So I am reading this book. I think I have told you about some of my reading choices in the past, and most of them shy away from anything to do with business - don’t want to pollute my mind with somebody-else’s rubbish theory on why managers continue to make crap decisions, or relish in their own mega-mania. I do like a good mystery, but in this category, I do shy away from the Ann Rice or Stephen King genre – probably too much like being with some of those business people I mentioned before. I do like the odd historical novel – I still have the copies of the books about Beryl Markham that I bought quite a few years ago and just about anything that has (or may have) links to my work. Just a reminder…my work is all about helping people and organisations realise their potential. There.
So, back to the beginning of this chapter. I am reading this book. This book is a bit challenging for me because it is in Spanish. The book, “Ingleses, Franceses, Españoles” (the English, the French, and the Spanish) was written in the late 1960’s, and explores why the three population groups, and the people of them, act, think, and behave in the way they do. Whilst I am not sure that some of the points made by the author in 1969 have been proven to be exactly accurate, many of them do ring true (at least from my experience).
Reading a book in a foreign language, especially one that you are not all that competent in, can be a slow process. I have done this in the past with the Da Vinci Code, but only because I had already read it in English, so I thought it might be easier to understand. That was sort of a ‘cheating’ approach to learning by reading. This book was more of a full-frontal-assault-on-my-brain. I wanted to read this for a couple of reasons. First, the somewhat obvious one (to me) was that the subject matter sounded pretty intriguing to me, from both a work perspective, and a learning perspective. Second, I thought that seeing as how it had been a couple of years since I stumbled through Dan Brown’s book, perhaps my Spanish knowledge had improved enough to make the reading time more pleasurable. Third, …. well, there is no third I guess. So I borrowed the book and began reading it a couple of days ago. (Just so you know, I am only about ¼ of the way through it as I begin to write this letter).
The author puts forth his belief that the English are closely aligned to demonstrating actions (although I tend to think that many Brits from the generation before mine do enjoy talking about the way things used to be; the Empire, ruling the waves; etc). The author also believes that that the French are all about being intellectual and thinking (although from my experience in the business world, I have no idea what they have been thinking about); and the Spanish are all about passion. This proposition could be rather accurate, or at least it might appear that way. Spanish people are very passionate about just about everything. They are passionate about their food, their sport, their families, politics (although this passion didn’t do all that good for them in the 20th century). The book’s author helps to make his point about the types of people in one section where he makes a little comparison; “Cromwell is England, Hernan Cortez is Hernan Cortez.” I have no idea why he skipped over the French. Oh. Right.
So, the reading thing. I have found that it actually is easier for me to read this book than it was to read the Da Vinci Code, even if I already knew that story. Most certainly, there are words I don’t understand (words? Sentences more like it), but for some reason, I do seem to ‘understand’ what the author is talking about and I do get the major drift of the book, and am pleased I have been doing this. The book is pretty great, by the way, and perhaps I will report back later when I finish the book.
The other day (actually this afternoon, but by the time you read this it will probably not be later today), I was coming back to the Port of Andratx after a quick water-the-gardens, check-the-post, and perhaps even cook something trip to Sol y Mar, and lo-and-behold, I was stopped by the police. Actually it wasn’t just the local police or even the serious police. I was stopped by the Guardia Civil at one of their roadblocks. I don’t remember seeing many of these until a couple years ago when four ETA people came to the island and set off a bomb that killed two Guardia men. (Note to anyone who does not want to really piss off the authorities; don’t kill a couple of them. These guys do hold a grudge and I would venture that you would rather jump off the Eiffel Tower than be caught after killing some of them.) I had just gotten off the motorway and was about to enter the sleepy little village of Port of Andratx (where I keep Amélie, and which is actually a separate town than Andratx) when I went around a round-about, only to find this Guardia guy standing in the middle of the road, waving to me to pull over.
I have seen the roadblocks in the past, but always from a passive observer perspective; as in driving past. But now I was one of the lucky ones that was pulled over. (Note that I use the term ‘lucky’ with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek) I did what any other driver should do when this guy with a dark green uniform and huge gun motions to you to roll down your window…and rolled down my window. He very politely asked me for my permission to drive (license) and my automobile papers (certificates of car-worthiness, ownership documents, and insurance papers that show that the car actually is insured). I very politely hand them all over as I managed a near-impossible physical manoeuvre (of having a smile whilst watching the guy’s hand on his gun for any quick movements that I might not like later). He started to look at the papers and then again asked for the auto papers. I, still with my almost genuine smile, replied that I had already given them to him. Of course at this point I was beginning to think that I misunderstood the man with the big gun and would in a flash be on a plane heading to the Guantanamo Bay Resort and Spa. But, not to worry, he looked again at the pile of paperwork that by law we must keep in our cars, and then grunted something like okay as he looked through everything.
All must have been in order because el Capitan Civil (not his real name obviously but it does tie in with the title of the chapter, don’t you think?) handed the pile of papers back to me with a very courteous “muchas gracias caballero.” I smiled and said “muchas gracias” as well. Then, for some unknown reason, I added my apology for having crap language skills. His expression changed in an instant and then, after glancing back and forth a couple of times looking for something or someone, said, “caballero, su español es bueno. My eeenglish it ees sheet.” We both smiled, having bonded forever,…and I drove off before my new very best friend could try to introduce me to his sister.
And the last of the ‘’C’’ guys…you would think it was time for a full moon here. I know that it is a weekend, and all the weekend-boaters seem to come out of the woodwork, but this Saturday has been flippin’ incredible. I have no idea what kind of boating or mooring instruction some of these people have had, but it sure isn’t that great. One guy - let’s call him Dick (as I did) - clearly must have not bothered to show up at class the day they talked about anchoring a boat in a harbour. Apparently he is from the train-of-thought that says that ‘parking’ a boat is like parking a car on a crowded street – just get as close as you can and everything will be okay. I was going to say something clever to him, but my French is pretty limited, so instead I just smiled and as he finally buggered off, said “see you next Thursday." He probably is still trying to figure out what will happen next Thursday.
just an adorable little sailboat near Amélie
Lord Cromwell, looking all action oriented
General De Gaulle, speaking all intellectually
Hernan Cortez, passionately looking very much like himself
a sleepy little Port d'Andratx
wouldn't you stop for this guy?
I think that orange is just not my colour
like a flippin' car park on the weekend
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 James B. Rieley