Thursday, July 21, 2011

I've always rather liked Rick Stein and his idiosyncratic approach to TV cookery. But he's beginning to annoy me. Last night I caught the last ten minutes of his program on the food of Spain, centred on his experiences in San Sebastian in the Basque country. He was particularly impressed by what he called fish throats, or cocochas. Now, I've always known these to be fish cheeks and my dictionaries back up this understanding. Maybe “the only guy who could speak English” in the bar didn't know the word for 'cheek'. Or lacked an understanding of the parts of a fish's jaw. But, anyway, it wasn't impressive. BTW – cocochas are very fishy and slimy and only used to be eaten by peasants. Nowadays, of course, they're very expensive. And probably have aphrodisiacal properties. Like percebes and the stinky, foul-tasting and equally inedible durian fruit.

Anyway, if you don't like my negativity, here's someone's positive review of the program.

Another person who's annoying me is Hugh Thomas, the author of a massive tome on the start-up of Spain's American empire. I'm on page 350 of about 700 and to get here I've had to wade through interminable detail on a cast of thousands, their home towns, their siblings, their cousins, etc., etc. The book's called “Rivers of Gold” but should really be called “Rivers of Trivia.”

And talking of irritation . . . Like all phone companies, Vodafone's stock-in-trade is headlined promotional offers, long contracts once you've been lured in, hundreds of badly-staffed outlets to get you signed up and then microscopic contractual details wherein lies some version of a different truth. Having finally decided to go with their XS8 option, rather than the poorly understood (by them) XS6 option, I went this morning to confirm the small-print fact that I wouldn't actually be entitled to a 25% discount on a fixed line from them. This done, I went this evening to Yoigo, to sign up for their simpler 8 euros a month option. But it wasn't an auspicious beginning. Once again I found I should've taken my entire filing cabinet with me, por si acaso-
I'd like to sign up to your 8 euros a month option.
So . . What do you need?
A document from your bank.
OK. Here's my latest account statement.
That's no good. We need one of the bank vouchers advising of a payment.
Why, for the love of God? This statement contains my name, address, current account number, current account balance, deposit account number and deposit account bank. What on earth more could you possibly want?
We need one of the vouchers. Perhaps you could come back mañana.
Mañana. Siempre bloody mañana!

But, to be positive . . . . Nice to see El Mundo joining me in seeing some mitigation for the sight of British journalism and the Establishment mired in ordure. British democracy will emerge strengthened, it thinks, from the transparent process taking place. “Basically, it's enviable to see the reaction of the British ruling class and of its parliament, which always debates the most scandalous matters, rather than hiding them.” Well, let's hope so. But I wonder which other parliament(s) they could be referring to.

Which reminds me . . . I said yesterday it was unlikely that Francisco Camps would stay in power and, even before the ink was dry on this, he'd resigned from his post. In preference to admitting guilt and paying a fine. It seems, though, that the PP party leader, Sr Rajoy of Pontevedra, might finally have summoned up enough courage to threaten to push him if he didn't jump. But who will ever really know? And so a dispiriting and discrediting two-year saga comes to an end. Though I wouldn't be surprised to see Sr Camps back in Valencian politics before too long. Maybe after next year's general elections. Even if he's found guilty in court before then. Here's a bit of detail. And here's Graeme's incisisive-as-ever comment from South of Watford.

Walking into town today, I passed not one but four of the well-turned-out-middle-aged-men-who-sit-on-doorsteps, silent and with head down behind a placard saying they have neither work nor resources. Not for the first time, having seen them also in Vigo, I wondered whether or not this was an organised group. And then I was approached by one of a growing number of beggars I've never seen before. And finally I was importuned by the gypsy crone with whom I've crossed swords on hundreds of occasions in ten years:-
Can you give me some coins?
No. And listen, abuela, don't you recognise me by now?
And have I ever given you anything in ten years?
And have you cursed me every time?
Yes, you son of a whore.
Then don't you think it's time to stop?
Exit crone, cursing under breath.

I was going to trumpet the success of Spain in getting the contract for a new high-speed train between Mecca and Medina but it seems that French have done some last minute “lobbying” and that they might get the contract, despite being 30% more expensive. One wonders why.

Talking of last-minute French activity . . . the news at the moment is that the EU leaders have inevitably had their minds concentrated by imminent death and have come up with something which will help in the short term, while taking the EU a step closer to monetary and political union. What a surprise. Of course, the narrative trajectory is always the same with these things – growing concern; panic; stock market falls; German intransigency; French brinkmanship; a fudged compromise; stock market relief; a period of calm; and then renewed concern when the devil in the detail is finally clarified. Anyway, it looks as if at least three northern european countries are going to have to de jure ratify the treaty changes that have been made on the hoof, de facto. So there's a way to go yet. What a way to run a (supra)government

Talking of the French . . . The BBC pronounces the President's name SarcoZY but France24 goes with SarCOzy. Ironically, I suspect the BBC is correct.

There's no Y in Gallego and the J (kh) is usually (always?) transmuted to the softer X (sh). So 'gardens' is not jardines but xardins. So what to make of the sign on the side of a van reading XARDYN'S? A double blunder? Or the name of some mythical Galician hero?

Finally . . . More Js and Ys. Joy of joys, the only quiet café in Pontevedra now has free wi-fi. Plus it's decorated with Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Some days are diamonds.

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