here’s a list of ways to get in trouble in Italy.

 “As Rome and other Italian cities continue their crackdown on “uncouth” behaviour, you might get in trouble if you do any of the following:

  •  “Messy eating” or “camping out” on piazzas or the steps of monuments. 
  •  Singing, while drunk, on public transport. 
  •  Wrapping your mouth around the nozzle of a drinking fountain. 
  •  Walking around bare-chested. Dragging wheeled suitcases and buggies down historic staircases. 
  •  Jumping into fountains. 
  •  Dipping your toes into a canal in Venice. 
  •  Feeding pigeons in Venice. Building sandcastles in Eraclea, a beach town near Venice.
  •  Wearing noisy shoes in Capri (wooden clogs have been banned since 1960).” 
I suppose we all want our places of residence to be as perfect as possible. Even in non-tourist places I have read that they are trying to ban swearing in public. Now, that is a hard one! And Salford, not really a top tourist venue, has recently given up on the idea, rescinding the ban, probably because it was just too difficultmtompolice. “Introduced by the city council in 2016, the public spaces protection order (PSPO) outlawed “foul and abusive” language in Salford Quays, the former site of the Manchester Docks that has now been transformed by upscale developments. Offenders faced an on-the-spot fine, which could increase to £1,000. The order immediately alarmed critics and free speech campaigners. What, after all, constituted foul language? Would a “bloody hell” get you into trouble? Could you be fined for a “damn”?”

 There you go!

Thursday, 8 August 2019

In the rain - and other stuff!

Sitting in the sports hall of a rather posh school in Pontevedra where Phil is playing in a chess tournament, I listen to the rain pounding on the roof. Other years when we have been here it has been so hot that it was positively uncomfortable, so really the rain is probably preferable. It’s a bit sad for Pontevedra though with its Semana Grande going on or about to start and the funfair set up and everything. What will the walking bands do if they have to walk about in the rain. It may out a damper on the youngsters whose favourite evening pastime during the fiesta is to run around squirting each other with diluted wine!

Phil and I have been rewatching the television series The Wire, set in Baltimore, USA? We brought box sets over with us and have just reached the end of series two. Despite odd anomalies such as detectives who have no idea what texting is - the series must be getting for twenty years old, after all - it holds up very well and is still relevant. Police trying to do their job still have their hands tied by superiors who are more interested in statistics and meeting targets than anything else. And corruption does not appear to have gone away.

 At one point Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale, the latter doing his share of running the drug empire from his prison cell, find themselves having to reduce their activity, only temporarily, of course. This means that some of their “employees”, the “corner boys”, have to be dismissed. If or when things pick up they will be re-employed. In the meantime they are redundant. One of the boys asked if they do not at least get “separation payment”, presumably meaning redundancy pay. The very idea! Stringer Bell might be doing a business course at night school but things have not gone that far.

 But here’s a thing:-

“British taxpayers funded £850,000-worth of golden goodbyes during Theresa May’s chaotic premiership, a POLITICO investigation has unveiled. Hundreds of thousands of pounds was paid out in severance to ministers who quit their jobs, were fired or who lost their seats at the 2017 snap general election, along with their numerous advisers. Analysis of departmental figures has revealed that 40 ministers who departed government were paid at least £361,463 during the tumultuous three years May was in power. That includes eight secretaries of state such as Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab (who got almost £17,000 each) and Esther McVey (who is now a minister of state under Johnson’s cabinet), who all resigned in protest last year over Brexit.”

Who’d have thought it!

 On the subject of television programmes, here’s another little oddity I have come across:

 “British TV and radio stations will be explicitly required to protect the “welfare, wellbeing and dignity” of individuals who take part in their programmes, under proposals that could radically change how reality TV is made in the UK – and have a collateral impact on news and documentaries. The media regulator, Ofcom, said it was proposing to add two rules to the existing broadcasting code to protect members of the public who take part in programmes, in an announcement timed to coincide with the final of this summer’s series of Love Island. In addition to requiring producers to take due care to protect the dignity of participants, broadcasters will also have to ensure members of the public are not “caused unjustified distress or anxiety by taking part in programmes or by the broadcast of those programmes”.”

 Well, I could think of ways that the aforementioned “welfare, wellbeing and dignity” of those people could be protected. They just need not to take part. Oh, dear, too simple! Everyone seeks their moment of fame, or so they say. But not me!

 We live in odd times!

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Running in the rain and reminiscing and rubbish disposal.

Running in the rain this morning I decided that my so-called waterproof, a lightweight affair designed for runners, is really less than useless. I might as well have left it hanging up in the wardrobe! Galicia may have a dubious claim to be truly Celtic but it does share with other Celtic places like Wales and Brittany a tendency to rain.

Like Wales and Brittany it remains beautiful even in the rain ... just rather wet. Like Wales and Brittany it is proud of its independent heritage and its language. Some people claim links between the Breton language and Welsh but nobody can claim anything other than Latin for the origins of Gallego. I am always amused, however, by the people who insist that Portuguese evolved from Gallego and not the other way around.

Facebook reminds me that ten years ago we were in Santiago de Compostela, where we saw Bruce Springsteen in concert and ate egg and chips and drank beer at four in the morning on our return to Santiago from the out of town, open air arena. It was hot and sunny that day but, in typical Galician fashion, cool in the evening, prompting Phil to buy himself a Springsteen sweatshirt, which he has never worn since! Those were the days!

As I have followed my usual running route, up the hill, along the back roads, back down the hill, I have observed the progress of a pile of rubbish near the school on the back road. At the end of every academic year, late June, the school seems to do a clear out. Old filing cabinets, broken chairs, all sorts of stuff pile up alongside the rubbish containers. Now, rubbish containers are regularly emptied. I know this as I am regularly woken by the noise of the ones outside our flats being emptied in the wee small hours. Stuff alongside the rubbish containers must come under different rules. This summer alongside the containers close to the school was a sofa, a broken table, an old toilet and, mysteriously, what appeared to be the bumpers from three different cars. They remained on the ground, blocking the pavement for weeks before they finally disappeared.

Further along the road a mattress appeared one morning. Initially it was on the back of a small pick-up truck full of rubbish but the truck departed and left the mattress behind. There is stayed for several days. Then one morning all that was left was the outer covering of the mattress and a bit of padding, for all the world as if someone had removed all the springs for their scrap metal value! This may well be the case. The outer covering remains on the pavement.

Who is it who dumps stuff like this? The fact that stuff is left by rubbish containers suggests that they expect the local council to remove it but the system is clearly slow. And some must just be dumped, like the rubbish left by fly-tippers in country places in the UK.

Then yesterday I came across a story about a man who was caught on film fly-tipping a fridge down a ravine in southern Spain. It seems he works for a company that recycles domestic electronic equipment but on this occasion recycling meant dumping the fridge in the Valle de Almanzora in Almería. His workmate filmed the incident, the two of them laughing and joking about it. Then the video was posted on social media and went viral. Stupid!

The perpetrators were identified, fined and made to haul the fridge back up and recycle it properly. I should think so too! The man in question sounds remorseful but with reservations:

“I really regret what I’ve done because it’s meant I’ve lost my job and has aggravated the problems I have with anxiety,” he told the online news site El Español. “All I want now is for this to go away and the effect it’s having on my family, my girlfriend and me. I don’t want people to have this image of me, as though I were a murderer.”

That sounds a little bit too much as though it’s about his problems rather than really thinking about the environment as far as I can see!

 But it’s quite nice to see social media causing some kind of justice to be done!

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Points of view - language in perspective

It only takes a few days of sunshine for you to get used to it and to expect that sunshine is the norm. Which is rather a silly thing to do in Galicia, which can sometimes be as wet as Manchester. Be that as it may, even though the locals keep saying that summer has never really got going this year, we’ve had some fine, sunny days. And a maximum temperature of 26 or 27 degrees is fine by me. The quality of the light on these sunny days has been amazing. Everything stands out with clearly defined edges, like pictures seen through a 3D viewer.

Today by contrast is grey and cloudy, although still rather warm and sticky as if there might be a storm brewing, and everything looks oddly flat. Even the sea looks flat, which is perhaps an odd thing to say, but it looks like a badly painted bit of stage scenery, executed by someone with no sense of perspective.

Okay! That’s enough of the waxing lyrical stuff.

I read yesterday that the French are getting cross about the use of English all over the place. “Franck Riester, Emmanuel Macron’s minister of culture, has this week announced his intention to enforce, or strengthen, on digital platforms the decades-old Toubon law, which compels advertisers to make sure they say things in French. Something they really haven’t been doing. From Air France telling flyers that “France is in the air” to the 2024 Paris Olympics commission promising sports fans the world over that the games are “Made for Sharing”, advertising in French is increasingly overrun with global online English, the flattened lingo of social media and the media that follow it.”

You only to look at advertising hoardings, and shop signs for that matter, here in Spain to see how ubiquitous English has become. Often it’s used in weird and wonderful ways that English speakers would never even recognise, all in an attempt to give an air of sophistication to the name of a place, like “Bestdrive”, the car repair shop near our flat. And I think that’s what niggling the French. Theirs used to be the go-to language if you wanted to achieve that sophisticated air or a touch of magic and mystery. A little ooh-la-la! And now they are feeling miffed that the advertising world has restyled itself - indeed, has been “relooké” as the French might say in twisted franglais - to give English pride of place.

Their national pride and feeling of superiority has been dented.

Besides, it’s an argument that has been going on for decades. I read this: “Of course, every time a government talks about the purity of the language, hackles are raised. For kids in the 1990s, being told to call their Walkman a baladeur just felt daft. It was a Walkman, it said so right there on the plastic lid.” And I was reminded of something from even earlier. Back in the 1970s I was at a standardising meeting for marking spoken examinations for what eventually became GCSE French. The chief examiner instructed us that we could not accept 16 year olds saying, “J’aime le rollerskating”. That should be marked as wrong! They were supposed to say “patiner à roulettes”. A Frenchwoman, native speaker, stood up and protested. Her own children, she declared, used “le rollerskating”, not because they lived in England but because that was what their Parisian cousins said.

You can’t legislate for language, much as you might like to.

I sat and listened to French being spoken in the Castro cafe the other day when I was people-watching. In the summertime you get quite a lot of French-Galicians (ie Galicians who went off a generation or so back seeking work in France and stayed there) returning to visit family. This was one such example: two women, one speaking only French, the other clearly speaking both French and Spanish, and a bunch of children who switched between languages easily and impressively.

One thing that struck me as I listened to the French-only-speaking woman was that even when she spoke with a smile, she still sounded rather as if she was sneering.

Another sort of national superiority! Not that I am a believer in racial stereotypes!

Monday, 5 August 2019

August stuff!

The sound of festivities over at A Guía, where the Teis fiesta has been going on, continued until about 2.00 this morning. I can still see the tents and stuff over there so I suspect it may well continue for a few more days yet. At this rate I shall have to close my windows to shut out the noise if I plan on getting any decent sleep.

The pool here was still fairly empty this morning. There was just me, a sunbathing couple, a mother and daughter and a couple of teenage boys, one of whom I have watched grow up over the last few summers. He used to come down to the pool with his mum. Now he was there with a friend. These kids will keep growing up and becoming independent!

 I suppose a lot of people have gone off on holiday. It is August after all and the weekend just gone saw all the news reports of traffic queues as everyone and their grandmothers set off on holiday at the same time. It’s rather like all the bank holiday weekends rolled into one. The French do it as well.

As we get into August, pretty soon English teenagers, the older ones anyway, will be stressing about their A-Level results, hoping that their grades are sufficiently high to get them into the university of their choice. When I was a sixth form college teacher I used to cut my holidays short to go in and help my students deal with the system, phoning universities to see if they where accepted or not. So much for teachers having long holidays!

Here in Spain university entrance does not depend on the bachillerato, more or less the equivalent of A-Levels, but on a separate exam called “selectividad”. When it was introduced, many years ago now, there was a bit of an outcry with some people saying the bachillerato should be sufficient, but now it seems to work reasonably well, the marks at “selectividad” deciding which kinds of courses students can apply for. I came across an interesting statistic in the local paper the other day: in Vigo state schools on average do better in “selectividad” than private schools. Now, I wonder why that is. 

Here’s another little item I found in the newspaper. There is apparently a bit of a problem with beachgoers doing a bit of shellfish collecting while at the seaside. I have done this myself when staying at my sister’s in Andalucía but on a very small scale. We would catch tiny shrimps and then make them into omelettes. Here in Galicia,it seems, people go hone with a handful of clams, or maybe a small bucketful, enough to serve up with a bit of pasta. According to representatives of the professional shellfish collectors if you put it all together this can amount to thousands of kilos of illegally collected shellfish. Who would have thought it? People are surprised when challenged, but I doubt that it stops them repeating their “crime”. Some people, of course, take it to extremes. One person was found with 7 kilos of clams, surely rather more than his family could easily consume!

The spokesperson for the professionals told the journalist that in her opinion the worst thing was that most of the illegal clam-pickers were Galicians who knew exactly what they were doing!

Well, of course, your average “guiri” (foreign, most likely English) tourist would not know where to start.