Monday, January 10, 2011

New things I learnt today

Our Workbook - gotta start somewhere
Off to class this morning: three hours of ‘intensive Spanish’ – for beginners. Our teacher se llama Yolanda, and there are doce estudiantes. An interesting mixture: a teacher of art history, a girl from Israel, a lady about to have a baby, a fiction writer, an illustrator, a man who used to be on television but now owns a gym and dance studio, an American interior decorator, a Russian who used to live in Quebec, an actress, a man who likes Spanish films, and a professional girl polo player who lives half the year in Argentina. Y yo. It would be hard to make up that eclectic list.

I learnt one interesting thing this morning in the three hours spent upstairs at the Instituto Cervantes at Eaton Square in Belgravia – the full scoop on the Spanish surname thing. Each Spanish person has two surnames: the first surname of their father, and the first surname of their mother. In that order. Unless they marry a foreigner and things get thereby confused, they keep these two surnames throughout their lives, married or not. The children of a marriage take the first surname of their father and the first surname of their mother, per the rules.  You’ll note that after a generation or two, any name leading back through the maternal line is dropped, but did you really think it would be different?

Still don’t get it? Try this (all names made up):

Yolanda Vallés Rodriquez marries Alberto Vizcaíno Morcillo (she is Señora Vallés)
Their daughter Ana will have the surnames Vizcaíno Vallés
She marries Raul Olano Artigas (but remains Señora Vizcaíno)
Their son Luis will have the surnames Olano Vizcaíno

Right – glad we cleared that up.

What I need to do every day.
Life here in London is resuming its routine, including Monday’s visit to see Dan at the gym, and a check-up with Caragh Mary Bernadette, the Irish chiropractor. I learnt that the highest temperature Caragh managed over Christmas in Ireland was minus 11 degrees. I also learnt that one’s hip flexors are awfully important muscles, that is, if you want to be able to climb up and down stairs and other similar everyday activities. In fact, without them, you couldn’t actually sit down. They are what make you bend in the middle. There are a lot of them, and they don’t appreciate decades of sitting on your butt, especially on a bad chair. So stretch those hip flexors, folks!

Dan spent his New Year break in Morocco, and returns with a strong positive recommendation; which is excellent news as the Atlas Mountains in Morocco are the chosen destination of the next IP-Trek  outing next September.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

I also learnt that miracles do sometimes happen: the Telecom Fairy visited me today and I now have – after only four months in London – decent broadband!!!!!!! Yes, after merely waiting five weeks for a technician, paying for a land line I don’t want, waiting a bit longer for delivery of the hub that BT could not, for some reason, send earlier, installing it myself because they don’t bother with that bit, figuring out what to do about the fact that the super-mod con St Pancras Chambers has non-standard telephone plugs that don’t fit anything.....we are ON AIR. Next time you have a whinge about Telstra or one of its devil’s spawn, just know that things are no different in the UK. Possibly worse, scary as that sounds. Still, I am not complaining tonight: I’m whizzing along here now!

And completely randomly, I also learnt today that when Isaac Newton discovered that light could be broken up into the colours of the spectrum, he deliberately chose seven colours because seven was a prime number considered to have mystical properties. If you ever wondered why there was very little difference between ‘indigo’ and ‘violet’ in the colours of the rainbow, that explains it.

Rainbow at Gullfoss, Iceland, last July (photo by me)

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