Wednesday, June 20, 2007

There’s probably not much chance of it happening but I’d certainly turn down the offer of the job of President of Spain. Poor Mr Zapatero is being threatened with EU fines because the Basque government is making illegal subventions to companies there. Given the ETA situation, Mr Z surely has bigger problems on his plate in that neck of the woods than this one. Besides, having illegally stopped the takeover of a Spanish energy company by the German giant, EON, he hardly occupies the moral ground from which to lecture the Basque president. More to the point, the Spanish Constitution possibly leaves him impotent. If not de jure, then certainly de facto.

Spain is still a Catholic country, nominally at least. So it was good to see the Vatican has pronounced bad driving a sin. Problem solved. I can now look forward to a reduction of my insurance premiums, especially here in church-going Galicia.

Traditionally, the teaching of foreign languages in Spain has been biased towards grammar and written work. Things are improving but even now there’s no oral element to the exam taken at the end of secondary school. I was reminded of this when reading a letter in El Pais yesterday. This was from a Madrid woman living in Santiago and she was rather unhappy about the way the Galician ministry for Language Normalisation goes about testing ‘foreigners’ in Gallego. In brief, unless you get something like 79% in the written exam, you’re not allowed to go forward to the oral exam and are summarily failed. Which, naturally, turns out to be the lot of most candidates. Understandably, she felt this approach did little to promote the use of the language, even among those who wanted to learn it. I can’t help wondering whether this is also a reflection of the ingrained Spanish attitude – hopefully disappearing – that a good teacher is one who makes his exams so hard most of his pupils fail. Anyway, I endorse the lady’s call for common sense. Too much to expect of romantic purists?

Yesterday’s mention of persistent rain precipitated my latest 3-year compilation of blog posts - on THE GALICIAN WEATHER. As dates are relevant, I’ve left them in this time. As you read these entries, you’ll probably get the impression things are variable and unpredictable here. And you’ll be right . . .



There were 50cm of hailstones in Sevilla one day this week. Up here in rainy Galicia, we have had constant sun and record highs. So, global warming for us and global freezing for them. A cosmic joke.


Well, the lovely Letitia married her prince today, though the rain in Spain certainly did fall on her parade, just as she emerged from the palace to walk to the church. In the end, she went the hundred yards courtesy of Messrs. Rolls and Royce. I needed to be out of the house when the morning’s proceedings were televised [on 3, if not 4, of the 5 channels] and my VCR naturally failed to function. But I was able to listen to the commentary on the car radio and so didn’t miss such gems as, ”Well, we now have a priest to tell us about the religious aspects of this ceremony. Tell us, Father, what is happening on the altar now?” “Well, they are waiting for the bride and groom to arrive.” Then there were the endless expressions of regret about the Madrid rain, which went down rather well up here in abnormally-sunny Galicia.


Here in Spain summer starts today. And so, after weeks and weeks of sun, it is raining. And the temperature has dropped 10 degrees from its high of 32. I might just as well be in the UK. Well, not really; it’s only 17 there.


Well, this is the 12th day of August and up here in Galicia we have hardly seen the sun since the start of the month. In fact, more rain has fallen in the last 3 days than in the whole of June and July combined. And the big annual fiesta has been a complete washout. So, if you’re reading this somewhere in Galicia because of anything I said on my web site, then I apologise. But it is not really my fault. Apparently – along with the UK and France – western and northern Spain are being hit by the tail end of some tropical storm which has wandered east from the Caribbean. As you will know, these are given human names and I think this one is called ‘Bastard’. Or it is in this house, anyway.


In the first half of August, we had more than double the normal rainfall for the whole month – the most for 30 years. It makes one almost nostalgic to read of the terrible forest fires of June and July. Especially as it is still bloody raining.


Olympic gloom around a low medal tally is not confined to the UK. Spain has so far only managed a single medal. The national despondency has been the perfect accompaniment to the rain that has fallen on the northern half of Spain for 18 of the 19 days so far this month. But this afternoon the barometer has risen and the sun has forced its way through the clouds. This could be the start of something big. Summer, for example.


The Basque terrorist group, ETA, yesterday exploded some small bombs along the Galician coast. There were several strange or ironic aspects to this. Firstly, it is usually foreign tourism which is targeted and there ain’t a lot of this in Sanxenxo and Bayona. Secondly, Galician tourism has already been amply devastated by the rains of the worst August in living memory and so the bombs were really a waste of time and money. Finally, having had 19 days of cloud and rain out of 21, it was going to take a lot more that what ETA came up with to keep people out of the sun when it finally arrived yesterday. The beaches were crowded again within 15 minutes of the explosions.


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.


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.


Up here in damp Galicia, we’ve 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.


Students have apparently been late in registering at their universities this year. This has been put down to the effect of the Indian summer of the last 5 weeks. As you would expect, sunbathing ranks above studying in the fun stakes. And, if you fail your exams, you can always repeat the year. Many times


Thousands of tons of clear crystal water fell on Pontevedra this morning. Which is a bit ironic as the stuff coming out of my taps is filthy brown. Since it’s a holiday weekend, this may continue until Tuesday so I have put pans out in the garden to catch a small fraction of the next deluge. Needless to say, the afternoon has been sunny so far.


Well, we nearly made it. 29 days of high pressure and sun here in Galicia but today, on the last day of the month, things reverted to the winter norm and it rained. Albeit not much. But before you pack up and emigrate, ponder on November 2000, when it rained on 28 days of the month


It’s the fur coat season so lots of mink in town midday today. Under an unseasonably strong sun, the temperature was actually above 20C but such a piffling detail is of no relevance to ladies who are determined to strut.


Six solid weeks of sun came to an abrupt end yesterday, with the departure of a persistent anticyclone for its Christmas holidays. Most of us will regret its passing but not, I guess, the dowagers of the town who have sweltered through the last two weeks in the statutory fur coats of December. I imagine they will be swarming through the streets and cafés after Mass tomorrow, smug with seasonal satisfaction.



2004’s rainfall, in Galicia at least, was the lowest for more than 50 years. But holidaymakers suffered bad luck when it rained on 21 of the 31 days of August, the only month in the year when the 30 year average was exceeded. Who says God has no sense of humour?


The Diario de Pontevedra is offering a free umbrella with one of next week’s editions. In any normal Galician winter, this would have been a sure-fire success. And, before the onset of the driest winter in over 50 years, so it must have looked like a great idea. In fact, the last rain to speak of was in the peak holiday month of August, when it was rather less than welcome than it would be now.


The rainfall in the west of the Iberian peninsula this winter has been so low that the Portuguese have taken to firing chemically-loaded missiles into the centre of clouds. Beats having anything to do with Iraq, I suppose.


When I came here in the winter of 2000, it rained virtually every day from November to May. This year has been so dry that yesterday I was forced to do something that is probably unprecedented in Galicia - I put on a lawn sprinkler in March. I guess it’s all down to global warming, though I’m not sure how.


Well, I should have been taking part today in the outdoor filming of a docudrama about the sinking of British ship along the Galician coast. But, with exquisite timing, the director chose the first day of rain in almost 6 months. And the project sank, appropriately enough.


Opening my car boot last night, I realised why we’ve had nothing but rain for 5 days. After 6 months of perpetual sun, I finally got round to buying a parasol the evening before the deluge began.


It was 30 degrees here both yesterday and today and I have been hugging the shadows so as to keep the sun off my melanin-poor skin. The sun and its warmth are welcome of course but spring temperatures at this level are clearly confusing the locals. The young women don’t know whether to stay in their winter coats of go for what we might call the ‘almost nothing’ look. Happily, several of them have opted for the latter.


It’s been sunny and very hot for several weeks now but officially summer only began yesterday. What this means – in this informal/formal country – is that we men can now wear shorts in town without being looked at askance for getting ahead of ourselves. Needless to say, this restriction doesn’t apply to women. Especially as what they wear here seems specifically designed to get them looked at. It certainly works with me.


Latin-root words which are similar in English and Spanish but have different meanings are called here ‘false friends’. This is a prelude to a bit of advice for all those planning to spend time in any part of Spain where it might rain. ‘Moderado’ doesn’t mean ‘light’ but ‘at least heavy and quite possibly torrential’. ‘Moderado’ thus ranks as the only bit of Spanish understatement with which I’m familiar.


One of the local papers claimed today there are 4,000 things to do when there’s no sun in Galicia. Which is just as well as we’ve hardly seen it for a week.


This summer Galicia has been hotter and drier than most other parts of Spain. As a result, we’ve been plagued with forest fires and I guess I’m not alone in praying for a little rain. But all should change when my younger daughter arrives on Tuesday next. Within the family – and now more widely - she is renowned for bringing with her not just her smile but also bad weather whenever she comes.


Forest fires continue to rage throughout Galicia, with a total of 35 registered yesterday. The media insists that 90% of these are deliberate, an assertion backed by the arrest of 277 pyromaniacs throughout Spain so far this year. Things may ease off after tomorrow, when my younger daughter arrives. As I feared, rain is forecast for her stay.


My elder daughter, Faye, has long maintained that the weather changes up here along the Galician coast alter her sleep and activity patterns. Basically, she claims she’s more lethargic when the pressure falls and the humidity rises. I’ve long poo-poohed this but now have to admit that my senior moments – such as forgetting to put water in the coffee pot – do seem to occur when, like this morning, the barometric pressure has plummeted and we’re looking out on a thick blanket of fog.


We are about to depart for Madrid. As predicted, the sun has just come out in Pontevedra.

The forecast for Madrid is clear skies and 35 degrees. Of course, they don’t know that Hannah is on her way. But I suppose she’s not as bad as a hurricane.


September’s weather has been spectacular this year. This has led to some confusion among the local beauties. Many have stayed in summer togs but a fair number have opted for autumnal jackets, calf-length jeans and stiletto-heeled boots. Appealing but hardly appropriate. But, then, come the sunny days of mid-winter, their mothers, aunts and grandmothers will be strutting the town centre in even less sensible mink coats.


Our weather in September was spectacular, with a great deal of sun and very little rain. The dark side of this, of course, is that Spain’s draught situation has worsened and water restrictions are now in place throughout much of the country. Perhaps not up in the north east, where [as in neighbouring France] the weather has become rather more unstable and stormy than it used to be. God’s punishment for secessionist endeavours?


So far at least, October’s weather has been even better than September’s. So confusion is still rife on the fashion front. Some young ladies are still in their summer uniform of very little above the hip bone and jeans below, whereas – at the other extreme - there are those determined to show off their new tweeds and boots. The former seem decidedly more comfortable at this stage.


The unseasonably hot weather continues and common sense has finally broken out amongst the young ladies of the town. Many of them are now compromising by wearing a summer top above the waist [or ribs, really] and mid-calf jeans and stiletto boots below.


Today we finally had some much-needed rain. More accurately, the Atlantic decided to rise up and drop on us. My elder daughter has always maintained that increases in humidity affect her both mentally and physically. This is one reason she’s happier in Madrid than Galicia. I’ve always tended to pooh-pooh this but have to confess it tends to be on cloudy days like today that I miss out one of the 5 stages involved in making my morning coffee. This morning it was neglecting to move the coffee from the grinder to the coffee pot before putting it on to boil. This is daft enough but doesn’t compare with taking the top off the grinder before the blades have stopped.


Spanish is a much more flowery, verbose language than English. For example, rain is never referred to as just ‘heavy’ or ‘light’ but as being of a ‘strong/weak character’. In the latter case, I have this image of clouds which are easily led, prone to drinking or gambling and generally quite unreliable. You wouldn't want your daughter bringing one home.


The ferocious rains of the last week, especially in the north east, have brought a modicum of relief to at least part of a country suffering from a severe draught. But at a price. Floods in Catalunia have caused severe damage and at least four deaths.


I drove to Vigo today in glorious sunshine. In this weather, this short trip along the bays and the ria must be one of the prettiest in the world. Of course, it’s a different matter when the Atlantic decides to rise up and drop in on us, especially crossing the Rande suspension bridge. But I can live with that. From time to time.



Not by any means for the first time this winter, I woke to a glorious blue sky and a bright yellow sun while the radio was telling me Galicia was one of the 12 regions facing severe weather today. In the event, the worst we experienced was merely the sight of snow on the caps of the more distant mountains. I love the Atlantic when it’s benign. But not, of course, when it’s depositing itself on us for days at a time.


In the 12 months to mid February, Galicia had only 50% of the average annual rainfall of the last 30 years. You might like to be aware of this if you’re reading this because you fancy the idea of moving to what the British press seems to regard as an undiscovered paradise, where the weather is wonderful.


For several years now, illegal immigrants have been arriving on Spain’s coasts in their thousands each year. Many of them don’t make it alive. Recently the numbers have risen significantly, particularly in respect of Mauritanian refugees trying to land in the Canary Islands. In fact, things have got so bad Galicia has even agreed to take a share of those who make it. The poor souls may find the weather a bit of a shock, though it was 29 in one city in today, the highest temperature in Spain.


It seems global warming is giving a miss to the UK. The temperature at 7 this morning was a mere 4 degrees. But at least the sun is shining. Though I hear this is true of Galicia again this week, after 15 days of cloud and rain. Incidentally, such arctic temperatures appear to have no effect on the hardy British youth. I've seen several of them on the streets in summer gear. Even a T-shirt and shorts yesterday.


We’ve been blessed with wonderful weather for the last 10 days or so but things are forecast to change tomorrow. Let’s hope we’re not in for another bout of ADD. Elsewhere this may well stand for Attention Deficit Order. But here it means Atlantic Dumping Day, when the ocean wreaks some sort of revenge on us.


I wasn’t aware that you could have a reactionary [Telegraph] and liberal [Guardian] reaction to unusually hot British weather but apparently you can. Under the former, you just tell people to use their brains and not to panic, whereas under the latter you give them detailed advice because the body starts to disintegrate when the temperature reaches 43 degrees. This should come as news to the inhabitants of Granada and Sevilla, where it frequently tops this in the summer. We even get it here from time to time.


One of the main features of the Galician weather – apart from its predictable unpredictability – is that it tends to set in for days on end – whether it’s glorious sun, heavy rains or the miserable blankets of grey cloud which mar our winters. So it has been for over a week now with the strong, dry wind gusting day and night from the north east. No wonder the fires spread from the interior towards the western coast. And how lucky of Portugal to have the river Miño as its northern border with Galicia.


Well, in one of his little cosmic jokes, God sent us the rain just after the last fire had been put out. And a few hours after the fireworks display which inaugurates the lengthy fiesta period here in Pontevedra. Happily, the rain is of the gentler kind required by the ecologists to minimise the risk of soil erosion and pollution of the rivers and estuaries. This, of course, would bring another disaster in its wake – the contamination of Galicia’s shellfish.

It was good of God to send the rain but He didn’t have to turn August into October. If there’s no post tomorrow, it’s because I’ve got pneumonia.


Thanks mostly to the absence of my jinxed younger daughter, there were only 3 days of rain during this Galician summer, a huge improvement on last year. And temperatures in early September have reached record highs, with 42 in Ourense against ‘only’ 37 here in Pontevedra.


A reader has suggested that, through my guide to Galicia and links to property agents, I’m doing my best to replicate what I describe as the hell hole of the Costa del Sol. This is a reasonable point but possibly an unfair one. First of all, Galicia does not have sun all the year round; it has 5-6 months of grey and damp. So it has little or no appeal to the sun-seekers who populate the south coast


We await the arrival of the fading hurricane, Gordon - due to hit the coast in the small hours of tonight, albeit as a only a ‘tropical storm’. A mere 15% of Galicia’s recently-burnt forest has been protected against heavy downfalls and, if the rain is as torrential as expected, it will be a severe setback to the attempts to prevent soil erosion.


Well, hurricane Gordon came in like a lamb and went out like a church mouse.

I woke at 5.45 to find the trees beginning to stir. Dozing off, I re-woke at 8 to see levels of wind and rain that would be below par for an average winter day here on the Atlantic coast. By 8.15 it was all over. Not that here had been very much of it in the first place. Going downstairs I found my biggest problem was that my dog, Ryan, had – for the first time in his 12 year life – defecated inside the house. Not just once but twice. God knows why but I doubt it was from fear. Plus, of course, we’d had the power cut we get every time the rain gets above drizzle levels.

Later . . . Well Gordon must have been the shape of half a donut. Reports say it hit the Galician coast hard near La Guardia in the south and La Coruña in the north but folks in Vigo, Pontevedra and Muros, amongst others, swear they saw and heard very little.


A friend who has monitored the local weather for many decades tells me that La Coruña has both much less rain and much less sun than Pontevedra. The explanation, I guess, is that they have a lot more cloudy [and windy] days. And/or a lot more drizzle, compared with the mini-tropical storms we occasionally get. If you’re interested in knowing more about the Galician weather, you should go to my web page, www.colindavies.net


We’ve had so much rain in the last 2 week it’s as if the weather gods have decided to dump on us all the stuff we didn’t get in the first 9 months of the year. Naturally, the itinerant umbrella sellers have been out in force on the streets of Pontevedra. But the funny thing is, whereas these have hitherto always been gypsies, now they’re all Senegalese. I can’t imagine the former have given up this street trade and moved upmarket, so wonder whether they’ve contracted it out.


It never rains but it pours. The coast of has been hit by severe storms this week and several places are now under inches of the mud that has flowed down from the mountains, unimpeded by the trees that served this purpose before they were destroyed by August’s dreadful fires. An autumn best forgotten, then. Mind you, not everything is down to cruel Nature. Illegal house- building is said to have provided the water with new escape routes to the sea.


Here’s a few statistics about the current rainfall. The first figure is the annual average for each city over the last 30 years, in cubic metres. The second is the amount of water which fell in the first 3 weeks of this month:-

Pontevedra 1778/902 = 51%

Ourense 794/415 = 52%

Santiago 1862/545 = 29%

Lugo 958/421 = 44%


There are some new statues in the car park of the nearby School for Granite Carvers. If it ever stops raining, I’ll take some photos and post them.


After being bit hit by dreadful fires in August, some of Galicia’s coastal towns have now been devastated by floods caused by October’s unprecedented rainfall. And by the local government’s failure to protect them against the predictable tragedy of tons of ashes and mud being washed down on to the beaches and the shellfish breeding areas.


During October, nil work was again carried out on the [illegal?] building site in front of my house. In contrast, the Portuguese workers on the other side laboured mightily throughout the month, even during the 3 weeks of heavy rain. This may well turn out to be the shortest construction project in the history of Spain.


Here on the Galician coast, we seem to have finally reached the end of a month of gloriously sunny weather. This coincides with news that global warming will mean we’ll be getting the same amount of rain but over fewer days. All in all, I think we can be forgiven for a bit of ambivalence towards this phenomenon.


A reader of my web page yesterday asked me what advice I’d give about moving here. After contemplating the 5th day of continuous rain, I was tempted to say ‘Look somewhere else’. Well, today was the 6th day of the thick, grey blanket and a non-stop downpour, so suicide is beginning to look like an option. Thank God for the bright spot of the Thanksgiving Day dinner tonight at Pontevedra’s English Speaking Society. Assuming I survive the day.


Well, the endless rain of the last week was today joined by storm-force winds. These made quite a challenge of crossing the bridge into town. But we pseudo-Celts are made of strong stuff and I battled through. The rain does, of course, have a few benefits. It replenishes the reservoirs; it nourishes the vegetation that gives Green Spain its name; and - closer to home - it preserves us from the awful dust billowing from the revitalised building site a few metres from my house. Giving us rivers of mud instead.


A nice comment on the incessant rain of the last 10 days – A cartoon in one of our local papers today showed a salesman trying to interest a young man in a sports model . .

It goes from 0 to 100kph in 4 seconds.

Yes, but can it float?


Here in Pontevedra, today marked the start of a strike of the company which impounds illegally parked cars. So you can imagine what the town looked like tonight, with everyone making hay while the sun shone. Or would have been, if the bloody rain had let up for even a minute.


The heavy rains of the last couple of weeks have brought terrible floods to towns on our coast. These are blamed, in part, on the deforestation caused by August’s devastating fires but the Voz de Galicia has also pointed the finger at what it calls ‘ferocious urban development’. Those mayors again.


Spain’s big annual lotteries are almost upon us and the news is that Galicia is being flooded with requests for tickets which end in the number 27. The logic behind this is that, after the fires of August and the floods of November, the region is due for some good luck in the form of a disproportionate share of the national lottery cakes. And Nov. 27th was the day on which the heaviest rains fell.


Galicians are always telling me the weather here is just like the UK’s. Well, no it bloodywell isn’t. Ireland’s maybe but not Britain’s. There, most people have at least Ireland and possibly Wales as well as a buffer to soak up the stuff that comes from the Atlantic. Here there’s zilch and we are the ocean’s first port of European call.

In the UK, ‘sunshine and showers’ is an adequate forecast for most days of the year, pointing to a massive variability. In fact, you can have all four seasons in a single day. Here, on the other hand, the weather ‘sets in’ for days or even weeks on end. This is great when you’re talking about sun but less than welcome when it comes to rain. And, as we effectively live in the middle of the Atlantic, there’s a lot of this stuff. Especially in winter. In fact, during our ‘wet season’, we get three times as much rain as Manchester in the UK. I often wonder how this goes down with Brits who’ve blithely discounted or even ignored the comments on my web page and bought isolated properties up in mountains. The ones who haven’t killed themselves, I mean.

What has prompted this little diatribe is that – after a 4 weeks of sun – we’re now well into a third week of non-stop rain plummeting from Galicia’s traditional winter blanket of thick, low, grey cloud. And I’ve just been drenched getting some petrol for the car.

On the weather theme, it struck me the other day most forecasts here are remarkably accurate. But then I realised how easy it actually is. If the wind is coming from the west, it will rain. If it’s coming from anywhere else, it won’t and the sun will shine. Or, even more simply – If it’s coming from the left, rain. If it’s not, sun.


In the interests of balance, I should report it stopped raining for a while today. And the sun even made a pathetic attempt to peer through the clouds. But the thick grey blanket is forecast to return tonight.

I see water has been discovered on Mars. Probably a run-off from Galicia.


It didn’t rain in Pontevedra today. We had hailstorms instead.


Talking about things pouring down from the sky - In line with the comments I made recently about British weather, I’ve been in the UK for a week now but have not had to use an umbrella. In fact, I’ve seen very little, if any, rain. And none is forecast for the coming week. It’s not often you can go two weeks in a Galician winter without needing protection from the elements. On the other hand, it is 13 degrees in Pontevedra, against 4 or 5 here. Swings and roundabouts, I guess


The recent rains about which I complained so much caused severe damage to several of the region’s best shellfish beds. Thanks to the gluttonous custom here of eating four huge meals of seafood within a singe week, it’s customary for the prices of these products to quadruple around now. But this year one variety of hard-to-get clam is said to be selling for a record 123 euros a kilo. Or 40 quid a pound.


Within a few minutes of me writing that I’d seen no rain in the UK in 12 days, the heavens opened. Whereas the sun was shining brightly when I landed back in Santiago. It doesn't do to provoke the weather gods.


Until the November rains and floods, Galicia had one of the driest years on record, confirming [it’s said] the phenomenon of regional warming. Over the last 30 years, the average temperature has increased by 1.4 degrees. The future, we’re told, holds the prospect of more ‘adverse phenomena”. You have been warned.

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