Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in SpainSpain
- Under Spanish law, stealing something with a value less than €400 is considered a 'falta' (misdemeanour), and not a 'delito' (crime). However many times you re-offend, it remains a misdemeanour and, as an offence, is not cumulative. Those caught will be liable for a fine of probably no more than €50. The consequence of this rather odd situation is that gangs of petty thieves operate pretty openly and with impunity in Spain's major cities. A plague on naive tourists in particular. Barcelona is universally recognised as the worst place for this and here's The Local on the nature and size of the ever-growing problem there.
- And here's The Local again, on the subject of the damage being done by excessive tourism in Spain. . . The side effects of tourism are destroying the lives of many local people. But with elected representatives doing little to help, the locals are turning against one of the country’s worst-perceived nuisances: tourists.
- And here's the last is a trio of negative articles from The Local: What you need to know about the outbreak of listeria, which has cost the lives of 2 people so far.
- Here in Galicia, some good news is that drones are being successfully used to plant explosive charges in the nests of the vicious Asian Hornet, usually called La Velutina here, though there are several local alternatives.
- Sitting in a street where one couldn't move for crowded tapas tables yesterday, I took to pondering the quantities of seafood consumed here every day in summer. They are truly vast. And it can't possibly all come from our local waters, whatever your bar owner tells you . . .
- Talking of eating . . . Our own food hall - El Gastroespacio - duly opened this week. Possibly at least a month late:-
There were around 15 of the 25 kiosks doing business midday yesterday. I do hope it's a success, even if it's not quite up to the standards of those in Madrid, Oporto and Lisbon. My fond hope is that we get some truly international food in due course
- Richard North this morning: The one thing that has come from Brexit – exposing the fundamental ignorance of our political classes and our media. This has proved so extensive that there seems no possible cure. It is unwise to expect either politicians or the media to correctly analyse or interpret developments, or to provide advice that can be relied upon. Breaking away from the most comprehensive experiment in political and economic integration is a unique event. And since so many people in authority have little idea of what is entailed in our EU membership, it can be hardly surprising that they have less idea of what might happen when we leave.
- My daughter, up from Madrid, had a job interview by phone yesterday. It was successful, possibly because she didn't have to struggle with any these buzzwords, phrases and acronyms which are said to litter job ads in the UK nowadays. BTW . . . I'm familiar with only one of them:-
Low-hanging fruit (the one I know)
Hit the ground running (Oh, another one)
Take an idea shower
Open the kimono
And then there are job titles such as New media tsar, Co-ordinator of interpretive teaching, and
- Shopping is not what is was in Britain's High Streets. The nice article below on this theme took me right back to my time in Iran. Specifically to sharing a melon in the mosque in Yazd with 2 local youths, on a Friday sabbath. Where and when they really shouldn't have been eating a melon at all, never mind sharing it with unbelievers.
- Those blasted e-bikes . . . .
- I have to admit I've reached the exact same conclusion as the estimable Caitlin Moran but have not yet been able to comply with it. I wonder if she will: With many other people who vaguely work in the world of comedy/satire, I've arrived at the opinion that, when it comes to certain political figures, the fundamental tools of comedy — exaggeration, extrapolation, juxtaposition, surrealism, self-aggrandisement, jarring non-sequiturs and demented fantasy — simply don’t work if the subject of that comedy is using the self-same tools with bigger results. There is no point in using these techniques to prompt a few laughs and some mild thoughtfulness when someone else is using them to, for example, casually refer to using actual nuclear weapons that they have or explain a policy of housing refugee children in cages. So CW isn’t going to attempt to make any more “humorous” observations about the US president. Every week it’s simply going to note what he has said without further comment, reaction or bias. Thus: this week Trump first offered to buy Greenland, then approvingly retweeted someone who claimed that Trump is “the second coming of God”.
- Word of the Day: Chapuzón. Not to be confused with Chapuza, which means a 'bodge' and is well-known to anyone having things done on their house or flat here. Usually with the option of IVA being excluded from the bill.
- Yesterday's garden score was 2 greenfinches - which would be better called greedfinches - and at least one redwing((zorzal alirrojo), I think. And the robin is still around, probably for the entire autumn and winter now. But still no sparrows.
Iran showed me what we have lost: It’s easy to be sentimental as an outsider about traditional bazaar shopping. But at its heart is social connection. Samira Ahmed, New Humanist
I am standing high on one of the pillars[actually 'towers'] of silence – the massive stone towers [see] where the Zoroastrians used to leave their dead to the vultures – looking down on the desert city of Yazd in the heart of the Iranian plateau. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been; Yazd’s mud-brick walls offer secret passages at every twisting turn and, like all Iranian cities, its beating heart is the bazaar. I walk through its magnificent cool brick-vaulted colonnades, unchanged since Marco Polo, who followed the Silk Road this way too.
Over six weeks filming in Iran for a BBC documentary series about the history and culture of the Persians, from Shiraz in the south-west to Mashhad in the north-east, the bazaar was always calling me back. It epitomises Persian identity: proud of its history but always absorbing the new into its own traditions.
Part of the appeal is the “slow” consumption idea. Thinking, touching, talking to the seller and deciding why you need the thing. In Isfahan the Safavid Shah built a grand covered bazaar around a massive public green. Traditional crafts such as leatherware, carpets and miniature painting thrive here. I watch one metalsmith at work creating delicately patterned samovars and lamps, a skill passed down still by master to teenage apprentice.
In Shiraz, city of poets and roses, vendors weigh out dried rosebuds, purple-blue borage petals, and spice mixes from layered contour-line piles of ground cumin, turmeric and cinnamon. But ubiquitous, too, are wildly coloured extruded snacks in foil packets, tacky plastic toys and some kitsch carpets with images of baroque Western paintings. The bazaar sells everything people want to buy. Including washing machines, fridges and TVs.
Then there are the clothes. Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, who wrote about the tyranny of consumerism for the American housewife, would have nodded knowingly at the fabric stalls selling 50 kinds of black chador material. But I hadn’t anticipated the sheer boldness of bazaar displays. In a nation with a legal dress code for women, I walk in my headscarf past aisles packed with sexy feathered and buckled underwear, wondering, “Who will buy?”
Fashion fills the arcades too. Everywhere I see Iranians old and young taking selfies to post on Instagram like their counterparts anywhere else in the world.
I had to buy pyjamas for a sequence we were filming about the Persian origin of the word – it’s from the words for leg garment and the clothing allowance given to imperial soldiers. The shop I chose had a lovely selection of pure cotton patterned pyjama bottoms, laid over the counter in a delicate overlapping rainbow of colours. Sourced in Bangladesh, the shopkeeper told me – a mother running the stall with her daughter, I guessed. The fun was in choosing from the lace-trimmed camisoles in toning colours to make your own set. Why did the experience fill me with such delight?
At the heart was the social connection of it all. When the heat of the day declines, the bazaars come alive again in the evening with all generations finding their own places to go. Iran has its super-fancy malls – the Palladium in North Tehran has a definite Beverly Hills vibe – but they are the exception. I can’t help but compare Iran favourably to what’s corrupted India’s bazaar culture, which saw extreme Western-style consumption, including malls and fast-food brands, flood the nation’s cities in the early 2000s, with little regulation around construction and pollution, and the consequent health crises, including obesity.
It’s easy to be sentimental as an outsider about traditional bazaar shopping, which is undoubtedly time-consuming. But the epidemic of anxiety and loneliness in the West does seem to have a real link to the isolating impact of online consumerism. Iran has its own social and social-media problems – few people are rich, child obesity is noticeable; its theocratic leadership has so far resisted efforts by many ordinary Iranians to loosen the restrictions on their daily lives – but the strong binding sense of life is built around daily public interactions and family bonds, which contrasts strongly with the time-poor frenzy of the average Western city-dweller’s existence.
Back in Britain my local department store had announced it was finally closing after 106 years, the latest casualty of a national epidemic on the high street. People were coming in to commiserate with the staff. Returning from Iran, I wondered if what we are mourning is what they’ve never lost.