Thursday, June 05, 2008

Regular readers will have to forgive me for the positive tone which comes over me whenever I travel in Spain. It’s always a pleasure to visit somewhere new – this time Ferrol - and, in particular, to get directions from people responding with great civility and pleasantness. That said, I did happen to approach the only person in the city with no teeth. He sent me in completely the wrong direction but I might just have misunderstood his gummy prose.

Over a typically enjoyable three-hour Spanish lunch, I heard another of those stories which show just how much attitudes to certain foods have changed here, particularly shellfish. This one was about some Galician factory workers who’d gone on strike 50 or 60 years ago because they’d had to endure scallops and rice for three days running. They’d have to be millionaires to suffer this fate now. Or multi-millionaires in the case of the percebes [goose barnacles] which I had to pretend to be enjoying.

I was in Ferrol to listen to a lecture from the British historian, Paul Preston. At the end of this I learned that Time for questions, translates into Spanish as An opportunity to make a 5 minute dissertation on your own views before pretending to ask a question. And then there was the woman who more or less offered her body from the floor of the theatre and whom I wasn’t too surprised to later see chatting to Preston on the dais. She’d told us she’d travelled all the way from Zamora to see him. I wondered whether this wasn’t code for zorra - the polite translation of which is foxy. But it's probably just my mind as I'm sure there's no such thing as a history groupie.

I was intrigued to see Ferrol is now hosting the Aromas of Andalucia exhibition we had in Pontevedra a year or so ago. Sadly, I didn’t have time to check whether anyone had echoed the complaints about the ‘sickening smells’ of all the dreadful spices that I’d seen in the Comments book down in Pontevedra.

Finally on Ferrol – There’s a pleasant café – called Bla Bla - near Plaza Amboages. This is definitely the place to go if you want to sit outside in the hustle and bustle of the main shopping street. And to pay Madrid prices for your glass of beer.

There was another survey on the sex habits of Spanish women in one of yesterday’s papers. It was interesting to see Galicia’s ladies are close to the Spanish average when it comes to having only one partner during their lifetime [71%], with 23% having 2-4 and only 6% having 5 or more. Depending on how you define best and worst, it’s Extremadura and the Balearic Islands which get these accolades, with 2% and 18%, respectively, for the last category.

To end for today – Here’s a [boastful?] comment with which Spanish readers might like to disagree - English is the only European language in which three distinct words have evolved from the Greek root politika: politics, policy and polity. French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian all make do with a single word - politique, politik or política - to describe the personal rivalries that drive the political process, the effects of political action, and the institutional framework within which politics operates. In English, by contrast, we have a vocabulary that encourages people to distinguish between the ideals and action plans represented by competing parties and the skulduggeries and rivalries of individual politicians. In fact, we are lucky enough in English to have even a fourth word for this: politicking.


Victor said...

Is this the same Paul Preston who wrote the biography on Franco?
What was subject matter on the lecture he gave?

Colin said...

Yes. His latest book

Colin said...

In La Coruna tonight

Mark said...

You wrote "And to pay Madrid prices for your glass of beer."

Are Madrid beer prices really significantly different to Pontevedra or Ferrol? Maybe the Plaza Mayor and 1 or 2 tourist traps. But otherwise?

Matthew said...

Hi Colin

Just found this blog, I'm Jonk from the forum at Notes From Spanish

Followed the links from your comments.

Anyway, I love your writing style! I'm subscribing to this blog for sure!

Colin said...


It's certainly my experience in many parts of Madrid that coffee and beer prices are quite a bit higher than in Pontevedra. which is not to say you can't find [with the help of a resident daughter[ good value places to drink and eat in.

Colin said...


Welcome and many thanks. Keep reading!

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