8 June 2022: Un-nice words re Galicia; Rules for house guests; Spanish dignity; France and Putin; Hard English accents; & Other stuff

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Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España or Galiza 

Holland America Cruises are in deep doo-doo for giving passengers arriving in Vigo a brochure which describes Galcia as ‘backward, poor and rustic’. Of course, parts of it certainly are but the irony is the passengers won’t see any of that during the 2 hours they spend in a tiny bit of Vigo. The brochure did go on to praise the wonderful seafood and pretty countryside.

Talking of visitors . . . Having a holiday home in Spain can be hell, says the writer of the 1st article below, who gives these 5 golden rules for guests, with which  I – as someone who likes to have visitors – wholeheartedly concur:-

1. Don’t invite yourself or keep nagging to visit!

2. Remember that the villa is your friends’ second/main home, not a holiday rental you’ve all paid for

3. Be helpful. Pitch in with chores and contribute to costs, such as food shopping and laundry

4. Treat your hosts to a meal out as a thank you. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive – quite the opposite. Just a small gesture that shows you appreciate them

5. Encourage your hosts (if a little prone to feeling stressed, like me!) to relax, sit down and stop worrying about everyone else: it’s up to them to have a good time – but you can help

An article in the Voz de Galicia yesterday expressed admiration for the British queen for taking part in a mock tea-party with Paddington Bear. Could never happen here, the author claimed, for one reason and another. On the other hand, neither could Boris Johnson. The Spanish like their important people to be very dignified. Usually informal to a degree, they can get very formal indeed. Up their own fundaments at times. From a British perspective at least.

One of the prettier border collies to be seen in Pv city:-

The UK   

Talking of the queen, here’s a tribute to her from a British republican.

And here’s a very accurate assessment of Boris Johnson, basically stressing what’s been known for at least 2 years – He’s not the horse for the current UK course. 

I’ve claimed for at least 20 years that this is The Age of the Bureaucrat. This article endorses that sentiment, at least as regards the UK. Along the way, says the author, Democracy has gone the way of monarchy, becoming only ceremonial.

France

From a French columnist: In France, the notion of right and wrong is often derided as “simplistic”. As regards Ukraine . . . Try and argue that one nation was attacked and the other is the attacker, and you get pitying looks. ‘You must see further’. One alleged reason for this:- For years, Russia has worked carefully, and cleverly, at detaching chunks of the French political, religious and intellectual world to her side. So . . . The undercurrent is still that we should not take risks for a small country of which we know little. Once again, Poland and Britain are showing us what moral courage means.

Russia

Says one columnist, to a chorus of scepticism: The climate crisis will bring on Russia’s downfall. The war has exposed another of Putin’s great miscalculations: ignoring a shift from fossil fuels. . .  Global climate change was already pushing the developed world to bid a long farewell to the fossil fuels that accounted last year for 36% of Russia’s budget. Now sanctions and a complete western rethink about Moscow’s energy leverage over Europe are massively accelerating that process.

The USA 

More than 700 people have been killed by guns since the recent mass murder of kids.

The Way of the World

An obscenity? The US golfer Phil Mickelson – a massive and ‘reckless’ gambler – is estimated to have been paid $200m to play in the new Saudi rebel golf circuit.

English

An interesting/controversial comment: ‘Renewable’ always means ‘unreliable’. At least with the current state of the green-energy business. Roll on hydrogen sources?

Pre-planned: “This word is idiotic and tautologous. It can’t be post-planned, can it?”

The 5 hardest British accents:-

Finally . . .

Well, my spam messages – having fallen from more than 100 a day to very few – are now back up to previous levels. Someone has clearly sold my address to people who like to start their messages with Fuck.

To raise a smile . . .

For passing readers: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.

Finally, finally: Write to me here, if you want to see a memoir of my first 15 months in Spain, 2000-2001, entitled So, you fancy moving to Spain.

THE ARTICLES 

Don’t hate me, but having a holiday home in Spain can be hell. Owning a place in the sun isn’t all sunshine and sangria. Here is what every second home owner (or visitor to one) needs to know: By Sadie Nicholas

‘Keep your second home quiet, for if people don’t know about it, they can’t invite themselves to stay,’ advises Nicholas Credit: Courtesy of Sadie Nicholas

After waving off the latest visitors to our villa in Spain, I slid my back down the inside of the front door, landing on the tiled floor with a thump, much to my then five-year-old son Albie’s amusement. Melodramatic? Yes. But I was overwhelmed with relief that this particular family of four had left, that noise levels had returned to normal and the house was once again solely our family’s domain – albeit littered with their detritus, including toys everywhere, inflatables scattered around the pool, towels on bathroom floors, cups and uneaten sandwiches on the kitchen table.  

The past few days had been a maelstrom of young children hyped up by each other’s constant company and too much ice cream, and of grown-ups soaked in sangria and sunscreen chilling out on their sunloungers, very much on holiday, drinking far too much – while I ran around after all of them. This is partly because, as a people-pleaser, I genuinely want others to have a lovely time, even at my own expense, and I relish playing hostess… but only up to a point.  

Our friends had been travelling around Spain during the summer and it seemed entirely natural for them to come and stay – a conversation that evolved while discussing our respective plans. But, much as I enjoy their company day-to-day, I’ve added them to my mental list of people I’ll politely suggest should hire a villa nearby in future, so that we all get the best of both worlds: time to hang out, but crucially, time apart. 

Let’s get the caveat out of the way. The pitfalls of owning a place in the sun are first-world problems. But there are things that every smug second home owner needs to know – or already does, but keeps under their sombrero. And most of these things relate to visitors.

An estimated 800,000 Britons worldwide own a second property; 250,000 of them in Europe. Anyone who does will doubtless attest to what hard work it can be when it comes to entertaining. 

Ironically, when my husband and I bought our detached four-bedroom villa near Valencia six years ago, we ensured there was space for friends and family to visit. I just hadn’t banked on unwittingly becoming B&B hostess extraordinaire, with near back-to-back guests for the first two, eight-week-long summers. In all the excitement of buying the property and genuinely wanting people to visit, it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d feel quite so besieged. On reflection, it shouldn’t have been a surprise as one of my pet hates is staying with other people. That’s partly because I don’t want to encroach on friends in their own homes, but also because I like our own space to do as we please, right down to wandering around in our underwear. 

Not everyone has the same instinct. A few months before we bought our villa, our friend who has a substantial place in Mallorca offered a sound piece of advice: keep your second home quiet, for if people don’t know about it, they can’t invite themselves to stay. We heeded this wisdom for a while, but our cover was blown by a combination of the holiday snaps I posted on social media, our own excitement, and us returning time and again to exactly the same place.

Suspicions were raised, interest piqued, and requests for free holidays rolled in. Common messages included: “Do you rent it to friends and family on the cheap?” (No, it’s our second home and we’re lucky enough not to have to rent it out, so it’s not up for grabs, free or paid for.) “Can we borrow it?” (Also no, for the same reasons.) And, “We’d love to come and see you!” Someone even asked if they could use our villa for their honeymoon, for free. Err, absolutely not. Who knew we were so popular? 

We never rent it out, and only have friends and family to stay by invitation – and only when we are also there. But there have been summers when we’ve had so many visitors that we’ve returned to the UK in need of, well, a holiday.  

Chatting recently to a friend who also owns a villa in Spain, she said she and her husband had agreed on a three-night maximum stay for most house guests, with a week’s visit reserved only for those closest to them, rules we have in place, too. After all, visitors also cost money, be it through raiding the wine rack or the ice-cream drawer in the freezer, or the cleaning and laundry bills between guests. 

Of course, we’ve had plenty of visitors we can’t wait to welcome back, including loved ones from England, Dubai and Madrid. There are others we hope will come and stay, but who have yet to do so.

There are no hard-and-fast rules as to what makes a good or bad guest. But in general the best are those who are easygoing and helpful, who have similar parenting styles and drinking habits to yours, and are people who you’ve holidayed with in the past, so you know you get on.  Another factor is that all houses need maintenance, whether they sit beneath the grey skies of the UK or the blue of  Spain. Arriving at our villa isn’t like pitching up at a rented luxury villa or five-star hotel. Last July, Albie and I arrived a week before my husband joined us to find water pouring out of the AC unit in the master bedroom, lizards scuttling around the living room, the electric gate to the driveway kaput and red dust everywhere, courtesy of a deluge of Saharan rain the week before.  There’s no maintenance man or concierge on speed dial, and unless you’re flush enough to hire one, there’s no maid to make the beds, serve breakfast, deal with the dirty dishes, shop for food or sort the laundry. Oh, wait, actually, there is. It’s me! 

I wish people would acknowledge that it’s my holiday too… and I also wish that I was better at acknowledging that myself. Perhaps if I relaxed, put less pressure on myself and just thought “Sod it,” then I’d have a happier time, too. 

Still though, the sizzling summers, mild winters and countless magic moments with family – and friends – are utterly wonderful. When we get the right balance of family fun and the right kind of visitors, the memories we make will be nothing but good.

The five golden rules to being a good guest

– Don’t invite yourself or keep nagging to visit!

– Remember that the villa is your friends’ second/main home, not a holiday rental you’ve all paid for

– Be helpful. Pitch in with chores and contribute to costs, such as food shopping and laundry

– Treat your hosts to a meal out as a thank you. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive – quite the opposite. Just a small gesture that shows you appreciate them

– Encourage your hosts (if a little prone to feeling stressed, like me!) to relax, sit down and stop worrying about everyone else: it’s up to them to have a good time – but you can help.

2 comments

  1. The blue merle borders seem to have become the latest dog breed fashion. Only the other day I suggested to my partner that it won’t be long before we see them in the local refuges. Such a shame.
    Having once owned a blue merle, not only do they require lots of exercise, they also require mental stimulation. They are very intelligent, hence are such wonderful working dogs, especially on farms. Living in pisos as many will do, will just end in tears.

    Like

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