Saturday, January 16, 2010

Another sign of the times . . . In this wi-fi café tonight, the Smoking section is dominated, as ever, by young women but the Non-Smoking section is crowded with young men watching the Real Madrid match on the TV directly above my head. In the corner of the room. Where the plug socket for my laptop is. They seem to be under the impression this is a bar, not a café. Así son las cosas.

Talking of plug sockets . . . I was impressed to see two of these between each seat on the train I took to Vigo (and back) yesterday. This made an always-enjoyable trip even more pleasant than usual. Spanish trains may not move particularly rapidly but they’re of an excellent quality and the ticket inspectors are uncommonly civil.

Also impressive was the fact that the announcements were in Gallego, Spanish and English. Though it was a tad disconcerting to hear the Oxford English accent of a native speaker switch abruptly to the Spanish accent of another native speaker for the names of the stations.

As it happens, there was a huge storm in the early hours of Thursday morning and the train back from Vigo was delayed because of a pine tree on the line. The Spanish for pine is pino and my first thought was that they’d said pito, which I’d just been told at lunch was the Gallego for chicken. Which was a little confusing until they repeated the announcement. But, come to think of it, a lot of people laughed and we weren’t delayed for long. So perhaps it was a bloody chicken . . .

The best rail experience of yesterday, though, was the news that my age and wisdom entitle me to a card from Renfe – the tarjeta dorada – giving me a discount of 40% on weekday trains. I do hope the small print doesn’t exclude the night service to Madrid. If not, I’ll save a fortune this year.

Government statistics say that house prices in Spain fell only 6% last year and have now begun to rise in some parts of Spain. The general view is that ALL house price statistics in Spain are worthless, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Finally . . . A letter writer in El Mundo today complains of the ‘campaign against smokers’ and says no non-smoker is compelled to go into any of the [99%] of bars which permit smoking. Proof positive, I think, of my long-held theory that smoking destroys exactly those brain cells necessary to form a judgment about the habit. Which allows me to stay friends with intelligent people who smoke. It’s not really their fault. And they're not really stupid. Just brain-damaged. I should feel sorry for them. Actually, I do. Patronising bastard that I am.

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