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Corona quarantine diary
Thread poster: Mervyn Henderson

expressisverbis
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Mervyn, Aug 3

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

No offence meant, Oksana and expressisverbis, but to elaborate on another moment during this thread, I think all that initial togetherness and solidarity went down the toilet a long time ago. At local level, regional level, national level, EU level and international level, I don't think the bickering and accusations could be worse, plus you hear about them together all the time through the media, always glad to showcase the horror of it all. Here my lower-level basis is Spain, but it could apply to most countries these days:

Here the Town Hall presents something, the opposition says bollocks, the Basque Government makes a statement, and the opposition says bollocks, Sánchez says something, and the opposition says bollocks, Spain and the rest say something, and Rutte and Co. say bollocks, China says something, and the US says bollocks. That's our glorified representatives talking. Nobody is going to help. You take it down to street level, and people are ready to turn to crime after over 12 years of belt-tightening in all the wrong places.


No, I don't feel personally ofended.
You're right, everyone talks nonsense, and we need to see a light in this very gloomy situation, and yet we can't see it.
The world seems to be upside down, but I need to be optimistic and sympathise with the human being.
This is what keeps my mind sane beyond other things.
We need hope:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qZVb2xG8nI
Don't lose it!


 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
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Everyone expects the Spanish Imposition Sep 4

Yes, we had the pre-lockdown, the lockdown, the post-lockdown, and now the could-be-very-likely-lockdown again because during the post-lockdown we behaved exactly as we did during the pre-lockdown, except with much more pent-up enthusiasm due to the months of lockdown.

What can I say? We had our chance and we blew it. Spain’s a no-no for travel, trade and travails because we failed to make use of our common sense, which would appear to be the least common of the senses. Too depres
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Yes, we had the pre-lockdown, the lockdown, the post-lockdown, and now the could-be-very-likely-lockdown again because during the post-lockdown we behaved exactly as we did during the pre-lockdown, except with much more pent-up enthusiasm due to the months of lockdown.

What can I say? We had our chance and we blew it. Spain’s a no-no for travel, trade and travails because we failed to make use of our common sense, which would appear to be the least common of the senses. Too depressing to write about now, so more about that later. Meanwhile, on the generally lighter note I generally strive to hit in the general interest, introducing the:

Pointless ProZ Post-Plague Provincial Puzzle

I couldn’t think of anything else suitable beginning with P to draw out the alliteration, an operation I admit was totally unnecessary. Feel free to write in with any additional Pointless ProZ Post-Plague Provincial Puzzle Post “P” Proposals, but I warn you you’ll be wasting your time because neither I nor anyone else will take any notice.

Now where was I? Oh yes, the Puzzle. To cut a long story short (me!! I know, I can hear you laughing), I’ve been on holiday in two provincial capitals here in the Spanish State, which I’ll slyly and enigmatically refer to as PC1 and PC2, and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to guess which two Spanish cities I’m talking about. Spaniards, Johnny Foreigners living over here and Hispanophiles should be able to identify them without much trouble, especially since I’ve included at least one decisive pointer for each. Today we’ll kick off with PC1. And please read the competition rules. If you prefer, you can skip the first instalment of PC1 inbetween, and go straight to the competition rules, but there wouldn’t be much point in doing that, would there, because then you wouldn’t be able to enter the competition. Better just stop reading here. I would if I were you. Well, I would if I could, but I can’t, because I have to write all this puzzle stuff now, don’t I? I’ll leave the decision up to you. You’re all adults. Apart from all those third-formers recently signing up as translators to earn a few shekels as pocket money. A few is right, but what odds if you still live at home with P+M? Do you think I’m joking about third-formers? Have you noticed that a certain ad on site seems to target very, very young translators? Is that a high chair the kid is sitting in, all sweaty and confused and FRUSTRATED with complicated TM tools?

Now where was I? Oh yes, PC1. The first thing I noticed about PC1 was that everyone, and I mean everyone, down to the smallest child, was wearing a face mask. If we'd all followed the example of the people in PC1, we wouldn't be in this mess now. And in PC1, people notice when you don’t wear one, too. By the way, in the hugely unlikely event you were reading that last sentence aloud to someone who isn’t following the spelling, you might point out that was “one, too”, meaning “one, as well”, and not the consecutive numbers “one, two”, because the hypothetical listener hypothetically listening in this hypothetical-listener hypothesis would obviously be perplexed by the phrase “people notice when you don’t wear one, two”. Now there, on the other mitt, I DO mean the consecutive numbers “one, two”, but perhaps we should get on …

Now where was I? Oh yes, … just as I was realising that I’d left my mask hanging on the chair in a restaurant on the third evening there, I’d covered barely five metres down that street before an old lady on her husband’s arm retorted grumpily as she passed by, “People get reported for not wearing a mask, you know!” Her outraged demeanour suggested that she would be immediately reporting me herself to the very next copper she chanced upon, so I quickened my step as I returned to the restaurant to find the mask.

At the same time it also occurred to me that I had seen very few police officers on patrol in PC1. A guided tour of a local monastery, oddly enough, reinforced my feeling that people in PC1 are used to doing what they’re told, and don’t need the police much. I hadn’t actually asked for a guided tour, but a very plump, doleful lady took the money at the desk and gestured vaguely to an old man who’d been lurking in the corner and whose ancient joints audibly creaked as he wobbled over. Actually she was more than doleful. I turned to look at her as I went out the door, and she was staring with immense sadness at a painting of the Virgin on the wall. Definitely a story there … The tour guide was much more enthusiastic. He said he was 84 years old, just past his birthday, and was merely an unofficial guide keeping himself busy in his retirement by showing the monastery to “those who have had the deference to visit my city”. His exact words, which he repeated at least four times during the visit.

He certainly knew his stuff all right – dates, places, names, the lot. He paused and stood stock still before a gravestone on the floor of the chapel, a man who had died in September 1936. “Mr Such and Such,” he breathed in hushed reverence, “murdered by the Republican hordes at the beginning of the war”. Now, I’ve read the phrase “Republican hordes” many times in literature written by pro-Franco historians, but never actually heard it said. Like every single town and city in Spain at the beginning of the Civil War, this one was in the hands of those “Republican hordes” because, well, Spain was a republic at the time. It wasn’t long before PC1 fell, and it was one of the first to be taken. Though not before a few local scores had been settled. I did a quick calculation. By the time this man was born, in the same year, PC1 had settled into almost forty years of dictatorship, and so he had breathed Franco day in day out for each and every one of his formative years. People well used to authority.

Another pointer was the Spanish flags. You see a Union Jack somewhere in Peterborough and it just means somebody’s patriotic, but a Spanish flag in PC1, and all over Spain, has a different nuance nowadays. There’s been a lot of talk recently about the red and gold being hijacked by Spain’s right-wing factions, like it’s theirs and nobody else’s. There were certainly a lot of them hanging on balconies, mostly with black mourning ribbons due to Covid-19, but I also saw one with the words “Sánchez lárgate” at the centre. When someone takes the trouble to stencil a call for Spain’s socialist PM to sling his hook on their flag, you know what they’re about.

I’m not finished with PC1 and haven’t even started on PC2, but I simply can’t be bothered throwing it all out today, so I’ll leave it for a while, but meanwhile, ahead of many thousands of submissions by eager contestants, and although the Pointless ProZ Post-Plague Provincial Puzzle has naturally been cleared with the top brass at ProZ, I’ve been asked to make a few things clear on their behalf:

COMPETITION RULES

First prize is an all-expenses-paid trip for two to PC1, and second prize is an all-expenses-paid trip for one to PC2. Answers on a postcard, please, to the usual ProZ address in Syracuse, NY. Nevertheless, notwithstanding, despite and/or pursuant to the foregoing, and/or furthermore, please note that nobody will read any and/or all communications you are gullible and/or unwise enough to send, and/or that the above prizes are necessarily fictitious and/or non-existent and/or unobtainable. If you do not wish us to not refrain from not sending you a shedload of unwanted publicity and/or pop-ups and/or flash mails and/or text messages containing a barrowload of and/or phrases and/or directly/indirectlys and/or totally/partiallys, please do not forget to not uncheck the box below, under any and/or all, and/or indeed no circumstances. Thank you.
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Chris S
P.L.F.Persio
expressisverbis
Angie Garbarino
 

expressisverbis
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I would risk Sep 5

PC1 is a "comunidad autónoma" which first letter starts with a "G", and PC2 with a "B", but it's just a (bad) guess...
Here, people are choosing to go to rural places in Portugal with their families to enjoy their holidays.
Lisbon was in great trouble lately, and Porto seems to increase the figures now...
"And here we go again on our own"?


 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
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PC1 (continued) Sep 6

Sorry, expressisverbis, but no cigar. And they are cities, not autonomous communities, although the names of the cities in both cases are also the names of the provinces they're the capital of, which is the case for most (but not all) of Spain's provinces.

Anyway, I stayed at a singular place in PC1, the former residence of one of Spain’s most famous transition politicians who also made PM, now a hotel. His old office is now the hotel reception, adorned by photos of him hobnobbing
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Sorry, expressisverbis, but no cigar. And they are cities, not autonomous communities, although the names of the cities in both cases are also the names of the provinces they're the capital of, which is the case for most (but not all) of Spain's provinces.

Anyway, I stayed at a singular place in PC1, the former residence of one of Spain’s most famous transition politicians who also made PM, now a hotel. His old office is now the hotel reception, adorned by photos of him hobnobbing with the old king. By old king I mean the former king, not the new king, but now the former king is an old king too, or rather an old former king.

In fact, I heard about the Juan Carlos Departure Bombshell on the first night there. I wandered out to find a newspaper the next day. Someone told me there were only two places where newspapers were sold (??), and that one of them had just closed down. The woman in the shop told me I was lucky to even GET a paper, considering the Beeg News. It wasn't even a kiosko, full of school text books and whatnot. I had to wait five minutes while a very well-dressed lady demurred about her kids' books, but that didn't bother me as much as a sweaty pushy granny who barged in between the two of us to tell the shopkeeper she had been right about the cardigan, and that it had to be washed at medium temperature in a bowl with minimum wringing, and that María had helped her, but had said that Asun had advised against it, and that Aurelio hadn't been much help either, because he said that was a load of nonsense, and that his sister-in-law had said that ...

Slices of life, in other words. I lived for many years in another Spanish village, much much smaller than PC1, back in the 80s, where there were a lot of slices of life, some I liked and a lot more I didn't. I did my mandatory 18-year sentence of slices of life in Northern Ireland, I didn't like most of the slices I saw, heard and felt, and I got the hell out of there just as soon as I could, so I never lived there long enough to see all the slices it had to offer, but now I see that the slices are sliced just about everywhere and just about in every way, and not always the way you'd like ...

Afterwards I went across the square to read about JC's departure. It's a bar with a terrace of metal tables and chairs (do we even say terrace?). The woman in the newspaper shop that wasn't just a newspaper shop said it was the best bet. She was right, too. The lass with the auburn hair at the tables was certainly in control of her terrace, welcoming Paquita and Luisita and all the rest in what is essentially a vile task (I've worked in a few bars), plus now the masks and social distancing and hydroalcohol, cleaning tables, smiling constantly when people called out their orders as an aside while maintaining their own conversations, weaving her way among the patrons, picking up, setting down, serving, taking orders, correcting orders, ruffling kids' hair etc. with nary an angry word (I'd have been psychotic). As I watched, a bloke even came up and said he'd left his mobile phone at one of the tables a quarter of an hour previously. You'd have thought it had happened to her, the way she reacted. Even below the mask, you could see her face falling in empathy as she asked for his number and address and all the details, just in case it turned up, wrote it down on a napkin and all, amid heartrending sighs of pity and much eye-rolling. A wonderful place.

Now where was I? Oh yes, back to that hotel. The former PM wasn’t actually from PC1, but from a place out in the sticks. I just had to go there too, see where he came from. I parked the car, by total coincidence, in the street that now bears his name, and in fact I’d parked almost opposite the old family home. Out of curiosity, I asked in the grocery opposite what it had been called before that. When they told me what this street had been known as before, also a name, or rather two surnames, the Spanish format of the father’s surname first and the mother’s second, I was a little confused, because those were the surnames of the PM that came AFTER this one in the 80s, but then I remembered that this other former PM’s grandfather, with those same two surnames, had had the distinction of having sparked the Spanish Civil War, and so it had been a 30s politician it was named after.

This other one’s grandad had been the leader of the right-wing opposition in parliament, and one night the police came to his house in Madrid and asked him to accompany them to the station for questioning. There’s more than one account of the events that followed. One of them is that he asked the policemen if he could make a phone call first, and that one of them ripped the phone off the wall, and said matter-of-factly “No, you can’t.” So things weren’t looking good. They also say he told Her Indoors he’d be back later, and added “Unless, of course, these gentlemen kill me.” And … guess what? He was found shot dead the next day outside a cemetery, and Spaniards pitched into their civil war a few days afterwards. Well, there isn’t much else you can do when the leader of the opposition is murdered by the powers-that-be. A tit-for-tat killing in retaliation for the murder of a left-wing Assault Guard the day before, it must be said. Assault Guard is a curious term for a policeman, but that’s what he was.

Anyway, I decided to have a beer at the plaza in the village. Busy little bar. One waiter. It took ages. He forgot the olives. He forgot the other tapa. He forgot everything. Meanwhile I went across the street to the dime store, for want of a better term, and asked if they sold papers. They didn’t. Where can I buy one? Shrug. Left the place, and found a newsagent’s two doors down (so what's with the shrug?). Came back. Still hadn’t brought the tapa. Paid (which took me ten minutes). By the time I left, I realised why the former PM had wanted to get out. Although I’d had another pointer on the way there, stopping at a village five or six kilometres from there to fill up with petrol and asking for directions, make sure I was on the right road. The woman at the desk said I was. I asked if it was worth going to, and she said, “No idea. Never been there. We don’t get on with the people in that village.” Never been there? This woman must have been in her 40s or 50s, and she’d never been to a place that close, just knew the people were a bad lot? Curiouser and curiouser.

Then there were the lentils I wanted to buy. “Lentils? Come on,” breathed the Basques behind me as I insisted on going to this shop. “Of course they’ll tell you they have the best in the world.” But I was undeterred. Thing is, just before I set out from Bilbao, I’d realised we had run out of lentils, and everyone knows the best are to be found in this region, and in fact those I buy here are from the region. And they WERE excellent – I bought them at an Alimentación place in the city, one of those old traditional places where they have all the legumes in white sacks, and a small bald man puts them into paper packets on the scales, gradually decreasing the load being shovelled in with the little stainless steel spade as he gets up to 930 g … 950 g … 980 g … and finally stopping at 1,000 g.

There was another man in there too, who seemed to be the owner, because he acted like it (strutting around behind the counter, talking and talking and doing nothing while the minions served out their legumes and wrapped up chorizo and whatnot), and I remember him for his language. I thought he might have been drinking heavily just before that (certainly his huge belly indicated a tendency in that direction), because every other word seemed to be a cuss. The poetic licence of entrepreneurship. You do what you like when you have a superior product!

Well, that’s PC1. I enjoyed it hugely, also the food, and I definitely had to try the locals’ famed meat chop and beans, but, like many places you enjoy on holiday, I don’t think I’d fancy being walled up in there as a permanent resident.

Next up, PC2. Stand by.
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expressisverbis
 

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PC2 (much shorter, don't fret, assuming you've even got this far) Sep 6

PC2 is quite a bit smaller than PC1, and a teensy bit too provincial for me. I stayed at the “parador” hotel way up above the town, and thought at first I’d have to use the car all the time during the stay, judging by the long drive snaking up to it from the main drag, but they have a clever shortcut path down to the town which only takes 6 minutes on foot.

This is one of Spain’s lesser known PCs. Its most famous son, or rather adopted son, who wasn’t actually from anywhe
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PC2 is quite a bit smaller than PC1, and a teensy bit too provincial for me. I stayed at the “parador” hotel way up above the town, and thought at first I’d have to use the car all the time during the stay, judging by the long drive snaking up to it from the main drag, but they have a clever shortcut path down to the town which only takes 6 minutes on foot.

This is one of Spain’s lesser known PCs. Its most famous son, or rather adopted son, who wasn’t actually from anywhere near there but became associated with it (which I hadn’t realised before I went there), was a poet who penned many bootiful lines about this part of rural Spain. He had originally gone there to teach French at a school. The visit was vaguely cathartic for me, because I had to study his poetry at my own school, and I must say I hated it, but then everyone hates erudite poetry in their teens.

His name’s all over the place in the town now – not only is his old school named after him, but streets and monuments too. Even my hotel up on the hill. I visited his wife’s grave, one of the must-sees in PC2. She’s been lying there since 1912, with the old elm tree frazzled by lightning her husband wrote about, still frazzled, just outside the church and cemetery. Dead at 18. When he was around 37. I didn’t know that either. Hmm. Then you realise they were married for 3 years AND he had to spend a year in courtship AND wait another year until she was of legal age at 15. Hmm again. Made me think of Lewis Carroll and the little Alice muse the other Alice’s adventures are supposed to be based on. Different times ...

There wasn’t really a lot to do in PC2 - not that I was looking for lots to do, because all I wanted was a rest from Bilbao – but once you’d checked out the poet’s story and wandered down the main street and a few others, it was like any other small town, bustling and quaint. This was under the August sun, though – can’t say I’d fancy it in winter, when the thermometer plunges farther than many other regions in this country.

The food was good. Most of the region’s usual fare, plus the province’s speciality of “torreznos”, or crispy-fried pork rind. Just looking at it hardens the arteries. When the king and queen were doing their upbeat solidarity walkabout at various locations in Spain a few months ago to raise people’s spirits, they ended up somewhere around here, and I remember the footage of the queen being offered torreznos by the locals. I suppose Letizia had to accept graciously, noblesse oblige and all that, but I doubt if the queen, noted for her admirable slimness, ate any of them afterwards. Me, I ate one, but only one. Dangerously tasty, but the food you relish is rarely the food you should eat.

By the way, I meant the current king and the current queen back there, or rather the new king and the new queen, as opposed to the former king and the former queen, who are also necessarily the old king and the old queen. In both senses. Although obviously I don't mean that "old queen" in a possible third sense. However, the old king and the old queen still retain some of the kingly and queenly trappings. Not as many as before because the old king screwed up, and got his wrists slapped for it by his son, the new king. So, fewer privileges, which is good news for taxpayers, because before it wasn’t precisely a case of a new king and an old king plus a new queen and an old queen for the price of just one new king and one new queen. No, the great unwashed used to shell out for all four at once - the new king and the new queen, and the old king and the old queen. Plus a few Hellenic hangers-on here and there. Beware of Greeks taking gifts, more like, rather than bearing them.

So that’s PC2. I know it’s a lot shorter than PC1, but frankly I’ve other things to do, and simply couldn’t be bothered dragging it out any longer. Make your educated guesses, and send them in to ProZ for no good reason. All rather thrilling, isn’t it? I’ll be back with the answers at some point. In the wake of a deluge of Pointless ProZ Post-Plague Provincial Puzzle postcards.


[Edited at 2020-09-06 11:14 GMT]
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expressisverbis
P.L.F.Persio
Chris S
 

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Pointless ProZ Post-Plague Provincial Puzzle – contest cancelled (but those answers in full) Sep 8

Yes, I’m afraid the Pointless ProZ Post-Plague Provincial Puzzle has been called off because it was far too popular and has led to the near-collapse of ProZ in Syracuse, with bags of postcards jamming up the offices, the corridors, the broom closets, the toilets, the lobby and away down the street in a matter of only two days, leading to angry visits by the police, the health authorities and environmental inspectors.

In an implausible scenario, which is understandable because it
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Yes, I’m afraid the Pointless ProZ Post-Plague Provincial Puzzle has been called off because it was far too popular and has led to the near-collapse of ProZ in Syracuse, with bags of postcards jamming up the offices, the corridors, the broom closets, the toilets, the lobby and away down the street in a matter of only two days, leading to angry visits by the police, the health authorities and environmental inspectors.

In an implausible scenario, which is understandable because it’s being made up as I go along, Henry rang to say enough is enough. Amid a constant whirring in the background, I could just make out the hoarse tones, the desperate pleas of a desperate man in a desperate situation:

“Stop the madness,” he croaked desperately in a desperate voice of desperation, “Pointless ProZ Post-Plague Provincial Puzzle postcards are arriving faster than we can shred them here. You’re a wretched victim of your own wretched success.”

“Crikey,” I thought, listening to the harsh gritty sound of strips of cardboard being rapidly torn to ribbons, “what a class phrase. Wish I’d said that.” Still, I can console myself with the fact that at least I wrote it.

Those answers, for what it's worth …

PC1 is Ávila, with a huge clincher clue in the last sentence, “walled up …”, a reference to the 11th century defensive wall and towers around the city standing some 12 metres tall, and still in pretty good nick since the high Middle Ages. Particularly impressive when you see it all lit up at night, fully visible from a considerable distance.

PC2 is Soria, and that poet who wasn’t a local lad but who nevertheless done good, Antonio Machado, originally from Sevilla.

All I can say is well done to the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of contestants who sent in postcards in the unlikely hope of a Spanish freebie, but unfortunately the gig is null and void and you’ve wasted the price of the postcard, the price of the postage, and the price of your time. Don’t blame me, blame the management, even though I’ve been asked to remind you on its behalf that “management accepts no liability and/or responsibility and/or culpability whatsoever, wheresoever and indeed whysoever for any direct and/or indirect losses and/or damages and/or legal fees whichsoever and/or whensoever”.

Thank God it's over, I say.


[Edited at 2020-09-08 08:49 GMT]
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P.L.F.Persio
expressisverbis
 

expressisverbis
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Antonio Machado Sep 8

Many thanks, Mervyn!
I did not know this Spanish poet. As a big fan of poetry, this weekend I know for sure where I go to find his books!


 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
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To Die in Madrid Sep 18

What a to-do. A long time ago I mentioned the wringing of hands, the renting of clothes, the tearing of hair and the gnashing of teeth from certain parts of the country, amid outraged cries at what they called a virtual coup d’état imposed on the nation by PM Sánchez, who was apparently gripping the Reins of State so tightly that Spain’s autonomous regions had no say in anything at all.

Especially from Madrid, where the region is not governed by Mr S’s party, but by the Par
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What a to-do. A long time ago I mentioned the wringing of hands, the renting of clothes, the tearing of hair and the gnashing of teeth from certain parts of the country, amid outraged cries at what they called a virtual coup d’état imposed on the nation by PM Sánchez, who was apparently gripping the Reins of State so tightly that Spain’s autonomous regions had no say in anything at all.

Especially from Madrid, where the region is not governed by Mr S’s party, but by the Partido Popular, led by President Díaz Ayuso. It’s not a political viewpoint, but I find Ms Isabel frankly disturbing. It’s those come-to-death eyes of hers, I think. Anyway, Sánchez put up with the moaning for a while, and when things had relaxed slightly, he said, “OK, fine, you win, all the autonomous communities can handle their own Covid affairs from now on.” After a few rounds of the usual grumpy, huffy “About time, too”-ing, the communities happily set to work to govern their own affairs.


Guess what?

Yes, Madrid now has the same number of Covid patients in intensive care as it had in May, and the ICUs are close to breaking point. Contagion is on the up and up, and Old Mr Death is popping by much more often again. Plus, all that erstwhile hero worship of the health care fraternity/sorority seems to be on the wane. A nurse was on TV last night, reporting that the hospital was being subjected to a daily round of foul-mouthed abuse by the great unwashed trying to get in. The same thing is happening to social security offices, where you have to queue for hours to sort out mum’s pension or your unemployment benefit because the Internet option simply doesn’t work, phone pressure has led to them posting a pay number for queries, add to this the pupils and teachers all streaming back to the schools and people going back to work, and all in all they’re already talking about locking down the capital again.

Except they aren’t using the dreaded L Word. Not yet, anyway. The words “restrictions”, “certain problematic areas” and “occasional emergencies” sound much more effective, friendly and reassuring, and less desperate, doom-ridden and gloomy.

That coup situation is looking more attractive by the day.


[Edited at 2020-09-18 10:23 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-18 10:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-18 10:32 GMT]
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expressisverbis
Angie Garbarino
 

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Meanwhile ... Sep 18

Meanwhile, it’s always useful to have a scapegoat. Possibly hategoat might be a better word, if I can use that one. Yes, why not, a hategoat, someone to hate, a decoy, because hatred is forever, unlike love.

And who better than a Royal? Despite the ruling socialist party’s best efforts to play down the shenanigans of Rex Emeritus. Yes, you read that right. You might think that lefties would be quick to jump on any untoward goings-on by the regals, but not here. The socialists h
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Meanwhile, it’s always useful to have a scapegoat. Possibly hategoat might be a better word, if I can use that one. Yes, why not, a hategoat, someone to hate, a decoy, because hatred is forever, unlike love.

And who better than a Royal? Despite the ruling socialist party’s best efforts to play down the shenanigans of Rex Emeritus. Yes, you read that right. You might think that lefties would be quick to jump on any untoward goings-on by the regals, but not here. The socialists have been operating a “you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours” policy with the Palace People since they found in the mid-80s that power was quite nice, and they wanted to hang on to it, and if that meant letting Juanca do da mess-around wherever and whenever he wanted in exchange, then so be it.

No, in this country it’s the right wing that secretly despises the royals much more. In public it’s all jingoistic lip-service, but in private they think the monarchy has too many privileges for too little work, and doesn’t deserve its status.

A juicy tale is now unfolding about what journalists like to call the “sewers of the state”, too complicated to go into until next time, but suffice it to say that it’s a tale of Swiss bank accounts creaking with illicit dosh, the terrible revenge of a woman who would be queen scorned, veiled threats against her by the Spanish secret service, and a photo of an ex-rex in his seventies cooking up burgers on a barbie in shorts and a baseball cap on back to front, while the femme fatale’s kid looks on.


[Edited at 2020-09-18 11:26 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-18 13:59 GMT]
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expressisverbis
Portugal
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I hope Old Mr. Death or Old Mrs. Infection don't go up again Sep 18

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

Yes, Madrid now has the same number of Covid patients in intensive care as it had in May, and the ICUs are close to breaking point. Contagion is on the up and up, and Old Mr Death is popping by much more often again. Plus, all that erstwhile hero worship of the health care fraternity/sorority seems to be on the wane. A nurse was on TV last night, reporting that the hospital was being subjected to a daily round of foul-mouthed abuse by the great unwashed trying to get in. The same thing is happening to social security offices, where you have to queue for hours to sort out mum’s pension or your unemployment benefit because the Internet option simply doesn’t work, phone pressure has led to them posting a pay number for queries, add to this the pupils and teachers all streaming back to the schools and people going back to work, and all in all they’re already talking about locking down the capital again.

Except they aren’t using the dreaded L Word. Not yet, anyway. The words “restrictions”, “certain problematic areas” and “occasional emergencies” sound much more effective, friendly and reassuring, and less desperate, doom-ridden and gloomy.

That coup situation is looking more attractive by the day.


[Edited at 2020-09-18 10:23 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-18 10:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-18 10:32 GMT]


We are all in the same boat. Our Prime Minister, Mr. "Toninho" Costa is saying we will reach a high number of cases and deaths in the coming month.

Correction: "... in the coming week"!

[Edited at 2020-09-18 19:25 GMT]


Mervyn Henderson
 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
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Bourbon shot Sep 19

No, I don’t mean the famous drink, but rather the Borbón dynasty now ruling over the Spanish realm, which the Anglos call the Bourbons. There may well be a connection between them and the drink somewhere, but I’m unaware of it. Although the chattering classes do say that Juan Carlos’s red-hot chat-up line to distant relation and future wife Sofía when they met at the Duke of Kent’s 1961 wedding in York was “Fancy a Bourbon, love?”. Well, no, I must confess I made that one up ...... See more
No, I don’t mean the famous drink, but rather the Borbón dynasty now ruling over the Spanish realm, which the Anglos call the Bourbons. There may well be a connection between them and the drink somewhere, but I’m unaware of it. Although the chattering classes do say that Juan Carlos’s red-hot chat-up line to distant relation and future wife Sofía when they met at the Duke of Kent’s 1961 wedding in York was “Fancy a Bourbon, love?”. Well, no, I must confess I made that one up ...

It’s been a mixed bag for JC over the years – years of uncertainty before he was allowed to become king by an ageing despot, years of tension when he eventually did, amid rumours of unrest among a disgruntled military in the post-Franco period, and even a real coup in 1981, the glory years as Saviour of the Nation and King of All Spaniards afterwards, and finally an inglorious descent into years of disgrace and abdication, and more disgrace even after that. And why? Women and money, money and women. “Couldn’t keep his hands off the kitty, or off the titty either,” tattle those in the know. Same old same old.

The initial years were marked by tragedy. No two ways about it – accidentally killing your brother is rarely good for PR. A fateful tale, which is nevertheless played down a lot, understandably. He was just lucky it happened when the 18-year old JC and his family were holidaying down in Estoril at Easter.

In any other circumstances there would have been an investigation, but I assume since Salazar of Portugal was besties with Franco, who was just starting to groom Juanca for after his demise, being wily enough to pass over his old fox of a father, the Count of Barcelona, who had been hovering in the wings for years waiting for his daddy's throne back, it went no further than a tragic accident. An accident that led to an in-joke ditty often recited among the regal classes of Europe and beyond – “Two little royals, playing with a gun, it went off by accident, and then there was one.” Well, no, I made that one up too. But I know you believed it for a couple of milliseconds ...

… Other than that it had been a normal day for his younger brother Alfonso, and he'd even won a golf tournament that very morning. There are several versions of the event: Juanca said he didn't know the gun was loaded, and his sis said their 15-year old bruv was carrying some eats into their room - since his hands were full he pushed open the door with his shoulder, and thus a little too brusquely. Juanca was inside next to the door, standing there examining the gun ...

Some of the more irresponsible chroniclers have gone so far as to venture that “lying in wait” would be a more accurate description, but you know how people gossip about royals and their jealousies and hatreds. Just cast your mind back to all the conspiracy theories about Diana and Dodi in that tunnel. Ridiculous, wasn’t it? Of course it was. When everyone knows the traffic’s murder in Paris. And the whisperers are still whispering these days, too, oh my, yes, because that kind of thing never goes away, does it? Look at the knives being taken out and gleefully sharpened for Meghan Markle, for instance.

But I digress. Anyway, what happened in Estoril was that the door hit JC’s arm unexpectedly, and Bang, you’re dead. But like I say, many of the details were hushed up because no inquiry was held. For example, to this very day no one knows whether or not the runner-up in the tournament was awarded the cup instead.

Some outrageous analysts even came up with a hugely far-fetched Second-Shooter Theory, on the grounds that the large bay window of the room was open, and that an elevated “grassy knoll” outside would have had a perfect line of vision for a rifle-toting teenager incensed after losing to young Alfonso out on the links, and scheming with Juanca to extract a terrible 19th hole revenge in exchange for the additional long-term incentive of elephant-hunting freebies and compliant Northern European aristocratesses when JC eventually clinched the throne. One gun might miss, but two make it a dead cert. When these people asked the Palace to comment, they apparently came up against a stone wall, which only served to heighten their suspicions of an omertà cover-up.


[Edited at 2020-09-19 11:16 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-19 11:50 GMT]
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P.L.F.Persio
expressisverbis
 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
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To Vie in Madrid Sep 22

There follows a secret recording of yesterday’s all-important meeting between Pedro Sánchez and Isabel Díaz Ayuso in Madrid. To keep things simple, the two speakers are KiSA (Knight in Shining Armour) and PoD (Princess of Darkness):

Scene: a room in Casa de Correos, Puerta del Sol, with black candles burning all around. Huge upside-down cross on wall behind desk. Eery chanting music in background.

KiSA (peering around in the gloom): Wow, not much light in here, is t
... See more
There follows a secret recording of yesterday’s all-important meeting between Pedro Sánchez and Isabel Díaz Ayuso in Madrid. To keep things simple, the two speakers are KiSA (Knight in Shining Armour) and PoD (Princess of Darkness):

Scene: a room in Casa de Correos, Puerta del Sol, with black candles burning all around. Huge upside-down cross on wall behind desk. Eery chanting music in background.

KiSA (peering around in the gloom): Wow, not much light in here, is there? Could we roll down all those blinds and open some of the shutters?

PoD: No, we can’t, I’m afraid. I’m, er, allergic to direct sunlight. That's why I'm so pale.

KiSA: Thanks for calling me to this meeting to help you. I just want to know how I can help. That’s what I’ve come to do, to help, you see. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, you know. Nobody’s going to laugh. All you have to do is admit you can’t cope, and simply ask for help. I certainly won’t be levelling any accusations at you because you aren’t doing your job properly, and that’s why you’re in this mess. I’d just like to make that clear. All I want to do is help, and I can assure you I haven’t come to gloat and make you sorry you kept asking me months ago to decentralise and let you bring off a miserable, pathetic failure all on your own. So, when do you want me to declare a state of alarm in Madrid?

PoD: I don’t want you to declare a state of alarm in Madrid, because that means it’s me that really does need help. But I also wish to thank you for calling me to this meeting to help you, our beautiful capital and seat of government, and Spaniards everywhere, because Madrid is Spain, and Spain is Madrid. But at the moment I can’t help you because we have no doctors or nurses in Madrid. And we have no doctors or nurses because you didn’t allow me to pay them enough, and now they’ve all gone off to work in the UK.

KiSA: What's that got to do with it? So, how about declaring a state of alarm in Madrid?

PoD: No, no state of alarm, please. And the UK is a smaller country, although it has a larger population. And even larger now with all those Spanish doctors and nurses. And the population of its capital is much larger than Madrid’s. I know. I was there on Erasmus.

KiSA: So what? What do you mean by all that? Maybe they need a state of alarm too. Like you.

PoD: I’m not entirely sure what I mean, but as a politician it certainly proves my point, don’t you think?

KiSA: So what do you want me to do? I’m here to help, remember, not to criticise or find fault or expound on defects, flaws, mistakes, gross underestimations, gross overconfidence, gross incompetence, gross arrogance, gross miscalculations, errors of premise or hypothesis. Only to help. Just tell me when you want me to announce a state of alarm in Madrid, and I’ll do it, take over the whole shooting match, like I did before, things will soon calm down, you’ll see, all this will just be a bad memory for you, and you won’t need to do anything. Except maybe find a job, because you might not last very long in this one, considering all the murmuring in your own party.

PoD: What I need is a plan.

KiSA: A plan? Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? I’ll go straight back to Moncloa and have a long chat with my advisers in the gardens to draw up a plan to announce a state of alarm. I suggest you go back to your huge hotel room and wait for me to send you my state of alarm plan.

PoD: Please stop talking about a state of alarm. And I can’t go back out there until the sun goes down, I mean I will be working tirelessly here until dead of night for all the people of Madrid and all the people of Spain. I’m glad I was able to help you with your problem.

KiSA: And I’m glad I was able to help you with your problem. We can call the plan the Non-State of Alarm Plan if you like. That means I won’t actually announce a state of alarm, but we’ll enact a state of alarm in secret anyway without calling it that, and no one has to know you had to get down on your knees and grovel and snivel in desperation for some help. No sense in alarming everyone by announcing a state of alarm, you’re right there. It really put the shits up them last time.



[Edited at 2020-09-22 07:44 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-22 15:41 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-22 17:51 GMT]
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P.L.F.Persio
expressisverbis
Chris S
 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
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Member
Spanish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
To Lie in Madrid Sep 24

Yesterday’s news was full of uncertainty. Think to yourselves in your respective languages, by the way – how many times in the last five years has that word “uncertainty” popped up in your translations, especially financial translations? It used to be in reference to Brexit and/or Trump’s election, and by extension the economic prospects with or without either of them, and after 2016 it was just the economy, waiting for one of the main actors to sneeze, or not sneeze, to get an idea of... See more
Yesterday’s news was full of uncertainty. Think to yourselves in your respective languages, by the way – how many times in the last five years has that word “uncertainty” popped up in your translations, especially financial translations? It used to be in reference to Brexit and/or Trump’s election, and by extension the economic prospects with or without either of them, and after 2016 it was just the economy, waiting for one of the main actors to sneeze, or not sneeze, to get an idea of which way our economic health was going to go. Sneezes have become sadly relevant since March, and now the uncertainty is the economic side of things, dragged mercilessly along by Covid.

Meanwhile, Madrid has been carved up into safe and unsafe zones, and some 27 dubious areas were initially singled out for a kind of, well, special treatment, with certain travel restrictions. Not confinement, you understand, because that’s a dirty word. Just that people can’t go anywhere without permish. Rather uneven, too, the singling out, which poses a few problems, because some people can’t go to a chemist’s, a bar, a shop on the other side of a road because it’s in one of those special areas. And the special areas are mostly in the poorest areas of southern Madrid.

Luckily, those in southern Madrid are still allowed to take the dangerously crowded metro and the dangerously crowded buses through the dangerously crowded streets, to work cleaning offices and toilets, taking care of children and the elderly, and working in bars and restaurants and menial tasks various in safer areas, mostly in the more affluent centre and north. I don't know much about north-south Madrid, but that's what I'm told.

But apparently that’s just a coincidence, as Ms Isabel was quick to point out. There is no difference between the north and the south, she said, now come on, get real. In fact, she hasn’t ruled out additions to those special areas. Maybe it’s just me, but whenever politicians say they “can’t rule something out”, I automatically assume that something is about to be ruled in pronto.

The intrepid President of Madrid’s regional government went further to explain herself. Apparently Madrid belongs to everyone. Madrid is Spain within Spain. What is Madrid if it is not Spain? It does not belong to anyone, because it belongs to everyone. That four-sentence mouthful’s a real quote, too. See if you can figure it out where you are, because I’m still scratching my head here.
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expressisverbis
P.L.F.Persio
 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
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Member
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What did you do during the crises, daddy? Sep 28

“Daddy was a bank robber,” warbled a punk rocker called Joe Strummer. Neither of those statements is true. Unsurprisingly, his real surname wasn’t Strummer. Nor was he christened Joe, for that matter. And daddy wasn’t a bank robber, and evidently his surname wasn’t Strummer either. You don’t get to be Second Secretary in the British Foreign Service with a surname like Strummer - unless it’s a slightly more plausible “Fitzwilliam-Strummer”, for example - and certainly not with a... See more
“Daddy was a bank robber,” warbled a punk rocker called Joe Strummer. Neither of those statements is true. Unsurprisingly, his real surname wasn’t Strummer. Nor was he christened Joe, for that matter. And daddy wasn’t a bank robber, and evidently his surname wasn’t Strummer either. You don’t get to be Second Secretary in the British Foreign Service with a surname like Strummer - unless it’s a slightly more plausible “Fitzwilliam-Strummer”, for example - and certainly not with a former career holding a shotgun to bank managers' heads while they fill up the holdalls with grand after grand from their vaults. Be serious.

But it damages your son’s street cred in a garage band like The Clash if he’s one of those Angry Young Men people talk about in the newspapers who associate with other undesirable elements called Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, not to mention all-female groups called The Slits, and that kind of thing gets out while he’s smashing up a guitar on stage or smashing up the establishment in his lyrics, or smashing up himself backstage before a gig at the Hammersmith Palais. Band member Mick Jones admitted years later “I was so into speed – I mean, I don’t even remember MAKING the first album!”

So he kept those origins quiet. For most of his childhood Joe, born in Ankara, and his brother, were packed off to English boarding school with a load of upper-class twits. Not that he reaped many of the advantages of a privileged background beyond that, seeing very little of ma and pa, and largely left to his own devices. Difficult times for John Graham Mellor in the years before he metamorphosed into Joe Strummer. There were some very poignant moments, in fact, like having to identify his brother David’s corpse after he killed himself at 19 and wasn’t found until a few days later, because the parents weren’t around to go down to the morgue. Yes, he kept quiet and just railed against it all in his songs later on. Catch the bitterness and hatred and loneliness in that rasping breathy voice.

So what’s my point? My point is that a lot of people lie about their parents. My own dad signed up for the Korean War, was taken prisoner, and escaped one night by crawling half a mile through a sewage tunnel after spending six months breaking through to it by scraping a hole with a small rock pick in his cell wall, cunningly hidden behind a huge poster of Rita Hayworth, and … see what I mean? People lie about their parents. Happens all the time. At a pinch you’d probably have believed me if I hadn’t started in with the screenplay from The Shawshank Redemption.

When the glamorous pouting Corinna Larsen started spilling all the sleaze about her one-time beau Juan Carlos and allegations of his millions stashed away in Swiss bank accounts while Spain and just about everywhere else were busy descending into financial chaos, over here our first thoughts were, All that money amid a worldwide financial crisis. Hmm, so what about his son Felipe, who took over the throne? Did he know about all this? How could he not have?

Of course not. How dare you, sir. What's the matter with you? Where's your patriotism? Not that he said as much, though. Kings and queens don’t actually deign to reply to that kind of murmuring, aghast, open-mouthed, indignantly denying any knowledge. No, what they do is issue a statement, and King F’s immediately distanced his royal self from any such shameful behaviour. In fact, he went further and announced he was waiving his right to inherit any ill-gotten gains dad might have salted away somewhere (Tom, in this case I’m afraid you have to concede the use of “gotten” – ill-got gains just doesn’t cut it). Note the language. Just the “ill-gotten gains”. Other gains are all right, presumably. But I wouldn’t like to have the job of figuring out which are which, the ill-gotten and the well-gotten. Then again, when the time comes, I’m not going to be asked to do it, am I. Maybe nobody else will be asked either.

Hopefully Ms Larsen will be quietly let off the hook in London in exchange for keeping the rest of the dirt to herself, and it’ll all blow over. Like that coronavirus thing was blowing over. But oh, then it blew back, just like that. Especially down there in the capital, where it seems to be thriving on all the squabbling. "To Sigh in Madrid", coming soon to a thread near you.


[Edited at 2020-09-28 08:23 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-28 08:24 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-28 08:31 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-28 09:04 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-28 14:59 GMT]

[Edited at 2020-09-28 15:00 GMT]
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Chris S
P.L.F.Persio
expressisverbis
 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
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Have a heart Sep 28

A long time ago I read an English-language article about a Spaniard whose car had broken down on a hot day in the middle of nowhere around the end of the 70s, and a man whizzing by on a motorbike stopped to help. This hearty Good Samaritan heartily told him to jump on, and took him to the nearest garage in all heartiness. It was only when the biker took off his helmet to mop his brow that the other chap realised the benefactor was none other than his own country’s king, Juan Carlos I.
... See more
A long time ago I read an English-language article about a Spaniard whose car had broken down on a hot day in the middle of nowhere around the end of the 70s, and a man whizzing by on a motorbike stopped to help. This hearty Good Samaritan heartily told him to jump on, and took him to the nearest garage in all heartiness. It was only when the biker took off his helmet to mop his brow that the other chap realised the benefactor was none other than his own country’s king, Juan Carlos I.

You’ll have noticed the emphasis on heartiness. I didn’t use it gratuitously. They have an adjective in Spanish, “campechano”, which for years I’ve noticed was the adjective most frequently used to describe Juan Carlos in his public appearances out and about pressing the flesh. That, or the corresponding noun, “campechanería”, the heartiness permanently ascribed to the man, along with the word “usual”, “constant”, “general”, “accustomed”, “habitual”, “eternal” etc. Not your dour monarch solemnly offering his ring to be kissed by the scruffy forelock-tugging plebs (… the ring on his finger, on his finger, settle down now). So that first paragraph is a good example of JC’s reputation for heartiness.

Heartiness hung well with all that freshness-of-youth thing in the early days, but even when the physical fraîcheur began to fade as it lumbered into middle age and plodded unsteadily beyond it, heartiness was still the keynote to Juanca’s affairs. By affairs I mean the business of being king, of course, but one can safely assume he was heartily hearty in affairs of the heart too. Anyway, I’ve rarely seen these expressions used for anyone else, and definitely not other monarchs. In any case it would be hard to imagine it being used to describe the Queen of England, for instance, either in her youth or nowadays. Maybe it’s because Liz never had much time for heartiness and focused more on stateliness. As well she might. I mean, that’s what they pay her for, isn’t it?

But Juanca’s not so hearty these days. Downhearted and heartbroken, more like. In heart-to-hearts with his closest buddies, he’s eating his heart out. The word is he’s not enjoying life in that mysterious exile in Saudi Arabia, and he misses Spain. His heart’s not in it. I’ll bet. Over there he’s forking out 6,000 yucks a night at an undisclosed hotel. We’re told it’s him that’s forking it out, anyway, not his former subjects. As well he might. I mean, that’s not what they pay him for, is it?

But no forking into Galician octopus, scallops, lobster, bream or angler fish at Sanxenxo, one of the fave regal haunts in the old days. Because you soon tire of lamb this, lamb that, lamb the other, lamb surprise, and lamb on lamb over in Riyadh.

And you thought it was the British who were obsessed with tea. At least the British only have a fixation on afternoon tea, but over there it’s tea in the morning, tea in the afternoon, tea in the evening, tea at all hours. Tea? There’s nothing hearty about tea, is there? All you can do is slurp it back half-heartedly, pondering with heavy heart on your heartrending lot, while in your King of Hearts’ heart of hearts you yearn to be back in the Rías Baixas, washing all that tasty fish and seafood down with some chilled Albariño, and maybe a few orujo shot glasses later as you cackle at cards with your moneyed mates watching the sun go down on deck in the yacht moored out in the Atlantic. It’s heartless. But at Saudi prices at least a condemned man can eat a hearty breakfast.
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P.L.F.Persio
expressisverbis
 
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