Monday, May 07, 2018

Thoughts not from Galicia, Spain: 7.5.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • Having heard nowt from about how I can check with them re separate beds, the last 3 days we've called the hotels direct and – where it's lower – have managed to get them to give us the price we'd have got via the site. But don't tell the latter.
  • Malaga . . Oh, dear. Just like Oporto, well on the way to being ruined by tourism. There were at least 2 vast cruise ships moored in the port yesterday, disgorging hundreds - if not thousands - of short-term visitors who won't venture far into the city. Largely because much of what there used to be to see was destroyed during the Civil War.
  • And here's my experience with ordering a wine in a very-un-busy bar in the plaza in front of the cathedral, while my colleagues visited the latter:-
Minute 0: I sit down.
Minute 7: A waitress finally arrives to ask what I want.
Minute 14: I look back to see if she shows any sign of bringing my wine. She's chatting to a waiter and throwing something into a bin.
Minute 15: I move to the bar next door.
Minute 19: A waiter appears and takes my order.
Minute 22: The waiter returns with the bottle of wine and a glass. He proceeds to drop the bottle on the table and over the left leg of my beige trousers. Fortunately, it's white wine.
Minute 24: The waiter returns with a new bottle.
  • So . . . 22 minutes to get a glass and 24 minutes to get something in it. I realise this is not a long time to Spaniards accustomed to waiting and chewing the cud, but it's a long time to a thirsty me. And it contrasts with the great service we've had everywhere in the last 2 weeks. To add insult to injury, the wine was exactly twice the price we'd paid the previous day in a village north of Málaga.
  • I tried to find a place to eat in Málaga that I recall from years ago, near the port. If I had my bearings right, what was then a row of wooden shacks offering great seafood is now a phantasmagoric row of hyper-modern bars and restaurants, serving the thousands who get off the boats just a few metres away.
  • To be positive . . . The service in the café I'm typing this – in a small town along the coast - is excellent. As it was in a bar away from the seafront last night.
  • Talking of bearings . . . I tried to drive out of Málaga past the port to check on my recollection about the seafood shacks but the maze of one-way streets and – to be honest – a plethora of road-works and closed streets – again roundly frustrated and defeated both my satnav/GPS and me. So I gave up and drove north to the ring road and then east on the A7 motorway. And so accomplished in 20 minutes a journey that used to take an hour and a half when I first used to visit this coast some years ago.
  • Wine note: I've now seen frizzante (spelt this time frizzantte) given as 'semi-sparkling'.
  • And on a menu in a place on the edge of Almuñecar I saw an item called Kentaki fried chicken. By the way, if you're visiting the dolmens nearby, this is a terrific place for grilled meat dishes. Especially the lamb ribs, for merely €12.
  • The café in which I'm typing this at 8.25 has a bank of 6 TV screens taking up one wall. Five of these are giving information about sports events – mostly football – around the world but the 6th is showing a football match. No one is watching it and need I add that there's a backdrop of techno music which is drowning the commentary from the latter.
  • My comment about never having seen a zebra crossing with pedestrian lights was – I now realise – quite ridiculous. There are plenty in Malaga and I now recall seeing them in Vigo. Albeit usually associated with wide streets, not narrow ones in an old quarter. I was misled by their absence in Pontevedra. I think.
  • Finally . . . I washed my wine-stained trousers again last night and put them out to dry on the terrace late on a sun-drenched evening, to awake this morning to find them drenched by something else.
  • Finally, finally . . . As I try to post this, it's another day in another hotel in which the wifi doesn't reach the room! I wonder if this costs them a star or two.
  • Here's the latest comments from Don Quijones on that TSB/Sabadell IT 'fiasco'. TSB employees below board level are revolting, it seems. Now in its 16th day, the crisis shows no sign of letting up, says DQ. Who goes as far as to say: It’s far from clear how long it will take before the system is fully operational, if indeed it ever will be. Which contrasts with what he labels the 'mindless optimism' of Sabadell's MD/GM proffered to British MPs last week. DQ adds some choice words about banks in general.
  • How the EU common market really works. From an article I was reading about European airlines:- The Lufthansa brand is by far the biggest and by far the most profitable airline. It has been so successful partly because of the protectionist policies of the German government, which have limited the growth of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar (and even of Ryanair) into Germany. Lufthansa has not had to compete on price with low cost carriers in their home markets to the extent that many other European airlines have, and can protect their very valuable business traveller routes from cheaper competition.
  • I also read that there would be uproar in Spain if the IAG Group changed its name to what it really is - British Airways - dropping 'Iberia' in the process. Contrast the lack of reaction in the UK to the substitution of Santander for the names of the various banks it's bought there. Or to the Spanish purchases of, say, British airport operating companies. Or to the purchase of British energy and transport companies by German, French and Spanish companies. As has often been said, there's really only one member of the EU in which protectionism has been eliminated in the pursuit of free trade, And pretty soon there won't be any.
  • Finally . . . Below is an apposite article on today's UK culture, from a female columnist.

RNLI sacking has a whiff of new puritanism: Libby Purves

In a unique and precious service, common sense and respect for tough, practical heroes must outweigh modern prissiness

On a hot bank holiday, island Britain runs to the sea. But many people, unaccustomed to any water more temperamental than the council baths, get into trouble. Plastic dinghies, paddleboards and yachts will be rescued, and at the end of the day their users will honour the letters RNLI: the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. They will marvel, as we all should, that the 238 lifeboat stations of this fourth emergency service are funded entirely by voluntary donations, not a government grant. There is a bracing purity about the way that people across the country give money and time simply to save strangers, whether professional seafarers, flood victims or just incautious lilo users.

We are also inspired because the majority of crews are proudly unpaid volunteers. They go through rigorous training and stand by for the call to leave home and family at any hour and put to sea in the most terrible conditions. Since 1824, 600 have died and 2,500 received medals with the biblical line, “Let not the deep swallow me up”. Those of us who rattle tins or compile charity books for the RNLI know it is admiration for crews that inspires givers more than pity for the drowning.

So those who manage the RNLI need to be very, very careful. They must understand how unique and precious it is, and not allow themselves to think and behave as if they are running some workaday public utility, with all the associated hypocritical, finger-wagging, nit-picking bossiness of our times. There was real indignation over the story of the two men from the Whitby station in North Yorkshire, one with 15 years’ service, who were dismissed last week after, reportedly, a female superior found some saucy (possibly even raunchy, conceivably obscene) mugs. It seems they were secret Santa presents.

Joe Winspear and Ben Laws were dismissed, and in protest four other crew walked out. One source said that there actually are women on the Whitby boat who said they weren’t offended. One reason given for the dismissal was that the naughty mugs “could have been seen by visiting schoolchildren”.

Let us try to be fair. The RNLI says that the mugs were worse than the mock-ups so far published in newspapers, and that there were “serious conduct issues” about social media activity which “targeted a member of the RNLI staff”. The volunteers are appealing, there’s an investigation, so they can’t say any more except that it was “not a trivial matter” and to speak of a lifeboat station as “a safe and inclusive environment where people can expect to be treated with dignity and respect”.

Nice words. But a lifeboat station is also a place where fit, brave, psychologically rugged young men and a few like-minded women give their time and risk their lives to save strangers. It is not the back office of a local authority, or even a bank trading floor. It may not be a hotbed of modern political correctness. Young fit men are often laddish, and references to girls with no clothes on may go further than modern rules dictate. So anxious, dry-shod deskbound members of the managerial classes may panic: when you’re not fearing for your life, you have to fear something, and this age dreads above all being “inappropriate”. As for shockable schoolchildren, the age of the smartphone probably means that ship has sailed . . .

There is something uneasy about the RNLI’s vague line that the misdemeanour went “way beyond banter”. That four other men resigned in protest seems more solidly significant, as does the fact no word like “assault” or “abuse” has been used to defend the decision. Just the dreadful, weaselly “inappropriate”.One can only hope that the investigation will also consider the possibility that the senior person — or digitally “targeted” staff member, who may or may not be the same — may be more oversensitive than is, in a lifeboat station, sensible.

In other words, I hope that someone will just say “cut them some slack!”. Sex has been a matter of banter and unseemly jokes ever since Chaucer, and always will be. Of course women should not be bullied or intimidated, but neither should we carry on like affronted Victorian misses. That’s not feminism. Laddishly inclined men are not perfect, but they are our brothers and co-workers, and in this case the ones whose strong arms may one day pull us clear of death. Personally, if ever I am struggling in my fast-filling seaboots in a cold northern sea I will not be especially worried that the lad hauling me out might have a pornographic mug in the cupboard. Or even a tendency to tap out rude jokes about senior colleagues.

Sacking a lifeboat volunteer for dangerous, culpably careless or violent behaviour is reasonable. Doing it with a string of clichés about “dignity and respect” and invoking that prim, dishonest little fret about what is “appropriate” is different. And it’s risky. Unless there’s a recantation — or the final investigation shows that the two men were truly demonic and the four who defend them lunatically misguided — there will be a sour note in our love song for the RNLI. My husband, a son of the Yorkshire seas, sadly observed that when his great-grandfather was running down the slipway in his old cork life jacket in a gale, he probably wasn’t giving much thought to “inclusivity” or worrying that one of his mates had drawn something rude on the lifeboat-shed wall.


Sierra said...

One for your "local" readers - English translation of "El rifirrafe" - heated argument?
(Pelea o discusión ruidosa,pero ligera y sin trascendencia.)

Anthea said...

As regards Kentaki, think of how the Spanish mispronounce “pub” and I think you can see what happened there.