January 07, 2007

One move behind

I am in serious need of a game of chess. I have not played competitively for six months: not proper chess at proper time limits, with time to think (unlike the lightning chess that's popular here) and without access to computers (unlike the email chess to which I have resorted). I last played in the international tournament in Benasque, in July. It was a very Spanish experience. The tournament, in a small Pyrenean town very close to the French border, could not be entered in advance. One could put one's name down, which I did, but the instructions to competitors - the very long and detailed instructions to competitors - were clear. Payment had to be made on the day that the tournament began, and if that payment were not made, one's entry would not be accepted.

So I made sure I was in Benasque nice and early, my place booked at the campsite, the tournament office - next to the tourist office - safely located. With a safe couple of hours to go before the games began at four o'clock, I went to the office with the forty Euros that I needed.

The office was closed. There was no notice saying when it might reopen. Perhaps they were still on their siesta, which custom still persists in Alto Aragón? Perhaps. I went back half-an-hour later - and half-an-hour after that. The office remained closed. I went next door to the tourist office, but they could not help. I went, twice, to the tournament hall just down the road, but it was locked, save for the bar, and nobody from the tournament was there.

I was in a panic, but there was nothing I could do. So I went down to the hall again, not long before four o'clock, ready to plead my case. I need not have worried. It transpired that it really didn't matter after all. As long as you paid within a couple of days, nobody would complain. And everybody except me, apparently, knew this to be the case.

I paid, anyway, before the start, out of Protestant principle. While I was paying, I put my cycle helmet down, on the tournament controller's table. The controller informed me that the helmet should not, during play, be put on the tables where games were taking place. It was not during play. Nor was it on a table where games would be taking place.

It was classic Spain, although I didn't, at that time, realise it:
1. All the rules must be written down at as great a length as possible.
2. Once this has been done, they may be completely disregarded.
3. This applies to all the rules except the most trivial. Which will be insisted on even if they don't apply.
4. The office is closed. Unless it is the wrong office.
5. Everybody knows what is happening except you.
6. Nobody will ever tell you anything.
Classic Spain: my quintessential Spain story, I think. Although, it being Sunday today, I am reminded that one can buy the local paper, Diario del AltoAragón, which on a Sunday has a television supplement, a listings magazine, telling you what's on all the channels for the week. The listings start on a Saturday. The Saturday already gone.


At January 09, 2007 2:12 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hola holita

I enjoyed your classic spain theory. I think perhaps you could add as point no. 7: No event will ever, I repeat, ever start on time...


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