Friday, January 30, 2004

Wordwatch Special
A visiting friend from the USA has showed me 2 packets of toothpaste bought here in Pontevedra. Both come from China and, cheap shot as it is, I can’t resist reproducing the package copy here.

The first product is called MORNING BABY and is touted as EXCEED STRONG. FIRMLY TOOTH. TONE CLEANLILY. And INCREASE 120g. The rest of the pack is fairly normal.

But the biscuit is comprehensively taken by the second product. This is called YIMEI – SWIPE OFF BE SOILED SMOKERS’ TOOTHPASTE. And it Safely removes Fleetness tobacco stains. But this is only a foretaste, albeit one which shows greater familiarity with the possessive apostrophe than most Brits manage. The package text merits complete reproduction and reads as follows:-

This article adoption the United States formulation. Increase the natural divide ding by the soiled vegetable can be fast. The hair is all availably superficial smoke in tooth in clearance soiled, tea soiled, coffee soiled, dental calculus…etc. Keep on the usage can make your tooth radiant and bright. Smile often open. Fluorin calcium composition. In the beautiful and white tooth at the same time. Rise the athlete tooth protect tooth for effect defends the moth. Special and natural and ice-cold mint joss-stick make your tone more delightfully fresh, more relaxed. Live composition . Fragrant type. Match the national standard GB8372. Protect the quality product. Two years (produce the date see the tube tail). It is clean to contain the deal. 105g.

I think one can safely assume that the only contact the translator has had with English has been via a dictionary or thesaurus on his or her shelf. Or perhaps the Chinese text was given to the Google computerised translation programme which has given me so many laughs in the past. A prize is offered to anyone who can come up with an insight into the concepts of dental calculus and athlete tooth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Wordwatch
Un tuning: Customisation of your car, by the addition of ridiculous spoilers usually.
Un handicap: A disadvantage
Un peeling: A face peel
Overbooking: Overbooking - replacing [for reasons unclear] the perfectly good Spanish word sobreventa.

And here’s a very recent sighting which might made its way into Spanish or might just be knocking on the door - colegio after-hours. This, of course, is a school which gives extra lessons outside the normal hours.

I visited an ironmongers – or ferretería – in the old quarter today. What a wonderful experience. Like Aladdin’s cave. Or a pharmacy in the Tehran bazaar. Row upon row of little boxes on the wall behind the counter, each containing a collection of screws, nails, blades, door handles or whatever. And they will sell you just a single screw, if this is all you want, and wrap it in brown paper. Not insist on you taking a set of 10 in pre-shrunk plastic wrapping which drives you mad. And all of this at a price which hardly seems economic. They won’t survive long term, of course, but there’s life in them for a while yet. Hopefully enough to see me out.

There are several of these little shops in Pontevedra – haberdasheries, seamstresses, picture framers and the like. I don’t know whether I love them just because they remind me of the way life used to be when I was a kid or because I think it is the way life should be. Probably both.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Spanish judges and politicians continue to astound with their pronouncements. One judge was reported on Friday to have released without bail a husband accused of cutting the throat of his wife, on the grounds that crimes of passion such as this are not usually repeated by the accused. And today the head of the Galician government is taken to task for accusing of hypocrisy those people who support ‘free love’ and abortion yet still criticise him for not taking action against a local mayor convicted of sexually abusing a minor.

All Spanish TV channels are commercial and so carry advertisements, which take up a significant proportion of each hour of what might loosely be termed viewing. And then there are the product endorsements issued out of the blue by the programme hosts, gushing with specious conviction about some product’s merits. When I came to Spain just over 3 years ago, this mid-programme puffery was relatively infrequent but now it is almost common-place. If you really were desperate for a reason not to watch Spanish TV, this might just be the answer to your prayer. Worst of all, though, are the cash-strapped local TV stations. Their speciality is a banner ad running along the bottom of the screen during soccer matches. Three years ago, these only used to appear when play had actually stopped. They have since progressed – through discrete stages – to their current permanent status. I’m not sure that the situation is as bad on radio but last night I was listening to a soccer match when the main commentator suddenly burst into song, to be joined a few seconds later by his colleagues. This turned out to be a jingle for some product or other. Seamlessly, they then shifted back to the usual semi-histrionic chatter that characterises soccer commentaries here.

I belatedly realised this morning that many Spanish drivers use their indicators in a completely different way from their counterparts in the UK. Whereas Brits use them to signal an intention, Spanish drivers use them as a warning. What they really mean is not ‘If it is safe and OK with you, I intend to turn in a while’ but ‘Stay out of my way. I am about to cut in front of you’. Or ‘I am coming up behind you; Get out of my way’. This, of course, is why they are not used until the last second. It is a nice irony, I guess, that Spanish drivers use their real warning lights as what we might call ‘parking illumination’. I suppose there is a clue to all this in the respective languages. British English uses the word ‘indicator’, which connotes the sense of future intention cited above. Spanish uses ‘intermitentes’, which is merely descriptive and leaves the purpose of the lights open to interpretation on a case-by-case basis.

Wordwatch
Un camping – a campsite
Un spinning – some sort of exercise in the gym involving a cycling machine. Or perhaps several in a circle.

Friday, January 23, 2004

As of this month, it is illegal to have your car engine, lights, mobile phone or radio switched on when you are filling up with petrol. Plus, once you have set off, it will be an offence to have on anything such as a DVD or TV which might distract the driver. I will think of these safety-oriented rules – and the likely compliance rate – each time I see a car flash past me at 180kph with the driver talking on the phone while his wife bounces a toddler up and own on her lap in the adjacent front seat. Strangely enough, the one thing that can be guaranteed to distract the driver – an onboard GPS system – is exempted from this ban.

In addition it will soon it will be compulsory to carry a luminous jacket in your car, for the use thereof if you exit the car at night. Or possibly if you just sit in it when the car is stationery. There is some confusion on this point. Anyway, this jacket now joins quite a long list of things one is compelled to have in one’s car in Spain, others being not one but two warning triangles and a full set of light bulbs. In a country where the mortality rates are very high, I would have thought there was a good case for concentrating on a few essentials – such as staying on your side of double white lines or not being blind drunk - but there you go. That’s why I’m not a politician.

My least favourite company – Telefonica – have once again demonstrated their flimsy grasp of the concept of customer service. At the back of the latest bill, there is a form saying that, unless you mail it back to them, they will sell your details to numerous suppliers. Pre-paid envelope attached? You must be joking. To the amusement of my sceptical Spanish friends, who say it won’t make the slightest difference, I have taken the trouble to find an envelope and mail my negative response back to them. After this, le deluge?

The Minister of Development has unexpectedly quit politics, laying some blame on intrusions into his private life by the pink press. This had become rather interested in the details of his 4th partner in 10 years and, even more so, in the fact that his ministry had recently bought an awful lot of pictures from the gallery she owns in Madrid. She was pictured in the papers at his final press conference and I have to say that I have never seen anyone looking quite so miserable at the prospect of being photographed, especially in this celebrity-obsessed country. The government TV channel reported the outgoing Minister as being 54 and born in 1947. I trust they have a higher degree of accuracy elsewhere. Mind you, El Mundo got on the bandwagon yesterday, reporting a survey of attitudes towards to foreigners in which the various groups totalled 140 per cent. Albeit not to two decimal points.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Word Watch
I have to be careful of exercise-creep here. The temptation is to include everything that is even a little strange, such as líder, which, of course, is leader. Or yate - yacht. But I will restrict myself to words which don’t have anything like the same meaning in English. Or even exist. So:-
Un travelling: This is a camera on tracks. Or a dolly, to give it its proper name
Un mister: This is what soccer coaches are usually called
Un sir: And this is what they are accorded when they are as famous as Alex Ferguson of Manchester United.

It’s not just malevolent and violent partners that Spanish women are up against; a magistrate in the south west threw out a case yesterday on the grounds that, since the petitioner had come to court fashionably dressed each day [‘in a different outfit’] and adorned with jewellery and a nose stud, she didn’t seem to him to have the demeanour of a woman who had been battered. So the supportive medical evidence was ignored.

Refining my findings on seat belts today, I concluded – without surprise – that the biggest offenders were drivers of delivery vans and taxis. But it was a tad shocking to see an ambulance go past me with neither of the front seat passengers belted up. Perhaps they have a dispensation that they are stupid enough to take up.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Nuptials Nonsense: El Mundo today has what it claims is a topless picture of the future queen, as the centre-piece of a mural done when she was living in Mexico a few years ago. In a nice touch of solidarity, as I was reading this in my favourite café, the woman on the next table started breast-feeding her baby. What else would she be feeding, you might ask. Anyway, this is a new development for Spain - salacious pictures of royal personages, not breast-feeding - and I am left wondering what it all means. Are these the first tender shoots of the choking weed of real tabloidism? Or is it merely part of a desperate right-wing campaign to stop the Crown Prince marrying a woman who is not just a commoner but also a divorcee? We have already been told that one of her ex-husband’s books contains vivid descriptions of their sex life and that the Madrid authorities have invested in an ultra-strong safe to ensure that their divorce papers do not see the light of day. What next? I can’t wait.

A great deal of attention is being paid right now to road death statistics, especially in the light of impressive reductions made last year in France and Italy after the introduction of tougher laws. Stating, perhaps, the obvious, El Pais today pointed out that it wasn’t as simple as just having tough new laws; the real challenge was getting Spaniards to obey them. As it happens, I have been conducting an (entirely unscientific) study in town over the last week around the wearing of safety belts. These have long been compulsory in Spain – in the front seats at least – but my conclusion is that compliance is around the 50% level. As you might expect, women are nearer 75% and men 25%. As I write this, I am reminded of the report in a local paper last week of a driver who was decapitated when projected out of his car in the direction of wires holding up the vines at the side of the road. We had pictures of the wrecked car but not of the separated body parts. Believe me, if they could have got them, we would have had them. This is a speciality of the Spanish press.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Word Watch:
Seen this weekend:-
Top: Leading, as in Un top artista
Un top: A supermodel
Un disco light: A disco for younger people
Charme: Charm. Possibly a spelling mistake.
Fashión: Fashionable, as in Este sitio es muy fashión - This is an in place.

Reading about the respective sizes of English and Spanish vocabularies today, I came across the statement that English is growing because of the number of technical words being added to it, whereas Spanish is growing because of the number of English words it is absorbing. Who would have thought it?

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Knockabout stuff in the local ‘Indian’ restaurant a couple of nights ago. See my web page for a brief account – colindavies.net

Down in the very centre of the old quarter of Pontevedra there is a small grocery shop-cum-bar. By this I mean that behind the counter is the entrance to what must be the most decrepit bar in Galicia, if not Spain. The clientele would be truly frightening if it weren’t for the fact that they are clearly permanently incapacitated by one chemical substance or another. The owner is an old dowager whom my English neighbour – with some justification - thinks is an uglier version of Mrs Thatcher. She is followed around by a spaniel of a son of about 35, who may well be one prawn short of a paella. If they think you are important, they put a sheet of newspaper on the table in your honour. Other than an urge to immerse yourself in Dickensian England, the sole reason for braving this place is to partake of the raisin wine this odd couple serve from filthy barrels. Contrary to all expectations, this sweet concoction is truly delicious and seems to have an alcoholic content closer to whisky than grape wine. Despite this, they virtually give it away. In every sense a knockout. It doesn’t take long to forget about the décor. Or, indeed, everything.

On a more national scale, the opposition socialist party – increasingly desperate to attract voters that stubbornly refuse to desert a government that took Spain into a war opposed by 95% of the population – has played the nationalist card. Specifically, they have said that they will allow each region to have its own tax ministry. Unfortunately for the socialists, we were told this week that a local tax office in the Basque country had been giving illegal tax holidays to companies which make contributions to the political arm of the ETA terrorist organisation. So, not much of a vote winner there, I fear.

Talking of the socialists – one of the leading lights in the party this week issued a few-well chosen words on Tony Blair. Sadly for him, they had not yet switched off the TV microphone. So his private views quickly became rather public. Anyway, he opined that our Tony was ‘A complete dickhead. An imbecile.’ This neatly proves my point, I feel, that there is much greater understanding of British politics in Spain than there is in the UK about matters Spanish.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

There is growing concern with the level of violence against women in Spain. For whatever reasons, this is rising and in 2003 included 70 murders and more than 50,000 court cases. So it was probably not a good time for an Islamic Imam on the south coast to publish a book giving guidance not just on when to beat your wife but also on how you can do it without leaving any evidence. His ‘jobsworth’ defence was along the lines that, although he personally was not in favour of wife-beating, it was his job was to translate the Koran, warts an’ all. This buttered no parsnips with the Spanish judiciary and he was duly fined and sentenced to jail. Getting more clemency than the unfortunate wives, his sentence was suspended.

Word Watch: If you are approached by a Spaniard and asked for directions to the nearest ‘paff’, you are not being asked about gay bars. This is how all Spaniards pronounce ‘pub’. Why this should be confounds me. Clearly, they find it easy to say the ‘cloob’ bit in the recently cited puti club, so why they can’t at least say ‘poob’ is completely beyond me. Perhaps this slips too easily into ‘poof’ and there have been some notorious misunderstandings that I have not been told about. I suppose we should just be grateful that they don’t say ‘puti claff’.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Word Watch: In view of the pleasure they give me, I have expanded the Gerund Watch to include all Spanglish words I come across. This week’s crop:-
Un flash – a cameraman, paparazzi
Un nick – a nickname
Hackear – to hack [into a computer, not into undergrowth]
Un hacker – have a guess

I suspect it’s not widely known just how much hard work it took to make Spain even appear to be a single political entity. And now it’s beginning to look like it will be an even bigger challenge to maintain the appearance. The two macro forces at work are post-Franco decentralisation and EU regionalism. The biggest ‘nationalist’ [i. e. breakaway] parties are in the Basque country, Catalunia and Galicia. Each region has its own proud language and culture but the major difference between them is that the first two are industro-commerical, and so rich, whereas Galicia is agricultural and poor. The former could more than survive on their own whereas Galicia needs the national trough. Every day now seems to bring a new proposal from the north east of the country in the direction of independence, backed by terrorism in the case of the Basque country. Is it too much to fear that Spain will ultimately break up unto the weight of these forces?

Meanwhile, it seems I gave too much credit to our local lads yesterday. The hackers [or los hackers, if you prefer] who used Vigo university’s massive computer to download films in only a matter of minutes actually lived in six cities around Spain.

En passant, if you have stumbled onto this blog page by accident, you may like to know that I have a web page dedicated to Galicia and Pontevedra. It also has various scribblings done over the last 2 or 3 years that may amuse. It can be found at:- colindavies.net

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Elections Nonsense: A columnist in one of the national papers has forecast today that the March general election will see the end of the PP party, to be replaced by a coalition of the PSOE, PNV, ER, IU, CIU, BNG, UPA and, er.., BMW. I think he is making the same point I made a few days ago about alphabet soup.

Meanwhile – and very much closer to home – hats off to the students at Vigo University. They have been fingered by the police as the most prolific downloaders of songs and films from the internet. As if this wasn’t enough, they have hacked into the university’s computer to do it. It fair makes one proud of our local talent.

In a separate - but not entirely unrelated - report today, we were told that a higher proportion of Spanish homes have a CD recorder than access to the internet. I wonder why.

Crime rates in Spain in 2003 fell not just 3% or even 3.2%. But 3.18%. The two places of decimal points certainly assure me, at least, that the statistic is accurate. Who on earth would go to so much trouble to fabricate a misleading number?

This weekend the national fox-hunting championships will be held in the hills near here. More than 600 hunters are expected to arrive and my guess is that the number of saboteurs will be well below the 3.18% level. This is because the chances of them surviving the weekend would be less than those of a passing fox. A different world.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The Association of Brothel Owners [yes, there really is one] is up in arms against the decision of the Andalucian court I cited yesterday. They say that it institutionalises pimping. For their part, the Association of Progressive Women say that it is a small step in the right direction but that they reject the suggestion that the work of prostitutes is analogous to that of [illegal] waiters. The brothel owners also claim that the decision infringes the human rights of the prostitutes to work the way they want to but, so far, the press has not been able to find any prostitute who shares this view. And the Red Queen says that the law is whatever she says it is.

To be honest, it’s not called the Association of Brothel Owners. It’s called the Association of Owners of Places of [Sexual] Contact. Or Locales Alternes, in [unusually brief] Spanish

Nuptials Nonsense: After a contest in Madrid, the official pastry maker has been chosen. His concoction is based on passion fruit, we are told.

Elections Nonsense: The socialist opposition party, the PSOE, have said that they will ensure bi-lingual teaching [Spanish and English] in all state schools if they are elected. Thirty per cent of lessons will be given in English, with the local teachers backed up by a phalanx of native speakers from the UK and USA. In order to achieve this, the school day will be extended. Thus, in one fell swoop, the PSOE has lost the support of one of its most reliable constituencies, the less-than-taxed teaching profession. Brilliant. Especially as no one normally believes electoral promises here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

We are heading for a March general election. What this means is that the always-serious press – which I enjoy – will become very heavy. I am not looking forward to this, especially as it will be followed by months of obsession with the upcoming royal wedding.

Gerund Watch 1: I was very taken with this one in yesterday’s paper :- decisión-making. This one is a beauty as, firstly, it contains a helpful accent on the last syllable and, secondly, it actually appears to mean in Spanish what it means in English. This is unique, in my experience.

Gerund Watch 2: This is not really a gerund; it just looks like one. The English word pudding has been transmuted into puding [sometimes pudín] to mean a specific dessert – rice pudding usually.

A high court in Andalucia yesterday pronounced that the owner of a brothel was obliged to include his employees in the social security system and, thus, pay taxes on their income. The judges made an analogy with illegal immigrant labourers and so the inference to be drawn is that brothel owners have this obligation even though prostitution itself is against the law. Three of the twelve judges went out on a limb and said they had misgivings about the brothel owner being able to dictate working hours [and practices?] to female employees. I wonder whether he will be similarly liable for accidents at work, whatever these might include. Pregnancy, for example. The mind boggles.

Monday, January 12, 2004

It’s a constant source of amazement [and amusement] to me that Spanish companies don’t get a native speaker to at least vet the English copy of their ads. Here’s something from the leaflet found in the box for the shoes I bought this afternoon, presumably translated by the Chairman’s cousin or friend :-

Flex System Action – Innovating system that allows the foot to walk with naturalness being provided to him stability and protection against lateral twists.

Talking of friends and cousins, a colleague of mine is buying a second-hand car. Or ‘previously used’, as I think they say in the States. Anyway, he surprised me by saying that he would rather pay extra and get it through a dealer than risk a private sale. I commented that people tended to take the opposite view in the UK, trusting a private seller more than a dealer, especially if there was a full service history. My colleague put me straight – firstly, service histories don’t exist here; secondly, no one would trust a private seller not to cheat; and, thirdly, he wasn’t talking about any old dealer. It would have to be one in his village known to his family. This would, in effect, minimise the chances that he was being cheated. The personal factor yet again. And whose to say it’s misguided?

Saturday, January 10, 2004

If you are thinking of buying property in Spain, you should consider attaching skates to your feet. House prices are reported to have risen by an national average of 16% in 2003. This follows a similar hike in the previous year. The increase in some regions – all of them with sunny coasts – was appreciably higher. The exception was Murcia, which came late to tourism and was down at a mere 8%, or twice the inflation rate.

If you are looking for reasons to leave the UK, try Theodore Dalrymple’s article – Escape from Barbarity – in the 3 January edition of the Spectator magazine. You can read this on-line at www.spectator.co.uk
If you merely substitute Spain for France and delete the reference to immigrant ghettoes and national pride/ arrogance, you will have the case for emigrating to Spain.

Talking of cultures, it is noticeable how much less class conscious Spain is than Britain. To be sure, there is an obsession with wealth and, perhaps even more so, with celebrity but class is appreciably less relevant. We are all middle class here. Even more impressively, elitism is at least tolerated and possibly even encouraged. It coexists – as it should – with popular culture. Indeed the national newspapers and some TV programmes [albeit only a few] are unashamedly dedicated to the elite of the country. There is none of the pusillanimous and doomed attempt to appeal to all tastes that characterises the BBC, for example, and which results in dilution towards the lowest common denominator. You can’t have tabloidisation without tabloids. Thank God.

On a lighter note – The queen was reported in the Spanish press today to have ‘baptised’ the QM2. Nice thought.

Friday, January 09, 2004

I am increasingly sure that the quintessence of Spain is not procrastination – the mañana syndrome – but the attitude of living primarily for today. What I have previously called here-and-nowism. Its corollary is that the future scarcely exists and is certainly not to be taken very seriously. Planning is for idiots.

Examples noted over the last couple of days:-

1. An English friend of mine has lent money to a Spanish colleague. Every time they meet, the latter volunteers a promise to make a payment the following week. None of these have materialised. The translation of each promise – whatever the form of words used – is ‘If I had the money, I would pay you now. But I don’t. So I’ll make both of us happy today by telling you that I will pay you next week.’ The point is that the Spanish colleague really does mean this on the day the statement is made – the only day which counts – and so is utterly unaware of the irritation caused to a non-Spanish lender of regular defaults. Or of the increasing implausibility of his promises. Trained from birth as they are, Spanish colleagues would instinctively discount any promise of future action. Nothing in the future is to be relied on.

2. An American teacher friend has told me today of the non-appearance of a student who discussed lessons yesterday, demanded and got a morning session, agreed to come today at 1pm – this is still morning in Spain – and never showed up. According to my friend, this is so frequent as to be not worthy of comment, let alone anger. He expects she will turn up some morning over the next week or so and then proceed without mentioning her non-show today. Being an old hand, my American friend knows that Spanish commitments always carry the unstated rider – ‘unless something more appealing to me comes along’. As no disrespect is intended, a Spanish friend finds it hard to understand any complaint made about his or her default.

3. Spanish children are exceptionally indulged, in some cases until well into their 30s. My attempts to read a book over a lunchtime drink yesterday were vitiated by the sound of an impotent father shouting instructions to a 3 year old who had learned to ignore him with total impunity. This is not remotely unusual, as Spanish parents appear to be only too happy to buy peace today at any price for the future. The important thing is that the child be happy today, even if indulging him now turns him into the sort of egotist who shows no regard for others in later life. This is not unique to Spain, of course, but it does seem almost universal here. Needless to say, it is no coincidence that indulged children think nothing of ignoring their commitments as adults.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

It says in one of the local papers today that there are 8,000 prostitutes in Galicia. The article conjectures that each of them turns an average of 2 tricks a day at a unit price of 60 Euros. This means, says the paper, that almost 350M Euros a year is being lost to the taxman. I am struggling to understand this. It’s not the maths; that’s quite easy. It’s the concept that the tax authorities can’t get to grips, as it were, with the business. For, at the back of each local newspaper – just after the heavily religious ‘gravestone’ reminders of the illustrious dead – there are 2 to 3 pages of ads which leave nothing to the imagination. Including the name, address and phone numbers of the establishments offering a bewilderingly wide range of services. And then there are the pink-lit, roadside places [with discreet parking and names like ‘Venus’] which have the word CLUB in 5 metre neon-lighting on the roof. This, as we all know, is short for ‘puti club’ – puti being a corruption of the Spanish for whore, puta. So, you’d have to be a particularly dense taxman not to know where this ‘missing’ revenue is being generated. But perhaps there is a another explanation.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Speaking of the Prado… I lost my gold Cross pen there, just after I had noted the date of the first smile ever portrayed, by a Dutchman as it happens. When I asked at the Information desk whether they had anything like a Lost and Found facility, the young lady could scarcely contain her look of amusement at the stupidity of such a query. I felt suitably chastened.

Anyway, when you go the National Archaeological Museum, up the road from the Prado, you can get two leaflets at the door, each with a floor plan. The one in Spanish says that there are 3 floors – Planta –1, Planta 0 and Planta 1. These are effectively the basement, the ground floor and the first floor. At least to Brits they are. The second leaflet – which describes in English some of the treasures – says there are 4 floors but gives a diagram which has only 3. According to this leaflet, the 4th floor contains the same objects as Floor 1 in the Spanish leaflet. And floors 3 and 2 correspond with floors 0 and -1, respectively. The first floor [a nuclear bunker?] has disappeared into the ether. I trust by now that you are as confused as I was.

More importantly, the museum’s best exhibits were not on display. I would give you Spanish, British and American versions of which floors they are on but life is too short. Go and see for yourself; it is worth the confusion. I wonder whether is it too cynical to conclude that the non-availability of the biggest attractions is related to the fact that the museum is free on Sunday mornings. In other words, this might be another flow-reduction stratagem. Very pragmatic, the Spaniards.
At the Prado gallery in Madrid on Saturday I discovered three things:-
1. You weren’t allowed to paint a smiling face until around 1510,
2. Velasquez was a superb artist but couldn’t do horses. Or not their heads at least. Either this or horses have
changed an awful lot in 500 years, and
3. If you want to see the Manet exhibition, you can get the appropriate additional ticket at only one of the three
entrances. If you go through one of the others, when you get to the Manet suite you [along with hundreds of
others] will be told that you have to exit the building and come in through the right door. Bemusingly, there is
no additional charge. You just have to do it the right way. The logic of this escapes me, especially as there
appear to be no signs anywhere telling you that this is the procedure. Most people don’t bother, of course,
especially as the queues at the right door are long. Perhaps therein lies the logic; it reduces the flow.

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