The news everyone’s listening to and watching here in Spain today has a lot to do with this horrible video and other reports various. Whether the train driver in question is really to blame for the accident and resulting deaths, only time – and further investigations – will tell. It doesn’t, however, look good for him that he left a digital trail on Facebook more than a year ago where he boasted how cool it would be to go at 200 kilometres per hour. From what I’ve seen it’s not clear whether he was referring to doing so by train or on Spanish roads. The maximum speed limit on roads is 120 kilometres per hour.
There is little more I can say about this story than offer my condolences to all involved. As I suggested yesterday, the sweet joy of summer breaks can be swiftly withdrawn by life’s round-the-corner turbulences.
Enjoy life whilst you can, for an enjoyable life is no one’s prerogative.
Meanwhile, whilst extreme suffering assails those who journeyed on that train last night, my family and I were doing some paperwork and shopping in town today. Whilst my wife did the former, my daughter condescended to have two pinchos (you’ll probably know them better as tapas) with me. The first in “Bambú”, the second in “El Toscano”. Both quality experiences. Both lovely experiences.
Then we went to do a humongous (first-time) holiday shop in the Spanish (perhaps, in this transnational world, I should say French) equivalent of Tesco’s. Carrefour (for that is the supermarket in question) has changed since we were last there. Single queuing system for the checkouts for starters. I felt I was in the Post Office more than a super.
But what most disconcerted us was the shopping logic that has overcome their layout. Kitchen roll is no longer where toilet paper is – the latter being something we were unable to hunt down at all, even as we managed to stumble across the former. Coffee-machine cleaner wasn’t in cleaning products or anywhere near the coffee. Most shockingly of all, however, was the fact that in this huge warehouse-like shop, two glorious staples of Spanish cuisine – tinned olives and mayonnaise – were hidden away in the furthest corner of all. This would in an English supermarket be like putting butter and sausages on the bottom shelf of the last aisle at the end nearest the most obscure fire exit.
Really don’t know what to make of this innovation. The olive and mayonnaise manufacturers must be furious. One of Carrefour’s new mission statements is to provide all pockets with products they can afford. They must mean: “… as long as you know how to find anything which doesn’t occupy an expensive hotspot.”
And even when I did succeed in finding the blessed products, their own-brand (supposedly cheaper) olive products were (presumably intentionally) unpriced in the face of a heavily promoted national brand.
Small beer I have to say, of course, in the light of the terrible train crash. But an example, however small, of how corporates say one thing in the PR-parsed documents and do quite different things in practice.
One final observation. Common to all these supermarkets in Spain are rather broad central aisles. Here, people congregate and bump into friends and family as they natter their way humanely through the pain of weekly shopping. This is an architectural structure I do rather approve of, though – suspicious me! – I’m sure even as I do there will be an evil monetising bottom line to it all. There is, in fact, relatively speaking (relative to, for example, England I mean), as much people-space in a Spanish supermarket like Carrefour as there is the country of Spain itself.
And space itself is far more human-sized.
Like animals, human beings need space to run and experience freedoms.
And that’s why I think I find the Spanish more human overall.
They value space: outside, inside, together, apart.
Three days of national mourning.
Seven days in the region the accident took place.
All a reminder that when things happen to ordinary people, ordinary people should – in their respective moments – be mourned, celebrated, embraced and recognised, precisely for their ordinariness.
The Spanish still know this. The English, sadly (with more than a bit of encouragement from their body politic), are beginning to forget it.
And I’m pretty sure the man or woman who decided to put olives and mayonnaise in the lost far corner of a French-owned Spanish supermarket chain has similarly succeeded in utterly losing the plot.