Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Peculiarities of the Spanish streets

AOG, Madrid

One of the things that strike me most about livig in Spain, is the amount of old people on the streets. Used as I was to seeing a few OAPs (Old Age Pensioners for those of you not British) in London here and there, mostly in Post Offices, or at the corner shop, in Spain, you come accross hundreds of older people at all times and in all places. many of them work. Yes, some old people in the UK also work, but here, some of them run shops, or drive taxis, or work as waiters, well into their old age.

When you walk the streets, there they are, hand in hand the women, side by side the men. When you take the underground (subway), the bus, when you take a stroll. They are everywhere I go. Their lives don't just end in Spain. They don't hide and wait for the end. Like little ants they scurry forth, at their pace, probaly as they always did. I guess in Spain you are always you well into old age. Perhaps they don't realise they are old? And by this I mean that compared to other countries, the elderly strolling the streets appear to be very energetic.

They also appear to have a devil-may-care attitude. I am not saying they are aggressive, but most (certainly not all) do appear to be quite able to tell you off should you cross them. Perhaps it is defensive.

The kind old lady stereotype is a little bit harder to find in Spain. Of course, there are kind old ladies in Spain. I would venture that most are kind. But their number is certainly challenged by very straightforward ladies who will -sometimes- tell you to get off your seat on the bus and let them use it. Some will just look at you hoping you'll get up.

Others, and remember that animals work best in packs, will, if with a friend, start to tell their friend in a loud voice that some people today have no manners; that it is incredible how some people are rude enough to occupy a seat; etcetera. Sometimes it works. Sometimes the person they are alluding to wil get up and apologise, then the old ladies will apologise too and one of two things may happen, they will sit down (if there are two of them they will have a small argument over who should take the seat) or they will remain standing because they are either getting off at the next stop, or for some other reason. Perhaps pride. I think this is what keeps the running. Pride.

But not only old people roam the streets of Spain. Everyone roams here. I have seen more blind people walking the streets than anywhere else in the world I have visited. Of course in Spain there is an organisation called ONCE which provides many blind people with jobs, and they have a weekly lottery which provides them with funds. The blind are also very likely to appear on television. Participating in game shows, or very often, in the news. Not as newsreaders, but to illustrate their plight. And this is not an infrequent affair.

Not a day goes by that I don't see somebody with a deformity, or in a wheelchair, or in crutches, or with a medical condition they choose not to hide, or missing a limb (well, these are a bit rarer but they do exist), out in the open, living life to the fullest. They do not get hidden away as perhaps they do elsewhere. They seem to have an abundance of spirit in this country that permeates most everywhere and affects most everyone. And everyone is polite to each other when they take public transport. And if you are pregnant, all the seats are yours! Everyone gets up.

Of course, I am sure that many people in Spain do get hidden away. You hear stories about people being locked up for years. But you wouldn't know it by just walking up and down the streets in any Spanish city.

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