Wednesday, August 22, 2012


You couldn't make it up – A chap who stole a stack of chilli peppers in a UK supermarket stuffed them into his mouth to conceal them. Seems he was unaware Scotch Bonnet peppers are among the hottest in the world. And that it's not a good idea to swallow them. The clarinet down his trousers was the least of his problems at the hospital.

In Spain, virtually all middle class families have a chica, or maid. Most of these work at least a few hours a day and some eight. As does the chica of my lovely neighbour, Ester. The latter – the maid, not Ester - also does a little work for me and clearly finds it difficult to understand my instruction not do the ironing or make the beds. This week, I told her to leave the unmade beds of my daughters as they'd been brought up to do this themselves. But she clearly found this impossible to obey. Against orders, she also changed Ian's bedsheets on the day before he was leaving. It's a cultural thing, I guess. Naturally, Spanish families find it hard to believe how different things are in the UK and elsewhere.

The circus centring on Julian Assange is producing some fine male statements. Figuring large among these are the comments of President Correa of Ecuador. The acts of which Assange is accused in Sweden – non-consensual, unprotected sex - he's described as things which wouldn't be a crime in South America. Which is not altogether surprising, given the number of immigrants from there who are prosecuted in Spain for acts of violence against their wives.

My internal battle over purchase of a Kindle continues. And now this comment has further muddied the waters. Part of my holiday planning has been to load up my Kindle: so slick and lightweight. But I am recently back from the Edinburgh Book Festival, and I have to declare that as a user of both hardback and e-books, I prefer the older format. A book is so much friendlier to handle. You can more easily mark pages, add notes, turn back and check the plot. Of course a Kindle is great for holidays: it saves so much space. I'd be more persuaded by these thoughts if I didn't take all my holidays in Spain, and in a car which will take as many books as I like.

Having cited it the other day, I sat and watched this afternoon – The Pride and the Passion. A slowish film and an odd experience if you know Spain. The English captain(Cary Grant) meets the Spanish leader(a bewigged Frank Sinatra!) in what is now the most expensive hotel in Europe, having strode across the large square in front of Santiago cathedral. Nearing their target of Ávila, the Spanish forces and their huge cannon take refuge in the church of small 'village', actually the huge Escorial near Madrid. And this having just marched, as Holy Week penitents, under the arches of Seville's Roman aqueduct. Some village!

Finally . . . I have a favourite joke. Well, I have several. But the one I mean has the odd quality of appealing to few of the people to whom I tell it. Anyway, here it is:-
Napoleon and his tired army are approaching Moscow in 1812.
At the top of a hill overlooking the city, Napoleon stops, shouts 'Halt' and sits motionless, contemplating the horizon.
Way behind him, one of his men leaves the line and rides slowly up to the front. He comes to a halt just behind the contemplative Napoleon.
Hearing him arrive, Napoleon turns round and barks “What the hell do you want?”.
The soldier looks a little confused and replies “You called me”.
I said 'Halt'”, says the little Corsican.
Oh, sorry”, says the soldier, “I thought you said 'Walt'.”

See what I mean? Any votes?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Colin,

Geographical quirks apart, the movie is actually not that bad. I have seen a lot worse Hollywood representations of Spain.

I didn't get the "Moscow" joke. Beyond me, obviously.

Did you know Napoleon's army also had lots of spaniards and portuguese among its ranks? Apparently (oddly enough) they coped better with the cold and appaling conditions than the Dutch and Germans in the same army.

Aahh, Assange.......what a fotonovela....this one will run and run and run. I am not sure the issue of the (supposed) rape is the central issue here. First, there is a thing called presumption of innocence. And then there is the much wider (and important) issue of basic freedoms at stake. To be honest, I am not sure of anything here but the British press seems to have already decided who is the guilty party.

Moscow

Colin said...

@Moscow

Halt. Walt. Perhaps you had to be there.

And Wellington's forces at the Battle of Salamanca had Irish, Spanish and Portuguese elements. Fighting their fellow Catholic French.

Assange: Of course there is a presumption of innocence but his case is not helped by men re-defining rape and presuming that he can't possibly be guilty and/or that his accusers are liars. And the British and Swedish legal systems are serving the political dictats of the US government.

The simple legal position is that he has been accused of rape and should stand trial. And not jump bail, leaving his friends well out of pocket.

If the women are lying, he will be acquitted. The issue of his extradition to the USA will be settled separately and it's ludicrous to ask the Swedish and British governments for guarantees that they won't comply with international law.

Azra said...

Yet another way SA is so similar to Spain - most of us have maids too. With the high unemployment rate, you can get one for around 120 to 180 euros a month!

Anonymous said...

Colin,
The problem I have with that is that it was published in the British press that Swedish rape laws are harsher on the presumed rapist than UK laws (and that of any other country for that matter) implying that there were certain situations that would be considered rape in Sweden but not so in the UK. If that is so, there would be a "stretch" of the "rape act" for which he could be prosecuted and found guilty in Sewden but not in other countries. Where does that leave the assertion that rape is rape, whatever the circumstances? Furthermore, as I understood he is wanted for questioning. Another argument against extradition is that the questioning could be done in the UK. The last question is, how many people apart from Assange does Sweden want extradited on rape charges? Only Assange?

Anonymous said...

Colin,
Another 2 benefits of the Kindle is that Amazon wil convert your own text (or copied text from theinternet put into a Word document) and load it for free on your Kindle (10 years of blogs?). Secondly, you can scan travel documents (passports, tickets, vouchers etc.) and again, Amazon will convert these to a Kindle friendly format. Well worth the money in my opinion.

David

Colin said...

@Anon.
RE: RAPE
I've not seen in any of the several articles I've read any suggestion that rape law is tougher in Sweden than in the UK. What have read is that the police in the UK treat rape and rape victims very much more seriously than they did 20 years a go. And it may be that Sweden, being some years ahead of the UK socially and even more ahead of Spain, has better 'policed' laws than other countries. Not so much a tougher law as a higher conviction rate, perhaps. Making it true that it's harder to face a Swedish court than a UK or Spanish court.

Colin said...

@David. Thanks for this. I'm virtually there. Just need to decide whether to buy it here or in the UK.

Colin said...

@Azra. Well, if you have a maid for only a few hours a week here in Pontevedra, the rate seems to be around 9 euros an hour. This would translate into 1440 per month, which is high. And a LOT higher than where you are.

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