Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I see the writer/journalist Francisco Umbral has died at only 72, following an illness that might have had something to do with the heavy drinking he was reputed to indulge in. This is a great shame as I was hoping that one day I could meet him and get an explanation of at least one of the impenetrable columns he wrote for the back page of El Mundo.

I think it’s been said before that one defining characteristic of the Spanish – perhaps the defining characteristic – is their ability to party. I thought of this yesterday when I read that senior Galician politicians had held a gala dinner in order to celebrate the end of the holidays and the fiesta period. And then again when I saw the preparations for our Medieval Fair next week. When I came here almost 7 years ago, this ‘tradition’ was in its second year and occupied only one or two small streets in our old quarter. Now, it takes over the entire quarter and, for the first time this year, will extend across one of the bridges into parts of the ‘new’ town. The vast majority of participants will dress up, meaning there are now numerous shops around town specialising in appropriate costumes. These, of course, play to the odd fancy for cross-dressing that appears to consume many of our young men at times like this. All very impressive. In one way or another.

On a more serious note - With a general election around the corner, evidence is growing that the socialist government is planning – Blair style – to colonise the middle ground and caricature the PP opposition party as right wing extremists. In this, they’ve been given considerable help by the PP’s strident calls over the last few years for or against one thing or another. In addition, it’s certainly noticeable - to me at least – that the government is backtracking a little in its support for Spain’s various ‘nationalist’ parties. Though some would say this is a little late as the genie is already well out of the bottle. And, of course, the government has been forced to drop its earlier ‘soft’ stance against the ETA terrorists and will surely benefit from the many ETA arrests since the Madrid airport bombings at the end of last year. All in all, if you’re a betting man, I’d recommend a punt on the socialist government retaining power.

I dined yesterday lunchtime in a restaurant whose menu was a joy to read. One factor was a breadth unusual for Galicia but the main reason was that it had been translated by the village idiot on an off day. Among the many gems were:-

Sucking pig to the oven of fuelwood

Algae with shrimps salad



But these ranked far behind the following in terms of incomprehensibility:-

Grilled sea crac

Galician swinming crac

Small shells

Cut in sauce of small prawns (fish)


Skewer of snuff with prawns

And my absolute favourites:-

Bream to the sailor’s blouse


Bend to the oven

There is a huge prize for the first reader to come up with the correct names for all these exotic dishes. Trawling the internet won’t help you this time. Use your imagination. Answers some time soon.

Finally, those readers acquainted with Galicia’s excellent albariƱo wines may like to know I’ve just discovered that some bodegas produce a barrica version, meaning it’s been aged in oak barrels, albeit only for a few months. And I read yesterday there’s also a ‘champagne’ version but I suspect this merely means more effervescence.


David said...


About Francisco Umbral, I am sorry for this family and friends. And that is all I, as a Galician-not-deeply-embarrased-to-be-so-and-trying-to-clean-himself, can say.

Really funny some of the menu names. A Southern European trying to speak English is likely to be amusing. But from my current experience with Slavic people, they are not far away in this matter.

Thouse new 'traditions' like Medieval Fairs are a good expresion of the lack of ellegance only a Galician can throw to himself.

About the Genius Out Of The Bottle, let him fly and shine. Much have been destroyed under 'one country-one people' motto in Spain. Much. Culture, arthistic expressions, annonymous and not so annonymous careers. Anything given back by the Castillian ultranationalists (that is, the Spanish governments) will not be enough. But nothing is expectable, so no problem.

By the way, the so-called 'peripherical cultures' in Spain could teach, in my opinion, important things to the Great And Ancient Spanish Way Of Life. Starting by politeness. Anyone interested can take a look at how the parlamentary sessions are done in the Catalonian Parliament, for example.

Enough of nationalistic poisson for tonight. I must say that, at least, is not directed to anyone in particular.

Colin said...

Thanks, David. I think you're being a bit harsh on Galicians who throw themselves into such events as the medieval fairs. I enjoy them myself, though I have to admit I've never yet got dressed up. I have thought of going naked and dirty as the village idiot but have not yet put this thought into practice.