As promised yesterday, here's a list of what I find good, positive and/or impressive about Spain.
But, first, the Preamble . . .
I'm doing this because readers - especially Spanish ones - can get an unbalanced impression of my overview of Spain by reading just one or two blog posts.
This, of course, is a very personal and subjective list. Yours may be very different. Comments and suggestions are welcome and, if I agree, I will add new positives as they come in.
Obviously, then, this is a work-in-progress. Even without comments, I will be making additions from time to time. I have been jotting down things for a couple of weeks but right now I can't find some of the scraps of paper. Reading over what I've written, I'm conscious that I've probably missed some of the obvious positives. If so, this will have to be quickly rectified.
What this list isn't is an analysis of Spain and its people. It's a simple list of likes. It doesn't, for example, address the critical importance of personal relationships here. Nor the issues of 'localism' and 'nationalisms', for example. These merit a long, objective book, not just a short, subjective list.
You may feel there are inconsistencies in this list. And this impression may grow when you compare the Positives with my future list of Negatives. This is inevitable; countries, like people, can be a hive of inconsistency.
I have a long-standing view that the people with the greatest strengths also have the greatest weaknesses. Whether you like them - marry them, even - depends on the net balance. What this means, among other things, is that you can still love people and countries than infuriate you from time to time.
My view of Spain's net balance is very positive. As I've said several times in my blog, it's the best of the six cultures I've lived in and certainly superior to that of the UK. However, I've also said this may reflect my age and circumstances and that it's quite possible I'd reach a different conclusion if I were far younger and trying to set up a business here.
If I were to sum up Spain's positive-ness, I'd say it keeps me young. I realise, though, that some readers may not regard this as a plus if it means I'm going to go on writing. But, in truth, this is not something I worry much about. If at all.
Although the items in this list are not in any particular order of merit, it's traditional and probably right to start with its people. Briefly, they're the most sociable, affable and welcoming in the world. They have a huge sense of fun and vitality. They know how to enjoy life. They love to talk and are brilliant at it. There's no one better in the world to sit next to on a plane or train than a Spaniard if you want to make the journey pass more quickly. They're proud, informal, direct and very pragmatic. They have superb eye-contact and are very tactile, especially the women. Finally, they have the capacity to be very noble.
Compared with the UK, Spain is more sane, more equal, more fun-orientated and less class-conscious. As yet, there are far fewer examples here of ‘political correctness gone mad’. In short, this is a less anally retentive/neurotic society than many others; safety, for example, is not a god on whose altar common sense must be regularly sacrificed. Nor is it afflicted by phobias which bear little relation to reality. Overall, it is a relaxed and relaxing society in which to live.
Reflecting its history and it cultural influences, Spain is the most interesting country in Europe. Her fascinating cultural heritage is at least the equal of any other country, though widely underrated. A passionate Dutch lover of Spain - Cees Noteboom - has written that, if you picked up chunks of northern Spain and put them down in France, millions would visit them. But, since they're in Spain, no one does.
To say the least, Spain has a vibrant and dynamic economy, reflected - for example - in its superb new road and rail links. It's a very 'alive' place, evidenced by its marvellous cafés, bars and restaurants.
Spain's cities are exceptionally civilised places, in which café society is the gem in the crown.
Spain's women are proud, feminine, beautiful and - as I never tire of thanking God for - very tactile. The country has not suffered from the distortions wreaked elsewhere by fanatical feminism.
Age here is not the barrier to communication and enjoyment of life it can be elsewhere. One gets the impression that, for the Spanish, the most important criterion is not how old you are but how much you contribute to the general well-being.
Relatedly, this is a society is which there is still respect between the generations.
Spanish society is still underpinned by strong family links. Children are still happy to be seen in public with their parents. Grandparents even.
Spain, like France, is not afraid to have an elite. One result of this is that the serious papers remain 'heavy'; they have not yet sensationalised themselves in the direction of a tabloid press. The main reason for this - and a huge positive - is that there is no egregious tabloid press in Spain.
To state the obvious, Spain's weather - even in Galicia - is better than that of other countries and the cost of living is still lower.
Spain's crime rate is relatively low. I have yet to feel unsafe here, even in Madrid in the middle of the night. That said, I'm sure it's possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And there are a lot of pickpockets in both Barcelona and Madrid.
Although things are naturally trending in the wrong direction, Spain is not yet as consumerist as Anglo Saxon societies. Sunday is still Sunday.
By and large, young Spaniards know how to take their drink. There is little of the violence associated with boozing in the UK.
Finally, some Miscellaneous Likes:- Night trains; The honour system in bars; Menus del dia
To end by repeating myself - I suspect my missing bits of paper contain several more positives. But this is a good start. Reactions are welcome. Meanwhile, I 'll be re-reading a couple of my books so I can check on others' positives, with a view to deciding whether or not I already had them on my list. Or should have had.