Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Spectator magazine has a spoof Agony Aunt column. At least I think it’s a spoof. The latest edition includes this question:-

Q. This coming weekend I had planned to go and stay with some friends at their home in France. Subsequently I received a considerably better invitation, to stay with mutual friends. I don’t need to be told that chucking one invitation for another is not on, but I do need your advice as to how I can extricate myself from the first invitation in favour of the second with as much discretion and ingenuity as possible.

The first sentence of the answer reads:-

A. The social order will collapse altogether if people start chucking in favour of ‘better’ invitations.

But if this were true, Spain would have no social order. And this can’t be right, can it? Surely not.

I have learned that one has to be careful with the word ‘Católico’ in Spain. It doesn’t just mean 1. Catholic, or 2. universal. It also means something like ‘responsible’ or ‘balanced’. At least it does to people over 40, say. So when I told Spanish friends that my younger daughter was ‘now very Catholic`, I got some quizzical looks - as if I were telling them that she was a reformed prostitute. To get across the proper meaning, I have to use ´religiosa´, which may sound a bit too strong to you and me but which does the trick.

When I walk my dog in the forest each morning, I often meet an old chap who has taken it upon himself to water the young oak saplings that the local council nobly planted three years ago. The funny thing is that, if I greet him in Castellano, he answers me in Gallego. But, if I greet him in Gallego, he answers me in Castellano. I suppose Manoel would say that he is a typically perverse Galician. But, even if he is, he’s doing a wonderful job with the saplings. Incidentally, these have hardly grown at all in three years. At least not above ground. Whereas the ubiquitous eucalyptus and mimosa trees have rocketed skywards in the same period. No wonder the local wood processing companies have done for many of the oak forests of Galicia. It’s just as well that there’s unlikely to be a call for another Armada. Can’t see the eucalyptus trees being up to the job.

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