Tuesday, July 04, 2017

The Great Stink

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We have a great beach - it may not be very wide, but it is certainly long.  The entire population of Barcelona can easily fit on it, and on many sunny Sundays in summer I think it probably does!  The currents in the sea generally bring people in to the shore rather than drag them out to their deaths; the water is fairly shallow until you get out a reasonable distance; we have restaurants, bars and chiringuitos, and, above all we have sun.  A perfect little seaside town with all the facilities that you would expect.  Perfect.

Except for the smell.  One redolent of drains and not the sort of ambience in which the consumption of anything (including sunshine and sea bathing) is encouraged.

The smell reminded me of something that Cousteau said in the 60s, about the Med being already dead because of the amount of waste that the Med countries emptied into the waters.  He was wrong of course, but not for lack of unscrupulous countries trying to prove him right by treating (in whatever verb tense you would like to consider) the Med as a handy sewer.

What has caused our noxious effluvium?  Construction.  It turns out that one building site (and believe you me, we have many) has punctured or ruptured or simply buggered up one drain with the result that waste has flowed through storm water channels through the beach to the sea.  Television last night showed depressing black-rivers-of-death like pictures of filth flowing into our sand heavy waters.  To add to the drama of the situation, red warning flags were flown on the beach and lifeguards were patrolling urging people not to bathe.  We were also told that thing would be back to normal in a day.  Which is today.  And the smell, through reduced, is still there.

For any place this would not be good news, for a place that makes the bulk of its income from a family-safe tourist destination it is little short of disaster.  Having said that, on my bike journey back from the pool after my swim that takes me along the Paseo of the beach, I saw that, for a Tuesday the beach was filling up nicely and that there were quite a few people in the water.  And not dissolving!

To be fair, our town takes such things seriously and when something happens to threaten the reputation of the resort, they do something about it.  I will be interested to see the colour of the flags when we go out for lunch; whether I believe them or not, however, is quite another story.

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In Castelldefels you are much more likely to be injured by the quality of driving and parking, than you are by anything to do with the beach and the water.  As a resident I have to keep telling myself that many of the drivers are coming here for the first time and looking for a parking space and, clearly, not thinking about other road users.  Pedestrian visitors usually park next to the beach on a long car park that is separated from the beach by the main beach road.  There are numerous zebra crossings linking the parking area with the paseo and beach, but pedestrians are not inclined to walk more than a few meters for a safe crossing and are much more likely to chance their arm (and all other part of their anatomy) by blithely walking across the road as through it was one extended crossing.  I have noticed in Spain that there is an assumption that there is an extensive zone around the actual painted crossing which has exactly the same rights in pedestrians’ minds as the crossing itself.  Remember, I tell myself, these people are visitors and the sight of the sea turns them into vulnerable lemmings.  And I further remind myself that having right on your side is insufficient comfort for injury.  So give them leeway and believe in the myth of the extra crossing zone.  I may tell myself all these reasonable things, but it doesn’t necessarily reduce my irritation by the continued unreasonable conduct of some of our visitors.  Most of our visitors.  No, that’s unfair.  Probably.

Parking, however, is in another universe of selfishness.  I use the Tesco Scale of Unreasonable Parking to guide my responses.  It never fails to horrify me to see just how far selfish parkers will go in Tesco car parks rather than walk a couple of steps and be legal.  Parking without cards in disabled spaces is the norm; double yellow lines are routinely ignored; parking across space lines, single people parking in family spaces, parking on crossings, double parking - I’ve seen all of them, and I’ve also seen just how near a legal empty space can be for these people.  Apart from some small Tesco’s in London with little car parking space, I have never been to a large Tesco where the car park was full.  Never.  So, I thought that I was prepared for anything.

Castelldefels is the only place in the world where I have seen a driver reversing on a small roundabout!  Now that is what I call spectacular idiocy!  There may be elements of inconsideration in the action too, but generally, given what a roundabout actually is, the no-brainer stupidity of the action is more of a characteristic!  But, leave that almost glorious piece of anti-driving aside, how do our visitors park in Castelldefels?

Appallingly.  Selfishly.  Dangerously.  Some of their decisions are aided and abetted by the way that our streets are organized.  It is a general truth that many Spanish towns developed before the widespread adoption of the motorcar.  Our streets are too narrow and curbside parking makes them perilous.  In Cardiff the go-to solution for any traffic problem is to seed the roads with traffic lights, in Castelldefels the solution is zebra crossings.  Except, of course, the solution is one that comes with ready-made problems.

I do not know the regulations for the position of zebra crossings in Castelldefels, and I am certain that if road designers know them they forget them as soon as they look at a road plan.  There is one large roundabout in the centre of the town where, each time I go around it, I tell myself that this time I will finally count the number of crossings that it spawns, but by the time that I finally get there after so may stop starts and sudden sallies by suicidally inclined pedestrians that I have inevitably forgotten the number by the time I emerge from the circular hell.

Although Toni tells me that it is illegal and not in the Spanish version of the highway code, cars park right up to zebra crossings and sometimes on them!  Cars park on corners, on pavements, on chevroned areas, on lines of any colour.  They park within inches of other parked cars - which make one wonder how they got in.  Well, no it doesn’t: I have watched Spanish drivers ‘parking by touch’ on more than one (or indeed twenty) occasions.  Your average Spanish driver may be better than I am at reverse parking into a small space, but not that much better.  Space is at a premium this close to the sea, so where you can find it you use it, and the hell with consideration!

During the week, even in summer, things are sort-of manageable, but during the weekends, and especially holiday weekends they are unimaginable.  Finding a parking space becomes the only moral imperative in driving, and all road rules are thrown out of the window as lane crossing and indication becomes something of winter, not a luxury that can be allowed in the height of summer!

“Zen and the Art of Spanish Driving” would be an interesting book to read, though I am not sure under which section it would be kept: Philosophy? Religion? Fiction? Self-defence? Fantasy? Dystopia? Wish-fulfilment? Humour? Adventure?  I am half inclined to type it into Google just to see if it exists!

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My Chinese phablet is under repair.  Or possibly not.  It may be that repairing it goes beyond a necessary expense and becomes a ‘junk-it’ alternative.  The problem is that I keep my mobile phone in my short’s pocket and the phablet being oversize meant that I managed to bend the body slightly.  However slightly it was it has played merry hell with the charging of the bloody thing.  I have had to fall back on my Russian alternative.

Yota phone is a make that no one apart from myself seems to have heard of.  It was discovered by Toni who informed me that a phone existed that had two faces: one an ordinary mobile phone screen, and the other on the back something like a black and white Kindle screen.  I did not believe that such a thing existed, but now I have had three of them (1 stolen; 1 dunked in the swimming pool; 1 bought cheaply as a reserve and now in full use) and can recommend them fully but, as is noted in the parenthesis, they are not waterproof!

It may be that the repair to my phablet is affordable, in which case I will return to the phone and enjoy the large screen.  If it is not then I will either stick with my Yota phone or go for something more substantial and waterproof.  I rather like the idea of getting a new phone, but Toni will be disapproving of such warrantless expense.  I have found a phone called the Blackview BV8000 Pro, where even the product name seems defiantly rugged.  I must admit that I am tempted and the price is not too ridiculous.  As opposed, for example to the new proposed Samsung 8 Note.

I was one of the hapless potential owners of the ill-famed Note 7, that the entire technology world remembers as The Phone That Exploded, or at least burst into flame.  I pre-ordered one of these phones and, after a long waiting period was finally told (by the World Press) that Samsung had had to initiate a worldwide recall.  Which was a little harsh, as I didn’t even managed to get my hands on one for even the briefest moment of time.

Samsung have announced that they are going to refurbish some of the millions of recalled phones (with a non exploding battery) and sell them at a yet-to-be-announced price.  I am strangely drawn to this, especially as the new and improved Note 8 is probably going to be the first (non-bling) production mobile phone to break the four figure price barrier: certainly in dollars and perhaps in Euros as well!  Even I draw the line somewhere in my lust for cutting edge tech.  Though the suggested appearance of the thing does make it look lovely.  And it is waterproof - or however such a term is subscribed, qualified and defined in relation to expensive gadgets and liquids.

I will be strong.  I can resist.  But, as always, Oscar is right, everything but temptation.

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