Thursday, September 30, 2004

There are two things you should know if you are planning to entertain Spanish friends. Firstly, if there is no bread on the table, they will go into paroxysms of alleged deprivation. Secondly, if there is bread on the table, they won’t eat it. Or not much of it anyway. Although clearly an essential item, it seems merely to serve as some sort of prandial comfort blanket. As I write this, it occurs to me that I could probably get away with putting the same pieces on the table for the next few years. Except that, before not eating it, Spanish guests like to break it up and put it on a side plate. This might get difficult after a week or two.

Our friend Manoel [yes, ManOel] leaves for the UK on Saturday, in search of whatever it is that the UK offers to young people these days. Like a job, for example. He intends to maintain his blog from there but to turn his critical spotlight from the Spanish to the Brits. This should make interesting – though not necessarily comfortable – reading. Manoel writes in English and displays a wonderful capacity for well-founded neologisms such as ‘angriable’ and – for a joke told by my daughter - ‘untasty’. You can find out for yourself on

The pendulum of politics has now addressed itself to the Spanish education system. The new socialist government has confirmed that it will reverse the last great reform of the previous conservative administration and downgrade religion in the curriculum. Plus it will scrap the new university entrance exam and re-institute the system of locally adjudicated exams which was said to favour abuse. At least I think this is what is happening but wouldn’t swear to it. Being Spain, the competing alternatives have acronyms based on the laws which enshrine them – LOCE and LOGSE, I think. My eyes tend to glaze over when these hove into view so I quickly lose the thread. Anyway, the Catholic church is not at all happy with this either.

And the pendulum swings in other ways too. Only a few years ago, Spain lost its regionally oriented car registration plates in favour of ones which tell you nothing. Given that this was said to be at the bequest of Brussels, it’s a tad surprising, then, to read that the new government is going to return to a system which indicates the place of first registration.

Meanwhile, down at the local level, there is some sort of crisis taking place in the Galician [or Neanderthal] branch of the PP party. As previously indicated, this involves a chap who was fired a year or so ago for taking advantage of the Prestige oil disaster. He has now come out of the long grass and openly allied with the main rebel against the geriatric president of the Xunta. One of the government ministers has stirred the pot by suggesting that all the main participants are people whose assets have steadily increased during their long years of political tenure. What on earth can he mean?

There was a wedding at the big private club down the road the other day. The entrance is in a one-way street but this didn’t stop a fair proportion of the guests driving down it the wrong way so that they could secure a parking place near the entrance. In fact, I met one as I was heading the right way. But being a woman – and a lady – she smiled charmingly and then graciously reversed to the main road. If it had been a man, we might still be there now.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Socialist government already seems to be downplaying its plans to remove the Catholic Church’s privileges. A pupil of my daughter’s may have given us an insight into why this might be wise. ‘We Spanish,’ he said, ‘are ready to die in a good cause. Or for an idea. But ask us to do something regularly and we are easily bored with it. We like the idea of the State giving money to the Church since it absolves us from going to Mass every Sunday and chucking coins onto a plate. We won’t necessarily agree with the government reducing the subsidy’. Perhaps this is why the latest announcement suggests that they won’t actally do this, but instead give taxpayers the chance to subsidise other religions as well.

Of course, another reason for the backtracking might just be that the upper echelons of business here are heavily populated by members of Opus Dei, an organisation which is considered right wing even within the Catholic Church!

It’s a funny thing about Spanish that it uses capital letters [upper case] where we wouldn’t in English. And vice versa. So, for example, the days of the week and the months the year don’t merit capital letters. But such things as the state, the army, the navy, the church and the government do. These, of course, are all authoritative organisations so I should point out that I have also seen nature and humanity capitalised.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Another provocation for the Catholic Church today. It’s reported that we may soon have the right to tick a box on our tax forms indicating that we would like to make a donation to a religion other than Catholicism. Personally, I can’t wait to be spoilt for choice. Meanwhile, though, right-of-centre papers are naturally beginning to chunder about the destruction of the social fabric. And to distinguish between laicidad and laicismo. The former appears to mean an acceptable separation of church and state, whereas the latter is an intention to destroy the Catholic Church in ways redolent of the Civil War.

As a result of these developments, I am beginning to appreciate just how involved the Catholic Church is in Spanish life. Apart from numerous schools and universities, I now read that they own one of the major radio channels and one of the largest savings banks in Andalucia.

Up here in damp Galicia, we have had two weeks of glorious sun, with temperatures between 27 and 33. But it is September and therefore autumn. And the weather is irrelevant to those in the van of fashion. So I was not terribly surprised today so see several women sporting knee-length leather boots. Needs must.

The Spanish government has expressed concern about the amount of telebasura [telly-rubbish] which is shown during the hours nominally reserved for children’s programmes. So far, though, it has said nothing about the repeated showings – in full – of the beheading of hostages in Iraq. As these are brought to us by the new programmes, I suppose the logic is that the kids don’t watch them. Or think they are cartoons, perhaps.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The titanic [and damaging] struggle in the UK between Right and Left – Capitalism and Socialism, Conservatism and Labour – has its echo in Spain in the fight between Church and State. The former was, of course, entrenched in its strong position by Franco and successive socialist governments have been hell bent on reversing this. Thus, the recently-elected Mr Zapatero lost no time in announcing liberal measures in respect of religious teaching in schools, divorce and homosexual marriages. And now we are told that the government has a ‘route map’ under which measures will be taken to remove the Church from its privileged position in a country where only 20% of the populace are regular churchgoers. These include reducing the funds paid by the state to the Church and removing from the archbishops the right to appoint the state-paid teachers of religion. As if this weren’t bad enough, the government is proposing to give financial assistance to Muslim institutions. I don’t suppose it’s much compensation to the Church that this time round the nuns are not being raped and the priests murdered.

By the way, the recent reform of the Spanish divorce laws means that you can, in the simplest of circumstances, get divorced in 8 to 10 weeks from submitting the petition. Sounds perfect for Britney Spears.

The opposition PP party has announced that it is changing its official colour from blue to orange. Turning itself into the Liberal Democrats perhaps. Meanwhile, up here in Galicia, the President of our local branch of the PP party – the octogenarian Mr Fraga – is facing some sort of revolt from his members in Ourense. The man behind this is thought to be his ex heir-apparent, who was ousted a couple of years ago when it was found that he owned the company selling [expensive] protective suits to the volunteers who swarmed here to clean the beaches after the Prestige oil disaster. El Mundo’s political commentator suggested on TV yesterday that the PP party might be better occupied in dealing with the image created by the shenanigans in Galicia involving a relic from the Franco era than in playing around with colours. Fat chance

Friday, September 24, 2004

The basic problem with the Spanish is that they are both impressive and infuriating in roughly equal amounts. Noble but inconsiderate. Generous but selfish.

By way of illustration - my visitors and I today had the remarkable experience of a taxi driver who enjoyed chatting to us so much that he waived not only the tip but also part of his charge. A short while later, in an underground car park, we fell foul of a woman who couldn’t be bothered to walk to the ticket machine and so drove to it and blocked everyone else’s exit while she went through the payment mechanics.

If you are lucky, you get to see more of Spanish nobility than Spanish ‘individualism’. And this, I guess, helps to determine whether or not you appreciate the country. For me, perhaps the greatest quality of the Spanish is their belief that there are many things in life far more important than money. Capitalist that I am, I can’t rid myself of the suspicion that this is right. But, then, I first learned this lesson when I was 18 and teaching in the Seychelles. But that’s another story. If you want to know it, post me a request.

I have only one more bottom sighting to report – a young lady wearing a large O on one buttock and an equally large K on the other. Perhaps this isn’t catching on, after all. Sad to relate.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Here’s a name you may never hear again or, on the other hand, eventually become heartily sick of – Niall Mason. This is a six year old English boy whose soccer skills are so outstanding that Real Madrid have signed him up. As a result, his entire family have moved to Spain so that his career can be properly fostered. Lucky lad.

Meanwhile, back in the Tower of Babel, the most separatist of the Catalunian political parties has rejected out of hand the suggestion that Valencian is a distinct language from Catalan. Presumably it doesn’t help their case for independence if Catalunia is seen to extend to the Balearic Islands and down the east coast of Spain.

A survey in the major cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia suggests that only 16 per cent of cars are complying with the new rule that children under three should be strapped into a special seat. So, no great surprise there. Unless, like me, you were expecting a figure of around 5 per cent.

Tension appears to be growing between the Autonomous Communities [regions] and Madrid over who pays for the cost of educating ‘foreigners’ who come to live in Spain. This seemed to me a strange thing for them to be fighting about until I realised that ‘foreign’ is a code word for ‘immigrant’, which is itself a code word for ‘North African’.

I read in Prospect magazine that 70 per cent of the viruses that have plagued the world over the last few months were down to a single German teenager. So I guess that the fact that he has been apprehended accounts for the fact that the plague seems to have receded recently. Let’s hope he has a long sentence. Or a high-paying job lined up for his release.

Friday, September 17, 2004

“Nationalism” in Spain doesn’t actually mean national, but regional - as in the Basque, Catalunian and Galician nations/regions. All of these see themselves – in various degrees - as successors to the original kingdoms which were shoe-horned into modern Spain. I asked a few days ago where all this nationalism would end. Well, we won’t know for a while but there was an instructive – not to say amusing – event in the European parliament yesterday. A speaker from Catalunia chose to speak in German rather than Spanish but so execrable was his accent that the Portuguese President of the session assumed he was speaking Catalan and told him this wasn’t an officially recognised language. I suppose a UK equivalent would be a Sinn Fein MP talking in the House of Commons in Norwegian rather than English. All very rum.

Talking of languages, my interest in taking on Galician after Spanish is beginning to wane. When I only knew a few words of it, I used to joke that it was simply Spanish with a single syllable in each word changed in order to differentiate it from Castellano. Sadly, this increasingly seems to be truer than I suspected and even Galician friends have begun to rebel against the artificiality of creating a language in this way, possibly in the interests of Galician ‘nationalism’. The sad truth may be that Galician really is just the dialect of Spanish I was originally prepared to accept it wasn’t. Which makes it all the more galling for foreigners thinking of living here that 40 per cent of lessons in Galician schools have to be given in Gallego. No wonder they baulk. And take their money elsewhere.

It is one of life’s little ironies – and there are millions of these, of course – that when an inconsiderate/unaware Spanish pedestrian actually crashes into you, no one could be more sincerely polite in expressing regret. This even applies to teenage males who have smashed into shoulder sinews that you have stiffened as they approached, 3 or 4 abreast and totally wrapped up in themselves. In the UK, you would [if lucky] be verbally abused but here you get truly profuse apologies. The reason is very simple – no one in Spain actually intends to bump into you. Everything is ‘thoughtless’ and spontaneous, including the apology. I had a marvellous example this morning, when I came into the peripheral vision of a young lady with baby in a push-chair. So spontaneous was she in reacting to ensure that I didn’t stumble over the push-chair that she swung violently to the other side, crashing into someone else foolishly trying to get past at the same time as me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The police in Zarragoza yesterday arrested 68 drivers who were bent on racing between Benidorm and London - in emulation, I suppose, of Burt Reynolds in the 70s movie Cannonball[?]. But with their own hair. And not quite so bent.

Mind you, this is nothing compared with one of our home-grown heroes. On Sunday night the police in Vigo arrested a man for driving at very high speeds through the centre of the city. I say ‘arrested’ but what actually happened is that they pulled him out of his wrecked car after he had finally shunted it into three others. His terrified passenger claimed that he had pleaded with him to slow down after he had seen the needle go above 190kph, or 119mph. Before that it was just fun, presumably.

The Spanish government has asked Brussels to accept Euskadi, Galician, Catalan and Valencian as official languages. It is not all clear whether this is of any practical significance, e. g. in adding to the existing tower of Babel, or is just a deft [but empty] political move in the Spanish context. Meanwhile, though, it has been reported that the new voting equipment in the Spanish parliament has buttons labelled only in English. You couldn’t make it up, could you?

Today, Pontevedra. Tomorrow, Paris?? In the last few days I have come up behind young women with ‘SEXY GIRL’ and ‘RICH’ spread expansively across their be-jeaned buttocks. In the former case, the 4 inch high, sparkly letters would be hard to miss even at midnight. I have said to my daughters in the past that Spanish women are not exactly behind the door when it comes to highlighting their secondary sexual characteristics but this is taking things a tad too far, perhaps. Though it would be a mistake to construe this as a complaint.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Life in the UK is, for the most part, rather quiet and humdrum. In contrast, the denizens of the popular soap operas live in a world of constant noise, adventure and incident. The same sort of inversion operates in Spain too. Everyday life here involves a great deal of noise, much of it coming from people who talk constantly, loudly and simultaneously. In contrast, actors in the soap operas spend a great deal of time in silence, simulating deep emotions via laconic movements of their lips, nostrils and eyebrows. And when they do talk, this takes place in whispers and one by one. While all this non-activity is taking place, a piano or violin plonks plangently in the background, rising to a crescendo during the periods of agonised silence. Until, as this morning, some reality intrudes and one of these troubled people stops emoting and plunges an axe into the back of another.

I know I said I wasn’t going to report any more T-shirt sightings but I can’t resist recording that I saw a chap coming towards me today with POST MO BILLS emblazoned on his chest. Fleetingly, I wondered who Maurice Bills might be and why he would need a letter from me.

Needless to say, Word’s spellcheck doesn’t recognise ‘plangently’. But then it doesn’t recognise ‘spellcheck’ either.

In Catalunia, several dozen local mayors have chosen not to fly the Spanish flag at some major ‘national’ celebration this week. And the Catalunian President has suggested that Spain agrees to Catalunia ‘divorcing’ itself from Spain and becoming, I guess, a discrete unit of the EU. Where will it all end, I wonder? Meanwhile, it does seem that the new Spanish President is reaping the harvest he sowed when he showed himself sympathetic to secessionist aspirations when he was nestling in the comfort of opposition and must have felt he had very little chance of being invited to put his money where his mouth had been. But the Madrid bombings changed all that.

Meanwhile, back here in the sticks of Galicia, the President of the Xunta, Manuel Fraga, has opined again, this time to remind us that all the best bullfighters die in the ring. And he has stressed that he certainly doesn’t manage a one-man show. There is room for everyone, he said. Especially – and perpetually – him, it seems. Oh yes, and his daughter.

Friday, September 10, 2004

I have noted occasionally that the Spanish are individualistic. This, of course, is a weasel word for inconsiderate. Perhaps the best demonstration of this lies in the way they park in a city where space is at a premium. Going town early yesterday, I was the 8th car in a line parked down a cul-de-sac near the bridge. Apart from the first one, all seven of the previous cars had left between 3 and 6 metres between itself and the last car parked. The most notable achievement was that of the woman who arrived just ahead of me and proceeded to take her car a full 30 metres beyond the already-handsomely-spaced cars before parking it in no-man’s land. And this despite the fact that she would have to walk back the extra 30 metres to get out of the cul-de-sac. After nearly four years here, I still don’t know whether people consciously decide to make things difficult for their fellow citizens or jut don’t think about it at all. Perhaps someone Spanish could let me know. I am, of course, aware that it makes sense to leave some space so that your car is not the victim of exit-by-shunt. But 3 to 6 metres!

I was going down to town to visit my bank. Banks here are bywords in expense and inefficiency and I have just told mine that I am so fed up that I am moving my accounts elsewhere. My hope is that they will think I am stupidly Anglo-Saxon enough to do this, even if a small Swedish forest will have to be chopped down to supply all the paper required for new direct debit arrangements, etc. Meanwhile, I just wanted to pay in some money. As I stood in a queue of seven people, I noticed that, whereas the number of tellers working was only two of a possible six, the total of other employees sitting around doing nothing or reading the paper was seven. In other words, the same as the number of customers in line. This is why a thirty second transaction took ten minutes and helps to explain the reputation the banks have. To give you some idea of the latter – I have been regularly told by Spanish friends that none of the routine errors are genuine mistakes, but rather try-ons designed to fleece the lazy, inefficient or innumerate. I rather doubt this but can understand why the banks are referred to as ‘thieves in white gloves’.

If anyone reading this is a shareholder of Banco Santander and is planning to keep their shares ahead of the acquisition of Abbey National in the UK, I have a word of advice for you. Don’t. The management can have little idea of how a bank is run in the UK. Worse, the Abbey National is on the block because it is losing money. It’s hard to see how it can be turned round by the introduction of ‘Spanish practices’ that would lead to a mass exodus on the part of its remaining customers.

When I got back from town yesterday evening, I noticed that there was a warning triangle in the road, advising of a large crane working a few doors down. When I went out two hours later, someone had driven over it. Which is exactly what happened to me the first and last time I put mine in the road. Perhaps it’s a local sport no one has told me about.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I’ve begun to collate the various responses from drivers who are forced to brake when I have the temerity to continue beyond the middle of the zebra crossing onto ‘their’ side. These range from an angry stare to a semi-apologetic raise of the hand, taking in various facial contortions and an embarrassed sort of lip pout along the way. On a more serious note, I am a little concerned that, if I maintain this foolhardy policy of insisting on my rights, I am going to end up with at least a couple of broken knees.

Meanwhile, yet another request for directions today. But, given that the couple in question asked me to direct them to the street they were already in, I guess we can be forgiven for concluding that their level of awareness is not of the highest order. Or perhaps it was the fact that I was carrying an umbrella even though the sun was shining that convinced them I was a super-aware local.

I rang Telefonica today to ask them about an item on my bill. Simple enough to deal with, you would have thought, but I still had to find and quote the number of my previous passport before they would give me an answer. As I’ve said before, who on earth would be impersonating me asking about my bill? At the other end of the line, the young lady’s response to this reasonable query was complete silence. As for the look on her face, I’ve no idea.

UK note – According to the BBC tonight, Alan Millburn has returned to government as ‘one of Tony Blair’s closest allies’. Does no one think it at all strange that don’t mean vis-à-vis his enemies in the Opposition but in his own party? And still the forecasts are of another landslide victory next year. Am I missing something?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Well, I’ve had a thousand hits to my website since I added the counter in mid July. Very gratifying. Even more thrilling was knowing who the 1000th visitor was – me. Seeing the total at 999, I just couldn’t resist logging off and logging back on again!

Talking of little pleasures, one of the joys of my favourite morning café is that the staff occasionally lapse into stereotypical Latino roles and argue vehemently with each other. This they do with total disregard for the presence of customers. And it can go on for some time but, impressively, without any pause in critical tasks such as serving the drinks and wiping down the counter. In fact, at times like this, these activities seem to become slightly frenetic. In truth, I suspect I am the only customer who notices.

I see in the British press that the previous Spanish government was one of the many parties – including Mrs Thatcher’s son – who were involved in the Equatorial Guinea imbroglio. Strangely enough, I haven’t seen anything about this in the Spanish press as yet. Neither have I read anything about the measures being taken to reduce the heat over Gibraltar, such as the lifting of the ban on cruise ships visiting Spanish ports if they have stopped over at The Rock. Not many votes in silent diplomacy, I suppose.

Un body – A body stocking. Fair enough; English has stolen the French word basque for this, I believe.

Monday, September 06, 2004

There was a dead dog on the pavement outside the supermarket entrance this morning. A great Dane, of all things. What made this even stranger was that I had just passed a dead Siamese cat on the grass verge, a couple of hundred metres away. A bizarre suicide pact, if ever there was one.

Talking of the supermarket, this continues its slow but purposeful progress away from any known concept of customer service. So much so that I have formed the theory that they are trying to drive customers away in order to justify closure. Herewith, my latest fruitful conversation with an employee:-
There hasn’t been any fresh ginger recently
Will you have some today?
Are you going to have some later this week?
Are you ever again going to have any?
Why not?
No one buys it.

In a local village this weekend, they had one of the many ‘gastronomic festivals’ which dot the summer in Spain. This one involved the cooking – in a massive pot - of 1,400 portions of tripe, said to be a new Guinness world record.

So, there you have it – ‘customer service’ and ‘gastronomic’, two expressions without exact equivalents in Spanish.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

To the west of Madrid – visible from the grounds of the royal palace – there is a huge park, the Casa de Campo. During the day, this serves as a recreation area for the Madrileños but come the night it is the domain of, reputedly, thousands of working women of all races. Reading tonight an excellent book about the Great Fire of 1666, I have learned that the seventeenth century equivalent in London was Moorfields. This was London’s first civic park and was strategically situated – just outside the city walls - between the artillery practice ground and the Bethlehem [Bedlam] Royal Hospital for lunatics. For more on this – and the intriguingly entitled Bawdy House Riots of 1668 – I refer you to Adrian Tinniswood’s By Permission of Heaven.

Perhaps it is a fashion of which I am unaware, but last year Ethiopian babies were the most favoured for adoption by Galician couples, followed by Colombians and Chinese. Nationally, Russian and Chinese babies head the list, followed by Ukrainian and then – a long way behind – a ragbag of others. Try as I might, I can’t think of a link between Galicia and Ethiopia. Perhaps one of the religious orders has an orphanage there.

Another statistic which is troubling me – the Spanish are reported to use 40% more energy than equivalent homes in the rest of Western Europe. What on, for God’s sake? It certainly isn’t home entertaining. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the fact that TV viewing peaks at midnight and goes on well beyond. Or perhaps it’s all the illegal downloading of films and music, in which the Spanish are the acknowledged European leaders. Or both.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

We all, they say, become caricatures of ourselves. I was reminded of this when musing further on the place of gypsies in Spanish society. In some ways they really are caricatures of the Spanish who despise them. Whereas the Spanish love to ignore many rules, the gypsies pay little heed to any of them. And while the Spanish are less than quiet, the gypsies – especially in cars – are phenomenally noisy. And where the Spanish are individualistic and less than considerate to others, the gypsies seem to go out of their way to be offensive. We all, of course, detest our own faults worse than any others so maybe herein lies the root cause of Spanish antipathy. There but for the grace of God go we.

There were a number of replies to the Capillary Conundrum of earlier this week. And this number, to be specific, was one. The suggestion was Near misses on pedestrian crossings? This is very close to the right answer but, sadly, not quite close enough to win the enormous prize. This will now be held over. The correct answer was Cut across each other’s trajectory. Which, being pedantic, they don’t actually do on zebra crossings. My Spanish friend, Manoel, discourses on this aspect of Spanish life in his most recent blog at

If you go to my website [] and take a look at my mug shot in the photo gallery on the homepage, you will see that you would only be likely to suggest I was Spanish if you were hard of seeing. So, could someone please explain why I am stopped at least once a week and asked for directions to some part of town or other.

Friday, September 03, 2004

There is a Turismo office in the centre of Pontevedra. I’ve never thought about this until today but it must be part of a national network. This thought arose from a quest for a copy of a particular leaflet. At the Turismo office I was told that that they didn’t have one as it was issued by the town council. At the town hall they [naturally] said they knew nothing of the leaflet and told me to try the Turismo office. But I persisted and, down in the bowels of the building, was advised that I could get a copy from a wooden kiosk opposite the town hall. So, hard as it is to believe, this shack must be in competition with the Turismo office.

Back on the rather higher plane of Galician politics – the geriatric President of the Xunta/Junta [Manual Fraga] has clearly read my recent comments and decided to appoint two Vice-Presidents. I need hardly add that he has not bothered to give them any specific responsibilities. This, one supposes, would give them too high a profile and create some risk that Fraga might not manage to stay in office until he pops his clogs.

Talking of popularity, an American historian – Stanley Payn – has written that Basque nationalism is a myth. Or in his words… “In the whole of modern Europe, in questions of nationality, there is no clearer case of historical invention than that of Basque nationalism.” I assume our Stanley will be using a nom-de-plume if and when he visits the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Otherwise, he might end up as an exhibit. Or parts of him, at least.

Back to tourism in Pontevedra – the young lady who womans the council’s kiosk was interviewed in a local paper today and asked who the most exotic tourists had been this year. She cited Australians and New Zealanders. Not the adjective most Brits would come up with, I suspect. Especially in Earls Court.

Finally, it’s an ill rain that brings no good. Our delugial August has been bountiful, it seems, for the sun-bed businesses of Pontevedra. These have been overwhelmed by young women desperate to go back to work in September bronzed to the colour – and in some cases the texture – of a walnut.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

There is a growing problem in Spain of teenage drinking - the botellón. But not violent. Just noisy and all-night-long. Some people have been driven to rather drastic retaliatory measures, like the sacristan of a Galician church who fired a couple of shotgun cartridges above the heads of the cacophonous youngsters in his churchyard. The newspaper report was remarkably sympathetic to him. And conspicuous by its absence was any mention of the need for stress counselling for the rapidly-dispersed revellers. Plus the sacristan was allowed to keep his shotgun, as he needed it for the ravaging wild boars. As opposed to the drunken wild bores.

Ah, the summer really must be over – one or two of the TV channels have re-instituted their early morning bow in the direction of serious programming. As ever, it is amusing to see that even intellectuals in Spain all talk simultaneously. Though at least they don’t shout and/or go for each other.

The 82 year old President of the Galician government - Manual Fraga – has again said that he will stand for another 4 year office in 2005. He stressed that he is doing this so as to avoid splits in the party and added that he will go on ‘to the end’. This must mean that he intends – like his ex-boss, Franco – to die in the job. Of course, there wouldn’t be any risk of splits in his party if he had made the slightest effort to groom a successor over the last 15 years. A cartoon in El Mundo today showed the national President of the party holding up a new party symbol – a pterodactyl fossil embedded in a slab of rock.

El top-less – the practice of bathing bare-breasted. By women, of course.