Friday, March 08, 2013

Spain's A8 autovia runs from the French border in the East to Galicia in the West, along the Basque, Cantabrian, and Asturian coasts. I'm not sure when it was started but it must have been at least 15 years ago, maybe 20. And it isn't yet finished. Each time I drive to Santander I find that another bit has been completed and so there's less and less need to come off and take the old N632 road and then to re-join the autovia. However, there are still enough of these interruptions to be a time-losing nuisance. What all of this means is that there are parts of the road which feel and sound like they were built yesterday – largely because they were – and parts which are pretty decrepit and which produce an awful lot of tyre noise. I can't help feeling it's a metaphor for life in 18th-21st century Spain. What it certainly is is a reflection of the relative unimportance accorded to the North (outside the Basque Country and Cataluña) by Madrid. In the time it's taken to not finish this road, the North East and the South have not only had the all roads they need but also the AVE high speed train. Up in the North West, we have neither. But maybe they'll arrive together around 2020.

On the boat, I bought some pipe baccie per the request of an old friend. At a price less than half he'd pay in the UK, I believe. The young lady gave it to me, enquiring - “Just the one?”. Given that there were 10 packets in all, I didn't know what to say. Perhaps people buy them in their dozens for onward sale. Anyway, what really pleased me was that, not only did she not ask for any ID, but the Chip & Pin machine actually worked. Maybe this will finally arrive in Spain by 2020. Though I'm sure it has already in Madrid. But not Nerja.

As I now know how to be among the first off the boat, I was on my way north from Portsmouth within a few minutes of the doors being opened. Apart from the incessant rain and spray, the sailing was plain until I hit the infamous M6/M5 junction at Birmingham at 11pm. Here they'd decided to add to the normal woes by reducing the three lanes to just one. As most of Britain's food is shipped by nocturnal trucks, it was essentially just a vast truck park. And when you finally got through it, they rewarded you by diverting you off the motorway through some nearby town – possibly Walsall – and eventually back to the M6. Which all helps to explain why I didn't get to my destination until 1.30 in the morning. 2.30 Spanish time.

Anyway, the funeral was this morning and was in three parts:- 1. A Requiem Mass at the nearby church, 2. Cremation at the town cemetery, and 3. A Reception at my sister's house. The first of these went off as well as it could, though as a long-lapsed Catholic, I confess to finding the service both familiar but decidedly odd. God knows what my Jewish relatives made of it. The Cremation didn't go quite as well; the first hymn was sung by both a recorded choir (6 verses) and by those present (3 verses). Unfortunately, the priest had printed the last 3 verses for us, meaning we were singing the fourth verse while the “choir” was singing the first. And, of course, they couldn't stop. But it sorted itself out eventually. The Reception was fine, as we were determined to honour our Irish ancestry by making it as much of a wake as possible. Plus both of my wonderful daughters were there, looking splendid.

There was one difficult moment – on the way to the Crematorium. There were six of us in the funeral car and, after the long Mass, the widow of the deceased felt it necessary to stress that the Crematorium service would only be 5 or 10 minutes long. Looking at the coffin in the hearse in front of us, I replied “Well, it might be only ten minutes for us, but it'll be an eternity for him”. She was not amused. But she'll probably forgive me, being my mother.

Later on, when we drove to the Reception, we stopped at the junction of my sister's road with a cul-de-sac called Copse Close. Which I instinctively misread.

Finally . . . The last word must go to said mother. As were were leaving the crematorium chapel, she stopped to speak to someone I didn't know:-
Who was that, Mum? I didn't recognise him.
It was Jack Smith.
From the golf club?
Yes. 
Good of him to come.
He's the club bore. Your father hated him.

2 comments:

Azra said...

SA is notorious for straddling the lines between 1st and 3rd world. Seems like Spain isn't too far behind... (well minus the crime).

Colin said...

Maybe it's more like straddling a line between Tomorrow's world and the Day Before Yesterday's world.

Some things as modern as anywhere and some things, well, decidedly not.