Wednesday, August 31, 2005

We are about to depart for Madrid. As predicted, the sun has just come out in Pontevedra.

The forecast for Madrid is clear skies and 35 degrees. Of course, they don’t know Hannah's on her way. But I suppose she’s not as bad as a hurricane.

4 bloody spams for oil stocks today. Better than penis enlargers, I guess.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My elder daughter, Faye, has long maintained that the weather changes up here along the Galician coast alter her sleep and activity patterns. Basically, she claims she’s more lethargic when the pressure falls and the humidity rises. I’ve long poo-poohed this but now have to admit that my senior moments – such as forgetting to put water in the coffee pot – do seem to occur when, like this morning, the barometric pressure has plummeted and we’re looking out on a thick blanket of fog.

Which reminds me, this is the last day in Galicia of my younger daughter, Hannah, before she returns to the UK. We are all removing to Madrid tomorrow morning for 3 days, meaning that the fog should have disappeared to reveal the sun by midday tomorrow.

I see the shorts I bought in M&S last year have ‘Relaxed Fit’ stamped inside them. This put me in mind of earlier tags such as Easy Fit and Comfort Fit. I guess they all just mean baggy. It could be worse; it could mean that the waistband was elasticated. You know you’re getting old when this doesn’t seem as bad as it once did.

The French President yesterday confirmed he wants France to again be great, under the umbrella of the European superstate he says he’s always dreamed of. On the same day, the French government announced it’s going to stop foreigners taking shares in what it considers to be companies in vital national industries. The Spanish press has pointed up the ‘flagrant illegality’ of this, set against the backcloth of government assistance to French companies [such as France Telecom] wanting to take over Spanish companies [such as Amena]. Brussels has pronounced sternly that it ‘trusts that the French government will comply with EU law’. And that flying lessons will shortly be compulsory for all EU pigs. Plus ça change….

Monday, August 29, 2005

There were more than 60 youths injured in a bull-running event in Madrid yesterday, 2 of them seriously. Needless to say, even the serious papers carried graphic pictures of the terrifying pile-up in the entrance to the bull ring. The by-line in El Pais helpfully pointed out that you could just make out the bull’s horns piercing the cheek of one of the youths.

It struck me - when reading shortly thereafter the latest report of a wife murdered by her husband - that, if a neighbour captured such an atrocity on film, we’d be sure to see it in the Spanish media. Nothing seems to be bad enough here to fall under the heading of tasteless. Certainly not the lines of burned corpses from Beslan in one Sunday paper.

The wetter weather of the weekend seems to have put a damper on the forest fires. I continue to read suggestions that the majority of these are started deliberately and one paper helpfully printed the main reasons for startinga a blaze:-
1. To get yourself new pastures for your grazing animals
2. To demarcate your land
3. To achieve a change of use that would be difficult otherwise, and
4. To wreak revenge on your neighbour.

They say the last of these has a particularly Galician quality about it, land being scarce and precious up here. So a source of many feuds, both within the family and without.

Slipper of the Yard and Gerry Fitt were both given fulsome obits in the Spanish press. As I’ve said before, it’s impossible to imagine British newspapers according this honour to foreigners.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Well, the rural barons of Galicia’s PP party wasted no time in coming out of the long grass to flatly reject Miguel Fraga’s plea for an harmonious transition of power from him to some unidentified heir apparent at an undetermined point in the future. So the scene is set for internecine fun and games. Mr Rajoy must be thrilled.

September is exam time for all those Spanish students [the majority] who need to take re-sits. Accordingly, the libraries of Galicia have announced new hours, designed to afford them time for last-minute swotting. In Santiago university these will be from 9am to 2pm and then from 3.30pm to – would you believe – 3.30am. I suppose this still allows ample time for enjoying the afternoon sun on the local beaches. And, with luck, some post-prandial sleep.

Fernando has kindly provided a number of web sites which describe the battle of 1800 between British troops and the local populace in and around Ferrol. The Spanish sources tell of a complete rout of invading forces. This is rather supported – albeit indirectly - by British accounts, which record the capture of the heights of Brion and Balon overlooking Ferrol but gloss over the failure to take the city itself.

Good to see that [rising] Spanish has replaced German as the second most favoured foreign language option for British A Level students, after [falling] French.

Quote of the Day

We don't call it the euro any more. We call it the teuro, from the German word for expensive
A trader in Vienna's antiques market, commenting on recent inflation in Euroland.
True to expectation [and to form], the weather has not been great during my younger daughter’s visit. But it is forecast to improve today and remain sunny for the rest of her stay. Vamos a ver but, meanwhile, here are a couple of contrasting Pontevedran dawns. I leave you to decide which is the Before Arrival snap and which the After…..

Saturday, August 27, 2005

At a meeting of Spanish journalists yesterday, there was a delegate called Germán Yanke. Possibly from Majorca. Or Miami.

The Spanish conservative party [the PP] is headed up by a Galician, Mr Marion Rajoy. Putting aside his forename, it’s a little difficult for him to portray himself as a credible Presidential alternative - even to an incumbent nicknamed ‘Bambi’ - when he’s so obviously powerless to solve the huge problems in which the Galician branch of the party is mired. You’ll recall the 82 year old Galician Xunta President, Miguel Fraga, was defeated in the recent elections but then vowed to fight on as Leader of the Opposition until he pops his clogs. A meeting of Rajoy and Fraga this week was followed by an announcement which El Mundo dismissed as a typical piece of Galician obfuscation. Whatever, no one is any clearer as to if and when Fraga will depart the scene other in a coffin. So the below-the-surface feud over his eventual successor will continue to fester for a while yet. For now, Mr Fraga has called ‘with body and soul’ for harmony within the party. Pretty rich coming from the guy who’s totally responsible for its absence. And rather too late. The additional irony is that his staying in the saddle is really Rajoy’s only option for stopping the lid being blown off the mess. I guess the model is El Cid.

A helpful ironmonger today directed me to a nearby electricians, where I found the shop is closed on Saturdays during the 3 summer months. Customers are clearly a lower priority than other calls on the owners’ time during this period. I wonder whether they’ve even noticed the new hypermarket just round the corner. Or perhaps they have and have given up the fight.

A colleague at the ESS of Pontevedra yesterday told me that basketball was one of the few sports not invented or codified by the British. He said it’d been invented in the USA and that it took them 17 years to conclude it’d be useful to cut a hole in the bottom of the basket. Twenty or thirty years ago, I would have responded that this presumably meant the game had been invented by Irish immigrants but these days are long gone, thank goodness.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The things I have to do. Here in Pontevedra we have a chap who calls himself Draculín and claims to be a vampire. Now a woman in Portugal has emailed me a letter and asked me to pass it on to him. She would like to know, inter alia, what he thinks about the death of Vlad’s wife in 1462. Needless to say, she has the numbers 666 in her email address. So, I’d better do what she asks.

Over the last 3 months, I’ve been compiling temperatures in several Spanish cities for the Weather section of my Galicia web page. Perforce, I’ve had to listen to bits of a daily programme about witches. This is American but, like everything else, is dubbed here in Spain. The experience has served to amplify my already strong aversion to this process. My impression is there are only 2 or 3 women in Spain who work in the industry. This creates problems when there are 5 or 6 female characters in a programme, leading to pathetic attempts at voice alteration. But things descend into farce when there are either teenagers or [worse] young girls on the screen. Can anything be more excruciating than adults trying to mimic the voice patterns of kids? How I wish they would adopt the Portuguese practice of using subtitles and leave the original voices intact.

In Spain, rubbish is collected every night of the week from large containers in each street. Depositing my daily offering yesterday, I caught sight of a piece of gym equipment behind the bin. This was in pristine condition and even had the plastic cover still on the bench bit. My heart went out to the poor soul who’d bought [or received] it but never got round to using it. And my hand went out to the item in question. We all have our dreams. And our spare tyres.

Speaking of which, I dreamt last night that I was propositioned by both the wife and daughter of the editor of The Spectator magazine. I suspect this says rather more about me than about them.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Somewhere up near Ourense, a town council has been taken to task for financing its Folk Festival and 5-a-side soccer tournament via donations from local brothels. An interesting wrinkle is that the town’s mayor is a lady. Or a woman, at least.

A page or two after reading this, I plunged into the small ads. Or not-so-small in some cases. For the C d E and the Night and Day continue to wage their Whore Wars via large and ever more explicit advertisements. The former now calls itself The Queen of Vigo and is tarting up its ads with ‘Fotos Reales’ of, well, its tarts. The latter, not to be outdone, labels itself The Queen of All Europe and boasts of having Claudia Schiffer’s double on its books. Both establishments offer ‘Professional Streepers’. Astonishing.

In a report of a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, the machine was said to be flying at ‘50-60 pies’ [50-60 feet] above the ground. This, I think, is the first time I’ve come across a non-metric measurement in Spain and am left wondering whether there’s a particular reason for not expressing the height in metres.

And while all my Spanish readers are pondering this, I shall take the opportunity to ask my friend Fernando in Ferrol why the streets of nearby Brión will be ‘running with British blood’ this coming weekend. And why people will be racing around dressed as Brits ‘smelling of sulphur, with 2 horns in the front and a tail behind’. I doubt that it has anything to do with Gibraltar but you never know.

I see even the Spanish press thought that Everton’s second goal against Villareal last night was perfectly legitimate. If my satellite receiver hadn’t given up the ghost just 10 minutes before kick-off, I might have been able to form my own opinion.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

My younger daughter, Hannah, kindly brought me a Daily Telegraph from London yesterday but I rather wish she hadn’t. Although it puffs itself as the UK’s leading ‘quality newspaper’, it’s even more of a tabloidised comic than it was when I left England 5 years ago. Two major news stories and a few snippets comprise only 45% of the front page, whereas a picture of Mick Jagger takes up a massive 32%. Advertisements account for the rest. Inside, things get worse. 61% of one page consists of a picture of a male backside. This turns out to be an ad for bum wipes, with the deathless line ‘to leave you cleaner and fresher than ever before’. Of course, if you were ‘clean and fresh’ in the first place, you wouldn’t need the bloody product. Can anyone blame the Continental Europeans for resisting the encroachment of what they see as over-commercialised Anglo Saxon ‘culture’?

Confused as they are by things British, these same Continentals will have been astonished to hear today alcohol consumption is rising in the UK, when it’s falling in France and Germany. Given that the image of drunken football hooligans is entrenched in European minds, they will be as dumbfounded as the British police appear to be about the government’s intention to permit 24 hour drinking. Especially when they read of the 18 year old found dead of alcoholic poisoning after a night out to celebrate his birthday.

Bringing all this together, I suggest we all pray to our respective Gods that Rupert Murdoch and his managerial team are tempted to indulge in a fatal bout of communal binge-drinking.

On a lighter note …. I saw a flier today for a course here in September. This is entitled ‘Therapeutic Striptease’ and aims to ‘give you the opportunity to remake the geography of your body, to explore its hidden content and to be able to make more beautiful journeys without fearing anyone’. Very Latin. Sadly, the woman offering it doesn’t seem to have a web site. I shall be forced to do some empirical research.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The World Youth Festival in Cologne last week has been criticised for being less well organised than the previous event in Rome. So, the Germans are becoming less efficient and the Italians less inefficient. What was I saying about ‘convergence’? We’ll all be Stepford Europeans soon.

Pontevedra’s main square is pleasant enough but, in truth, doesn’t compare with Spain’s finest. It does have some nice gardens adjacent to it, though these may now be under threat. With this year’s major fiesta just over, the town council has said the square really needs to be ‘reshaped’ so that it can accommodate bigger concerts and ‘spectaculars’. Very Spanish.

By some way, China continues to be the favourite source of foreign babies adopted by Spanish couples, followed by Russia, the Ukraine, Colombia and Ethiopia. I still don’t know why Ethiopia rates so highly and continue to suspect there must be a Spanish religious order operating there.

I had just under 100 hits to my blog on Friday. This was initially rather gratifying but then I had visions of a computer or two trying repeatedly to post specious comments but coming up against the filter I’ve now installed. A low hit rate over the weekend lent weight to this fear but I’m pleased to say things are now back to normal. It’s a roller-coaster business this blogging. As if anyone but me was really interested.

Monday, August 22, 2005

At Vigo airport there’s a special parking facility just across from the terminal. The first 10 minutes are free but thereafter you have to be Croesus to afford the rates. Today, the access lane to this was occupied by 23 taxis, making things difficult for those trying to enter and impossible for those keen to exit before the 10 minutes is exceeded. I couldn’t make out whether this was a protest, an act of Spanish pragmatism or the first example I’ve seen of group individualismo.

Forest fires continue to rage throughout Galicia, with a total of 35 registered yesterday. The media insists that 90% of these are deliberate, an assertion backed by the arrest of 277 pyromaniacs throughout Spain so far this year. Things may ease off after tomorrow, when my younger daughter arrives. As I feared, rain is forecast for her stay.

It seems we get a better class of tourist in Galicia. True, we only get 3% of the country’s total but they each spend 28% more than the average. Of course, this could just be a reflection of the high prices charged for the shellfish, seafood and Albariño wine in which the region specialises.

That said, this year’s Albariño grape harvest is predicted to be a bumper one, fractionally down on 2004’s record. So it’s second chance for the producers of the end product to lower their prices and increase the volume of sales, outside Spain especially. Are we holding our breath? No, we aren’t.

Finally, I’m indebted to my friend Andrew for this photo of a sign which shows the cost of a new road down to the centimo level. As I’ve said before, in a country where precision is accorded slightly less importance than elsewhere, this quest for absolute accuracy is all the more impressive, if somewhat lacking in credibility.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

It's an ill wind that blows no good.

Today's fires near Pontevedra have added an extra element to the sky at what is always the the best time of the day.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Regular readers will know I regularly cite the results of surveys of sex in Spain, plus others such as one on the use mobile phones. It struck me yesterday that the survey I’d really like to see would answer the question How often do either one or both Spanish partners use a mobile phone when making love?

This summer Galicia has been hotter and drier than most other parts of Spain. As a result, we’ve been plagued with forest fires and I guess I’m not alone in praying for a little rain. But all should change when my younger daughter arrives on Tuesday next. Within the family – and now more widely - she is renowned for bringing with her not just her smile but also bad weather whenever she comes.

There was a report yesterday of alcohol-fuelled street violence amongst young people at a Barcelona festival. This lends support to my thesis that Spain and the UK are morphing into the same culture, incorporating the least attractive elements of each. Perhaps this is what Brussels means by ‘convergence’.

Talking of my views, I’ve long regarded Rupert Murdoch and his tabloid empire as one of the worst things to hit Britain in its long history. And I suspect the unholy alliance between him and Tony Blair will come to be seen as having ushered in a new age of mob rule. A little extreme, perhaps, so I was pleased to see Paul Johnson saying in a recent edition of The Spectator that Murdoch had thrown away the fruits of victory over the print unions by committing the Times to a costly price war with the Telegraph which effectively ruined both papers and ended quality journalism in London.

I see the rapper Eminem has admitted to being addicted to sleeping pills. I’m surprised I’m not too, as I pop one whenever I see him about to perform.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Here’s the sort of headline you don’t see often enough – Thirty young people suffer stings when someone urinates on a wasp’s nest. Kids!

I guess it had to happen but I see we now have spam blog-posts. I noticed my first on my friend Manoel’s site 2 days ago and last night I had five. If you’ve not yet seen them, this is the sort of illiterate nonsense to look out for…. Hey, you have a cracking blog here! I will certainly return for another look! I have a low cholesterol diet site. It well-nigh reports all about that tallies low cholesterol diet topics. If you give the chance, your are welcome to come and check it out.

The inhabitants of a local village are in despair after all attempts to stop wild boars ravaging their crops consummately failed. Preventative measures are said to have included loud music and, would you believe, ‘hair from the hairdressers’. But not guns or pits with pointed sticks in them. Maybe this is where they’re going wrong.

I live in a 4 story town house, as does nice-but-noisy Tony and his family next door. One major difference between us is that I haven’t invented a game that involves me bawling from the attic to my kids in the basement and them screaming back to me when I occasionally stop to draw breath. Roll on the next tanker trip.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Things are a tad clearer on what the New Orleans White Sox peña will be sporting at next year’s bullfights here in Pontevedra. Apart from the white socks, a baseball cap would seem to be de rigueur, albeit worn in the somewhat old-fashioned manner of the right way round. And possibly a garish Hawaiian shirt. Thought is still being given at to what we will be girding our loins with. Perhaps Bermuda shorts. Though we wouldn’t want to end up too conspicuous.

I read today about two rather conflicting surveys of life in the UK. In the first of these, we learnt that, although Britain is rated highly for its people, the global panellists used a single word to sum up the experience of visiting the UK - "predictable". The second survey, on the other hand, gave the impression that the UK was turning into Spain - Mobile phones have made people less organised and more willing to be late when meeting their friends. Nearly one in five people admitted to being unreliable about timekeeping because they had the "safety net" of a mobile. Seventy-five per cent said they were more "spontaneous" with their social lives thanks to mobiles

This latter impression was rather endorsed by a columnist in the Daily Telegraph who felt that Britain was no longer addicted to merit but ‘enslaved to notions of entitlement’. ‘In the deepest part of themselves’ he added ‘all classes now are devoted to leisure’.

Anyway, it was a big day for me as the cumulative hits to my blog [at almost 7,000] finally overtook those to my web page on Galicia. This is most gratifying so my thanks to all of you who take the trouble to read it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I drove up the hill tonight behind a lady who seemed far more interesting in chatting and gesticulating than in negotiating anything like a straight line. Mind you, the dog on her lap might well have been a factor. Needless to say, she wasn’t wearing a safety belt.

I mentioned last week that the Spanish prefer to shower with the flexible hose in their hands rather than fixed above them. Or in one hand at a time, to be more accurate. I, on the other hand[!], prefer to leave the shower head in the wall socket. So it’s there every time my cleaner does my bathroom. Despite this, I calculate she's now removed the shower head and left it draped over the taps on roughly 520 occasions. Perhaps she thinks I have a secret Spanish guest. Which I might have, if any rich widow or divorcee had taken up my invitation of a few weeks ago.

Tony and his family attended a wedding last night and arrived back at 7.30 this morning. This was a splendid opportunity for adults and kids alike to again demonstrate that the concept of excess noise is unknown in Spain. And they grasped it with both hands. Unlike the shower hose.

Monday, August 15, 2005

One of the more engaging features of the annual Pontevedra bullfights is the fans dressed in the colours of their respective peñas, or ‘supporters groups’. Apart from making a great deal of liquid-inspired noise, these all dress in the same colourful outfit. In honour of my visiting American friend, Rick, we’ve decided to form a new peña whose defining characteristic will be white socks worn with brown boots. Or, indeed, with Gucci loafers. As yet, we haven’t decided what, if anything, we will sport in addition to these.

There was an horrendous road accident in Bangkok recently, when a drunken driver ploughed into a group of policemen arresting another driver at the side of the road. I would be capable of answering almost any question about this incident, thanks to Spanish TV’s decision to show it 3 times in quick succession on the evening news. Just in case anyone missed any of the gore the first and second times around, I guess.

Rick and I witnessed another wonderful example of individualismo today. In a tourist spot where parking was, to say the least, at a premium, most of the cars were [properly] parked at a right angle to the wall. But one driver had decided to avail himself of the wall’s shadow by parking parallel to it, thus taking up 3 of the precious bays. I tell a lie; a total of 3 drivers had done this. Unhappily, I’d gone out without my hammer and nails.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Forests continue to burn profligately in the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, Spain and Portugal last year accounted for 81% of all fires in the EU. And more than 9% of Spain has gone up in flames in the last 15 years. The suggestions persist that much of this destruction is deliberate. Understandably, then, someone has queried whether it’s wise to pay the fire-fighting companies by the size of the conflagrations extinguished.

A local columnist has bemoaned the demise of bullfighting in Spain, especially in the secessionist regions, where it is seen as too Spanish. The writer points the finger at rich and risk-averse bullfighters who, he says, spend more time in the pages of the gossip magazines than in the ring. But he also blames the British for planting football in Spanish soil, just as they have planted their flag on the rock of Gibraltar. It’s possible his tongue was firmly in his cheek but it’s still quite an achievement to get the Gibraltar issue into an article on bullfighting.

Poor Johnny Depp. His voice, of course, has long been eliminated by the mighty Spanish dubbing industry but now his very identity has been lifted. To El Mundo at least, he is now Johnny Deep.

I’ve written this blog during an afternoon of unusual but glorious yellow light. Sadly, the cause is a filter created by the smoke from a large fire in the valley of the river Lérez.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Conversation in an art gallery this afternoon, when I picked up the plastic bag containing a book I’d had to deposit at the desk …
Me: Are you allowed to wear a rucksack when viewing the pictures?
Young lady: No. Certainly not.
Me: Well, there’s a chap walking round with one on his back.
Young lady: Well, he shouldn’t be. He should have deposited it here. But, as he is, we’ll let it go

The local paper reports that the police have had startling results with their new policy of doubling up the foot patrols in the city – the already-low level of crime has reduced. Doubtless police forces from all over the world will be flocking here to analyse this astonishing breakthrough. When, that is, they’ve stopped devising schemes such as the wearing of green ribbons so as make themselves Muslim-friendly.

At the ironmongers today the friendly assistant told me they were out of cages in which to trap the mice currently enjoying the wide-open spaces of my kitchen. He said they’d have one in the coming week. When I checked the price and confirmed that I’d be back in due course, he added ‘Well, when I say next week, I can’t guarantee this. The fiesta has just begun and you know how things are.” Indeed I do and so would have no confidence at any time of the year that a return trip within a week would be fruitful. But what touching faith on his part to imagine that I would trust his forecast.

Friday, August 12, 2005

My American guest experienced two major surprises down in Pontevedra today. The first was a stunning example of Spanish individualismo, when a car was left double-parked in the main street, bringing the traffic to a complete halt for close to 10 minutes. The second occurred when the driver finally appeared but neither she nor any of the blocked drivers said a word to each other in either apology or anger. This was despite the fact that most of the drivers had spent the previous 10 minutes furiously blowing their horns in a vain attempt to get the driver to emerge from wherever it was she felt it so vitally important to remain. A café, apparently. Now, if she had stalled at some traffic lights…..

My guest also discovered today there is a chasm here between customer reception [usually excellent] and customer service [often woeful]. He was trying to get a return ticket on the train from Pontevedra to Madrid at the discounted price which is always given in Spain. The problem was his ticket for the first leg of the journey had been issued in the USA and lacked the ‘right code’. Neither the station clerks, the RENFE agent in town nor even RENFE’s customer service personnel were willing or able to do anything to override the computer’s inability to deal with this. After 2 hours and a lot of walking and talking, we conceded defeat.

We visited another castle today, where the entrance fee was 1.43. As only a true bureaucrat could come up with such a price, my guess would be that ownership of the place lies with the local council.

Just going back to the double-parking incident – it struck me later that the absence of 'words' between victims and perpetrator was even more odd in a country where most people scarcely stop talking until they fall asleep. Perhaps a silence is more meaningful than insults in such a verbose world.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Just one example of the English met on our recent trip, from a hotel questionnaire…
Why did you choose our establishment?
1. I knew it from a previous occasion
2. I saw it occasionally passing along
3. I saw a sing beside the motorway

Given their tendency to take the children with them wherever they go, I sometimes wonder how Spanish adults can have a serious evening together. At 1.30 this morning – when I finally put in my maximum strength earplugs – the kids next door were still running through the house playing a game that seemed to demand a good deal of shouting and knocking. Which reminds me, Tony is back from the sea.

Actually, when your main objective in life is to maximise fun, having a serious evening comes way down the list.

Quote of the Day

Anyone familiar with long road journeys has witnessed homicidal overtaking, intimidatory tailgating and the sudden, unsignalled stop or reversing down a motorway exit.
Someone talking about France. Or so he claims.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Well, I seem to annoy more Galician friends when I write positively than when I tend towards the critical. So, for their sake, I’d like to stress that any praise given in this blog for either Spain in general or Galicia in particular is entirely specious and designed to make me a pack of money. Don’t ever think of coming to visit, let alone live here, as they are quite dreadful places. Especially Ferrol, Vigo and Pontevedra.

Random recollections of the recent trip…

... Motorways continue to proliferate. This time - in Reinosa - I happened upon one just built between Palencia and Santander. I guess this will stop when the EU grants end.

... As ever, the road numbers on my maps and downloaded route instructions bore little reference to the actual numbers on the signs. Sometimes, though, they shared a digit or two.

... Spaniards must prefer to take a shower with the shower-head in their hand, rather than in the bracket on the wall. In most hotels, the bracket is pretty useless and in some cases the hose will shoot off the wall when the taps are turned on. This was true even in an upmarket casa rural which had whirlpool features in the bath.

... Spanish petrol pump attendants must be among the most efficient and friendly in the world. Damn.. another positive comment.

... Night-time temperature up in Burgos, León and Lugo can be pretty cold, even in summer. In fact, there was early-morning ice on my windscreen in Burgos, even though the daytime temperature later rose to over 30.

... Writers of hotel brochure don’t often have native English-speakers proof read their brochures. Thank God.

... American travelling companions wearing Hawaiian shirts will garner a fair amount of attention.

Someone has arrived at my blog after googling ‘gay cosmetic surgery’. How, I wonder, is this different from straight cosmetic surgery. Do both participants have to be gay? Are the techniques different? Wrinkles in different places??

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

And here's one of the stunning castles....

Well, my 6 days of absence turned into 7 after I was pole-axed yesterday by a bad clam. Ironically, I’d ingested this in Lugo, which promotes itself with the theme And to eat – Lugo!.

That aside, this blog will be nothing but positive. Almost.

Our Castles, Mountains and Churches trip in Castilla y León, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia was a huge success, reminding me just what a joy it is to travel in Spain. Or at least in those parts where international tourism hasn’t laid waste to everything in its path. Superb roads, low traffic density, marvellous weather, friendly people, spectacular scenery, great food [except in Lugo, of course], delicious wines and – thank God - stunning castles and churches. Plus a few other things I can’t momentarily recall. As the Dutch writer – Cees Nooteboom - has said, if you took certain chunks of Spain and plonked them down in France, millions would visit them. But, happily, they don’t. Unless inspired by this blog, long may they stay away and leave Spain’s secret treasures to us blessed few.

Back home, a DVD from the library was logging up late days but, if you’ve read my blog of 21 July on this subject, you’ll appreciate that I wasn’t too concerned about this. So imagine my surprise yesterday morning when some officious young man commented on the DVD’s lateness and suggested I come back today when at least one of the two computers might be working, presumably for the purpose of being fined. Fat chance.

In my absence, things continued pretty much as usual in Galicia. A driver who was possibly returning from a wine festival along the coast decided to knock down 18 km of road cones set up to form 3 lanes out of two on a vía rápida so the holiday traffic could move more freely. The inevitable result was chaos. Dozens of other drivers reported his car registration number via their mobiles but, after 2 days, the police still haven’t managed to track him down. Which is odd, as they do it very quickly if you park your car wrongly. Perhaps he’s related to someone. He certainly appears to have felt himself inviolate.

I see I’ve referred to Manual Fraga as Miguel Fraga. How quickly one is forgotten when one loses power.

Oh yes, I read that my favourite company, Telefonica, still has almost 80% of the phone market after 2 or 3 years of competition. Or 100% in those areas, such as mine, where there is no cable company with whom to compete. Hence the relentless price increases.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

With an old friend who’s visiting from New Orleans, I’m off early tomorrow on a 5-day trip through Castilla y Leon, Cantabria, Asturias and northern Galicia. Blog entries will depend on events and the availability of internet cafés.

Hasta pronto, amigos.

Monday, August 01, 2005

My local supermarket masquerading as a hypermarket has plumbed new depths of customer non-service. At the peak shopping hour this afternoon they had no baskets available. Not content with this, they’ve introduced a new bag policy…..
Me: Can I have large bags, please?
Checkout girl: You have to go to the office for them now
Me: Why, for God’s sake?
Checkout girl: I don’t really know. I think it’s because they’re more expensive and they don’t want customers to have them.

Quote of the Day

Spanish children are very indulged.
Fodor’s Guide to Spain, practising its hand at English understatement.