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What to wear to meet the Prince of Wales

It’s always good to have your efforts appreciated, but when it is  royalty coming to be appreciative there is a different sort of effort required. You have to get kitted out, for a start, and you find that your best shoes are scuffed or won’t support you for any length of time without crippling you. Your handbag, which is fine for almost every occasion, does sometimes double up as  hand luggage so it might just be considered outsized for a posh reception, and your evening bag won’t hold more than a train ticket and a credit card and still snap shut. You search on internet to find out whether a woman might be expected to wear a hat, and breathe a sigh of relief when it transpires that the answer is “no”.
Men don’t have quite the same dilemmas, and provided they own a dark suit which still fits they’re probably OK, unless they want to draw attention to themselves among all the other dark suits. At the reception for business people in Seville, given by the British Ambassador on the occasion of the visit by Prince Charles, two men obviously did want to draw attention to themselves, and did it in a manner likely to be acceptable to the Prince of Wales, by sticking a daffodil in their lapels. I’m pretty sure neither of them were Welsh, but it certainly did the trick – the Prince picked them out from the sea of dark suits and stopped to chat with them.
That’s the answer then, if you are going to meet the Waleses, wear one of these

Hospital visiting

This anecdote came from a SUR in English reader who responded to our article about stricter visiting hours at the Carlos Haya complex by telling us about her own experience in an UCI (Intensive Care) ward. She agreed that numbers should be limited and visiting hours restricted for all the obvious reasons, but added that the noise problem actually arose more at night, when nurses shout at each other over the patients’ beds!

Not only that, she added. While she was in the intensive care unit, she had a view down the ward, through the nurses’ station and into the doctor’s office, where she was amazed to see a dog curled up waiting patiently for its owner to finish work. A very good, quiet, clean-looking dog, but nonetheless – a canine visitor to the ward.

Spanish names and non-Spanish airlines

Most people with Spanish connections know that Spaniards have two surnames, but it appears that even airlines with multiple connections in Spain can’t get the hang of it. The latest (but not the only) example of this is British Airways. I travel with my Spanish ID card and I book my flights online with my two surnames, but BA and others combine them to make one. With no hyphen, no space. I love my second surname, Peace, just the way it is, but it gets mangled into Parrypeace on my bookings, which is not the same thing at all and leads to complications when trying to retrieve a booking.

Just one of those things, but what’s more aggravating than trying to retrieve a booking in the wrong name is trying to claim air miles in the BA Executive Club system.  I failed, the main reason being that their rules are that the exact same name appear on my membership, my ticket and my passport, and I must know the ticket number (which went in the bin after the trip, and no, it is not anywhere else in the world, not on the website, not in the booking details).  The ticket, I remember, said Parrypeace. The website has my name as Parry Paece (sic), and I can’t change it. My DNI has Parry Peace. I am never in a million years of booking flights going to be able to make all three coincide.

I like BA and will fly BA whenever I can, but I am obviously destined not to make use of its  Executive Club :)

Christmas in Spain

Eating and drinking too much at Christmas isn’t particular to any one country, but I have decided that people who have two sets of Christmas traditions to keep up are particularly prone to it, as we eat and drink for both sets… This Christmas I will be eating Spanish on Christmas Eve, with lots of langostinos and fish, and serrano ham and Manchego cheese, and far too much turrón and a fair quantity of cava. And on Christmas Day I’ll be up to get the turkey in the oven and search for enough dishes to put the bacon rolls and the sausages and the stuffing in, not to mention the roast potatoes and other bits and pieces, and there will be pudding, and cake. And rum. And more turrón.

Afterwards there will be left-over turkey, and so many left-over Spanish sweets that in desperation I’ll bring them in to work in January in the hope that someone else will eat them. The problem is that we all do that….

Signposting to Boney M concert

Boney M gave a concert last Saturday at the Sohail castle in Fuengirola and I was there, with thousands of others, singing along and wishing everybody a merry Christmas – OK it was September, but it didn’t seem to matter. Loved the concert, not very impressed by the queues to get a drink, pleasantly surprised by the hot dogs, and amused by the sign put up to help people locate their… their what??

Standing tickets this way

Asientos = Seats. De pie = Standing

A night to remember

Last Sunday was a day, and a night, to remember. Long before the match started drivers were tooting their horns and the streets were full of people all, absolutely ALL, dressed in red and yellow (well done the Chinos, who must have sold Tshirts and face paints to every child in Spain and most of the adults). Even some of the cars were dressed roof to wheel in red and yellow, and those that weren’t had red and yellow flags waving from their windows. Then at 8.30, the streets were deserted. Not a car moved in Malaga city centre, something which can’t have happened on a Sunday evening for decades.
In all the bars and wherever people had gathered to watch, predictions were made about the final score, and the octopus was praised by millions of Spaniards for its obvious sagacity. Will Spain ever forget the octopus?
Then millions of people watched, gasped, covered their eyes, held their breath and groaned in unison. Spain united, totally united.
And at the end, an  explosion of joy the likes of which we may never see again. People poured out of the bars, yelling and hugging each other. They danced in the streets and blasted their vuvuzelas – will anybody ever forget the vuvuzelas? Malaga at midnight was more crowded and joyful than it has ever been, and it is a city known for partying like there’s no mañana.
In years to come people will remember that night, and those of us who want to recall our own experience of it will probably ask “Do you remember where you were the night Spain won the World Cup?” And then, “Do you remember the octupus? And the vuvuzelas?”

When in Rome, haz lo que vieres

I’ve been taken to task on this blog for criticizing Spanish customs (strangely enough, on the question of how Spanish waiters serve tea, which isn’t a Spanish custom anyway) and it led me to think that maybe we could have a little debate! “When in Rome do as the Romans do”  (or as we would say in Spain, “donde fueres, haz lo que vieres”), suggests one reader, saying she has lived abroad for 30 years and never criticized her host country. Becky takes a stance I’ve occasionally seen in Letters to the Editor in SUR in English, on the lines of “If you don’t like it here, why not go home?”

Leaving aside that Spain IS my home, I am inclined to think that criticism is one thing, and not adapting to a new country’s customs, or trying to learn the language, is another. But it’s all debatable.

Should foreign residents criticize what they don’t like? Should they try to change Spanish ways, if they are convinced another way is better? Or should they do as the Romans do?

Airports, again

I seem to write a lot about airports (not so odd maybe since I also seem to spend a lot of time in them…) and now it’s Malaga airport’s turn again. I still like it, and the big new terminal, T3, is very…. BIG, I think best describes it, and new…. but I had to laugh, the first time I used it. The queue for my BA flight was the longest BA check-in queue I have ever seen, snaking its way back into the old terminal, and when my suitcase finally trundled off on its conveyor belt the check-in attendant told me rather sheepishly that the distance from where I was, to the gate I needed to get to, was a matter of yards (he may have said ‘metres’). If I could have gone straight there. But the security desks were about half a mile in the other direction, making a round trip of about a mile. (I exaggerate, I am an adopted Andalusian).

The detour, of course, took me via all the new shops, including the BIG new duty-free one called The Shop. I went in and was tempted by the vast displays of new varieties of chocolate – new to me, anyway – and I was looking for the way out when I realised that a number of staff were gathered round the brandy and cognac area with mops, and several more were running some sort of relay with buckets, which they were positioning strategically. The big new roof was leaking.

I had to run the half mile then to get to the gate on time, or I’d have taken a photo.

What’s in a name?

A new terminal at an airport was officially inaugurated this week, and everybody was there to see it, from the King and Queen downwards. But which airport was it? How many people actually know that it is currently called the Pablo Ruiz Picasso airport? Probably even fewer than the people who know that Sheffield-Doncaster airport is named after Nottingham’s legend Robin Hood. Or who know the geographical whereabouts of some of the remote airports used by Ryanair and which claim to belong to, for example, Milan. (more…)

Cups of tea

I was reminded yesterday that globalisation has not yet reached certain places, and there are still cultural differences affecting such vital matters as cups of tea. In a very central cafe in Malaga, my companion asked for tea, and being wise to the ways of cafes in Spain, specified that he wanted it with milk. Not wise enough though – the dinky little milk jug which came with his dinky teapotful of tea contained hot milk.

How anyone could fancy tea with a drop of hot milk is as far beyond me as people who can dunk their teabags in a whole mug full of the stuff, but as they say here “sobre gustos no hay nada escrito” – nothing’s been written about (there’s no accounting for) tastes. Personally I think hot milk should only be served with coffee, and can’t understand why hotels everywhere expect you to make your coffee with cold milk, thus making the coffee even more lukewarm than it was before. Or do I mean less lukewarm?

Degrees of lukewarmness aside, I just had to tell my companion about the time I went into a very central cafe in Melilla, with my parents. I emphasize the “central” bit because they cater a lot to tourists and are presumably used to foreign ways. My parents were also wise to Spanish ways, and asked for their tea, not with lemon, but with cold milk. Off went the waiter and came back with two teabags dangling in a teapot full of cold milk.