Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I went to a presentation on Clickair’s imminent Vigo-London flight last night. As the slide-show began to roll – cue plane taking off – the first line of the accompanying song was ‘You are a falling star’. Which I, for one, didn’t feel was terribly appropriate. Especially to a nervous flier like me. So I was rather glad I missed out on the raffle for 10 tickets which I woke up for. But it was a close thing and I was saved by a single digit.

My recent quoting of William Chislett’s views on Spanish family life drew the comment from reader Pamela that things perhaps aren’t quite as hunky-dory as they seem. Certainly, I think it’s true that the Anglo perception that Spanish families are, on the whole, happier than those in their culture is exactly that – a perception. Spanish friends confirm that there often are problems and tensions within the family but that it’s simply not done – for reasons of honour – to wash dirty linen in public. And I can attest that any Scouse-type aggressive humour at the expense of one’s relatives tends to be met with looks of stupefied amazement, if not downright shock. It’s just not done here. Some would argue this is a form of hypocrisy but I doubt you’ll get many Spaniards to accept this. Hypocrisy is a uniquely British disease, it seems. On the other hand, it’s commonplace to hear here in Galicia that land issues are responsible for bitter and long-lasting family feuds. But no names and no pack drill. That would be at least dishonourable or, worse, ignoble.

The other comment which drew readers’ comments recently was about the quality of wines in Spain, particularly the reds of The Rioja and the reds [Mencia] and premier white [Albariño] of Galicia. I’ve now forced myself to enter my nearest Carrefour so as to check my claim that it’s possible to find poor quality Rioja and Albariño on sale. Sure enough, the lowest priced bottle of Rioja was a mere €2.55, though you could buy six in a box and bring this down to €1.60. There was also a bottle of Ribera del Duero at €2.80 but the lowest price was for a bottle of Mencia [from Xuan-Carlos’s favoured Bierzo region] at €1.35. Shocked at all this, I not only forgot to check the Albariño prices but also to put a €6.00 bottle of Mencia from our region’s Ribera Sagra area in my basket. Which was a bit of an embarrassment at the check-out. When I accused the woman behind me of stealing it. Not really. But I did have to go back for it.

And that’s the sort of day it’s been. Under a sky still laden with rain. Thank God I’ve still got 500 pages of Paul Preston’s biography of Franco with which to cheer myself up. And a bottle of Mencia, of course.


Duardón de Albaredo said...

Colin, humm... I still can't believe it. I have tried minimum a few dozens of different Riojas. And I NEVER found one which was "peleón".

You say it is a "Rioja". Could you please tell us the exact name? No, I don't think Carrefour will try to falsify a Rioja -- that might be dangerous --, but read carefully the etiquette: the "Denominación de Origen", etc.

Remember that a "wine from Rioja" and a "Rioja wine" are different things though.

Xoan-Carlos said...

Duardon, the Rioja denominacion de Origen covers the whole comunidad autonoma of La Rioja (in fact it's even larger given that small parts of the Rioja wine region are actually in Burgos and the Basque province of Alava). All wine with Rioja on the label should therefore legally be within the regulated region.

Colin, if you really want to beat down the price of Rioja there's a free wine fountain on the camino de Santiago in Rioja (in Haro I think).

Duardón de Albaredo said...


Reglamento de la Denominación

CAPÍTULO II. De la producción


"1. La zona de producción de la denominación de origen calificada
'Rioja' está constituida por los terrenos ubicados en los términos municipales que se citan en el apartado 2 de este artículo, que constituyen las subzonas denominadas Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja y Rioja Alavesa, y que el Consejo Regulador considere aptos para la producción de uva de las variedades que se indican en el artículo 5 con la calidad necesaria para producir vinos de las características específicas de los protegidos por la denominación

In other words, NOT all the wines from la Rioja are "Rioja wines".

moscow said...

At times your perspective seems - at least to me - somewhat narrow.
Where you got the conclusion from that 'honour' has something to do with how families express their feelings about each me. I have already written about this several times, so it is a repeat. British humour is very particular, unique. I don't think you would ever hear that sort of sarcasm bandied out in Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Russia, Poland....the list is long. There are multiple reasons for this. I would put forward that British people, the English in particular, tend to keep an emotional distance to other people, even close relatives. This can be extremely puzzling to foreigners, no matter which country. Maybe, it allows English people to be more evenhanded in their personal relationships. Perhaps, it is true, as you say that Liverpoodlians (or pudlians) give matters an extra spin, but I didn't notice any huge difference between different people in England. I thought it was pretty generalised. Most foreigners regard the British as 'cold fish'. Does that surprise you? Obviously, I realise we are all human beings, and there is no reason to believe that English people are less 'human' or 'humane' than others. They just have this hamfisted way with emotions. They share that with other Northern Europeans. I mean, Scandinavians are not exactly known to be 'chaleureux'. They are reserved, they would say themselves. But the thing with irony and sarcasm, that's British. As for hipochresy - you've touched on too many subjects all at once - but, that's something that any Briton abroad will have to live with, just like Spaniards have to constantly hear they are hot and volatile.

PS: personally, I have very deep reservations about Paul Preston.

Colin said...

Moscow, I'm sure you're right that my perspective can be narrow at times. I write 'thoughts' not social treatises. But I do tend to discuss things with Spanish friends before committing my thoughts to print.

Actually, I didn't say - or mean to say/imply - anything about how Spaniards express their feelings towards each other. Or not, at least, their positive feelings. My comment was, in fact and indeed, much narrower. Viz. that Spaniards in general would not complain/moan to anyone outside the family about stresses and strains within it. A vast generalisation of course and maybe it's too much of an exaggeration in the other direction to say that Brits will readily talk to their close friends about their bloody mother-in-law for example. Truth to tell, I'm sufficiently close to one or two Spanish families to have heard some pretty strong stuff about members but I suspect this is because I've become an honorary member.

One reason for tall this is, I believe, that there are very different concepts of 'friend' in British and Spanish cultures. But that's another issue.

It is, of course, nonsense that 'cold' Brits aren't as emotional as 'hot' southern Europeans. It's just that they are brought up - or used to be brought up - to believe it was wrong to show them, including grief. Taken to its extreme, the Latin reaction to this is to suggest Kate McCann must be a murderess because she doesn't sob and ululate enough.

That said, anyone who lived through the experience of Princess Diana's death and funeral is aware that things are coalescing on the emotional front. I blame the EU, of course, for turning Brits into heart-on-sleeve sentimentalists who openly grieve excessively at some minor setback in the life of a C-list celeb.

But I recognise it's progress.

Colin said...

PS I've never heard anyone use 'Pudlian'.

Colin said...

Moscow, Please say more about PP. I'm meeting him next week. And I do like to be provocative.