Sunday, July 22, 2007

As I reported months back, Spain is seeking to add words to its national anthem. In a nation of many nation-ettes, this will not be an easy task. Anyway, there’s to be a competition and, as one UK paper puts it this morning - The winner will have to perform a feat of lyrical genius to satisfy Spain’s myriad political, religious and nationalist factions. The result may well be a piece of politically correct doggerel that neither offends nor rouses. Meanwhile, it will be fun to watch. I expect the winner will be first sung on TV by a choir of beautiful young women wearing very little. Or I hope so, at least.

If you Google the phrase Anglo-Galician in English and Spanish, you get only 5 citations, 2 of which are my blog. If you opt for any language, this rockets up to 7, with the extra 2 being [I think] in Polish. As I’ve decided to form The Anglo-Galician Association, this suggests it faces little competition for members. As of now, all the key positions are held by you-know-who and the organisation’s Constitution [imperative in Spain] and its Statutes are blank sheets. Applications for membership – not to mention ideas as to what to do next – are hereby requested. By the way, the word ‘Anglo’ is certainly wide enough to encompass Americans and even, I suppose, Australians. All are welcome. Honest. Plus, of course, anyone from Galicia or its widespread diaspora. Watch out for news of the web page, which will have 3 co-official languages, of course.

The Association’s first cultural act is to highlight an interesting dissertation on life in 10th century Galicia by a Mr R A Fletcher and entitled Saint James's Catapult: The Life and Times of Diego Gelmírez of Santiago de Compostela. Among the things we seem to have lost since then are a thriving cider industry and a class of semi-slave known as criatios. These were people who occupied the lowest social rung on the ladder of the free. They were bound to the land in service to a lord. They could be sold, exchanged, or given away.

I’ve touched on Galicia’s weather a couple of times recently. The region’s hoteliers are again up-in-arms against the Madrid forecasters who plump for only a single symbol for Galicia, most usually the one which applies to the north coast. This, they say, ignores the fact of Galicia’s microclimates and tells would-be-vacationers it’s cloudy here when the sun is actually roasting people on Sanxenxo beach. Our friend Mr Fletcher has this to say on this subject - The mountain barrier between Galicia and the meseta sharply differentiates the climates of the two regions. On the meseta winters are long and harsh, summers fiercely hot; rainfall is slight; woodland is little more than scrub. The aspect of the country is monotonous. Galicia's climate is temperate, Atlantic. Winters are generally mild, summers agreeably warm; rain is frequent, usually in the form of light showers.

He then goes on to describe the consequences of our climate - Woodland is dense and lush. The countryside is easy on the eye, broken up and varied by outcrops of granite, rolling hills, an abundance of rivers and streams. The scale of things is somehow comforting, manageable, human. There is not the desolation of the meseta, induced by an awareness of that brown, baked land stretching unchanging for miles and miles in every direction.

So far, so good. But he then adds, perhaps a little gratuitously: - These differences have not been without their effect on the inhabitants. The Galicians are friendly and cheerful; the people of the meseta are dour, sullen and charmless.

For Galician readers fascinated by Celtic connections, Mr Fletcher confirms - British, possibly Breton, monks settled at Bretoña, near Mondoñedo, in the sixth century. Direct connections between western Spain and Ireland may have existed in the seventh. Certain of Isidore's works appear to have reached Irish centres of learning with remarkable speed, and it is possible that the monastic customs of Fructuosus of Braga owed something to Celtic usages.

Coming back to the 21st century, more specifically to the first quarter of 2007, the big news is that property prices actually fell in Madrid, Navarra, La Rioja and Murcia. Here in Galicia, they rose by just 2%. You can, of course, get more than this from a bank. The question now is whether this will engender the sort of panic that mirrors the rush to invest at the start of a property cycle. Is our landing going to be soft or hard? Vamos a ver. Only one thing is certain – the government will instruct us not to read anything significant into these developments. Which could well be counter-productive.

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