Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Spanish construction industry is a strange animal. Yesterday I read the comment that:- Strange as it sounds, Spain’s [massive] housing stock is still growing, thanks to the inertia in the construction industry. What the writer means is that there are projects initiated as the bubble was imploding four or five years ago that haven't been completed. In other words, the project behind my house is not the only one to take six years from start to finish.

Except the latter isn't yet 'finished'. According to Nice-but-Noisy Toni this evening, the builders have been taken to court and found guilty of stealing land from the Community of the Mountains, a body which includes both me and Toni. The upshot is that four of the properties are illegal and so the local council won't give a Certificate of Completion until things are remedied. I'm not sure how. Nor am I clear what those who bought non-illegal properties can do about the situation to gain entry. I am sure that none of them will be sanguine about taking the builders to court. It could be a long time before any of the houses are occupied. If Toni has got his facts right.

So, how come I was chatting to Toni? Well, I had a new plumber in to correct a bodge made last week by another plumber. And the gate was open as Toni brought his sons home from school. Which is all he needs to add his expertise and opinion to anyone working at my house. But I can't (or shouldn't) complain as he not only imparted the above information but also told me he'd be returning to sea muy pronto.

Today I did a four-hour walk along the Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis camino. Not for religious reasons, of course, but to test my legs before doing a somewhat longer hike with my houseguest, Ian, next week. Much of this stretch has been impaired by the construction works for the AVE high-speed train. And some has been ruined. I was particularly upset to see that a field which two years ago hosted a dig into Roman remains, was now totally taken over by the support works for a vast concrete bridge. As I passed I could hear the whirring of Romans and Ibero-Celts rotating in their graves.

I've always translated the Spanish verb Esgrimir as 'To wield', as in an argument. So I was a bit confused to see it emerge as one of the Olympic sports. And I didn't put two and two together to arrive at the realisation that 'to wield' could also be of a weapon. And that this the weapon could be a sword. Hence, 'fencing'.

My Dutch friend, Peter, has left his dog, Argos, for a few days, while he goes down to Portugal to see our mutual friend, Alfie Mittington. Argos seems a tad disconcerted and keeps coming to the back door and then going straight out of the front door after I've let him in. I wonder whether he's confused at the absence of my old dog, Ryan. Which would be touching.

Finally, I leave you – for obvious reasons – with somebody's 28 reasons to 'celebrate' Grey and Silver Foxes. I'm not sure all 28 apply to me:-
1. Grey Foxes exude an understated, dignified sort of glamour. They are refined, but not prissy. They are concerned with their appearance, but they are not obsessed with it. They are well-groomed, but not vain.
2. Grey Foxes are, by definition, still in possession of their hair. This is good.
3. They look surprisingly good in pink.
4. José Mourinho (the ultimate example of the salt-and-pepper fox).
5. George Clooney. Obviously.
6. Sir Stuart Rose. The Silver Fox in M&S clothing.
7a. The Grey Fox has made peace with the ageing process. More than that, he actively embraces it, because it suits him physically, probably more than dewy youth ever did. This minimises his chances of having a midlife crisis, which is, let’s face it, no fun for anyone.
7b. As a consequence, the Grey Fox is philosophically opposed to the tedious notion of “adultescence”: teenage-hood prolonged indefinitely. He does not play Call of Duty on his Xbox. He does not have an Xbox. He doesn’t believe in the wearing of sportswear for any occasion other than exercise. (He doesn’t really believe in the gym, either. Or jogging. Though he’s possibly very good at tennis.) He grudgingly uses a smartphone, but he turns it off outside office hours.
8. Roger Sterling (the actor John Slattery) from Mad Men.
9. CNN anchorman Anderson Cooper (the gay Grey Fox).
10. Grey Foxes know how to tie a scarf (see José Mourinho for reference) . . .
11. . . . and how to wear facial hair (the reputation of which has been somewhat besmirched by the ironically bearded and mustachioed youthful hipster brigade, but the Grey Foxes are working tirelessly towards reclaiming it).
12. Barack Obama (in a certain light).
13. Obama’s former chief of staff and the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, who is definitely a Grey, as opposed to Silver, Fox.
14. Once they’re over 50, Grey Foxes automatically qualify as “venerable”.
15. They can pull off a man bag. (Although no jewellery, other than cufflinks and a wedding ring. Anything more would clash with their hair and their general sensibility, tipping them into the region of flash, at which point, their Grey Fox credentials would be suspended. See Gary Lineker for further reference.)
16. Professor Brian Cox, physicist and Grey Fox in waiting. (It’s only a matter of time. The delicious anticipation.)
17. Matt LeBlanc in his BBC Two Episodes incarnation. (NB, LeBlanc has a substantial paunch, which would normally disqualify him from Grey Fox status, but he’s Italian and Italians are genetically inclined towards becoming Grey Foxes in middle age. It’s something to do with their eyelashes and their tradition for slight flamboyance in the lining of blazers.)
18. Grey and silver hair works especially well when juxtaposed against dark tailoring.
19. It also looks really good when accessorised with a tan.
20. Bill Nighy. (An anomaly, because he was strawberry blond. Traditionally, Grey Foxes begin life as brunettes. However, Nighy’s clever use of a dark-framed spectacle to offset the grey in his otherwise blond hair allows him to qualify. And – he’s Bill Nighy.)
21. Paul Weller. You do something to me.
22. Grey Foxes can, for some reason, get away with a polo-neck. This makes them the only remaining subsection of humanity that can.
23. Artist Julian Opie. But not Damien Hirst, who is too bedraggled to qualify. (See also: Bob Geldof. These are just famous men with grey hair. Not the same thing at all.)
24. And yet . . . Benicio del Toro! Who is bedraggled, but definitely qualifies as a Grey Fox.
25. Bill Clinton (there really is no point in fighting it).
26. Jon Snow, the elder statesman of Grey Foxes. See also: American satirist Jon Stewart (a Grey Fox with a sharp tongue, a highly beguiling combination); also Jeremy Paxman, a Fox in transition.
27. Howard Jacobson. Grey Foxes especially suit the literary tradition, not least because no one can walk around with a battered paperback peeping out of their coat pocket quite as convincingly.
28. And finally, Father Christmas. (Oh, come on now, he has a certain something.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Thanks to the Queen, I've learned a new Spanish word today. Or at least a new meaning. Padrastro means 'stepfather'. But also 'hangnail'. If you saw Friday's Olympics Opening ceremony, you'll understand how this has come about.

Talking of Spanish . . . I've been rather disappointed so far at my witticism(?) that, when the waitress (Leída) in my usual Veggie Square bar came back with the change, she'd be Leída y vuelta.

I girded up my loins this morning, ahead of yet another visit to Telefónica. In the event, all my preparation was to no avail. There were people queuing outside the door in the shop in town at 1.30 this morning. And, when I went this evening to the outlet in the Carrefour commercial centre on the other side of town, it was to find it had closed down. Ah, well. There's always mañana.

Checking my Telefónica file, I noted that, instead of using the modern name for the street of my bank, viz. Gutierrez Mellado, they'd used the Franco-era name of General Mola. This was quite shocking, as Mola was one of a group of particularly vile 'Nationalist' generals. For details, see Paul Preston's The Spanish Holocaust.

I've been known to suggest that innovation comes slowly to Spanish supermarkets. So I was pleasantly surprised to find today that the Carrefour hypermarket mentioned earlier had undergone quite a change. Young ladies on roller-skates; an efficient checkout system; a gourmet food section; rows of Asian foods and sauces; and even low-fat coconut milk. OK, El Corte Inglés was doing all this in Vigo ten years ago – well, save for the skaters – but better late than never.

As I prepare to pen a paragraph or two on corruption in Spain, I was interested to read that the government's introduction of (variable) prescription charges had exposed the existence of 150,000 health cards belonging to people living six feet under. Plus 800,000 cards whose owners are no longer registered in the social security system. Not surprisingly, there's been a 15-20% fall in the number of prescriptions issued. No one will be too surprised to hear that fraudulent practices are most common in Andalucia.

Finally . . . The wi-fi café I used this morning has some breakfast-bar type seats, looking out of over the river and the city. I use them as the signal's strongest there. One other advantage is that you're a couple of feet above the people outside and, if you want, you can read what they're writing on their laptops. This morning, there was a young lady there, doing the three things that young Spanish women do best:- 1. Smoking; 2. Tapping away on her mobile phone, and 3. Doing little to hide her long tanned legs and her ample assets. It really shouldn't be allowed. I should be forced to find another place to sit.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Believe it or believe it not, today was the first time I've googled “colin pontevedra”. I've forgotten why. But, anyway, after a few references to my site and my blog, there was a link to “Colin in Pontevedra looking for a woman”. Naturally, I clicked it and saw some well-honed tyke called Edgar Bouzas. More interesting was the advert from someone in the town who's selling a (castrated) horse called 'Colin'. I ask you

More seriously, the El Mundo correspondent said of the Olympics opening ceremony - "I think that, despite all their mistakes, it has become clear that without the UK our lives would not be the same." Which, to use a very British phrase, is very nice to hear.

Nice-but-Noisy Toni had some relatives round for lunch today. The first indication of this was the absence of a parking place for me, even in front of my own garage. The second was the decibels coming from next door. And the third was the bloody Yorkshire terrier, put out in the garden, to bark incessantly. Not for minutes but for hours. Just as I finished recording its barking so I could play it back at one in the morning through the bedroom wall, a niece came out and I was able to ask her to take the dog in. Which she did. Before bringing it out again. But at least she stayed to play with it and keep it quiet. This, of course, leaves me with a dilemma around the recording.

I've often wondered why the Spanish for 'lamb' is 'cordero', as it bears no relation to the latin 'agnus'. And then today I went to a spit-roasting fiesta up in the hills and discovered that the Gallego for 'lamb' is 'año'. Anyway, this is what a spit-roast looks like.

And this is what a group of pretty young Spanish chicas looks like, when you ask them to smile.

Finally . . . Down in Nerja, an over-the-limit Brit left a bar and set off home, on the wrong side of the road. He then compounded his offence by knocking a local councillor off her scooter. Click here for more. If I'm not mistaken the background music is bloody Jingle Bells.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

So,what to make of last night's extravaganza on the outskirts of London? Well, I'm not politicised enough to have seen much of a socialist – or even consistent - message coming from Mr Boyle. Maybe this is because I don't regard the NHS as 'socialised medicine'. That said, I agree, of course, with those who found it odd that Boyle should put so much stress on a health system so outclassed by other national systems in Europe. Taken as a whole, I found it quirky, amusing but occasionally baffling. And I suspect this will have been the overview from much of the world. Especially as it was well delivered and fun to watch. It must have been; I stayed up until the very end. Which meant I again had to witness Paul McCartney showing us how much past his best he is. Still, even he couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I went up the apples and pears to bed. Though maybe this was because I switched to two scabrous episodes of Family Guy while the national squads were filing in. One of the amazing aspects of last night was that the lady on the big (kettle?) drums – Evelyn Glennie – is stone deaf, reading the music through her feet. And, then, this morning came the report that the best performing archer in one round was blind. How does it do it? Not, presumably, by having someone stand by him, whispering “Up a bit. Down a Bit. Left a bit. OK, let go.” 

Last word on the ceremony – There are many descriptions I could quote but this one appealed most - “Sometimes it looked like a seaside summer special on amyl nitrate.”

Meanwhile, out in the grown ups' world, the markets had been temporarily calmed by a joint pledge of Angela Merkel and François Hollande on Friday to “do everything to protect the European Union's single currency”. But I am the only person in the world to realise that this is ambiguous and doesn't rule out them saving the currency only for the pious North, while cutting loose the shirking South? Time, as ever, will tell.

The pigeons which plague Plaza de Verdura were mentioned – and photographed – in yesterday's Diario de Pontevedra. It was even reported that a decoy owl had been used by one bar, to no lasting effect. But no mention of me and my multicoloured owl. It's ten years now I and my blog have been ignored by the local media. It's a tough and lonely life. Thank God for my readers.

What I've called the endless conveyor belt of street musicians continues to entertain us in the town's squares. Today saw the first appearance of a chap playing the trumpet, accompanied by drums and other instruments courtesy of a machine. Unable to hear ourselves speak, my companion and I fled to the bar's interior, where the added advantage was an absence of smokers.

The number of building permits sought in Pontevedra to end June this year was about 2,000. This compares with around 38,000 in 2007; 21,000 in 2008; and 21,000 in 2009. So, even though the market bubble burst in 2007, around 21,000 permits were sought in each of the next two years. Is it any wonder there's so much empty property around? And bear in mind that properties started in 2008 and 2009 could still be in construction in 2011 and 2012, such are the lead times in the Spanish construction industry. Or, like the huge development down the hill from me, they could be frozen in mid build.

Finally . . . The already expensive toll roads in Galicia will effectively rise 14% in September. This is because the companies will raise them by a staggering 7.5% and the government will increase the VAT to 21%. Which reminds me . . . I had my first 70 euros plus tank refill this week. Ah, the joys of motoring!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Walking across the A Barca bridge each day is one of the constants of my life. During the summer at least, it's usually a pleasure. Among the displeasures are the dirt deposited by the gypsy curs; winter's winds and horizontal rains; and, of course, the ten to twenty demonstrations of the Spanish inability to accommodate the approach of others until the very last moment.

I read last week that the businesses most at risk from September's VAT increase to 21% (from only 8% in some cases) were hairdressers, opticians, cinemas and theatres. So, I wasn't too surprised to see reports of a street protest by Pontevedra's angry hairdressers yesterday. Who looked a little windswept.

Thanks to reader curiosity, I went today to the old Bank of Spain offices, to ask the price of the flats these were being converted into. I thought things seemed a tad strange when I entered to find no activity except a chap behind a reception desk, walking around in a circle, with his head bent:-
Good morning.
[Looking up in surprise] Good morning.
Can you tell me how much the flats will be?
Yes, flats?
Flats for rent or sale?
There are no flats. These are government offices.
And that's what they're staying?
Offices of the Galician Xunta?
No, Offices of the Spanish state.

At a guess, I'd say I was going to be his only visitor all day, despite the fact there was an X-ray machine and a security frame (though no operators) at the entrance to the offices/non-flats. And, for the life of me, I can't guess why Madrid would need a huge office block in Pontevedra, just down the road from the Town Hall and the Provincial Government offices. But ours is not to ask why. It must make sense to someone.

I mentioned an infamous Galician dynasty yesterday and another one has featured in today's papers – the Oubiña family. Basically they're big in drugs. So it was disappointing to hear that the head of the clan wasn't going to be prosecuted for money laundering because a judge had thrown out as illegal the tapping of his mobile phone while he'd been in prison. Possibly because he wasn't allowed a mobile phone. Stranger things have happened in the judicial world.

But just going back to the Vidal family – it seems that, while they were committing the overfishing crime they were heavily fined for– they were getting 1.5m euros from Brussels. I bet they don't have to pay it back.

The bankers involved in the fusion of Galicia's two savings banks have been appearing before the Spanish parliament. As is customary, each is exculpating himself, saying that he wasn't in a position – despite his salary – to see relevant documents. Or to take the questionable decisions. One wonders how they did earn their huge salaries.

Finally . . . It's 10.05 Spanish time and I'm off to watch the Olympics Opening, though not with any great anticipation. We can't all be Chinese.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I see North Korea's young dictator has a pretty young wife whom he's no longer keeping quiet about. As opposed to the 300 concubines whom he is. I see also that he has a razor cut on each side of his head. Rather like today's young beaus in the West. So, who's the trend setter here, and who the follower(s)?

Incidentally, Kim Jong Un's wife may or may not be the voice of this astonishing example of what's big on Korean MTV. It's called “Excellent Horse-Like Lady” and the words can be found here. Believe me, they're worth seeing.

I thought Argentina's President Kirchner was barrel-scraping when she turned up the heat on the Falklands/Maldivas issue but she's taken things to new heights/lows now. She's resurrected the image of Eva Perón and had it projected onto government buildings. Not satisfied with that, she's appeared at press conferences with her head framed by a metal outline of Perón's head. Smacks of necrophilia to me. Or at least necromancy.

Both of Spain's main political parties (the PSOE and PP) are to the right of their left and right wing equivalents in other western democracies. So it's only to be expected that the PP would at least threaten to row back the abortion measures introduced by the PSOE. Specifically, it wants to remove the provision that foetuses can be aborted where there is a congenital disease. The RC Church, of course, is all in favour of such foetuses being taken through to birth. Which reminds me, I read the national organ of the Church this morning – the ABC newspaper. I rarely do this but there was nothing else to read. I found the experience rather like reading what a medieval paper would have been like, if they'd had papers back then. There may not be many folk attending Mass even once a week but the Church retains the power to influence events. Possibly via its Opus Dei network of fellow flagellators.

This week in Britain, the biggest ever fines have been dished out to a Galician family – the Vidals – who were found guilty of "wholesale falsification of official documentation" amounting to a "systematic, repeated and cynical abuse of the EU fishing quota system over a period of 18 months. A flagrant, repeated and long term abuse of regulations. The fish targeted [hake] was at that time on the verge of collapse and adherence to quotas was seen as crucial to the survival of the species." Now, you'd think this would make it into the national newspapers here. Or at least the local rags. But, no. I can't find any reference to it. This reminds me I've been meaning to write a paragraph on corruption in Spain. But not tonight. Coming soon . . .

Finally . . . Here's the Galician Xunta's version of a corporate video. And I didn't think I was living in the Third World. Where all the women are devastatingly pretty. And everybody worships some unknown deity. I suppose this is an advance on the Catholic Church, at least.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A couple of days ago, I had to fool Ponte-WiFi by using three different phone numbers and sign-in codes. But not even this was enough today. After closing on its standard 15 minutes, it then did this again ten minutes later. And then refused to work at all. Could this have anything to do with today being the big holiday of Galicia's patron saint, St James/Santiago? Who's clearly not the patron saint of the internet. I wonder who is.

Which reminds me . . . When new words come into being in Spain, who decides what gender they'll have? Take weblog and blog, for example. I believe these are both masculine but since it could take a few years for the Royal Academy to recognise them, how did they get their masculinity? Is there a basic rule that everything is masculine unless it's obviously feminine? Un gay, for example.

But anyway . . . There was a lovely family dinner in a lovely restaurant last night in honour of my lovely neighbour Ester's birthday. It started at 9, finished at 12 and then moved home for dessert and drinks. And more drinks. Ester's lovely, about-to-depart, Viking au pair, Hanna, drew the short straw with the liqueurs but made a good fist (mouth?) of semi-downing an aguadiente(firewater) which is also used to clean graffiti from the city's walls.

During my research of the retail scene, I've naturally come across some bizarre names for shops. Such as an outlet for kids' clothes called Sergeant Major. And then there's Go Home. Given this is now closed, it seem a rather appropriate injunction. Much better than, say, Come In and Buy.

By chance I came across one of my posts from 2007 today. When I was already writing about closing shops and opening We Buy-Your-Gold kiosks. Five years already!

Asked about the food eaten during the Franco period tonight, a BBC contributor said that these, of course, were times of hardship and even famine. And that, ironically, the 'sort of polenta' commonly eaten back then was now considered fashionable. Even though too much of it can make you ill. But I suppose too much anything – say, wine – can make you ill.

Reader Sierra has kindly provided this article on Spain's new residency requirements for us EU citizens, which she says are even more complex that the provisions on prescription charges. Keep it Complex, as I regularly say.

The Eurozone: Click here for another (large) dose of pessimism. How justified it is, I couldn't say.

Finally . . . I saw this today on the window of a branch of our new Galician bank, formed by fusing our two savings banks. Handily, it's in Gallego but if you're a Spanish speaker and, more so, a Portuguese speaker, you should be able to navigate your way through the ten undertakings. Which will almost certainly be taken with a huge pinch of salt by everyone. Except the directors still enriching themselves and their friends and cronies, one way or another.

One of life's oddities is that so many people around the world seem happy to sport the British flag – the Union Jack – on their clothes. Even as their clothes. Few, though, will have looked quite as bad as Leslie Garrett did when singing the British anthem in honour of Bradley Wiggin's victory in the Tour de France on Sunday. So garish and awful was her dress that it almost distracted me from the ghastliness of her sub-operatic performance.

I see that a new ailment has been invented, for which someone - literally – has the solution. It's Tired Eyes. Tired ears next? Ugly lobes?

And since we're talking of eyes, here - a propos of nothing - is a nice pair.

Which sort of reminds me – The Queen's face looks remarkably smooth for her 87 years. Does Botox have the royal seal of approval, I wonder.

A week or so ago, I wrote that Pontevedra had not one but three separate tourist offices, all competing with each other. But I was wrong. There are four. The Turismo of the Galician Xunta is so narrowly focused, I couldn't find any brochures there in any language other than Gallego. Perhaps they've taken to heart the prediction that belt-tightening Spaniards won't be coming from other parts of the country. Though there was a couple of these at the desk, being attended to in Spanish. The brochure which interested me most was for a museum exhibition in the vast white elephant on the outskirts of Santiago, which is Galicia's most expensive vanity project. And which the local government is desperately trying to find a use for. If you're trying to find it, it's called A Cidade da Cultura da Galicia and it's on Monte Gaiás. And you should know that Luns pechado mean it's closed on Mondays.

Another observation on the changing retail scene in Pontevedra – Somewhat to my surprise, we're now blessed with some new travel and estate agents. The former may turn out to be temporary and the latter must know something I don't know. I certainly can't see them doing much business in August.

I mentioned Pontevedra's pretty women yesterday (I should mount a gallery, I guess) and just want to add that the attractiveness of their dogs seems to be in an inverse relationship. Boy, are they ugly, comprising, for the most part, fashionable pugs and French bulldogs. Occasionally, someone goes the whole hog of dragging round a British bulldog. Than which there's no more repulsive canine on the planet.

Well, I've been joshing for almost a page and ignoring the fact that Spain stands on the verge of sovereign bankruptcy. If you've read a newspaper or seen the TV news today, you can't have failed to notice this. Rather than add my own analysis and predictions, here's a few articles for those with an interest in knowing more:-
- Eurozone danger mounts as Spain spins out of control. The battle for Spain is already lost.
- No amount of austerity measures and reforms has managed to keep Spain out of the eurozone debt crisis and the free-spending of the country’s autonomous regions could be the catalyst for the much-feared bailout.
- Blaming the Spanish vctim as Europe spirals into a summer crisis.

Coming down from those heights, we reach the question of whether “Barr pled guilty” is correct English. Or is it perhaps Scottish usage?

Finally . . . I was reading an English paper on line this morning when I was suddenly confronted with an ad for something involving that dreadful woman Belén Estéban. What is my world coming to? And how and why?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The (so called) Battle of Salamanca in 1812 was the beginning of the end for Napoleon and beginning of the rise of Wellington's career. It really should be called the Battle of Arapiles for this, about 10 km south of Salamanca, is where it actually took place. David Jackson provides basic information here and I just want to add that the mistake made by the French commander was to conclude that the cloud of dust behind the “British” lines was the start of a retreat, rather than what it really was - a supply train coming from Salamanca. When he desàtched some of his troops to attack it, he opened up a breach in own lines, allowing Wellington to chuck away the chicken leg he was snacking on and to pronounce - “Gentlemen, the day is ours.” The battle is commemorated in a lovely little museum established in Arapiles through the efforts of a local Spanish scholar. Two or three years ago, he told me the tourism folk in Salamanca wouldn't include it in their literature because they didn't want people to leave the city. Which is a great shame. So, if you're anywhere near Salamanca, go and visit the museum and stand on the exact spot where Wellington was gnawing his chicken leg. If you'd like more details on the battle, click here.

If you were to suggest that Spain's daily horario was, at best, unproductive and, at worst, pretty damn stupid in the 21st. century, I suspect most Spaniards would agree with you. Not that many have a 'midday' zizz these days, leaving me in the minority. Anyway, here's an article on how the crisis has impacted on the Spanish institution of a 3-hour break between 1.30 and 4.30.

The good news – insofar as there is any good news coming out of Spain these days – is that, nationally, tourism so far this summer is 8% up on last year. Here in Galicia, though, hotel occupancy was at a disastrously low 40-45% in early July but has now risen to a less-than-exciting 60%. The detail behind these numbers is that, nationally, the Germans and Brits are coming to Spain's well-known resorts, whereas Galicia is the summer playground of the Spanish. Who are feeling pinched. And unhappy about the cost of petrol in getting here from hotter parts of the country.

Which reminds me . . . There's a bit of a controversy brewing in 'Galicia's answer to Marbella', Sanjenjo/Sanxenxo. An empty block of flats has a large sign on top of it, saying that the flats are available to rent or buy. Also to gypsy families. Given how much Spaniards detest gypsies, this smacks of a certain desperation on the part of the owner. Anyway, there've been allegations that this is racist. Which is odd, as I would have thought one could argue it was the opposite.

Having a drink with a friend down in Veggie Square tonight, I was surprised when she commented on how noisy it was around us. Coming from a Spaniard, this really meant something. And then, suddenly, almost total silence. One of the customer's had bumped into the waitress and a heavy glass ash-tray had smashed on the concrete floor. So, I have my solution. And just need to stock up on ash-trays.

I spoke of God yesterday. Today, I feel obliged to give Him thanks for the lovely ladies of Pontevedra and for their unique way of dressing. If that's the right word. I should also thank Him, I guess, for the eyes with which to observe them.

Finally . . . Whether you have teenagers or not, I think you're going to enjoy this poster, sent to me by my Vigo friends, Anthea and Phil.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

There was a wooden owl the same dimensions as mine for sale at today's flea-market down in Veggie Square. It lacked colour but stood on a skull, giving it a little cachet.

Naturally, I asked the trader how much:-
Two hundred euros.
(Stifling a guffaw) Are you joking?
No. It's very old.
Maybe. But it isn't well carved and isn't worth that.
Well, what do you think it's worth?
About twenty.
It's worth more than that.
Maybe, but I'll see you here next week with my twenty.
(Returning later with my own owl.)
Look, my owl is more than three hundred years old.
It's made of plastic!
No, it's wood that looks like plastic.
(Trader's wife) I've got one made of clay at home.
Is it coloured like mine?
No. (To husband) Does it have any colours?
Yes, four or five.
OK. See you next week.

Yesterday I read that Spanish house prices had fallen more than 8% over the last 12 months and were now 24% down from their peak in 2008. But these are official figures and are universally believed to understate the decline. Then this morning I read in the Diario de Pontevedra that prices in this city have risen by 12% over the last year. So, pick the meat out of that! Meanwhile, here's a foto of what I think was the last block of flats built in the city. Unbelievably, it was started after the property bubble had burst and, as you can see, it has For Sale signs in several of the windows. Like the block of houses behind mine, it looks completely unoccupied.

It's not only shoe and dress shops that are closing n Pontevedra. There's the electrical shop where I used to get the batteries for my TV-B-Gone, for example. And the place specialising in Chinese massage. And another one specialising in Depilación. One particular oddity is that estate agents(realtors) have taken over two or three of the empty premises. Perhaps because it's true that prices have increased by 12%. But it's possible they're now outnumbered by the kiosks where you can sell your gold.

Finally . . . During my annual visit to the pool in my community yesterday, I was disturbed by the sound of granite-drilling. Bringing back memories of the two years of it when the early work was done on the (empty) houses behind mine. God forbid it's some new construction near us.

Which reminds me . . . It struck me this morning that it would be a much simpler world if God got rid of all religions. Perhaps I should start praying to him. But what's the point – he already knows what I'm thinking. And, as ever, is choosing to ignore me. There'll be words when I get up there. But I guess he knows that too.