I am going to begin this blog with a couple of long-overdue corrections.
First, two posts ago, a friend pointed out that I had used the word ‘council’ incorrectly in the context of ‘keeping my counsel.’
Guilty as charged.
He then went on to explain to me what the word ‘counsel’ means. This I already know, but I thanked him for his diligence in correcting my ignorance.
It was what is referred to as a typographical error, or ‘typo’, if you work in the industry.
To underline my understanding of the semantics — and don’t get me going on this one — I would point out that both my friend and I worked for Antrim Borough COUNCIL during our college summer holidays back in the ‘70s.
However, to level the score at 15 all, I will rather childishly point out that, while I was one of the very few students deemed fit and strong enough to work on the bin lorries, my friend worked on the Parks and Cemeteries with the fat, wheezy boys with a sick note from matron. And I’ll keep my counsel as to his identity.
My second correction is more straightforward: I accused the Spanish of virtually mugging shoppers into accepting plastic bags, whether they want them or not. This, it would appear, is not entirely correct; they do charge for them, but only in large supermarkets, and when they can be bothered.
With everything that my brain has had to cope with recently, I must have ignored the voice of the Ballymeana Man, buried deep within my cerebral cortex, who normally screams at me to check, check and check again my receipts.
Monday 7th March
And this brings me rather untidily around to the topic of learning Spanish.
With my apartment sorted and my houseguests gone, I finally have time to tackle the Spanish language.
My Marbellean friend David has recommended a school called Enforex, and I enroll for two weeks — one during this stay and the other when I return in April.
I’m going to need a lot more than two weeks, I’m told by Fran, who appears to be the Head Hombre. Moy bien… we shall see.
It works like this — classes run from 9am — 1pm five days a week, and are divided into two stints each taken by a different teacher, punctuated by a twenty-minute break. You buy a week at a time, unless you book a large block (which obviously they prefer).
There are just the two of us in my class, myself and a young German chap called Wilhelm. He already speaks four languages, including Russian, and claims to be a bike mechanic.
‘Yerrite,’ I say, noting a very slight resemblance to a pint-sized Daniel Craig. ‘You’re a spy, aren’t you?’ Germans aren’t noted for their sense of humour and this does not improve when later in the lesson, I side-track Manolo, our teacher, with one of the classic scenes
from Fawlty Towers. This is, of course, Manuel’s attempt to come to terms with use of the letter ‘H’ — which is ignored in Spanish — with a hammma sandwich… a hammmmmer… and of course, unforgettably, his hammmmster.
There are, in Spanish, five ways of saying ‘you’: tú, vos, usted, vosotros, ustedes. Which one you use depends on singular or plural and how formal you want to be. And confusingly, the formal expression of ‘you’ does not go along with the informal… birarrely it is grouped with he, she and they. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
By break on the first morning my head spinning. The last time I seriously tried to learn a language was 1973.
Tuesday 8th March
Things are looking up a bit.
I spend a couple of hours reading through my notes and I’m actually finding this quite easy.
You see, dear reader, I was forced to study Latin, from which I derived as much pleasure as I would from a daily colonoscopy, from the age of six until I could finally give it up when I had managed to scrape a ‘6’ at ‘O’ Level. But a lot of it stuck with me and I find verb conjugation surprisingly simple. Do you remember the verb to love? Amo… amas… amas…amamus… amatus… amant? Well, there’s the Spanish verb to talk: Habler (remember — you don’t pronounce the ‘H’) Hablo… hablas… habla… hablamos… habláis… hablan.
Wednesday 9th March
I’m actually enjoying this. Wilhelm and I are racing through the exercise book and Fran tells us that tomorrow we will be parachuted into the group next door after the break. They’re a week ahead of us so this is encouraging.
I had also learnt schoolboy French and attained the lofty heights of a grade 4 at ‘O’ Level. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because I understand the bollox about the gender of nouns — why the hell is a table female and a boat male? But it’s a bad thing because the pronunciation of French looking words (en) as they do in France, elicits a tut and headshake form the ever-patient Manolo.
There are of course gender guideline clues in French but it’s a heck of a lot simpler in Spanish. Basically (unless a word comes from Greek — and here one can be a bit scuppered if your Greek is a tad rusty — if a noun ends in ‘a’ (cerveza birarely) it is female.
Today’s slope-hanger is that in my next blog I’m going to tell you the other three key facts you should know about Spain.
!Hasta mañana mis amigos!