Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The gypsies had got it into their heads that I had magical powers or was somehow psychic and asked me if I could tell them what would happen to the one in hospital. I said I would need something of his to be able to tell them if he was doomed or not. One of them gave me a stone which looked as though he'd just found it. 'This is no good' I said, 'I need something of his, something that will help me with my fortune telling'. One of them gave me the sick gypsy's hanky. 'Not that for Christ's sake, I'll get whatever it is he has!'. We compromised and he left it on the floor. I tried hard to see into the future of the sick gypsy until I turned to all hundred of them and shouted, 'he'll never get better until you lot leave him alone, go on, get lost, go home, haven't you got anything better to do than pester the poor man and the nurses attending to him?'

Later I found myself at the council's doorway where you are supposed to pass your bag through the X-ray. I am of an age or belief that I can't pass my camera and laptop through these things without being reassured first. The security guard seemed bemused and then laughed when I pointed my umbrella at him. 'Go through' he laughed and gestured that I could take all my goods with me. He didn't realise that I could have had a gun or poisoned the tip of my brolly to get at the mayor who owes me 300 Euros. I suppose if you are going to assasinate the mayor you might like to ask someone like me who is trusted by all including gypsies to carry the job out whilst posing as the least likely. I passed through quite easily and found the treasury thanks to a helpful young man. Up to now I could have had them all and escaped out the back door but I kind of need the 300 Euros so gave in a little. I had the idea that if I behaved a bit like JR Hartley I might get a result. The two women behind the counter at the treasury seemed embarassed that I hadn't been paid and did a lot of mouth movements and strange breathing exercises that men often do when they look into the engine of a car or anything connected with plumbing. They kept referring to 'them' as in 'we haven't received anything from them yet'. 'Them' turned out to be some people upstairs who seemed keen to hang onto my money or were just to lazy to bother. I persisted with my questions that seemed to go on the lines 'when you refer to 'them' who exactly are you on about?' In the end the more paranoid one said they, this time them, the ones in fron of me and not the ones 'upstairs' would pay me in cash there and then. This took a while as the paranoid one needed to type out the receipt I would need. It was weird hearing the sound of that typewriter, like I really had gone back in time. I got the cash for three months work. I asked them if I would have to do the same thing for January, February and March's payment and they looked at each other, did the breathing thing again and I understood that this probably means yes. It confirms my belief that when you want something in Spain it is best to not want it at all and then things work out OK.

Monday, 29 March 2010


The other day I was delighted to tell all about my 'restorer' or hangover cure. Well, I don't think it works anymore and am presently open to suggestions. Henderson thinks it's more to do with the smoking. Not me but everyone else. Things weren't 'right' until about seven the next evening and the cure came in tha aid of a 'smoothie' or maybe it was just the timing.

Today I had loads of time to kill so went on a mission to the Sabeco Hypermercado in the deluded belief I would find PG Tips teabags. I passed the hospital and there seemed to be hundreds of gypsies and I wondered if their king was about to pass over to the other side. I know a few people who work in the hospital and they tell me they dread it when a gypsy gets ill as the whole clan turns out. I wouldn't like to be sharing the same room with the sick gypsy if the sick Spanish are anything to go by. Last time I ended up in said hospital I had to shout at a number of familias to piss off as it was time for the ill to die or get some shut eye. Anyway, PG was not to be found but I managed to locate a nice sherry, French biscuits, Tabasco sauce and some decent pencils.

It's that time of year again and I am pretty sure The Pointy Hat Brigade should be passing my window sometime tomorrow evening. It looks like we may hurtle up the mountains where the village priest does a very good Father Ted version of this event. He just gets the locals to carry Jesus up and then down the 'high street' and then straight down the pub.

I told Henderson that I love the name of the acting Nigerina ( yes I know but Nigerina sounds so good) president. One Goodluck Jonathon and since then he has renamed him Hardluck Jonathon on account of him having to deal with comments from Gadaffi.

Monday, 22 March 2010


Whilst looking for hints on how to increase traffic to my blog I discovered that if you click on the 'following blog' heading or whatever it is at the top of the page this will help. I have no idea how but tried it anyway and all I can say is that every single one of them was of two styles. Mums and their new babies or Christians of some form or another. It is astonishing and as one mum's blog said 'it's funny, sad, embarrassing and it's all there'. So I am in good company then. Any fear of a Muslim planet can be soothed if you check these web sites out. They just seem to go on for ever. Adoption from the Ukraine to 'teach our son about the love of Jesus'. Opening sentences from families who announce 'we are from Alabama'. I even checked out other blogs and the same thing happens, mums and Christians. Maybe it is a sign and so I tried it out. I prayed for something different and was answered, I ended up with a choice between Marxists or Unethical Eligibilty Criterion for Maharashi Taxi Drivers! (sic).

Living in Spain is as I have said before often like being in a Luis Bunuel film. There is something you want/desire and every attempt to get it is thwarted. Recent events have been trying to get a Hoover via Travel Miles and downloading Skype. I think I might have had luck with the Skype but I have slipt into the manana syndrome so won't know till.

After years of trial and error I think I may have found the hangover cure that suits me. Everyone has their version and my restorer now involves first a cup of coffee and something, if tolerated, to eat, say a nice piece of toast and butter, then a paracetemol and wash this down with a drink they have here called Aquarius which sportsmen and women drink to sort out their electrolytes. A little lie down helps too and then when you feel it kicking in it's time to get up and eat well and resume life with a vim and vigour you thought you would never have again a few hours earlier.

I was told a joke or two the other evening over dinner. A woman goes into a baker's and orders two 'funcionarios' which are two civil servants or 'pen pushers' as they are known in this house. The baker scolds by saying 'missus, I have told you already, they are called baguettes', baguettes being a little bread stick but also a 'funny' way of saying 'vago' which means lazy, like saying I've already told you woman, they are called little lazies'. Yes, I know, I feel the same but oh how they roared.

Lastly, I knew spring had arrived when I got a view of my first Hoopoe, a lovely looking bird who flew in front of me near a little village I am fond of called Bolea. It sat in a tree and tried to hide but I could clearly make out its crown of feathers. So on that note, maybe there is a God.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

There seems to have been an avalanche of news that should keep the locals going for another few months. A real one has killed a man and injured two others in the Canfranc area. The local paper has a photo which shows where it happened in a place called El Pico de Aguilar and has drawn a squiggly white arrow highlighting the path of destruction just to ram death home I guess. Earlier this week some friends told me that a priest who has been arrested in Chile in a child pornography case used to work at the school where I am now. This has sent a wave of consternation or dismay through the school with us all being given a letter lamenting what happened and how we must put our trust in God who never lets us down, well until now. After all the abuse that went on in Ireland, the States and elsewhere I fear Spain has turned a blind eye for too long and we will be hearing more stories like this soon.

Down the road in Zaragoza an ex director of the Guardia Civil has been released from prison after serving fifteen years for bribery, embezzlement of public money, swindling and what seems like general racketeering and crimes against the treasury. He says he has paid heavily while others got away ' de rositas o casi de rositas' which I presume means Scot free. I wonder how long it will take for a proper investigation of Our Lovely Leader, the mayor. I have been told by a woman who works in the Diputacion that the council hasn't got any money and at dinner last night some friends assured me I will get paid but when is another matter as the council owes everyone dosh.

The last few days I have felt like a character in a Luis Bunuel film possibly the one where something is wanted but the desire to get it is thwarted at every turn. I have been trying to get Skype up and running so a friend can take a photo via the web cam for an exhibition she is doing in London and the whole experience has been surreal. I also went against the girl's advice at Eroski supermarket, namely that with an accent like mine I should order my hoover on the Travel Miles web site and not over the blower with their answerphone service. After about an hour trying to do it online I asked myself how hard must it be to order the phone way. Not hard but as soul destroying as if you had to do it in English but instead an extremely robotic, masculine, Spanish voice bellowed at me with options and then insisted on verifying my every move. I have an awful feeling I messed up the order and I am about to receive a year's shopping at Eroski and a very dusty floor.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


So a friend's son was shipped off to England on one of these excursions provided by agencies and academies where they get to stay with a family and practice their English and have classes in the morning and then on day trips around London. All sounds lovely and I was feeling a bit envious when I heard about all the outings to The Britsh Museum and jaunts up the Thames in boats. The whole package doesn't come cheap and is sold on the idea that you get to stay with a family and everything is straight out of a novel or at any rate Fawlty Towers. There are always stories of students not having a good time and it usually involves the food and the common complaint that The Brits eat too much butter or that everything is cooked with. Nothing is perfect of course and it reminds me of my desperate school trip to Dieppe and my pathetic attempts to ask the gendarmerie where the church was. It is funny what you remember. One of the policemen held a fascination for me as he had massive ears. I can still see his face. I also remember the owners of the concentration camp where we stayed getting us to sing a song that went on about a Mr Moon who was up too soon and the sun was still in the sky. I realise now that all the teachers were pissed the night before and were refusing to come down, literally, from their hangovers and were still in bed. The owner of the camp was like an English Major and the whole sojourn wasn't unlike an episode from the above mentioned Towers.

Well, if I thought this was bad enough it wasn't anything like the stay in London that said friend's son had to endure. It all seemed OK before he left with brief details that he would be stying ( that should read staying but perhaps best left as ) with a Mr and Mrs Hemmings of Brockley. What he didn't realise was that he would be staying with one half of the Hemmings family, the Mrs and that the Mr would pop up four days into the trip. That was before he met their five kids and three cousins and the aunt that decided to stay one night and the girlfriend of Mr Hemmings who stayed with him half way through the stay and this isn't even mentioning the three French students that turned up on day three and on day four the three Chinese students. The son told us that each day he kept wondering who would turn up next. The most was about twenty five folk all battling to get into the bathroom. The night they arrived Mrs Hemmings said they couldn't possibly want anything to eat so she gave them an ice-cream to keep them going till the next day when they got peanut butter and tuna sarnies. Just to add to the flavour the 'uncle' walked around the house in his underpants. Also, Brockley seems to have been a metaphor for Lewisham, or Sarajevo in the Springtime as Henderson once described it. Welcome to Britain. I felt like saying 'now do you understand why I left?'

To be continued at some later date................

Sunday, 14 March 2010


Between visits to the mountains, and dinners in restaurants, meetings have occurred and so one must take the rough with the smooth and deal with the annual community meeting. Once more the neighbours stored up their rancour for one another and spilled the beans and their feelings mainly over Mercedes and her dog and the mess it leaves behind in the lift and the noise etc. No solution was found once again on account of her being older than all of us. One neighbour started turning purple as not only does the dog fill her with rage but the mice that have taken up residence in Mercedes' 'trastero', the cupboard every Spaniard has, usually in the garage, where he or she stores their shit. Apparently Mercedes stores food and the mice have been tucking in. The question was asked if anyone else had seen the mice the purple faced neighbour was going on about and I dared to say that I had but it was probably to do with the bins and the shit the neighbours leave in them from nappies to half eaten baguettes as well as Mercedes and her food hoarding. Ahh, but these neighbours don't live in our block, they rent the car space so are foreigners and therefore out of range and nothing can be done about them. A debate went on for five or ten minutes over who had or hadn't seen mice. I said I had, 'so have I' said another. 'Well I haven't, I have never seen mice' said an adamant neighbour who I have nicknamed 'takes all sorts' on account of him trying to justify every anti-social bastard that lives there. It has struck me that I live in a sort of mad house as the neighbours then went on to slag off another neighbour and an ongoing dispute with next door and their actions namely knocking down part of our wall and the thousand euro bill we've run up with the architect. It's a confusing saga and the neighbour who is mainly involved didn't turn up so everyone said we would go ahead with Plan C without her consent when she suddenly turned up and everyone went silent. This problem is still hanging in the air and I can't work out what it is exactly. The hate turned back to Mercedes and her beloved Piti and why she didn't just get rid of him and get a budgie which if they knew her better they would know that she does have a budgie who goes by the name of Richie and I have looked after him on several occasions with great delight but probably no more seeing as we hardly speak now. She was saved from someone who decided to lay into the cross eyed neighbour who rides around on a Harley and gives everyone a heart attack everytime he enters or leaves the garage with his 'purrupatupatup'. Then everyone wanted to know what was up with the 'effing bleeder' these days as the police had been round at five in the morning owing to him going mental and smashing the flat up. He was given another court order and didn't turn up and the police had been round five times since. But, and I know I shouldn't start a sentence with this word but it is a big BUT. The main bug bear of the evening was the water or lack of it. Everyone erupted about this theme as it affects us all. Since we had the 'filtro' fitted which is a piece of plastic with a plastic tube that is supposed to get rid of the limescale and which we paid a thousand euros for this time last year, we have had problems with the water. Henderson, who was absent at this meeting, told me it was imperative we got hold of the key to the door of the room where this new fangled Heath Robinson contraption lived as he knew what was going on. It hasn't been getting cleaned out enough and the reverse has happened and now we have a ton of limescale and no water. I proposed this at this year's meeting that we would be the ones responsible to clean it out if only for the old adage 'if you want anything done....' The gestor, the administrator and the neighbours all seemed happy with this proposal and it was done in such a way that I never got a straight answer. Did the previous president clean the 'filtro' out regularly? I was given an answer that included 'yes, no, the plumber showed me how to do it, the plumber didn't show me how to do it, yes I cleaned it out regularly, no I didn't' etc. 'Who was responsible to clean it out, you or the plumber? ' I asked. I still wasn't given a straight answer but I noticed we had water that evening as the penny dropped. Our fates were sealed when it was announced that Mercedes, who was absent, would be next in line to the throne amid gasps from most. The woman upstairs said she didn't care if Mercedes was the president or not as it meant it kept the responsibility away from her for an extra year. I added that Mercedes wouldn't be here for half of the year as she usually did a runner around May to Teruel where she torments the locals there. This was pooh poohed in a way that can only be understood with arm and hand gestures and so the evening ended with me wondering if Piti would be vice-president or treasurer. The gestor told me that the plumber would ring me the next day to make an appointment to show Henderson or me how the 'filtro' needed cleaning.

Three days later the plumber rang and he left me to create the words needed in the conversation over the mobile. I don't know if he had foreigner shock or was just thick or both. He didn't say who he was and left me asking him who he was and he asked me who I was and I said the usual 'you rang me' and this went on and when we finally established who we were he then went on about how he was outside my house and where was I. I told him we weren't in and he kept asking me 'what? you are not in?' over and over again. Later I rang him from home to say we were in but he then told me who couldn't do it as it was impossible now and he would have to call another day. An hour later I was still at home but he didn't know that and he turned up on the doorstep. He showed me how to change the filter which is unbelievable and needs a photo taken of it to prove how shocking it looks as it doesn't look like it is worth a thousand euros. Cleaning it involves turning the cap on the top and running the water into a bucket for ten seconds which somehow clears the limescale and lets us have water and pressure. If all goes to plan and the problem is with this gadget then we shall have water for ever more and the neighbours can thank us kindly. This not getting a straight answer lark is bamboozling me still. It happens a lot and you need to dig your heels in more than any Aragonese hoof until you get some semblance of normality. Something to do with an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

I had to end a class ten minutes early last night because I thought the student was about to have an apoplectic fit when I started to introduce the phrasal verbs. I asked him if football was on and he admitted that yes, Spain were playing France and I suggested we wind down. I couldn't see him for dust after that and judging from the primitive noises upstairs in flat 2D I guess he wasn't lying. Finding myself home alone I leant out of the window in the hope that Henderson would be seen scurrying along but instead I could see the 'effing bleeder' zigzagging his way up the street and just as he arrived at the front door I heard him say something on the lines of 'let them denounce me'. You'd think he was sick of all this but nothing can keep him down.

Spanish people often tell me how saddened they are when they go to England and see old men sitting on their own in pubs but I see a lot of it here too. The anti smoking in bars and pubs law has yet to arrive here although I have seen people go outside to have a fag. I think they are preparing themselves for the big day. I can't remember the statistics but there is an argument here from the hoteliers and bar owners that trade will plummet once this law takes effect but I can't imagine Spanish men staying at home of an evening just because they aren't allowed to smoke in bars anymore.

Henderson was asking a friend the other day what the James Bond film Octopussy was called in Spanish after pondering the idea it might be Ocho Pulpitos or Ocho Gatitos or worse. This led on to Golden Eye being Ojo Dorado which seems OK but perhaps not Goldfinger, Dedo Dorado.

Finally, during my siesta Henderson leaves the tele on and there seem to be so many programmes concerning expats in Spain and these programmes all seem to start with the opening line '....once a tiny fishing village, now a ***king dump'.

Monday, 1 March 2010


There's nothing like a ray of sunshine to lift the spirits and so I was rather surprised to still feel gloomy when I saw one today, the first after so many waterlogged moths ( I mean months but I am sure they are). My first thought is that I probably need to take up a sport or exercise as they say this is a good remedy to shake off leaden spirits. Cricket is out of the question, golf I would only take up on account of the comfy looking clothes so predictably after much musing I am left with swimming which is just about the only thing I am capable of and the thought of having to put clothes back on in that environment makes me ill just thinking about it. I've developed an idea that dancing round the house while no one is looking and singing new versions of old songs might be the restorer needed so watch this space.

Talking of sports I do feel like throwing myself off a cliff everytime Sebastian Coe's face looms out at me across the living room floor. I think it might be the last day of the Winter Olympics and the beginning of the end as it only serves as a reminder that London's gymkhana is not far off. I read in today's paper that the mayor of Zaragoza is, if I have understood correctly, being entertained in Canada as we speak in that ongoing, vain attempt at getting the Winter Olympics staged here in Aragon. I've made it clear that I am not a big sports fan but I would love to see the them staged here, purely for the entertainment value. The Brits would win if there was a binge drinking contest and perhaps one for teenage mothers and STDs but The Aragonese would win gold in the stubborness trials. Or perhaps the 'me pasan olimpicamente', 'they completely ignore me' event which could be turned into a triathlon if we include the 'greased up pig catching comp' that they hold here somewhere in the mountains and then someone can jump into a car and try to to run someone over.