Tag Archives: Spanish

The Polluters

“It’s fackin’ Saint George’s day, innit”

My heart drops. There are four lads at the end of the bar, all pissed and loud. After 5 days of walking in the wilderness meeting only smiley, gentle country folk, encountering the four drunken Brits is like walking into a wall – it’s a harsh, hard reality check.

Our football-watching bar isn’t usually like this. It’s a bar aimed at Brits, but normally ones who know how to behave when in another country. We don’t get pissed up Brit lads, it’s a traditional town; there’s nothing for them here… except big measures at low prices.

We grab a couple of stools at the bar, leaving one space between us and the closest inebriate.

I’d been looking forward to the FA cup semi-final. It’s the end of the northern European season and there are usually only a handful of people in the bar. Something is different this year.

There are two skinny lads in their early 20s, both suffering from sunburn; an older chubby bloke who laughs uproariously at everything he says, even though none of it is remotely funny; and closest to me is a sly-eyed, stocky man in his mid 30s, swaying unsteadily every time he stands up.

16.45 and they’re all as drunk as skunks. Initially I tell myself not to be judgemental, they’re on their holidays and just letting loose.

But there’s an unpleasantness in the air, it’s coming from the nearest Brit.

I soon pick up that the chubby bloke is from Stoke, the two matchstick lads are Irish and the fourth is from Fulham, or ‘fackin Fulham’ as he’s unable to go more than three words without throwing in a ‘fackin’.

Southerners are shite at swearing. Whereas the Scots, Irish and northern English can make swearing funny and even descriptively poetic, it grates when some Londoners swear, the words breaking up their sentences rather than enhancing them. Can’t think of anything to say? Just throw in a ‘fackin’. To me it just sounds whiny and angry.

It’s quite evident the drunken Londoner is the potential problem.

When he staggers outside for a cigarettes, the other lads quieten down. They’re drunk but they’re okay with it. The Irish lads are typically funny. The Stokey seems alright, just a bit of a div who thinks making loud noises is amusing. When he can’t think of anything to say he starts singing football chants about some footballer I’ve never heard of, probably from Stoke.

The atmosphere feels lighter whenever the Londoner pops out for a fag. When he returns it changes again as he insists everybody has another drink. He’s not with the other three, he’s an interloper and although they laugh at his unfunny jokes, I sense they’re uneasy with him.

The Londoner is on G&Ts with not a lot of emphasis on the Ts even though the measures are ridiculously generous.

Concentrating on the football, I still pick up snippets of conversation. It’s their first day, they’re staying all inclusive and there are 240 steps to their hotel. Another patron staying at the same hotel tells them this, adding he walks down to the centre of town but catches a taxi back up to the hotel as there’s no way he’d make it. He must be in his early 40s. When did Brits become so lazy and unfit? He also tells the Stoke lad his mate has got back to his hotel okay, information courtesy of a text from his wife. Apparently there was another, even more sloshed, Brit who’d fallen at the first hurdle.

The Londoner orders another round which includes some odd concoction for one of the Irish lads. The bill comes to €14. I don’t think it’s much for what is basically a triple gin, a couple of pints and the strange concoction. The Londoner, on the other hand, does.

The Londoner tells J, the barman, he’ll give him €10. He’s trying to barter for his drinks, what a prick. Where does he think he is, a street market in Mumbai?
J stands firm. The Londoner gets a bit leery and, thinking he’s being smart, asks for a receipt in shitty, pigeon Spanish. J happens to be Portuguese.

J and the other barmen are as honest as they come. The Londoner is being a complete twat.

He winks and whispers something to his new friends about not trusting the Spanish and knowing how to deal with them. They try to tell him J is sound. They look awkward. He knows better.

He thinks he is being a savvy traveller who knows how to deal with Johnny Foreigner, everyone else knows he’s being an embarrassment.

J happily prints of a receipt for €14. Through his gin-soaked mist the Londoner realises he’s made an arse of himself.

“We amigos, si?” he slurs to J. “Have a drink, come on have a drink.”

“No thanks mate,” J smiles, but not with his eyes, showing his English is on a far higher level than the Londoner’s Spanish… maybe even his English as well.

He treated J like he was a stereotype. The irony being the Londoner himself is the biggest stereotype in the bar.

The leery Londoner skulks outside leaving us alone to enjoy the end of the match.

Man Utd score in injury time. It’s a relief. Both in that we don’t want extra time and the lottery of penalties, and that we can escape the drunken Brits.

As we drive home we’re overtaken by a police car with blue lights on full flashing mode. It screeches onto the pavement just ahead and two officers jump out with batons drawn. They approach a bald man and shout instructions in Spanish at him. He looks confused. He stands and sways unsteadily.

I know exactly who he is.

We just don’t get people like this in the north of the island… not usually. They corrupt the atmosphere, their behaviour is at the other end of the spectrum from that of the local population.

I feel ashamed to be connected by nationality.

At this moment it seems a pity the dragon didn’t incinerate George.

My Delusional Island

The rains came. They fell with such force that there must have been a bit of frantic pairing off in the animal world. Ravines were filled to the brim with raging torrents that swept away everything in their wake. Streets became rivers and cars turned into reluctant boats.

But not where we live in the north. Thankfully here it was just a rainy day.

The worst affected places were in the north east and the south west of the island, where monsoon deluge caused devastation. Both north and south escaped rather lightly.

In the Spanish speaking world it was quite clear what happened and where.

Not so in the English speaking one. In the English speaking world the R word cannot be mentioned in connection with the south, except in a breezy ‘oh yes we had rain, three spots fell’ sort of way. It’s always three spots.

There, rain is seen as a virus.

Subsequently on Monday I woke to learn that the area affected worst by the rain was the north. No specific part, just the place that is the north. No mention at all of the devastation in the south west. On social media the comments were mostly the same. ‘worst hit was the north’ ‘the north’ ‘the north’. All from people who don’t actually live in ‘the north’.

The first rule of expat shite club is that when it comes to weather, it is always worse in the north.

The worst example of this was one person who actually conceded that a town in the south west was badly affected, except he then placed it geographically as being in… the north.

The weather is always worse in the north even when it isn’t.

Today there is another weather alert for rain. The official Met Office advice is that it will fall throughout the day in the north, 60mm over 12 hours.
In the south, east and west it will be 15mm an hour between 1pm and 11pm with the heaviest rainfall forecast for the south east.

Spanish websites reflect this. But once again English reports have interpreted it differently.

As always, despite the Met Office advice and the maths regarding predicted rainfall figures, the word on the English speaking web is ‘the heaviest rain will be in the north’.

Of course it will.

I used to wonder why so many English speaking people on this island got their information so wrong.

The answer is simple.

The most accurate sources are in Spanish. A seriously high percentage of English speaking expat residents can’t speak or read Spanish. Subsequently they get their information from a limited number of sources – never from the original source in Spanish. It is second, third or a lot of hands down the line. If the first source gets it wrong everyone gets it wrong.

And anyway, the weather is always worse in the north.

Script for a Haircut in Another Language

It always goes the same after being plonked in front of a cruel and mocking mirror.

I know my lines after the first question “¿Como quiere?” is asked.

“Tres con la maquina aqui, aqui y aqui,” I point to the sides and back of my head and then indicate the top. “Y casi lo mismo aqui.”

Basically, a shortish back and sides.

Then there’s the holding up of my fringe as the hairdresser runs their fingers down to a point that still leaves too much attached to my head so I have to advise “más corto”, swallowing the ‘s’ they way they do here.

“¿Más?” He moves his fingers until we negotiate a final resting spot.

“Si, perfecto,” I say to halt his descending fingers.

That usually does it and I normally sit there in silence, wondering who the old guy in the mirror as the hairdresser quietly goes about his/her business until it’s time for the mirror to be paraded around the back of my head and I nod appreciatively and say “mucho mejor, gracias.”

That’s the way it normally is.

This time it was someone new. Someone who ad libbed.

“This side sticks out more than the other,” he smiles.

Visiting the hairdresser is an ordeal. I’ve never been comfortable making small talk at the hairdresser. Doing it in Spanish just piles on the agony and awkwardness.

There’s a satellite delay as I mentally translate his statement and then the reply.

“Yes, it’s always like that,” I think I say. “That’s the side I sleep on.”

He laughs. It was over the net. I hope he doesn’t comment about my lopsided ears next. I’m not sure my Spanish is good enough to talk in detail about lopsided ears.

He goes back to snipping away. He’s fast and efficient and in less than 20 minutes I am shorn of the dead weight that A says ages me. The mirror swings around the rear of my head and we’re back on track again with the usual script.

I pay my €11 and leave feeling physically lighter and relieved that one of my least favourite activities is over.

I’ve now got two months to re-write the script to include bits about lopsided ears and sticky up patches of hair.