Saturday, April 10, 2021

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 10.4.21

 Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'

NOTE: For about 18 years, I've had a page on Galicia and Pontevedra at a site which is now defunct. I've got a new site, which is a work-in-progress. This has both my Galicia stuff and this blog. You can subscribe to the latter there.


The EU: Europe's stuttering vaccine rollout faces multiple hurdles as EU regulators review side effects of the Johnson & Johnson shot and France further limits its use of the AZ jab.

The UK

1. British would-be-holiday-makers look like being banned from going to both Spain and France this summer, leaving them with just Israel and, god forbid, Gibraltar. And maybe the Maldives and the Seychelles.

2. Meanwhile, back home . . The vaccines have worked better than anyone expected. British Covid deaths are now the lowest in Europe, having fallen faster than even in Israel. There are no more “excess deaths” – in fact, fewer people are dying now than normal. The data has for some time, been unremittingly positive. Several parts of the country have been virtually Covid-free for several weeks. The figure for herd immunity was initially 60% but other estimates go as high as 85%. As ever with Covid, no one is quite sure. But whatever the threshold is, Britain looks likely to hit it soon.

Italy: Deaths totalled 487 on Thursday and 718 yesterday.

France: Deaths per day there are 10 times more than the UK's 30.

Spain: The number is 149. Some of us senior citizens are still waiting for our first jab, most recently promised for this month. But the government insists it’ll achieve its target of 70% of the population having had 2-jabs by the end of August. Trouble is, no one here much believes the predictions of Spanish governments. And, on reflection, since nowt much happens here in July and August, the real target date is end June. Which is surely totally impossible, given the 3 month gap between the jabs.

Did someone question AEP's dire forecasts of the consequences of vaccine-approval delays?

Cosas de España/Galiza

The Spanish economy is improving but politics are getting worse, it says here.

Can anyone tell me what the logic of this development is?

The Galician chap arrested this week in Cataluña - after he'd fled into Spain pursued by French cops - was found to have the 2-3 week old corpse of his wife in the passenger seat. On her way to her burial in Switzerland. Or so he says.

Nearer home . . .  A resident of nearby Vilagarcia was fined this week for washing his car in the street at 1am. This is an offence in Spain and so I imagine he was done twice, the second being for disobeying the 10pm curfew.

María's Level Ground: Day 6.

The UK

It seems nothing happened there yesterday other than the death of some poor, 'rootless' Greek guy after a long innings as somebody's husband.

Talking of royalty . . . A poll this week revealed that more than half of Britons would prefer Prince Charles to not become king — wanting, instead, the crown to skip him and go directly to Prince William. So it looks like Prince Charles is suffering from . . . heir-loss. But the stats differ for those aged 18 to 25. In that demographic, the majority want the crown to skip Prince Charles and Prince William and go to Prince Harry instead. So, it looks as if Prince William has, once again, inherited his heir-loss from his father.  . . . .The estimable Caitlin Moran.

The UK and Brexit 

RN Yesterday: As with the “completion” of the Single Market in 1992, there will be winners and losers from the Brexit process and the national media will tend to focus on the losers – when it can actually be bothered to report. Brexit stories are rapidly becoming an endangered species. A major exception is Northern Ireland, where a number of commentators pin the blame on Johnson for his clumsy Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish Protocol.


Moscow is amassing elite troops and war material on its border with Ukraine and many expect a Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea type development. Against which the West is expected to deploy just words and, in Germany's case, to continue with plans for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Work on this is currently suspended because of the poisoning of Mr Navalny last year and the imposition of US sanctions against companies involved.


Social media

A hardline view? Criminal sanctions on social media companies are long overdue.


Finally  . . . 

Driving down to the Mercadona supermarket at 8.55 this morning, I took a short cut down a narrow lane, alongside one of our 2 gypsy settlements. As ever, I locked the car doors. And then wondered if, in these woke times, this isn’t racist. Or just wise. Or both. Take your pick,

Interesting - and surprising - to note that the carpark was virtually empty at 9.05 but full at 9.45. 

Mercadona have super new biodegradable plastic bags. But a single knot seems inadequate to close them. Explaining why a lemon and a mango ended up on on the store floor. And broccoli on my kitchen floor.

By the way, if Mercadona really are trying to reduce plastic, why can I no longer buy a single lime but have to buy 4 in a plastic box?

Friday, April 09, 2021

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 9.4.21

 Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'


NOTE: For about 18 years, I've had a page on Galicia and Pontevedra at www.colindavies.net but I haven't revised it or added to it for several years and it's now defunct. I've got a new site - www.thoughtsfromgalicia.com - where I'll be adding stuff as and when I can, And when I've worked out exactly how Wordpress works. If you go there now, you'll find a work-in-progress. And also this blog in exactly the same format as here. Except it automatically give more detailD of cited sites which use Wordpress.


The UK: A Year of Fear Has the government achieved widespread conformity with restrictions on liberty through the unethical use of covert psychological strategies — “nudges” — in their messaging campaign? . . . The covert psychological strategies incorporated into the state’s coronavirus information campaign have achieved their aims of inducing a majority of the population to obey the draconian public health restrictions and accept vaccination. The nature of the tactics deployed — with their subconscious modes of action and the emotional discomfort generated — do, however, raise some pressing concerns about the legitimacy of using these kinds of psychological techniques for this purpose. The government, and its expert advisors, are operating in morally murky waters. Click here for more on this

Personally, I'm getting tired of people telling me - in the open air even - that my mask has slipped a fraction below the tip of my nose.


Cosas de España/Galiza

A reader has has reminded me that Spain's birth rate is so low as to be insufficient to even maintain the population, never mind increase it. Thus, he/she/ze writes in respect of the 7m increase in population since 2000: All 7m are foreigners. [The alleged Spanish births of 1.5m] are the children of those migrants who've already acquired a Spanish passport. Had it not been for immigration, Spain's population would now be lower by at least a million, at 39 million or so. 

Guy Hedgecoe is an estimable British journalist, writing from near Madrid on Matters Spanish. He sort of went off my radar after the demise of the Spanish news website Iberosphere but I’ve been catching up via his blog page. Here are posts on subjects I cover from time to time, albeit more briefly . . .


May 2017: Corruption: Why so much here?

July 2018: The effusive Mr Rhodes

Feb 2019: The Real Spain. A personal view

April: 2019: The Editor. Ex, that is. Of El Mundo.

Feb 2018: The Spanish 'Brother-in-Law' Part 1

June 2019: The Brother-in-Law Part 2

Jan 2020: The dreadful facheleco garment

April 2020: The blame game Appalling Spanish politics

Oct 2020: After the second wave, how about a second Transition? The need for constitutional reform.

Jan 2021: A Resolution

María's Level Ground: Days 4 & 5. Also on 'political slime' 


The EU

For those interested . . . At the end of this post, there's a list of EU benefits provided by reader sp but drawn up by someone else. Below that are my comments on it.

The Way of the World

Novelist Philip Roth was right about our online witch-hunts as he foresaw the modern mania for denouncing anyone who doesn’t conform to the new puritanism. As we moved away from censorship - he said - we gravitated towards censoriousness. A nice line. Click here for more on this.


An interesting site

Less informative but more amusing . . .

Finally  . . .  En Cataluña fue detenido un emigrante gallego que circulaba en dirección contraria y con un cadáver en el asiento.


What has the EU ever done for us?  

Shock horror - EU membership costs £9 billion a year. But that's 34p per person per day (1% of Government budget) and in return we get a mind-blowing amount of goodness back:-

- Longest unbroken period of peace between European nations in history

- Free trade deals with over 70 countries

- Just in time manufacturing that supports millions of jobs, thanks to no customs checks or complex procedures

- Scientific and academic collaboration

- Support for the Good Friday Agreement & active promotion of the Irish peace process

- Shared space exploration

- Participation in the Galileo GPS satellite cluster

- Driving licenses valid all over the EU

- Car insurance valid all over the EU

- Pet passports to make travel with pets simple

- Simplified fixed compensation scheme for flight delays & cancellations

- European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

- Mobile roaming (calls, texts and data) at home prices

- Portable streaming services (can watch Netflix etc. all over the EU)

- Erasmus student exchange programme

- Simplified VAT reverse charge mechanism for those selling across the EU

- Safer food

- Clean beaches

- Enhanced consumer protection, including for cross-border shopping

- Horizon 2020 (funding and assistance for over 10,000 collaborative research projects in the UK as part of the world's largest multinational research programme.)

- Courses for the unemployed funded by the European Social Fund

- Disaster relief funding e.g. the 60 million euro we received for flood relief in 2017

- Free movement for musicians and their instruments, bands and their equipment, artists and their materials etc.

- Enhanced environmental protections

- Court of last resort (ECJ)

- REACH regulations & EU Chemicals Agency, improving human, animal and environmental safety around chemicals

- Pan-EU medicine testing and licensing

- Security cooperation and sharing of crime/terrorist databases

- European arrest warrant

- EURATOM for medical isotopes

- Support for rural areas

- Better food labelling

- EU funding for the British film industry, theatre and music

- European Capital of Culture programme, which has boosted cities such as Glasgow and Liverpool

- Service providers (e.g. freelance translators) can offer their services to clients all over the EU

- No UK VAT or duty on imports from the EU (great for online shopping)

- EU citizenship (it's a thing - look it up!)

- Cross-border collaboration on taxes, e.g. to hold huge firms like Amazon and Facebook to account more than we otherwise could

- Venture capital funding

- Legal protection for minority languages such as Welsh

- Mutual recognition of academic qualifications

- No credit and debit card surcharges

- EU structural funding (over £2 billion to Liverpool alone) with matched private funding requirement

- Supporting and encouraging democracy in post-communist countries

- A bigger presence on the world stage as a key part of the largest trade block in the world

- Use of EU queues at ports and airports

- Products made or grown in the UK can be sold in 31 countries without type approval, customs duties, phytosanitary certificates etc.

- Protection from GM food and chlorinated chicken

- Objective 1 funding for deprived areas and regions

- Financial services passport, enabling firms in the City to service the whole EU market

- Strong intellectual property protections

- Mutual recognition of professional qualifications

- Consular protection from any EU embassy outside the EU

- Minimum baseline of worker protections (which we can always improve on)

- Enhanced medical research prospects

- A friend to cosy up to against the might of the USA and China

After all that, do you *really* still begrudge 34p per day? If so, what's wrong with you?


One overview I have is that the author is too young to have known what things were like pre-1973 and seems to assume that nothing can be done in cooperation with Europe unless one is a member of the EU.

Putting that aside, another general comment is that it would be instructive for the author - or sp - to divide the list into Essentials and Nice to Have, something done in business, to determine priorities and to provide perspective.

As to specifics . . .  I've said before that I don't subscribe to the major argument that the EU has saved Europe from war. Possibly one in which a (yet again) resurgent Germany invaded Belgium and tried to get back Alsace and Lorraine. Not to mention Prussia. It may well be, as sp says, that the founders of the EU forerunners had this as a motivation and aim - who the hell could blame them so soon after WW2? - but this is not a persuasive argument for events since then. Not for me, anyway. As the Romans put it - Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

A second way to divide the list would be:-

1. Those things lost to the UK which would have been retained if the UK had gone for an EFTA/ EEA model.

2. Those things lost to the UK which would have been retained if the UK had gone for Richard North's Flexcit, involving a gradual - and cooperative - exit over several years.

3. Those things lost to the UK because of Johnson's very poor and dishonest Brexit deal. These, of course, cover everything in the list above.

The purpose of this would to be show - admittedly academically - that it's not Brexit per se which has led to the current situation but the dreadful deal struck by the UK and the EU. It didn't really need to be this way.

The bottom line is that, with a bad deal done, no one really knows whether or not it'll prove beneficial to the UK in the longer run, whatever the near term hit on the economy (and my pension) turns out to be. As it is, Covid had considerably clouded the issue in the very near term, meaning that Boris Johnson is very much more lucky than competent. And that's something which surely must change. Possibly even before the next general election.

But, yes, some things have certainly been lost. For example the life enjoyed by Brits who lived here in Spain below the horizon and didn't seek residence and pay their Spanish taxes. As I've said, I find it difficult to feel sympathy for these folk. Likewise those who didn't live here for more than 60 days and rented out their property - tax-free - for much/most of the year. They've lost what they were never entitled to, it might be said. And they should have seen it coming and put their affairs in order before the deadline.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 8.4.21

 Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'

My thanks to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for a couple of today's items. 


Spain: The government says it won't extend the State of Alarm after its expiry on May 9. So, national mobility restrictions - such as curfew or perimeter closures - would no longer exist and it will be for the 19 regional governments to decide on these

The UK: This a hard-hitting (and long) interview - of October last year - with an expert who doesn’t pull his punches in accusing a UK leading scientist  of being either a liar or negligent. He also rejects the prospect of a 2nd wave, dismisses government models, claims that 30% of the population had immunity from the start, that herd immunity had been reached in at least London by last October, that wide-scale testing is useless as misleading, and that the pandemic was already over by summer last year. The vaccine, he claims, is pointless for anyone  who isn’t old and at risk. 

I’m not qualified to asses these claims, so would like to see some other expert’s counterpoints. Meanwhile, it’s of huge concern that - what with the UK government giving everyone 2 free (dubious) lateral flow tests per week - it really does look like it’s bent on continuing the current assault on our humanity indefinitely. Or at least for well into this year. I’m pretty sure we’ll all be compelled to wear masks and distance ourselves next winter. To stop us dying from flu, if not Covid. Wouldn’t you want to enforce this if you were being criticised for running an under-resourced national health service?

For me - given that the case numbers might well be very wrong, the only real number is that of (true) Covid deaths. So, the backcloth:-

- The 2019 deaths per day in the UK was c.1,600

- The current UK daily deaths from Covid is c. 30. As a percentage of the population of 68.2m it’s 0.00004

- Compare (less restricted) Sweden, at 6 Covid deaths per day. Or 0.00006% of a population of 10.1m.

A major question arising is - Looking at the charts and graphs which certainly seem to show 3-5 waves around the word, would Dr Yeadon maintain all his claims?

Cosas de España

More positive news for the future. Spain's economy  Will Grow By 6.4% In 2021, says the IMF. Click here for more.

Ex-king Juan Carlos’s quest to return home from exile may be complicated by a “dubious” €4.4 million loan from wealthy business friends that was used to pay off a tax debt. Click here for more.

A reader has said there’s nothing amusing about bullfighting. I’d agree as regards the industry as a whole but repeat that it’s funny to seem young bulls which aren’t injured of killed making idiots of both novilleros and young men from the audience. BTW: Lenox advises that: The novilleros have to cough up for the cost of the bull and the wages for the rest of the equipo, from the banderilleros to the vet. Plus a slice of the rental of the ring. It'll cost them each around 6,000€ for the privilege of showing off - or otherwise - their skills. 

Spain's population has grown by 7m since I  came  here in 2000, of which 80% are immigrants. Including me, I guess. Of the net increase in population, domestic growth accounts for only 1.5m, or 22%.   

Cousas de Galiza

A local-ish scandal


Several warm countries are trying to attract home-workers from the UK but, as ever, Portugal is beating Spain on on this, via low tax-rates. Just as it did with Golden Visas and tax holidays for pensioners. What, I wonder, does this say about the 2 governments and their 'entrepreneurialism'

The UK and its Un-united Union

Scottish nationalists would be horrified if Boris Johnson gave them independence in May and the attempt to achieve it would fail.  Click here, if interested to know why.


The pathologies of Irish sectarianism and EU fundamentalism are on a collision course.  . . . The truth that the government can’t quite bear to face is that, unless a settlement is reached, Britain faces 2 devastating scenarios: either the Union becomes the price of Brexit, or Brexit becomes the price of the Union. Click here for more.

BTW: I heard the comment the other day: If you think you understand Northern Ireland, you haven't been listening. Very probably true. As surveys show, most English folk would happily hand it over to Ireland. And also tell the heavily-subsidised, whingeing Scots to piss off. So much for hankering after a renewed empire!

The Way of the World

The creator of a dating app that puts women in charge is among the new names to join the ranks of the mega-rich after becoming the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire. Whitney Wolfe Herd is worth $1.3 billion having co-founded Bumble, which allows only female users to make the first contact with a man. I wonder how one proves one is a woman. And if transgender women can use it. I guess so.

Talking of  women and feminism . . . Would you credit this?

Philip Roth was right about our online witch-hunts . . . The American novelist foresaw the modern mania for denouncing anyone who doesn’t conform to the new puritanism.  . . . From the 1980s onwards Roth detected a movement towards a new puritanism. As we moved away from censorship, we gravitated towards censoriousness. Click here for more.

Kevin De Bruyne has negotiated himself to £385k a week with Manchester City  


Religious Nutters/Crooks Corner

The good news is that televangelist Jim Bakker is no longer hawking (or defending himself against selling) a fake all-purpose cure for COVID, SARS, HIV, and “all venereal diseases.” The bad news is that he’s moved on to zombies. On yesterday’s show, Bakker brought along conspiracy theorist Steve Quayle to explain how COVID nasal swabs were somehow part of a nefarious plan to get your DNA in order to make weapons that will turn people into flesh-eating zombies. Click here for more.

Finally  . . . This reminds me of when I saw that SPOT had been painted at a Spanish junction . . .

P. S. For about 18 years, I've had a page on Galicia and Pontevedra at www.colindavies.net but I haven't revised it or added to it for several years and it's now defunct. I've got a new site - www.thoughtsfromgalicia.com - where I'll be adding stuff on Galicia as and when I can. And when I've worked out exactly how Wordpress works. If you go there now, you'll find a work-in-progress. And also this blog in exactly the same format as here. Except it automatically give more details of those cited sites which use Wordpress. 

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 7.4.21

 Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'



1. The future: Positive news re restrictions and jabs.

2. The past: Bad news re aid to companies hit by the lockdowns, etc.

Cosas de España/Galiza

The AVE-high speed train from Madrid to Galicia slows down to a crawl as it passes through Ourense. A route around the city is just being put out to tender. So, I imagine it will be at least another 10 years before there's a real AVE train ride to La Coruña/Santiago de Compostela. Making it 40 years later than the original promise. But, of course, the trip, at 4-5 hours, is already a lot shorter than the 7 or so hours it took when I came here in 2000. Or 12 at night. I'm not clear whether opening new stretches will reduce that further before the Ourense by-pass is ready.

En passant, I see that, since December last year, the name of the northern Madrid station has been changed from just Chamartín to Chamartín-Clara Campoamor, in honour of a famous feminist politician. Thank god the name comes up on the Renfe site after the first few letters, obviating the need to type the whole thing.

One of our biggest narcotraficantes is in court and facing both several years in  prison - though possibly not enough - and the confiscation of some of his vast assets. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Our bullring here in Pontevedra has a new status; it'll be a venue of the national league of Novilladas. Which are: Bullfights in which novilleros (aspiring bullfighters who've not yet attained the rank of matador) fight immature, overage, or defective bulls. I saw one once and it was  very amusing when the public was invited to have a go.

María's Level Ground: Days 2 & 3



Europe’s economic response to Covid hangs in balance as Germany presses pause, with judges at the Karlsruhe court refusing to ratify the Recovery Fund, the EU’s hands are tied.  An unassuming Bauhaus building on the banks of the Rhine is where Europe’s latest crisis is threatening to erupt. More here and here.


A majority of French people don't trust the EU, or the French government, to bring manufacturing back inside European or national borders. More here.

The Way of the World/The UK 

Trying to resist online betting while stuck at home was impossible, say two gamblers seeking therapy  - "Every other advert will be for gambling".

Quote of the Week: Boris Johnson is very good at answering questions. Just not necessarily the questions that he’s been asked

Finally  . . .  Is there a more annoying ad on British TV that that for Peloton's bloody machine? Ignoring the ads for gambling companies, that is.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 6.4.21

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'



France: People in northern France are refusing the AZ vaccine, adding further obstacles to the push to achieve national immunity by the end of the summer. The mayor of Calais said hundreds of doses had been left unused since reports a week ago in France of people suffering blood clots, then word of 30 similar cases in Britain on Friday. “It’s more than a wave of panic. It’s been going on for a week, and Friday was the final blow.“There really has to be a national campaign to explain that this vaccine has no more negative consequences than those from Pfizer or Moderna,” she added. Merci, M Macron.

Cosas de España/Galiza

Spain's economy is said to be in a coma. Here's some thoughts on how to extricate it.

Spain recovers part of El Cid’s skull for a sherry and a pastry.  En passant, Cela was Galician, with an English maternal grandfather. He wasn't universally popular.

Still as bleak and as closed as ever yesterday . . 

I recall now that, last week, the owner was sitting in the entrance and seemed surprised - shocked even - when I asked if the place was open. By pure coincidence, on Friday last I passed the Van Gogh café in Vigo that was the venue for a dinner in what I'd understood, over the phone, to be the Bangkok restaurant . . .

The UK

Covid: the insanity of Johnson: Richard North is less than impressed with the latest government announcement. Nothing new there. Be warned that the first sentence could be clearer.


The UK and Brexit 

Britons who live in Europe have been refused jobs, healthcare, bank accounts, university places and car purchases as they slip into a post-Brexit bureaucratic limbo, even though those rights and services are guaranteed under the withdrawal agreement signed by the UK and EU. More here in an article entitled British expats tell of a ‘Kafkaesque’ fight for residency rights in Europe. It seems things aren't as bad here in Spain as they  are in France and Italy. Assuming you were on the ball enough to get your TIE last year . . .


The Way of the World

Academics are embracing gibberish studies: Social justice warriors on race and gender seem to prefer gobbledegook to persuasive argument. Prepare to laugh. And then weep.

Max Hastings: I dislike feeling a coward but am grateful not to have to speak or write about LGBT, race, Greta Thunberg, Joanna Lumley, Chris Packham or his BBC programme Springwatch. This is because anybody who dares to swim against the tide about any of the above, or other contemporary icons and shibboleths, faces social media torture of a cruelty the Spanish Inquisition would think excessive. Matters are worse for university teachers, who must express opinions and face persecution if students dissent.


Here’s  Lenox Napier on the subject.

Finally  . . . 

I knew that the British has regarded Ribbentrop in the 1930s as an imbecile but I hadn’t heard this . . . In the autumn of 1940, Ribbentrop made a sustained but unsuccessful effort to have Spain enter the war on the Axis side. During his talks with the Spanish foreign minister, Ribbentrop affronted him with his tactless behaviour, especially his suggestion that Spain cede the Canary Islands to Germany. The Spanish came to the same conclusion. As had most senior Germans, other than AH.