Showing posts from 2018

Shutters up or down?

Why are Spaniards the only people in Europe obsessed with window blinds? 
Spain enjoys plenty of hours of sun, but yet apartments and houses are often completely shut off to natural light. Why is this?
“It’s like Spaniards are afraid of light,” says Caroline Jurgens, a 42-year-old Dutch woman who has been living in Spain since 2005. One of the first things that surprised Jurgens when she arrived from Amsterdam to Spain was the number of homes with the shutters down. 
“They pull them down all year long, even in winter even though it’s not so hot. The Dutch do the opposite: we need light all the time,” she says.

While the use of shutters in Europe is only anecdotal, here in Spain they are part of popular culture – and almost always kept down. And it’s not just because Spain receives more hours of light – between 2,500 and 3,000 hours in an average year, compared to the 1,600 in countries such as the United Kingdom or Holland. There are other, more interesting reasons.

Any Spaniard who …

Murders in London spiral

London murder rateovertakes New York for first time ever after spate of fatal stabbings and shootings
London's murder rate has overtaken New York City's for the first time ever, according to a new report.

February marked the first month the UK capital saw more murders than New York, with 15 dead (nine aged 30 or younger).

According to the report in the Sunday Times, London also suffered 22 fatal stabbings and shootings in March, higher than the 21 in the Big Apple.

Both cities have similarly sized populations of around 8.5m people. New York City's murder rate has decreased by around 87 per cent since the 1990s.

Meanwhile, London's has grown by nearly 40 per cent in just three years, not including deaths caused by terrorist attacks.

On Saturday a murder probe was launched after a 36-year-old woman was killed in what is believed to be the 30th incident of fatal knife crime in the capital this year.

The death came just hours after a man 23-year-old man died after being st…

Mon Dieu! Not rude, just French

Waiter fired for being too rude says he was 'just being French'
A waiter fired for being "aggressive, rude and disrespectful" has insisted there was nothing wrong with his manner - he was just being “French”.

Deserved or not, France’s reputation for producing surly waiters who eye customers with suspicion, indeed disdain, is known the world over and has stood the test of time.

Now one waiter has taken that reputation to another level by appearing to claim that a grumpy “garçon” is a cherished French national trait, not a sign of unprofessional conduct.

Guillaume Rey, who worked at a Vancouver restaurant on Canada's Pacific coast, filed a complaint with British Columbia's Human Rights Tribunal against his former employer, saying he is the victim of "discrimination against my culture".

The restaurant, operated by Cara Operations, accused Mr Rey ofbreaching its code of conduct; it argued that he persisted in unacceptably rude behaviour despit…

The possible history of fish and chips

The Portuguese gave us fried fish, the Belgians invented chips but 150 years ago an East End boy united them to create The World's Greatest Double Act 
They're a British institution as well as a national money-spinner, but how much do we really know about fish and chips?

For most of us, the classic combination of battered fish and chipped potatoes deep-fried in beef fat or vegetable oil is as English as the cup of tea that washes it down.

But just as tea originates in India or China, fish and chips is partly Portuguese and partly Belgian. 

The British can take credit for uniting these two Continental imports and creating a coupling that is loved the world over.

Today, Britain's 10,500 fish and chip shops have an annual turnoverin excess of £650million.

This multi-million-pound industry, which currentlyaccounts for a quarter of the white fish and more than ten per cent of the potatoes we eat, grew from humble beginnings.

One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1860, on the s…

Should public transport be free?

“Car nation” Germany has surprised neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines.

The move comes just over two years after Volkswagen’s devastating “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a keystone of German prosperity.

“We are considering public transport free of chargein order to reduce the number of private cars,” three ministers including the environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, wrote to EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella in the letter seen by AFP Tuesday.

“Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany,” the ministers added.

The proposal will be tested by “the end of this year at the latest” in five cities across western Germany, including former capital Bonn and industrial cities Essen and Mannheim.

The move is a radical one for the normal…

F1 bans "grid girls"

Walk-on 'grid girls' scrapped from Formula One races
Formula One says the custom does not resonate with its brand values and "clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms".
Women who walk on to the grid at the start of Formula One races will no longer be used, the sport's organisers have said.

The change will apply from the start of the new Grand Prix season, with the first race taking place in Melbourne, Australia on 25 March.

The women, commonly called grid girls, are often seen carrying the drivers' standards which indicate their race numbers and their location on the starting line.

They also often line the route that the top three drivers take as they head to the podium at the end of a race.

Sean Bratches, managing director of commercial operations at F1, said: "Over the last year we have looked at a number of areas which we felt neededupdatingso as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport.

"While the practice of employing g…

Darkest hour / "We shall never surrender"

The other day I went to see Darkest Hour. I have just read some of the reviews just now. I wouldn't rate it as highly as the majority do.

When you see a film (even one in Spanish), you could read some of the reviews. I recommend Rotten Tomatoes.

Movie Info

During the early days of World War II, with the fall of France imminent, Britain faces its darkest hour as the threat of invasion looms. As the seemingly unstoppable Nazi forces advance, and with the Allied army cornered on the beaches of Dunkirk, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the leadership of the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman). While maneuvering his political rivals, he must confront the ultimate choice: negotiate with Hitler and save the British people at a terrible cost or rally the nation and fight onagainst incredible odds. Directed by Joe Wright, DARKEST HOUR is the dramatic and inspiring story of four weeks in 1940 during which Churchill's courage to …

Vive la baguette!

Macron: French baguettes should be Unesco-listed treasures
The French baguette should be listed as a Unesco cultural treasure, says France's President Emmanuel Macron.

"The baguette is the envy of the whole world," he said, in support of a national bakers' association that is promoting the application.

The bakers have been inspired by the success of Italy's Naples pizza, which was protected by the UN's cultural body last year.

Unesco's list aims to save traditions from globalisation.

The Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage meets annually to evaluate nominations from around the world.

Why do the French think this is necessary?

The bakers say it is not just the name and shape, but the recipe and ingredients that need to be enshrined.

"Excellence and expertise must be preserved, and that is why it should be heritage-listed," President Macron told French radio after receiving a group of master bakers at the Elysée preside…

Can you drive confidently in wintry conditions?

How to drive safely in snow and ice 
Driving in snow and ice is tricky to master – but here are some tips that should help 
With more ice and snow forecast, it's time for many of us to revisit the skills and precautions required for safe winter driving.

Driving in such extreme wintry conditions is fraught with inherent risk, so it should always be avoided. But if you really have to venture out, there are a few things you can do and techniques you can use to make sure you stay as safe as you possibly can.

 So if you’re daunted by the idea of driving when the snow lays thick and even, have a read through our advice guide – it might make you feel a little more at ease.

Drive only if it’s necessary Yes, you’ve heard it on the weather forecast all the time, but people say it for a reason. Put simply, if you don’t go out, you can’t come to any harm on the road. Is your journey really that urgent or important? It probably feels like it is, but ask yourself what harm would come if you di…

Children have no right to privacy

Spanish court ruling gives parents permission to read their children’s WhatsApp messages 
The mother argued that her ex-husband had breached Spain's privacy laws by checking his nine-year-old's messages 
A father who was sued by his ex-wife for reading his two children’s WhatsApp conversations has been cleared by a court in northern Spain.

The mother claimed at a court in Pontevedra on 26 December that her daughter’s privacy had been breached by her ex-husband, after he ordered his children to hand over their mobile phones so he could read their WhatsApp messages.

The unnamed woman told Spanish daily newspaper El Español: “Both children told me that their father put them in a room and went through his daughter's conversations on her mobile phone.

When he asked his son to give him his mobile, he said no.” The father allegedly threatened his son with the police if he did not give up his password.

An earlier lower court in Pontevedra sided with the mother after she argued t…