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Sunday, 21 November 2010

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

There is a joke I love and is often quoted, 'what do you call twenty lawyers at the bottom of the sea? '  'A start', and so it was that I saw about twenty or so councillors and presumably the mayor the other day congregating on the Plaza Bolinga, AKA Plaza Alfonso Batallador presumably to discuss the state of said plaza and what they are going to do about it. I think it was April 2009 that I wrote about the soon to be pedestrianisation of this square which has been an ongoing process of fifteen years and sunken pavements. Back then I was quite positive and hopeful that work would commence pronto but then I had to admit that my breath wasn't being held. The latest is that work on this area will take place after the Christmas holidays and will continue for three months,so like the lawyers above or should I say below, it will be a start but then again who knows? who cares? Not me any more.

I have forgotten to mention that the mayor Fernando Elboj is no more. He hasn't died but he has been replaced, last July I believe, by one Luis Felipe who only today held the door open to the Casino Cafe, AKA Cafe des Artes for me and Henderson. 'I hope you know who that was?' I asked old H and he misheard me and said ' yes, I did say thank you to that man for holding the door'. Not knowing what the new mayor looks like is probably a blessing as the last one was congratulated by Henderson on his 'retirement' some months before the last election.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

VIVA SAN MARTIN!

If the explosions inside are heart stopping then the missiles just launched can only mean two things. Civil war or the fiestas of San Martin, the barrio next to mine. If you brave the cold you will be rewarded with a hot potato and chocolate and then get chased by gigantes, or cabezudos, a kind of overgrown puppet with a big head but with someone inside it. You see something similar in England but it is usually a bear at a football match or someone handing out leaflets. Here it is in the shape of a giant papier mache black woman and her accompanying clown and they chase children up and down the streets of the barrio San Martin, often with what looks like a baseball bat. I took my sister and her friend once and of course they found it all sinister but you get used to these things after a while

Meanwhile back at the ranch the folks next door are still at each others throats despite the warning from Mercedes. Piti the Priapic Poodle has been on his best behaviour or rather he hasn't been home much as Mercedes has to dump him on anyone who will have him after the police were called out for her a few times after his renditions continued.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

LA COMMUNIDAD PART DOS

Then there was the time he decided he would ring me every day just for a chat. I say a chat but it was more of the heavy breathing type of natter only he kept asking for English classes or there was a dull silence on the other end, so dull that I knew it had to be him. I did wonder if he was thinking on the lines of the dreaded 'disciplina ingles' that the Spanish like to joke about. Little does he know how restrained I have to be as there is nothing I would like more than to give him a good kicking. His only knowlege of the lingo is 'speek eeenglis?' anytime anyone remotely foreign passes by, that's when he isn't throwing stuff at them, anything he can lay his hands on, cigarette butts, yoghurt pots, the entire content of his ashtray slammed against the railings of his balcony for added effect. He likes gardening too, which involves him 'trimming' his ivy that has grown around the balcony and then dumping it in a great pile on the street below. The men who work in the office below his balcony are often greeted by him gobbing on their heads or if they are lucky a shower of confetti, his bills and ours probably, being torn up and launched into the air. There is an almost poetic feel to his actions as he goes about his daily business and perhaps he should be accompanied by music wherever he goes, maybe the theme tune from the Omen. He is outstanding at being the most odious git anyone could aspire to and deserves a medal. Sometimes he tells me to 'go back to Germany' in Spanish, or 'importada', an import or something like that. I saw him the other day chasing his cleaner up the road, the poor woman turning around every few seconds to tell him to leave her alone and that she didn't know him so God knows what he has done to her. Mercedes, who is la presidenta this year, had a little 'chat' with his 'wife' the other day to complain once more about his unreasonable activities nocturnal and otherwise, and seconds later all I could hear was a wailing banshee, her screaming, the 'wife' that is not Mercedes. 'How could you?' she cried, and 'cerdo!', 'pig!' etc. She has one of those annoying voices at the best of times, the 'wife' again not old Merche. A sound that resembled toothache while waiting to have your head cut off by terrorists would be more soothing on the ear. I was seriously worried by this sound she was making but the other neighbours just told me to leave her to it and hope they, the 'wife' and Mr C, kill one another and do us all a favour. The Spanish have an expression for when you die or pass on that goes along the lines of he has gone to 'el otro barrio', to the other neighbourhood which isn't reassuring as I always thought it might be run on the lines of Canada or New Zealand and not a place where you find yourself in a queue with Mr C and Piti the Priapic Poodle and looking at your maker and telling him/her, 'these two have got a lot of explaining to do'.

LA COMMUNIDAD

It seems incredible that I am on the verge of losing my voice when the effing bleeder's wife next door hasn't shut up for nine years. The month of August required someone or other from the community to ring the police due to the shennanigans of her husband and her good self. He first started to take a nap in the hallway nine years ago and since then has slowly progressed up the stairs and drops right outside my door in a state of inebriation. Now he has decided to go the other way and starts nodding off by the letter boxes downstairs, the very letter boxes he stole from with the aid of tweezers and when he was caught out and reported he decided to break them instead. He opened all our mail which then led him to tell everyone in the lift that he had paid his mortgage off but we, the neighbours however, were 'hipotecados', mortgaged up to the hilt. He still tries to push this argument when I tell him off for lying in a state all over the floor and proceeds to tell me I have 'nothing', unlike him who has paid off his mortgage presumably, as the rumour goes that he embezzled the bank where he worked, believed to be Santander a while back. He recently had his phone cut off as his wife has to bang on our door at four in the morning to ring the police for her when he goes on one of his rampages.The police have been known to come round four or five times in one day thanks to his wife locking him out or leaving her keys in the door so he can't get his in. This sparks a massive row and him banging the door and screaming at her to open up. The other day he faked a robbery. I heard him shouting downstairs and ran down thinking someone was being attacked but there was no one there just him hallucinating again telling me he had been robbed by some gacho (?), his money and ID taken. The next day he couldn't get in so started to ring all the door bells and then the police came again and told him to look for a room at the Hostal San Marcos who didn't want to know and sent him packing. He came back, did a repeat performance and was then carted off by the police who threatened to take him to Santa Clara which might mean the nunnery down the road or slang for the 'manicomio', the local mental institution. Maybe they should have called Saint Jude the patron saint of lost causes. The following night a woman with no teeth was calling up at the window asking him or telling him 'por dios', to let her in. I could then hear her high heels prancing around the flat till his wife slung her out. I say his wife but theirs is a weird relationship as they argue morning noon and night and really should enter a contest as they have had thousands of arguments all around the same time of day that you can set your clock to them. Henderson says he found the woman in a magazine, the neighbour, not Henderson and says she is really a Brazilian prostitute and as a man of the world I don't doubt his analisis. The woman seems to be deliberately driving the man insane and to drink in what appears to be an attempt to kill him so she can inherit the flat but he is a typical Aragonese, very stubborn and despite a pickled liver has no intention on going anywhere for a while. He must be about 80 by now and she not much younger than him. Outstanding really. Chapeau as they say here, I take my hat off to them. They defy any medical advice. I call him the effing bleeder but Henderson uses another more appropriate but unspeakable to polite ears word and begins with the letter c. He is actually called Antonio and is on first name terms with the police. He also has 'mucha fama' when it comes to court houses too and the community where we live has denounced him several times. The worst was when I had the unfortunate task of being 'la presidenta' of the community for a year and ended up denouncing him for having a J Arthur in front of the flats. If you are not familiar with rhyming slang the above is also known as a cab rank, but if you are still none the wiser let's just say he was masturbating which was the word I had to use when the judge asked me to explain what exactly it was that Mr C was up to that night he caused so much misery and disbelief amongst the neighbours. The denouncement on behalf of the the community was termed 'humiliating injustices'. Mr C was unaware that someone had filmed him in the act of self abuse and despite having a young ambitious lawyer grill me as if I were San Lorenzo himself, the judge found him, Mr C, guilty of what the judge classed as 'movements which evidently constitute an action which goes against the most elemental, moral and ethical norms of a citizen'' and which 'perturb the normal daily life of the rest of the community who shouldn't have to put up with such behaviour'. He added that Mr C's complaint or appeal that someone had had the audacity to film him having a good old tug was invalid as it wasn't as if said movie maker had filmed Mr C in the intimacy of his home, 'the very place he should have carried this act out in the first place'. I particularly liked the judge's conclusion that  my testimony in his opinion was one of 'forma verosimil and con franqueza' which shouldn't need a translation.
I think his priceless behaviour though was when he went to Brazil with his lovely lady wife and came back here without her. Mercedes upstairs asked about said wife and Mr C said 'oh her, she died'. A week later the woman in question came back to Spain and almost gave Mercedes a heart attack as she came spinning round the corner on Mercy Lane. There was also the time he flew head first down the stairs at Bar da Vinci and ended up in hospital for six months. We all thought we had seen the back of him but there he was, delivered by taxi, back to do it all again, a real trooper, smoking like a bastard and standing naked on his balcony pissing off it. He tried that again recently despite being denounced and just missed a copper's head, the one who had only moments before told Mr C that if the police were called out once more he would be fined 3,000 Euros. Perhaps his defining moment was when he was caught having a piss in the hallway just by the famous letter boxes and was again caught on camera and as he zipped his trousers up he waved a finger at the camera and said, 'Yo no', 'not me'.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

PLACIDO DOMINGO

While lying in bed with 'anginas', swollen glands I believe, I couldn't help hearing a debate that was emanating from the tele which was all to do with poppies and seemed to have been sparked off by one Jon Snow. Why anyone would listen to him in the first place I don't know as he is I believe a news reader for Channel four and once in a while is allowed to play with a swingometer.

Poppies aside, I realise that above glands are a result of recent revelling in the mountains and one or two parties down here in the town. This has become a bit of a recurring theme over the past few years as the weather changes abruptly and I find myself inside smoke filled bars rather than outside on the terrace. These and Henderson's insistence on leaving the windows open whenever we stay in the mountains regardless of plummeting temperatures at night.

We recently went to my favourite restaurant in the province, Casa Frauca and as always were not let down with dishes of potage, spinach crepes, wild boar, lamb shank and the best cheese cake and chocolate 'soup' I have tasted in a while. With a nice Enate I pondered a thought I had years ago that had the words 'come the revolution', 'fine dining', and 'I will probably be' in it. The chef came and sat with us a while and said they had been worried what with the recession and all but turns out they broke all their records that day despite the country being on its knees. Without any more information it could sound like the place was full of decadent folk or those up to their eyeballs in debt but if you do find yourself in the valley of Broto, head on to a village called Sarvise to above restaurant and for around fifty euros you can eat like a king.

We also had a few shindigs too, just to burn up some calories. Our friend Rosa put on a mountain of 'picoteo' for her birthday and invited a bunch of the nicest friends you could wish for. We all took turns in blaming the local 'mafia' from preventing the town from advancing, Especially the theme on shopping which we all seemed to agree on. Another topic was on how one must be careful what one says in Spain about folk as they all seem to be related. This led to a catch phrase of sorts 'hostia!somos primos!' which translated into English is even more disturbing, '*uck me! We're cousins!'

On the subject of family, Spanish women don't change their surnames when they get married. Traditionally children take their father's name before their mother's but now the Spanish government has decided in the name of equality to allow either parent's name to come first. The whole thing is explained better in today's Guardian and how some famous Spaniards would have had different names under this new rule like the architect Gaudi would have been Cornet.

I prefer the idea of English translations of Spanish names, famous or otherwise, like Dolores Fuertes, Strong Pains and Faustino Cebollero which might be Faust the onion maker, and not forgetting Domingo Malo, Sunday Bad.

Lastly, the rats. How could I have forgotten? I saw two last week in the same spot, running under a broken door in 'el Tubo' the grottiest bit of our street where all the bars are. This area is usually awash with vomit and a sort of treacly feel underfoot but the alcohol spills must surely keep germs at bay and the morning vomit cleaner does his rounds with machine and hose. Anyway, the following day there was 'mucha consternacion' when a photo appeared in the local paper with a rat in 'el Coso', the main high street, and a selection of locals looking on aghast. The 'audacity of the beast! Running along the main thoroughfare in 'plena dia!', the middle of the day! What next? Foxes? Fireworks in the middle of June? I'd like to think there was just the one rat running around town but we all know this is never the case especially if you have lived anywhere in London where por supuesto, the rats are the size of cats. The next day the same photo appeared but this time the shocked onlookers had all been airbrushed out. I have yet to get to the bottom of this but it must surely have something to do with being associated with the dirty beast.

Night night, Yours Miguel Campoviejo.