Archive for July, 2010

Forget Cataluña’s vote…bullfighting’s here to stay

July 31, 2010


For anyone who’s jumping up and down in delight at the decision of the Cataluñan regional government to ban bullfighting, thinking that this signals the end of corrida in Spain, I suggest you make yourself a cup of tea, take a tranquillity pill and have a sit down, because believe me, sugar, it ain’t going to make the slightest bit of difference to bullfighting in Spain.

 The whole bullfight debate in Cataluña was more a stab at Central Government and their refusal to let Cataluña set itself up as a separate nation state than a philanthropic ideal to cosset a few bulls. The only bullring in Cataluña is in Barcelona, which rarely has more than twelve to fifteen bullfights a year, ranking it lower than many village bullrings. No-one has ever taken bullfight in the north-east region of Spain seriously, so banning it isn’t really going to make a big hole in the support it has nationally.

The vote was so narrow 68 for to 55 against, that most people expect another vote to be taken at a later date. What hasn’t been reported, though, and would stick a few bums in the faces of the animal-rights activists that signed the petition and forced the vote, is that nowhere in the bill banning the corrida does it mention the bous al carrer, a far more terrifying experience for the bull, and one that affects thousands of bulls each year in Cataluña, not the forty or so that would make an appearance at the Barcelona bullring, La Monumental.

The bous al carrer is the generic name for any bull-running through the streets. The Fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona is the most widely known, but the same rampant charge takes place in every one horse-town (or, in this case, one-bull town) during the fiestas patronales, the annual holiday in honour of the patron saint of the town or village. Each will have its own variant – in Dénia, on the Costa Blanca, the bull chases local lads and lasses along the quay, often following them into the sea as they jump to safety (in this case it’s known as the Toros a la Mar); in Rubielos de Mora, in Teruel Province, the bull is attached to a long rope, so the crew of white and blue-clothed young village lads can (supposedly) control its headlong career through the streets – but the essence is that groups of youths goad the bull into charging them and then dash for safety. But even this has its drawbacks, because every year there are a number of gorings, usually of older people who weren’t quick enough on their feet to get out of the way. More often than not they are fatal, so I suppose the animal rights types would say that at least the bull got the upper hand that time.

What those terribly caring councillors and animal lovers of Cataluña failed to comment on, or include in the ban, was the toros embolaos, a terrifying and heart-tearing savagery afflicted on the bull. Sometimes known as the ‘Toro de Fuego’, or fire bull, this is a night-time event, where flammable cloths are attached to the bull’s horns. As one English-language site, which really should be ashamed of itself, says, that it’s ‘not only making it more boisterous but also giving it an even more impending presence that is spectacular to watch, and terrifying and exciting in equal measures for the runners’. And what about the fucking bull! The terrified animal can’t shake off these blazing torches and is reduced to charging at anything that moves so that it can put them out – preferably, for me, in the rectum of the person who set fire to them in the first place!*

So why haven’t Cataluñan Parliament, those brave defenders of animal rights, banned the far more frightening bous al carrer and its derivatives, especially the flaming horns of the toros embolaos? For one very, very simple reason. Votes. And votes equal power.

The Nationalists can ban the corrida because it was never that important in Cataluña in the first place. But touch the local fiestas and they risk offending their grass-roots voters, on whom they desperately depend to keep them in power. Church and State are said to be the two mainstays of Spanish society, although the man in the street will tell you that the truth is that the mainstays of Spanish life are the fiesta and the siesta – and they won’t be given up lightly! To stay in power, the Nationalist party needs to hold on to the votes of the pueblos, and if they ban the bous al carrer and the toros embollados you can bet your bottom dollar that all the high-falutin’ members of the Catalan Parliament would be standing in line at the job centre next time voting came around.

So, all you animal-rights slobberers, don’t get your hopes up. Go and focus your energies on helping some poor little bunnikins somewhere, because even on your best day, when you think you are the collective Goliath agin’ the corrida-supporting David, just remember what happened to that big hulk. The Spanish are a strange folk – and you don’t mess with their history or culture with impunity.

*The first death this year in the Valencian region during the bous al carrer, occurred in Godella, during the toros embolaos when a 46-year old man had his aorta severed in the early hours of August 1st. He had twice been removed for being drunk from the enclosure where the  toros embolaos took place , but on his third attempt he was gored by the bull as he tried to take refuge behind a lamppost. The local governement recently declared the fiestas in Godella  as being Bien Interés Cultural, of Cultural Interest, although neither the bull nor the family of JCR, the dead man, might necessarily agree. Last year four people died and 270 were injured in the Valencian region during the bous al carrer.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, , and Spain Uncovered


We’re all going on a lemming’s holiday

July 29, 2010


It’s almost on us, the weekend when the Spanish don their lemming hats and rush to the sea. They don’t throw themselves off the cliffs when they get there, but you can bet your bottom dollar that, like every year, this weekend will register a bigger death toll on the road that all the other fifty-one.

Everyone likes to squeeze the last moments out of their summer holiday, but no-one moreso than the Spanish. The ‘Salida’, the mass exodus from city to beach that begins on Friday afternoon, the weekend nearest the 1st August, and the ‘Entrada’ the return on the Sunday of the last weekend of the month, are the times when you shouldn’t be seen dead on Spanish roads or that is what you might actually be seen as  – dead.

No-one seems prepared to leave a day later or earlier to avoid the record pile-ups or massive tail-backs, and each year the government and national police launch ‘Operación Salida’ (and ‘Entrada’) in an attempt to lessen the traffic blow – and invariably fail.

The Costa Blanca has been historically known as la playa de Madrid – Madrid’s beach, and hordes of escaping masrileños descend on the beaches and resorts of the region. Last year traffic jams covered almost 170 kilometres of motorway during the salida, almost half the distance from the Capital to Valencia city, (although admittedly not all going in that direction), and a trip that usually takes a comfortable four hours was taking up to twenty. On their return, the tens of thousands who fought their way to the coast fought their way home again, this time, according to pleased police sources, they only had to endure tailbacks of 90 kms trying to enter the capital city. It was also a good weekend as far as deaths were concerned, a mere 39 people died in 37 accidents, while in 35 accidents in which no mortality occurred a paltry 16 were considered serious. But that was just a small part of the overall total of 202 people who never saw their homes again.

The Dirección General de Tráfico, the Government Traffic Department, reckons that there will be around 5,1 million journeys made between 15.00 on Friday afternoon and midnight on Sunday, and as a fair percentage of them will be one-way, you can be pretty sure that there will be a few tempers lost in the bumper-to-bumper crawl, especially given the high temperatures the country has been experiencing over the last few weeks.

The DGT have launched a poster campaign to force the danger home to drivers. ‘In a second your life can change and nothing will be the same again. We all know how to avoid an accident. Why don’t we?’…a message so long that by the time you read it the bloke in front could have slammed his brakes on and you could be catapulted through the windscreen, bits of you joining his screaming kids in their back seat. ‘Watch your driving or you could be f*****g dead!’ would never get past the censors, but it might be a bit more affective.

The problem is worsened this year because the 1st August falls on a Sunday, so no-one is forced to delay their holiday because it falls during the middle of the week. Government statisticians tell us that fifty percent of mortal accidents occur during the salida, but it never seems to occur to anyone to let the lemmings rush off early, and then take a leisurely drive to the holiday home a couple of days later.

So, come the end of August, after a month of wall-to-wall people on Valencia’s beaches, fighting for a restaurant table and facing the worst traffic jams for years, the madrileños and Spanish from all corners of the country will have forgotten all about the lost tempers and hours of delays during their lemming-like rush to the sea a few weeks earlier, and leave their return home until the last minute. Only one question remains to be answered – why?

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, , and Spain Uncovered

Romance under the stars

July 24, 2010

I’m going to be a father-in-law!

Now, in the greater scheme of things, this may not be exactly earth-shattering news, but it came as much as a surprise to me as it probably did to my future daughter-in-law, the delightful Angela.

While the younger son, Jim, has been adding to the Workman lineage with the addition of my two darling grandkids Katie and Danny (with a fair bit of help from his lovely lady, Jo), the elder boy, Tom, hadn’t shown a great deal of inclination in the settling-down stakes.

The last time the subject of marriage had come up we were sat at the table in Jim and Jo’s house, swirling glasses of red wine after a particularly good roast beef lunch. Goaded by the then heavily pregnant Jo about when he was going to pop the question, Tom said, “I’ll marry Ange when she can whistle.” I’ve heard of a number of reasons for putting a proposal off, but whistling is definitely not one of them!

For the next half-hour we did everything we could to get Angie to make any sort of whistling sound; hard blow between pursed lips, tongue behind the teeth, two fingers in mouth – everyone’s favourite method, but to no avail. I couldn’t help thinking, though, (and I hope my dear first-born will forgive me for saying this) if someone can pucker a pair of lips like that, the last thing I’d want to be doing is waiting for a whistle coming out of them!

But anyway.

Last night I’d just got back from a delightfully unexpected evening out, when, just before midnight I got a call on my mobile phone (cell phone, if there are any Americans are getting this so far). It was Tom, telling me that he was sat on the beach under the stars in Mallorca with Angie, on the last night of his holiday, and he’d just proposed. What delighted me was that that I was the second person he’d called because, in an amazingly rare moment of romance, he’d phoned Angie’s Italian dad, Fergie, to ask for her hand in marriage. ‘How wonderful,’ I thought, but it was only this morning that I found out he’d earlier rung Angie’s Irish mum, Jacinta, to make crystal clear that he’d get an acceptance from dad before chancing his arm with Fergie. Belt and braces, my son…belt and braces.

Apparently, he had to ask Angie three times before she was convinced he was serious. I’m with you, girl…if the main criteria to get hitched is that I’ve got to expel even a low-level of sound through my lips, the last thing I’m going to do is take the demander seriously when we’re sat on a beach under the stars…particularly after a rather good meal and a tasty bottle of wine. But, God bless, she finally got the message and said…well, I’m  not exactly sure what she said because I wasn’t there, but I guess she said yes or he wouldn’t have phoned me, would he?

After shocking me in a totally delightful way, he handed the phone over to the girly-girl, who was giggly-ecstatic that she’d finally nailed the divil down – without having to render ‘God Save Our Queen’ in two tonalities through pursed lips. Short of a pair of handcuffs and leg irons, he’s hers!

When we hung up, I remembered a film from the 1970s called Harold and Maud, about a woman in her eighties and a boy in his twenties. He fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. One evening they went to the beach, and he proposed. She took the ring and threw it as far into the ocean as her old arms would allow. He was shocked, but her reasoning was delightful. “I’m old, and I’ll die soon, but whatever happens at least we know where our ring is.”

Move on fifteen years. I’m on holiday in Venice with my lady of then, Tina. Despite a fraught relationship, I’d planned this holiday in the hope that we would return to the UK as a couple. We’d argued our way through most of Venice, and on the last day, full of angst and repressed tears, we’d taken a vaporetto, the water buses that plied the canals, to the Lido, the island off the city, and the only place where buses, cars and motorbikes are allowed. The wonderfully invasive noise of humanity, after the insular, cottoned, sounds of water-born taxis, buses and delivery boats of the canals.

We sat on the beach. Probably the only moment of peace between us for two weeks. I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out a cheap ring I’d bought in a market in Manchester two weeks earlier. It was a symbol, bought at a moment full of positive thoughts, hopes for the future. I gave it to her, and told her the story of the film. “It’s in your hands. Throw it out into the water, and whatever happens, at least you know where it is.” She heaved it out as far as it would go; we sat there for a while, my arm around her shoulders, and then we walked hand-in-hand back to the vaporetto.

Shortly after, we parted, and I’ve not seen her since then.

But back to Angie and Tom. I wish them the greatest happiness possible. If happiness isn’t available at any particular moment, then I hope they can put antagonisms aside and remember the moment on the beach below the stars, with nothing more than the lapping of the waves, the sparkle of the sky above, the magic of the moment, and the soft, gentle love that they have for one another.

I salute you…I love you both…and I hope that you can hold in your hearts that moment on the beach when you knew that you were, each for the other, a couple who have come to realise that, actually, “I love you. Your are the person I want to spend my life with.”

God bless, enhorabuenas, and I look forward to being the proud dad as you walk down the aisle with your guapa chica.

 Te quiero, carino

Tu papa

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, , and Spain Uncovered

The joy of the printed word

July 23, 2010

I’ve been doing some promotion for the splendidly idiosyncratic Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Guadalest, which has involved hours and hours of on-line searching for magazines, travel websites etc to place articles. A wander through the shelves of WH Smiths when I’m in the UK never ceases to amaze me as to the types of magazines that are available, particularly with the modern relative simplicity in design and production. And they say the written word is dead!

I chanced upon a list of American magazines late this afternoon, when my eyes were beginning to de-focus behind my fogged up glasses, but a combination of my tired state, naturally mucky frame of mind, and just plain silliness at the end of a tiring day, led me to mentally meander as I saw some of the titles and tried to guess what they were about.

I did a double-take when one of the first I spotted was called American Woodpecker. My God, I thought, there’s something for everyone! Actually, it was called American WoodWORKER, which just goes to show how tired by eyes were.

Then came Baby Talk, and I imagined the editor trying to make sense of various adverts and articles written the ‘oobly-doobly, kitchywitchy, chiggybum’ language we use with anyone under two – which, quite frankly, is about the best that quite a few people I can mention considerably over two can handle. I’ve got to admit that I’ve been pretty disparaging of the way we adults (!) condescend to those below knee height when we talk to them, but I finally threw in the towel and got on my knees and entered into the game when I last went to visit my two-year old granddaughter recently. Mind you, given the way she looked at me she probably thought I’d slipped into senility and continued to talk like that just to keep me happy.

Working alphabetically, The Bark came up next, with its strap-line, Dog is my co-pilot, which seemed about as intellectually adept as the oobly-doobly from Baby Talk. I couldn’t help click on their advert for DogJoy (can someone please explain to me why designers these days think it’s rather nifty to miss out spaces between words. It isn’t – it’s just thick!) which features the new Smiling Dog Collection, an assortment of those pathetically saccharin poses that get used as calendars for the simple minded, accompanied by illiterate prose that is supposed to make us think that this dumb animal can actually compose a sentence that says, “Thank you so much for my treat.” According to Patrick McDonnell, Creator of MUTTS “Dogs know the secret to happiness, and DogJoy proves it—my dog Earl smiled all day, and it was contagious. It’s one of the reasons we love our little guys.” Which just goes to show what a friggin’ MUTT he is!

Bay Woof followed, which could have been either another mangy mongrel mag, or something by a friend of Dorothy with a sense of humour. I didn’t bother discovering which. Being Single, America’s Leading Lifestyle Magazine for Singles naturally attracted me, as I am – single, that is, not American (God forbid!). Now, I may be moronic in many areas of my life, and I admit to have been a bit of a toss-pot on many occasions, but no-one can accuse me of being rascist….some of my best friends are Irish. (That’s a joke, by the way.) but while the site proclaims that, ‘according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are well over 60,000,000 singles, all races, between the ages of 20-54, men and women, (the italics are mine) not one white face appears on the covers of the magazine. Surely not all the white singles in the US oi Vey are obese gallumpers; there must be the odd decent looking bit of nooky that can grace the cover. But there again, maybe there isn’t.

I nearly dived into Buff, until I realised that my eyes were playing me up again and the title was actually Bluff, (not worth following through on), and Boom, a magazine for the baby boomers which tells you to Live Life, Live Well, Live Large (what the f*** does ‘Live Large’ mean anyway?) didn’t entice me in the slightest, even though I’m up there with the older element of the boomer generation. They missed out ‘Live Not Much Longer’, and my life hasn’t been so much ‘Boom’ as ‘Bust’.

Which segues us neatly into Bust, The magazine for women who want to get something off their chest. Temptation, temptation…..but when I had a quick shufti and saw that the main article was entitled, ‘Teenage Masturbation. Oh my!’ written by Taylor Momsen, ‘(a) 16-year-old anti-role model, (who) apparently has a loud mouth and a BFF vibrator,’ I realised it wasn’t something I was going to order a subscription to.

Christian Times Blow In seemed a bit of a odd title, which I wasn’t keen to pursue, but I had a quick delve into Cowboys and Indians, the premier magazine of the west. When I were just a slip of a lad, cowboys and Indians was what you played with a plastic gun and a bow made from a bent stick and a bit of garden twine begged from your dad. Oh boy, how things have changed! Far from telling me about ‘them good ole’ days on the trail, pardnuh’, it seems nothing more than an online catalogue for some of the weird and wonderful must-have kitsch that no self respectin’ ole’boy – or ole’ girl, come to that – could live without. I was curious as to what ‘Kickin’ Furniture’ was, other than a chair that gets a good larruping with a boot after a late-night drinking spree, but was a bit taken aback to find that part of the collection included the ‘Lonesome Dove wing chair featuring hair-on-hide leather with a striking zebra print, a down-filled leather button-pulled seat cushion, gator-embossed leather, and bronze nailhead trim.’ Could someone please tell me in which state you can shoot zebra? Or when the say ‘west’ do they mean so far west that you pass over a couple of oceans and some pretty large land masses to find one – ie. Africa!

Nearing the evening cocktail hour, my instincts told me to check out one more site, which just happened to be called Instinct, the US’s biggest gay magazine. Here we go again with the advance apology, and I can say hand on heart that I don’t have the smallest homophobic bone in my body – some of my best friends live in closets (and if you didn’t think the first joke was funny, you aren’t going to think much of that!), and I absolutely promise that what I’m about to say is true, but how come this is the only magazine I looked at that was flagged up by system protection to carry a virus with it, and what else could that virus be but a Trojan!

Time I think, for that gin and tonic.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, , and Spain Uncovered

No such thing as a free lunch

July 20, 2010


In these trying times we’re all after a bargain, and there are so many ways to get one. One of the main areas of saving money has been the increase of house and flat exchanges for people who want to take a holiday and save themselves the expense of hotels and eating out in restaurants every day.

My friend Paco and his wife Carmen have done it a number of times, and a couple of weeks ago they set off for a week in London, with the other couple spending a week in Paco and Carmen’s beautiful flat in Valencia. There was the usual exchange of info about the different things to take care of, but it was basically simple, other than they hadn’t to use the microwave and must never leave a window open or the other couple’s precious little kitty, which they loved like their own new-born, might escape.

Paco had checked out the flights, and Ryanair, the leading cowboys in the air game, had seemed the best bet. They were travelling with their son, Javi, and a female friend of his, Clara. When they arrived at Valencia airport it turned out that darling little Clara hadn’t printed out her on-line boarding card, something they’d just assumed she would know you had to do. There’s an old saying, ‘assume made as ass out of you and me’. (It makes more sense if you say it out loud.) So Bam! a forty euro fee for not having a boarding pass. Ah well, these things happen.

They arrived at the flat on the Saturday, all set for a few days sightseeing, but the first thing Paco and Carmen had to do was get some food in, while Javi and Clara took themselves off to Camden town for a look around. Before he could move though, Paco needed a coffee, so, despite the warning, he put a cup full of milk into the microwave. It didn’t explode, as they were warned it might do, but it did cough out clouds of smoke and made some pretty dangerous sounds. He grabbed the cup out of the machine while Carmen threw open all the windows for a few minutes to clear the smoke.

You’re way ahead of me now, aren’t you!

So, the smoke cleared eventually and they went around and closed all the windows, then off to do a decent shop at the supermarket down the road. There was no rush, so they dawdled a bit, had a beer, as you do on holiday, but when they got back to the flat they saw a sign saying, “Has anyone lost a kitten. If you have it’s at flat 2.” A vague glimmer of unease passed through Paco, and when he got upstairs – three flights upstairs – they found a window open and kitty gone. A dash down to flat 2 on the ground floor, and there it was.

Now, whatever they might say about cats always landing on their feet, that’s probably something that comes with a bit of practise, something that this little feline hadn’t had, because while still having a few of his nine lives left, he was in a pretty iffy state.

Nervously they rang the owners in Valencia and, after finally quieting the woman, found out where the nearest vet was. Off they went and Boom! one hundred pounds just for the consultation.

The vet said that he seemed okay physically, but you never know with a fall like that whether the poor little thing has sustained any head damage, so suggested it stayed in for observation until Monday. How could they disagree? Bam again! multiple notes for the cost of the stay, and two days of stomach churning nervousness for Paco.

He’s a freelance graphic designer, and was expecting a call to finish off a job that had to be at the printer while they were still in London. He got the call late on Sunday, and far from it being just a quick up-date it was practically a whole new job, so he worked all  night, all day on Monday and into the early hours of Tuesday getting it done. At least it took his mind of kitty cat for a few hours!

So by Tuesday morning he was like a zombie, and it wasn’t until Wednesday that they could finally begin to enjoy their holiday. By which time the cat had recovered.

Their flight was at five on Saturday afternoon, but in one of those shilly-shallying, dilly-dallying ways, they missed it. Not just by a couple of minutes but by a whole two hours. And has anyone ever known Ryanair to show the slightest bit of sympathy? A purely rhetorical question! The next flight was at seven on Sunday morning, so after having shelled out another £350 for tickets, the sad foursome took a taxi to the nearest pub and sat there till throwing out time, then back to Stanstead for their early flight, but they still somehow managed to get at the back of the queue.

When they got to the check-in desk the two in-flight bags weighed twenty-two kilos, two kilos overweight. Paco said he’d take something out and wear it or throw it away, because at £35 a kilo, that made for some pretty expensive T-shirts. But the Ryanair money-grubber at the desk said he didn’t have time to do that as it was almost boarding time so he’d have to pay the excess baggage. Boom! seventy-five quid changed hands.

So this nice cheap week’s holiday turned into a bloody expensive three days for him, given travel, time at the vet, working, getting to the airport and trying to kip in those awful plastic seats.

So, as they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, , and Spain Uncovered.

Jolly good win there chaps.

July 12, 2010


Anyone who has read World Cup Whimper, will know that I’m not exactly a devotee of football. Truth be told, I’d rather watch paint dry, which is exactly how I felt watching the World Cup Final between Spain and Holland. About the only thing that spiced it up were the war-like tackles from Holland, but I’m told they were ‘disgraceful’ and ‘totally lacking in sportsmanship’. Ah well, at least they brought a bit of life to an otherwise almost tedious couple of hours.

I’d been dragged along to a local bar by my Irish friend, Mike, to watch the England v Germany match a couple of weeks ago, but this time he had something much better in mind, he said. We were going to watch it in a local park, in the warmth of a Spanish summer evening. Well, nearly right. I had visions of a big screen, with every action captured in finest detail, but it turned out that we were going to watch the game outside a bar near the local park, and far from the big screen quality viewing I’d expected, someone had simply hung a TV about the size of my computer screen from a wall and arranged rows of chairs and tables in front of it. We were so far away that all I could see moving around what appeared to be a striped lawn were lots of little orange and black blobs. Okay, I know that Valencia were playing in dark blue, but the colour quality wasn’t up to scratch, either.

I was prepared for a bit of noise from the home team supporters, who came equipped with a raucous selection of horns, trumpets, whistles and all kinds of bangy things. I’d also expected a bit of exuberant enthusiasm, but the second Spain touched the ball after kick-off a bloke in front of me jumped up and started punching the air and blowing his whistle as if they’d just scored, and completely blocked my view. I realised I wasn’t going to see much of the match with gobby jumping up and down in front of me. Fortunately, the game was so slow that he barely moved after that and I was able to enjoy the wonderful inaction on screen almost totally unobscured. It turned out that he was Brazilian, so I don’t know what he was getting all up in arms about, because his lot had been booted out ages ago. And you can’t say he was sharing his Spanish blood, because his antecedents were Portuguese, and as far as I know, they didn’t even get a look in. (If they did, thank you for not replying to tell me so.)

When Xavi Alonso got booted in the chest by de Jong, Eva turned to me and, said, “Go on, write that down. Disgraceful, that was,” and Teresa, not to be outdone, shouted, “He should get a red card for that! Those Dutch are playing a filthy game!” “Well, yeah,” I thought, “perhaps it’s because they want to win,” but I kept the thought to myself.

The five of us, Mike, Ramon, his missus, Eva, Teresa and me, had set up a lottery at a euro a head. Ramon had confidently gone for 4-1 for Spain, but after thirty-five minutes of on-pitch passivity you could see his confidence beginning to wane. I kept another thought to myself about how they were going to have to go like the clappers if he was going to pull the €5 euros out the hat at the end of the game. I needn’t have bothered, though, because Eva had a dig at him about it. “There’s plenty of time yet. Plenty of time,” he said, but without mustering a lot of confidence.

Mike’s always good for a well-considered comment at times like this, so I asked him how he thought the game was going. He pondered for a moment and the leant toward me conspiratorially. “I’ve no idea. I can’t see a thing.”

Obviously I’m not cut out to be a football supporter, because while the dagoes were practically dancing on the tables and waving their flags ecstatically in the air every time their team put the ball either over or around the net, all I could think was, “What’s all the bloody excitement about…they missed!” I began to get quite frightened at the thought of what would happen if Spain actually did score. Mind you, as the second half dragged by without any sign of a result, it didn’t look as if Mike (2-1 for Spain) or Teresa (2-0 Spain) were going to get the big lottery prize, and Ramon had given up ages ago. Eva was in with a bit of a chance (1-1 on a penalty), and my contrary 1-0 to Holland suddenly got closer to being a reality – although I wasn’t sure I’d like to claim my winnings, give the way the boys in orange had been kicking everything but the ball for most of the match.

“I think this game’s only ever been a one goal game,” Mike sardonically commented as the game neared the ninety minutes, which made me think I’d nodded off and missed something, but a quick check…no, still a thoroughly enthralling nil-nil. (It reminded me of that famous Colmenballs, “If that ball had gone into the net it would have been a goal!”)

I was scribbling away when an almighty roar went up. Bugger, I’d missed a goal! No I hadn’t, it was one of those mucky Dutch blokes finally getting sent off. And about time too.

When the real thing did finally happen and Iniesta became the man of the match, the crowd quietly showed their appreciation with a round of applause and a few calls of “Jolly good show, chaps.” Well, for all the affect it had on me, they could have done, but you know I’m only kidding. They are Spanish, after all, and not known for keeping their voices down. I was so excited and overcome by the win that I just sat there not moving…or could it be that I was totally disinterested? Yes, that probably about right.

While the world and his dago brother danced, sang and blew horns, I trudged back to my flat, thinking, “Bollocks, there’ll be no quiet in the street tonight!”

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, , and Spain Uncovered.

Mucky-minded meanderings

July 9, 2010


I’ve just proven what a mucky-minded lot my readers are! I checked the stats for views to this blog, and There’s nowt so erotic as rubber, Going topless in Spain, Art for Fart’s sake, and Nothing like a good blow job, have all had the most hits – despite the fact that, other than the double entendre of their titles, they have nothing to do with sex at all. I don’t suppose you can be totally to blame, though…after all it was me who wrote the titles, as much as a way of drawing your eye as trying to add a bit of a giggle to the blog.

As a journalist, I’ve always been pretty crappy at thinking of titles, usually hoping that the editor could pull something out of the copy that hadn’t automatically jumped out to me and made me think – ‘now that’s a good title! It’s even worse in these days of SEO, when all the pundits say that you’ve got to get your keywords into the title but keep it short, so that the nefarious Google spiders can pull me out and push me up the rankings to the point where I’ll have so many followers I can flog this site on to some up-and-coming internet entrepreneur. But I’m a feature writer, I don’t even get warmed up until I’ve written five hundred words, so distilling the essence of my finely honed text into a five-word headline, three of which are keywords, is way beyond my editorial skills.

I do keep trying, though, and I’m quite proud of an article I wrote about Sagunto in Castellon, which I called ‘The Arse End of the World’ (which isn’t as insulting as you think, read it and all will be explained.) I was even prouder still, and very surprised, when the magazine actually used the title! I can’t say that it’s particularly descriptive of the town, so isn’t very likely to pull the in punters who are looking for information about Sagunto, but it’s the third most read article on my website, which yet again goes to show that my readers have a pretty mucky mentality.

To be honest, I don’t think I’m very good at this blogging malarkey. I get bombarded almost daily with information about how I’m supposed to get an enormous following, have them all hanging on my every word, tease them all with give-aways and then hit them with a product that they really can’t live without and can only get from me. From then on, supposedly, I just sit back and let the mooley role in. Unfortunately, that’s the point I usually unsubscribe at.

The problem is, I don’t actually have a product to tempt you with. I wish did, because I could certainly do with living a mooley-ish lifestyle in my sunset years. I’d happily give things away just to keep you coming back but I’m a bit short on the ‘must-have report’ or the e-book that will change your life in under three minutes by simply showing you the best way to slice a cucumber. And believe me, I’ve got a hard-drive full of this type of cobblers, but if hasn’t done me that much good I’m too nice a chap to try and foist it off onto you.

So, I suppose it’s just back to the keyboard keeping myself entertained, if no-one else. But at least I did get one supportive message a while back. It said, “Great site, Dad, really enjoyed it”. I was from my son, Tom, who sent me an email a few minutes later saying, “I’ve just realised, I probably shouldn’t have put ‘Dad’ in that message. It looks a bit sad if it seems like there’s only your son reading it.” He has a point, but it’s better than no bugger reading it at all! Even if all they’re looking for are salacious titles to satisfy their mucky minds.

And I wonder if you’ve been able to resist looking at the blogs I mentioned, just to see if I’m lying and they really are mucky after all!

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, , and Spain Uncovered


A fine time was had by all

July 9, 2010

I had no idea that a Japanese strike was any different to strikes anywhere else until a friend sent me a clipping from an interview in the New York Times, where a Japanese worker was asked if they go on strike.

“In Japan,” he said, “we have what I suppose you Americans would call ‘job inactions.’ When we strike, we put on armbands to show we are unhappy and we go into the plant and work twice as hard as usual to prove to the bosses how valuable we are.”

I’m note entirely sure that it isn’t a spoof, but the police in Paterna, near Valencia, resorted to the same sort of action a couple of weeks ago in protest against proposed cuts in ‘extras’ such as overtime and special cash allowances, on top of the 5% wage reduction all civil servants are having to suffer because of the crisis.

Instead of going on the usual go-slow, they went on a go-fast, a three day fining spree. According to one copper, they were going to “comply with every traffic regulation, live entertainment law and municipal by-law to the letter,” in an attempt to piss the local population off so much that they would march en-mass to the Town Hall in support of the police, and demand that the mayor and his cronies rescind the budgetry order. Each officer was told to hand out at least 100 tickets per day, 80 percent more than normal. It got to the point that they began running out of the infamous pink slips.

What’s pissed the locals off in particular is that it’s them who are suffering and being forced to pay fines for the tiniest of infringements that would usually result in being either entirely ignored or merit nothing more than a ‘quick word in the shell-like’. They are saying that it’s a dispute between the council and its workers, but they are being penalized.

It seems to have worked, though, because going from a totally intransigent point of not discussing anything with the unions, after three days the Town Hall suddenly agreed to open negotiations, and the strike was called off.

It’s the other way around in Valencia City, where the police are giving far fewer fines than normal since they were ordered to impose maximum sanctions, most likely as an underhand way for the cash-strapped council to bring in more of the readies.

Meanwhile, the Guardia Civil are taking the tried and tested old go-slow route, refusing to fine people as a protest against wage cuts, thus starving the government of part of the €65million they pull in from fines every month.

Now that’s a strike idea I can happily work with!

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It’s only wurdz

July 2, 2010



The regional government of Cataluña recently passed a law saying that at least fifty percent of all films released in the Autonomous Region must be dubbed into Catalan. The moguls of Hollywood gave them the finger, and have gone the complete reverse of what the law demands by not even dubbing the films into Castellano – Spanish to you and me – but will now only supply them in the original version with subtitles added. Hurray for Hollywood! is all I can say

According to Luis Hernández de Carlos, whoever he might be, it’s not about the money, it’s about the principle, (a phrase I hear myself oft repeating – as if!). The major movie makers don’t like being told what to do, particularly when it’s enshrined in law. The distributors association say that they are already losing money because of this action and fear that there will be permanent cinema closures, and not just the one-day event they had recently in response to the new law.

But the cinema dearies needn’t worry to much about the extra cost (which they aren’t worried about anyway, just the principle) because the government of Cataluña has said they will pay the cost of dubbing of any films that distribute over fifty copies, which gives a bit of a clout across the ear of any small independent producer, who’s struggled to get the money together in the first place to make his obra de arte.

Marvellous, though, isn’t it, that at a time of the deepest economic crisis Spain has found itself in virtually since they began keeping record of such things, a regional government is prepared to pay out millions of taxpayers euros (and hand them over to production companies that aren’t known for being particularly poverty-stricken) just so that they can stamp their feet and say, “My language is better than yours is, nah, nah, nah!”

I’m all for protecting one’s heritage, but I’ve always felt that this sort of thing is linguistic fascism, forced on all and sundry by a load of academics and politicians. Yes, Catalan is a recognised language of Spain, but the official language of the country is Spanish, which almost everyone in Cataluña speaks, even though they won’t admit to it at times and even going so far refuse to speak to someone speaking Castellano. (As far as the European Union is concerned, Catalan is not recognised as an official language.)

There are three four officially recognised languages in Spain; Castellano, which virtually everyone speaks, whether as a first or second language, Euskara, the language of the Basque country, which about 600,000 speak as a first language, Gallego from Galicia, with three million speakers, and Catalan, with a about four million parlantes. Various other regions try to pass their dialect off as a language, particular those in Valencian, where I live, and will go to great linguistic lengths to try and prove that it is actually is a real, honest-to-God language in it’s own right, but it gives me no end of delight that the best they can do to get it recognised is for it to be called Valenciano-Catalan, which they usually admit through gritted teeth.

Personally, I don’t give a verbal phrase, subjunctive or fig about the obsessions these people have over the way the chat in their daily lives. What concerns me is that while they may be asserting their rights over their heritage, they are effectively damaging the future of their children, who, without an internationally recognised language will not be able to make their successful way in the world. This struck me forcefully many years ago when I went to Anglesey in North Wales and discovered that children there are taught Welsh as a first language – to me a language that’s full of l’s, p’s and a lot of spittle – and where they weren’t even allowed to speak English in the playground. What sort of future do they have, just as what sort of future does a child have whose first language in only spoken in three parts of Spain, as is Catalan, (Cataluña, Valencia and Majorca), or even worse, in one Autonomous Region, as is Euskara and Gallego?

So I suggest that the primping politicos of Cataluña get off their linguistic high horse and let the local kids watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the first film to suffer the dubbing boycott) in a language they understand, and not lose the pleasure of the experience by having to read subtitles.

 If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, , and Spain Uncovered.