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Monday, 29 September 2008

I forgot to say that the other day I was delighted to see that I am not the only one reading this blog, so thanks Mike the Trike for your interest and also for letting me know I am not the only one who can hear the strange sounds from the other flats. When I ask my Spanish friends or neighbours they all seem to say the same thing, usually 'what dog?'

It's very easy to get nothing done...........I realise that it took me so long to get this blog up and running because I spent the first few years on a spectacular bender in Spain. 24 hour licensing didn't exist in England and so it seemed incredible to me that I could go out at any hour here. All that has changed and now this town has curbed its licensing hours, I have curbed my drinking and the obvious has happened back in Blighty. I have fond memories of illegal drinking holes in Soho and the desperate measures we used just to have a drink. When I think about it, the problem was more to do with having somewhere to go and chat till the small hours and less about the drink. Just before the 24 hour drinking was introduced I remember we went back to London and spent half the night searching and pleading with various establishments and ended up in a stranger's house with a bottle of wine she found in the cupboard.

Apart from the insomnia and the ability to socialise at whatever hour another reason ( there are more) for coming here was the discovery that there is a fiesta somewhere in Spain every day. This seems to be true here especially in the surrounding villages. In France there is a cheese for every day, in Belgium it must be beer, The Netherlands is probably some vice or another and Britain it must be a gripe or a moan. The first time I really understood the meaning of 'Whinging Pom' was in New Zealand whilst watching the tele and some Brits where disgusted at the hurricane that had ruined their holiday in the Caribbean.

I used to scoff at the things my mother sends me through the post but I often find them useful especially for teaching English and for any metric conversion. I was a bit perturbed when she mentioned that she'd popped some issue of The Lady but the articles have come in good use for students here. I drew the line at a magazine that went by the dubious name of This England which bravely declares itself 'Britains Loveliest Magazine' but somehow it doesn't seem out of place on my shelf after all the shennanigans of the last few years. My favourite has to be the Dairy Diary with articles like Meat to Please You and Eating For Health ( as opposed to just eating ????) This diary came with the Mini Dairy Diary and opening at random I was reminded that in the same week King George the Third was declared insane, Norman Wisdom was born, not in the same year of course.

Piti kicked off around lunchtime and it seems the only way to cope is to join in. He soon shut up as I howled my house down. I heard one of my noisy neighbours tell me to shut up which I think is a bit mad seeing as they can't hear any of the noise they are making or the dog or anything for that matter.

It seems the 35 million Euros spent on our new Palacio de Congresos is going to be justified now that the Dance and Theatre Festival begins this week, never mind that hardly anyone goes and if they do we have the lovely renovated Olimpia Teatro and The Matadero, a converted slaughterhouse.

Talking of new, we have what seems to be another 'new' political party. The UPyD, El Partido Union Progreso y Democracia, as if we need any more, parties, progress or democracy! They will soon have a HQ where they can attend to 'members and sympathisers', somewhere people can complain about the Pharaonic actions of the council. Let's see what they come up with..................

Sunday, 28 September 2008

I have been reading about some men who decided to shove a petrol bomb through the letterbox of the publisher of a book that hasn't even come out yet which allegedly has sex scenes between the prophet Muhammad and his child bride. The headline starts 'Muslim gang firebombs....' Instead of saying Muslim, Islamic, Islamist, perhaps we should start using the words 'anarchist', saboteur, or Luddite even. Extremists of an Islamic bent in Britain just seem to be taking Punk Rock a bit too far. In the future I see an advert that begins ' Now a bank manager? You too can relive your wasted youth listening to CDs of the Koran. Maybe I have got it all wrong and the rebels were trying to burn the publisher's house down because the book is guaranteed to be a load of shite, either that or a publicity stunt gone very well.. When people say things to me like 'What? You have never watched an episode of Big Brother or X Factor?' I always ask them if they have read The Satanic Verses and then tell them 'same thing really, you're not missing anything'.

On the theme of religion, a woman with a very Aragonese accent, meaning we are in the Wales of Spain, rang me to ask when my husband would be picking up the lamb that needed to be slaughtered. Being Aragonese she was adamant that he had ordered one and it needed picking up today. I assured her we were not in the habit of buying lambs in this way but she didn't give in. When I finally told her my husband wasn't Morroccan and hailed from The Netherlands she started to apologise. Being parsimonious, the Dutchman's first question was 'have they paid for it?' and I could see his mind hatching a plan to get hold of the animal. Being fair haired, blond and known to attend the occasional mass might give the game away but this is Spain and surreal things often happen.

One of the most ridiculous has to be trying to get the number plates changed to Spanish ones. Being the type of person who needs to have everything in order the Dutchman decided to get this done and embraced it with the kind of zeal expected from someone who can be best described as Teutonic in these situations but only when he isn't listening as this kind of insult would inflame anyone from The Netherlands. After six months of paperwork, visits to the police, the MOT people, and Golf in Germany and England and searching for numbers that would prove he wasn't lying about any part of the car he finally got the new number. Having a certain amount of Irish blood I wouldn't have bothered and would have waited to see how long it would be before I couldn't get away with it. So he happily pootled off to a key cutting-cum-shoe repair shop that goes by the name of, wait for it, Mr. Minit with all his papers and a spring in his step. So it was much to his chagrin a week later to find out that Mr. Minit had only made one number plate. He seemed surprised when the by now apoplectic Dutch was threatening to do a Basil Fawlty in the middle of the Coso Real Shopping Centre and start thrashing everyone with whatever was at hand.

Back to today. It has been surprisingly quiet. I haven't heard a peep out of the priapic Piti the poodle. We took a wrong turn on our country walk this afternoon and found ourselves trudging over what looked like a minefield. I thought we'd never get out and wondered what we must look like as if any Spaniard would care, but it still troubled me as a woman walking her dog saw us scrambling out of some bushes as we finally got back on track. It is a small town where everyone knows one another and extremely gossipy. Nothing ever goes amiss and for a Londoner this has taken some getting use to. I feel sorry for others though. Like the Dutchman's 'gynaecologist'. He calls all his pupils by their profession so there are numerous from his 'chemist' to his 'vet'. But it is the gynaecologist who must dread stepping outside as the womenfolk leap from every corner enquiring about their 'problemos abajo' and I am sure they do as there doesn't seem to be the kind of embarrassment here that exists in The Atlantic Isles when it comes to enquiring about your nether regions. More on this subject soon...................

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do and so it was that I found myself in my neighbour's flat watching Spanish TV. The neighbour and the flat were not a problem but TV of any kind is a always a conversation killer and often feels like it is leading to death by misadventure. So sitting through an episode of what looked like It's a Knockout where grown men dress as eggs while being chased around by a bull would not be my first choice of a Saturday night's entertainment. We try to get away from things but they follow us. Thinking you have left it all behind by moving to a town that is the one you should go to if the world ends because it is thirty years behind on the best of days isn't always a good move if it means you have to accept that there will be days when you spot a poster of a guru whose face you last saw plastered all over Bayswater some twenty years ago. Anything remotely hippy, alternative or New Age has arrived by the gutful. Then there are the bands. I had never heard of Gong until I came here and hope I never have to hear from them after the mind boggling spectacle they gave here a few years ago. Now I see The Slits are coming to town. I hadn't heard of them the first time around and now they follow me to make sure I do now.

The pigeons in Trafalgar Square if I remember rightly, make a sort of cooing sound. The sort of sound that would be preferable to say, a neighbour cutting into sheet metal for hours and hours. Pigeons here, just to be awkward bastards, make a sort of lowing noise. The first time I heard them the Dutchman decided to impress me with his skill at getting rid of them. It was a hot day and he was naked and stood at the window shooing the beasts and flicking at them with a towel. Being Aragonese pigeons they stood their ground so he decided to throw some water over them by using a coffee pot but didn't anticipate the glass part wasn't attached to the plastic bit and would leave and fly in the direction of the pigeons shattering against the walls and waking up about twenty Spaniards from their siesta, pissing off everyone, man and beast.

The crime rate here seems to be relatively low but every now and then something awful happens that beggars belief. Apart from these shocking events there seems to be lots of thieving going on and it always puzzles me the items that shop lifters seem to nick. Two men were caught 'acting suspiciously' last Wednesday in a shop with their get away driver outside. Inside the car were 40 bottles of booze and 19 items of cosmetics and various bits of 'bisuteria', cheap jewellery were found on the two culprits. It made me wonder who they were trying to woo.

Talking of hoodlums, the police put up a barricade to stop the lunatics who have been driving up and down our street of a weekend but only after one of them killed several people and chopped the legs of another after crashing into a group waiting outside a nightclub that was on the edge of town. Not wanting what I was dreading was going to happen repeated in town they have been putting up this barricade for quite a while only for the drivers to move it by tossing it next to the rubbish bins. I noticed tonight there are two posts that have been stuck in the ground. Let's see how long this lasts.

Whilst driving along Calle Tarbes today, a street famous for lack of consideration when it comes to drivers giving way to pedestrians, we saw another reprobate, a pigeon walking across the road along the zebra crossing and the driver on the other side stopped for it and waited patiently for it to get to the other side.

Friday, 26 September 2008

I can't really complain about the Spanish NHS especially as there is anecdotal evidence that I was shouting 'don't leave me in the hotel!' to the Dutchman during my 'estancia' at San Jorge hospital. However, I am getting rather concerned at the volume of prescriptions that seem to be growing as we speak and the cupboard groans everytime I put in more medicines or Spain Killers as the Dutchman calls them. He told me one of his pupils who happens to be a chemist is off on his holidays again. Yes, with my money. I am going to have to keep an eye on this as I am beginning to think it would be healthier and cheaper if I took illegal drugs.


On the subject of teaching, one of his other pupils had to do sentence rewriting, which is very popular here, and had the following examples.His face is always sad...he is a sad faced man. The food looks tasty. It is a tasty looking food. No wonder he will never be out of work.

I'm not sure what it is about the Dutch but they have a worrying tendency to share a similar sense of humour with the Spanish. The Dutch think it is funny to take the Mickey out of the Belgians and think it is hysterical that some people take it out of the Irish. After putting up with crap Irish jokes recently I thought I would see how they feel if I started on them. What do you call a man who cycles up a mountain above any vegetation line where he can buy sausages and sweets when he could have gone up there in a car and taken a nice picnic? A Dutchman. What do you call a man who climbs up and then over a mountain range, gets to the other side and then asks 'is there a bus back to France? A Dutchman. What do you call a man who decides to cross the Pacific on an inflatable banana with a trowel as an oar? OK, I made the last one up but the others are true and funnier than any joke about an Irish brickie.

I had a mini revelation today as I looked up and saw a Red Kite, that I would probably never go back to England. It was reassuring as opposed to the usual angst of 'what have I done' when I realise I have left the motherland for sunnier climes. It is nice to live in a place where you don't feel as though people might stab you. I am not sure I could go back unless I was rich and could afford a chauffeur to pick me up from the pub.

The sound effects from our flat seem to be coming from a radio play. The footsteps clip clopping from God knows where, the strange muffled sound of someone crying, snoring, and then talking in their sleep. Piti continues to howl but then he would as the bickering neighbours next door have had to close their windows on account of the cold so someone or something has to make up for the silence. Spanish friends have confessed to not liking silence and have admitted to having the tele on so as not to feel alone.

If there is anyone out there keen to rob a bank look no further than our local CAI. I don't wish to encourage criminals but there is a sign on the wall in the open plan office warning potential robbers that the door that leads to the safe is alarmed etc but I was amazed to see one of the staff take a key to said door from the top of a cupboard and let himself in.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Aragon

When Zaragoza won whatever it is to host the Expo, Huesca jumped on the bandwagon and insisted it would feel the effects and benefit in some way. I remember thinking this is exactly why the Zaragozans call the Huescans, or Oscenses, a bunch of 'Fatos'. A cast of idiots who think they are the best at everything. So it comes as no surprise that the PP here are claiming the whole thing was a fiasco in regards to the knock on effect expected. There are rumours of empty buses that were meant to ferry the hordes of people clamouring to get to this backwater and cancelled catering. Lining and pockets are the words I think I'm trying to grasp. If you think that punters at an Expo are not going to be satisfied with walking around for hours and that they can't wait to hop on a bus and go for an hour's drive to another town that has little else to offer then you deserve to be called a 'Fato'. If I express these feelings here I will only get labelled a PP supporter which couldn't be further from the truth so I'll just leave it for now...................

On a sadder note I've just found out one of my favourite birds the 'Quebrantahuesos', ( the 'Bone Crusher') or, I believe, the Bearded Vulture as it is known in English has been found dead in the Ordesa Valley. It was a chick that had been released after being raised for five months as part of a captive breeding programme if I understood the article correctly. I remember the first time I saw a pair of these magnificent birds in the valley of Broto and how I was left feeling awestruck.

I was given a Bonsai recently during my spell in San Jorge hospital and like a blog it needs nurturing and I'm a bit worried I am going to be a terrible parent to both of them. I've noticed my editing doesn't always work when I check my spelling and change punctuation and I'm not sure why this should be. So I think an early night is needed if I am to keep this lark up. Let's hope the bleeders next door don't start arguing at four in the morning and the bird who impersonates a submarine doesn't kick off either.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Aragon

I'm trying to find out if it is true that an Aragonese, one Emilio Bellvis, invented the mop. So much time and devotion is spent on this subject here. On the tele the other night they devoted at least half an hour on how great this invention was and showed clip after clip of a mop being wrung out that by the end of the programme I was exhausted. Along with that other great invention the lolly or 'chupachup' I can't think of anything else. As the Dutchman says, ' they are not quite the Internet though are they?'

Flats in Spain are designed to leave you thinking you have understood the Doors of Perception or have entered a labyrinth from which there is no escape. Lying awake in the early hours I will often wonder what the hell the other insomniacs are doing upstairs. Sounds of screws being dropped on the floor, sweeping and strange twangs resonate through the whole block. There's also a strange scratching noise which I first thought was mice but is always followed by the bloke in 3E flushing his loo. This sounds like an applause and I feel compelled to bow everytime it happens. The Dutchman decided to change a lightbulb at three in the morning and have a converstaion and I said that now I can envisage the scenarios upstairs better. The worst is the man who needs a cane to walk and I find myself thinking 'now he's going into the kitchen.....' In our old flat there was a woman who insisted on making the beds at seven in the morning whilst wearing high heels. You could hear the style in which she made the beds too. When the sheets are tucked in with such a ferocity and tightness that it is impossible to pull them back later on when you try to get into bed. Now we have the lovely Piti the poodle who howls the whole afternoon during the siesta and can only be silenced with a lambasting from the Dutchman who has been given permission and the keys to the flat by Mercedes, Piti's owner.

Noise aside, I've just found out The Colony Room in Soho is going to be closed down. I can't go to Soho when I find myself in London as the change depresses me. Maybe the change is also within me but that after hours feel was killed off when the government allowed bars to stay open 24 hours and banned smoking in them. I don't lament my salad days as I now enter my cake years with a certain gusto.

The longer I live in Spain the more worried I am that I am turning into some sort of Judge Pickles. I discovered Facebook today and find myself baffled. I don't understand people my own age let alone the youth of today. People back in Blighty are dismayed when I say I don't know who Jade Goody is or if I refer to a DVD as a video. I do know who Jordan is but can I really be the only person who spent most of my youth trying to avoid these people and from getting my head kicked in by them? Now I have to admire them for their honesty and ability to earn tons of dosh for just being celebrity rabble.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Aragon

If you want to make a written complaint here in Spain don't expect an answer and if you are lucky enough to get one, expect a total denial on their part. Don't expect the letter to start 'We are sorry that you found or felt.... ' either. Short of saying 'Que no!', the favoured response to anything, you will often find the tables being turned and you will be left wishing you had never come here with your Anglo Saxon prejudices. I am referring to a comical letter sent to me in response to my complaint letter after suffering at the hands of a certain Nurse Ratchett at the local hospital. Said nurse was described in said letter as 'on the contrary' to my perception of her, and had and I quote, ' the most experience and prestige on the nursing team'. Do I write back in my Anglo Saxon sarcastic way and say 'yes, I quite agree, the most experience and prestige in being a complete bastard' or do I pour my energies into something else, as having the last word here could go on for ever. At least I managed to take advantage of the side effects of the general anaesthetic to slag off our mayor by telling everyone on the ward that he was 'an African chieftan or warlord, un caudillo Africano, and the only reason he has so many bodyguards is because he knows I want to shoot him'. The longer he reigns the more he thinks he is some kind of guru. More of him soon......................

On a lighter note I couldn't help being interested in an article in the Times called something like '50 Things a British Girl Should Have'. Perhaps it should have been those she doesn't need, like chlamydia, drink problem, boyfriend who carries a knife... You wouldn't know it but you'll never get anywhere unless you own such useful articles of clothing like a beret and trenchcoat. The obsession with 50 this and that was thankfully whittled down to 10 for the ten books Not to Read Before You Die. I was glad to see Ulysees was one of them and believe Finnegan's Wake should have been up there too. These two and anything by Beckett should be avoided unless you are pissed and desperate then they might make sense. It helps if you have a bit of Irish blood or an Irish parent. Have you ever heard an Irish man or woman talking in their sleep? Almost as absurd as the Dutchman waking himself up laughing and crying 'what's the difference between I am and I'm mad? ' and then telling me 'it's 35'.

I have started a list of programmes I would like seen on TV. I still only have two, Muslims do the Funniest Things and Guess What Song I have in My Head. I hope this doesn't start a fatwah just for having an imagination. These are some of the things that roll around one's head when you have to contend with 'El Tubo' the weekly binge drinking that goes on outside my door. Don't think it is confined to Britain. Stick yer head out of my kitchen window of a weekend and it's like Merthyr Tydfil with a suntan.

Finally. I came here to 'get away from it' and 'it" follows me in the form of 32 casinos, 70 hotels, 232 restaurants, a hippodrome, golf courses and half a million shops or maybe it was half a thousand but then they should have just said 500. I am talking about the plan to open up a casino complex in Bajo Aragon in the Monegros Desert not far from here. I think it goes by the name of Gran Scala and it will be interesting to see where they get the water from seeing as there 'aint any. The theme of the recent Expo was water and a good enough reason for not going. I can't think of anything more likely to make me want to drown myself in the bloody stuff than paying 35 euros to queue up to see exhibitions, one after another on the same theme. Water or lack of is a big problemo in the Iberian peninsular and I hope, as not having been there I can not say, that the Expo has lessened the quid pro quo attitude that seems to be prevalent here.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Aragon

One of the reasons I am here is due to my insomnia. I wanted to live somewhere where it didn't matter what time you went to bed and sleeping in the afternoon could be a guilt free experience. I have to say that the siesta is the best thing the Spanish invented although the Aragonese will remind you they invented the mop. The man who invented the mop apparently invented or patented the first throw away syringe. I have no idea if any of this is true and would like the record put straight if anyone is reading this. If not, I will die happy knowing I have never had to get on my hands and knees to scrub a floor.

Getting back to the insomnia it was an article in the Evening Standard back home about Valencia if I am not mistaken where the emblem is a bat. That bat inspired me to come but I never made it to Valencia and ended up here, a backwater with all the provincial squeamishness you would expect from a town that other Spaniards have never heard of. I often wonder if the place actually exists but it doesn't take long before I am reminded by a local that the centre of the universe is here and of course I won't argue with that as, and I have said this before, you do not want to get into a discussion on anything with an Aragonese.

My only gripe with the insomnia now is the sound of the church bell tolling on the hour, the quarter past the hour, the half past and the quarter to and so I am often left thinking it is three in the morning when it is actually quarter to six. I say the church when I mean the churches and I can hear them all from San Lorenzo up to Perpetuo Socoorro. And on that note I must try to get some sleep as it is Saturday tomorrow my favourite day and the Lidl beckons........

Thursday, 18 September 2008

After reading the local rag and finding out that apart from a few escaped sheep the most exciting thing to happen outside these four walls was a spat between the local conservatives and socialists or fascists and the saviours of the world as it often seems, about raw sewage ( as opposed to cooked?) leaking into the already not very salubrious looking Isuela river. I got the gist that all was in order and very punctual added the lefty considering it had all happened one night during the first of September. I take it that means we were very lucky indeed.

Reeling from this news I thought I had better get a fix of British TV and found myself watching a video about a documentary called Tribe and well, you can guess what it is about. At one point the bloke making the documentary found himself with the local soothsayer, a sort of Bhuddist Patrick Walker somewhere in the Himalayas, and going by the subtitles bloke was in his past life a bad monk and had monkey and chicken to look forward to in his next. Maybe the sage had got it wrong or the translation and subtitles were on the skew-whiff but bloke was not very happy and carried the gutted look of a man who realises his raffle ticket has been called out by someone who has had a skinful and forgotten their reading glasses.

Talking of animals, during one of my meanderings around the town I couldn't help noticing an ubiquitous photocopy posted on walls of a little West Highland Terrier by the name of Dana who had gone AWOL for a bit and the owner was desperate to hear from him or her. The worrying thing was where Dana had last been photographed. The little perisher seemed to have stepped onto a railway line whilst posing for the photo and I couldn't help thinking the worst. There he was, one foot on the rail gazing lovingly upwards. Or maybe it was just a dodge and the trickster had jumped on the back of the next train outta here giving the town the finger.

Yesterday the Dutchman called me a lazy Catholic bastard which is a bit rich coming from someone south of the Rhine and who once claimed the Protestant work ethic wasn't in his remit. The words 'the dead arose and appeared to many' are often fired his way when he gets up the following day after getting in 'three sheets to the wind' the night before.Yes, it is that time of year when I wonder how I survive on nothing but fresh air and a late awakening but in about a week or two we will find ourselves unable to say 'no' to the many offers winging our way in the shape of mothers who realise their little Fulanita won't get anywhere in the world unless she learns the language of us imperialist bastards.

Friday, 12 September 2008

So Gorbachev, for it was he, came and went and in the meantime got stuck in a lift with our mayor Fernado Elboj. Witnesses claim the mayor, who thinks he is a socialist, had a face of pure 'lirismo' which we can safely assume means his dreams, 'humidos' or otherwise, came true that day. There are lots of words in the Spanish language which don't seem to translate well into English. The above reminds me of the day I let rip in the doctor's surgery after being accused of pushing in. When told not to get so angry I responded with 'I'm not angry, I am 'livido', thinking this meant I was furious but found out later it means I am of a pale complexion or colouring. I have no idea if this is true as people make things up here as they go along. The meaning of livido, not my hue.

While we are on the subject of bad translations, misunderstandings and general confusion, I am still trying to work out why the vending machine on my road is called '25 HOURS'. Round the corner I came across an advert for classes with those perforated strips you can pull off with the person's number on if you are interested but someone had stuck said advert on the inside of their window. Very convenient.There are loads of things like this all over town. The street sign put on upside down. The men taking the NO PARKING sign down. One of them dismantling it and looking over his shoulder furtively while his comrade helped support him on some railings they were using as a makeshift ladder. Later I saw the sign tossed aside near the rubbish bins. Around that time a friend parked her car legally and when she went back the next day the council or someone had put signs on either side of the car to say you could not park there and had given her a fine. Then the house with the number six stuck on the door but back to front......have you got an hour?

One thing you won't find here is a tabloid press. There is no equivalent of the Daily Mail to make you feel more depressed and that it's all gonna meltdown. Instead, there are if you can be bothered, programmes throughout the day but mainly in the afternoon which tell you of the awful goings on or going ons here which sometimes try to recreate the saga of the day. They vary and one that sticks in my mind is the sad tale of someone who left the handbrake off ( that phrase sounds like they did it on purpose...) while the car was parked on a steep road only to see it momentos later hurtling downhill and crushing a woman against a tree. I always wonder at the reconstructions they do of thse ghastly events. There was a mild earthquake and the reporters went to the scene as soon as they could and while they were there they pushed someone's lamp to and fro and then told us 'this is what it was like at the moment the earthquake hit...'

But my favourite has to be the 'poligrafo', the lie detector programme. I sometimes think I may have dreamt it up. ' That's right, he didn't meet Liza Minelli or Frank Sinatra, he didn't sing with Bob Marley and, he is NOT the father of Maria Teresa Campus!'

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Mijail Gorbachov is coming to town. I presume it is the same Mikhail Gorbachev but who knows? The queue for tickets looked pretty dismal at five o'clock yesterday and not the normal weaving around the block whenever an outsider decides to visit. The queue of twenty looked perturbed as the Dutchman and I approached, as if we might push in and deny them the chance of a ticket. They had that desperate look that only people who queue early possess whether it is for the sales or a cheap seat to see an ex-president lecture us all on the theme of the year, water. All to take place in the new 'Palacio de Congresos' that set the townfolk back around 35 million, never mind that the road I live on doesn't have a pavement. Should we go? Might we be missing something? The next day the Dutch had told me of a dream he had where he had found himself in the lecture hall of said Palacio, much to his chagrin ,and had stood up and sparked a fierce debate with Mr Gorbachev/chov conducted in Russian,one of the languages he doesn't speak when not dreaming and which exasperated the dreamland translator and blew the minds of the locals. After which he stormed out and bumped into Boris Johnson ,slapped him on the back and said 'all right Yeltsin?' So, no need then.

Meanwhile, the presumed author of the murder of a mayor up in the mountains in a land not unlike that you might find in a scene from Deliverance, will be getting a professional tribunal as opposed to a public jury. I have no idea if this is good or bad for the accused or the family of the dead mayor. It doesn't seem long ago that most of the village's 37 inhabitants were considered suspects. It can get quite scary up in them there hills.

I was wondering about the pronunciation of Ike as in Hurricane Ike and have discovered that here in Spain it is the same as it is in English which seems a shame as I was hoping to hear newsreaders pronouncing it 'ee kay' as in 'y que' 'so what?' with an Aragonese accent. Hurricane So What? should be the first in a new line in names once we have run out of male and female ones.

Monday, 8 September 2008

ARAGON

It seems that once the big summer fiesta here is over an air of lethargy sets in. The kids have got to go back to school, summer's over, the outdoor swimming pools start to pack up and even the dress code changes. This is the time of year I love. When nobody goes to the river and I have it all to myself until a family plonks itself right in front of me perhaps because if they don't it will be seen as anti-social. At times I find myself cruising along staring upwards at the birds of prey until I look ahead and on the road it is just me and the Dutchman in the car and a gang of vultures attacking a dead sheep on the roadside. Well, them not us. I counted 50 but there were probably about 70. They walked around the car for a bit and I just stared and swore under my breath in astonishment. Gradually they flew away but one seemed determined in true Aragonese style, meaning he was not going to budge. There was no way he was giving in. Before I came here I had never seen a mountain so vultures within a few feet of you sometimes require some expletives. What is the collective noun for vultures? A committee? A wake would seem more fitting.

After this we drove on to the 12th century Loarre castle built by King Sancho Ramirez as a defence against the moors. Now you can sit outside a cafe overlooking the Sotonera plains contemplating the castle or the sound of bees.

Despite the air of gloom that it's back to reality as far as work and school ar concerned, the Spanish can't quite let go of their fiestas. A great deal of thanks should be attributed to the church despite every other person telling you they don't believe in God and never go to church unless of course someone is getting married or dies or gets christened but not in that order. I didn't make it to the Romero or short 'pilgrimage/day out' yesterday which took place at the hermitage of Our Lady of Salas. If I had I would have been one of many who ate the 2,400 'tortas' that were distributed or quaffed some of the 30 litres of vino. The vicar claimed there were some 20 litres left. He wasn't too happy about the grafitti that greeted him earlier so maybe he needs to drink it. I must go and have a look and wonder how long it will take the council to clean it off. Apart from the town many of the villages from Albero Bajo to Villanua are either coming to the end of their fiestas or starting another one. I've checked the academic year and no sooner have the kids started school or should I say gone back to school full time as the younger ones only go in the morning we will be celebrating one of the biggest fiestas in Spain. Down the road in Zaragoza the 'Pilar' will kick off in about a month's time.

It's all happening here. From the local rag I gleaned that a fire broke out in the early hours round the back in the Avenida de Danzantes. Nothing unusual you might think but the use of the word 'fortunately' appeared twice in the short article. Fortunately there was only material damage and no personal damage meaning no one was burnt to death but it would have made a better story I am sure. Also, there were some 'momentos de tension' when it was feared that a police officer present, one can only imagine he turned up as there was f all better to do, had been overcome or 'intoxicated' by the fumes but fortunately he's OK. Good, hopefully he can still come round to sort out my noisy neighbours when he's got a momento free of tension.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

HAVING US ON IN ARAGON

If there is one thing I can not get used to after all this time it has to be the noise. It seems once I have sorted one set of neighbours out via educational means or measures via 'la Comunidad' or 'los juzgados' another lot surface to unsettle my nerves. I am not alone and find many Spanish people are just as frayed through lack of sleep thanks to their anti-social, 'individualist' neighbours. I have been patient with the latest rabble but it seems lines must be drawn. I can live with noise, the distant perennial sound of mopeds, the clashing of cutlery on plates, the opening and closing of doors, garage included. Sounds which confirm I have neighbours with lives. There are some people however, who can fry fish and make it sound like it's coming out of a public address system. After a meaningless telephone conversation with a raving copper where I thought I might at least get someone round to 'measure' the bedlam next door, ha! I decided to watch something that would prevent me from packing my bags and hitching back to the native sod. I have in my video collection various programmes that well meaning friends have sent me over the past few years to keep me up to date or perhaps to stop any home sickness from kicking in. I find they do have some effect and prevent me from abandoning my new home for colder, northern climes. A random choice led me to first watch a trailer of a programme starring Michael Palin and was advertised with a 'Guess who these people are?' Where do you think I am?' teaser. There were people pushing what looked like a blazing cheese down a hill, morris dancing and camel fighting, although not all at once. My first thought was 'Britain?' but no, it was our 'new' European neighbours who we obviously have more in common with than we dare admit.Despite Palin the other programmes led me to question the state of British TV. When I came to Spain I was struck by how shite the tele was and likened it to something that wouldn't look out of place in say, Bulgaria. I have never watched Bulgarian TV but I imagined it was on a par with Spain's, meaning similar in its shiteness. I realise now that you can not take the piss out of either after watching the bunch of hoodlums that appear on British TV. I remember when people were outraged at the antics of The Sex Pistols and Bill Grundy on the Today show and yet now any old bod can nail his scrotum to a piece of wood in the name of attention seeking. Wonders will never cease. Nevertheless, I did get to see some documentaries where I learnt that there are some sharks who eat their siblings whilst in their mother's womb and the most beautiful, hallucinogenic spectacle that is slug sex. If you don't believe me ask David Attenborough.