Friday, September 01, 2006

Tonight saw the start of the last big festival of the summer in Pontevedra – the Fería Franca. This is an excuse to convert the old quarter into a medieval town, dress up the entire family in appropriate costumes and consume enormous quantities of roasted meat and wine on long trestle tables in the magnificent little squares. To see it now – stretching way beyond the confines of the old quarter - you’d scarcely believe it started only 6 years ago as a sort of hole-in-the-wall affair. It’s all very impressive and reminds me of two things. Firstly, the enormous capacity of the Spanish to enjoy themselves and, secondly, Francis Bacon’s dictum that money is like muck; not good except it be spread.

According to today’s Voz de Galicia, 6,000 Galician establishments measuring over 100 square metres will have posted No Smoking signs on their doors this morning, to avoid falling foul of the new law and being hit with a 10,000 euro fine. From a quick tour of the centre of Pontevedra today, I can only surmise that – whatever my eyes tell me – there can’t be any places of this size in the whole city. We wait on events. Meanwhile, the local government has said it will be inflexible in the implementation of the law, whilst not actually taking any special measures to check compliance. I’m not sure what message this is intended to send out.

August was a very poor month for Pontevedra’s hoteliers, probably reflecting the impact of the fires. What this suggests is that either there were a lot of cancellations or, more likely in this country of rampant last-minuteism, many people decided to try somewhere else this year. Let’s hope the Fería Franca brings some compensation.

Speaking of the fires, there's been a raft of announcements about money to be spent and measures to be taken over the coming months and years. The inhabitants of the mountain communities are said to have received these ‘with caution’. As well they might. Meanwhile a 52 year old man has been arrested and charged with starting 93 fires between 2002 and 2006. Quite how this will be proved I can’t begin to imagine but I think it’s noteworthy he’s described as an alcoholic loner who lived in a semi-derelict house and didn’t get on with his neighbours. My bet is he’ll be acquitted, unless he’s burned at the stake.

Finally, flies. We seem to be suffering a plague of these and it’s suggested this is another consequence of the fires. Their natural predators have been killed or displaced, meaning that, at least until the cold weather comes, they’re free to propagate at will. Where is the Seven-At-One-Stroke little tailor when you need him?

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