Archive for the ‘Living in Galicia’ Category

What My Dog has Taught Me!

One of the wonderful things about being retired is that you don’t have to get up early for that day job so now, instead of getting up at 7.30 a.m., Hubby and I get up whenever. It’s usually around 11.00 a.m. or even later and, as a result, we don’t go to bed till maybe 1.30 a.m.. And the strange thing about this slightly alternative clock is that we seem to come alive at 11.00 p.m.. That’s when we decide to do a little research on the internet, strum the guitar (we don’t have any immediate neighbours), or watch some backdated TV programme.
But everything changes on holiday – not by choice but by dog. And loyalty seems to change too. I put it down to the fact that, during the day, I am usually stowed away in my attic office, so I’m inaccessible to Jack, who spends his time with Hubby, either in the garden or near that strumming guitar.
So, on holiday, it’s me who Jack wants, which is rather unfortunate, as he seems to always want to get up between 8.00 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. and it’s therefore me who is sporting a jacket over my pyjamas, as we tread the streets of the holiday resort.
And, in December, I may be torch in hand, as Jack and I investigate the new routes at our disposal …. any we’ve found some pretty interesting shortcuts as a result!
He he.

2014-09-15 21.10.23

And, you know, I quite like this hour of the day ….. .

The Future is Ours to Change!

For those of you who don’t already know, I am a UK lady of sixty one now living in the north-west part of Spain. I always refer to this area as the outback because, unlike most people’s ideas of Spain, which is usually of the southern tourist areas, Galicia in the north-west is countryside, it’s lakes and rivers and this area is indeed known as ‘the land of a thousand rivers’. For population and for services, I would liken this area to the Lake District. In a triangle of three villages very close to each other (Hubby and I live in one of them), so close that we can shout to each other, the population is ten. If it wasn’t for the fact that our postman’s mother lives in one of these villages, we wouldn’t necessarily get our post the day it was due to be delivered. There is no post box, no public telephone, no shop and no bar and anything I haven’t mentioned which you think we might have, we haven’t.

Public water? No. Ours comes from the hills, via a hosepipe, after having first been cleaned via a plastic pop bottle which has holes in it>

Gas? No.

Electricity. Yes but a very low potential, so we can’t do the washing and boil the kettle at the same time.

Public telephone lines? No. We would have to drive eight miles to find the nearest public telephone box.

Well, after eight years into my change feom England to Spain, I can officially confirm that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. While I was busy in the first four years, I didn’t really notice anything but, in the last four, I have.

I’ve been writing a monthly column for my local newspaper in England and, today, it dawned on me. After thirty two columns, in which I give a point to either Spain or my home town in England based on the content of my article, the score is currently at ten for Spain and twenty two for where my heart obviously still lies.

Need I say more?

It’s a strange feeling and, I suppose (and I speak through experience), rather like divorce. You put your heart and soul into it, it starts off feeling very good indeed and then, after time, that good feeling goes but without your realising that things have changed.

After a (longer) while, you start to notice things that don’t suit you. Maybe, blinded by the pleasure, they never did suit you but, after a long enough period of experience, yes, there it is, staring you in the eye.

Now, you either ignore it and hope that it will go away (that was my first reaction in the divorce), or you start to analyse what is going on (my reaction, this time). I can now liken the feeling of discomfort to what it must feel like to have a near death experience; you’re looking down on yourself and you can see what is happening but the choice for what happens next doesn’t seem to be yours. You fear an unhappy end.

Well, we’re off to England next week and, who knows, we might just look at some houses ….. .

That’s life!

Spanish or not Spanish – that is the Question.

Our new country will never cease to amaze us. It’s like this.

Spain has several languages. That which is referred to as Spanish (español) is what we know as Castillian Spanish. This is the King’s Spanish (rather like how we say the Queen’s English) and is spoken in a big part of Spain. However, there is also Euskera (spoken in the Basque County) and Catalán (spoken in Catalonia).

And here lies an interesting story.

In the Basque Country, up that there at twelve thirty-cum-one o’clock in the country, the language is very different from Spanish and no-one knows where it originated. Some people say there is a hint of German in there but most people have no comments to make on the language

In Catalonia, where Barcelona is sited, is located at around one-cum-two o’clock and there language is also completely different to the native King’s Spanish. It is said by the Spanish that Catalonia has long wanted to be a country in its own right and they feel very strongly about their own language.

And then there’s us.

We live at eleven o’clock, just above Portugal and the best way to describe the language here is to call it ‘Geordie’. There’s a hint of the King’s Spanish in there but the King might find it hard to communicate with his subjects here. However, her, the words not only sound differently but are also spelt in a different way ( rain – lluvia – chove (here in Galicia), night – noche – noite and also daughter – hija – fija).

As I learnt Castillian Spanish many years before coming here, I try my hardest to maintain this Kings version so, every time I hear a new word, I check it in the English – Spanish (i.e. Castellano) dictionary, to see if it is there. If it is, I add it to my repertoire. If it isn’t, I bin it.

If you travel to Anadalucia at five and six o’clock, they speak the King’s Spanish but thy cut the tail of many of the words. For example three will be pronounced tres in Spanish but as tre in the Andalucian region. Buenos días (good day) will be bueno dia and gracias (thank-you) will be gracia. And so it goes. At first, I was irritated by the (for me) mispronunciation but now, after having visited there several times, I have to say that it sounds quite delicious.

So, should you be visiting Spain and wanting to dust the cobwebs off your textbook Spanish, bear in mind that, depending which region you are in, you may, or indeed, may not, understand what is being said.

After almost eight years here, I am lucky in that I can pick the bones out of Andalucian pronunciation but, with the language the way it is spoken here in Galicia, I daren’t get involved!

A TV Camera Crew in our Home!

It happened yesterday and I’m still trying to work out how it happened.

Well, I know how it happened …. .  they asked me if they could come to our house and I said they could. 

What I mean is who gave them our telephone numbers?  I’ve discovered that, in Spain, civil servants don’t honour confidentiality and I’ve got a feeling that this is because they know their jobs are safe, no matter what. 

Five years ago, a new magazine crew asked if they could come to our house.  They got our telephone number from the local council office …. . 

As for the television crew of six people, the presenter said that, when she gets back to the office, she will let me know. 

And she will, as she is a super character, very open and absolutely perfect for her job. 

So …. The television crew .,… . 

They are making a new show about foreigners who have set up home in this north-west corner of Spain.  I supplied them with CVs for Hubby and I over the phone, then topped this with extra things I had thought about, when they arrived.  As I speak Spanish well, I was very much involved with the cameras that day and I took to it like a duck to water.  Well, I have been an extra on three occasions.  I have even been in a film that the current James Bond (Daniel Craig) was in but, unfortunately, he wasn’t there on the day I was.  BUT I have still been in a film that James Bond was in …. er …. about ten years before he became 007 but, hey, whose counting?

Still ….. .

Some of the TV Camera Crew:-

The Crew

Thank-you for a really good time!


‘One Point Ten’?

On a few trips to the south of Spain (we live thirteen hours away in the north-west area of the country), we enjoyed the occasional glance at English television, so we decided that hmm, maybe Sky television might be something we would now be interested in. Last December, Hubby spotted an advert for such a service and a young Spanish guy came to visit us. Having done his research on the internet, Hubby was able to gather some information which would help the young man and so it was for me to explain. In Spanish, I explained that we needed a satellite dish of one point nine metres, explaining that this measurement would be just a little less than Hubby’s height. The man agreed. It must be in steel. He agreed. And the angle was to be twenty eight degrees east of south.

Two weeks later, two men arrived at about half past ten in the morning. The box for the satellite dish looked somewhat small and, in Spanish, the conversation went something like this.

“We ordered a one point nine satellite dish.”
“Well, this one isn’t one point nine.”
With a smile on his face indicating that I should be happy he said, “No. This one is one point ten.”
My head tottered from shoulder to shoulder as I tried to decipher what I had just heard but I couldn’t make sense of it. My skills with mathematics diddn’t help me … .

It took me thirteen hours to work out that his one point ten was indeed our one point one (zero).

Lost in translation, I suppose!

Language is a Living Thing!

Isn’t it strange how quickly accent or dialect can change? I remember a particular occasion in my working life in England, when I was on a training course in Newcastle, only twenty five miles from where I lived at that time. It was when all the kids were wearing Donkey jackets and I had managed to get the size for one of my sons but hadn’t been able to get the other.

I popped into one shop and they didn’t have the size I was looking for, so she said “trah pitta stoss”. After asking her to say it for me another two times, I thanked her, even though I still hadn’t a clue what she had said.

Stepping outside the shop, I looked for someone to explain where I should be going and, on seeing a businessman walking towards me, I said, “Excuse me but I wonder if you can help me. I’m looking for a place called trah pitta stoss.”

Without querying what I had said, he replied that “it’s just over there, love.”
And it was.

Peter Stores. “Try Peter Stores.”

Thankfully, they had the size I was looking for.

On another occasion, this time in Sunderland and only fourteen miles from home, a man got out of a Customs and Excise van and said something several times, before we resorted to pointing at what he wanted. As I was in a diesel car, and was parked near a diesel plant, he wanted to check that my diesel wasn’t the ‘pink’ type that should only be used for agricultural vehicles.

Here in Galicia in the north-west corner of Spain, we live in an area which, only after six months into our time here, we realised that the natives spoke a kind of Geordie Spanish. That is to say they are speaking Spanish but it’s not the King’s Castillian brand. The locals understand what they are saying to each other but those in other parts of Spain don’t know what is being said. If I hear a new word, I always check it in my Castillian Spanish dictionary and, if it’s not on there, I bin it (the word, not the dictionary!).

Strange …. But then we must remember that language is a living thing and that it grows and it changes.

Why aye man! (Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits) understands it but do you?)

Seven Years into it, Look how Far we’ve Come … .

We’re almost seven years into our time in a non-tourist area of Spain and we have learnt many things.  What used to surprise us no longer does, so let’s say we’re starting to belong.  But what have we learnt?  Quite a lot, actually:-

  1. When asking for directions, don’t expect anyone to know the answer.  At first, we really couldn’t understand why locals couldn’t give directions but time proved that it was because there may be many villages with the same name and all within close proximity.  Also, as we live in a wine region, pubs are not there to use for directions, so explaining which way to go isn’t easy.  However, Spain does have a very interesting system which can be used for directions.  Travelling along motorways, you will often see a sign which will tell you how many miles you are from Spain’s capital so, if you’re travelling along the A1 or the A6, you can give directions by saying that you are between 546 (kilometres from Madrid) and 558 on the A6 and look for the yellow house.
  2. If you live in a stone house, it will be virtually impossible to keep mice or lizards off your roof, as they use the rough edges of the stone like a staircase to get up there.  Because a lot of old houses were built into the hills, don’t be surprised if there’s also a dog or cat up there.
  3. Seeing customers having a drink of lager while they wait for their turn in the ironmonger’s is not strange.  It’s being sociable.  And there won’t be a queue either, as no-one will be in a hurry.
  4. Cows can find their own way home and they know when it’s time to make the trip as well.  Dogs will look after the sheep, while the shepherdess sleeps.
  5. If you find yourself without water in the village in August, it’s not a big issue.  Most families (that doesn’t include us) will have a well in their garden and, failing that, there’ll be a public tap within a short drive, where you can fill up some empty flagons.
  6. If you haven’t received any post for a couple of weeks, it’s because the postman or woman is on holiday.  Think of how nice it will be when you get the build-up of envelopes.
  7. If your telephone isn’t working, someone will arrive within forty eight hours of your registering the problem, unless it’s any day in the month of August, when you are likely to wait until the first day of September.
  8. What is easy to buy in a health food shop in England may be impossible in Spain.  It will be easier to order online from England than try to get them here.
  9. A ‘club’ is not what you think it is.  I wouldn’t want to spend any time in there.
  10. Eighty year old women still work in the fields.
  11. Stamps can only be bought at the post office or a government-run estanco or tabac.  Posting a letter on a Sunday is therefore a no-no if you don’t already have your own stamps.
  12. Ants won’t cross talcum powder.
  13. When you’re waiting at traffic lights, pipping the car horn seems to be obligatory.
  14. You may depart this world if you touch a toad.
  15. Other than on pizza, chefs do not cook with cheese.
  16. Teabags still only come in boxes of forty.

And we’re loving it!


Well, except for number 16!