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.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night

Weeds are my speciality. Other people may major in roses or gladioli or even alpine perennials but I do weeds.

Our garden consists principally of fruit trees, ivy and weeds. In good Mediterranean fashion we have a lot of bare earth but keeping it bare is a year round job. Rather than imagining that I am exterminating Martians as I hoe, (which I don't think has any relation to the word pair of hoeing and twerking), I amuse myself by listening to things on some wonderful, noise reducing, earphones that I bought from Amazon a couple of Black Fridays ago.

My listening fare varies but I often download Documentos, a documentary programme, from the radio. I like the Selector too, a weekly bilingual update on New British Music. There are also a couple of language learning podcasts that I generally listen to each week. I sometimes listen as I cook too but gardening is favourite.

Today I was listening to Notes in Spanish. I've mentioned Ben and Marina's podcast before. I usually enjoy them though, sometimes, when they are clearing the junk from the house to clear space in their minds, talking about mindfulness or about the time tyranny of Spotify I do find myself rather shouting at the recordings. Today though they were talking about how younger people now use their phones all the time. I thought it was verging on paradoxical that I was listening on my own phone but as I don't see the point of Instagram and I guffaw when people post pictures of the food they are just about to eat in restaurants I suspect I am a long way from OPPA - old person phone addiction. The Ben and Marina idea that someone would use their Instagram or Facebook account to photograph the shirts they were considering buying and then ask their Facebook friends or Instagram followers for help seemed like an interesting idea in a sort of Orwellian or Huxleyian way. A real time virtual community.

There were a lot of weeds. I'd listened to B&M a couple of times so I went back to the Documentos programme that I'd downloaded on Saturday about the development of the Plazas Mayores in Spain. If you've been to Valladolid or Madrid or Almagro or Salamanca or Chinchón or Cordoba or Alcaraz or Santiago and countless other places in Spain you'll know what I'm talking about. The plaza mayor is the main public square, usually surrounded by colonnades, right at the heart of so many cities and towns in the Spanish speaking world. Something that made me snigger slightly, a reminder of the fast pace of change in Spain, was that programme told me that the Catholic Monarchs decreed that, where there were no Town Halls, they had to be built in these main squares. That was a royal edict in 1480. The first planned main Square was built in Valladolid in 1562. Maybe I misunderstood some of the detail.

The programme talked about the development of these squares for markets, for jousts, declarations of faith related to the Inquisition and bullfights - basically as open public spaces for lots and lots of things. I well remember years ago arranging to meet Maggie under the clock in the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca and finding myself in company of tens of people who'd arranged something similiar with their family, friends, lovers or partners. I wondered then how many people had done the same thing on the same spot for centuries.

Well maybe they don't any more. Maybe now young people only talk on WhatsApp rather than over a drink at one of the cafes in the square. But then it struck me what they actually do. They do meet under the clock, though with lots of changes of plan announced via WhatsApp rather than just arriving at the agreed time. They then sit in the cafes but they don't actually talk. They write to the friends at the table, and to their wider network of friends via their phones until the battery goes phut and that's when they have to decide to go home or to go to another bar with lots of charging points!

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