Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2012


Plenty of Spanish people ask me why I came to Spain. They expect my answer to be "for the sun" but usually I say "It's because you're all anarchists." This meets with various levels of approval from "How dare you!" to the equivalent of "Ha, ha!" In truth though I don't think that it rings a bell with the majority. I may think the Spanish are anarchists but they don't.

Lots of people die in traffic accidents here because they don't wear their seat belts. Police officers don't wear seat belts when they're driving. Major building work in a town centre will often have JCBs dodging around the milling shoppers. Safety gear is still a bit mamby pamby for most workmen. The sign says "Keep off the Grass" yet the grass is littered with picnicking families. Dogs must be on a lead - and of course they aren't. Parents snatch the sticky sweet papers from their children and throw the litter to the ground. Standing at …

The joke's on me

My mobile phone operator, Movistar, sent me an email about my latest phone bill. I wanted to know when the payment will be taken from my bank so I clicked on the email link to check the payment details. I got an error message to say that the site was temporarily unavailable.

This is a standard occurrence. The Movistar site fails more often than it works. I'm not busy so I decided to write to them and complain about the general unreliability and complexity of their website. Their email form made the job of complaining quite difficult. I had to choose from various drop down menus none of which were specifically about their web site. The form itself was a brilliant example of the the poor design of the website.

I found something on the form which was vaguely Internet related and vented my spleen. I pushed the send button. A 404 error message came up. Web Page not found. I backspaced to have another try and the homepage came up. The homepage apologised for the general unavailability …

Old whatsit

I'm not good at names. I never have been.

Some forty years ago home from University unexpectedly I spotted my dad looking in a shop window. I went over and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned on his heel, scrutinised me carefully and asked me who I was. It's a skill he passed on to me.

Good Lord, it's just struck me that there's another possibility, but no, I'm pretty sure he was my father.

This inability to recognise people is a bit of a problem where I work. I have some fixed classes and I generally remember the names of my regular students with only the occasional lapse. I have lots of classes though where I have no idea who will be in the class till moments before it starts and sometimes not till after it has started. It can be quite embarrassing to be greeted effusively by someone who I recognise but whose name has just escaped me for the moment. I have turned it into a bit of a joke, a gift reserved for age and suchlike.

The National Statistical Office pub…

Do you understand?

Lots of Spanish men have grey hair and quite a few are as tall as I am. My clothes come from Spanish shops and I have my hair cut here. Nonetheless people recognise me as a foreigner long before I speak. I too play the game of recognising Brits in the street. I'm often right though I'm far from infallible - sometimes they're Dutch, German or Belgians but mostly, when I get it wrong, they are Spaniards.

Last night we went out to get a couple of drinks and eat something at one of the Cruces de Mayo bars. As is so often the case at fiesta type events we had to buy tickets first and then hand the tickets over at the bar in return for the food and drink. I suppose it centralises the cash handling, increases security and also leads to a slight over-expenditure on the part of the customers - just to be sure.

We joined the scrum at the bar. For once I wasn't too worried about shouting my order through the din. At the bar, there were price lists everywhere. Ordering would be ea…

Cruces de Mayo

Cruces de Mayo, May Crosses, is really an Andalusian custom. Murcia, the community, not Murcia City which all we Cartageneros learn to snigger about, shares a border with Andalusia. There are other strong links between Cartagena and Andalusia through the port. On top of that there is a lot of Andalusian blood flowing through Cartagenero veins for the Andaluzes who came to work in the mines out at La Unión.

For this, the first weekend in May, Andalusia is everywhere in Cartagena. Local groups tied in with the church, generally through the Easter parades, put up flower crosses as part of a tableau of Andaluz life. Alongside are the temporary bars selling local and Andalusian food. This year there are also lots of bars that have their own crosses possibly better reflecting the priorities of most people out on the streets. Food and drink first, religion after. It's as easy to get a glass of chilled fino or manzanilla as it is to get a beer. Women wearing the flouncy skirts and men th…

Problems in the community

One of my students arrived in the classroom long before the others. He lives in a small development with about 20 houses. He is the only Spanish family, all the other houses are owned by Britons. I'm sure this is excellent for his English.

Most housing within Spain belongs to some sort of community of owners. Our house in Culebrón doesn't but that's because it is completely self contained. We share facilities with nobody. The same isn't true of our flat in Cartagena because here we share the front door, hallways, stairwells, the lift, the façade of the building, cleaning costs etc. etc.

My student is having some trouble getting his British neighbours to share their burden of the community costs for maintaining things like the street lighting and the gardens. He wanted to know if we don't have to pay for water or electricity in the UK as none of his neighbours wants to!

Nobody turned up for a while to the class so we covered lots of ground - water rates versus water…

The Wine Horses

About 1250, the year, not the hour, the Christian defenders of Caravaca de la Cruz were thirsty. They'd run out of water and it looked as though the Moorish troops, besieging the castle, were going to capture it at last. But neither side had reckoned on a group of Knights Templar who loaded up some horses with wineskins (I suppose they knew what fish do in water) and ran the blockade. Situation saved.

So, nowadays, for a few days at the beginning of May, Caravaca has horses all over the place to remember and commemorate that event. The recreation of the running up the hill to the Castle/Church happens on May 2nd when horses and men run full pelt right through the centre of the milling crowds. For us though our day off was May Day so May 2nd wasn't an option.

For my Castillian speaking readers does this sound like a race to you? Concentración del Bando de los Caballos del Vino en la Plaza Elíptica iniciando el recorrido hacia la Plaza de los Caballos del Vino para el Concurso …