My younger daughter was supposed to fly from Madrid to Liverpool yesterday but has just told me the earliest sensible flight offered is next Sunday, from Oporto in north Portugal! Fortunately, she's staying with her sister, so won't have to pay additional hotel bills.
Picking up my car from the long-term car-park yesterday was an eerie experience, witnessing the Heathrow hive at a complete standstill. But perhaps the oddest aspect is that the skies yesterday and today have been mockingly blue and clear. No sign of an atom of ash. It’s up in the stratosphere, I understand. Assuming it exists at all and someone is not playing an expensive cosmic joke on us.
I was going to write the other day – in the context of the Garzón case – that the words “democracy” and “justice” in Spain often seem to mean the suppression of all views except your own. But I pulled this comment as being perhaps an overstatement. However, reading this today, I’ve begun to wonder whether I wasn’t right. That said, I’m not as sure as I think Graeme is that the Left has clean hands.
More positively, the Spanish health minister has said that the law banning smoking in public places will come into operation during June. But we will see.
The English are, of course, an odd people. Especially if you’ve been living in Spain for a number of years. Which is a cue for me to again cite Kate Fox’s wonderful book – “Watching the English - The hidden rules of English behaviour”. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an official review of the book:- Kate Fox takes a revealing look at the quirks, habits and foibles of the English people. She puts the English national character under her anthropological microscope, and finds a strange and fascinating culture, governed by complex sets of unspoken rules and Byzantine codes of behaviour. Her minute observation of the way we talk, dress, eat, drink, work, play, shop, drive, flirt, fight, queue – and moan about it all – exposes the hidden rules that we all unconsciously obey. The rules of weather-speak. The Importance of Not Being Earnest rule. The ironic-gnome rule. The reflex-apology rule. The paranoid-pantomime rule. Class indicators and class-anxiety tests. The money-talk taboo. Humour rules. Pub etiquette. Table manners. The rules of bogside reading. The dangers of excessive moderation. The eccentric-sheep rule. The English 'social dis-ease'. Through a mixture of anthropological analysis and her own unorthodox experiments, using herself as a reluctant guinea-pig, Kate Fox discovers what these unwritten behaviour codes tell us about Englishness. "Watching the English" is written with an insider's knowledge, but from an outsider's perspective. If you are English, it will make you stand back and re-examine everything you normally take for granted, discover just how English you really are – and laugh ruefully at yourself. If you are not English, you can laugh without squirming, you will finally understand all our peculiar little ways, and, if you wish, you can become as English as we are. Englishness is not a matter of birth, race, colour or creed: it is a mindset, based on a set of behaviour-codes that anyone can decipher and apply – now that Kate Fox has provided the key.
Read and enjoy. I'm off to catch a boat, so that I can move from a week of sun of England to a week of rain in Galicia!