Saturday, March 28, 2009

 

April and no Noia!

As the beginning of April fast approaches, 2009 is looking like the first year in recent times when we will not be visiting Galicia in the Spring.

For at least the last 3 years we have been in the region in April and/or May, but this time around our presence in green Spain is looking increasingly unlikely.

There are a number of reasons for this (and I will not recite them all), however the most significant is the removal of any straightforward travel route that does not involve a long drive down to a London airport at this end, or a similar drive up from a Portuguese airport at the other.

Noia Weather

Looking at the weather for our favourite town, Noia, I see that they are experiencing a mix of sun and cloud with high temps of around 14 degrees C and some blustery winds. This outlook seems typical of the region at the moment with Pontevedra showing a similar forecast and Lugo (in the north) being typically some 4 or 5 degrees cooler and wetter.

This puts me in mind of a business visit to Lugo last July when we left a pleasant and sunny, but not overly hot, Noia to travel to what we felt was a much cooler Lugo.

The Lugo residents were however extolling the virtues of the “very” hot day in Lugo which left us wondering and pondering the very different weather expectations that exist as you move northwards in Galicia.

This no doubt explains why this region attracts so many Brits, it can be cool and rainy in Lugo whilst being hot and sunny in la Coruna, Pontevedra and Ourense provinces. It bears many climatic similarities to the north of England and Scotland.

Monday, March 23, 2009

 

Ryanair to Galicia

Ryanair are still flying direct to Santiago de Compostela from Stansted despite closing their Liverpool route.

This is little consolation for us (in the North of England) and, when I visited the Ryanair website last night, I was shocked to see that they have doubled their hold baggage charge from £7.50 per bag each way to £15 per bag each way.

In other words it will cost you £30 per suitcase and, to make matters worse, the weight limit is the lowest of any airline at a miserly 15 kg. To my knowledge, nearly every other airline that charges for standard hold luggage has at least 20 kg per bag and in some cases 25 kg.

Just 2 years ago it was £5 and before that it was free. You really have to feel that this is “taking the Michael (O’ leary)” a bit too far and at a time of recession it hardly seems to be in anyone’s favour – least of all Ryanair.

As for alternatives!!!

There is the la Coruna flight from Heathrow and I have not even checked to see if the Clickair route is still in operation.

I would suggest that Ryanair drop their silly baggage charge back to a reasonable rate (i.e. as per last year), and that they do the same thing with their in-flight refreshments. I notice every time that we fly with them that their extortionate prices result in few people buying their sandwiches etc, yet on Jet2 (with much more reasonably priced catering) there are loads of takers. I (and I am sure many others) would gladly buy food on the flight, but not when we are so clearly being overcharged. Surely an increase in sales, albeit at a more reasonable price, would ultimately produce more revenue and make the airlines indirect profits higher, but also more “outwardly honest” to its customers.

In any event, Ryanair do continue to provide a service to Galicia, at least to those in the south of GB. For the rest of us we will just have to hope that they reconsider the Liverpool route, or that Easyjey or Jet2 decide to operate a similar route from one of England’s other northern airports.

Monday, March 16, 2009

 

Kelly Groucutt

As a massive rock and pop music fan I always enjoy the music played in and around most bars in Spain and Galicia. Indeed there are still many good national rock bands dominating the charts in Spain where melodic music is still the mainstay of the charts.

Additionally, my two favourite bands, namely the Electric Light Orchestra and Queen, remain to this day two of the most played radio bands there. In fact one of my wife’s cousins learnt English because he wanted to understand the lyrics of his favourite band – Queen.

The point to this post is however a very bad one as I learnt last week that the bass player and main backing vocalist of ELO, the great Kelly Groucutt, died towards the end of last month (19 Feb 2009).

To all the many millions of ELO fans this is a massive tragedy and a terrible blow for his family and close friends.

I saw ELO in their original form and a further 3 times as ELO part 2 and Kelly was undoubtedly the main persona on stage. He also had a great voice and one that was heard far too infrequently as a lead vocalist, although I read that he sings lead on “Sweet is the night” (from Out of the Blue), which happens to be one of my top 5 favourite ELO tracks.

He also had a great image with the big hair and moustache (just right in the 1970’s and early 1980’s) and he was always the musician that you seemed to focus on when watching the band’s videos. (They were one of only half a dozen bands with the stature to make videos back then.)

In truth, whilst ELO’s music was magical, their main guy (Jeff Lynne) was never a comfortable live performer and it was the flamboyant Kelly Groucutt along with Hugh Mc Dowell (Cello) who created the live stage atmosphere and excitement. This was something that he continued to do in the various ELO-esque groups that followed Jeff Lynne’s “forced” break up of the original band.

Without doubt my best live memory of Kelly Groucutt and ELO was when I saw ELO part 2 for the last time about 10 years ago in Sheffield (England). I think that they performed at the Civic Hall and they played for over 4 hours with a mid concert intermission. On that occasion I persuaded my mother and father to see the concert with us and my father thought it was one of the best nights of his life (and believe me he had seen and done a lot by then). The thing that we were all in total agreement about was that the undisputed star of the show was Kelly Groucutt who covered the entire stage, did spins, talked to the audience and generally used his charisma to entertain everyone.

He was a class act in every way and when he appeared on TV’s “can’t cook won’t cook” with Roy Wood (of Wizzard and early ELO fame) and his daughter, his humour and ability to entertain were there for all to see in a completely different setting.

Finally, for those who have not heard of the Electric Light Orchestra, or who have no real appreciation of how successful they (and Kelly) were in the 1970’s, here are a couple of stats that should illuminate you.

Last month the “real” figures for world wide CD sales for 2008 were released. The biggest selling album of the year was by Coldplay with worldwide sales of 6.7 million copies and downloads. Second place went to AC DC with “Black Ice” at 6 million plus.

In 1978 ELO’s “Out of the Blue” album sold over 6 million copies (I believe that it is now at over 8 million) and in the following year their “Discovery” album went on to sell an ultimate 9 million. This was before cheap and easy downloads!

One of their later and less successful albums, “Time” (1980), still managed to enter the album charts at number 1 in 17 different countries on its first week of release - and that is before the opening up of all the former Eastern European territories where the likes of Coldplay now sell vast quantities of CD’s.

The USA leg of ELO’s 1978 “Out of the Blue” promoting concert tour, with a full size stage space ship, lasers and the likes of Tony Curtis introducing them, was the biggest grossing US tour of that year. This at a time when the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones were still at their commercial and performing peaks.

All of the above were when ELO ruled the international airwaves, singles and album charts, and the bass guitar of Kelly Groucutt, along with his superb harmonic backing vocals, could be heard on every song.

To find out more about Kelly Groucutt (and sign the Guest book), visit – http://kellygroucutt.sitesled.com/index.html

If you do a search on his name on google/yahoo/live or Youtube you will also find an ever increasing number of tributes from fans and friends. Also check out a brilliant solo single from him called “Am I a dreamer” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8hMhKuCjj8

And to see him on the aforementioned TV show see – Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnwZMwuECz0
Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--r-l5afl_0


And that concludes my longest and saddest post.

Extra edit – I read in a couple of comments (in fact quite a few) from fans that they were disappointed that some member of ELO had not publicly expressed their sympathy over Kelly Groucutt’s death (one assumes that they have done so privately to the family). A particular comment that I saw referred to Mick Kaminsky so, to correct matters, here is both his and Phil Bates tribute to their friend on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7H0JjqWOTgw&feature=related.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

 

English teacher wanted in Galicia

I came across this link re: an English school teacher job:
http://joyjobs.com/oss5/index.php?module=Articles&action=SearchedArticle&ID=6680

DO NOT CONTACT ME - I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT IT - I simply spotted it whilst browsing the internet.

Here are the actual details:

Infant and Primary teachers - Vigo, Spain

Applications are invited from NATIVE ENGLISH QUALIFIED Teachers for the posts of:

* INFANT TEACHERS: Age 3 to 5 (K to Year 1 UK)
* PRIMARY TEACHERS: Grade 1 & 2 (YEAR 2 & 3 UK)

It is the first and only International School in the North West Coast of Spain. The school opened with capacity for 120 pupils and will eventually cater for pupils age 3 to 18 years. The owner of the school has run for more than 38 years two of the most important Bilingual Infant Schools in the city.

The Educational Programme is based on the National Curriculum for England and Wales, adapted to meet the needs of an International Community.

NATIVE ENGLISH, QUALIFIED (BEd or BA + PGCE), EXPERIENCED, ENTUSIASTIC TEACHERS wishing to contribute to high academic standards are invited to apply for September's 2009 teaching vacancies.

Vigo is a great place to live, we are surrounded by the most magnificent sandy beaches and mountains. Vigo is unique and if you are looking for an exclusive place to live in and perhaps settle in in the near future, you're looking for the right job; a perfect combination. Vigo's micro climate is known throughout the whole of Spain and one of its main advantages.
For more information you may wish to consult: www.vigoenphotos.com (photographs of the city and surroundings) www.galiciaguide.com

To apply please send CV + photo + letter of application and the name and emails of two referees to Anne Dacosta, Coordinator: anne@ocastrointernationalschool.es

Salary available on application
DEADLINE: 30th March 2009

 

Interest in Galicia

A few weeks ago I posted that the number of visits to all of my travel related websites had dropped for January 2009 versus the same month in 2008.

February has continued the trend, however the drop is much smaller and traffic levels have increased from the start of the year. This may be down to people initially holding back on holiday plans who are now making reservations, or accepting that in many cases those “with jobs” are actually better off (with almost zero interest rates) than they were a few months ago.

In any event and whatever the cause, traffic is up and that goes for Galicia too.

Galicia does of course face its own foreign tourism problems with flight access now back to the pre Ryanair days, i.e. no direct flights from anywhere outside of London or Stansted!!!!

Not good if you run a hotel or tourism based business in that part of Spain and not good if you are interested in discovering this beautiful part of the world.

The option, flight wise, is to fly to O Porto in Portugal and drive up to Galicia. This is under one hour to the border. But then you have to travel to your base city which will add extra time. You could of course spend day and night in O Porto which I am told is very nice.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

 

Galician Elections

Elections in Northern Spain have seen Galicia with a change in government as the power sharing combination of the socialists and the Galician Nationalists (who are nationalistic to Galicia and not Spain) lose out to the PP party.

The PP are the “right wing” of the two main parties and their victory comes more as a result of vote loses from the other two parties than by gains to themselves.

Personally, and with a limited knowledge of the Galician political system, I would favour the PP over the socialists, however I must confess to having a preference towards the BNG overall.

The BNG would be considered radical and extreme in the UK. They are far more nationalistic than the comparatively moderate British National Party (although few would believe that based on the trash written about them in the government controlled British press).

The big problem with the BNG is the over emphasis that they place on the prioritising of the Galician language.

I have no first hand experience of the effects of this, however Galician friends who speak (primarily) Gallego object to the new “manufactured, radicalised, and artificial version that the government has introduced. A close friend of ours in her seventies, who speaks Gallego all the time, told me wife that the Gallego used on Galician TV is unrecognisable to her.

This no doubt has something to do with the backlash against them in these elections. Hopefully, they will tone down the Gallego aspect of their policies and tone up those aspects that protect Galician culture, heritage, jobs and everything else.

I sincerely hope that these elections have not hit them with a mortal blow, particularly as the political leader in Noia is, by all accounts, a very good, fair and hardworking politician – and a member of the BNG.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

 

British Banks

As, like many people who are self employed, I see my income stream continue to fall month by month as a result of this recession, my irritation with the banks continues to escalate.

So, hot from eating my evening meal, I write this post having been subjected to a 2 minute TV advert by Nat West bank.

What, I hear you ask, was the subject of this “masterful investors” presentation?

Well, quite unbelievably to me at least, the entire advert was dedicated to why you should visit your local branch of this bank in order to benefit from their investment advice.

Having f***ed up the economy, caused the repossessions of tens of thousands of houses, turned our savings into white elephants and taken 34 billion pounds of tax payers money, these same banks are now advocating that we take financial advice from them.

It really could only happen in Britain.

I would like to know just how much of that £34b handout is now being used by these banks for self publicity, product marketing and generally trying to sell “lies” to the public.

Is it not bad enough that they have taken our money without having to have them ram the fact down our throats during every advertisement break and on every billboard in the country.

We continually hear the sickeningly “politically correct contingent” moan about human rights and freedoms in places like Russia and China, but in those countries any banker responsible for perpetrating such acts would be executed. Strange then that such crimes hardly exist and, when they do, the people responsible pay the price – and with their lives.

In the UK on the other hand the penalty is a cruel £500,000 a year pension for the former directors. What a deterrent.

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