Archive for September, 2010

Pennies from heaven

September 25, 2010

One of the main criteria I have when looking for a new home is that I must have somewhere to grow a few plants. My apartment in Ruzafa in Valencia City is wonderful, with a 40m2 terrace that was totally empty when I arrived, apart from a cracked bathroom sink, a grubby towel, three odd socks and a lifetime’s worth of pegs.

The sink made me wonder, but it didn’t take me long to realise that, being on the first floor of my apartment building, and my terrace being the first flat surface that something encounters from its fall from the washing lines of the six storeys above me, I was going to find myself with a fair collection of oddities, most of which were of absolutely no use to me at all.

I could have been like the disgruntled old sod we all encountered in our early years who would keep any ball that went over his wall, but what value to me have a red sock with a bunny on the side, size 3; a rucksack with the straps about three inches apart and suitable for a nine-year-old; a blue gingham plimsoll; a pink hand towel with a frayed edge and faded ‘Te Quiero’ – ‘I love you’ embroidered in the corner above a heart (obviously not intended for me!); a …. perhaps best not to mention that one, and a couple of dozen pegs? None, is the answer (apart from the pegs), so I devised a way of returning them to my vertical neighbours without causing embarrassment.

When you come into my building you enter a small foyer, with a couple of steps up to the lift. Between the foyer and the lift are a pair of doors which are usually jammed open with a folded cigarette packet. Just before the doors are two small marble-topped pillars that cover some of the very iffy electrics in the building.

If something is small enough I tuck it through the brass handles of the doors. This serves well for most things and nothing usually hangs around for more than a day. Some of my neighbours are kind enough to say thank you for the return of their footwear and bathroom impedimenta, although most don’t (sadly the landlords have allowed for a certain lesser quality of clientele to accommodate themselves on the upper floor, but what can one do). I feel I provide a valuable recovery service, delivered (almost) to your doorstep muy rapido (although I have to admit that the skimpy red satin panties with the embroidered sweetheart on the front below an enticingly tied lace bow did linger a little longer than is perhaps decent before they were returned. I am human after all!)

The strangest thing of all to cascade onto my terrace arrived this morning. I went to hang out some washing and saw a peg lying on the tiles. At first I thought it was just another one come astray from someone’s washing, but as I got closer I saw that the peg was clamped around a folded piece of paper, with the word ‘Hola’ showing. I un-pegged the note and found a message written in capital letters on the back of a torn-off piece of calendar.

‘Hola: Soy Gay’ (it read)

‘Tengo 57 años y me gustas tu y tu terraza.

Un Saludo


-telf …..’

 For non-Spanish speakers,

‘Hello, I’m gay

I’m 57 years old and I like you and your terrace



Somebody likes me! Unfortunately for Sigfrido, I’m straight, and, quite frankly, I’d much rather the note came from a Sigfrida, but at least someone on God’s earth thinks I’m worth dropping (literally) a billet-doux to!

I was tempted to send a message to the phone number, saying thank you, but I’m unreservedly hetro, but thought that it might be someone having a joke, so decided against it. There again, perhaps it was my terrace he was more interested in.

So I continue returning the size 3 socks, the gingham plimsolls and the frayed-edge hand towels. But just you wait till the red knickers fall agin. Possession is nine tenths of the law, after all – and them buggers is mine!


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


Jolly Holiday

September 16, 2010

It was that old Paddy playwright, George Bernard Shaw, (who, incidentally, is the only person ever to have been awarded both the Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938) for his contributions to the written arts and for his work on the film Pygmalion, which was adapted from his play of the same name, the story of which we commoners would know better as My Fair Lady), who coined the phrase, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” When he threw away the flippant phrase, he probably never realised just how separate out common languages would become.

I was trolling around the internet a couple of days ago, looking for some copy to steal for an article I was writing which was as about interesting an experience as having your wisdom teeth pulled without anaesthetic, or at least a good shot of brandy, when I came across an article about someone taking a ‘mancation’. Yes, you read the word right – ‘mancation’. I was flummoxed, so I searched a bit and found that it means a vacation taken by a group of men. Men only; no wives, girlfriends, mistresses or other bits of totty, just a group of chaps having a jolly good time, thank you very much.

Now, I have no objection at all to a few good old pals having an away-day together, that’s what football and rugby away games are all about, surely. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced one myself, mainly, probably, because I’m singularly short of the ‘bonding buddy’ sort of connections, (although I may one day tell you about my weird experience in a ‘sweat lodge’ that was actually in a basement in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester). If a group of chaps want to drink themselves silly with their mates at a Beerfest, dance their days away in cowboy drag (or cowgirl drag, for those so inclined) at a line dancing weekend, or tumble down gorges, stagger through mud, swim in slime and crawl through rolls of razor wire on a He-Man Holiday (and I believe they also have He-Women Holidays but I sincerely doubt they call them that), all the best to them, say I, but don’t expect me to be part of the shenanigans.

Anyway, back to ‘mancation’. I’ve finally come to terms with the use of the word ‘vacation’ as opposed to ‘holiday’, mainly because I live in Spain and the word here is ‘vacaciones’. But it still doesn’t feel the same. I like going on holiday; going on ‘vacation’ somehow seems a bit of an absurdity, as if I’m trying to be so terribly, terribly international, when in fact all I’m doing is putting my feet up for a couple of weeks, eating and drinking too much and falling asleep over the half-kilo block-buster I’ve brought with me, that will probably get left in the hotel ‘library’, along with the bodice-rippers of Danielle Steel and Mills and Boon, and the tedious, ‘eee, when ah were a lad…’ of Barbara Cartland. (And something else I bet you didn’t know; academics who study this sort of thing – and don’t you just feel really, really sorry for them – reckon that this muckily romantic style started with our dearly beloved romantic novelists, Jane Austen and Emily Bronte. And who am I to argue!)

But, never content with just accepting that the lingua franca of Britain, our Septic Isle, (sorry, that should read our Sceptered Isle) is the true ‘English as she is and should be spoke’, those bloody latter-day colonialist keep trying to change our native tongue. I grudgingly admit that when someone pontificates about ‘English being the second most spoken language in the world’, they are actually referring to the bastardised American version (and even as I bloody well write, my sodding Microsoft spell check has come up to say that ‘bastardised’ should be spelt with a ‘z’ and not an ‘s’. No it ‘bastardisingly’ shouldn’t!)

And then, I came across ‘staycation’, meaning people who now take their holidays in their own country, town, or region, instead of having a couple of weeks jollifaction abroad.

‘Staycation’… ‘STAYCATION’!!!! Will they never give up, these people can’t simply talk, they have to ‘theme speak’, invent new words that never existed, and bamboozle us into thinking we’re missing out on something! (Have I just invented the phrase ‘theme-speak?)

But when I sat back with a cup of soothing Earl Grey, it occurred to me what an old tart I was being. Language is always evolving. The Académie Française has been trying for almost four hundred years to maintain the purity of the French language. They have tried to prevent the Anglicization (American spelling!) of the French language. For example, the Académie has recommended, with almost a total lack of success or the realisation what a set of plonkers they are, that some words from English such as walkman, software and email should be avoided, in favour (‘favor’ in American) of words derived from French (baladeur, logiciel, and courriel. The young Frogs don’t want to know! I read a recent report that said that French, within two decades, would be one of the least spoken languages in Europe. Except in the European Courts, where they have the overpaid, underused, and totally ignored government by the linguistic bollocks

I thought of that lovely English word, ‘quiz’ which we all take for granted these days.

The story goes that a Dublin theatre proprietor by the name of Richard Daly made a bet that he could, within forty-eight hours, make a nonsense word known throughout the city, and that the public would supply a meaning for it. After a performance one evening, he gave his staff cards with the word ‘quiz’ written on them, and told them to write the word on walls around the city. The next day the strange word was the talk of the town.

So, my darlings, I hope you have a wonderful ‘mancation’ with your gorgeously muscled pals and save an enormous amount of foreign currency on your ‘staycation’. And with that, sweeties, I bid you a fair goodnight.

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