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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)

Friday, 25 February 2011

When you are ill, feeling a bit peaky or pachucha as it's known here, the last thing you want bellowing down the phone at you as you try to make an appointment is a woman who starts her sentences with the word Que? The only way I can describe it is if someone constantly addressed you as 'boyo'. I haven't got it in for the Welsh or the Aragonese per se but I'm sure I've mentioned  the similarity here with say our cousins in Merthyr Tidsville, another obsession of mine. One of the few differences being the women of Merthyr might chin you to get to the bar whereas here they definately would elbow you in a cake shop. Anyway, said woman kept bellowing Que? at me before I'd opened a sentence and that's how I found myself at urgencias this afternoon with my ongoing faringitis and anginas. the doctor who saw me didn't exactly have what you might call a bedside manner either and like my dentist a few months back, was heard to mutter 'Dios mio' as he put stethoscope to chest. I could have told him that and added that he should just give me the prescription for the stuff needed that I refuse to buy over the counter so I can go back to work to keep me in the drugs I have become accustomed to, namely drink.

Getting back to the accent , the Aragonese will tell you with great joy that other Spaniards tell them that when they speak it sounds as though they are singing. It doesn't. Up close it isn't too bad, in fact I would say that Aragon is quite a good place to come and learn Spanish and there are many voices the equivalent of Richard Burton's. The problem is when someone starts 'having a chat upstairs about nothing, probably'. It sounds like a cross between a ticking off from the news reader Huw Edwards crossed with a drowning yodeller. If this is bad enough, wait till you hear the Jota...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

There is a film out which doesn't need any promoting, about a king with a stutter. I can't wait to see the Spanish dubbed version. This is going to be my answer to everything from now on regarding my neighbours and their gossiping. That they only know the dubbed version and not the version original. On the subject of neighbours I often find myself in the position of 'I've seen it all', but today the 'effing bleeder' next door and his lovely lady wife were seen to be at it again with him barring her from entering their or should I say his flat. She has recently taken command of the keys and locks him in but he's getting clever now, he either had a very large wardrobe in front of the door or he's taken to drinking Red Bull. She managed to get the key in the door but he was on the other side acting like the stubborn fato that he is.They were at it for twenty minutes and in the end the wife went off threatening to call the police and tell them that he had taken a pill and that she didn't know whether he was dead or alive. Twenty minutes later I could hear a right kerfuffle outside my door with people discussing whether it was flat 1E for Espana or 1D for Dickhead presumably. Muggins here with the flu and a burly police man outside trying to put  the C U Next Tuesday's keys in my door. I flung the door open resplendent in my pyjamas and Tetley Tea slippers. PC Plod demanded he enter my flat and where was my husband to which I replied he was at the Academy and I was feeling a little more than under the weather. Behind him were about ten other bods in the guise of policemen and women, ambulance folk with what looked like resuscitating gear, social services and someone with what looked like cutting equipment. They realised their error and I even heard one of the crew refer to me as la chica which made me laugh especially the state I was in. I closed the door to let them get on with it and overheard the copper enter the arsehole's flat and exclaim 'he's in here eating flan'. So, another five hundred euros wasted on how may times have they been called out?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

It's seven o'clock and I can't sleep. I've just hung my head out the window (ha! on the end of a stick.) to see what the natives are up to and there are about a hundred maybe more congregating in 'El Tubo' and to an untrained eye it could look like 'something going on' an incident of some sort, like just a load of people with no homes to go to probably because of the recession. Here they come now one by one leaving the throng. Mainly young men on their own having drifted off without a by your leave as that would involve another half an hur ( what am I from Belfast now? ) of goodbyes. Said young men seem to have their hands stuffed into their pockets which proves quite difficult on account of the fashion nowadays for skinny jeans. They look even more absurd from behind as latest fashion involves the arse and crutch of the trousers to stop somewhere around the thighs although combined with the hands in the pockets does provide a safe way to navigate home after the downing of many pints of rum. Then there are the folk who can't leave the group and decide to start a philosophical society just outside my kitchen window. They've been at it now ten minutes and will I assure you, be there in an hour's or hur's time even,  still none the wiser but will have woken most of the dogs up that reside behind garage doors.
After a brief interlude accompanied by toast and hot chocolate the old head was hung and not a soul to be seen. All the bods have gone and what's left is a trail of souvenirs of a good evening, broken glass, crisp packets and unused condoms. I did wonder if the above celebrations were due to Mubarak's departure. After all it's a well known fact he is Aragonese. No one could be that stubborn.
Today I turned into calle....and instead of being greeted by the usual builder's bum and his van with its doors open as if he wants me to fall into the back of either I saw it had been replaced by a van I have never seen before which bore the name Top Gel on the side. I read these words with a pronunciation worthy of a Wodehouse character, 'Top Gel' as in top gel, top totty or something like that and then realised the 'gel' bit referered to what was inside, stuff frozen, or frozen stuff. I know most of the names on the side of lorries and vans which Henderson attributes to a condition. There is the 'El Tomate Veloz' or the Speedy Tomato which I guess is a greengrocer's but sounds like something you would see in Africa like Speedy Motors in Botswana.

Still no sign of the pedestrianised street and square we were promised would happen 'after Christmas' (sic) but other streets have been started on so hopefully ours will be soon. I've noticed the Plaza Zaragoza or Navarra as it is also called has had huge plant pots dragged across the entrance so as to 'ease in' the locals to the idea of pedestrianisation.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


How many lightbulbs does it take for a man to walk a week in a fortnight? This and other questions could be put to our mayor Luis Felipe who apparently has what is called in English, a surgery, of sorts, like the MPs have in Britain where you can go along with your complaint. I might just take him to task about the ongoing saga re: our barrio and the never ending promise to pedestrianise part of the Plaza Bolinga or Alfonso el Batallador as it is properly known. The last I read concerning this bright idea was before Christmas when the local rag said that work was due to commence after Christmas, but for all we know this could mean Christmas 2019 or after a Christmas when we are all dead and don't care anymore. I have a reliable source in the form of Maite, a lawyer who lives round the corner from me who is often found, usually by her husband, with camera at the ready to catch people out as they piss up the walls to her flat, or throw rubbish into her mum's garage. She often accosts Mr Felipe as he does his rounds and they are more or less on first name terms as he tries to calm her down when she asks him the very questions I daren't ask for fear of ridicule everytime I have to pronounce something with the leter 'R' in it. She reckons said plan won't get into gear until just before the elections in May, although she didn't mention which year... Watch this Space.

Talking of the letter 'R', I realise the dreaded community meeting is upon us again and even though I always go I have decided to stay schtum this time as most of my quejas, complaints, come in the form of perros, dogs, both Mr Ceresuela next door and that beast Piti upstairs who has, despite being allegedly drugged, started to play up again. Regarding the need for so many to piss or shit inside the lift or just outside the front door doesn't even bother me anymore and isn't a Spanish custom. My idea to stick an Aragonese flag in every turd on the street, human or otherwise will never materialise as I would have to stick a Union Jack in those left in the streets of Britain. I recently heard this problem or lack of potty training reaches the TV studios of Channel 4 among others and I might just borrow the harsh words of one of the posters left in the toilets there to try and educate whoever it is that fails to use a toilet in the correct way. A translation into Spanish might be what is needed as opposed to all the polite ones I see here in just about every flat. Henderson also wants to put a sign up in the garage above the small bin we have there encouraging people to put more rubbish in as the one that tells them not to doesn't work.