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Sunday, 27 February 2011


I'm reading, amongst other things, The Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones and despite its rave reviews I feel I am reading the dubbed version. Some books translate well and it's impossible to read everything in the original but this version doesn't feel right. I find it hard to walk out on a book once I've started so on I will go. One of the things I've noticed about the book is there are similarities to the town we are in. The word medieval springs to mind, and while I don't think the locals would have me lashed to a beam and flogged to death there is still a surprising amount of fear and loathing that harks back to the dark ages. One word that everyone dreads is the word 'verguenza'. ' Verguenza' is a hard one to translate especially when you don't have any like me. It's one of the reasons I don't wash my windows so the locals have something to gossip about. Verguenza depends on how you say it as it could mean ' oh, she is a bit shy' say, if you said it about someone who is too timid to talk, but the verguenza I am on about defintely is a throwback to the past that is still with us. It has to be accompanied by the words 'que' or 'una' to instill any verguenza you might think you lack. It's a sort of bare faced cheek and down right rudeness that would have a Brit writing to the proper authorities. This is probably why in Tripoli, the last to leave are the Brits, not because their government has abandoned them, but because everyone else was climbing over one another to get on a plane while said Brits where sitting bolt upright saying stuff like 'it's a disgrace, look at them, savages, I'm going to write to my MP as soon as I get back'. Here you can walk past folk on corners, inside shop doorways and hear the words ' UNA VERGUENZA'. People prefer to pretend everything is OK and smile and say 'good morning' but really they are having a good old dig at what you are wearing or how you had the audacity to tell Mrs Fulanita to not spill the contents of her rugs from a window overlooking your terrace. There are mornings when I feel I have stepped onto a scene from a Monty Python film with the various old harpies hanging about on street corners gossiping away. They see me, smile, curtsey even, then launch into one about how I had the nerve to tell Mercedes to have her poor dog Piti put down. In Spanish to have a dog put down the word sacrificiar is used, to sacrifice, and in my imagination I can see myself holding the beast aloft, pleading towards the heavens or over an altar begging the gods to take him off my hands. Nobody here likes dogs especially the ones who have them. There will always be a few exceptions but Piti is a good example of this.

Meanwhile,the local council have had a brainwave. In an attempt to start somewhere they have got a campaign in the offing, wait for it, to give out special bags to encourage folk to put their dog shit in one of these bags as opposed to leaving it for me to tread on. There was a campaign not long ago and surprisingly it worked and now sand pits and areas of gravel are no longer used as a dog toilet. When I arrived ten years ago I was shocked to see these areas being used as toilets and the words 'verguenza' should have sprung to mind but I was new and fresh and thought I shouldn't comment as I had no right to. How that has changed and I think nothing of telling people what I think of their 'verguenza. The great thing is, I don't have to write to an MP and unlike Britain, up to now I won't be stabbed either.


I wrote this at around seven this morning and didn't anticipate some of today's events. I read the local paper later and discovered that the article on the dog shit campaign has resonated through the town with people commenting like never before and seems to have kicked started a dialogue at last. I didn't realise that contrary to what I have said above, there are loads of areas still being used as shit dumping grounds, but maybe I just don't notice anymore. On top of all this, Mercedes left Piti howling all afternoon so I rang the police and a police woman came and said she wasn't going to denounce Mercedes under the noise act but for something called tenencias de animales which I already have a copy of and showed Mercedes months ago which she threw on the floor. When the police woman left I heard her have a word with M and M just launched into one about how we play our music loud etc. The 'y tu?' attitude which mean that no one is perfect and if we are all anti-social no one has the right to complain. 'You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.....' (sic)

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