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February 2, 2012 / Robert Bovington

Welcome to my Grumpy Old Man in Spain blog

Welcome to my Grumpy Old Man in Spain blog.

I like Spain but there are occasionally things that I get grumpy about. Anyway, I suspect most of my posts will be about me complaining about things I read in the newspapers or on (British) TV.

January 22, 2012 / Robert Bovington

Spain came second in a European quality of life survey

Extract from ‘The Olive Press’… http://www.theolivepress.es/)

“EXPATS have every right to feel smug after Spain came second in a European quality of life index.

The uSwitch survey – which took into account living costs, spending on health and education, work/life balance and days of sunshine – left the UK firmly at the bottom of the list.
The index concluded that the Spanish can expect to live a year longer than those in the UK, have more days off (the highest number in Europe) and enjoy cheaper booze.
However it was not all bad news for Blighty, which enjoys a higher average wage and greater investment in education than Spain.
France topped the index, with the Netherlands third.”

my own thoughts…

  1. I agree that Spain has a much higher quality of life than Britain.
  2. The UK may invest more in education but that’s because they pay school teachers too big a salary and in my experience (I was a supply teacher for 3 months before moving to Spain) many English schools are run by incompetent teaching staff.
  3. France is a beautiful country but I wouldn’t want to live there – too many French people.
  4. Holland? it must be difficult cycling in clogs!
November 21, 2011 / Robert Bovington

Tourists

Tourists are easiest to spot in winter – especially the North European variety. Whilst we expats, who have acclimatised ourselves to warmer climes, don our cardigans and warm trousers, the tourists from northern areas of the continent wear shorts.
The Germans tend to garb themselves in matching ‘his and hers’ calf-length shorts with lots of pockets. The British opt for both the shorts and shirts of their local football team or, if they are really sad, Manchester United colours even if they hail from Plymouth or Newcastle! Sometimes, three generations of the family will wear the same team colours which looks really stupid on grandad who needs an XXL sized top to cover his enormous beer-gut! I’ve even seen a whole family, including mother and daughter, sporting replica shirts! Then there are the really fashion conscious who wear socks and sandals with their too short shorts!
The Spanish tourists in winter are usually retired folk from Northern Spain. They are easily spotted – usually in groups of four – two male and two female. They are usually about five feet tall and walk four abreast at about two hundred metres per hour. It is difficult to overtake them however unless you are brave enough to step in the road and risk being catapulted into the air (see blog post on Driving).
In summer it is more difficult to distinguish tourists from residents. However we always know when Spanish tourists are staying nearby – they are the ones who are making a racket at 4-o’clock in the morning and stopping the rest of us from sleeping!

November 20, 2011 / Robert Bovington

Driving in Spain

Driving in Spain is sometimes a pleasurable experience and sometimes a pain.
Driving around the Spanish countryside is an absolute delight – EEC funding has enabled many new roads to be built. These carriageways are usually long, wide, straight and devoid of traffic. Spain is a much less densely populated country than the UK and on many an occasion I have driven a 100-kilometre route and hardly seen another vehicle.
Driving in towns, however, is mostly an irritating experience.
Most Spanish people I have met have been most charming but once they get behind the wheel many are ignorant peasants  – or at least the ones I have encountered in Roquetas & Almería are! They break most of the rules of the road. They don’t appear to know what indicators are for, they accelerate at crossings and roundabouts and some of them drive three abreast down a two-lane highway. Many male Spaniards are very macho when they drive  – no matter what speed I travel at they nearly always try to overtake. I sometimes wonder whether they are trying to compensate for some inadequacy – like a small dick!
Most do not stop at crossings. On one occasion, after about six cars failed to slow down let alone stop at a pedestrian crossing, I had had enough. I strode determinedly onto the crossing whilst looking at the driver as if to say “You jolly well stop you bastard!” although I was ready to rapidly withdraw if he didn’t. He didn’t. He pulled into the outside lane and drove round me!
Some drivers here do stop at crossings – I suspect that they are British motorists. However, we still have to be very wary when this happens otherwise a maniac driver in the far lane might catapult us into the air. This happened to a British resident of our apartment block a couple of years ago. He attempted to cross the busy Calle Alicun, which is only a few hundred metres from our building. A motorist ploughed into our neighbour as he crossed the far lane using the crossing. He died in hospital a few days later.
Some Spanish drivers are lazy bastards. They double park, park on crossings, park on the pavement – park anywhere to save walking ten metres. There is a very nice new theatre near our apartment in Roquetas. Recently a spanking new, large, free car park was built alongside. Most days it is empty and only gets full on market days or when there is a show on. Opposite the theatre are three cafes. Quite often a number of cars double-park outside the cafes whilst the car park opposite is empty! But I suppose, in mitigation, the drivers are afraid to cross the road in case yet another maniacal Spanish driver catapults them into the air!
Everywhere I go I encounter cars with dents and scratches, crumpled bumpers, palm trees and road signs lean precariously in testimony to the driving habits of the Spanish driver.
It is not all doom and gloom, however. As I previously mentioned, it is a joy to drive along Spanish country roads. Another good thing about living here is that I no longer encounter 4x4s driven by dolled up females delivering their sprogs to school every morning. I reckon they drive these large ‘off road’ vehicles to avoid doing themselves damage when they bump into things!
Safety First for Pedestrians in Spain
1. If you are able-bodied and wish to cross a road, look both ways and if there are no vehicles in sight it may be safe to cross.
2. If you are able-bodied and wish to cross a two lane in each direction highway with no central reservation using a crossing – only cross if cars are but specks in the distance.
3. As item 2 but with a central reservation – look left and then cross if cars are only specks in the distance and then only as far as the central reservation. Repeat for further lane but first look right.
4. If you are able-bodied wishing to cross at a pedestrian crossing and a vehicle in the nearest lane stops for you – tentatively start walking but wait, retreat, make a dash for it or proceed gracefully depending on the demeanour of the motorists in the farthest lane.
5. If you are able-bodied and wish to cross a road but not at a crossing – you are taking your life in your hands – you’ll probably be ok in the country but watch out for snakes and wild boar!
6. If you are not able-bodied – best to stay indoors and order meals-on-wheels!
November 20, 2011 / Robert Bovington

Spanish supermarkets

Those of you who know me well, understand that I don’t do shopping – not if I can help it! If my wife, Diane, wants toshop in Almería or at El Corte Ingles in El Ejido, I drive her there but I then go off for a walk or a beer.  However, we do have to eat so I do visitsupermarkets – sometimes even on my own whilst Diane does the cooking – well, that’s why women have small feet – to get nearer the cooker or washing machine.  But I digress. I wish to write about Spanish supermarkets.
When we lived in England, we never shopped in Lidl –we preferred to use Tesco,  Sainsbury,  Safeway, Marks & Sparks, Asda, Waitrose and even the Coop! Now that we live in Spain, we often do a bit of shopping in Lidl. Why? – Because, in my opinion, Spanish supermarkets in no waycompare to British ones and Lidl compares favourably with them in many aspects.
Here are my comments on the supermarkets in the Roquetas area:
We do our main shopping in Mercadona – we don’t get too many special offers on their shelves but the products are usually of excellent quality. Compared with UK supermarkets their product range is limited – very rarely can one get excited by a new product on their shelves but the advantage of this is that one can visit a Mercadona store anywhere in Spain and easily locatewhat one is looking for because every store appears to carry 99% the same products.
We occasionally shop at Eroski. I personally do not think that the quality of some of their products is as good as Mercadona but they do have offers – not ‘buy one get one free’ like in the UK – but ‘three for the price of two’. They have lately been offering ‘70% off the second product on some items which, to some people, sounds really good. However it only slightly better than the ‘three for two’ offer – 35% off instead of 33%! Eroski does have a much bigger range of products compared with Mercadona and is like Tesco in that it  doesn’t just do food but also sells electronics, furniture, gardening items, books and much else!
Lidl often does offers and sells things outside the usual weekly shopping range like clothes, kitchen appliances, electronic items, toys etc and these change from week to week. They also have special themed shopping days that include a particular country’s products, so occasionally we have purchased some British items like porridge oats and proper marmalade. I also think that the fruit and vegetables are better quality (and usually cheaper) than the main Spanish supermarkets.
Other supermarkets in Roquetas include Día (cheap and cheerful), Consum, El Árbol and Coviran. Thereis an English supermarket called Arkrites which is handy when one wants a change from Spanish food.
Further afield, in El Ejido, is Hipercor which is part of the El Corte Ingles chain. The quality is good but a little expensive.
In the same town there is anothersupermarket whose name is composed of four letters that include ‘c’ and ‘p’ – no not that! Though I think the store’s vegetables are c**p.  Copo is a supermarket built on the El Copo Commercial Park. I do buy some products from this store but I cannot understand why their fruit and veg are so bad especially when the town is situated in the heart of greenhouseland which is the vegetable garden for the rest of  Europe!
On the outskirts of Roquetas, at the Vícar commercial centre, is a Carrefour, but they’re French!
Robert Bovington