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Saturday, 29 January 2011

Do I need reminding that I live in a Catholic country? Well, obviously I did when I rolled up in Zaragoza this morning to find my favorite cafe the Levante was closed and much to my dismay, everything else by the look of things. I got that sinking feeling that somehow a fiesta was going on and no one had told me and despite living here for ten years I can't be expected to remember all of them. One of the reasons I moved here was on learning that every day somewhere in Spain there is a fiesta, but I had completely forgotten about San Valero who very little is known about but is celebrated every January 29th or today as it is better known. Part of the problem, or my problem, is not really knowing what day of the week it is especially if Henderson decides to do something against the grain like go shopping on Friday instead of Saturday. I suppose I should be glad that I live without the constraints inflicted on the rest of society and it was just for a few seconds that I felt like giving up when it dawned on me my trip to old Valero's hometown was fruitless. So I caught the bus back to Huesca and chose a bemused state to fight off the carefully concealed irritated one. There are moments when you think 'God, what a waste of time, all the things I could be doing now', and then you remember that some of those things might include the hoovering or bleaching and washing the tea towels, two things I have been putting off now for weeks.

Anyway, the journey back wasn't so bad as it always involves getting glimpses of the many birds we have here. The feathered kind I may add, this time in the form of a Milano Real, or Red Kite, which was flying close alongside the bus and then an eagle just a few yards away was glimpsed for a few seconds too. I took the Huesca-Jaca bus back and it was full of teenagers off to the Pyrenees to ski and those that didn't chat were on mobiles or watching DVDs and using laptops. I seemed to be the only one admiring the view but then I guess I have always been the type to be amused by what's in front of me, regardless. So apart from the wildlife I got a sneak preview of a film with Leonardo de Caprio, and enough gossip from all the chatting to last me a lifetime.

Lastly, probably because he felt sorry for me, Henderson took me to one of my favourite restaurants here called Hervi where the rabbit and bottle of Reino de los Mallos did the trick.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Well we went out last night to Bar Rugaca and Chairman Babby wasn't there thank God as I didn't fancy an argument with Huesca's equivalent to Citizen Smith. In his place were three waiters instead of the usual one or two which seemed odd as Babby had earlier declared in the local press that fewer people were going out thanks to the smoking ban. The bar is a small one and it's clientele remind me of the 'fauna' that used to frequent The Coach and Horses in Soho were I used to work. Last night still produced the usual rogues gallery and we were the last to leave around 2.30 and went on to Juan Sebastian as they often play decent music. This bar was packed out and of course someone was smoking and we left as like a lot of places this bar seems to be attracting a younger crowd who have no taste in music. It's a pity because when we first landed here ten years ago there were several bars that were run by men of a certain age and played the best tunes I have heard anywhere. Men passionate about music and eager to please when they saw us turn up with our requests for The Allman Brothers, The Kinks or Miles Davis. All things are impermanent.

On the flight back from Stansted, one that featured more turbulence than ever as it tore through the skies like a caterpillar on speed I had the misfortune of reading the Daily Mail and one Martin Samuel who confirms the intelligence of the journalists who write for this rag. Comment driving out fact. He believes the Spanish were (?) not like us with our 'endless red tape and rules and regulations' which reminded me of the time when Henderson who was then a smoker lit up a fag whilst waiting at the Police Station for his ID card only to be told by a copper that sorry, he couldn't smoke there and said copper was meanwhile puffing away like a bastard and pointing to the no smoking sign.Samuel claims he has always had a 'soft spot' for Spain with its hard porn and booze on sale at motorway service stations and even for its shit tele. Wonders will never cease.

I learnt a new word today that I am not sure is English or one of those Spanish words like footing ( jogging)or puenting ( bungee jumping). It is smirting which is a combination of smoking and flirting. I'm glad I don't get involved in either or at least when the latter occurs I think the other peron is taking the piss.

Lastly, I am still feeling stunned from certain events that happened over Christmas with family members and I am not sure if I should write about them but they might make an interesting script. One other thing that didn't involve a family member but a plumber needs to be mentioned. My mother rang a plumber by the name of CS Ray about two months ago to sort out a radiator which wasn't heating up properly and when the plumber came she asked him if he could also get hold of the walter ( ha!) filter they have under the sink to which my dad gave the bloke some money about fifty quid we think the geezer asked for. Bloke didn't come back and on my arrival I got my mum to call him up and I witnessed her make another appointment with him for the next day at 9.30. She was delighted as was I thinking maybe he had forgotten or had been busy or thought he was in Sapin or Spain even. The next day he didn't come and several phone calls proved useless. We left messages and finally a daughter answered who took the usual stance of a Brit who has been rumbled, the old ' there's no need to raise your voice to me' which I always take for an admission of guilt. Henderson and I drove round to his house and his van was outside. Just looking at the shitty van gave the game away but knowing we had to go back to Spain we didn't want my parents to have any repercussions. I rang the magazine which advertises Mr Ray and they were horrified as they pride themselves on not advertising cowboys. The woman I spoke to was hopeful it was a misunderstanding and assured me that normally when there is a problem it gets resolved but at eight o'clock that night she rang and admitted he wasn't answering his phone and that she would get in touch with another one to go round and meet us and let us know that he wasn't a rogue trader. I did wonder what the CS stood for, *unt and Shitehawke perhaps and it's a pity I don't live there as I wouldn't let this one lie despite Henderson and both parents saying we had to forget the incident. Everytime I go down to Dorset there seem to be hundreds of these stories of elderly people getting ripped off and people with dementia being robbed and swindled. It's what I said yesterday about the greed and I am often reminded of Bob Marley and his words on those who are trying to make the world worse are not taking the day off.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

GIVERS AND TAKERS

I've been away for just over two weeks to the Motherland and three things strike me whenever I go back which are as one Irish man said when referring to everything wrong with the Western world, 'greed, greed and more ***king greed. Everytime I go back to Britain I can't get over the amount of fat *ucks there are trundling around like out of breath sea lions clapping their hands at the sight of pasties. We're not talking portly, bosomy, on the plump side either. It was a relief to get on a bus at Zaragoza yesterday and be greeted by folk who while not gorgeous at least knew how to keep the weight down and be easy on the old eyes. Whilst walking round Poole which boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world I wished I had bought my sunglasses to water down the sight of people guzzling readily available foodstuffs whilst dressed in clobber that looked as if you could wipe a floor with. Even Primark looked as though it had gone downhill. Later that day a man on the tele was bemoaning the loss of sales from shops like HMV and Next while another was rejoicing the positive results at John Lewis. I was happy to not walk around Tesco's knowing as Alan Coren put it 'it keeps the riff raff out of Waitrose.It doesn't stop there and once again certain family members showed their true colours with the inevitable signs that they are in no doubt after what little money my elderly parents have. Apart from the obvious greed expressed in the size of my fellow men and women I can't help that notice so much is about making as much money as possible to ward off something, old age, death, starvation who knows? It is an indescribable feeling that people are worried all the time about it and it isn't to do with the recession, it has been there a while now. The Brits for the main part don't know how to enjoy themselves and sometimes their moaning is justified but it spills over into fear and loathing and reminds me why I left ten yars ago. I'm not saying it doesn't exist elsewhere and maybe in a different guise but it is striking whenever I land. I suppose Spain will follow suit as it has with a lot of things that start in the States and then move on to Britain and then the rest of Europe, which gives me about ten or twenty years before I move to a cave.
A good thing has happened while away and that is the new law to ban smoking in bars seems to have been obeyed. I didn't think it would but tonight we are going out to celebrate that it has and will visit Bar Rugaca the bar that has the last known Communist for miles, one Babby or Gabriel who I have mentioned before with his explosions and red face. He is mentioned in the local paper today along with many bar owners and waiters on the above law and while most seem to think that it is a good thing and that it is too early to say whether their bars will suffer or not Babby expressed his 'discomfort' at the 'tyranny' and 'total injustice' of the law and that it makes him feel bad ( me sabe malisimo..) to have to tell a longstanding customer they have to step outside for a fag. He adds that he notices fewer people in his bar and a change from the more traditional or smoking customer to a new clientele. Like tonight when we return. We used to go there all the time till he wounded me. Henderson doesn't take things too seriously but I don't like to give my money to people who offend me.
Which brings me on to the pub we found in the New Forset ( Forest even..) that goes by the name the Alice Lisle. Our bones were suffering with the damp and we stumbled into an empty room with an inglenook fire, sat down in our cords and tweed respectively, and ordered two halves of Best. 'Is this what it boils down to?'  I wondered but took solace that it could have been jigsaw puzzles, elasticated trousers and shoes 'you won't wear out' (sic) and herbal tea.
So all in all a good time was had, a few family things were sorted out till the next ones and I came home to find my wages had gone through despite Henderson telling me they won't as the accountant was leaving early for Christmas and wouldn't be able to do it till he comes back next week.
Happy New Year to all.