Monday, March 21, 2005

In Spain, spring officially began around one o’clock yesterday afternoon. A little earlier in the day, we had the start of the first serious rains in nearly six months. This had the farmers and reservoir managers jumping for joy but put the mockers on the first of the town’s Holy Week processions. At times like this, one feels that God must be an atheist. Or at least a practical joker.

As some of you will know, yesterday was actually Palm Sunday. As I recall, when I was a kid, we were lucky if we could get our hands on a solitary, pathetic little palm strand. Here the very minimum is a three foot sheath of fronds, with which one strokes the passing statue. Other options are great swathes of laurel or olive foliage. No wonder, I later thought, that the day is called not Palm but Branch Sunday in Spanish.

Saturday and Sunday night TV gave us the annual Mister and Miss Spain competitions. These programmes epitomise the telly-rubbish [telebasura] which is regularly excoriated by the heavier newspapers - five minutes of programme followed by ten minutes of advertisements; sponsors’ announcements during the parades; regular commercial presentations by the glamorous ‘presenters’; phoney prizes from cosmetics companies along the way; endless fore and aft ‘crutch shots’ of at least the female hopefuls; and regular plugs along the bottom of the screen for the channel’s upcoming programmes. Plus, this year, the fashionably essential humiliation of the contestants not going forward to the next round. And all this spread over more than three hours, starting at 10pm and going on until way past 1 in the morning. All in all, it’s hard to see how the producers could achieve anything more insulting to the viewers. So, naturally, the programmes achieve huge ratings.

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