Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wellesbourne in Worcestershire.

I've been driving to and walking in Shakespeare country today and will shortly set off for Dorchester on the south coast. So here's some fotos of the village and the pub in which I had lunch. It is so old-fashioned it still allows patrons to bring their dogs in. Can't recall seeing that for decades.

Tomorrow, a list of the main differences between Spain and the rest of the world.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Attractive bacteria; Siesta deaths; Weekend rags; Language trix; Shopping; & Silly names.

At lunch with some of my young daughter's friends on Sunday, I heard one ask another: "Which is your favourite bacterium?". After which there was a 5 minute chat on the attributes of various candidates. One of them, it turned out, was a scientist and the other a doctor. Happily, I'd finished eating.

You'll forgive me for not placing any trust in the Cambridge University study which concluded that a daily siesta shortens your life. Especially as they don't know why. It's just a coincidence that Spanish longevity is the best in Europe, I suppose.

Reading The Sunday Times is a real challenge. Specifically, where to find a bin in which to dump the 9 sections you don't want to read. Spain's weekend papers have, of course, been heading in this direction for years, though the internet's impact may well have slowed down 'progress'.

Orwell would have loved this abuse of language. . . I see that the coffee my sister favours comes a third of the way along a bar labelled 'Smooth' at one end and 'Rich' at the other. What they mean, of course, is 'Weak' and 'Strong'.

I keep bumping up against the problem that shops in Britain close around 5pm, just when most of those in Spain are opening up for the evening shift of 5-8pm. Or even 5-9. Frustrating.

Finally . . . I saw recently that someone had called their child L'Wren. This is perhaps not as bad as and I look forward to seeing L'Wrence, L'Ora and L'Orna in due course. Inter alia.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

House sales/prices; Dubious pardons; Bye-bye monarchy?; Gurtel explained; Romanian victims.

The sale of houses and the prices thereof continue to fall in Spain, 7 years after the boom turned to bust. And yet, sales to foreigners increased significantly last year, with Brits being well to the fore in the quest for bargains. Given that prices are expected to fall still further, these are either canny souls who know exactly what they're doing or folk who - as the traditional phrase has it - have left their brains at the airport. Either way, good luck to them. One thing's for sure, unless there are very good reasons, this is not the time to accept the asking price, however reasonable the (on-commission) estate agent says it is.

The Executive arm of the Spanish government has the constitutional power to pardon criminals - something which it regularly does - without giving reasons - in respect of senior politicians and bankers. In addition, the government has a similar power stemming from nothing more than custom and practice. So it is that: " A Spanish banker jailed for stealing €30,000 ($41,000) from a client is one of 21 prisoners given a reprieve during this year's traditional Easter pardons. Every Holy Week, around 20 prisoners are freed at the request of the Catholic cofradías, the religious brotherhoods behind most of the processions which take place across the country". It's said that the tradition began with a 1759 prison riot in Malaga. So, Easter is a time when friendships really count in Spain. As if they didn't at every other time of the year!

Demonstrators took to the streets of Spain last night to call for the restoration of a republic. The current Constitutional Monarchy model has failed, they say, resulting in a two-party system mired in perpetual corruption. The 1978 'transitional model' , they add, has outlived its usefulness and needs to be replaced by something more up-to-date. And who would gainsay any of that, particularly if it means a sensible federal state? So, good luck to the March for Dignity.

HT to Lenox for the advice that you can, perhaps, get a full understanding of the vast Gurtel corruption case from this article in El País in English.

Finally . . . I don't whether this is happening in Pontevedra as well as in Ferrol but I might just have a bit more sympathy for some of our beggars in due course.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Circumnavigators; Books; E-cigs; Jew Killing; Jews killing?; & Religious riches.

If I were to ask you who was the first mariner to navigate the globe, you'd probably say the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan. Or Fernão de Magalhãesas as he's properly known. But this is wrong, as Ferdinand was in fact wounded in the Philippines and never made it back home. The trip to the Spice Islands and back was completed - just about - by one of his sailors, a Spaniard called Juan Sebastián Elcano - a chap who'd ironically spent 5 months in chains for taking part in a mutiny against Magellan earlier in the voyage. Understandably, this is well-known in Spain, but not elsewhere. So spread the news.

The Sunday Times says that the number 1 book of the last 40 years has been Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time. This is a huge irony as it must also rank as the least read book on the planet. I think I got to page 17 before giving up. But perhaps I should try again.

I mentioned there are no beggars in Hoylake. Another thing you won't find there but which is thick on the ground in Pontevedra is a shop selling e-cigarettes. I wonder why that is. Then again, there are no charity shops in Pontevedra against  several in Hoylake. As there are in Headingley, where I am today. It's a rum world.

It's good to see that the small Spanish village of Castrillo Matajudios - Castrillo Kill the Jews - is finally getting round to voting on whether to return to its original name of Castrillo Motajudios - Castrillo the Hill of the Jews. Mind you, we don't know the outcome of the referendum yet.

Which reminds me . . . . After another stranger added me to their circle on Google Plus, I decided to see how easy it is to add myself to the circles of the high and mighty. For this I chose the Pope and quickly found myself watching a video from some nutter who 'proved' that the Israelis had bought and stored last November a twin of the Malaysian jet which may or may not lie deep in the ocean west of Australia. I think we're supposed to conclude the the Jews are behind the mystery of its disappearance, though no motive was proffered.

Finally . . . I've mentioned a couple of times that I'm contemplating starting a religion, after reading Scientology's L Ron Hubbard's comment that it's the quickest way to make yourself a millionaire. I've now edged closer to this challenge after reading the obit of one Harold Camping, who's reported to have made a fortune from claiming that his interpretations of the Bible had uncovered the true date of the end of the world. In truth, I doubt he even got it right even for himself.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Oil wars; Spanish family life; Beggars?; Busty barmaids; & Wine matters.

There's been considerable concern in Spain in the last few weeks that the major olive oil producer, Deoleo, would pass into the hands of foreigners. Worse, into those of a major competitor from, say, Italy. But who could have predicted that the new owners would be the dastardly British? Even worse, a venture capital group. Hey ho, this is part of what being in the EU means. It's not just about hand-outs from Brussels. Or 'solidarity', as it's called in Spain.

No sooner do I mention that Spanish families are not quite as close-knit as we Anglos think, than along comes a report to confirm this. According to Spain's state research organisation INE, the average number of members per household has shrunk from 2.58 in 2011 to 2.53 in 2013, as families continue to fragment. With the population falling and the number of homes growing, the percentage of Spaniards living alone is definitely on the up. Except, of course, for those unemployed youngsters (more than 50% of them) who've stayed at or gone back home.

One feature of Pontevedra life that's missing from Hoylake is beggars. As I've said, my home city overflows with these and I've devised several categories for them. In Hoylake I've seen only one - the Rumanian woman outside the Aldi store in West Kirby. The only other Rumanian I've met was the charming waitress in the pub I had lunch in on Friday. However, I've heard there's an entrepreneurial group of them somewhere on Merseyside offering a car-cleaning service - inside and out - for only 10 quid. I wish I could track them down. Reader Perry surely can.

Only in Spain?: An ad agency in Barcelona posted an ad for a barmaid with a chest minimum of 95cm or 37 inches. The client is FICOMIC, the organisers of an international comic fair. And they are not well pleased at this solecism. Though they probably appreciate the publicity.

Here's how to do something that will occasionally frustrate you - opening a bottle of wine without a corkscrew.

Finally . . . Talking of wine -Here, here and here are the sites of my friend the Hoylake wine merchant, who ploughs an entirely different furrough/furrow at night.

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