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Putting in a good word
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Putting in a good word

All the tricky qualities of water and the resulting mayhem it can cause were right there in the Spanish plumber's phrase, "water's got no bones". He was right, by the way, the roof's still leaking six months later, writes columnist Peter Edgerton

Peter Edgerton / www.peteredgerton.com

Malaga

Friday, 5 July 2024, 15:30

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The Spanish language has a vast selection of idioms and phrases perfect for any occasion and Spanish people, in my experience, have an extraordinary knack of selecting the most apposite of these at just the right moment. It's not only idioms, though; single words are often plucked miraculously from the ether to shine a forensic light on any given situation.

A few months ago, I had a leaky roof and called in a local village handyman to take a look. He did some repair work and said he'd come back later with a hosepipe to test it. As he was leaving he shook his head ruefully.

"You don't look too optimistic, Tomás," I said.

"Es que el agua no tiene hueso, Peter." (It's just that water's got no bones, Peter.)

I think if I'd called in an engineer with a masters degree in leaky roofs he couldn't have explained the problem any better in a thesis of ninety pages. All the tricky qualities of water and the resulting mayhem it can cause were right there in that phrase, 'water's got no bones.' He was right, by the way, the roof's still leaking six months later.

A couple of week's ago I bumped into an old friend, Javier, who I hadn't seen for a couple of years since, like many others, he'd long ago moved quite some distance from Malaga in order to be able to live affordably. Javier had owned one of the most emblematic businesses in the city centre for more than twenty-five years. We chewed the fat for a while, lamenting the loss of so many humble bars, shops and restaurants and the unstoppable rise of national and international franchises. He stared wistfully into the middle distance for a few seconds before snapping himself from his reverie, smiling broadly.

"No pasa nada, Peter. Vivimos nosotros los años románticos en Málaga - y nadie nos puede quitar eso." (Not to worry, Peter. We lived the romantic years in Malaga - and nobody can take that away from us.)

That was it, the word I'd been looking for such a long time to describe that era in the city - 'romantic', 'the romantic years'. That's exactly what they were, in the broadest sense of the word and Javier had cherry-picked le mot juste out of nowhere.

These, then, are just two examples of something that I encounter around here on an almost daily basis - a local population that has mastered the art of simple eloquence.

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