Friday, August 27, 2010

Apart from my (welcome, of course) human visitors of the last two weeks, I’ve also been looking after the tri-lingual dog of my friend Dutch friend, Peter. This fine canine is called Argos, in honour of a famous Greek predecessor. And not, as my daughters suggested, after a British high street discount store. Anyway, Argos is a keen marker of territory and, in this, he’s been setting an example for my own dog, Ryan. The latter, though, is now around 95 in human terms and finds it impossible to stand on three legs. So it was this morning that, having duly sniffed the wheel of a car which Argos had just lubricated, he proceeded to urinate on all four of his own feet.

Which reminds me . . . The American word for nappy is ‘diaper’. As is usually the way with these things, this appears to have been a medieval English word for a cloth used by adults specifically for . . . Well, you can probably guess. Strange to relate, the OED tells me that ‘diaper’, like the name Argos, is Greek in origin.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the groups of Pontevedra’s beggars comprises well-dressed, middle-aged men who sit all day on a door-step, behind a cardboard placard briefly describing their plight. I say ‘Pontevedra’s beggars’ but I’ve also seen the same people in Vigo. Now, to sit still for hours on end in a busy shopping street obliges you to find a doorstep which, for one reason or another, is not in use. In other words, a good ‘pitch’. So, the obvious questions arising are – Is there a market in these places? Are they bought and sold? Or are they even licensed by the Pontevedra council? If not, why not? They are, after all, valuable commodities. Otherwise, no one would stoop to sit on them. Which is a sort of South African pun, I’ve just realised. Reminding me of the old saying that a pun should be a feather with which to tickle the intellect. Not a pistol let off at the ear-hole. You can decide which in this case.

Finally . . . As someone who’s long believed that the impact of weather on cultures has been much understated, I was interested in this paragraph from the most recent post of my friend Anthea’s blog Anthea's Virtual Jotter - If you visit the Arndale Centre in Manchester, you will find that English shoppers suffer from all the faults that Colin and I have noticed in Spanish shoppers. They stop and congregate in major thoroughfares for a chat, regardless of how many people might want to go past them. They drift or occasionally charge out of shop doorways without so much as a passing glance for folk going past. They don’t just stop to admire friends’ babies in new shiny buggies; they barge onto you with the new shiny buggies. When their mobile phone rings they come to a halt wherever they are to answer it: in a shop doorway, just outside a lift, wherever is the most inconvenient place for everyone else. This behaviour, so similar to that of their Spanish counterparts, occurs far less frequently in ordinary shopping streets. Maybe it’s a question of climate. Inside an indoor shopping centre they don’t have to be concerned about the weather and so they can come to a halt whenever they want, without fear of freezing to the spot on an August day.

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