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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.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

¡Uff, que calor!

I wandered in to do my session with 4A, the fourth year is the last year of obligatory secondary school. It was my last lesson with them before my contract ends at the end of May. They're a nice bunch but it's a big class and they tend towards noisy, no let's be honest, loud. I said hello and started whatever it was I was going to do but they weren't paying much attention - their energies were being taken up by an awful lot of fanning and expelling sufficient breath for top lips to oscillate. It's too hot, it's suffocating, we're going to die. The class teacher who makes sure that the noise doesn't turn into a riot, looked up from her computer. A brief conversation and she set the air conditioner going. My guess is that there are guidelines as to the temperature setting for the air-con and the youngsters wanted it lower. With a big grin on my face I set into one of those "When I was a lad air conditioners didn't exist, what a bunch of whiners you are etc".

It made me laugh, outside it was probably around 30ºC, not exactly roasting. It was warm but I was perfectly comfortable in my habitual boots, jeans and T shirt. Most of the pupils were in shorts.

in the staff room, after the ritual greeting, the first and main topic of conversation between any two or more teachers was the temperature. I was asked several times what I thought about the heat; unbearable eh? It must be worse for me coming from a country where polar bears and penguins roam. Lots of Spanish people aren't that hot on geography.

There's no doubt that it's warmed up in the last fortnight or so. It's still a long way from being hot but the summer sounds have begun. The spring flowers and green plants have taken on their summer shades of yellows and beige. The cigarras are singing in the garden but wood and metal aren't yet creaking as they expand or contract. The flies are out in annoying numbers. Everything is covered in a fine patina of dust and cars have a rugged he-man sort of dirty look. We haven't used any heating for ages, getting out of bed in the morning involves no more discomfort than creaking bones and heaving lungs. I've turned down the gas flame and upped the water flow on the water heater.

I've been asked three or four times whether I've been to the seaside - this is presumably because my arms, but only to the sleeve line, have got a bit of colour. It's because of the weeding I say. It has even been suggested to me that I may like to abandon long trousers for shorts.

It always amuses me. We Britons often complain about the weather - too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too windy, too still. Spaniards do exactly the same.


Anonymous said...


'Lots of Spaniards don't know geography!', 'Spaniards are parochial'. Well Chris, you certainly seem to be in a 'Let's bash the Spaniards with sweeping generalisations' mode. I did draft a long comment on your 'parochial' thingy as it struck me as offensive and worse, arrogant but in the end I decided that everyone is entitled to a 'funny' moment. At the end of the day, I have met countless people here in the UK from very different nationalities who very adamantly maintain that the English are the most arrogant people on Earth.
Your latter comment however, just made me and my British partner laugh, although probably not in the way you were intending when you wrote it. I won't bore you with my experiences about plain ignorant comments from your fellow citizens about geography and climate in Spain (and not just Spain) but she (my partner) just highlighted how many times her work colleagues stated to her with absolute confidence how great it was that it would be hot when going to Spain on holiday… in the middle of winter, in north west Spain.

Anyway, all the best, salud and please, give us a some credit.


Chris Thompson said...

Hi: Nice to know you're still there. All the best to you and your partner

To some degree I share your concern about the generalisations that I make. The problem is that very few things are not generalised. I once said to someone "It's a nice day" - the sun was shining, the sky was blue and, as we were in the UK, the temperature was no higher than the mid twenties (oh, there I go generalising again) but, as the person explained to me, she had some sort of condition that made bright days very uncomfortable. It wasn't nice day for her. A second problem is that without using generalisations it would be almost impossible to write a general piece.

Teaching English I end up talking about the sort of things that aren't bog standard everyday topics.

For instance, doing a conditional - if Isaac Peral hadn't invented the submarine - please finish the phrase. I used Peral because people from Cartagena knew who he was - Marconi, Newton, Einstein etc. tended to cause difficulties, not because of a problem with the conditional but because there was a problem with naming people.

In order to practice the phrase "What's ----- like? (this is in Ciudad Rodrigo) I had some picture cards - one showed the Capitol in Washington DC, another showed the Eiffel Tower and so on with the Coliseum, Sydney Opera House and the Taj Mahal. So I showed my picture of the Alhambra - this is the Alhambra in Granada "What's Granada like? If you don't know the city please use the region or the country, I'm only interested in your English "What's Andalucia like?" "What's Spain like?" The English usually didn't cause much problem but the locations did. About 40% recognised Paris and Rome though a good number thought the Coliseum was in Paris. The rest were a dead loss.

If, as a talking exercise I suggest to students that we divide into two teams and do an informal quiz - each time comes up with ten questions in English - all those other general knowledge sort of things. The results do not suggest a good level of general knowledge within the group of Spaniards who are learning English.

My experience of buying ten stamps in several tobacconists is that multiplying a figure by ten is not an easy task for Spanish tobacconists. My experience is that, in the vets, a ten per cent discount on 90€ requires a calculator. That's my experience. It's the truth and if I say that my experience is that Spaniards have trouble with basic arithmetic it would be true.

Now, if I were writing a blog about Life in Cleckheaton, I may well comment that young Britons know very little about general knowledge, that a couple of Britons I spoke to thought there were tigers in Africa or that the British reading of history is tinged with Imperialism. But I'm not. so I don't.

I also use less personal sources. So when I read articles like the two below I may well use them for generalisations as I write.

Cinco millones de españoles no han salido nunca de su provincia

Los españoles viajamos mucho menos de los que creíamos: el 10% nunca ha salido de su provincia; el 15% jamás ha cruzado los límites de su comunidad autónoma, y el 48% desconoce qué se esconde más allá de las fronteras españolas. Así lo ha desvelado un estudio que también refleja que los ciudadanos que menos han viajado fuera del país son los manchegos, ya que apenas un 30% de sus habitantes ha salido de España; mientras que los catalanes, con un 67,2% de viajeros internacionales, son los más dispuestos a hacer las maletas.

This is from this years PISA report on young Spaniards financial skills

En la clasificación global, España se encuentra en el puesto número 10 de los 14 participantes. Esto nos sitúa por encima tan solo de Brasil (393), Perú (403), Chile (432), la República Eslovaca (445) y Lituania (449). El primer país es China (las regiones de Pekín, Shanghai, Jiangsu y Guandong, con 566), seguido por la Región Flamenca de Bélgica (541).

Chris Thompson said...

It just struck me. Polar bears? Penguins? There is a certain confusion about hemispheres amongst many of my students but it was ironic, overstated. You understood that?