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Sunday, 17 October 2010


What was I saying about the lack of shops to go mental in? Maybe I should count my lucky starts (...and stars even ) and be grateful that rampant consumerism hasn't arrived at the shores of this town. The ,'Y tu? Donde compras?' 'and you? Where do you shop' posters seen all over the shop have been taken down and been replaced with what I predicted, a sign that tries to justify why I should part with my dosh here and not there, there being the Internet, Zaragoza or the outside world. There are about six arguments put forward as to why we should all be shopping here and not there and they are very reasonable arguments like 'if I have a problem I don't have far to go to sort it out and they sort it out quickly' and 'I believe in my town' or 'I love my town and I want to see it grow', or 'I know the people who sell to me and this means I can go about my shopping in a way that doesn't give me a nervous breakdown' and so on. Yes, all valid arguments but in reality we are talking about a 19th century service most of the time or a 21st one that tries its hardest to rip you off. My own Jihad against certain shops has been supported by many locals who agree with me that the owners and staff live in a delusional world. I have countless stories from the natives along with a few of my own on the shocking lack of customer service. On top of this, hardly any shops are open Saturdays. Of course not all are like this and I am welcomed with open arms at the LIDL, Mercadona, Schlecker, Lacasa butcher's, Vilas cake shop to name a few. Yet I am hardly going to go to another town for my fodder or order cake over the web, and I am really talking about shops that purport to be open for trade but receive their potential customers with a frosty air and a sneer not seen since I was bitten by a Doberman back in 1970.The real problem though is the lack of choice or the choice being as I have said before, between cheap schlock and overpriced schlock. This might all seem uncharitable and you may argue 'what do you expect from a small town such as this?' but sadly, the combo of rudeness and shite stock will not entice me and apart from a select few I will have wares peddled to me in other ways from now on.

On the theme of wares, my buys of the decade involve several sheets that appeared fine on buying but had that amazing trick of not being able to hook over the last corner of the bed and so always ended up pinging off. Not an easy task at any hour of the day. I am not alone with the sheet saga as I have stayed at several Spanish households where the same thing happens. I have been battling with a set of pillow cases that I need a shoe horn to fit the pillow in too.

A new shop has opened up on the main high street, 'el coso bajo', and it is called Class but with a K.
Another one that goes by the name of Feliciti, ( Happiness I suppose ), has opened up nearby and it has been given six months by Henderson. I spotted it a while back in Zaragoza and it is the sort of shop I made a bee line for when we first arrived as before the joys of the Internet were shown to me I would beg people to send me tea or books and other life savers. I never bought anything though but just drooled over some of the delicious looking condiments and provisions they have like Champagne marmalade. I went in there the other day drawn by the multitude and was struck by the way people looked at the produce on display like it was the most exciting thing but I had to agree with Henderson as I witnessed some rather stylish bog brushes languishing next to the very expensive wine section.

On a more positive note, the lack of goodies and products needed as I said to get one through life in the least prickly way have made Henderson and myself that bit more self sufficient, a trait I admire in New Zealanders. If we haven't got it we make it type of attitude. Not the pious bean counting make do and mend cult that seems to be sweeping certain areas of British life though. There is a limit to these things and someone needs to sell me stuff. So I will be getting my Champagne marmalade from Fortnum's not Feliciti I am afraid.

Lastly, my obsession with pavements, streets and ramps will be featured here today, my favourite being the pram ramp in the old quarter. I've added a vending machine too for a bit of colour as it is doing a fair bit of trade in the early hours of. An attack of the munchies it seems judging from the stoned bods who turn up to devour its contents.

Monday, 11 October 2010


Something has been troubling me today. More than Jeremy Paxman grilling Tory MPs on child benefit, Ken Loach and his 'communist claptrap (sic), and the general unfairness of it all,  I want to know how the Spanish dub Stephen Hawking every time he appears on the tele. I've asked around and most Spanish people tell me a 'normal' voice is used but I find this hard to believe and hope they make their voice sound electronic just to keep up with the general absurdities.

Less troubling is the fact that from Zaragoza to France there is nothing in the way of a shopping centre to buy one's necessities of life in the way of a decent wine glass, a pillow and some bed sheets. There are of course shops here and I would prefer to stay in town and give my money to the local traders but unless there is a shop that I haven't found the only solution is to head to that hive of masochism, IKEA and stock up on things that are supposed to make life that bit more bearable. I could get the things I need locally and pay a fortune or make do with schlock on offer but following the logic of my Dutch father in-law who sent his son miles on a bicycle just to get beer that was a cent cheaper, I schlepped off to the desert once more in pursuit of the above goods. As usual this involved a fit of pique at the till when I picked up one of those large carrier bags that will never be used again and found it to be half the size and nothing fitted in it. Instead of annulling the price or whatever it is they do in most shops in Europe we were told that we would have to go to customer services to get the bag thing sorted out. Twenty minutes later a plastic card was given and I returned to the girl on the till who asked for ten cents more and gave me a new bigger bag. So much for Swedish efficiency. Talking of Swedes there is a saying in Spanish that you can see in the restaurant in IKEA, another beacon for the Spanish to get as much free drink down their Gregories, which says 'Hazte el Sueco!!' This apparently means to pretend not to hear or understand when someone is talking to you. I'm informed that when the first tourists came to Spain in the sixties they came in the form of Swedish women who 'pretended' not to understand the Spanish. Not sure about this one though. Just as I am not sure about the Swedish groceries on offer as you leave the store. It comes in the form of what looks like rations, pickled fish and brown stuff. Anyone who eats this stuff is a degenerate and I can't see the attraction at all yet Spanish people were lapping it up.

On the subject of shopping which is fast becoming my pet hate of the year, I can give one example of why it is so difficult to buy anything here. I wanted to get some perfume that is only sold in one shop in this town and after that, Britain and Japan. The woman who runs the shop wasn't there the other Saturday when I went at half past six in the evening. The following week she told me that sometimes she doesn't open till seven at the earliest and prefers to stay open late, even till nine. I should have known this and am surprised she opens at all as most shops don't on Saturday afternoons. This all leads onto some adverts that have sprung up all over town which just have the words 'Y tu? Donde compras?'. 'And you? Where do you shop?' I have a sneaking suspicion it will be followed up with more adverts trying to persuade us not to go trundling off to France, Zaragoza or Barcelona to get our wares. In answer to their question I am afraid I will be shopping on the Internet from now on when it comes to goods and as for clothes, Saville Row or something like it beckons.