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The old man is snoring

My mum is here with us in Cartagena at the moment. To welcome her it's raining. A sort of persistent English rain, heavy at times and very wet.

Rain is not that common in our part of Spain. It happens of course but it's quite unusual and often it pelts down for a while and then brightens up pretty quickly. It has been raining on and off now for about 24 hours.

I popped out to a bookshop last night and about half way there, past the point of no return, it began in earnest. I realised as I walked that the rain causes certain behaviours on Spanish streets.

The first thing is the magical appearance of umbrellas. Where people hide their brollies is a mystery to me but, as soon as it starts, out they come. They're a menace. Sharp pointy spines to scratch along the side of my head as a normally narrow person misjudges their new width. It's an attempt to do what a whole arsenal of sucker guns failed to do in my childhood.

Just as the rain starts there is the wall hugging. Spanish buildings tend to have the first floor projecting further out than the ground floor. This means that one side of a town street usually has a metre wide dry patch beneath the overhang. Those of us determined to keep going walk, single file, in the relative dry. At times it's a bit Little John and Robin Hood on the log bridge but without longstaffs. Deviations are also necessary where the overhang causes an Iguazu Falls effect or where groups of pedestrians, hopeful of a quick let up, have huddled together in shop doorways. I am sometimes tempted to join the few (typically short sleeve shirt wearers) who have decided to be pretty zen about the whole thing and walk soddenly, but determinedly, along the centre of the unprotected street.

When it rains cars come out in force. Pedestrians become drivers and traffic incidents are commonplace as the white carriageway markings become almost invisible on the monotone streets and roads.

Maggie tells me that, when the rain is heavy, school attendance drops away dramatically. As my mum said "Good job that doesn't happen in England - nobody would ever go to school."

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