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Showing posts from March, 2010

"Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!"

I'd usually lived an urban life. I still was. But Peterborough is like an island of asphalt in a sea of fields and fens whereas my past billets had been urban through and through.

One morning, I was on my way to some meeting and it was still earlyish, maybe 8.15, as I parked up in Chatteris and went into a newsagents to buy a packet of Hamlet. Chatteris is in the middle of the Cambridgeshire Fens. Two old women were nattering to the shop keeper and, after a while I began to fret. "Excuse me can I just have a packet of Hamlet? I have the right money." The Shopkeeper stared at me, the women turned slowly to stare. "It's not that busy - wait your turn," said one of the customers - not spiteful, not angry, just surprised. I remember that scene as though it were yesterday.

Yesterday, I went to buy my paper from the kiosk. There were five or six very lively, very noisy, only just, teenage girls in front of me each buying their 20 cents worth of the Spanish equiva…

Facades

There are lots and lots of nice buildings in Cartagena with frontages that are described as Modernist or Eclectic - apparently the period from 1873 to as late as 1944. There are so many in fact that lots of them are in a very sorry state.

I was passing the new Town Hall buildings just now and I saw they had an exhibition on about some of the facades that they've been doing up in a plan that started in 1997 and goes on till 2011. Apparently the Regional Government gives a grant of up to 75% with the owners picking up the tab for the other 25% and the Town Hall overseeing the total project. The idea is to look after the grade 3 listed buildings, the ones that wouldn't get help otherwise. As lots of the buildings have shops and commercial premises at street level they had to compromise there and allow contemporary styles but they've done things like remove blinds and signs to try to make the buildings simpler and more aesthetically pleasing.

The before and after photos made m…

Keep it special, keep it secret

Maggie was looking at frocks or something in Zara and I was entertaining myself by staring at the chewing gum on the ground, reading posters and watching people go by.

The posters on the boarded up shop opposite were for some bands at a venue called Sala Stereo. I always like the idea of bands. On the few occasions that I get to see any I find the noise deafening, get bored after 10 minutes and don't think they sound anything like as good as Such and Such a band that I saw some 20 or 30 years ago.

Anyway Sala Stereo is safe. The bands they were advertising were for the 13th and 20th of March - long gone. Just in case I'd noticed them before the sell by date the organisers had wisely left out the address for the venue, the time of the performance and the entry price.

Maggie was still doing whatever it is that women do in clothes shops before deciding not to buy so I went around the block to see if the Byzantine Walls Museum was open. I was sure I'd read somewhere that they…

Babble

Sometimes we try to get involved with community things and go to village meetings. Maggie goes to her staff meetings of course. We laugh about it. Four Spaniards, five conversations. It can be isolating. It's like going to the pictures. With a romcom where one person speaks to another we keep up fine. James Bond on the other hand, where critical information is passed as 007 is being chased by lots of baddies, lost cause.

I was just watching a gossip show on the telly. Two women were arguing, they were both speaking non stop but it wasn't like two British politicians shouting each other down on the Today programme. The Spanish women kept moving the conversation along despite the never ending stream of high volume words.

I'm not sure we'll ever learn that.

Assumptions

I've still got some cheese in the fridge for shipping but most of it has now safely reached its destination.

I was asked to use a very famous international carrier. When the shipment is ready I give them a call and they send a man and a van. The first time the van driver took a while filling out the packing note - the to and from details. When I got my copy I noticed that on the line titled Street he'd put the city whilst the street was on the line called Name. I thought at the time that it showed how little ordinary Spaniards know about the World - that neither a word like strasse nor the name of a big German city was recognisable to this man who deals with parcels all the time.

By the time he came to collect the last lot of cheese we'd seen each other four times so he was a bit more chatty. "Pah!" he said, "bloody international forms, they're in English, I have no idea what any of these lines are for, do you know what Country means - is it país?" …

Unification

In Pinoso there is a hill made out of salt. Salt has been big business in Pinoso for hundreds of years. Nowadays they inject high pressure water into the mountain, the water dissolves the rock salt and the resultant brine is sent, by pipeline, to Torrevieja.

In Torrevieja there are salt lagoons. Salt has been big business in Torrevieja for hundreds of years. They let sea water into the shallow lagoons, allow the water to evaporate off and then scoop up the salt. The brine from Pinoso goes into the lagoons along with the salty sea water. More salt for your money.

Torrevieja is just along the coast from us over the border in Alicante.

Babies

On the back of El Pais, a newspaper, they run an article where a journalist chats to a celeb over a bite to eat. It's a sort of mixed restaurant review and celeb interview.

The bloke today was called Antonio Garrido Lestache and he's "famous" for setting up the system that is used to identify babies at birth in Spain.

He got worried that it was pretty easy to put bracelets, toe tags etc. on the wrong new baby when they were all together in a hospital baby unit. Suddenly the fruit of the union between Mr and Mrs Jones could become a Smith, or vice versa. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

He instigated a system where, as they were slapping the baby's bottom (Forgive me, my knowledge of midwifery comes from old Westerns), they were also taking the fingerprint of the right index finger of mother and baby. Difficult after that for anyone to continually misidentify a child either by mistake or as some sort of scam.

The Post office asks you to use correct addresses and postcodes

I had a slip in our letterbox to say that the Post Office had been unable to deliver a small packet and that I should go to the local office and collect it before 17 March.

It's the first time that I've had to collect anything here in Cartagena but there was an address on the slip - Calle Submarino, 63 - just up the road. There is a Post office at Submarino, 63 but it's new and it's not open yet. I wandered around a bit with the distinctive yellow and blue slip in my hand. A passer by took pity "The Post Office is just up there, turn left by the Pharmacy." I did and there it was but at number 4, Calle Santa Teresa.

Bit of a joke really.

Squeaking shepherds

One of the joys of Spain is eating out. Not always for the food, a pal of ours typifies Spanish food as chop and chips, but certainly for the raucous, life embracing atmosphere of it all. Maggie and I usually stick to the fixed price, all inclusive, set meals that provide inexpensive if usually uninteresting food.

Menus, the sort that describe the food available to buy with a price alongside, are not particularly commonplace in Murcia and Alicante away from the tourist areas. They are not unknown or even uncommon but, eight times out of ten the menu will be delivered by the waiter or waitress in the time honoured "Today we have..." style.

Nowadays Maggie and I don't usually have any problem with food language or understanding what we're ordering. Been there, done that. Every now and then though someone offers us something we've never heard of in which case we either ask or, much more likely, we ignore the unknown quantity because we really fancy something else o…