Sunday, November 25, 2012

In a book entitled “In the Footsteps of George Borrow”, Guy Arnold relates a scene in a small-town bar in northern Spain, where the owner fails to understand his repeated requests for tea until Arnold bangs his hand in rage upon the counter. Whereupon the woman's son tells her what he wants. Arnold insists that the woman's obtuseness was deliberate as all of them were pronouncing the Spanish word (te) in exactly the same way. Well, I'm sure Arnold is sincere but I'd bet my life on him being wrong. And the reason is that I know from an early experience with the word Tui, that, if you pronounce an initial T in the quiet way it's done in English, the Spanish simply can't hear it. They will hazard a guess at P or F or even pronounce the word without any initial letter at all. So that Tui becomes ui. The Spanish initial T has to be almost spat out. If you watch, say, a news reporter closely, you'll see how far forward the lips are pushed and how the neck muscles strain. I'm sure there's a technical term for this. Something labial, I suspect.

One of the towns Arnold visits is Villaviciosa, scene of a famous regal mis-landing. Whenever I see the name of this place, I think of one of the songs of the Liverpool folk group, The Spinners. There's a big prize for the first reader to come up with it. Not too difficult.

Spain is scrapping its only aircraft carrier. The work was expected to go to the Cádiz shipyards but it's actually heading for Ferrol, which I visited a few weeks ago. The main – and simple – reason for this appears to be that Ferrol is in Galicia and that's where President Rajoy is from. And there's a lot of support there for his right-of-centre PP party. In the town where Franco was born.

My overnight guest told me this morning she'd been disturbed by Toni and a child shouting at each other at 1am this morning. I had to tell her that Toni is away at sea and that what she'd experienced (as I had) was Toni junior(17) bawling out his young brother(8). Each of whom has 'inherited' a predilection for shouting in place of talking. Still, it could be worse; they could have formed a rock group.

At least one Spanish industry has benefited from the extraordinary 50%+ unemployment rate for young people. Up on the north coast coast, the numbers of surfers have rocketed up. Another industry showing high growth is that of car and house robberies, particularly along the coasts where there's a high percentage of second (i. e. unoccupied) properties.

Talking of property, Brits remain the leading foreign buyers but the second position has now been taken from the French by the Russians. Which explains all the menus in Cyrillic I saw up in the North East a month of so ago.

It's reported that the top speed on Spain's autopistas may rise from 120 to 140kph. The rationale seems to be that this will make the highways more appealing and so both the state and the toll companies will get more income. Safety? Not a consideration, apparently. There would be uproar in the UK. Probably the USA too.

Saudi Arabia: Which century would it be in if it weren't for oil? Saudi husbands will now be advised by text if their wives are trying to leave the country. Even if they're doing this together.

Finally . . . Watching the international rugby yesterday, I noticed – you could hardly miss it – a huge advertisement for Dove Skincare for Men in the centre of the field. Utterly impossible to imagine 30 years ago. Maybe even 20. You have to hand it to the marketing men. And to the susceptibility and gullibility of all others. Well, most of them.

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