Sunday, April 23, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 23.4.17

I'm off to Oporto early this morning, to start a week long camino on the Portuguese Way, up to the border with Spain. My young guest - Jack - has solved a problem for me by volunteering this summary of why he loves to come to Spain. Apart from the free accommodation that is. He used to come with my younger daughter, who was a teacher colleague a few years ago, but now has the chutzpah to come alone:-

Things I like about Spain
  1. Toilets in stations are free to access
  2. It's acceptable to drink wine at 11.30am and not be labelled a drunk
  3. Free tapas/pinxos with drinks
  4. The Guapas (Beautiful women)
  5. The cleanliness
  6. A little Spanish goes a long way
  7. Once you're introduced it's like you have a new friend for life
  8. Jamón in its many forms and qualities
  9. The Spanish love of the elderly and how many elderly people join their families in the evening
  10. How conversations in Spanish sound like arguments but can actually be quite polite in tone
  11. The colourful shirts
  12. "16-60s". (Faye Davies will know what I mean!)
  13. Late opening times
  14. How 10.30am is considered early morning
  15. The level of noise which is considered acceptable
  16. How people wear up to 3 layers of clothes even though it's 28 degrees
  17. How relaxed things are
  18. The scenic views
  19. The quality of wine (even a cheap one tastes good)
  20. Plans change; people get on with it.
Me: I don't have any problem with these, except perhaps no. 15. But it has to be said that Jack confided in me this afternoon that, although he loved to visit, he very much doubted he could work here. I sympathised.

Finally . . . Today's cartoon

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 22.4.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.

More on high-level corruption, I'm afraid. You'll notice that the state prosecutors are trying to stop the actions against the PP politicians. One wonders why. But it could be that they were appointed by the PP party.

And then there's the minor case of the mayor of a local Galician town who's being prosecuted for taking with him, when he left office 6 years ago, not just a few paper clips and pencils but 18 mobile phones.

And the King of the Orchestras here in Galicia who's being asked by the tax office to account for €46 million which they believe passed through his hands in cash but was not taxed. In other words, the vast proportion of his income derived from providing music for the concerts of our many, many fiestas. One wonders where the cash flowed to and why it wasn't noticed by the banks and the tax authorities, who work hand-in-hand to check deposits and transfers of over €2,000. In theory, at least.

Here's news of another of those bizarre suits started by someone in Spain who feels insulted. This time by the picture of a drunken Pope on a poster advertising a fiesta in La Coruña. The action was initiated by the Association of Widows of Lugo. Doubtless a fine group of women in other respects but very probably all good Catholic ladies who are easily affronted on behalf of their Church. A dying breed here in Spain. Thank God.

Yet another Galician octogenarian has died below his tractor, something which seems to happen at least once a month.

Here in Pontevedra there used to be 4 tourist offices, all competing with each other - Galicia as a whole; The Rias Baixas; Pontevedra Province; and Pontevedra city. After many years of this nonsensical localism, two of these have finally fused. Not so with our 3 uncompetitive 'international' airports, which continue to compete with each other via local grants and subsidies (i. e. bribes to the airlines) to the detriment of the region as a whole. Meanwhile, the facility in nearby Oporto in North Portugal continues to grow by cornering most of the international market. And, in the process, cheekily advertising itself as The airport for all Galicia.

So, it's impossible not to at least smile when reading of the Galician president publicly begging our friends in North Portugal to indulge only in 'fair competition' (competencia loyal) with our local businesses. As if. A not unreasonable response might be:- Cultivate your own garden. Anyway, right on cue comes this cartoon from Lenox of Business Over Tapas:-

Postmen protesting against unfair competition from Google

Finally . . . A Galician dish that tastes a lot better than it looks - Cuttlefish in its own ink:-

Todays' cartoon:- Apologies if it's a repeat. I lose track . . . .

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 21.4.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.

First the good news . . . .

  1. Here's how to emulate the Spanish so that you can reach 100.
  2. Here's how the Spanish energy companies are being dragged into the 21st century. (And then boasting of it with full-page ads in the local media).
And here's the bad news: The latest example of brazen corruption on a huge scale by a leading Spanish politician. As El País puts it: A recovering economy, a weak opposition and an unstable international scenario should all have provided a good opportunity for President Rajoy to present himself as a solid political reference point. Instead, a resurgence of corruption cases is ruining that opportunity. But no doubt things will improve for him after he's testified in the trial I mentioned yesterday . . . 

I'm doing a camino down in Portugal next week. Yesterday, one of the hotels I'm using sent me this helpful message: Good morning. Tankful for the reserve. Will do all that i an. Do you need anythin else? Dinner? Breakfast?Transport? Tank you. Still on the subject of bad English, I had occasion last night to visit the web page of a new "British School" in Vigo. Here's the heading from one of its sections:- Parent's School is in session. One hopes that the place is doing rather better than when this was first written. Or that they have sacked the teacher of English.

Nutter' Corner: There's a prize for the first reader to translate this paragraph into English. It's from the website of a US Catholic TV network and it relates, I think, to the danger to Catholics posed by the practice of yoga: Many Christians who are former practitioners of yoga argue that it is not possible to separate yoga from its religious origins, that the dangers of the occult remain, especially by efforts to manipulate internal forces in order to achieve a particular physical state. That, while natural causation is claimed, in fact achieving the result depends on the existence of the very forces which the non-Christian philosophy teaches. Separating the philosophy from the posture makes possible the posture’s Christian use, but removes any value of it over any other physical posture. On the other hand, retaining the posture and seeking its purpose necessarily adopts a non-Christian worldview, opening the individual to spiritual forces, as opposed to simply material ones, who are opposed to their salvation.

Talking about religion . . . If you're a theist and wonder how we atheists can manage to enjoy life without a 'sense of purpose', this video clip is for you.

Local News:-

  1. Reader Maria, I think, recently wrote about the history of olives here in Galicia. And I recalled that Vigo is known as the City of Olives. If you want to know why, there's a brief account at the end of this post. Well, two actually.
  2. I've been known to accuse Galicians of putting paprika (pimentón) in just about everything. Well, yesterday, my visitor Jack provided me with this evidence of a chocolate bar containing the stuff.

Finally . . . . 
  • Very Local News 1: Since I came here more than 16 years ago, I've regularly had to struggle to get up to my house past the inconsiderate parents who block the road by double and triple parking so their precious kids don't have to walk more than 20 metres. But, blow me, a local cop appeared on the scene this week and the parked cars stretched up and down the hill for several hundred metres. And then I read in the local paper that, not before time, the local council had decided to do something about this twice-daily nuisance outside all local schools. Well, the private ones anyway. All strength to their ordinances.
  • Very Local News 2: It seems that Renfe's web page has difficulty only with Pontevedra as the station of origin. If I mis-type the name and enter Pom, it automatically gives me Pombal and allows me to then enter Santiago as the destination. Weird.
Today's cartoon, on a topical issue:-

First t

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 20.4.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.

Starting off rather negatively - if you've glossed over the above quote  . . . . The Spanish cartoonist, Forges (Antonio Fraguas), has gone into print with a devastating attack on 'Spain's mediocrity'. You can read it in English at the end of this post. Sadly, it's all pretty accurate. In my humble estimation. My thanks to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for alerting me to this article this morning.

So . . . What is wrong with these 2 sentences, as least for speakers of British English?:-
  • Local paper: Three times canoeing world champion Óscar Graña has saved a woman from drowning in the river Lérez in Pontevedra (Galicia) – for the second time.
  • National UK paper: And even if the timeline fit, it would be difficult for MPs to select and coalesce around a single candidate in such a short space of time.

Talking of bad English . . .  I discovered last night that a Spanish site from which I'd been printing out info in respect of a September camino also had an English version. I was a bit miffed with myself for not noticing this until I'd finished but then I read this sentence about a church in Pontevedra and decided I'd unwittingly done the right thing: Latin plant and pointed style. So, not translated by a native speaker. As ever.

In a surprise move - and one totally resisted by the Spain's most senior legal officers - the President, Sr Rajoy, has been called to testify in the biggest corruption case currently going through the courts. See here on this. should be interesting. Or, more likely, not as he's likely to duck all the questions. As he has done for years.

The latest example of Spanglish: El overbooking.

Here's my final extracts from the second volume of Arturo Barea's The Forging of a Rebel. By this time he's living in the  Madrid of the mid 1920s:-
  • Sanchez came from a wealthy, middle-class family. His parents had given him a solid education; he had studied for a commercial career, at a time when such studies seemed a novel and preposterous thing to do in Spain.
  • [The comment of Barea's boss when Barea resisted the pressure on him to marry his daughter, responding to Barea's question about how his daughter felt about marrying him]. The girl does what I want her to do. And, anyway, women don't know which men they like or not, so long as they haven't been to bed with their first.
  • [The comments of his father-in-law about the state of the marriage with his daughter] I want to speak seriously with you. You've got a lot of modern ideas in your head and want to change the world. But now look here. A woman is either married, and in that case she has got to keep the house clean and feed the kids, or else she's a bitch and a street-walker. So don't set your mind on something different. The man must support his home and children, that's his business. And if you've got an itch to amuse yourself . . . well, you go and find a woman somewhere, amuse yourself without a scandal, and that's all there is to it. If you go on as you are, it will come to a bad end.
  • [Barea's response] All right. But I think only a fool would marry just to have a woman in his bed. What I want is that my wife should be my best friend, besides being my bedfellow.
  • [The father-in-law's reaction] Pooh, that's just romantic nonsense. Look, a man marries to have a home of his own and a woman to nurse him when he's ill and to look after his children. And everything else is just modern claptrap.
  • [Barea] But if one's wife differs only from other women only by the colour of her hair, the cut of her face, and the shape of her body, she becomes one among the many women who are attractive to the man, with the disadvantage of being close to hand day and night and having her attraction submitted to the relentless test of proximity without tenderness.
  • [Advice to Barea from an old male friend] The problem is complicated in detail but simple in its general outline. You see, in Spain boys and girls grow up in two separate water-tight compartments. The boy is told he mustn't go near the girls or play with them, and if he does it all the same, he's called a cissy. The girls are taught that boys are beastly and brutal, and a girl who likes playing with them is not a 'little woman' but a tomboy, which is considered something very bad. Later, the school teachers get busy teaching the boys that Woman is a vessel of impurity and teaching girls that Man is the incarnation of the Evil Spirit, created only for the perdition of women. So the boys form their masculine society, and when sex awakens, the young man goes to the brothel to learn about it and the young woman sits and waits until one of the men who come glutted from the brothels invites her to go to bed with him. Then some agree to do it through matrimony and others without it, and the first become so-called decent women and the others whores. How do you expect real, complete marriages to grow from that? And will you adapt yourself to your wife or do you rather think she should adapt herself to you.? But, apart from your case, they can't do it because the whole weight of the society of their own sex is against them.

Thank-God things have changed and all that is a thing of the past . . . 

Finally . . . . Yesterday's comment of my guest, Jack, about the poor range of products in the one grocer's he went into doesn't chime with my experience. I disassociate myself from it totally. And with Jack, in fact.

Today's cartoon:-


The Triumph of the Mediocre

"Those who know me know my beliefs and ideals. Beyond these, I think the time has come to be honest. It is, above all, necessary to undertake a deep and sincere exercise of self-criticism, taking seriousness as our motto.

We have to assume that our problems will be not be solved by changing from one party to another, via another battery of urgent measures, via a general strike, or by leaping into the street to protest against each other. Perhaps the time has come to accept that our crisis is more than economic, goes beyond these or those politicians, or the greed of the bankers, or the risk premium.

We have to recognise that Spain's main problem is not Greece, the euro or Mrs Merkel.

We have to admit that we have become a mediocre country and to try to correct this.

No country achieves such a condition overnight. Or in three or four years. It is the result of a chain tha starts in school and ends in the ruling class.

We have created a culture in which the mediocre students are the most popular in the school, the first to be promoted in the office, the most heard in the media and the only ones we vote for in our elections, no matter what they do - people whose political or professional careers we do not know fully know about - if indeed they have one – merely because they are ours.

We are so accustomed to our mediocrity that we have come to accept it as the natural state of things. The exceptions, almost always confined to sport, serve to deny the evidence.

- Mediocre is the country where its inhabitants spend an average of 134 minutes a day in front of a television that shows mainly garbage.

- Mediocre is the country which since the start of democracy has not produced a single president who spoke English or had even a minimal knowledge of international politics.

- Mediocre is the only country in the world that, in its rancid sectarianism, has managed to divide even the associations of victims of terrorism.

- Mediocre is the country which has reformed its educational system three times in three decades to end up with its students at the tail of the developed world.

- Mediocre is the country which has two universities among the 10 oldest in Europe but does not have a single university among the 150 best in the world and which forces its best researchers to exile themselves in order to survive.

Mediocre is the country which has a quarter of its population unemployed, but which finds more reason to be indignant when the puppeteers of a neighbouring country joke about its athletes.

- Mediocre is the country where the brilliance of another causes suspicion, where creativity is marginalised - when not stolen with impunity - and where independence is punished.

- Mediocre is the country in which public institutions are headed b politicians who, in 48% of cases, never exercised their respective professions but found in politics the most relevant way of life.

- Mediocre is the country that has made mediocrity the great national aspiration, pursued without any shame by those thousands of young people who seek to occupy the next place in the Big Brother contest, by politicians who insult each other without promoting ideas, by bosses who surround themselves with mediocrity to hide their own mediocrity and by students who ridicule the hard-working colleagues,

- Mediocre is the country that has allowed, encouraged and celebrated the triumph of the mediocre, cornering excellence until it is left with two options: to leave or to be engulfed by the unstoppable gray tide of mediocrity.

- Mediocre is the country, which denies the existence of its mediocrity in order to shamelessly boast of its national education, and which needs the motivation of sporting successes. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 19.4.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.

I'm very short of time this morning - bloody visitor - so here's a series of unrelated citations:-

And now for something completely different. My visitor-cum-guest has just given me this, as a suggested Guest Blog. I am considering it:-

Morning dear readers! This entry is supplied by Professor Pedantry's English visitor, Jack. 

Galicia in the Spring is a slightly different being to what I've been treated to. Evenings drop colder quickly (expected), there are less [Ed. fewer!] people milling about and no fireworks (I usually come during fiesta week). 

Yesterday I took a walk around the newer part of the town on my own. Professor Pedantry was helping some potential new Pontevedrans look at houses, good chap that he is, so I took the opportunity to get lost (he had suggested I did something similar earlier in the day!) and explore. My experiences of Pontevedra have been dominated by the old town, by Castelao and flea markets so it was enjoyable to see everyday Spain. 

One thing I noticed were [Ed. was!] the number of elderly ladies and gentlemen, all well dressed in lots of colour. Lots of people taking it easy; even businessmen as they crossed the road almost nonchalant with the impending doom of a lorry hurtling down the road. 

I passed a confectioners that were advertising chocolate with pimentón. I remembered what my host had remarked once before, that Gallegos will use it in everything. When I did smoked mackerel pate last year we struggled to find a Spanish recipe without it. 

Speaking of food, I was surprised by the amount of packaged and processed food in a supermarket yesterday. I was also surprised about the lack of choice in a fruit & veg shop also. So many varieties of apples, many shining brightly under fluorescent light. A few oranges dotted about and a barrel of strawberries. Nothing else. 

A [new] deli has opened up in the town. It's good to see Spain embracing the continuing demand for fine foods. I was immediately greeted by jamón being sliced freshly and then vacuum packed; many types of bellotta jamón and one or two in black sacks and the infamous black nail suggesting the best of the best, pata negra. These pigs are fed purely on acorns throughout their whole life and this is reflected in the nutty taste. It's the jamón of the Spanish royal family and the price indicates this. 

And finally, yesterday we had the most wonderful lunch at a restaurant in the hills. San Blas is a fine meat restaurant built over a well and has a ramshackle country farmhouse feel. The speciality is ox meat[buey] served with kosher salt and then griddled on a plate at the table. Served with peppers and chips and a simple green salad, it was a joy to eat. Fantastic conversation with my host's American friend and his family and washed down with outstanding Rioja. It required an extra long siesta. Ahhh what a schlep this life is! 

A couple of Jack's fotos:-

Buey on the grill:-

My favourite, zamburiñas:-

Today's cartoon, on the food theme:-

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