Thursday, 29 September 2011

Laredo Diary

It was one of those days that can bring on a smile and help you to regain your faith in human nature. A study had just reported that the town where we live was second only to Pamplona in its quality of life when compared to more than 630 towns that make up Spain. This would normally be a reason to celebrate, however those who live here would point to several problems facing the town which may be difficult to resolve. The current financial crisis that has taken hold in most of the Mediterranean countries is taking its toll in the north of Spain too. The new 'designed for the future' port, for example, lies empty and unused while the construction companies await payments which are unlikely to be met in much the same way as Greece may default, except that we do not have a big benefactor such as Germany to hand us a bailout.  Many organisations are feeling the pain of local governments not being able to pay their bills, and papers are full of stories of unpaid workers and stalled projects.

Nevertheless I decided to inform my usual circle of friends and family of this good news and lo and behold recieved an immediate response from Octavio in Madrid that he would like to test out this 'quality of life' for himself as he would be coming to town tomorrow, perhaps trying to get some fresh air after the summer heat of Madrid. Normally Laredo is a cooler and fresher climate compared to Madrid however this week we are having the best of summer weather and I doubt that it will be much cooler than Madrid tomorrow.
To get back to my initial thought and the topic of 'today' and that smile, the day started when I woke up this morning to the usual noise of magpies screaming in the garden of our building. When I looked out of the window, and found the cloudless sky and a welcoming sight of a sunrise I decided that in the spirit of   cooperation in household duties, I would agree to take a walk into town and do the last minute shopping that we required to prepare for entertaining some friends later in the day, before any prospect for a walk on the beach and a swim in the sea.

Straight after breakfast, I headed into town which is a mere five minutes walk from our home armed with instructions and lists and ready to beam at any and everyone. The first person I came across was the mother of a friend who I had not seen for ages, and who had been recovering from an illness that merited a brief conversation which included a sincere expression of joy at how well she looked. Then as I turned a corner of the 'Central Park' of Laredo, I came across a lady sitting on park bench with a two or three year old child. This is not unusual and neither is the fact that this child was pointing to me and saying something to the lady. This happens quite often given my relatively strange appearance for this part of the world and I tend to ignore what I consider 'bad manners'. However the before mentioned smile returned to my face when the child spontaneously said 'hello', and earned a greeting in return.

I was not done with encounters yet, and as I waited in the queue to pay for my purchases at the supermarket, a man approached and greeted me saying that he had met me in Escalante, a smaller neighboring town, that was not even in the list of 630 that Laredo had been compared with. I can tell you that this living in small places keeps you on your toes, as I had to quickly rack my brains to remember the encounter and then make some polite remark such as 'Of course, and how are you' etc. Octavio, the friend who arrives tomorrow, would have been proud of me, considering that he writes a blog on 'Encounters in Madrid'.

Safely back home, with the sun still out in force, a quick change of clothes and we were on the beach before you could do too much damage by not recognizing someone or worse still owed any money by the local government, to spoil your day. The beach was definitely a reason for a smile. My ex boss used to always tell the story of when I showed up for my interview for that job in his department, and he asked me the usual question about what my future goals were. Apparantly I had replied that the future goals had something to do with spending a lot of time on a beach in Spain.

Now I was at that beach in Spain and enjoying every minute of it. Smile.