You have to hand it to La Crisis – It seems to be allowing the Spanish government to take advantage of the situation to introduce a raft of measures aimed at dragging certain aspects of Spanish commercial life into the 21st century. First we had the announcement that shops will be free to have Sales whenever they like. And not according to some government dictat. And now we read that Madrid is considering liberalising those trades and professions which still have the sort and degree of protection more appropriate to medieval guildship than to modern consumerism. You know, the architects, the pharmacists and the lawyers. And possibly the book publishers and sellers too. The day approaches when you'll be able to buy pain-killers in the supermarket. Or even the Tabacs, maybe.
I tried this evening to book a room at the Parador in Monforte de Lemos. An agency site told me all 50 rooms were booked on the night I wanted. Which struck me as odd for the middle of January. So I went to the Parador page and found the place was closed until the middle of February. Despite this, the booking process was operative and I thought I'd see if it would give me room. I gave up when it asked me for my credit card details, but not before I'd been told that “If you are a registered user, friend or agency, you must make your reservation from your private area." One for Trevor and Fucked Translation, I think.
You Couldn't Make It Up department – A group of 11 rebel nuns in Wantage, Oxfordshire have turned their back on the Church of England because they don't agree with the way it's going. Women priests, gay bishops, etc. As a result, it seems they've been turfed out of the 'beautiful monastery' where they previously lived. More deficiencies of Christian charity. They have, of course, been welcomed into the Catholic Church. Catholics 1 - Anglicans 0. Still, it's better than setting fire to each other.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Black Pete, the negro slave/servant figure who accompanies St Nick when he arrives in Holland in early December. The little chap is usually played by someone white with a blacked-up face. But it seems this practice isn't confined to Holland. Angela Merkel was photographed at a carol service standing next to a young woman with a blacked-up face. I doubt whether this would be acceptable in any Anglo society – maybe Australia? - but are they being too sensitive about this? I think not.
QI is an intelligent quiz game on BBC TV. In last night's program, Stephen Fry showed an experiment in which he generated hydrogen and passed it through soapy water, before setting fire to the emerging bubbles. When I was 19 and teaching in a grammar school in the Seychelles - somebody had to do it – I carried out the same experiment. Starting with zinc and hydrochloric acid, I passed the gas through a flask of soapy water and waited for bubbles to rise from the neck of the flask before putting a match to them. Showing that hydrogen was both lighter than air and flammable. Problem was, the bubbles didn't rise and leave the neck of the flask; they slid down the side and fell on the desk top. After several minutes of this, the kids were getting restless. So, when bubble no. 10 reached the top and, again, slid down the neck, I put a match to no. 11 as it emerged. Whereupon the hydrogen gas in the entire apparatus exploded right in front of my face. There was something of a silence. During this I confirmed that I still had my sight and other faculties. But what I didn't have was the apparatus. Gone. All of it. Which was confusing. And then one of the boys pointed up to the polystyrene tiles of the ceiling. Where it now resided. In numerous pieces. A miracle? I like to think so, as I was a paid-up Catholic back then. There but for the grace of God could have gone I. Or my head at least.
Funny thing is – I don't recall getting a dressing down from the Christian Brother Headmaster. But, then, he was having an affair with someone's mother and he knew I knew.