Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I'm always amused when Spaniards express amazement that the rest of the world doesn't do things exactly the way they do them. My lovely neighbour, Ester, told me today that the Irish family with whom her daughter had stayed had eaten their evening meal at the remarkable time of 6.30. I explained this wasn't particularly early in many countries and, in fact, was late by US standards. But I'm not sure she believed me. When you're the only one marching to the beat of a different drum, it's tempting to think everyone else is out of step.

I've found a third reference to Napoleon in the March edition of Prospect: Like his US counterpart, President Hollande is commander-in-chief. There's nothing like a war to change a leader's stature, particularly in a nation of Napoleon and De Gaulle worshippers, which still celebrates its national day with a military parade. As does Spain, I believe. Which all seems odd to a citizen of a country which doesn't even have a national day, never mind a military parade. This time, though, we are marching to the right beat. What's the point of martial displays, unless you're a Korean dictator?

Going through my father's things, I came upon a cartoon of him drawn in 1947, just before he left the RAF. As it doesn't seem unflattering, what surprised me is that he hadn't put it on, say, the bedroom wall but left it folded up in a trunk. Where I also came upon a cigar box he must have bought when stationed in the US in the early 1940s. The cigars were made in Tampa, Florida and the brand was, would you believe, Hav-a-Tampa, suggesting either they came from Cuba or they didn't but the makers (Havatampa Cigar Co.) would like you to think they did. Anyway, the best thing in the box was a set of 5 yellowed poker dice, for which I may be able to find some use, after a lay-off of more than 60 years.

Talking of smoking . . . I'm pretty inured to seeing young Spanish women smoking – in search of appetite suppression and/or specious sophistication – and even to the sight of a woman smoking while pushing a baby-carrier. But today I passed a heavily pregnant senorita with a cigarette drooping from her mouth and this was hard to take.

I have a couple of fragile bone carvings from Indonesia, of a tribal king and queen. Over the years, the latter has lost one or other of her arms several times and my cleaner always tells me she found her this way and that it has nothing to do with any cleaning process. As if. This scenario was played out again on my return from the UK, leaving me wondering whether I should just staple the arm back on again, rather than resort to glue. Or just leave her armless. Talking of repair . . . I have a mohair jumper. Or, rather, I have three quarters of mohair pullover; the bloody moths have had the rest. Presumably it has a better smell than all my other jumpers. I continue to get the holes sewn up but the day must come, relatively soon, when I have more repair than garment,

I really should have a section for the loony things said by people of one religious conviction or another. Yesterday it was this comment from an emotional Venezuelan women:- The Lord called Hugo Chavez because He wanted him by His side. No, He bloody didn't. He just died!

I mentioned a week or three ago that Toledo seemed to be marketing itself as more of an ex-Jewish city than anything else. Well, we now have an equivalent in Galicia. The town of Ribadavia has always highlighted its old Jewish quarter and has had a Jewish museum for a while. But it's now gone one step further and become the first Spanish city to celebrate the Passover Seder since 1492, when Jews were invited to leave Spain and not come back. Incidentally, Ribadavia is the centre of the region which grows the white Ribeiro wine I mentioned the other day. And they have a wine festival every May. I'm wondering now how long it'll be before Pontevedra picks up on this trend. One thing's for sure – If they do, they'll have to put back the sign about the Jewish cemetery that disappeared 3 or 4 years ago, when that part of town was re-modelled. By the way, the main street running through what used to be the city's Jewish quarter is named Rúa Amargura, or Bitterness St. Which I've always thought rather fitting.

Reader Perry is a mine of research data. Here's his citation of something similar to los escrachesTalking of readers (and Readers), my thanks to Gerald, Diego, Bill and SP for advice on alternatives to Google Reader. See the Comments to yesterday's post.

Finally . . . Spring - summer even - arrived yesterday and this morning I had an unusual visitor on my lawn – a pied wagtail. Common enough in the Mersey estuary but never seen here before. At least not by me. And then later, down in Veggie Square, I espied a magpie among the pigeons and the seagulls. Another first. What a day for twitchers!


James Atkinson said...

Colin, Not surprisingly there are lots of pied wagtails here in Swansea too, mostly in car parks. I haven't any idea what they are eating, but whatever it is must be extremely small. Don't you have any local birds which are a little more exotic, of the feathered variety of course?

Colin said...

Surprisingly, no. I have around 50 house sparrows. Robins and tits at the right time of year. Jays very occasionally. Used to have collared doves but they seem to have disappeared, possibly driven off by the ever-present magpies. Blackbirds. Maybe a thrush or two. I might as well as be in the UK!

Azra said...

We eat out supper at any time between 5PM and 6PM. To eat later is an anomaly in our household - but not entirely unheard of.

Anonymous said...

Hello Colin,

The box of cigars you found in your father's trunk was probably made in Tampa, Florida, mostly by Cubans exiled in Tampa. Cuba and Florida share a lot of history thanks to Spain and England. In the late 1800's many Cubans and Canarios went to Tampa to grow the tobacco plant and produce their famous cigars to avoid taxation and to seek the support of American politicians and business men in their quest for independence. As you probably know, Cuba became a possession of England for 11 months back in the 1700's only to be traded back to Spain in exchange for Florida. My history book tells me that during the English tenure, more ships docked in Havana harbor and more commerce took place in the island than in all the years since 1492. I can only wonder!

SF Bay Area

Colin said...

Thanks, Jorge. Well, the company is the Havatampa Cigar co., who closed their Tampa factory in 2009, having been operating since 1902. But they still have a plant in Puerto Rico, so haven't gone out of business.

I didn't know the Brits used to 'own' Cuba.

LoL at the commerce data.