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Spanish Secrets: Just Scratching The Surface

…Bird cages, door handles, locks, hammers, garden furniture, pizza makers, bullets, fishing tackle, boots, tents, big nails, little nails, medium sized nails, buckets, brushes, coat-hangers, draught insulation, every item imaginable; well almost… Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie go shopping at a Galician ferreteria.

The remoteness of rural Galicia provides us with many unusual and quirky retail establishments. One of my favourites is the ferreteria. Not, as the name might suggest, a place to buy ferrets from, but a hardware store. These dark, cold, and often dusty places are an Aladdin’s cave of almost every conceivable item known to man. From adhesives to Zimmer frames and everything in between, the ferreteria has the lot.

Retailers such as these were once quite common in England, long before the days of DIY and trashy TV programmes promoting the benefits of installing mock-Tudor beams in one’s post-war semi.

My first encounter with such an emporium was as a young boy on a family holiday in Devon. I was probably no older than five. My mind’s image is of a quaint little village in the Devonshire countryside. The double fronted hardware shop was located on the main street.

Strewn over the pavement in front of it, in a disorganised and chaotic state, were all manner of items. The chaos inside the shop seemed worse than the pavement outside.

The ferreterias here are pretty much the same. Bird cages, door handles, locks, hammers, garden furniture, pizza makers, bullets, fishing tackle, boots, tents, big nails, little nails, medium sized nails, buckets, brushes, coat-hangers, draught insulation, every item imaginable; well almost.

“Do you have a scarifier”? I asked.

A blank expression and a momentary pause was followed by, “Que”?

An explanation proved difficult. “It’s a type of rake, for the lawn,’’

A procession of garden tools was brought from the storeroom for my perusal. These included a pitchfork; leaf rakes, and even a hand drawn plough, but not a scarifier. To local people the idea of a lawn, an area of ornamental grass, seems ridiculous.

Imagine, if you can, walking down the street where you live in England in mid November and seeing slaughtered pigs hanging in your neighbour’s front gardens. This image would be as bizarre to you as a lawn is to our neighbours. In this remote area of Northern Spain, land is for growing crops on. These crops either feed your family, or your livestock.

Our search for a scarifier eventually took us to Santiago. Avoiding the toll road it’s a round trip of over three hours. Located there is a big DIY warehouse. Unlike our local shops this is bright and airy retail premise. Neatly merchandised goods are tidily stacked on modern shelving and categorised in orderly departments.

The temptation to buy in such an environment is quite overwhelming. There’s no need to search dictionaries for explanations, or prepare useful sentences. It’s simply a case of picking your desired items off the shelf and placing them into ones trolley. We quickly located a scarifier, they even had a choice of two.

Let’s hope scarifying the lawn turns out to be a bit easier than buy the equipment.

email address
craigandmel@msn.com

Copyright © 2006 Craig Briggs


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