Before I begin this blog I’m going to tell you how proud I am of my daughter.
I know there’s nothing worse that those hyperbolic zealots who insert the ‘round robin’ into the charity Christmas card informing you how just wonderful little Daisy was as the Baby Jesus in her non-denominational nursery nativity, and how little Johnny is going to win the Nobel Prize for Literature as he got an A* in English O Level despite still believing that “I could of” is grammatically correct.
This feat of endurance involved running 23 miles on Exmoor and ascending around 1,840 metres in the process. Well done, my dear… you’ll be wanting to take a crack at the Everest Marathon soon!
And so, back to Spain.
Today is a Bank Holiday and, in keeping with British meteorological tradition, it’s raining hard enough to make your head bleed.
Suddenly the searing cauldron of August and September heat is a distant memory but, to be honest, I find it far from unwelcome; provided, of course, it lasts no longer than the anticipated two days.
I’m putting my rainy-day time to good use too: I’ve discovered a way around Brexit, or at least, a way of remaining an EU citizen without the hassle and expense of becoming a Spanish resident: I’m applying for an Irish passport.
Of course this will not make the shrinking pound in my UK bank account worth any more against the Euro, but at least it will give me the satisfaction of mothballing my UK passport and putting two fingers up at the Leavers who caused all this trouble in the first place.
And now I want to debunk a couple of myths about the Spanish.
Firstly there is a common misconception that the Spanish pay little or no attention to rules and regulations. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Italians — particularly their politicians such as Silvio Berlusconi are Europe’s premier rule dodgers — while in Spain, exhaustive permissions must be obtained for even the most modest events or alterations.
Last Saturday for example, a friend from the rugby club who owns a bar in the Municipal Market is putting on some live music for a group of around a hundred guests. It begins at two and so I arrive at three, expecting things to be in full swing (as nothing in Spain starts on time) only to find the musicians packing up.
I go, ‘Why are they finishing so early Ruben?’
He replies, ‘‘cos the Municipal Administration prohibits us to play music after three,’ and shrugs.
I’m thinking — are you sure they don’t mean 3am? I mean, Spain is the world’s noisiest country so who is going to complain about a spot of music on a Saturday afternoon?
‘I risk losing my license if they play on,’ he adds. Fair enough.
And crossing roads in another thing.
It used to be that if you stepped out onto a pedestrian crossing you instantly became a valid target for Pepe-The-Boy-Racer in his souped-up Nova.
Not any more. Everyone, with the possible exception of kids on their mopeds and women talking on their phones, stops to let you cross. But try crossing at anywhere other than an official crossing — even a metre off the white bits — and you are taking your life in your hands.
And now, chicos, it’s about time to talk about Spanish driving.
My first impression — way back in February — was that the only cause of mortality that could possible trump deaths from smoking was road traffic accidents.
But how wrong could I be? There were 1,730 road fatalities in Spain last year, which compared very favourably with the 238,562 which occurred in India. Okay, India is a much bigger country, and if you are a Buddhist you may well believe that if this is your day to die — so be it — when you take to road. But surprisingly, with a ratio of 3.7 road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, Spain is actually in the top five safest countries in which to drive. Britain is the third safest with a ratio of 2.9 per 100,000 and this is presumably because the roads are so clogged that the only way you could kill another motorist is to bore him to death with Radio 2 on the car park referred to as the M6.
Oh… you’re probably wondering which is the safest: Monaco recoded zero road deaths in 2015 probably because, apart from F1 comes to town, it is still a motoring requirement to have a man with a red flag walk in front of your car.
And so back to Spanish driving, and the national obsession with obeying regulations.
As long as you follow the rules, you have nothing to worry about.
In other words, folks, you must learn to drive like a Spaniard.
And these are the rules:
- Never, under any circumstances, indicate. Drivers waiting to enter a roundabout or leave a slip road will only be suspicious that you appear to be trying to make life easier for them.
- Never, under any circumstances, allow another motorist to join the road on which you are driving; to do so will be regarded as a sign of weakness resulting in extreme usage of the horn by motorists behind you.
- Use your horn whenever possible, either to greet other motorists or pedestrians you may know, or to admonish any driver who demonstrates signs of weakness. Or simply, just for the hell of it.
- Never allow your vehicle to be more than the thickness of a cigarette paper from the rear bumper of the car in front.
- Do not ever use the inside lane on a dual carriageway. This is for trucks, the elderly,
people turning off and the Northern European tourists.
- Parking: this procedure is similar to Sidmouth — find a space large enough to dock the USS Enterprise then nudge the vehicle in front and the vehicle behind. And if possible, when parking in a multi-story, park across at least two bays. Double parking is acceptable and if you leave your hazards on, you can park pretty much where you like.
The lady in the picture on the right took great exception to my photographic record of this superb piece of parking and followed me up the street in her Seat shouting at me, snapping pictures on her phone and telling me that she was going to report me to the police for harassment… or words to that effect.
Well, Mrs Berlusconi, if you’re reading this, may I take the opportunity to point out that both the pavements and the pedestrian crossings are designed to serve the interest of pedestrians while the road is… you’ve guessed it… for cars.
Well, that’s about it, folks — follow these guidelines and it should all be plain sailing.
And that, amigos, is pretty much it for today.
Hasto luego, chicos!