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.)

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