Monday, January 21, 2008

It’s good to be able to start the week with something positive. On Saturday – for the first time in seven years – a supermarket assistant volunteered help, as I trawled through the spice jars in search of ground coriander. And this wasn’t in the basement of a snobby El Cortés store. Or even one of their superciliously poncey Gourmet Clubs. No, it was in one of the branches of Galicia’s down-to-earth Froiz chain. I shall return!

Sunday was even better. After two weeks of rain, spring paid us an early visit and I dined out on my weekly squid and Albariño bathed in warm sunlight and the sound of bagpipes. But I wouldn’t want to give the impression to would-be emigrants that life is good here. No, the weather is foul, the food atrocious and the people abominable. Honest. Stick to visiting in July and August, when you might just see a bit of sun. Unless my younger daughter is visiting.

Parts of Spain continue to depopulate and, according to El País, these are all down the country’s western border. My solution would be to do the obvious thing and offer these to Portugal. Especially those contiguous provinces of Galicia where they speak a sister tongue. Too simple, I guess.

I mentioned the other day that American spell-checks fail to recognise ‘mayoress’, though they don’t [yet] have any difficulty with ‘actress’. I guess, then, they’d really struggle with ‘sheikhess’. Or even ‘sheikh-ess’. I’m led to this observation by chancing on the Spanish word jequesa, the feminine version of jeque. Except it isn’t, as there’s no such thing as a female sheikh. So jequesa actually means ‘wife of a sheikh’. For which there is no equivalent single-word concept in English. For sheikhs or, indeed, any male office holder. Though I’ve just had this thought that the wife of a mayor in the UK is called the Lady Mayoress. Which is, at least, two words. So, Lady Sheikhess?? Enough of this.

Talking of language - When I first came to Spain in 2000, I met several words or phrases new to me. These included philology, false friends and phrasal verbs. English-speaking Spanish colleagues were astonished I didn’t know what the last-named were, despite them being the bane of their lives. As for false friends, these are words that are similar in two languages but with different meanings. So, for example, gambas are prawns here but legs in Italy. In Spanish, suceso is an ‘event’ and impresionante means ‘shocking’ as well as ‘impressive’ or ‘moving’. Which is why a local paper referred to last weekend’s terrible accident in Vigo as un suceso impresionante. Which brought me up rather suddenly, if fleetingly.

Galicia Facts

Another weekend, another youth crashing in the early hours of Saturday morning after a high-speed drive through the centre of one of our towns, this time Lalín up in Lugo province. A mere five times over the drink limit. And driving a powerful, expensive car at 21.

Spanish newspapers reported this week that syphilis was taken to the New World by Christopher Columbus. Since, around these parts, he’s believed to have come from my township of Poio, this gives us yet another claim to fame. Albeit one that’s a tad dubious.

Talking of depopulation – There are said to be 700 villages in Galicia with only a single inhabitant. Which can’t be a lot of fun. Though I guess it saves [denies?] you the traditional Galician pastime of feuding with your neighbour over a few square centimetres of disputed land.


moskvawhich said...

You have no idea how much I envy you. Personally, I don't think there is any risk of an invasion by hordes of foreigners of Galice, Asturias or any other part of Western Spain (bar the southern coast of Huelva, of course). Therefore, you may continue writing in positive tones about Galice without fear. Even all that brand new infrastructure coming your way will most probably arrive much too late.

Keefieboy said...

The feminine of 'sheikh' is 'sheikha', but as you point out it means 'wife of a sheikh'. But some of the sheikhas in the UAE are pretty powerful folk in their own right. I'll spare you any mention of phrases like 'movers and sheikhas'.

Colin said...

Thank God you spared us that, Keefie!

dissident said...

Excuse me, Mr. Davies, but Lalín is in the Pontevedra province, not in Lugo.

Colin said...

Yes, you are quite right.