Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2010


Spanish drivers are very good about not knocking down pedestrians. In fact they are almost too conscientious and often pull up when there is nothing behind them to let a pedestrian across.

The photo is of a street just at the back of our flat. There are three crossings in the single shot. It's a quiet road but I'm sure you can imagine the near chaos this causes in busy areas where a few dawdling pedestrians on a series of crossings can cause tailbacks into major junctions.

Tapas route

Everywhere does it now. Someone in the tourism department of the town hall or, in this case the local chamber of trade,  persuades a bunch of bars to offer a tapa, a small snack, and a drink at a reasonable price. They then publish the list of participating bars as a route and away you go.

The first time we ever saw this was in Sax and in that case the route was only open for a couple of weekends between say noon and 2pm. In each bar, as you bought your drink and tapa, you collected a clue in the form of a jigsaw piece. The completed jigsaw posed some sort of puzzle and the answer might win you a prize. The time limit on the visits caused a lot of elbow fights.

In Cartagena the format is that the event goes on for longer - 16 April to 2 May this year - and that the tapas are on offer whilst the bar is open. You vote for your favourites and not only do the bars get the extra trade they also have the opportunity for the kudos of winning whilst you get the chance of winning prizes.


Museum duty

I found one of my English/Spanish exchange chums through something called the Bolsa de Idiomas. I've explained before that it's part of the youth service on offer in Cartagena. These are also the people who arranged the book club sessions.

In May, given it's name it couldn't really be at any other time, there are a series of events aimed at showcasing the talents of young people. It's called Much More May (the alliteration works in English as well as Spanish.) As a small part of the event on the 15th Museums and other cultural attractions in the City are going to open for free from 9 in the evening till 1 in the morning.

The youth service people are looking for volunteers to work in the museums for the evening and to "adopt" one of the exhibits or pieces from the various museums so that they are on hand to give visitors detailed and specific information about the "life and miracles" of each piece.

If I'm not too old I quite fancy volunteeri…

Fixing stuff

I went to the Gambia once. I was strolling down a candle lit street in Serekunda one evening and this man asked me if I wanted my white, Converse, baseball boots cleaning. He didn't look rich, I was loaded so I said yes. The boots were fashionably holed. I'd obviously misunderstood. This chap not only cleaned my boots but he patched all the holes with recycled canvas and latex gum.

Here in Spain they don't exactly squat on the floor as they repair things but repair things they do. I took a pair of Aviator sunspecs to the local optician and they resoldered the nose piece whilst I waited. No charge said the optician woman, you come in here for your contact lens solutions so I'm happy to do it. I was very pleased, I've had those specs nearly 30 years.

One of the sofas from the house in Culebrón received severe injuries during the roof repair. For months and months the sofas were left to fend for themselves, piled on top of each other and wrapped in thick black plastic…

How difficult can that be?

From time to time Maggie gets a bit impatient with my relaxed lifestyle. I can understand that, there she is suffering class-loads of tiny children whilst I have essential tasks to complete like popping across the road for a coffee. I cook a bit, clean a bit and do the household tasks like shopping and laundry but that's about it. I can't make it account for my lack of time.

It could be the intercambios - I'm now up to three each week, sitting in cafes with Spanish speakers failing to improve my Spanish or it could be the couple of English classes I give but that doesn't add up either. Maybe it's sitting in front of this screen. I spend a fair time writing these blog entries and writing occasional articles for the TIM magazine either to print or for their blog (though that seems to have slowed to a standstill recently) but my commitments are really few and far between.

Recently I've done some shopping for a company in the UK that "recovers" products …

Robbin' leccy

At a guess I'd say the small block of flats we live in is about three years old. Obviously then it's perfectly reasonable that it doesn't have "official" electricity yet. As you can see from the photo there is no attempt to hide the rather temporary nature of the connection.

When a place is being built the builders need power for their cement mixers and kettle so they arrange a supply with the power company. Once the building is finished the building's owners apply for the appropriate licences and someone from the Town Hall pops out, before or after breakfast, to make sure the place is safe and fit for use. With those certificates suitably stamped, stamped again and signed the owners can then arrange for light, water etc.

We know of lots of foreigners who have rented or bought houses only to find out later that their electric and water supplies weren't quite as official as they'd supposed.

Our landlady told us we were on "builder's electric&q…

Does David Cameron look like Nicholas Parsons?

I thought he had certain similarities. It's like our President bears a remarkable likeness to Mr Bean.

Bear in mind Cameron is a very minor political character here. Brown, like Sarkozy and Merkel, gets a fair few mentions in the media because he's a Prime Minister. I also know Gordon from the past, from a time when I could recognise UK politicians. Cameron and Clegg are new to me.

Remarkably, well I thought it was remarkable, the televised debate between the three main UK party leaders was screened on one of the 24 hour news channels here. It was done live and with simultaneous translation. The translator for Nick Clegg was a woman.

I have to say watching it made me quite cross. It sounded like all three thought that keeping those nasty, benefit seeking foreigners out of the UK was a spot on idea. I'm sure it was just my faliure to understand the Spanish.

Prime time TV is just after 10

My brother and sister in law have been with us for the past few days. They enjoy food and eating so, on the first evening with us, they wondered why we were dithering so much about getting something to eat. They were hungry.

It took a while for us to realise that there was a bit of a communication problem. We'd been talking about getting some sort of tapas to keep us going till meal time. They were too polite to say but they didn't really understand why.

As always I'm going for a gross oversimplification here so humour me. Generally the Spanish idea of breakfast is a cup of coffee or maybe some sort of chocolaty drink with a couple of biscuits. Later in the morning they will have a slightly more substantial snack either from a bar or by eating the pack up they brought from home. Restaurants will start serving lunch at around 2pm and go on till 3.30 or 4.00. Dinner is a bit more variable, time wise, but most restaurants don't open their kitchens till around 8.30pm. Eati…

See what I mean?

A while ago I put an advert on some Internet site advertising as an English teacher.

After seeing the ad the owner of a language school contacted me by email saying that she was looking for someone who spoke good Spanish as well as English and did I fit the bill? I replied (in Spanish) saying that I was sorry but that my Spanish wasn't too hot. It was a very short message but, because I remembered to put an accent on a simple word, the langauge school owner came back and suggested I give her a ring.

We spoke in English for a while then she said we should speak in Spanish. A few sentences into the conversation she said that my Spanish was OK. My response was "Pero hago demasiado errores" which is supposed to mean "But I make too many mistakes" - it's a direct translation from English. It's not what Spaniards would say, they would say "I commit too many mistakes" or "Cometo demasiados errores."

And it's stuff like that which upset…

That'll be a pint then?

We were in a bar trying to swill away the taste of a terrible Chinese meal we'd just eaten with a decent cup of coffee. We were sitting at the bar.

An old chap came in and asked for an English beer. He was handed a bottle of Heineken.

I've been told about this. In the past, in the North of Spain all foreigners were called Frenchies but further South all foreigners were English. I suppose, by extension, all foreign things were English. It gave me a laugh though.

Watching the snow

Spain has switched off all its analogue television broadcasting. We now have TDT, Televisión Digital Terrestre. I don't know what it's called in the UK but its, terrestrial broadcasting, the stuff that comes in through a standardish looking TV aerial and which used to require one of the set top decoders before they started building them in to all those nice flat screen sets.

It hasn't affected us at all because all of the major broadcasters have been transmitting digital signals for ages and we've watched digital telly in Culebrón for the last three or four years, for most of the time we were in Ciudad Rodrigo and here in Cartagena. The available channels vary a little from area to area but we currently have about thirty stations (including the dross such as shopping channels) and maybe ten radio channels. Nonetheless, some of the smaller broadcasters, the TV stations that broadcast within one town for instance, were only available through analogue signals. When I was …