Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Coo-ee, coo-ee, Mr Shifter, Light refreshment?

The advert that featured the line Coo-ee Mr Shifter was broadcast in 1971. In the Seventies PG, the tea people, not only abused their plantation workers (allegedly) they also abused animals. Chimps dressed in clothes mimicked human actions in a series of TV adverts. Mr Shifter was a piano mover. The idea of workers, workmen, having tea breaks and being offered tea by the home owners where they are working is a part of British culture.

There is a frost on the ground outside our house today as I type. We have two blokes, José Miguel and Manuel his brother, tearing up the old concrete and laying a path between front and back gardens and building a patio.

They started work yesterday. It was cold then too. Maggie asked if they wanted a cup of tea, or as they're continentals, a cup of  coffee. They politely turned it down and waved a bottle of water at her as though that were a suitable alternative.

When I was a Mr Shifter in the furniture shop here and I delivered stuff to British houses a drink - hot or cold depending on the season - was always the first offer. In Spanish houses it wasn't unusual to be given a drink but it was always at the end of the job as the sweat dripped from me. Water was the normal  offer with beer coming a close second. The purpose was different though. In Spain it is for practical reasons - like thirst. For we Britons it is a social custom too.

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