Friday, July 15, 2022


I'll never have a fluent-sounding accent when I speak Spanish. It's pretty good, but if I have an accent, it's an English one. Which stands to reason I suppose, since that's where I'm from. It's easy enough to spot although there's the exception maybe when I'm on the phone and my caller can't see me and realise that there's no way a tall blond/gray sunburned Swede with blue eyes like me could ever be from Murcia.

It's a pity really, as I only started to learn Spanish when I was thirteen. The sounds eluded me, whereas I began with French at the age of six, and thus, although I've since forgotten a lot of the vocabulary, when speaking to a Frenchman I tend to sound like an alcoholic from Lyon who must have just misplaced the words he needed for that particular moment. 

Also, in French, there are a hundred ways of saying 'you know what I mean, um, at the end of the day...' and other useless fillers to ward off actually saying something useful. In Spain, all we have is coño.   

We need context when we talk in Spanish - which means we need to know the society in which we are moving - the food, the geography, the politicians and the film-stars. So, there's another reason to watch the Spanish news on the TV. 

I clearly lean towards the parrot-theory of language: it's not what you say - it's how you say it. After all, no one is listening anyway, they are just waiting politely for their turn. One clever way to pick up the cadence and the various tics that belong to a language is to imitate it when speaking in your own. French lends itself to this - as we know from watching 'Ello 'Ello (here). And so why not Spanish as well?

We must then turn to the detail. It's easy enough to work the jota, the sound in such words as bujía, jamás and reloj, although they say that smoking helps, and it's a little harder to get the rr right: pero and perro. Then there's our friend the Ñ (called an 'eñe' - or 'enye' if you are missing it on your keyboard), which for some reason the British newspapers like to switch for the letter N, giving rise to such horrors as Espana, cono and Feliz Ano

The LL is easy enough, pronounced like the middle bit in William (although, oddly, there's a war in Spanish between the LL and the Y). Actually, the ll was considered as just another letter of the Spanish alphabet until 1994, as was the ch

It made playing Scrabble easier: a point which is rarely made. 

For us Brits, I think that the Spanish J is the big one, and here's Camilo Sexto singing his 1975 hit Jamás (Never!), if you feel like practicing the jota and singing along. 

After all, that's what your parrot would do. 

The confusion in Spanish between the letters B and V works in our favour I think, as we hear them differently. As the old Latin joke goes, the great thing about the Spanish is that they don't know the distinction between vivere et bibere; that's to say, between living and boozing. 

And who can argue with that?

One point that English-speakers need to remember when in the throes of speaking castellano (that's what they call it here) is to pronounce foreign words and names as a Spaniard would. I'm usually called Lenon (like the pop singer) Andrew is Andréu. William is Guílian. It gets worse. The singer JJ Cale is Jota Jota Kalay

My title BeeBapoRu refers to how one calls a popular unguent available at the farmacia which one rubs on one's chest. That's right: it's Vicks Vapour Rub as pronounced by the chemist. If that doesn't work by the way, then drink a Bloody Mary (un bludi) with plenty of salsa guorsesterechaer and lie down for a bit.

And practice that Camilo Sesto song.


Saturday, July 09, 2022

Being There: a Day at the Garden

Like many people, I'm not much of a gardener. Sometimes I remember to go and squirt everything with the hose, for which the shrubbery is suitably grateful, perhaps even rewarding me with a flower or two. Other times... well, I was doing something else, you know how it is. 

Here in our neck of the world, it's hot, and the garden (lovingly laid down by my mum back in the sixties) needs lots of attention. Unlike the household chores, which brings you back to where you were before you scruffied things up, or made lunch, or spilled a gin and tonic on the carpet, the garden moves slowly forward, and of course, upwards. 

There's even the odd occasion when, in a burst of enthusiasm, I find myself driving over to the vivero, to buy something which could be perfectly de-potted and decanted into that space near the olive tree which hasn't produced anything of interest since the dog dug up the marihuana plant last year. 

Gardening means pruning, cutting, digging, uprooting, weeding, bug-removing, planting and, above all, watering.

Three times a week, I say to myself, water everything you love and the garden will one day look peachy, just like it used to a generation ago. 

Then of course - and this is key to a happy horticulturist - remember to switch off the garden-tap after use.

Once you have forgotten to switch off the hose, and moved on to other duties like shopping, watching the TV or driving to Barcelona for the weekend, the gaily-coloured tube will carry on pumping water to that one surprised, grateful and eventually waterlogged and dead geranium until such time as the call to put on a cap, rinse one's face with Factor Fifty and go outside and water the garden returns. Which - at best - is every two days. It's not like forgetting to switch off the soup, or pull up one's zipper, or watch the news. When one is not in the garden, one is not switching off the hose.

The water bill, which arrives at the end of every two months, is suddenly through the roof. It's happened to me a couple of times, and blast it, it happened again this weekend. I forgot to turn the hose off. I had filled a watering can to access an outlying violet and then went off to save the world from the space invaders and, well, you know how it is.

By the time I had retaken Aldebaran, the garden was looking like the Red Sea. 

This brings about another problem; I mean, besides the bank-loan to pay the water company. 

The unseasonable flood has brought me a ton of weeds and stinging nettles. And snails. 

I am also pretty sure that my mum visited me last night. I wasn't asleep when she came. 

I'm in the garden now.