Thursday, September 13, 2007

It’s a truism that the Spanish love to talk. Why not, so do I. And they are very, very good at it, one consequence being that people who’ve only just met can be chatting away like the oldest of friends within minutes - without any apparent complications arising from gender or age differences. All very impressive. And much missed on trips to the UK. Though things are much better in the USA, despite it being an Anglo culture.

A year or so a go, a British acquaintance was trying to buy a house up near Santiago. Despite having accepted his full-price offer, the seller then immediately became very obstructionist. When asked about this, the estate agent merely shrugged and said “When we’re odd, we Galicians are very, very odd.” I thought of this yesterday when a Spanish friend told me she’d indicated interest in a place built – illegally - in the hills outside Pontevedra, whereupon the seller had upped the price by 25%. Actually, this happened twice to me in 2000 and I never did get a satisfactory explanation from anyone. I concluded the attitude was ‘Well, if there’s one sucker out there, there must be more.’

Returning briefly to the subject of my nice-but-noisy neighbours, Tony and Amparo . . . As they have two boys aged 4 and 7, those of you unfamiliar with Spanish culture may well have asked why weren’t they concerned about them being woken up by a riotous revel lasting until 5am. The rest of us will smile at this ignorance of the fact they never went to bed in the first place. Spanish couples, although horrified at the idea that Brits could leave their kids alone while they go to dinner nearby, would be astonished at the suggestion that keeping them up all night might not be a good thing for young children. Nor would they balk at the idea of leaving them to play in the street, whereas British parents are now utterly paranoid about this. I stress I’m making no value judgements here nor implying [im]moral equivalence between any of these attitudes. I’m simply pointing up cultural differences. So I’d rather not receive comments to the effect that the reason Spanish parents leave their kids alone in the streets is that these aren’t overrun by paedophiles and teenage killers. Neither are those in the UK, even if parents fear they are.

And returning to the – connected - theme of tabloid media. Our local and national papers yesterday provided plenty of material that could be exploded out of all proportion in a Spanish Daily Star – a mob ‘trying to lynch’ the teenage killer of a member of another gang; bull torturing in Tordesillas; a doubling of immigrant kids in Spanish schools in 5 years; more wife-killing and drug-running arrests; and, of course, more slaughter on the roads. Hmm, maybe I’m missing a profit opportunity.

Finally, some Galicia Facts:-

For some unexplained reason, Galicia is the region with the highest number of self-employed individuals over the age of 55 but the lowest under 25.

The Spanish train operator RENFE has announced a new timetable adding 19 minutes to the daytime run to and from Madrid. The Voz de Galicia points out this means the journey will take as long as it did 30 years ago. Meanwhile, the start-up of the AVE high-speed train has probably been delayed further by the suspension of work following a fatal accident to one of the construction workers.

Begging fashions here appear to be on the change. We used to be assailed by large Rumanian women with laminated placards telling us they and their – equally plump – babies were close to starvation. But now we’re having little notelets left on our tables in bars and cafés, later picked up with one hand while the other is outstretched, palm upwards. I’m tempted to substitute the notes with one of my own, saying something like ‘You may not be aware of this but they’re looking for fruit pickers down in Andalucia’.

1 comment:

Duardón de Albaredo said...

"For some unexplained reason, Galicia is the region with the highest number of self-employed individuals over the age of 55 but the lowest under 25"

Colin, the answer is quite simple, I guess. A lot of farmers, that's all. Needless to say, most of these farmers are old (well, or in their 50s, 60s). Most of the farmers I know (in the mountain of Lugo: Navia, Cervantes, etc.) are "old". I suspect this picture is similar in the whole Galicia.