Climbing snails

Last year when we filled the pool and started running the filtration system, the first thing that happened, was that the filter for the pump filled up with snails.

Since then we haven’t seen any more of them in the pool, but in the last week or so I have noticed that they are climbing up the wild fennel plants (which grow on most waste ground in Bixquert):

In fact this appears to be common for snails in summer – snails like aestivating on fences and anything else that is above the ground:

Valparaíso Downhill Race 2012 (Valparaíso Cerro Abajo 2012)

In February each year they stage a mountain bike race through the town of Valparaíso (Chile). The bikers have race down narrow steps, over jumps and take tight corners by riding up walls on the outside of the curves.

Crowd control is almost non-existant, and riders have to keep an eye open for people getting in the way and stray dogs:

In case you thought that didn’t look too bad, take a look at some of the “fails”:

The seventh art

I was looking up the gender of “arte” (art) in Spanish – it’s masculine and feminine, depending on whether you are using it in the singular or plural – and discovered that cinema is known as the 7th art in Spain.

That prompted me to look up what the other arts are (which are identically numbered in French). They are listed below. The first 5 were defined by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and the sixth and seventh arts were added by Ricciotto Canudo:

  1. architecture
  2. sculpture
  3. painting
  4. dance
  5. music
  6. poetry
  7. cinema

According to some sources, there have been later additions to the list (photography, cartoons, video games and multimedia), but Hegel’s original idea was to rank the fine arts, and other than photography, I wouldn’t rate the later additions as fine arts.

Opt out of Microsoft’s interest-based ads

You can opt out of being shown internet ads by Microsoft’s business partners here:

The process for the last link is not exactly user-friendly as Microsoft runs a lengthly cookie test in your browser before allowing you to deselect the ads. For maximum effect, deselect “All participating companies”. You need to run these procedures in each web browser that you use, and you may achieve more opt-outs if you repeat the request a few minutes later.

No wonder the country is going to the dogs

I think the British education system suffered a lot in the 1980’s and later: O- and A-Levels were successively dumbed down, the study of foreign languages became optional in September 2004, it it became illegal to use corporal punishment, and some children’s parents automatically supported their child against disciplinary measures that the school tried to enforce.

I thought that this trend pushed by the “do-gooder generation” had been halted. So I was was surprised to read that the BBC, the British government, and some schools have been re-writing traditional nursery rhymes to make them “politically correct” and non-violent as recently as 2009. Here’s an example:

The original children’s poem:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses, And all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

A sanitised version:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
He didn’t get bruised,
He didn’t get bumped,
Humpty Dumpty bungee jumped!

Not to mention:

In 2009, a Government-funded song book changed the lyrics of What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor? to remove any reference to alcohol or punishment.

Instead the ‘drunken sailor’ was transformed into a ‘grumpy pirate’ and ‘Put him in the brig until he’s sober’ was replaced by ‘Do a little jig and make him smile’.

I think it is a great pity that Britian today has so little regard for its own culture that changes like these are initiated by government bodies.

Of course there have always been other versions of nursery rhymes, for example bawdy versions that were popular with rugby club members, but to discover that the government and the BBC have been “sanitising” the original children’s rhymes is a shock.

Fortunately, The English Folk and Dance Society is now being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to record the original versions before they die out. (Now I’ll get off my high horse for a while).

Celebrating the Borgias in Xàtiva

The infamous Borgia family comes from Xàtiva. Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI, 1492 – 1503) was born in the old town and every year since 2010 the city has organised a renaissance weekend which recreates Xàtiva at the time of the Borgias. The streets are covered with straw, and medieval stalls are erected where you can buy food and hand-crafted wares.

We went down into the town yesterday evening to see what was going on – there was plenty to see and do, including a exhibition of hunting birds, renaissance music, demonstrations of traditional crafts and one guy who was herding a large flock of geese through the narrow side streets between the stalls. The “shepherd” must have trained his geese, as he was able to keep them together and make them stop or move on by gesticulating with his arms at them. Quite impressive to watch.

It’s a pity that the event isn’t better publicised, as it is great fun but if I hadn’t seen posters in the town a couple of days earlier, we would have had no idea that it was taking place. There is no information on the Internet about this year’s event at all. The tourist office in Xàtiva seems to have been asleep at the wheel as far as this event goes. I am not the only person who thinks the organisers should have done more to publicise it. We noticed that sales were slow on most of the stalls (probably because of “The Crisis”), so more publicity would have certainly been welcomed by the stall-holders and restaurant/cafe owners.

Unfortunately I only took our smallest, simplest digital camera on the off-chance that there would be something to photograph. Most of the photos were taken without flash at about 1/15th second and many of them had too much camera shake to be worth keeping. However I did get a few which were sharp enough to share here.

How our garden is developing

The front garden

We had quite a bit of damage to trees and plants in the garden during the winter – it was the hardest winter for over 30 years. So this spring, the garden center has been replacing the damaged (dead) plants. They have nearly finished now, and I took some photos of the garden as it now looks. (Click on the photo above, as usual to see the others).

Unfortunately we negotiated a tough deal on the price originally, so the plants were sold without a guarantee to replace them if they didn’t survive the winter. That rather backfired on us, after the hard winter!

In praise of German bureaucracy

We’ve lived in Germany since 1980, and after we had decided to move here from the UK, we did have a few moments of wondering whether we would regret it. the Germans have a reputation for being hardworking and efficient, and of having a well established, efficient bureaucracy. Would we like it?

Over the years, we have had a number of dealings with German bureaucracy – the obvious encounters with the Meldestellen (where you register your current address when you move), the tax office, the vehicle registration office and so on. Normally everything was just for standard reasons, and we were always processed efficiently. In large towns, you sometimes had to take a ticket from a machine when you arrived, to log your place in the queue, but we were always deal with politely and quickly.

On couple of occasions, we had a special situation, and how we were dealt with then impressed us a lot.

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