I mentioned the other day an expensive shellfish called the percebe, or ‘goose barnacle’ in English. To me at least, this looks repulsive and tastes no better than salinated rubber. Despite this, it sells at a prodigious price to those who feel it has echoes of the brave men who risk their lives scraping it off the wave-tossed, oxygenated rocks it colonises. Last Christmas it sold for 230 euros a kilo - or 70 quid a pound - but this year you can snap it up for a mere 350. Or a staggering 106 quid a pound. It takes all sorts.
A reader has reminded me that the El Corte Inglés department store [the only one in Spain?] is a major exception to the rule that Spanish service is rarely very poor. In truth, I don’t know a Brit who doesn’t spit at least foam [occasionally blood] at the desultory treatment you get in its outlets, always delivered with a supercilious arrogance on the part of the sales people. One friend, asking in the booze department about a particular liqueur, was told ‘Ni puta idea’. Roughly ‘No fucking idea’. But, for me, the biggest beef is that there are never any signs anywhere telling you which floor you need to go to. Except when you get there, having had to ask someone each time. This contrasts with, say John Lewis in Liverpool, where there are directories posted at every conceivable point around the store. I heard rumours last year that someone was planning a website dedicated to moans about El Corte Inglés but I don’t know whether this came to pass.
To be more positive, I’ve regularly said how much more sane Spain is than the ‘more progressive’ Anglo-Saxon cultures. To make the point, I leave you with this report from a UK newspaper:- A five-year-old American schoolboy who pinched the bottom of a female classmate has been disciplined for sexual harassment. The boy's father said he was unable to explain to his son why he was in trouble. "He knows nothing about sex". A spokesman for Washington County public schools, said : "It's important to understand a child may not realise what he or she is doing may be sexual harassment but, if it fits under the definition, then it is. Any time a student touches another student inappropriately, it could be sexual harassment," she said. The case comes weeks after a four-year-old in Texas who hugged a teaching assistant was suspended for "inappropriately touching" her.
A very merry Christmas to all my readers, of whatever creed and colour. But not to the Board of El Corte Inglés , of course.