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Pointy Stick Man

By Mr Grumpy - Fri 16th Sep 2011

I was going to call this Blog entry "White Lines : Don't do it", but wasn't too sure if anyone would get the 1980's music reference ?

No ?

Ok, moving swiftly on....

The first few days of September is widely known and accepted throughout the Valley as being Grape Harvesting season. Because the vines themselves (and in some cases the farmers) are centuries old, they are planted very close together and can only be picked by hand. It is a very labour intensive process and because they have to be picked and got to the co-opertativa as quickly as possible before they start to ferment in the heat of the day, it is not unusual to see hundreds of people lending a hand and dozens of small tractors, vans or whatever transport they can get their hands on, shuttling capazos from the fields and into Town.

This goes on for almost 2 weeks, starting very early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day, breaking for a Siesta and then continuing into the night. The Moscatel grapes were once the backbone of the local economy and dried before being exported to America as Raisins. My Finca itself it a Riu-Rau - designed to capture as much of the natural sun as possible for this very process. But that doesn't really have anything to do with this blog - I just thought you might be interested.

So, the first few weeks of September are always busy (and often dangerous) on the main road through the valley, it has been so since God knows when, and combined with the fact that it coincides with 'back to school' time, you have to be careful when overtaking the various convoys of tractors on the way to and from school.

So of course, it is only sensible and natural that the Ayuntamiento have chosen this very week to repaint the white lines down each side, and the centre of this very same road.

Under normal circumstances I'm a fan of the 'Pointy Stick man' - one guy stands at the side of a workman with a stick that has an arrow at the end of it. He usually half-heartedly waves it at any motorist who may be hurtling towards his mate at breakneck speed in the hope of averting a massive disaster. In cases of large projects it has been known to run to two Pointy Stick men, who communicate with each other by shouting or whistling over the screeching and cluncking of the digger. I have never seen or heard of a set of temporary traffic lights being used in Spain, let alone heard of a walkie-talkie being used, or a risk assessment being drawn up.

Road Safety = One Pointy Stick.

So this morning, once I had done the school run and returned home, I found I need to nip out to the bank. I knew that with it being about 10.30 it was a good time for me to go as most of the grape-pickers would have stopped for a spot of Almuerzo at one of the local bars, and so I though that this might be a quite moment on the roads.

I nipped down my camino and would have pulled onto the main road through the valley, if it wasn't for the fact that five red cones blocked the way. No signs by way of explanation, no workmen as far as the eye could see to the left or right of me, and no pointy stick man.

I pushed the cones to one side and pulled onto the road only to find that a further series of cones was directing me across to the other lane of traffic. Still no workmen in sight.

I decided to continue, as In the event of on-coming traffic I could always nip back into the other, correct lane, as I couldn't see anything happening or any on-coming traffic.

And then I saw a convoy of tractors coming towards me. The cones were coming to an end, but there was a van overtaking the tractors who was in the wrong / right / whatever lane. By some means of I'm not sure how, we all managed to avoid a collision.

The cones just ended with no sign of any workmen or vans or anything.

About 200mt further down the road I saw three of the workmen having their Almuerzo outside one of the Cafes with the grape pickers, without a care in the world.

(The Workmen, having started work an hour and a half earlier obviously felt the need to have a break with the farmers, who started work at 6am)

I had always admired the pointy stick man for being able to laugh in the face of health and safety and ensure a smooth flow of traffic around an obstacle in the road, but now I was slowly coming round to appreciating the marvel of the temporary traffic light. Have you ever seen a temporary traffic light take a break in the middle of rush hour traffic after working for just an hour and a half, and leaving a job half-completed with no warning ?

Still fuming, and on collecting my daughter from school at lunchtime I tried to return home, indicating to turn off the road and up my lane. Pointy stick man was stood in the road waving me past the turning. Still I indicated, still he continued to wave me past.

Still he stood in the road, still I indicated until I was forced into stopping altogether.

A few cars slowed to a stop behind me. I would the window down - I could not go up the road because the paint across the end of the road was drying.

Ok I said, I'll wait, and turned the engine off.

Sr Pointy Stick advised me that I should move on as the traffic was peeping and getting all Spanish, but I refused. How can the solution be that I simply drive around for twenty minutes just so he can let his paint dry ?

Have they not heard of white-lining in the evenings when traffic is slow ? Have they not heard of those rubber things that they put over stuff in the road to protect it ?

I did the decent thing, as I'm sure most people in my situation would, and explained to him in my best Spanglish exactly where I would shove his pointy stick if he didn't move immediately. Which he did.

And what made matters worse was the fact that the paint was totally dry. What a jobsworth.

The government are continually telling us that there is a 20% rate of unemployment is Spain, and with no signs of the economy improving in the immediate future, I would have expected that anyone lucky enough to have a job was doing all they could to prove themselves as a model employee and going that extra mile to keep themselves from the top of the potential redundancy pile.

But if anything it seems that apathy is as strong now with the Spanish workman as it ever was. Just look at the endless strikes (or threats of strikes ) by the many unions over the last few months. Shall we get Spain and the Spanish economy working again, or take every opportunity we can to cripple the economy some more ?

Comment on this Blog

Sounds good to me! Thanks very mucho!
Mo - Mon, 19th Sep 2011
Capazo = In my limited undertanding of ValenciSpanglish is ' a massive black rubber bucket ' (I' m not sure that there is a better translation)
Mr Grumpy - Sat, 17th Sep 2011
Many valid issues Mr. Grumpy. I don´t know if I´ve had the pleasure of Sr. Pointy Stick (ooer missus) but I think I have encountered Sr. Round Paddle Bat on the roads. As I am an old crone, I do have a deep memory of temporary traffic lights but I think that was in Asturias and as such it could´ve been an untrustworthy, mystical Celtic vision. I enjoyed all the stuff on la vendimia as it adds to the sense of urgency on the roads but tragically you´ve used a word I don´t know in all my hispanistic superiority complex - capazo. Off to look it up but beforehand, I´m glad you stood up to Sr. Valemásquemipuesto who was probably just being a contrary bastard anyway.
Mo - Sat, 17th Sep 2011

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