The Bike Mechanic went out for a test ride on one of his latest acquisitions.

Down the street he met Spanish Bike Man. We don’t know his name (it will be Juan or Pepe or possibly Miguel or Rafa), so Spanish Bike Man serves the purpose. He rides a bike – but for transport from A to B rather than sport.

Much hand-shaking and back-slapping in the street, as you do with hombres. It’s so macho here, the men can never keep their hands off each other.

Anyway, SBM admires the latest acquisition and asked if it was one of the rescued bikes that had been chucked out recently.

“Yes”, says Bike Mechanic proudly.

“You could get 50€ for that you know”, says SBM somewhat sadly and then launched into his story of having to spend more than 300€ on a new bike.

And why? Because he doesn’t have the tools (ie spanners and stuff) or the knowledge to mend bikes. Punctures yes, but much more than that no.

So then these two men of the world had a discussion about education in Spain and England. Or perhaps Andalucía and England would be more accurate. SBM said he just hadn’t received a good enough education to be able to restore bikes – and read manuals. This guy is not poor, he lives in a nice house on the beach front (hey, we can’t afford that), doesn’t work much that we can see, isn’t supported by the state, he’s always smart, and civil, so he is not some no-hoper.

Basically some years ago, people didn’t go to school round here.

My next door neighbours are in their late 70s. José can read (slowly) and write but his wife can’t. She was out in the fields picking beans when she should have been at school. José’s parents paid a couple of pesetas for a travelling school teacher to come and give him lessons. I joke not. So he slowly reads out the news from the local paper to Adelina. I could read it faster in my crud Spanish.

These people are not my grandparents’ age, they are a similar age to my parents. My grandparents could read and write and so could the only great-great-relly that I can remember. Great-great-aunt Ellen was one of those Victorian images who sat straight up in a chair and glared at all little girls. But she could read and write.

It’s not just the oldies that need to sign for their money in the bank with a thumb print. You find women in their mid-to-late 40s or early 50s unable to read too.

Spain still has one of the poorer education records in Europe. And here in Andalucía, the kids and their families pay lip-service to school attendance, but really, young José or Manolito or Juane is going to go straight into the fields, goat-herding or building firm just like his dad. All he really needs to learn is to count beans/goats/bricks – and take the money. They usually manage that one OK. And all Maria or Ana needs to do is get married…….

2 comments on “Illiteracy

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