Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 23.8.17

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

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • Shopping in a Carrefour hypermarket recently and standing at the head of the checkout queue, I was invited by a cashier to come to her desk before a number came up. Confused, I waited until the screen told me to go to another desk. Where I found myself behind a woman with a lot of items and a determination to argue about discounts she felt she was entitled to. After more than 5 minutes of this, I went to the desk of the first cashier, who smiled at me in recognition. I asked if she really had 'summoned' me and admitted I'd been confused. She laughed and said: "Well, people don't obey the system. They just go to whatever desk they think will be the next one free". I really should have known.
  • Talking of supermarkets . . .  I guess there's a certain logic to this bit of parking in my local Mercadona:-
  • My neighbours' teenage son had a birthday party in their garden last night. I knew, of course, because thumping techno(?) music disturbed me until midnight. When 7 youths went to sleep on the rear lawn. Or didn't. They woke me at 5.30, 6.45 and 7.15 with their non-stop, simultaneous, loud chat. And only stopped when my neighbour got up and made their breakfast. How I wish I could play very loud opera wherever each of them is sleeping it off today.
  • Returning from Vigo yesterday, I had 2 unattractive options:- 1. The exorbitant AP9 toll road, or the N550 which takes you through the city streets and subjects you to the slalom created by the dozens (yes, dozens) of double-parked cars which turn 3 lanes into just one and forces you to weave in and out. I took the latter and wasn't entirely convinced I'd done the right thing.
The US rapper B.o.B. posted this tweet in the context of Sunday's eclipse: A lot of people are turned off by the phrase 'flat earth'. But there's no way you can see all the evidence and not know . . . Grow up. It takes all sorts.

But he's got some competition for the Cretin of the Week prize: Here's Donald Trump's 'spiritual adviser', Paula White-Cain, commenting on the man: Whether people like him or not, he’s been raised up by God because God says that He raises up and places all people in places of authority. It is God that raises up a king, it is God that sets one down and so when you fight against the plan of God, you’re fighting against the hand of God.  Good to know. Somehow, I doubt she took the same view of President Obama.

And then there's the man himself: We’re going to have our wall. The American people voted for immigration control!, he shouted at a rally yesterday. Well, Mr President, as you lost the popular vote they clearly didn't. But I guess this is a ('false') fact lost on you. In truth, the turnout was a low 55% and Trump got 46% of this (against Clinton's 48%) – or 25% of the population. Not much of a mandate, some would say. Even if it's composed of those who can scream loudest.

Incidentally . . . one British political commentated has noted this morning that: Populist parties and administrations tend to collapse in chaos, as happened to Ukip and as is happening to the Trump administration. The claim to be the single voice of the people leads one populist to turn upon another. It often makes a comic spectacle. Well, up to a point. And we are certainly about to see Mr Bannon turn on Mr Trump. And that could be very amusing indeed.

I've mentioned the rapidly increasing number of camino 'pilgrims' passing through Pontevedra on the Portuguese Way and its recent variants. Some numbers:-
2007: 8,000
2013: 30,000
2017: 60,000 This is the revised estimate. The original was only 50,000.
2021: 100,000(est.)
See what I mean about the profit opportunity? Anyone got any joint-venture ideas?

Finally . . . Reader Sierra has kindly provided these on Bretoña's tourism aspirations:-
  • The comment that: The fact that the Bishop of Britonia lives in Poland (and retired two years ago) is probably not helpful!
  • Its map coordinates - 43 ° 20 '14.0 "N - 7 ° 19' 00.9" W, and
I do hope they appreciate our help in their endeavour . . . .

Today's cartoon:-

Another of my all-time favourites . . .

This is the life, eh?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 22.8.17

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

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • This is an informative article on the Islamist terrorists in Spain.
  • It was to be expected - but is still sad - that Cataluña's most fervent nationalists would make political capital out of the recent tragedy in Barcelona. The president there is reported to have gone so far as to distinguish, between 'Catalan' and 'Spanish' victims. But the cretin won't last long after the failed October referendum deprives him of any reason to stay in power.
Up in the north of Galicia, the town of Mondoñedo has decided to make itself a tourist target. I wish them luck but wonder if they'll be doing anything in respect of the nearby 6th century settlement of 'British' monks. In a place called - for obvious reasons - Bretoña (Eng. Britonia). When I went up to look for it a few years ago there was zilch trace of it. 

Last week's police action against owners of the boats taking folk to the Atlantic Islands appears to have had no effect. Which is why, I guess, the police on Sunday prevented 4 from unloading when they arrived and stopped another 4 from leaving Vigo. More than 2,000 ticket-payers were left without their planned trip. And unamused.

Since at least 2007, Galicia's exports have gone primarily to France, Portugal and Italy. The USA was 4th in 2007 but is now 10th , replaced by the UK, up from 6th. Germany, too, is up – from 7th to 5th. As is the Netherlands, from 8th to 6th. Belgium, Morocco and Mexico make up the top 10. The last-mentioned for the first time. Which is the stimulus behind the press report. A new market!

A Galician shellfish new to me - the peneira. Also known as La oreja del mar, the sea-ear. I wonder if it tastes better than the dreadful percebe.

I've confessed regularly to my confusion about Pontevedra's retail trade and wondered how much of it is related to the need for money-laundering outlets for local drug-smuggling activities. I mention this again because the shop below has, in the last 3 years been a sweet/candy shop and an expensive jeweller's. The latter closed down after only a year but the place has now re-opened - as a jeweller's:-

Finally  . . . .  Some trivia:-
  1. I wrote to a hotel in the south I'm staying at next week to ask if the room had AC. They replied that it didn't but the nights were cool. In contrast, sent me this message:- We're happy to let you know that the property has confirmed they can arrange this for you. There will be no extra charge for this request. I guess they'll be opening a window.
  2. I'm in Vigo this morning to have my car serviced. This is a large and – in contrast to Pontevedra – a very commercial city. But to say that it's bustling at 8.30 in the morning – or even 9 – would be something of an understatement.
  3. I bought a Rover car not long after I came to Spain. The Pontevedra agent closed down after a year or two. Then, 3 years ago, I bought a Honda. The agent closed down after only a month this time. Hence the nuisance of a trip to Vigo.
  4. A conversation with one of our numerous beggars yesterday; Him: You never give me anything. Me: Precisely. So why do you keep on asking me?
  5. This is a foto of Ladies Who Take a Tiffin at the bar next to mine. They are all, I estimate, in their 60s and seem to be trying to outdo each other as regards their outfits. And I'd guess that each of them spends a prince's ransom at the hairdresser's each week. I believe they're called locally PTVs - Pontevedresas por toda la vida. Which is not a compiment.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 21.8.17

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

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • The New York Times comments on the fight against Islamist terror in Spain here. Some pertinent points:-
  1. Spain has not seen the emergence of hard-line, anti-Muslim political movements as elsewhere in Europe.
  2. Around 200 Spanish residents are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the fighting there - a fraction of the hundreds who have gone from countries like Britain and France.
  3. But Spain cannot escape its symbolic attraction for Islamists that is rooted deep in its history.
  4. Like so many intelligence agencies in Europe, the Spanish are overwhelmed by the volume of potential terrorism plots they are trying to monitor, “They’re totally swamped with leads,” said a terrorist expert. “There is no way they can cover all their current open cases.” 
  • I was interested to read of the La Ruta Búlgara last week. This is one route favoured by Bulgarian drug traffickers bringing cocaine through Spain into Europe. Guess where they land it. And occasionally get arrested. Or at least their local associates do.
  • I recently posted a definition of fashion. I was reminded of it last week when reading that First Communion medals are now the thing for young women to sport in Spain. Either as pendants, brooches or earrings.
Over in the USA, a creationist called Ken Ham has built a (not terribly successful) full-size replica of the Ark and filled it with all the animals Moses and his family took into it. Including dinosaurs, of course. But, reading about the Dutch this last few days, I discovered that they beat him to this. It's in Dordrecht, by the North Sea coast. By the way, the English author of the book I'm reading wrote this sentence:- They paused just long enough for one of them to pronounce the place 'erg fucking cool' (very f**cking cool). Beats me.

Here in Galicia, the Tax Office (the Hacienda) continues to find new ways of generating revenue. Or, putting it another way, stopping widespread tax evasion. Their latest targets are illegal traders of tobbaco. Who may or may not be supplying the government-owned kiosks which sell tobbaco products here. And Stamps. Los estancos

Still on the Hacienda . . .  They've advised us that one of the tricks of the evasion trade is to declare a property a ruin and thus reduce or eliminate municipal taxes on it. Other oversights include not informing them of extensions to your house or of the installation of a pool in your garden. But now they have drones . . .

Very good news . . .  There's a to be a second bilarda pitch here in Galicia. If you're not familiar with this game/sport, this site will be of help to you.

Finally . . . In October 2013, I wrote something about Spanish brothels. Today, the page of that date was hit by a computer offering readers a choice of 6 brothels in Bangalore. With the emphasis on Bang, I guess. In case you miss the first list, the machine presents it twice more. So, just in case anyone is visiting the place and has unsatisfied needs:-
Independent Bangalore Escorts
Bangalore Escorts Service
Bangalore Escorts Agency
Escorts Service in Bangalore
Escorts in Bangalore
Bangalore Escorts

Today's Cartoon:-

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 20.8.17

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

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • Here's an article - via Eye on Spain - about the heating up on the South of Spain. Ten years ago it was forecast that around now Galicia would be as hot as Andalucia and that the latter would be the new North Africa. Well, not yet.
  • In the last few days, readers Eamon and Maria have posted informative and amusing Comments on energy bills and prices. Essentially no one has the faintest idea how the bills are arrived at, but Maria is pleasantly surprised that something has happened to bring her monthly bill down. Of course, she doesn't expect to get any previous overpayments returned to her. Or even explained. Wise woman.
The Japanese are said to have become much taller via the consumption of more red meat. I mention this because I read yesterday that the Dutch are the tallest people in at least Europe because land reclamation led to high-quality grass, expanded dairy farming and a much increased consumption of milk and cheese. I guess it could be true.

As tourism and terrorism increasingly grow hand-in-hand, here's the list of last year's most-visited cities. You might want to consider avoiding them in future.
1. Bangkok
2. London
3. Paris
4. Dubai
5. New York
6. Singapore
7. Kuala Lumpur
8. Istanbul
9. Tokyo
10. Seoul
11. Hong Kong
12. Barcelona
13. Amsterdam
14. Milan
15. Taipei
16. Rome
17. Osaka
18. Vienna
19. Shanghai
20. Prague

Nutter Bryan Fischer: On the upcoming eclipse: The sun will be perfectly blotted out, by the ruler of the night, plunging all of America in its path into virtual total darkness. This is a metaphor, or a sign, of the work of the Prince of Darkness in obscuring the light of God’s truth. Satan, and those who unwittingly serve as his accomplices by resisting the public acknowledgement of God and seeking to repress the expression of Christian faith in our land, are bringing on us a dark night of the national soul. A Trump supporter, of course.

Here's another sponsored article on Galicia, from The Guardian. Seems like a nice place, though I don't know any of the recommended hotels and restaurants. Except the Parador in Pontevedra. The last foto in the article is this one, showing the entrance and the garden terrace where I'm regularly ignored. Not that I let that get to me:-

The roundabout at the start of A Barca bridge into town featured twice in our local news this week. Firstly, some joker (called a gamberro: 'vandal/hooligan/lout' by the Diaro de Pontevedra) placed a sign at the start of it saying it was closed. Which, in true Spanish fashion, I ignored. Secondly, someone was finally hit and killed on one of the 2 zebra crossings which have often featured in this blog. Essentially each time I was almost hit. Occasionally twice by the same driver doing a U-turn at the roundabout. It had to happen.

Finally . . . Another bike-rider observation:-
  • When you come up behind a group of Spaniards walking in the dedicated bike lane, there's no way of knowing in which sideways direction they'll move when the eventually become aware of your presence. It pays to wait.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 19.8.17

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

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • One of the negatives of Spanish life is the non-availability of wines from elsewhere in the world. Something which I guess is a feature of both France and Italy also. Compare the vast range in any British supermarket or wine store. Things can be even worse at the regional level. I went to a vinoteca here in Pontevedra yesterday to try to get a bottle of chardonnay from La Rioja I'd read about. There was nothing but Galician wines there
  • Another negative - for foreigners at least - is the level of noise here. The 'acoustic pollution' for which Spain is famous. I was reminded of this when reading last week of the complaints of (Spanish!) neighbours of our local Casino (private club) after the annual Debutantes' Ball last Saturday. The - inevitably far-too-loud - music only stopped at 8am on Sunday morning. And the complaints came not just from people in my barrio on this side of the river but also from inhabitants of Pontevedra city across the river. Needless to say, the complaints were ignored. As they will be next year.
  • In Spain's latest census, 68% of people declared themselves Catholic, against only 17% for 'practising Catholic'. And this was defined as attending Mass at least once a month. Back in my Catholic days this would have meant you'd committed a 'mortal sin' on each of the other 3 Sundays. And were destined for hell. Things have certainly changed.
Talking of religion . . . Spain and Islamist terrorism: There's a very pertinent article at the end of this post, from a guy who seems to know what he's talking about.

The USA: Someone has written: It is hard to escape a feeling that many Republicans are starting to regret the Faustian pact which they struck with Trump to capture the White House and strengthen their grip on Congress. Can there ever have been a more predictable development? Even in the unpredictable world of politics.

The English: I've just finished re-reading Kate Fox's marvellous analysis of the ludicrous unwritten rules which govern English life - Watching the English. I will now ruin it for you by posting here the diagram she presents in her final chapter:-

Ms Fox's final step is to review the theories of why the English are like they are. But gives up, saying that no one really knows. So I won't hazard a guess. I was tempted to disagree with her claim (page 549) that the English dis-ease is treatable but not eradicable. I was convinced that, after living 25 years outside England, I'd shed many English traits. For example, discomfort with eye contact and the tactility of foreigners. But, in the end, I had to admit to myself that, even if I don't follow all the rules, I still instinctively react with internal horror if someone breaks one of them. In other words, it's not just a disease but also a curse!

Galicia:- A couple of recent articles from the New York Times and The Wine Magazine:-
Finally . . . I've been riding my bike the final mile into town for a week now. My observations include:-
  1. Spanish pedestrians don't object to cyclists in pedestrian areas. (Already known).
  2. Spanish pedestrians don't have much (if anything) by way of peripheral vision. (Already known).
  3. Spanish pedestrians will happily move out of your way once they finally become aware you are behind them.
  4. Astonishingly, some Spanish pedestrians will apologise for blocking your (sedate) progress.
  5. If you try to get up a steep slope and don't make it for the final few centimetres and come to a dead halt, the bike will be not be stable and will fall over. With you on it.
  6. Spanish pedestrians make excellent Samaritans, should you and your bike fall over. (Already known)

Enough of blaming the West. The terror will continue until Muslims reject the need for a caliphate   

Ed Husain: Senior fellow at Civitas, Institute for the Study of Civil Society, London; and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington

What did Spain do wrong? Why did Muslim radicals attack so many innocents? Those are the questions being asked across the West following Barcelona.

Many will resort to the self-flagellation of “change our foreign policy” or “we are to blame because of colonialism”. I wish it were so simple. I know the mindset of militant Muslims seeking to kill disbelievers in the name of a caliphate, because I called for the creation of such a caliphate for five years of my life. I recognise the ideology, theology and strategy behind the violence. There is no appeasing the fanatics.

Consider the facts on Spain: on March 11 2004, al-Qaeda terrorists killed 192 and injured 2,000 on trains in Madrid. Spain had 1,300 troops in Iraq at the time (America had 135,000 and Britain 8,700). Three days after the bombing, José Maria Aznar lost the general election to a Left-wing party committed to ending Spain’s involvement in Iraq. On April 18 2004, the new prime minister ordered the withdrawal of Spain’s troops. Scarred by the Madrid bombing, fearful of reprisals after the terrorist attacks in France, in November 2015 the Spanish government refused to join a global coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). So what did Spain do wrong?

We are asking the wrong questions. Spain’s foreign policy shows that we cannot stop terrorism by changing our behaviour. In the mind of the Muslim extremists, Spain is not Spain, but al Andalus, part of a Muslim empire that lasted in Spain for 700 years.

Today’s Spain is considered to be “occupied land” that must be liberated. The last Muslim ruler of Granada, Boabdil, who negotiated a peaceful end to his emirate in 1492, made a terrible mistake, argue the extremists. Spain must return to their version of Islam, for in that literalist reading of religious scripture, the world is divided into two realms: Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. And once a land is controlled by Dar al-Islam it must forever belong to that sphere. Terrorism is merely a tactic to support the aims of the caliphate.

In February this year, Isil warned that it would target Spain’s beaches and increase its propaganda material in Spanish. But Spain is not the only target. India was also part of their interpretation of Dar al-Islam because it was under the Moghuls until 1857 and must therefore return to the domain of the caliphate. Israel must be destroyed as the caliph must reclaim Jerusalem. Turkey’s Muslim reformer, Kemal Ataturk, ended the caliphate in 1924 and a secular Turkey must return to the fold. Charles Martel of France defeated the Umayyad caliph’s soldiers in the Battle of Tours in 732, and Austria held out against the Ottomans in the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Time and again, Isil refers to the West as “crusaders” and targets the Pope and Rome as eternal enemies of Islam.

They are prisoners of history, and this selective narrative of the past fuels their chosen grievances of the present. For them, the West is to blame for every dictator and injustice in the Middle East. They talk of the Sykes Picot agreement of 1916 as if it were yesterday. The dictatorships, tyrants and lack of prosperity in the Arab world fan the flames of anger. The prisons of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Algeria are full of Salafi jihadists who wished to overthrow their governments and create societies based on rule of hardline sharia. Between dictatorial tyranny and religious theocracy, where is the freedom for ordinary Arabs to reform their countries?

In addition, we have radicalised networks of extremist Muslim organisations reinforcing the worst elements of victimhood. They operate on the internet, but also in our universities, communities and prisons. Like the communists of the last century, they rail against capitalism, injustice, the West and dictators, and talk about the racism faced by French Muslims, or the Islamophobia encountered by British Muslims, while offering an ideological panacea: Muslims are weak and can only be strengthened by creating a powerful caliphate.

To strengthen Muslim identity against the West, they seek to divide and rule. They abuse religion to amplify differences, rather than unite based on common belief in one God, goodness, and faith.

The attack in Barcelona and the calls by Isil to attack beaches weren’t random: they hate the freedom of women to dress in bikinis. They attacked the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May because they despise men and women dancing freely to music. They attacked Charlie Hebdo because they refuse to allow for blasphemy. They target synagogues and kosher grocery stores across Europe because, like their neo-Nazi counterparts, they hate Jews.

But when I visit Turkey, I see Muslim women in bikinis on the beach beside women in headscarves. In Tunisia, Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the conservative Ennahda party, talks about the mosques being open, and also the bars and the beaches. In Morocco, I see Jewish communities honoured.

We have to be honest. Across the West we now have 30 million Muslims who are Westerners. There is no war against Islam. The freedom of Muslims to worship and live proves that the old, imperial paradigms of Isil’s Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam are outdated. Most Muslims are quietly thriving in business, politics, media, sports, and more. In Britain, Mishal Husain’s voice wakes us up on the Today programme. Nadiya Hussain of The Great British Bake Off prepares cake for the Queen. Mo Farah reinstates British sporting pride. The list goes on. But there is a dark, sinister movement growing, too.

Ten years ago, when I wrote my book The Islamist and warned against this ideology on the rise in our midst, many in the Muslim community dismissed me as an alarmist. Today, an actual caliphate exists and its soldiers are wreaking havoc.

Enough of blaming the West. Isil has attacked 30 different countries, and the vast majority of its victims in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere are Muslims. Isil and other extremists thrive on the justification that it is religiously obligatory to create a caliphate. Jihadists commit mass murder in the pursuit of, or defence of, this belief in a caliphate.

For too long we have been responding to their terror tactics, rather than uprooting their strategic objective. I learned through my own studies and long conversations with religious authorities that a caliphate is not a religious obligation. We can be perfectly Muslim without aiming to subjugate others to a theocracy.

Muslims must reject the idea that we need a caliphate. Unless we discard the drive for a Muslim super-state, many more will be killed in pursuit of it. Muslim organisations, governments, websites, political parties, religious leaders and educational institutions must roundly, unreservedly accept that we no longer need a caliphate. Remove that objective and the violence to justify it falls away. The West must take sides, too, in this battle of ideas among Muslims.

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