Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Free Ride Home

The gaps between posts just get longer and longer. My life became focussed on much more personal stuff that I just didn't want to write about and neither have I had the time.

Hey Ho!

Anyway, if anyone still looks, here's a little snippet. I went to the cinema this evening with Carmen to see the new Indiana Jones film. Apart from annoying points like "how did the baddies catch up if that staircase had disappeared...?", (love preposterous stories but not keen on inconsistency!) it was good fun and we came out about as amused as we'd expected to be.

It is suddenly winter here and very cold when we came out about quarter to eleven. We walked around the corner to Carmen's bus stop and noticed that across the road the underground station was still open - a bit late for Bs As where the underground system generally shuts down about half past ten. Well, I had been about to start the fifteen minute walk home but a train could halve that, so I went to look.

The barriers were open, the lights were on and the escalators were still running, so I tripped down to the platform and - miraculously - a train was just approaching. Only when it stopped and the doors didn't open did I realise there weren't any people in it, so I turned and started walking back along towards the exit.... The driver's door opened and a head popped out, so I said, "Hi there, is that it then, all the trains stopped already?" and he said, "Yes, about twenty minutes ago, we're taking this one back to the terminus. Where are you going?" So I told him, he winked at his co-driver and they offered me a lift! I hopped in.

It was fab. Nothing huge or momentous, just a special little experience to treasure.

They let me through into the carriage via their cabin and I had the whole train to myself. It is only three stops but it felt so exciting passing through the empty stations along the way - no bustle, no sweat, no crowds, empty train merrily swinging around the curves like a girl skipping through daisies. That must be how the Queen experiences transport.

Thinking about it afterwards, I never felt unsafe and feel a bit guilty that I am even considering it now.

So, I'll just post that and see if it inspires me to take this up again.



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sheepish Hello

Erm, been busy is all!

Go on, take a look!

I simply do not have the time to sit about writing about cockroaches! Happy to say in fact that I have not had any cockroaches to write about all this year. What I do have though is a lovely live-in boyfriend and a budding business with him and a great team of tango dancers. My big old living room is occasionally transformed into a tango studio or a meeting room. My spare bedroom occasionally has a small boy or 3 for the weekends. Not at all what I signed up for but I am not complaining.

Well, not today anyway.

Today finally there is warm sun after a miserable, long, cold winter that has broken all records.

I have Jan and Keith staying from London, which is lovely. Also in town are newleyweds Michael & Oswaldo, with whom we have already put away a fair old wodge of steak and Malbec. At the weekend we have a programme of Cabaret the musical and some actual cabaret for good measure.
Who says it's all tango tango, tango...?

Other highlights since - er blimey - June when I last wrote...

....Chris visited for a very short but lovely week and we packed a lot in; steaks, sightseeing, a bit of tango (not helped by Aerolineas Argentinas losing her luggage on the way out and cancelling her flight home)...

... Daddy also visited for 3 weeks (which is more like it if you are thinking of coming!) We had a really lovely time, despite unseasonal bad weather, and he got a lot of sleep away from his usual day to day worries. We went up to Iguazu Falls for a couple of days and were both absolutely blown away by the whole experience. I doubt it is possible to exaggerate how amazing it is.
amongst other things.
... Marisol & Alfredo also came over again, very busy getting stuff organised for their Windsor milonga...
...Eduardo & I danced in the Bs As and World tango championships but didn't get very far. Still it was fun.
Of course there is very much more but if I make my old mistake of trying to write about it all at once, I shall never even post this.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

So Much to Say...

Hello Blogland, long time no see!

Executive Summary:
After a sad month without Club Espanol, Julio opened up Chique again at Club Galicia, smaller & not as elegant but fingers crossed for him. I met a lovely man there and have been too busy falling for him to do any blogging. It's been bloody cold here & I had a quick bout of 'flu. Fantastically excited now because my lovely friend Chris is coming out next week for a short visit. Had a couple of brushes with bureaucracy & seen a bit of Argentine democracy. We have had some incredible biblical weather here and it transpires my flat needs a bit of weatherproofing.

Alright, so I won't go into all the details, partly because it has been 2 months - thanks for pointing that out, Elizabeth! - and I don't have either the time or the stamina to fill you in on all of that.

The post-Club Espanol period was a bit odd. I did have a feeling of mourning, albeit more at the level of a lost hamster than a dear friend. Clearly, life goes on but it was interesting how much I had fixed on that milonga as a point of constancy in mine. While it was absent, I went to a few other milongas - some familiar, some not - but nothing else really does the same thing for me. Nino Bien - well, I never really liked that place anyway but we went the night before Good Friday and it was packed to the gunnels with strange people; kind of a Sunday driver syndrome, very uncomfortable on the floor and off it. A couple of good evenings at Porteno y Bailarin, including one when Alberto Podesta sang. He used to sing with the di Sarli orchestra. Amazing to hear him singing at the age of 85. Had a lovely evening at Club Sunderland with Francis, Carmen and some American ladies. There I saw Miguel again after some months and we danced a couple of tandas. I also went to a new milonga with Kikki & Eduardo, called los Mareados. It is in a conference room of a modern hotel and probably needs to build up its ambience a little. I danced there with a young man who almost dropped me when he realised, thanks to his friends' laughter, that he was tangoing to a milonga. Yikes. Old favourites like Gricel and El Beso provided some better times.

I took a short trip out of town, which was nice enough, though these long bus rides are no picnic. Once again, sooo grateful to have a happy knack for falling asleep in strange places. I went to a place called San Luis, which is not on the tourist trail and for good reason. It is a dreary little town but has some very nice countryside around it. I rented a car while I was there, which was interesting and in fact just as well given the dreariness of the town itself. Driving was not at all difficult, although I did try to change gear by fumbling about with the door once or twice. It makes me want to travel Argentina more, there are some stunning landscapes to be seen.

Then on the 4th May, Chique - the milonga formerly held at Club Espanol - started again in its new home, Club Galicia (San Jose 224, esq Alsina). Well, what can I say? It was a very exciting evening and deeply satisfying all round.

The anticipation walking the three blocks there from my home was lovely in that tingly slightly nervous sort of way. It was great to get in the door and be greeted by the same staff who were always there at Espanol. I had little chats with a couple of them while I waited for a tanda to finish & Monica to show me to a table. It was lovely to see so many familiar and friendly faces dancing by and I greeted a few people on my way down the dance floor.

The venue itself is nothing like Espanol. It is about half the size and has none of the elegance and little of the charm, so whatever evolves from this, it will be a different milonga. Where Espanol has wedding cake plasterwork, wooden pannelling and ornate gilded mouldings, Galicia has a rather rustic finish and huge gloomy oil paintings of Spanish peasants hanging on the walls. The floor is probably its best feature - large, well-worn wood and really lovely to dance on.

The music is still the best in Bs As in my opinion, provided by DJ Dany and one gorgeous tanda after another. There were several but not all of my favourite geezers there and I danced with most of them. I danced with Julio and he was obviously relieved that people had come out to suprt him and said he was a bit nervous about how it would all pan out. Other people I spoke to were excited that it had opened again but not very enthusiastic about the venue, so we shall see if it really gets off the ground.

An odd thing happened. Early on in the evening, I noticed somebody watching me dancing quite a lot. Obviously people watch but this guy was staring and clearly talking about me with Teresa. Anyway, I let it go but later he came up to my table to introduce himself. Normally I give people pretty short shrift when they come up to my table but as he started off by saying he was a friend of Teresa's I heard him out. Anyway, long and short, he wanted me to dance with him in the Metropolitan Tango Championships. As you know, I've heard that one before! Still, he was quite cute, so I said that I knew I could dance but we should see if we could dance together before agreeing to anything. So two half tandas later, I had agreed to meet him at Nino Bien on the Saturday night and enter the heat.

All in all, the first night of the new Chique was very exciting. It was accompanied by a massive thunderstorm too, which I merrily walked out into when hunger overtook me around ten. Not befoer I had sung a couple of bars of 'my favourite things' to a cluster of Americans cowering in the doorway searching the deserted street for a taxi. Great to live within walking distance and I celebrated that by walking home singing at the top of my voice! Well, the storm easily drowned me out and anyway there really was noone around to hear.

So, I went to Nino Bien on the Saturday and met up with the mystery man. Linda came along for moral support and made a couple of little videos which are on youtube now. We didn't get through - not surprising after so little dancing together, plus some artistic differences about the hold which left me very uncomfortable (you can see this on the video). The people who won were fantastic too. Anyway, after the competition, we danced on and it turned into quite a romantic evening - lone couple tangoing til the Cumparsita plays, everyone else long gone and the staff clearing away the tables... then walking home hand in hand through the rain. Then sending him packing to find a bus out to Nunez at five o'clock in the morning! Hey ho.

We decided to try again in another heat but in fact started dating and didn't get round to doing that for another week. By then of course, I had persuaded him that a close hold is the way to go!

That time, we entered in barrio milonga out in Urquiza and amazingly enough we did get through to the semifinals. I was exhausted and got a bit cranky with him when he wanted to enter the milonga section too and would not stick to my provisos that there would be no traspie or trick footwork. I just stopped dancing and glared at him. In fact, I almost walked off the floor. Still, luckily by that time the votes were in for the tango section and nobody could be put off by the total milonga meltdown.

So since then, I have allowed him to move into my flat, closely followed by a German film crew who were making some short piece about the tango and tourism. I really won't go into any details but it has been an exciting time. Not at all what I was looking for but what the hell - I followed my nose to Buenos Aires and am following it with Eduardo too. It all seems very right for now and we shall see what happens.

I had a lovely birthday and a party with lots of ladies here and lots of food, including two lovely cakes, hand-made by Eduardo. Then I had the flu when we got a sudden cold snap here and for the first time in I don't know how long, had someone to look after me, making fresh orange juice & interesting soups. Fab. I could get used to this boyfriend business!

Best birthday present was finding that my friend Chris's lovely husband has given her a birthday gift of a ticket to Bs As, so that she can come and visit me next week. What a star. I am so excited and can't wait to see her. Though she may arrive grouchy as I have rather taken the piss with her baggage allowance and made all sorts of requests, including a suitcase full of my old sheets & towels... we shall see.

There is a whole tedious story about endless rainstorms here in the Autumn and cracks in the rendering of the building and great patches of damp on my newly decorated walls and the apparent impossibility of the managemet company to do anything about it and my general feebleness in tackling them... but I think this is enough of a catch-up for now.

Chin chin, R

Saturday, April 07, 2007


.... Lovely word that translates nicely as 'a quickie'...

I have had blogging on my mind lately but as you can see, not done much about it. I now have broadband - haleluyah! - and yes, have spent hours and hours skipping about the ether reading all sorts of things in other people's blogs. It is odd to think that people stumble upon and read mine in the same way - it is essentially a tool for keeping in touch with people I know. They sometimes send me messages, so I know it happens. Hey ho!

It is interesting skipping about and seeing what other people are doing with their blogs. Sometimes you just wonder, "who the hell is supposed to be reading this?" or indeed, "who the hell do you think you are to be writing this?" A lot of it is banal - and I hold my own hand up to that accusation - but strangely gripping. I suppose there is a touch of real life soap opera to it.

Anyway, blogging about blogs, how very self-absorbed!

So, the terrible, devastating news from Buenos Aires is that the best milonga in the world has been forced to close by evil money-grubbing landlords. I am gutted. Club Espanol was the most constant thing in my life here and it gave me SO much, I cannot begin to tell you how big a hole it is leaving in my life.

I was at the last one (naturally, have only missed about 3 since I've been here) and found out during my first dance that it was going to close. I could barely dance I was so shocked. The whole evening I was close to tears but I made sure I danced with all my favourite guys, though of course it was a shock to everyone so nobody was able to say where they would go in future. I hate to think I will never dance with some of them again. I hate to think I will never dance on that gorgeous big floor again, especially as the evening wore on and the crowds dispersed and you could glide about like angels.

Not sure I can write any more about it now, I am off to a party in a mo and don't want to arrive morose. I just pray that Julio who ran the milonga will be able to find another venue that has some magic in it. I was lucky enough to dance the last Cumparsita with him at Club Espanol, which was rather bittersweet.


Still, life goes on, eh? And I have a party to get to, so more another day.

R x

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tango Physics

Here is something Michele emailed me recently which I think is very clever indeed. It is by a chap called Mike Barrow and appears on yahoo tango chat room:

I think we would all have a better knowledge of tango if we understood the fundamental physics underlying it. I have been researching the academic journals and for your education and enjoyment I have summarised the current state of knowledge. It answers such unresolved questions such as:

Why is tango so difficult?
Why do you never see three people dancing tango together?
Why collisions occur on the dance floor.
Why tango exists.

Some knowledge of quantum physics is desirable but by no means essential. Now read on...

Tango Physics

The laws of physics apply to tango just as they do to other phenomena. Here is a summary of current knowledge, obtained from leading text books and recent research papers. Some of the more advanced theories must remain speculative, pending further research.


Tango consists of the interaction of electrically charged particles operating within a musical energy field.

There exist just two types of elementary particle: the tanguera particle and the complementary tanguero particle. The tanguera particle (or simply tanguera) is electrically charged by the addition of high heeled shoes and a glamorous dress. The quantity of charge is directly proportional to the height of the heels and inversely to the quantity of material in the dress.

In contrast to the tanguera, the tanguero particle is more easily and economically charged. The very appearance of a suitably charged tanguera isusually sufficient to charge the tanguero. Some tangueros find themselves already charged on waking up in the morning, for no apparent reason. The quantity of charge appears totally unrelated to the tanguero's shoes or apparel. Indeed, it also seems to be based on the tanguera's shoe height and dress material.

Having complementary charges, the tanguera and tanguero are naturally attracted to each other. The force of attraction is proportional to theproduct of their individual charges and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them (the inverse square law). As this distance approaches zero (the so-called close embrace) the attraction increases without limit, leading to important and potentially unstable quantum effects (see below).

The charges of two such particles in a close embrace cancel each other (being of opposite polarity) and the couple become electrically neutral, thus attracting no further particles. This is why you hardly ever see three particles dancing together. (The Tango Lesson was trick photography. ) It also explains why couples (which are electrically neutral) can collide with each other.

Two tanguera particles have charges of the same polarity and are therefore likely to repel each other, especially if wearing similar shoes or dress.

Two tanguero particles are able to happily co-exist in spite of the similarity of their charges. The exception to this occurs in the presence of a single tanguera particle, when one of the tangueros attaches to the tanguera and the other is ejected.

Interactions of particles

Tango particles interact within a chamber known as a milonga under the influence of musical energy supplied by an orquestra or, more cheaply, a portable CD player.

The particles resonate with the application of the musical energy. Ideally the particles resonate in proportion to the energy supplied (the basic energy of Argentine tango, or 'beat' for short). However, not all particles resonate at the appropriate frequency.
Those which do are said to possess the property of musicality.
Tanguera particles are particularly strongly attracted to tangueros possessing this property.

A tanguero at the extreme of the distribution, usually resonating at an excessively high frequency relative to the beat is known as the null tanguero particle. Continued contact with the null tanguero will usually cause the tanguera particle to become completely
electrically discharged and to leave the dance floor.

Newton's laws of tango

1. A tanguera particle will remain at rest or continue in constant motion unless acted upon by a force, usually applied by the tanguero particle.
2. A tanguera of mass m, acted upon by a force f exerted by the tanguero will move with an acceleration a according to a = f/m. Beyond this, it is generally unwise to refer to the mass of the tanguera particle.
3. For every tango teacher there is an equal and opposite tango teacher. E.g. if a teacher says one should never lead with the left hand, then there exists somewhere a teacher who says this is permitted or even encouraged. If one teacher says the cross should be led, there is another who says it isn't. This is why one should never change teacher, except in extremis.

Tango and chaos theory

The discovery of the mathematical theory of chaos in the 1980s shed new light on some unresolved mysteries in tango. Just as a butterfly flapping its wings in South America can cause a cyclone in Europe, so a misplaced step in one part of the dance floor can cause, through a consequential series of collisions, avoidances and sudden changes of direction, several particles to trip over each other some time later in another part of the milonga.

This is particularly likely if a new (i.e. inexperienced) tanguero particle enters the dance floor, holding an excessive charge due to the close proximity of so many charged tangueras. Attempting to restore its equilibrium and shed excess energy, it moves at high velocity with many sudden and unanticipated changes of direction. This initiates a
series ofcollisions which turns an initially orderly dance floor (low entropy) into one of disorder (high entropy).

Chaos also reveals itself at the level of individual particles, for example when executing a giro. The giro normally progresses according to the well-known Salas-Naveira equations of motion. However, a tiny perturbation to the initial step can become magnified in subsequent steps such that the two particles complete the giro in totally the wrong positions or, in the worst scenario, fly apart completely. This solves the mystery of why the tango is so difficult.

Why tango particles exist

Very occasionally two particles resonate together with perfect symmetry and harmony, in time with the beat. The force of attraction between them increases as the distance between them decreases until they effectively become, for a short time, a single particle (a singularity in mathematical terms). These are the quantum effects referred
to above and they lead to a tear in the very fabric of space-time itself and the particles disappear from view, into a state known as nirvana (in the popular imagination this is often located in the Buenos Aires area of Latin America). No communication with the particles is possible during this time. The particles only reappear when the energy supplied by the musical field is turned off. We can only speculate where the tango particles go. The particles themselves are quite unable to explain since, for them, time has slowed to a standstill (in accordance with Einstein's theory of relativity). Indeed, some of them are incapable of speech for several minutes on their return. However, there is general agreement that this state of nirvana is the very reason for the tango particles' existence.

Tango teachers

Another blatant plug for some friends. Again, a link to their website appears top right on this page. Avid readers will remember Romina and Carlos from my fist visit here 2 years ago, then from my lessons and Susan's with them last year, as well as the various shows of theirs that I have mentioned and their generous loan of a dining table. So far this year, I have been very lazy about starting up again, though there are many things I would really like to work on.

Still, anyone visiting who wants good clear instruction in a nice studio in San Telmo should get in touch. They are increasingly busy, so best book ahead. And tell them I sent you!

Or you can catch them giving group lessons in the glorious setting of Confiteria Ideal, 384 Suipacha on Wednesdays at 4pm or Thursdays at noon.

They do a regular show at another historic venue - 36 Billares on Avenida de Mayo - on Tuesday nights. It used to be Wednesdays, but we discovered that that had changed when I confidently organised dinner there for all the English who were here last October. We sat open-mouthed at the rather touristy show that was on offer instead, so always check ahead for details!

Tango Yoga

This is a blatant plug for my friend Carmen. I am far too lazy to yoga, although there is a studio right across the road from my flat but she gets a lot out of it and from what I have heard she gives a lot too. Any visiting yoga aficionados would do well to look her up.

The four secrets of a good Tango Dancer

Connection -emotional connection and the creativity that comes out of it - that´s what makes Tango Argentino a unique dance. And it is the first secret of a good and dancer.

Be it "salón", "milonguero", "del centro", or "Nuevo" style, if there´s no emotional connection between the one who leads and the one who follows, they may be doing interesting and nice steps, but they are not dancing "tango".

And the emotional connection is a very delicate question -hard to attain and easy to lose.

If suddenly, during a tango class, or in the milonga, we are overwhelmed by our fears (about forgetting the steps, not being attractive, say) and allow these dreadful thoughts to block our heart´s energy, the emotional connection cannot occur. This is more likely to happen to dancers from foreign countries who are not accustomed to being in touch with their emotions.

To attain a good emotional connection with the partner, we need to know and be able to manage our emotions even on those occasions when our self-esteem is seriously threatened. And in this case we cannot use the old trick of hiding our emotions behind a wall of physical/muscular tension, because our body then wouldn´t be able to yield freely to the dance. So, whether one is an amateur in the milonga or a professional facing a performance, in order to manage our emotions, we need to learn how to breathe properly, and how to combine our breathing with our movements, so that our muscles give way to our expression. And perhaps what´s more, we´ll need to know and learn to deal with our daily emotional blocks, so that they do not interfere in our dance as well.

When we start to dance tango, it also starts an emotional healing process. Be it because we receive more embraces than usual; because our social life expands; we are more in touch with members of the other gender; or because our physical limitations and/or our social or partneship troubles show up. Tango moves our emotions deeply and strongly. So, an opportunity to know more about ourselves in relation to other people is offered to us. And this can be a real challenge.

The second secret of a good tango dancer is the disassociation in the movement of the upper and lower body. Our chest must always face the chest of the partner, while the hips some times must turn away to one side or the other. Other times, our hips must keep motionless while the chest leads or follows the partner, all the time doing the foot steps and following the beat of the music. All this requires a very flexible spine, otherwise we cannot move as the dance requests and, sooner or later, the spine might suffer an injury.

Likewise, the disasociation of the upper/lower body must occur not only to the rhythm of the music but also around our own axis (the third secret) to keep our balance and not pull our partner off his or hers.

Most students arrive at their first Tango class without knowing about their physical/emotional axis at all, and some even have posture problems, diminishing the possibility of following directions properly, and making the teacher´s work harder.

Each person´s body is different, so it needs different exercises to attain the tango posture/figures that require a deep rotation of the spine or to correct the posture in order to find out its own physical/emotional axis and do the elegant/cat-like walk of Tango.

During the Workshops and Classses of Dance Yoga, we discover our own axis and explore how to keep the balance during the movement and in relationship with our partner. We elongate our muscles using breathing and "no effort" techniques to attain a good disassociation of upper/lower body in rhythmical time. We play with different exercises to achieve a flowing and sensual dancing/walking. And, most important, we learn to manage our emotions to attain the best Emotional connection with the partner, and thus, do creative dancing.

When we apply what we´ve learned to our tango lesson we are able to follow the directions of the teacher in a much easier way and the teacher is able to give his/her best, both accomplishing a higher level of work.

But also, DanceYoga leads us to the fourth and most important secret of a good dancer, which underlies the other three (connection, axis, disassociation). This well-kept secret is the deep physical and emotional relaxation.

The gifted dancers are those who are able to blend their emotions with the music and express them with their movements/steps. This is only possible with a complete surrendering to the moment and the joy of dancing.
Attaining such a blissful state requires a deep and aware physical, mental and spiritual relaxation -which is an art itself.

During the Workshops and Group Classes of DanceYoga we practice these four secrets in a general way. During private lessons (singles or in couples) we attend to the personal needs, with much deeper, faster and long lasting effects.

See top right bar for link to her website.

Contact me

I have set up a new email address as the old one is getting increasingly dodgy. People keep complaining that they can't leave comments here as the process is just too difficult, so email me and if you say anything interesting, (flattering and positive!) I will censor and post it.

Apparently if I put a proper link to the new address here on the blog, some spam robot will pick it up and immediately start sending me offers on "genuine" viagra, "genuine" Rolexes and "genuine" college degrees etc (who *answers* these emails?!!!! How depressing that there are enough of them to make these scams viable businesses...), so you can work it out for yourself.

It is:

inglesitaportena at yahoo dot com dot ar



Friday, March 23, 2007


I have been looking into the business of getting residency here in Argentina and am back to a state of ambivalence about it. It is apparently perfectly legitimate to come and go on 90 day tourist visas, which can be extended for another 90 days once at the Immigration Department, then replaced by popping over to Uruguay for lunch when that expires. A lot of gringos do that for years.

The main drawback is that I am not allowed to work legally here or set up in business without the proper paperwork. Much as I like lounging about, even I have my limits.

Talking to Michael & Oswaldo though, whose knowledge of the UK system is pretty thorough for one reason and another (congratulations btw on getting that sussed), I did get spooked into deciding that I should get permanent status here. The idea that I could some day be refused entry, and thereby access to the cupola and the milongueros, horrifies me.

The first problem I discovered when I started asking was that I should have brought some key documents back from Blighty and as I do not know exactly where my birth certificate is, it will have to wait until I next visit. So anyone else considering this should find out what documents they are going to need before they travel. I suppose that just the fact of having my birth certificate here would mark me out as permanent - or is it a normal thing to carry about with you? Hey ho!

The next thing is the criteria for getting residency are tricky. My best bet would be if I could show that I have rental income outside of Argentina, which of course I do. I’d have to put my tenants on a two year contract though, which they may not be too keen on. Either that or just find some chap who could marry me, which under Argentine law would not put my assets at risk when we divorce (yes, I have checked!) as they are clearly mine at the outset. Still, there are plenty of possible pitfalls in entering into that sort of contract for that sort of reason. Note, I do not entertain the idea of actually wanting to marry somebody for romantic reasons!

So the next thing was the news that, although I am expecting to pay ownership tax here on the Bs As flat anyway, it transpires that if I take up permanent residency, I also have to pay 1% ownership tax on all my assets - including the property in London. That is a hell of a lot of money to the Argentine Government for something which I do not honestly think is any of their business! I could not really get round it by not declaring the property, especially if I have shown them that I do get rental income from it.

More research required clearly but for the time being I am back to Plan A and expect to acquire over the years some knowledge of restaurants and hotels in Colonia and Montevideo! I shall try not to drink a lot and buy whole cow hides every time I go though…

License to Get Ill

This week, I have been interviewing sales reps for the various private medical plans which have been recommended here. It is a whole new world for me as I have been lucky enough with my health that the rather dishevelled NHS has always been adequate for my needs.

Here in Argentina, there is a public health system, but everyone is very scathing about it and says that only the poorest of the poor use it. A common joke is that as long as you are dead, they will see you straight away. Although I have to say that people here do tend to be very scathing about many things, which have actually turned out to be fine in practice, it is not something I want to take a chance with given the not-so-super prospects if I follow in my mother’s medical footsteps. Who knows, I could be dancing the tango at a sprightly 96. On the other hand, I could be making strange noises and keeling over any time now!

What with owning the flat now and staying in one place for such a long time, it looked on close inspection like travel insurance was not likely to cover much if I got sick here, so I took the radical step of not taking any out this time. Yikes!

So the parade of minor ailments that has passed through my system a lot of the time since I have been back has given me the impetus to do something about it. My friend Gabi started sending me information about medical plans minutes after learning that I had passed out and I have actually followed up on them and had reps in my home this week talking up their plans.

I have rejected at least one simply because I didn’t like the rep. She was not very straightforward and I got the impression she was trying to take advantage of my foreignness. Apart from that, she said she had lived in London 25 years ago and found the fog a real problem. Eh? I pointed out that that problem had been solved in the 1950s and she looked at me blankly. Then she said how awful it was to have temperatures of minus 40 in the winter and I said “In London? In 1981?” and she assured me it had been that cold with snow so deep it was impossible to get out the front door. Eh?

I think I have chosen a company called Medicus. They can cover me for the whole of Argentina and in fact, I can extend to international for an extra four quid a month as and when I go out of the country. It costs a little over five hundred quid a year, which includes everything except glasses and false teeth. Of course, being English, I am just adjusting to the notion that I have to pay at all before I sign the contract, though it has to be said that it is easy to spend just that on routine dental work in London, so I am certainly not going to claim this is a rip-off.

The main reason this plan is better than the others is that total cover starts the day after I sign the contract. So I could sign up now and spend the next week having check-ups, getting vaccinations, being prodded and scanned… or even developing a life-threatening disease if I so choose. I could start a whole new career as a hypochondriac in fact. The other reason is that there is a choice of facilities - some of the plans are linked to one hospital only.

They even offer psychiatry, which might be a laugh. Especially in Spanish. I do need to practise my past tenses and how better that telling a total stranger about my childhood.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Some photos of trees. Buenos Aires does trees very well indeed. There are seriously huge old ones in the plazas and avenues and the local government is forever planting more. The poor buggers have quite a job to do battling with heavy pollution. Not sure they're winning but we have to thank them nonetheless!

The national tree of Argentina is the palo borracho - or drunken stick - so named after the ability of the trunk to swell up as it stores water. Actually down here in Bs As they don't get all that swollen but apparently in the northern regions of the country they have the sort of bellies you generally only see in late maternity or on lunchtime habitues of the pub. Here are some flowering in shades of pink and white along Avenida 9 Julio. I could have got closer but I wanted to get the weird cupola in the frame:

A jacaranda last week - still putting on a show although it officially finished flowering a couple of months ago:

Lots of Jacarandas before Christmas, with the added bonus of Linda looking pretty cool in the foreground. We were on our way to a big shopping expedition and asked the driver to stop because the trees were so gorgeous. This is when they were in full bloom before coming into leaf:

Rubber tree in Plaza Congresso, the size of a very large house. Somewhere I have a guide book to Bs As from the 1920s, which has a photo of this tree already an impressive size. There a several of them in town and they have to be seen to be believed:

Palm trees in the Plaza de Mayo. If they could only talk.


It is two and a half weeks since that last post - makes it sound like a confession! The plumber is finally here with his lad and they have just removed the wall cabinet after struggling with it for almost an hour. They are currently hacking into the wall behind to locate the source of the leak and with any luck fix it.

Funny thing was, I did call him the day after the last post. It was late morning and at first all seemed fine, we had a nice conversation about our trips back to our respective homelands and he promised to call me and then come over on the Thursday as he would be very busy until then. I asked him about all the music he had been so looking forward to hearing in Bolivia and off he went, regaling me with stories of parties and endless nights of song and spicy food. He sounded stranger and stranger - under the influence at 11 on a Monday morning? Well, people do keep funny hours here, so it was not unreasonable for a chap who often has to work through the night to be unwinding twelve hours later than yer average. But it was bizarre. He is such a sweetie, very clean-cut, always professional and polite - it was an incongruous encounter. The final theme was what a great lady I am and it was hard to get him off the topic and indeed off the phone. In the end, I said, so you’ll call me to confirm when you can come over to look at the leak on Thursday? And with another slurred compliment or two, he agreed.

So, he never called and he never turned up. I guess he had forgotten the conversation. As if by magic, the trickle of water down the kitchen wall dried up and I let the matter drop.

Then last weekend, I noticed the rusty rivulet had reappeared on the tiles. Bugger! I also happened to be going upstairs for something and saw to my horror that that whole wall is soaked; clearly the leak had continued but for some strange reason had been temporarily out of sight. It could probably be explained by geography or physics. Maybe there is now an ox-bow lake in my wall!

So I called the plumber again and said I have this water running down the kitchen wall from behind the cabinet. He said “Oh, how dreadful, I will come and look as soon as I can, which I am afraid will be Thursday.” It was like having the same conversation all over again, only this time he was sober. He seemed completely unaware that we had already spoken so I can only surmise that he was indeed off his face first time round.

Anyway, back to his usual self, he appeared on the dot when he said he would and has knuckled straight down to the job. We have had a little chat about the lack of spicy food in this country and now I have left them to get on with it.

There, he has finished, put in new pipes, cemented the over the hole and put the wall unit back, for almost three hours work which I have payed him eighty pesos - a lot of money here but about £13 back home. I have people coming for lunch on Sunday, so I certainly hope it stays fixed.

I asked him to let me know when he is performing - I would love to go and hear him sing Bolivian folk songs. Must remember to follow that up.