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Showing posts from March, 2011

A bit bigger than 12 gauge

If you ever feel the need to launch armour piercing shells weighing 885kg and loaded with 18 kilos of TNT a little over 35 kilometres out to sea then I know where you can find exactly the device to do it.

885kg by the way is about the weight of the current Fiat 500 car.

Just down the coast from us at Azohía there is an abandoned, but well maintained, fortress that houses two rather fearsome looking cannons. The fortress was constructed between 1928 and 1936. The guns themselves were built by Vickers. Their barrels are 17 metres long with a calibre of 38cm. Not quite wide enough to launch that Fiat but pretty big nonetheless.

You're going to need 20 pals to help you fire each gun and you'll probably need to fill in some official paperwork, this being Spain, but it would make you the envy of anyone who thought they were pretty cool because they owned a pair of Purdeys.

Fabulous location too. Nice bit of the coast.

Aren't belts interesting?

It may not be a hard and fast rule but, in my experience, Spanish belts and English belts (presumably all manufactured in Indonesia, Bulgaria or China) are different.

In the picture a Spanish belt. See the stud a few centimetres from the buckle? It's not a stud, it's actually a screw and post fastening that unites the buckle to the length of the belt. Undo the screw, lop a length off the belt and put it all back together and you have a shorter belt that doesn't either have visible dodgy amateur holes punched into it or a loose tail that dangles and catches.

Spain: the place to buy if you're a belt wearer losing weight.

Making gestures

One of the slots on the radio news channel, Radio 5, is full of tips for saving the planet. Insualte your house, burn horse manure, put gizmos on your taps to save water and unplug your mobile phone charger when not in use. The slot is headed up and rounded up with a phrase something like "Make gestures: your gestures are important. Fight Climate Change." The English word gesture and the Spanish word gesto, used on the broadcast, are subtly different but the idea is plain enough - make small changes; to do your bit for the environment.

Spain gets a lot of its oil from Libya and you may have noticed that Libya is a little unsettled at the moment. Consequently, the Spanish Government is a tad worried about the potential for an increased fuel bill and the disastrous consequences for the creaking economic recovery. Last week, the Interior Minister announced a reduction in the speed limit on motorways from 120 kph to 110 kph and a reduction in the ticket prices on suburban trains…

Getting a word in

Here in Spain the language is cared for by a committee of the great and the good, the Royal Spanish Academy. Every now and then they publish a new dictionary or a new grammar. In reality though it doesn't matter much what the academics say because native speakers the World over are, as I delight in telling my students, the owners of their own language. So if my nephews want to describe a thing as sick, meaning that it is good, then so be it.

Yesterday morning my Spanish class was a real headache; the teacher spent a couple of hours explaining the use of a verb structure to me that required not only a relatively complicated grammatical construction but also a philosophical understanding that was way beyond me.

In the evening I went in to work for my evening teaching sessions. What had originally looked like a free hour was assigned, at the last minute, to a young woman who had asked for extra tuition in preperation for an English exam. Her grammar text book was in Spanish but it wa…