Monday, 21 August 2017


Yesterday in the heat of the day I saw Phil off on the bus to Mondari to play chess. Mondariz has proved very difficult to get to or, rather, to get back from. There is a bus service. The only bus which arrives there in time for the start of the round gets there about two hours before the game starts. The last bus back from Mondariz leaves five minutes after that one arrives there. I suspect it just does a turn-round.

After negotiation and numerous phone calls, we found someone who was prepared to give him a lift. All was well until yesterday when there were two rounds, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. I suspect Phil may be allergic to mornings. Anyway, he opted to take what they call a bye for Sunday morning. In other words, he would not play but he would get half a point. His lift-giver was also taking a bye, but for the evening game, so that he could have Sunday lunch with his family and visit his ageing mother.

 Fortunately we found someone else prepared to bring Phil back from Mondariz, provided he could get himself there. Hence the bus from Vigo bus station. In the meantime, the heatwave has finally hit Vigo over the last few days. There was little point in my going to Mondariz as it would be even hotter there than in Vigo and there is precious little to do if it is too hot to stroll.

So after the bus had left I spent a good hour in a cafe opposite the bus station sipping an iced coffee and mentally preparing for a hot walk back. I left the cafe eventually equipped with a bottle of cold water, just in case. I ended up donating the water, and some spare change, to a beggar sitting on the street; he looked so hot and dejected. He then perked up considerably, asked my name, told me his name was Joe and that he had a nice little house round the corner. Why did I not go there with him right there and then? This is probably the first time I have been propositioned by a street beggar! 

Leaving Joe, dejected once more, still sitting on the street, I went on my way. A chemist's sign at the top of Calle Aragön, told me the temperature was 33 degrees, and that was in the shade! Later in the day, about 8.30 in the evening, as I walked out to meet the returning chess player and have a beer, the same sign said 30 degrees. The heat was bouncing off the walls. Even at 11.00pm, the wall at the front of our flat was still warm to the touch.

This morning, after a sticky night. the heat still hit you as you left the building. Usually when I run in the morning it is relatively cool and fresh. This morning the air was heavy. The temperature gauge down at the roundabout registered 26 degrees at 8.45 am! So it goes.

Yesterday I came across this stuff about sunburn. It's quite amazing what they say affects your tanning/burning. Among the things that struck me were the following:-

  • Eating late at night - something we all tend to do more frequently when we are on holiday. If you change your eating habits it messes up your skin's biological clock - who knew your skin has a separate biological clock? - and can leave it less able to repair sun damage. 
  •  Exfoliating, a practice I have never really appreciated or carried out.t stands to reason that if you remove a layer of the skin's outer surface, the underneath stuff will be more sensitive, less protected and more likely to burn. Who exfoliates, if you must do it, on holiday anyway? 
  • Eating celery! Yes! That's right! Eating celery! It all gets a bit scientific and technical here. Apparently celery contains furanocoumarins, whatever they are, which cause the skin to be more photosensitive and thus can lead to more intense sunburn. They don't say how much celery you would need to eat. And they also warn you off parsley and parsnips, again with no hint on what is a a safe amount to eat! They do, however, recommend tomatoes, watermelon, red peppers and carrots. These all contain carotenoids, the things that help you see in the dark and, incidentally protect the skin from harmful UV rays. Mind you I read years and years ago that eating to many carrots, probably a diet almost entirely made up carrots, can turn your skin orange. Now, does that explain President Trump?
  •  Anti-ageing creams come in for some stick as well. Slap on some anti-wrinkle cream and it counteracts the sunscreen! Where does that leave Boots Number Seven "Protect and Perfect" range? That range includes a facial sunscreen, factor 50, which seems to work. It does make you face look astonishingly white when you first apply it but that's a different matter. 
 As for me, I am basically ginger, a bit faded now but still apt to burn if not very careful. Freckles and a tendency to peel!

My advice: Wear a big hat! Expose your skin circumspectly! Always have a cover-up garment! Walk in the shade! But do enjoy yourself in the sun as well!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

What's in a name?

Names are funny things. Some people don't like the names they are given; my mother always objected to being named Phylis, insisted on it being shorten to Phyl, and when my younger sister was born on her birthday refused point blank to inflict that name on her. And yet your name defines you in some way and makes you unique.

I know people who have gone out of their way to choose what they thought was an unusual name for their new offspring, only to discover that that very name was "trending", was appearing in the list of the top ten most popular names, and thus their poor child was going to be one of many with that name in their class. I remember a class I taught which had no fewer than seven Julies!

When I started to learn French, many years ago, our French teacher gave us all French names; she was young and super-enthusiastic, full of new ideas for motivating pupils. Mine was Antoinette, which is quite ironic as many people here in Galicia assume that my name is a version of Antía, a name which I think is Gallego for Antonia. Biblical names like John, Mark, Luke, James, Mary, Leah translate internationally. Some names, however, like my own, are pretty much impossible to find equivalents for in other languages. Maureen, Keith, Beverley, Lesley, Norman - all of these spring to mind. And then there are names like Avelino, Álvaro, Celestino, Pilar, Consuelo.

Lately I have come across some names which sound as though they come from ancient times. Phil has played a chess game against Gumersindo. There was a rider in the Tour de France called Rigoberto. Amazing! Rather like being called Ethelred! I won't even get started on weird modern names, many of which come from Disney films and HBO series!

I started thinking about names because we have just renewed our "tarjeta dorada", the Spanish equivalent of the Senior Railcard, but at a much more reasonable price (€6) and giving a much better 40% discount on fares. We had some difficulty because I didn't immediately remember our Vigo postcode. I am still not sure that the postcode I gave was the correct one. And then there were the names. The poor woman at the ticket office was flummoxed by our only having one surname. She claimed that the computer would not let her continue with the process unless she put two surnames in. She found her own way round it. And so Phil is now Philip Adams Philips on his card and I am Anthea Adams Adams on mine.

Surnames are interesting too. It took me quite some time to realise that the poet Lorca is named after a place in Andalucía, just like the people I know called Halsall or Ramsbottom in the UK. Federico García Lorca is one of the few known universally by his second surname, because García is such a common surname. And Lorca has changed into a forename in the English-speaking world; Leonard Cohen, a great admirer of the Spanish poet, called his daughter Lorca.

Other surnames go back to the time when we were all known as the son/daughter of somebody or other. All the Anglo-Saxon people called, like us, Adams, Michaels, Philips, Johnson or similar were originally in the family of some Adam, Michael or John. In the same way all the Spanish Rodriguez, Davidéz, Martinez, Fernandez and Míguez come from some original Rodrigo, David, Fernando or Miguel. Even all the Perez come originally from Pedro.

But what about one of the chess players in the same tournaments as Phil? His name is Ladrón de Guevara. Now "ladrón" is the Spanish for "thief".

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Getting the words right!

Here's a new bit of Spanish vocabulary, new to me anyway, found in a local paper: Furtivismo - ejemplo: gente (veraneantes y turistas) que recoge almejas de forma ilegal. Basically it means committing a minor crime, I think. The example, and the main thrust of the article, involves people on holiday taking advantage of the low tide to collect shellfish, clams in the example, illegally. And then presumably to go home and cook and eat them. I can remember years ago fishing for teeny tiny shrimps with my almost Spanish sister and making them into omelettes. (Which my daughter, in a fit of English craziness, refused to eat on the grounds that we had caught the shrimps on the beach and therefore they might be dirty!)

How many English people on a beach would know where to begin collecting shellfish and which ones they could eat. I listened on the train one day to an English woman, clearly resident here, telling her children how she and her siblings had gone out with their parents picking blackberries in the English countryside. What's more, they had then gone home and made jam. Her children asked if they could go blackberrying next time they were in England and, by the way, did she know how to make jam? I didn't hear her answer to that last question but I am willing to bet she doesn't. My family regularly picked wild blackberries and we all helped with the jam-making but I would still need to look it up if I wanted to make some now.

Old skills disappear: not just jam making but knitting, crochet, dressmaking, stuff that we used to take for granted and, indeed, began to learn in primary school. Here in Spain you still find haberdashers, fabric shops, woolshops and the like. In England they have become difficult to locate. Specialist woolshops selling fancy yarn at extortionate prices exist in twee places like Hebden Bridge but no longer do you find a woolshop on the average high street. And the younger generation are praised highly for being able to knit a scarf!!!! Oh dear! I am beginning to sound old and cranky!

As I travelled on the bus yesterday I went past a shop with an English name, "Every Ways". I have no idea what they sold but I wanted to stop and give them a grammar lesson, explaining that "every" works just like "cada" in Spanish and is followed by a singular noun. Good grief! I keep coming across examples like this. At the top of the up escalator in Pontevedra station a large notice says "No Trespassing", which is not quite the same as "No Entry". And I came across a shop selling shoes and bags and other bits and pieces: purses and belts and fancy scarves. Across the bottom of the window it said, again in "English", "Shoes and Complements". Somebody had not found out that "complementos" translates as "accessories".

You see, it's not just menus that are poorly translated. It happens all over the place. And I know that the reverse happens in England. I come across awful French and Spanish in shops and restaurants there too. It's just not quite so ubiquitous.

Here, English is super-fashionable and even though everyone tells you that they, the Spanish, are really bad at learning foreign languages, everyone still feels they know enough to splash it around on public signs with great confidence!

Friday, 18 August 2017

Safety first!

I watched a woman on the bus with what I presume where her two grandchildren. The younger of the two was a charming little girl, probably just under a year old, sitting up and smiling and interacting with the passengers on the bus. The grandmother didn't seem to know how to put a brake on the buggy. She held it precariously still by jamming her foot against a wheel. The child was strapped in around her waist. There were straps for her arms to go through but these were just dangling empty. I wanted to tell the grandmother that if the bus lurched there was a strong possibility that the buggy could be tipped over and the delightful child tipped out sideways onto her head. Of course I didn't do any such thing! The older child, by the way, probably four or five, had secured himself with the strap intended to hold wheelchairs safely on the bus.

Also, sitting in a cafe this morning, I watched an elderly person trundle past on a mobility scooter, laden with parcels. The scooter was being driven on the ROAD, amongst all the traffic. So people on bicycles feel they need and, indeed, have the right to travel on the pavement while someone on a mobility scooter rides on the road!! The cyclists usually go much faster than mobility scooter riders. And I'm pretty sure that riding in the midst of traffic exhaust fumes can't help whatever condition makes the rider need a mobility scooter in the first place.

The world is more than a little crazy.
A journalist declared that the white van is becoming the weapon of choice. This after yet another terrorist attack involving driving a vehicle into crowds of pedestrian. At least thirteen dead and a hundred injured in Barcelona. And then not long afterwards another similar attack in Cambrils, about sixty or seventy miles from Barcelona.

And President Trump is reported to have responded by tweeting and retelling an already discredited story of terrorists being executed with bullets dipped in pigs' blood. This is supposed to be a method of persuading the terrorists to desist?

However he has received criticism for not condemning strongly enough the driver (not a terrorist? someone prepared to copy terrorists though!) who drove his car into anti-republican protesters in Charlottesville. And I read this morning that a Democrat is taking steps to demand the impeachment of the president for just that failure to condemn the Charlottesville car driver. Where will that get to, I wonder!

On the good news front, Malalia Youzasfai has achieved the A grades she needed at A-Level to win her a place at Oxford. Life takes odd twists and turns at times. Had she not been shot for demanding an education, would she have ended up studying at Oxford?

Mind you, somehow, I think she might still have brought herself to the world's attention one way or another.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Being rather Spanish!

Today I found myself doing a very Spanish thing.

This is sometimes a very strange-seeming country. Drivers frequently ignore red lights when it suits them, although usually only at pedestrian crossing as far as my limited experience tells me. Motorcyclists drive short distances on the pavement, again when it suits them. Cyclists zoom along at speed on the pavements - but that happens in the UK as well! You can park in legally designated spots adjacent to pedestrian crossing, even though this obstructs the pedestrians' view of the traffic and the drivers view of people waiting to cross. People park ON pedestrian crossings, on corners, even sometimes on roundabouts. And, if they plan on stopping for only a short time, people double park. Keep that last one in mind.

Because we do not have a bank account here in Spain we have complicated arrangements for playing the rent on our flat. We do all our dealing with the landlady's 40-year-old daughter and every so often she comes round and I pay her a few months's rent in advance in cash. It works fine and everything is documented. Whether she declares everything to "hacienda" is her affair.

Anyway, this morning we had arranged for her to call round. At the appointed time she telephoned me to ask if I minded going down to meet her outside the flats. She had just arrived and her baby had chosen that very moment to fall asleep, the way nine-month-old babies do. She was loath to disturb him, almost certainly waking him up getting put of the car and then having to settle him down again after the visit. So I went down and there she was, double parked! And I looked at paperwork, handed over money, signed relevant documents and was given receipts ... standing in the road next to a double-parked car! Wonderful! I must be acclimatising!

As I said, this is sometimes a very crazy country.

However, as far as I know you wouldn't get the kind of thing described in this excerpt from an article on racist attitudes and violence towards black women in the USA:


I had been documenting police violence against adult women of color for almost a decade when I learned about the case of Jaisha Aikins, in 2005. Jaisha, a five-year-old black girl, was handcuffed and arrested at her St Petersburg, Florida, school for essentially throwing a temper tantrum – as every five-year-old has done at some point. The school’s administrators and some media commentators justified putting a five-year-old in handcuffs on the grounds that she “punched” the school’s vice-principal, as if the little girl had hauled back and clocked her, rather than flailing at her with tiny hands while in the throes of a tantrum, with the force of a child.

It was clear from video taken of the incident that the vice-principal was not hurt and that Jaisha eventually calmed down. In fact, Jaisha was sitting calmly in a chair when police arrived in response to the vice-principal’s call to arrest an unruly student. Even after discovering the student was a kindergartener, three white armed officers nevertheless proceeded to pull the little girl’s hands behind her back to put them in handcuffs as she cried and begged them not to. Jaisha was taken to the police station in a patrol car, but released to her mother’s custody when prosecutors refused to file charges against her."

Thank goodness for prosecutors sensible enough not to press charges!

And here's another example, from a news report I came across earlier this week: "An Alabama law barring teachers from having sex with their students was ruled unconstitutional Thursday by a state judge who also dismissed charges against two instructors who were facing 20 years behind bars for sleeping with students. Judge Glenn Thompson dismissed charges against a former high school teacher, Carrie Witt, 44, and David Solomon, 27, a former aide at a different school."

Now, which country seems the more crazy?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

More celebration stuff.

On Sunday evening, after Phil's chess game, we stopped off in Pontevedra for something to eat with our friend Colin, making our way to the station in time for a train at about 10.20. In theory we had plenty of time but leaving the old quarter was made difficult because of the "Peregrina" celebrations. A procession was making its way to the chapel, walking the statue of the virgin through the streets in that very Spanish way. Our route was blocked by onlookers and dignitaries. This was rather pity as I would have liked to take some pictures. but on any case we had no time.

On Monday, the tournament over and a celebration lunch - best veteran trophy once again! - eaten, we stopped for a coffee near the station and looked at the paper. There we found photos of some aspects of the celebration, including this one of the "tradicional baile de las cintas", the traditional ribbon dance.

From the look of it, the "tradicional baile de las cintas" is essentially exactly the same as a maypole dance. What most struck me was the similarity between the costumes of the men involved in the dance and the garb of the traditional Morrismen of the north of England. No doubt this is another Celtic tradition which crosses all boundaries and takes no notice of EU regulations or Brexit.

I apologise for the poor quality of the photo, which I pinched from the newspaper.

Here's some stuff I found out San Roque, also known as Saint Rock in English. He dates back to the 13th century and is invoked against the plague, among other things, such as cholera, epidemics, knee problems, plague, skin diseases.

He is a patron saint of dogs, falsely accused people, bachelors, and several other things.

Today is his day.

And of course Vigo has a "festivo" for San Roque. After all there is a district called San Roque. According to the Vigo turismo webpage San Roque is Vigo's most traditional urban religious celebration. (Even more than Semana Santa???) This is what the webpage tells us:

 "During the San Roque festivities, every 16th of August, the milagreiro (miracle maker) saint turns the neighbourhood surrounding the San Roque pazo (where they keep its statue) into the largest urban pilgrimage in Vigo. The celebration maintains all the customs of traditional celebrations in the countryside, a romería (religious celebration in honour of a saint).

Every year, thousands of devotees gather in the vicinity of the Praza de España, in the neighbourhood of San Roque, to keep the largest pilgrimage in Vigo alive. Votive offerings are the most typical part of this celebration: the custom is to buy wax reproductions of diseased body parts to ask San Roque for a cure. The saint’s devotees guarantee that the 'holy milagreiro' is able to heal all ailments."

 I suggested that Phil should go along as he sometimes complains about knee problems (see above for the powers of San Roque) but he seems not to be interested. I can't imagine why!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Celebrating things!

Today is "festivo", a public holiday, the Feast of the Assumption, when the Virgin Mary is supposed to have been transported up to heaven, I think. It's a public holiday in Italy as well: "ferragosto", when everyone has a big family meal ot set off on holiday somewhere.

Tomorrow is also "festivo" in Vigo, but not, I was told, in the rest of Spain or even in the rest of Galicia. It is the feast of San Roque, whoever he is. Maybe he is the patron saint of Vigo. On the train the other day I heard two young women taking about the "festivos", one of them wondering why there are so many. The other explained that it is because there are so many saints in Spain. Not just that there are so many saints in general; she was quite possessive about it, declaring, "We have so many saints". She made it sound as if there are more in Spain than elsewhere. Is that even possible? Surely a saint is a saint everywhere! No doubt somebody will put me wise.

As there are two "festivos" on the run, I found myself wondering if those who like to make a bridge connecting the weekend to a public holiday will make one at each end and take the whole week off. It would make sense, of a kind anyway. But maybe Wednesday is too far from next weekend for a "puente" to be realistic and feasible.

This being Spain, the supermarkets close for "festivos", unlike the UK where just about the only one that leads to a mass shutdown is Christmas Day. Not even Easter Sunday makes them close, just reduce their opening hours. So when we got back from Pontevedra yesterday in the early evening I decided to pop into the supermarket next door for a couple of things. With the chess tournament on in Pontevedra we have been doing so much coming and going that very little shopping has been done. 

Well, either everyone had been in already, emptying the shelves while stocking up on food as the place would be shut for two days, or the supermarket was applying a policy of not restocking shelves until after the two public holidays were done. The place looked as though it was in the last stages of a closing down sale. Whole shelves were almost empty. There were only about three cartons of fresh milk left, of which I took two. I got the last box of six fresh eggs. There were however plenty of boxes of hard-boiled eggs! Almost no oranges! No packs of chicken fillets!

 It felt as if I was in a disaster movie, shopping in possibly the last supermarket in the world! And, clearly, I had arrived too late to get the really good stuff!!!