Today, a bit more on the Galician humour, retranca, which I wrote about on 14 July. This ‘dark, corrosive and macabre humour’ has also been described as ‘The deadpan statement of the obvious, the subtle irony of understatement’. Talking to Galician friends, they seem to struggle to define it, though agreeing that ambiguity lies at its core. My Argentinean piano teacher – whose parents are Gallegos – may have got closest to its essence when he told me retranca is quintessentially clannish or tribal. It centres, he said, on Galicians laughing between themselves at foreigners laughing at them. An example would be a Galician feigning, in front of his friends, even more ignorance or stupidity than a visitor from Madrid would attribute to him. Here, of course, one can see the defensiveness which I’ve said is at the heart of retranca. And it does point up the odd fact that the ‘victims’ of the humour are not expected to find it funny, only the Galician practitioners. If true, this would make it rather different from Liverpool’s aggressive - but perhaps equally defensive - humour. But I claim no great insight and would be interested to hear from Galician readers on this. If I still have any. By the way, yes it is normal for Galicians to regard folk from Madrid as ‘foreigners’. Or even people from next-door Asturias. Though perhaps not from the villages which the BNG feels should be part of Galicia.
I’ve given up on trying to understand where they are in forming a government in Navarra, following the May elections. All I know for sure is that they have until 18 August before they have to re-open the polls.
As for that other mystery - about treasure in the Med - the Spanish government has now released the American ship that was ‘escorted’ to Algeciras, as they found nothing on it to confirm suspicions Spanish bullion had been found close to home. So, on to the next chapter.
One wonders how much support Britain will get from the EU in its stance against the new Stalinism of Putin. Given that Germany recently blasted apart EU energy policy via its one-to-one gas deal with Russia, there can’t be much room for optimism.
Talking of Britain, that excellent chap, the EU MP Daniel Hannan, has a go today at Gordon Brown’s attempts to cloak himself in ‘Britishness’, primarily so the voters won’t see him as a nationalistic Scot. For everyone confused by us Brits, here’s a bit of what DH has to say on this score . . . Part of being British is that it would never occur to us to codify our beliefs, whether for the benefit of immigrants or anyone else. And if, for some reason, we did, we would come up with a series of attributes very different from Mr Brown's: we are morose, brave, law-abiding, diffident, drunk and belligerent; we have an unusually pronounced attachment to property and freedom; we bridle at injustice; we dislike bullying; we resent state interference. What is Mr Brown's list? "Fairness and tolerance." Well, yes: but these values would do just as well for Ecuador or Finland. In seeking to praise his country, he inadvertently depreciates it, making it sound just like anywhere else. . . . Ours are not always likeable traits. In peace time, they can make us prickly neighbours. But they equip us admirably to deal with terrorism. As Billy Bragg has put it: "If there is a single trait in our character that has historically set us apart from other nations, it is our determination to limit the authority of those who rule over us." For British values reside not in trite phrases, but in institutions: a sovereign Parliament, common law, autonomous universities, county councils, Army regiments. . . British values can be found, most of all, in the notion that freedom is our birthright, not something to be handed to us by human rights codes or government statutes. I hope this clears up a few things. And might help to explain some of my ‘nonsenses’.
Back to Galicia – Since 2000, 23,000 people have departed the interior of Lugo and Ourense provinces for the coast. It may take some time for incoming Brits to make up these numbers. Whether they and their strange attitudes are welcome or not.
A historian at the university of Santiago claims that Galicians suffered more than anyone else under Franco. “The Franquistas”, he adds “were particularly benign towards the Basques, especially the nationalists”. I have no idea whether this is true or not but am pretty sure there’s a contrary view somewhere in Spain. But I consider it all about as relevant today as whether Coventry or Liverpool were more devastated by Hitler’s bombers around the same time.
Finally, just in case you don’t know, the adagio from Beethoven’s 5th Piano concerto might just be the simplest, most beautiful piece of music yet written. You could do worse than download it to check it out.