Spain’s position [14th] in the European health system rankings did turn out to be higher than the UK’s. What interested me was the El Pais comment that this survey shattered the myth that Spain’s system is among the top 5 or 6. Back in the UK, there are many deluded souls who still believe that the NHS is the envy of the world. In this, of course, they’re encouraged by Labour politicians who treat it as a gem to be preserved as the biggest employer in Europe. And the least efficient. The truth is even Cyprus and Estonia achieved higher ratings. Not to mention the UK’s ex-poor relative, Ireland. And yet Gordon Brown still looks set to win the next election.
Many of you will be unaware the Rugby World Cup is currently taking place, mostly in France. So far, it’s been a terrific event, with the ‘minnows’ of Georgia, Portugal, Fiji and Namibia putting in spectacular performances against the big-name teams. But at one match the other night the commentator said something rather odd, viz. “The crowd has begun to sing the Basque national anthem, which has become something of an unofficial song for this tournament.” Did he mean the anthem of the French Basque region? Or is there something shared between the French Basques and their brethren across the Pyrenees?
Anthems and flags tend to go together and the latter are very much in the news in Spain these days. Specifically, Spanish flags which are not where they should be or which are being burnt by what other bloggers in Barcelona call Cataloonies. Checking with our town hall yesterday, I saw there were four flags a-flying – the Pontevedra flag, the Galicia flag, the Spanish flag and the EU flag. My conclusions were 1. If you’re going to fly one flag, four is logical, and 2. This is too many bloody flags. Better for there to be none at all.
Changing times – The government of Andalucia will be the first in Spain to apply new Government regulations for noise tests on mopeds. So, is this the end of the road for this irritating element of the traditional Spanish culture?
Speaking of which . . . Before the end of this week, I’ll be posting my overview of all I find positive and negative about Spain. Meanwhile, my core view is that, thanks to its colourful history, Spain has the most interesting culture in Europe. In brief, a fascinating fusion of various influences that the Spanish should be very proud of. Why am I saying this now? Well, a week or two ago, in an exchange with a Spanish reader, I wrote that elements of the Spanish culture reminded me of the Middle East, where I had lived for 3 years. This led to a battery of comments – one or two of them almost polite – suggesting I was not only an imbecile but also a racist. For reasons beyond my comprehension, I was alleged to have said that all Spaniards were descended from Arabs. Surely a racist comment in itself, given the attitude behind it. Anyway, there were two basic camps of infuriated reader:– 1. Those who insist the Spanish are not only pure Celto-Iberians but also the progenitors of almost everyone else in Europe, particularly the Brits. Nothing has happened since Celtic times to change this, and 2. Those who believe that 700 years of occupation by the Moors has left no trace whatsoever on Spain and that any similarity with other cultures is pure coincidence. Well, It’s not, of course, a new or original thought that Spain’s culture reflects various influences and here are a few relevant quotes from page 1 of a 30 second Google search . . .
The Spanish culture of today has been reinforced by the strong influences of the Roman, Jewish, Moorish and Muslim cultures that have lent a distinct charm to the culture of Spain. Each aspect of the Spanish culture - its cuisine, religions, festivals, language and literature is a living proof of the myriad influences that make the Spaniards proud of themselves.
Many Spaniards would probably not be very happy to admit this but Spain's culture and ambiance owes its uniqueness to the influence of the Middle East. Although some traces of Arabic influence have been wiped out over the centuries, they will never be completely purged from what was once a strong Muslim-owned country.
The Moorish period lasted 700 years and their presence led to the forging of the Spanish culture and identity. And, although Spain hasn't been a center of Muslim learning and culture for over 500 years, the presence of Muslim (and Mudéjar) architecture to this day attests to the profound mark left upon Spain.