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Saturday, 30 June 2012


( Note to self. Never order from a menu with photos. Avoid drinks with stupid names and that have the potential to arrive carrying an umbrella. Stick to alcohol ).

Me: Excuse me, this isn't the drink I ordered.

Waiter: Yes it is.

Me: No it isn't, I ordered the Hawaii.

Waiter: That is the Hawaii.

Me: No it isn't.

Waiter: Yes it is.

Me: No it isn't.

Waiter: Yes it is

Me: OK, of course, you are right.

Henderson: What did you order?

Me: The Hawaii.

Henderson: Is that the orange one?

Me: Yes.

Henderson: But yours is Red.

Me: I know.

Henderson: Waiter, she ordered the orange drink, it's called an Hawaii.

Waiter: Yes, that's what she has got.

Henderson: But the one she has is red, smells of strawberries and look, here on the menu you can see there is a big difference between the red drink, the Exotico and the orange one, the Hawaii.

Waiter: Yes but we added some red syrup .

Henderson: So it's the other one, here, in the picture, the red one, the strawberry one, the one with red syrup?

Waiter: No. She has the Hawaii, the orange one, listen,do you want me to change it for you?

Me: I'm tempted, just to see if I get what I ordered, but no, leave it. I shall enjoy the Erotica.

Waiter: Exotico.

Me: Exactly.

Waiter leaves stage left.

Henderson: Does it taste of orange?

Me: No, it tastes of strawberries and red syrup.

Henderson: What's that they're playing on the radio?

Me: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, the Sinatra version.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Overheard in the classroom....

Teacher: ( Explains in Spanish and in English) OK kids, we are going to do a short dictation. All I require is for you to listen and write what I say but don't worry if you don't understand I don't mind repeating the words a hundred times, just please be quiet, raise your hand. Is that understood?

Kids mumble in general agreement and get ready.

Teacher ( Clears throat): Yesterday, Bobby went to Madrid.

Child A: Bobby que?

Teacher: Please, I told you I will repeat if necessary.

Child A: Vale, vale..Sigue.. ( OK, OK..carry on).

Teacher: Yesterday, Bobby went to Madrid.

Child B: Bobby went donde (where)?

Teacher (raises hand in silence): Madrid.

Child C: No entiendo nada.

Child A: 'Bobby went to Madrid'.

Child B: Estoy perdido. Now I'm lost.

Child C: Calla!! ( Shut up!).

Child A: He said.....

Teacher: Please be quiet, I asked you all to please be quiet and if you don't understand.....

Child A: You see, he told us to be quiet.

Child B: Where did Bobby go?

Child A and B start arguing.

Teacher: Will you please...

Child A to the teacher: I'm trying to help you out here!

Teacher: Right that does it, everyone please be quiet, I will start again.Bobby...went to.....

Child A: You forget to say yesterday.

Teacher through gritted teeth: Yesterday...

Child C: Espera, espera...Wait a minute.....

Teacher sighs.

Child C: OK you can go on.

Teacher: Yesterday, Bobby, went to Madrid.

Child C: Que significa yesterday?

Child A: I'm bored. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


I bet Stephen Frears didn't know where he was when he landed in Huesca for the film festival. My reliable sources tell me that he was asked if he had heard of this lovely beautiful town and its wonderful people who are unlike any other and he had to admit like most folk that he hadn't. He was here to receive the Luis Bunuel award and I regret not being able to televise the receiving of said award as there was a man behind Frears repeating every thing he said. This is also called translating but often sounds like you are parroting what someone says especially if it is for the benefit of the audience. So when Mr Frears started his thank you speech with the inevitable 'thank you' the little man behind him in the shadows said 'muchas gracias' and Frears being British replied 'muchas gracias'. It went on like that for about five minutes with poor Frears trying to tell an amusing anecdote involving Bunuel and having to pause to let the the little guy suffering from echolalia have his say. The festival managed to annoy further by showing clips of Frears' films all dubbed in Spanish which is so unnecessary and patronising to both the director and the audience. Frears was very gracious and as he left the stage he was ushered back on to stand in line with the young film makers who had received awards for their short films. There was a very touching funny moment when he looked at his award and then looked at the others and did a silent comic routine of 'how come theirs are bigger than mine?'. 

Later I saw him walk by in the wee small hours and was tempted to say something or invite him for a drink but felt best to leave the man alone and so there went an opportunity to meet a man I admire but I've never really been someone who is star struck and don't see the point of badgering someone just because you know them from the stage or screen and besides, I have such an inflated self importance that  I feel they should be approaching me. 

Sunday, 17 June 2012


On Newsnight the other evening someone remarked that the Spanish were very proud people and I couldn't help think there were many other adjectives they could have used. Very proud doesn't spring to mind when my neighbour Anselmo decides to switch the tele on at a quarter to one in the morning and proud isn't the word I feel could describe the woman he listens to who has a  programme which consists of her talking for an hour without pausing for breath. I am amazed at her stamina and wonder how we could harness her energy and save the planet. Maybe she goes to the academy here called You Talk where H threatened to scrawl 'a load of shite' underneath. He also wants to go back to the bus stop to enliven the advert for Bankia that says 'BANKIA, EL OTRO BANCO', and add ..IN THE SHIT.  Anyway, at a quarter to two the presentadora with the voice like a clanger on speed stops, the audience claps and Anselmo switches the TV off and goes to sleep and I lie awake thinking of  what noise I could make to wake him up just so I could look at him and say 'y que?'.

Then the screaming starts. Newsnight ought to come to my street around five thirty in the morning when the Kalimotxo, red wine and Coca-Cola, kicks in. They can watch girls falling in the road then getting up, grabbing each others' tits, falling down again, getting up, falling over, getting up, holding each others' ponytails while they vomit in my doorway,  then get about five of their pals to bundle on top of them creating a human pile, scream again like they are being murdered, start chanting a football song grab each others' tits again and run off into the night to the posher side of town.

I often decide its best to join in and find myself half way down a conga line which inevitably breaks up in the middle and I am left as head conga leading them around the bar and gently guided by the owner to the door which he slams, locks and mutters something about shitting on God just as the last of the line exits. Outside there is a momentary sobering up but soon everyone points out the bar next door hasn't taken its chairs or parasols inside so we continue here much to the chagrin of the waiters who just want to go home. They let us have one drink but start taking the furniture into the bar making it quite clear they will tip us off our chairs if need be. Everyone seems to have forgotten the bail-out, the desperation in Greece and I catch sight of a poster of Angela Merkel complete with Hitler tash and an armband with a Euro sign where a swastika might be. Alongside the poster it says something about a (bit late in the day?) lecture on economics supported by every left leaning political party of which there are many, but no sign of UKIP or I TOLD YOU SO. 

Saturday, 16 June 2012


When I have too much time on my hands I often end up shopping in the Dia Supermercado. It fascinates me how this business continues. There is normally one member of staff stacking shelves and from time to time a customer comes in, picks up a few things and the assistant runs back to the till. I have never known it to be any other way. While I was in there today I was approached by a tiny old woman who stopped and wavered beneath the shelves of chocolate muttering something so I asked her if she wanted me to reach up and get her the one she needed. She was delighted and her face lit up when I asked her if it was the metre long bar of almond chocolate she required. When I gave it to her she muttered 'que pena', 'what a shame/pity' and walked off. I have no idea what she was on about and can only conclude it was something that had happened to her years ago. I wondered how you would say 'what's up old crone/wise woman?' in Spanish and guessed it would be something like 'Que pasa, bruja?'  which is not quite the same thing. Bruja means witch and is a catch-all term to describe a woman who doesn't stand for any nonsense especially from children and men.  There are lots of old crones wandering around town trying to frighten people with their mutterings and proximity to death. If you listen to them they are often saying quite profound things and have a whiff of the occult about them. Later the above woman was hovering around the sweet section stuffing her carrier bag with chuches, sweeties. I see lots of people in supermarkets wandering around with old plastic bags stuffing them with goods. At first it looks like they are robbing the place but they always end up at the till emptying the bag of its contents and paying. Yet if you go in a supermarket with bags from other shops you often need to put them in a locker at the front of the shop. No one is allowed to waltz around with a rucksack on their back but a plastic bag is de rigeur. Some bigger shops make you seal your handbag in plastic. Anyway, the old ruler of the underworld crept up behind me muttering 'mamma mia' which I have never heard any one say here and always thought it was an Italian exclamation, and proceeded to empty her plastic bag spilling tons of bags of sweets, a huge bar of chocolate and a bottle of red wine. We both looked at my shopping. Two bottles of red wine and a bar of Lindt chocolate and although as far as I know we weren't related the words 'chip off the old block' ran through my mind.

Saturday, 9 June 2012


A few years ago I remarked to Henderson that I was having difficulty understanding how this country functions, how it works as all I could see was corruption on a massive scale and that was just the lawless hinterland I found myself in not the rest of Spain. I never imagined that it would collapse and despite the grim news I still hope that Spain can keep it together. I often think that when Franco died the Spanish went on a massive bender and only now are thinking about applying the brakes. It's as if they have just woken up and read the small print, whereas before they just shoved it in a drawer and resumed the fun and games.

We had an appointment at 8.30 this morning at our bank to do the Renta and were told to take a seat when we arrived. This was at the desk of the person who presumably would do our tax return and while we waited I noticed the back of the cash machine next to me was open and stacks of money lay next to it. The person responsible for filling the machine came along, said good morning and went about his work. I am not sure if this is just a very trustworthy place but it is the same bank that declares it has an alarmed caja fuerte or safe where the key is kept on top of a cupboard just as you enter.

Today we went to Telefonica to finally sort out some sort of contract for my mobile phone. I've been paying between 15 and 20 Euros a month pay-as-you-go and all I get is about 40 texts and a fifty second phone call to H before I get a message saying the credit is low. At first the girl told me that I might as well stick to purchasing credit as having a contract was going to cost about the same. When I pointed out that there was a deal where I could get unlimited texts and be able to navigate the web she said it would be 10 Euros or 13 if I wanted the calls to be 6 cents a minute. This all took about an hour with her talking into two mobiles at once with her arms crossed over her chest and then on a land line and then putting tons of info in a computer. This was multi tasking extraordinario and she even managed to serve someone else and have a chat with a pal on one of the phones. Of course all this infuriated H who expects things to run like Germany with the politeness and charm of the British sales man or woman wherever he goes. He complained that both the girls serving were wearing their sunglasses on their heads and then moaned about the other one chewing gum. He is definitely turning into my father. The girl who served us was very helpful but I fail to see how this sort of business can go on for much longer. The sort that takes hours and involves things that have nothing to do with your purchase. She did however tell me about Whassup or whatever it's called and its free calls and suggested I ring Telefonica to stop the 3 Euros 50 cents I have been paying for years that is apparently for mantenimiento, or maintenance as she reckons it is a bit of a con or a tonteria. I don't find it hard to believe that Telefonica has had a couple of hundred Euros out of me for nothing and I am thinking of trying to get it back. Sadly, as far as I know there is no Spanish equivalent of Dominic Littlewood or Rogue Traders to investigate this con so I will try to do it myself.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Spanish children cringe at the idea of wearing a uniform. They tell you it takes away your individuality, your freedom to express yourself, to choose your own clothes. The only time I see people wearing the same thing in Spain is perhaps those couples in immaculate Barbours or groups of people in the same coloured T-shirts emblazoned with some group they belong to. Then there is the uniformity of the big fiestas where everyone is in white with a coloured neckerchief pouring wine over their head.

While I am writing this someone outside is screaming his head off. No one seems to mind. He might be getting murdered but even I can't be bothered to rush to the window every time screams and shouts are heard. Having been encouraged from an early age to make as much noise as he likes the average Spaniard will think nothing of waking you up in the early hours serenading you with a Jota or two. Parents will often look on in glee as their little one smashes up whatever is lying around the bar or cafe. Tourists especially Brits will look on and say 'How lovely. Spanish children are so loved, no one minds them making noise', until the Spanish parent snaps and shrieks at the kid to put a sock in it. Years later the child grows into the kind of adult who at four in the morning kicks every wing mirror off all the parked cars in the street shouting 'they love me, they love me not' moving on to the next vehicle once said mirror hangs limply to the side. Yet at least you can walk down the street at four in the morning on your own and know the chap won't lunge at you or start an argument. It is rare that a Spaniard will get into a fight, preferring to hug and kiss you instead. They don't have that warlike savagery that many Brits and Irish have after a few bevvies.They don't shag pavements or prostitutes in the street either, having tons of puti clubs to service their needs. 

Ah, the word puta and the diminutive puti. Almost held in affection. Most Spanish children will know what a prostitute is and this word brings great mirth especially when they learn English. There is a well known local case of a Spanish teacher who taught English who refused to say the words 'put on' when referring to 'putting on' clothes as it made the kids crack up every time he said them. The other day an eight year old kid told me that what I had just said sounded like the word puta. All I had said was 'put a saucepan on his head' as that was part of the crazy story we were reading. Even the word computer gets them rolling in the aisles. A parent recently told me that their child was counting in the back of the car as they sped along the motorway. When she asked what they were counting the little darling replied 'puti clubs'.

Monday, 4 June 2012


George Mikes said 'compromise means that you bring together everything that is bad', and that for the British compromise is very important. He said it was the only place where you can burn and catch a cold at the same time. This is still true as every house I stay in when I go to Britain has a fire that burns my front and a draught behind me. It's all about suffering but grinning while you bear it. What other nation would send its young up a river in the rain accompanied by a philharmonic orchestra belting out songs while catching pneumonia.

Earlier that morning I witnessed a man on one of those Sunday morning debates confirm that it's a lie that everyone on the planet would be watching the Jubilee and he added places 'like Spain' wouldn't be watching it. Well  they were, perhaps not all day as they had better things to do like march up a hill to get drunk.

George Orwell wrote that the British or rather English civilization was or is 'your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time. The suet puddings and red pillar-boxes have entered your soul.' A lot of what he wrote in 1941 still rings true. That when you return to England from abroad 'you have immediately the sensation of a different air'. Then there is the English and 'their obstinate clinging to everything that is out of date and a nuisance'.
He talks about the English love for flowers but as far as I know he never mentioned their hatred toward children or anyone trying to ruffle their child's hair. They still are a nation of 'stamp collectors, pigeon fanciers, amateur carpenters, coupon-snippers,darts players and crossword puzzle fans.' You only have to walk into any WH Smith to have this confirmed today. Who else could come up with the idea of a cryptic crossword. Yet it is the freedom to choose. Not as I call it the 'group thing' that exists in Spain. The freedom to 'choose your own amusements instead of having them chosen for you from above.'

Sunday, 3 June 2012


I wonder what the Brits would do without their queen. Who or what else could motivate them into a baking frenzy and drape everything in triangles. Yet how long before most Brits will be cursing that they are all buntinged out and if they see another bowl of Coronation Chicken they will scream. I know how fickle they can be. It took me about three weeks before I realised I really didn't like While on the subject of Coronation Chicken I noticed the one Jamie Oliver 'rustled up' in my Woman and Food magazine. The man is taking the piss.

Meanwhile I doubt if the Spanish and I would survive without their virgins and martyrs. It all comes down to how we can get the most out of a day with plenty of grub and drink thrown in. The big difference between Spain and the motherland is here there is a fiesta every day of the year, often involving a walk up a hill to a hermitage, eat, drink wine and roll back down again to be greeted by a brass band in the village square. This was one of the things that inspired me to come, along with a bat on a flag and to be some place where it didn't matter what time of day I was living. The other day Santa Quiteria was celebrated. She is a lesser known saint but one worth mentioning. She is supposed to have been one of nine sisters all born at once. Her mother wanted them all drowned so it wasn't a great start. She is often accompanied by a dog and is said to be the patron of rabies. It is claimed that dogs will calm down in the presence of her icon so I might leave one in Mercede's letterbox for that dreadful hound of hers.