Friday, October 01, 2010

Life in Spain 1: Three weeks ago, I asked my friend in the forest – let’s call him Pablo del Bosque – whether he knew anyone who could clear the large plot of some English friends which hadn’t had anything done to it since they’d bought it two years ago. The place was now a jungle of broom, ferns and brambles and they’d been quoted 2,000 euros for its clearance. Yes, he said, he was sure he could undercut that himself but we’d need to go up and inspect the plot. This we finally did ten days ago and this week he gave me his estimate - 2,200 euros. When I told him it was very unlikely this would be accepted, as it was higher than the original amount, his response was “Yes, but there’s money and there’s people”. Now, I’m not sure I understand this – though a Spanish friend told me last night that he did – but I think the message is along the lines that “Because there’s a personal link here between me and you on the one hand and you and him on the other, I can be more trusted to do a good job. So the premium is good value”. But I’d be perfectly happy for any Spanish reader(s) to give me alternative explanation(s) for this. Or, indeed, any foreigner (such as Alfie Mittington) who understands Spain better than I do.

Life in Spain 2: Arriving home yesterday evening, I was accosted by a woman who wanted to know where a particular couple lived. The names meant nothing to me so I went inside and checked with the list of people who live in my community. They weren’t there and so the woman started to go into great detail about the family and to provide a physical description of at least the wife. This included the act they had fourteen children. Still unable to identify them, I asked her if she was sure they lived in my street and pointed out it was very long - winding at least a kilometre up the hill to where I lived. She admitted she didn’t know where they lived, other than it was somewhere in my barrio. I diplomatically pointed out this was rather large but, as she’d mentioned that one of the kids was a tennis player, I’d take her to the house of people I knew who were very involved in Pontevedra’s tennis world. But they were out. As this point, the woman thanked me for my trouble and apologised for bothering me but I had the distinct impression she was rather aggrieved by my inability to recall such a memorable family. As I would be, if I’d ever known them in the first place. 

Life in Spain 3: “Europe's top court has declared that working fathers in Spain are entitled to take 'breastfeeding leave' everyday, even if the mother of the child is not employed.” More here.

Finally . . . “It was not a quiet street . . . . People conversed as though delivering a public oration. Even the most personal discussions ricocheted everywhere.” No, not any/every street in Spain but Cairo in 1919. Another example of the residual Islamic influence on Spanish society???

Tailnote for new readers: My elder daughter has now net-published six chapters of a novel which is “A fast-paced political thriller but, above all, a personal tale of pride and paranoia.” Set in a fictionalised Cuba, it’s being e-published at the rate of at least a couple of chapters a week. If this entices you, click here.

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