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Showing posts from December, 2009

More lottery

This is playing havoc with my cleaning. The radio people have just interviewed a woman from a bank who is hanging around the draw somewhere ready to offer big winners preferential interest rates for putting the winnings in her bank.

In the process of talking to her it turns out that money launderers also hang around the draw. They offer to buy winning tickets for more than their winning value as a way of laundering and legitimising dodgy money.

And keep your head when all around are losing theirs

I'm cleaning the flat now and still listening to the draw.

The lottery draw is made up of two "tombolas" one spits out the winning number (and as there are numbers 00000 to 99999 there are a lot of balls!) and the other spits out a prize amount. One of the two children sings the number and the second sings the amount. When it's a big winner the children have to sing the number and amount several times as they show the numbers to the crowd, the judges etc. Singing the numbers in the format seventy eight thousand two hundred and ninety four time and time again must be quite stressful. Plenty of room for error.

Just now a another fifth prize was drawn. The number singer stopped before she should and, quite clearly on the radio I heard the amount singer say "canta" sing, quite forcefully to her partner. I think that young lady may grow up to be a good person in a crisis.

Christmas for sure

I'm just pottering around the flat and, in the background, the youngsters of San Ildefonso school are singing out the winning numbers in this year's Christmas draw, El Gordo. It's almost like plain chant "such and such a number miiil euros" - the prize that gets you 100€ for your 20€ stake. As a foreigner it's definitely one of the most Spanish sounds I know and an absolute sure sign that it really is Christmas here in Spain.

Just as I was about to publish they've drawn the first of the big prizes, fourth, worth 20,000€ per tenth of a ticket. Not mine I'm afraid. They must be keeping the fat one for me.

And there goes the fifth prize, just 50,000€ or 5,000€ for a decimo. Still not me. And yet another fifth prize, I may never get to finish this post!


Closing in on 30 years ago now I went to a Spanish class in Peterborough with a teacher called John Richardson. On the first night he asked us why we wanted to learn Spanish. I said that I wanted to be able to buy a beer. He lied to me and said that would be easy. I still have trouble getting a beer. Other people in the group said that they wanted to learn the language because they had just bought a house in Torrevieja and wanted to be able to talk to their neighbours. I distinctly remember John saying that it seemed that half of Peterborough had a house in Torrevieja.

So there have been Britons in Torrevieja for over 30 years and it shows. We went there to buy specs. We went to Specsavers because I had heard that they were cheap. From the initial phone call to the final fitting everything was transacted in English and the only Spaniard I encountered (to my knowledge) in the whole process was the optician.

Specsavers is in a shopping centre and the principal language throughout the co…

Cold and wet

I always enjoy the little throw away lines that suggest we are living in somewhere just a touch warmer than Penzance; you know the sort of thing - pleasant day yesterday so I put on the shorts and we had a barbie in the garden, a nice even 23ºC, not bad for December.

So I should tell the truth. We were in Madrid over the weekend and on Sunday it was perishing, that sort of cold that seeps through your clothes and leaves your ears burning. As we arrived back in Alicante to collect the car it started to rain and by the time we got back to Culebrón it was hissing it down. And cold. It didn't stop pouring all the way back to Cartagena and it hasn't stopped all day. The thunder last night was making the building shake and today it has been cold as well as wet.

The TV news has been full of pictures of snow all over Spain and, by all accounts, the rain in Culebrón has now turned to snow. The local radio for Murcia province was recommending snow chains for the roads out of Yecla and t…

Billy Bunter would like it

Christmas in Spain is a time for hampers and the box, basket or packaging says as much about the quality of the gift as do the actual contents.

Christmas is a time for draws and lotteries too. I've written before about the big Christmas lottery - the event that really marks the beginning of Christmas for most Spanish families. So, as you may imagine loads and loads of bars have a big christmas basket behind the bar and they sell tickets to give you the chance to win it. Schools do it, neighbourhood associations do it, political parties do it - lotteries and hampers and Christmas go together.

The Christmas baskets are usually based around a ham. Having a proper ham at home for Christmas is along the same lines as mince pies or Christmas trees or sprouts in the UK. They're Christmassey and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without them. You may not like "Eat Me Dates" but there they are on the table. The hampers can contain anything though the essentials are booze, …

Sneakiness and booziness

I went to pick Maggie up from Alicante, El Altet, airport. She's been away for the long bank holiday weekend in the UK and by her account she spent most of the time in shops. She says it was a bit cold and grey and wet but very dynamic in Liverpool. By contrast I'd stopped off in Alicante on the way in. There were people sunbathing on the beach and it was a very pleasant 23ºC but the town looks much the same as it has for years and years.

Maggie had flown out of Murcia airport and it was the first time I'd been to Alicante for a while. Since I was there they seem to have sneakily built a whole new airport! It's not operational yet but it was a bit of a shock seeing all those shiny glass buildings as I drove in to the car park.

And, as we left the toll motorway on the drive back to Cartagena, all the traffic was being pulled over (Imagine trying to pull over every vehicle leaving the M6 toll!) and the drivers breathalyzed. It was the first time ever. I hadn't touch…

The Film Festival

Outside the Ramón Alonso Luzzy Cultural Centre there were big posters advertising the 38th International Festival of Cinema in Cartagena. Coloured spotlights shone onto the brickwork of the building. Inside though the building was still and quiet. The security guard seated at a small table just inside the main door glanced up momentarily before returning to his paperwork. This wasn't quite what I'd expected. The publicity said that entrance was free to all the films but there was a warning note "to the capacity of the auditorium." I had taken this to mean turn up early if you want a seat. And turn up early I had, about 40 minutes before kick off. I retreated, I knew a bar just round the corner where the coffee was cheap and good and, as I wasn't driving, I had a stiffener too.

I went back with about twenty minutes before the advertised start. The place was still pretty quiet but people were moving about. I followed a group who seemed to know where they were goin…

If only I were more like Margaret

Although Maggie must disagree I don't think of myself as being particularly stupid, or thick or even slow to catch on. Nonetheless I often find Spaniards treat me that way. It's a function of the language of course - if you can't speak properly you're obviously an idiot.

One of my pals, who has a sister living in Germany, says that when Germans patronise her because of her abilities with German she speaks to them crisply and confidently in English just to put them right. I don't; I just crumple.

I fancy going to Madrid and I had a look on the railway website to check out the ticket prices. I came across an offer on a limited number of trains with a limited number of start and finish points and a limited choice of hotels. The price though was excellent and there were trains from Alicante to Madrid that would suit me fine.

The offer is through an established train travel company but these particular mini breaks are being subsidised by Central Government to give a ha…

El Corte Inglés

It's just a big department store. A department store with a garage to service your car, a travel agent, an optician, a dry cleaners, a post office and a supermarket as well as all the usual department store departments but, when all is said and done it's just a big department store. On a World Wide scale it's not even a big retailer - about 40th - though it is the third biggest department store in the World after Sears and Macy's.

The name means The English Cut because the original business was based on a tailor's shop in Madrid. In style today's stores remind me of John Lewis's, though it doesn't unfortunately have the same "Never Knowingly Undersold" policy. It does though have smartly turned out sales staff who usually know their products and work in well lit, sparkling clean and generally good looking shops. The big difference though is that for Spaniards Corte Inglés isn't just another shop it really is an institution, a point of ref…