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Sunday, 19 February 2012

BORN TO BE ALIVE

Some people like bungee jumping or paragliding. Risk sports are very popular here but the one that some young men enjoy is I believe, called tailgating. It's fabulous. I often find myself screaming at my better half to pull over as some midget teenager has his car up our arse at 120 kph. It's most exhilarating. You feel alive. You realise you are glad this is not happening in the UK as someone would be stabbed by now. Another funny thing people like to do is beat their rugs over the balcony. This is not some euphemism for masturbation but a pleasurable act of defiance as you smother pedestrians with your DNA, dog hair, crumbs and any other shite that you can't bear to have on your carpet. There's nothing I enjoy better than finding my neighbour's fluff on my head. The best version so far was from a pupil who told me she thought a cat had entered her house when she realised her neighbour upstairs had thrown said cat's fur he had just brushed overboard and the wind had blown it into her living room. It's great fun if you don't weaken.

ARE YOU BEING SERVED?

Only the British queue and maybe north Americans. Not queuing starts somewhere around the Pyrenees and is tolerable till you reach Greece and find yourself in the sea after some old lady pushes you into it in the scramble to get on the ferry. In northern Spain you can wait patiently for hours behind someone being served and still be shoved aside by some new customer who enters on cue as the other one picks up her receipt. The words 'I think I am before you' are understood and sudden overbearing apologies are administered but not often. Sometimes the queue jumper will start to tell you their life story which usually involves their car which they tell you anxiously is triple parked. You tell them yours is now hemmed in by theirs and they will tell you some other sob story. You then spend the next ten minutes trying to outdo one another while the dry cleaning woman tells you to stop wasting her wonderful time. My Wonderful Time is a great but selfish recreation/invention/way of life. Once you have been here a while you start to understand that nothing is going to get in the way of yours either. It makes for a selfish society as everyone races along to the next meal or fiesta but when you come to die you will know you have lived. It's why Brits on holiday in such places feel like they have been let off a leash but a  Brit will become apoplectic in seconds if someone pushes in. It takes years to finally not give a shit and that bristling feeling that never quite goes away can be redirected to empower you in the scrum to get served. There is also no eyebrow or eye contact in a bar. Some waiters might take note of your existence and if they know you they may even serve you before the wedding party that turned up before. Most of the time you have to barge your way to the front and somehow make the barman or woman serve you and ignore the person next to you because they are going to do the same to you.

Yesterday we timed it right at the carnival. We stood at the top of the street and watched the floats and various folk dressed up. My favourite had to be the group of girls who decided to go in a dinghy standing up with the bottom of the dinghy cut out and them walking around in it with paddles but not knowing who the lead walker was. The last float was actually an ambulance that crawled along behind some boys who had made a makeshift bar on wheels and were dressed for summer. They had managed to fasten a beer pump on the side and were helping themselves to drinks as they floated along. As soon as we saw the ambulance we walked back down the parade and found a bar that was empty, got our drinks and ten minutes later the scrum arrived and we sat back, relaxed and watched the feathers fly.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

CROSS

Crossing the road in northern Europe is a bit different. You press a button, the light goes red, the cars stop. You burst into tears and start kissing everybody.

GREEN CROSS

Crossing the road in southern Europe is very funny. You arrive at a zebra and find a car parked on it so move on to the next one. Another car pulls up just as you are about to cross and parks in front of you on the zebra. The driver and passengers get out and head somewhere nice. They look baffled when you shake your fist and threaten to call the proper authorities. Later you find yourself negotiating with a busy road and start to feel like Jaques Tati in whatever film it is where he can't cross the road. Fnally someone stops to let you cross but the car behind them thinks the car is stopping for the hell of it so decides to overtake. You jump out of the way into a car coming on the other side. Everyone beeps their horn, gives the finger and  life goes on. Much later you get to a zebra with traffic lights. There are other people so you feel safer. The lights are red yet several cars still go through with the drivers checking to see if the green man has appeared. He hasn't so technically they think they are in the right. Everyone starts to cross when a driving school car appears. I notice the instructor is obese and gesticulating madly. He is shouting to the pupil to 'go!go!go!' . The pupil has a look of horror and points to us in a way that says 'what about them?'. The instructor insists and the pupil weaves his way through the bemused locals. No one says anything. When things have calmed down you realise this is going to be repeated all day every day. There are cars and zebras everywhere and you start thinking it's time you learnt to drive and join them all. Then someone stops to let you cross the road. You are so stunned by this but they insist and do that thing with their hand, like they are giving you some privileged 'after you' moment. You hesitate, you start to cross, they start to drive, you stop, they stop. This goes on for a bit till the driver starts calling you names. It's hysterical. One day you arrive and it's chaos. There is a Dial-a Ride unloading people in wheelchairs from the back of their mini bus. There are cars double, triple parked on both sides. Lorries unloading beer crates. You start thinking about converting to Catholicism or maybe Hinduism. Nothing matters. You cross for the hell of it. It could be funny. Finally someone you know sees you and gives you a lift. You see a different perspective. Your friend approaches some speed bumps. They drive on the other side of the road to avoid them. You wonder whether you should have taken that teaching post in Kabul.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

AGENT STARLING

I have many interests but the main ones seem to be dinner and bird watching. I am not the twitcher I thought I was as H still likes to remind me that I have yet to get up at the crack of dawn to catch sight of the Lesser Spotted Dickhead known to roam these shores. I was therefore very interested to hear that I might not be jumping out of my skin anymore as I walk through the local park of an early evening. For a while now the council have been letting off fireworks in said park to get rid of the starlings that congregate or flock there around dusk. I say fireworks but as any one who lives in Spain knows they are more like canon fire and even when you feel prepared for another blast they will always catch you unawares and kick start your heart if the caffeine you've just downed hasn't already. I sometimes think it's the only cardiovascular exercise I get these days, being scared shitless by explosives and Spaniards behind a wheel. There is another method apart from the fireworks, strange noises emitting from a giant loudspeaker on top of a van being driven round and round the park in another vain attempt to shoo the birds away. I could see it wasn't working because as soon as either of these methods was put in place the starlings and the magpies just pissed off to some trees on the side of the park and crapped and sang away there instead. However, this is not the case and some 300,000 starlings are now down to 3,000 although you wouldn't know it judging from the shite that covers the benches in the park. I have been unlucky on a couple of occasions too although they say it's good luck to be shat upon from a great height by a bird, the feathered kind of course.