Saturday, August 30, 2008


Holmfirth and Ashley Jackson

As I am struggling to think of anything to write, will be “off-line” for a couple of weeks for the first part of September, and said that I would mention an artist (Ashley Jackson) in the last post, here goes.

Last Saturday we visited the Yorkshire town of Holmfirth. The town is best known for being the location of the 30 year old - and still going - light hearted TV drama series called, “last of the summer wine”.

The town is certainly very nice, albeit a bit small if you are not a LOTSW fan! One highlight of Holmfirth is the café featured regularly in the show which does exist and serves superb cream scones. You need to get the special one and not the “bog standard” version. If you visit on a summer weekend, expect to queue.

Also in Holmfirth is the gallery come shop of the “adopted” Yorkshire artist Ashley Jackson and, when we popped in, he was manning the business with other members of his family.

I have no doubt that Ashley Jackson’s work receives little critical acclaim (I may be wrong), however he paints for the masses and does so extremely eloquently. I have yet to see a painting or print of his that I do not like and which does not capture the atmosphere of its subject (normally Yorkshire). You can also add to this that he really is a nice and genuine guy and comes across exactly as he does on his numerous TV shows. Both I and other members of my family have bumped into him in airports and in overseas destinations and he has always been extremely pleasant, very courteous and without any “edge”, not so common in today’s celebrities.

Sticking with celebrities, my cousin’s wife is a BA bursar and encounters pretty much every celebrity who has ever boarded a plane. People often wonder “who are the nice guys and who are the pigs!” So here is what she told my sister a few weeks ago.

The friendliest, best behaved, none stop autograph signing “major” celebrity is in fact Wil Smith. I must admit that I have never liked him, but apparently he is the epitome of “Mr nice guy”.

The biggest pig is apparently Nicolas Cage closely followed by Andy Garcia. Both are rude offensive and regarded with distain by all who deal with them.

Again, a surprise to me, I though that Cage might be unpleasant, but certainly not Garcia. It just shows.

I may mention Jimmy Tarbuck and my round of golf with him at some point in a later blog, but that was many, many years ago and not in fact a memory that I cherish!

Monday, August 25, 2008


Filey, Scarborough, Whitby

This extended bank holiday weekend saw comparatively good weather, at least in that it did not rain the entire time. As a result we headed for Yorkshire’s East coast on Saturday with a target destination of Filey.

We reached Filey in great time and were parked up and walking around the town before 10.00 am.

A pot of tea and cream scone for two came to £6.40, not cheap and the cream was of the aerosol variety and the service miserable (not in an efficient way, just in that of the owners manner!)

We later called at Sterchi’s cake shop and received an even more dour reception. Do these people know what a smile, or God forbid, a hello is.

Despite the happy faces, Filey was great and we walked around, sat down and entertained ourselves for a couple of hours.

The fun started when we decided to go first to Scarborough, and then to Whitby. The Scarborough excursion had been to see the castle and the Whitby one was simply to walk around the town.

Both of these mini trips proved fruitless as we were unable to find a parking spot on the street, in a car park, or anywhere else. What a joke and no wonder that these holiday towns are dying.

At Scarborough castle there were no car parking signs near the castle, just on-street parking requiring a “free disk”. All the signs said you had to go into a shop or hotel for the “disk”, but since it is “free”, what is the point. To make matters worse, there were no hotels or shops anywhere around, so firstly, where do you get the disks? and secondly, what is there to stop you getting a penalty ticket whilst you look for one? A fiasco. Also how about £3 per hour for the car parks around the main tourist hub!!!

Remember that this level of incompetence, stupidity, desire to “rip people off” and utter lunacy will be represented to the whole world in 4 years time when Britain makes a pig’s ear of the Olympics.

Whitby was little better. We explored every car park and the only one showing vacancies was by the Abbey on the hill some distance above the town. Since the weather was questionable, we were not prepared to risk spending 30 minutes in pouring rain climbing up a steep slope to get back to the car.

The upshot of this tale is that we left Filey at 12.00 and got back at around 15.00 and never got parked up, or walked around either Scarborough or Whitby. To put this into further context, I know Filey, Scarborough and Whitby very well and have visited them frequently since being a very small child. In other words, if I could not find a place to park, what "chance in hell" does a typical tourist have who does not know the area, or the location of the car parks.

Then these places wonder why everyone wants to holiday abroad.

Anyway, enough of that moan and, if I can remember, I will mention the artist Ashley Jackson, who we talked to briefly today (whilst in Holmfirth) in my next blog.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Ridiculous email

A couple of days ago I got the best “ridiculous” email regarding Galicia Guide that I have ever received.

Past gems include people from south America, with no information other than a surname, asking me if can trace their great great grandparents, and the Americans who, based on a vague description of a motor cycle helmet they saw in a shop window, expected me to find the retailer and helmet and buy and post it to them in the USA.

Here however is what I consider to be the most bizarre request of them all and it was definitely serious.

“im looking for 17 7-8m softwood timber poles - They should be about 75 to 100mm diameter at the base and about 90 to 100mm at the 6 or 7 meter moving to ourense north of spain to live in a tipi an i need these poles from someone in spain to save shippage can u offer any advice or help”
Needless to say, I could not be of assistance, despite reading on a genealogy site some time ago that my surname is one traced to native American Indian.

Olympic Tennis

I have watched much of the Olympics including my favourite sport, tennis (which should not really be included), and I am pleased to see Rafa in the men’s final, but disgusted by Gonzalez who “did” cheat in the Olympics in his match against James Blake.

Blake was (I believe) the only tennis superstar to stay in the Olympic village and he conducted himself with dignity and honour throughout (and I am not a Blake fan ordinarily).

Shame on you Gonzalez – you are a cheat – and at an event where sportsmanship and respect for your fellow competitors should be at the fore.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Picture of Lugo

We visited Lugo city a couple of weeks ago and, as ever, I took plenty of photos. What I also did (as I do from time to time) is play around with some photos using the “Effects” buttons.

So here is a picture of part of the Roman wall encircling the old town of Lugo which I have converted into a watercolour – for which I will claim the artistic credit. It was done with a number 7 brush!!!

A friend of mine from South Africa is presently walking, about to walk, or has just finished, the Camino. So he may have visited this very spot if he veered off the French route slightly and took in some sightseeing.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Estate agents in Galicia

The real estate market in Galicia continues to slow down with agents going bust left, right and centre.

In Pontevedra alone, 16 agents have gone to the wall this year and across the region many more seem set to follow.

The reason for this is multi-fold.
Firstly, in Spain the concept of “exclusivity” on an agent selling a property does not exist. This gives rise to many problems from “property stealing” to commission undercutting, and even the stealing of clients from under a competitors nose.

A further reason is the total lack of professionalism that many Spanish agents display. Papers are frequently not in order, the existence or otherwise of property ownership and registration is rarely sought until after an offer is made, and there is a distinct lack of energy and enthusiasm by the agent in all respects.

There are of course exceptions to this rule and there are “some” good English speaking agents - and even a few Spanish ones, but most are decidedly unimpressive.

So what does this mean for Galician estate agents in times of financial hardship when every sale helps to keep a business afloat for another month???

Well in many cases not a lot! Whether it is apathy, laziness or shear incompetence, very few Spanish agents seem prepared “to go the first mile”, yet alone “that extra mile” to try and secure business – and I speak from experience.

Are there deals to be had?
There certainly are, but do not expect an agent to rush things through, or to work around the clock to secure a sale. They may cut corners, but they will rarely break with routine, even in these times of extreme hardship.

Will prices fall anymore in Galicia?
Very unlikely. Most rural houses are not sold as part of a chain or cash flow requirement for another purchase, but simply to release cash. As such owners are amazingly happy to see their house on the market for not just months, but years. They are quite prepared to weather the recession and hold out for what they believe to be the properties value.

Noia photo

The photo on this page shows a view looking down at the side of Noia town from the house in el Couto.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Spain v UK in TV

Much has always been made of the quality of British TV and how it leaves the rest of the world in its wake! I certainly agree, but not in the way that such comments are intended!

Perhaps this kind of statement may once have been true, but it is certainly no longer the case. Today British TV offers little other than so called reality shows, cooking programs, makeover shows (be they for a house, a human body, or a toilet) and little else.

By comparison, Spanish (and Galician TV) do provide dramas, the old style variety (mixed entertainment) shows and some sport (Sky have not taken over there – just yet).

I do not think that the quality of non British TV has improved, but rather, like the driving, the level of good manners, and just about everything else, the standards in the UK have fallen - and off the scale.

The big drawback with Galician TV is the language used. Everything is in Gallego, but as there is no such thing as a real “region wide” gallego (it is different everywhere), the state has invented one.

I do not speak this language but, moreover, neither does anyone else! It is an invented idiom that draws from real gallego (to a degree), but primarily from a collection of academics whose predecessors considered gallego the “language of the peasants, but who have now commandeered a made-up version of this language as their own. They have literally made up large swathes of it themselves.

Many people who I know and who speak “their” version of Gallego, say that they cannot understand the “official” version of what was once their language. All slightly worrying stuff.

That said, there is one official language and it is (in theory) the language of the natives and if you do not speak that – tough. Perhaps Britain could learn a lesson from that.

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