Monday, July 11, 2011

Just returning a minute to yesterday's bull-run in Pamplona . . . If there is, indeed, a special exit for the police who disappear just as the bulls leave the pen, is this a cop out?

I had to endure a vomit-inducing George Galloway on the Iranian Press TV this morning . . .
Well, that's all we've got time for, I'm afraid.
This has been George Galloway
The voice of the voiceless
[Beaming into camera] And you have been a truly marvellous audience.
All two of you.
Of course, the only voice in evidence was that of the oleaginous Galloway. And an audience of two might well be an exaggeration on my part.

Efficiency. Another conversation downtown, in one of our many healthfood shops, a little one near the Peregrina chapel . . .
Do you happen to have coriander seeds?
Yes, I do.
Great. How about cardamom pods?
Yes, I have them as well.
Fantastic. I'll have a packet of each.
[She goes into a tiny storeroom at the back of the shop, rifles through various packages on the shelves and finally produces a packet of cardamom pods. She then returns to get a packet of coriander seeds. Without success. I go behind the counter and join her in the little room. Where we both go through the apparently haphazardly-stored packages there.]
Well, I could swear I had some coriander seeds here.
Don't worry. Why don't you keep looking and I'll come back tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'll take some of the ground ginger we've happened upon.

And another, at the desk of the new Parque Arqueolóxico in the municipality of Campo Lameiro. . .
It's 8 euros, please.
But it said 6 in the paper.
That's just for the exhibition in this building. If you want to walk round the park it's another 2 euros.
Well as it's pissing with rain, I'll leave that for another day.
OK. By the way, where do you come from and was it easy to find us?
Pontevedra. And no, it bloodywell wasn't. There's a sign on the roundabout near this place but nothing at all if you come from Pontevedra to the town of Campo Lameiro. I had to stop and ask the way in a bar.
We're thinking of putting a sign there.
What a good idea.

By the way, the Galician Xunta may have invested millions in this – rather good – facility but, as usual, they couldn't stretch the budget by a couple of hundred euros to pay a native speaker to check the English. Or even ask me to do it for free. I imagine the same is true of the French and German translations. What is it with these people? Which reminds me, one of the videos was in every language, using subtitles, except Spanish. Anyone coming from Madrid is expected to understand Gallego. Surely a nonsense connected with the provision of grants. As I said yesterday, it's the local zeitgeist. Except it isn't as 'the people' have nothing to do with these petty decisions, giving the local nationalist party only 15% of the vote. But even this paltry support can be translated into power when you're the junior partner in a coalition.

Greece, Italy and Spain: Both AEP and Charles Butler have cited the Rubicon. Which has to be a bad sign. As we wait on events after today's crisis summit, here's a bit more from AEP's article cited yesterday, with reference to the suffering here in Spain:- “It will also take a total purge of the ECB's leadership, which clings to its madcap doctrine that monetary policy can be separated from other emergency operations, and which chose last week of all moments to raise interest rates again and kick Spain in the teeth. It did so knowing that the one-year Euribor rate used to price more than 90pc of Spanish mortgages must rise in lock-step. As one Spanish commentator put it, the Eurotower in Frankfurt should be torn down, and salt sown in the ground. If the governor of the Banco de España really endorsed this rate rise (supposedly 'unanimous') he should be hauled before the elected Cortes and ordered to explain such locura: if the EU authorities object, they should be told in crisp terms that Spain is a great and ancient sovereign nation facing a national emergency and will do as it sees fit.”

A visitor from the USA very kindly made me the gift of a book last week – Umberto Eco's “Serendipities: Language and Lunacy”. I was delighted and happily abandoned, temporarily, Hugh Thomas's massive tome on the creation of the Spanish empire. But what a disappointment. It's far too clever for me, containing at least one word I don't know on every page. Here, for example, are those on pages 106-108 – paralogisms; discriminants; and glottogonic. Over to Trevor at Follow the Baldie. Apologies, María Teresa, if you're reading this; it was a lovely gesture. But I'm going to have to get Alfie Mittington to explain it all to me.

Finally . . . A new feature. From the Archives. The subject – El Corte Inglés, inspired by someone's search under this label yesterday, For some reason, the subject of customer service seems to raise its head . . .

I went yesterday to check whether there was any news of my dead laptop. The lovely young lady in the shop laughed and said it’d only been a week and it was likely to be at least another two or three before I heard anything. Possibly four if the makers had a lot of work on. When I asked if I could track it on the internet, she smiled and said not, as it had been sent off in their name. When I asked if they could track it, she smiled again, paused and said they’d call Monday. I was less than convinced but will make another trip on Tuesday. Sadly, giving you bad news with a smile is what often passes for customer service in Spain. And they then tend to be astonished – hurt even - should you tell them this isn’t quite enough. But I guess it’s better than getting bad news with a disdainful sneer, as in El Corte Inglés. Or even good news with a sneer.

My printer calvario continues to throw up illustrations of the Spanish approach to customer service. At the Canon shop downtown, I was treated with great civility but, when I told them I wanted a simple black & white laser machine, I was immediately offered a colour inkjet model. When I gave them the reference number of the printer I had in mind, they said it wasn’t in stock but it might be in Vigo. They would check and call me at home. The next day[sic], I was advised Vigo didn’t have one but they could offer me one in the same range - at twice the price. I declined this and ordered the one I’d originally asked about. This, they said, would take a week to arrive. ‘Or possibly two’. These are words which strike despondency into the heart of all consumers used to better things. But, as I say, everything has been done very pleasantly. And, if I die today, I will take to Heaven the view that a good two-word description of Spanish service is ‘smilingly inefficient’. Except in El Corte Inglés. Where they never smile but are sometimes efficient.

Customer service . . . First, the good news. The Corte Inglés store I went to in Madrid last weekend not only had announcements in both Spanish and English but also directories on every floor, telling you where things could be bought. I wonder when this revolutionary concept will arrive in Vigo.

A Spanish reader claims it can’t be true someone was given the answer ‘No fucking idea’ in a branch of the Corte Inglés department store. He may be right so I’m checking the source and will report back, hopefully with name and number. Meanwhile, though, it’s surely significant that, true or not, Brits with experience of this chain store have no difficulty believing the claim. This is not a reputation any shop would want in the Anglo Saxon world, unlike the ludicrously expensive London restaurants which pride themselves on insulting the clients stupid enough to dine there. I can only assume the place trades successfully on its snob value. As in “Oh, yes. I got this Burberry coat/scarf/tie/belt in El Corte Inglés”. But I do have to admit I patronise the supermarket of its Vigo store; it’s the only place I can get the spices I need for Asian cooking.


CafeMark said...

I'm a Brit, and I have difficulty with the claim. Yes the El Corte Ingles staff can be haughty, even stand-offish or cold. But they always try to put across an image of being professional, so it would shock me if they came out with that expression. As an aside, i'm always impressed by the offer to wrap pressies in Spanish stores, as this is not common in the UK equivalent. So in that respect their customer service trumps ours. IMHO.

CafeMark said...

In case people think I'm in the El Corte Ingles payroll, let me state that I avoid (or used to avoid the place when I worked in Madrid) ECI. I find it overpriced, and the quality control isn't all that. Best thing about it is it's air-conditioned and a great place to avoid the heat in summer, especially as it doesn't close for siesta.

kalebeul said...

Eco: surely bad manners (or bad translation) to make specialised dictionary searches so frequently necessary. I read Name of the Rose, drunk in an Italian ditch, in Dutch without dictionary after two years learning the language & still haven't fully recovered.

Can I persuade you to describe how to walk to your nearest airport for this series Nope, thought not.

Colin said...

Will do, Trev. Was thinking of sending you the book when Alfie has finished with it- Which might not take long as he regards Eco as a fraudulent plagiarist. Not that there is any other kind of plagiarist, I guess.

Colin said...

Incidentally, I thought the translator must have had an horrendous challenge. Which he may or may not have met quite well. Can't tell myself, of course.

Ferrolano said...

“Cop-out” – terrible Colin, even if it is true. To answer your question; yes, if I remember correctly, about 50 to 100 yards up the street from the corral where the bulls are held is where the police stand to limit how close the runners can get. When the gates open to release the bulls, the police move into shelters at the side of the street – leaving the runners to their own devices.

Colin said...

Yea, you can actually see them on the left as the bulls run down towards the other herd . .

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