Friday, November 09, 2007

Tales of power-mad and/or randy priests are a staple of Galician village life but you don’t expect to see them covered in the local press. Recently, however, we’ve been treated to the saga of a 75 year old priest in the border town of Tui who became a little upset when his Brazilian housekeeper was told her visa had expired. So he nipped down to the town hall and, in effect, registered her as his common law wife so she could stay in Spain. However, his bishop has taken this rather amiss and instructed him to rectify matters. And to attend confession, perhaps. You can read about it here.

Talking of humour, I see that a new magazine specialising in the Galician dark humour of retranca has just hit our newsstands. The first issue seems to be dedicated to the ugliness of much of the construction in Galicia, a well-deserved target. You can read about it here, in an article which says publication of the magazine proves Galicians can laugh at themselves. It rather depends, of course, on who’s doing the joking.

In the UK, where it’s now permitted to criticise ‘multiculturalism’, it seems things have gone even further and one is now allowed to discuss immigration and its impact on British culture. However, you must do this under the rubric of ‘population growth’, rather than ‘immigration’. Since the latter always appears high on the list of things that concern the Spanish the most, I suspect this bit of political correctness has yet to reach Spain.

En passant, this doesn’t seem like a good time to try to get anywhere by train in Cataluña. Responding to recent criticism of her apparent ineptitude, the Minister for Public Works insisted she wouldn’t resign as ‘Only cowards run away’. This, of course, is on a par with the view of the besieged head of London’s police, who said that he must stay on ‘to sort things out’. By the logic of these under-achievers, the worse you perform, the more you need to stay in your [undeserved] job. How convenient.

Talking about Cataluña, there was a nice comment yesterday from my fellow blogger, Trevor, who lives there . . . Apparently if you go to the Barcelona real estate trade fair and say you want to buy a parking space, they’ll throw in a free flat. If you can get a mortgage. (Of course the sector is not in collapse. That only happens in other countries.)

And still on this theme, it’s reported that A slowdown in the real estate sector may be to blame for the decision of a large developer in the Toledo region, known popularly as ‘El Pocero’ [Mr Drains?], to sell three of his private jets, keeping just his largest one. Tough times, obviously.

On my walk into town everyday, I pass Pontevedra’s Fine Arts School. The young women who attend this are just about the only ones in town who don’t dress in exactly the same uniform as their mothers – a pair of tight jeans and whatever top is currently the rage. Not exactly London at the peak of the punk period – or even now – but different nonetheless. And probably the only bit of teenage rebelliousness one comes across. If you discount getting blind drunk in the Friday and Saturday night botellones.

Anyway, I’m off on a short trip down into Portugal and Castile. I may or may not find a cyber café. So, until I return, my best wishes to anyone who shares my birthday today.


Mark said...

Happy birthday to a fellow scorpion! Do tell us where you're going in Portugal.

moskavitch said...

"...his bishop has taken this rather amiss...."
Sorry, I am just probably being a bit of a smartass myself, but your English sometimes sounds as if taken straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Nothing wrong with that, I guess.

Colin said...


Ta. I'm just meandering down to Braga and then east to the border and Toro and Zamora. Perhaps.


Colin said...


Or 'smartarse' as I and Jane would say.

BTW, is Moskva masculine or feminine?

Mark said...


Make sure you travel from Braga up towards Terras de Bouro and the Portela de Homem. You can go via a small village called Brufe where there is an amazing restaurant. My house is in a small village called Ribeira just before Terras de Bouro and about 30 minutes east of Braga. Let me know what you think of the place. Great scenery.

moskavich said...

Male. I refuse to believe in astrology, but, funny how some people seem to match the description - sometimes. This, from (yet) another scorpion. About Galicians and 'retranca': If having a sense of humour means being able to laugh at one self, then, I'm afraid, there is a widespread believe among the nations of this world that they all have a brilliant sense of humour (with exception of the Germans, of course). However, I am still to encounter the people able to stomach foreigners laughing at them.

Xoan-Carlos said...

1. Is your vision one on an independent Galicia?

Not necessarily, but the people should have the right to decide.

2. Would this be a republic?

I don't care too much, but it probably would.

3. If not, a return to the Kingdom of Galicia?

Probably not, although this would be amusing. Where would we find a Royal family? Maybe they could run a contest on TVG and viewers could vote for their King by text message (with messages costing €1 a go and going towards funding Galicia's military budget).

4. Would it be a separate member of the EU?

Almost definitely

5. Or would you see it as part/region/nationality of Portugal?

No Portugal and Galicia are two different nations -- union with Portugal would be even more ridiculous than union with Spain.

6. Or, fused with Portugal, as a new Portuguese-Galaico state?


7. Is ‘normalising Galician’ [ignoring morality] different from ‘pushing Galician at the expense of Spanish’?

Sometimes yes. It would be more accurate to state that normalisation is pushing Galician at the expense of those who want to be monolingual Spanish-speakers or at the expense of the exclusive use of Spanish. For 500 years Spanish has been pushed at the expense of Galician. Legally Galician is subjugated to Spanish. By law you have THE RIGHT (derecho) to use Galician, but THE OBLIGATION (deber) to use Spanish. This should be reversed.

8. Are you really saying that Gallego is a dialect of Portuguese?

Yes, or vice versa. And this is a generally accepted view among linguists. It's interesting that Luis doesn't agree with this, but then says "Portuguese is just a variant of Galician." They are both standardised languages and at the same time different dialects of Galician-Portuguese, in much the same way as Dutch is a dialect of Flemish, or vice versa.

9. Is someone who lives in Spain but outside Galicia and who believes in some sort of federal Spanish state better than the current mess a ‘Spanish nationalist’?

No. A Spanish nationalist is someone who thinks they have the right to decide whether Catalonia/Euskadi/Galicia remain part of Spain when they themselves do not live in these nations. Someone who boycotts cava or Albarinho because of any views they may have about nationalists in Galicia or Catalonia; and it goes without saying, the groups of people who still come out and celebrate the anniversary of Franco's death even though he was responsible for 100 times more deaths than ETA.

10. Is someone who lives in Galicia but who doesn’t support your vision a ‘Spanish nationalist’?

Depends what part of my vision you're referring to.

11. If independence were achieved, would those Galicians living in the new entity who still preferred to be part of Spain be ‘Spanish nationalists’?

No, but they would mostly be Spanish nationals, probably still carry Spanish passports, and have the same rights that you may have in Ireland (including bilateral voting rights).

12. Would the linguistic policy of independent Galicia be Gallego first, Portuguese second, English third and Spanish fourth?

Galician first, Spanish second and Portuguese and English as compulsory foreign languages, but with more time devoted to English given the ease with with Galician speakers can learn Portuguese.

13. If so, would you have all kids taught all four languages in school?


14. Or would you drop the [what you seem to think is the pretty useless] Spanish?

No. And to clarify, I have never said that Spanish is useless, just that you cannot make comparisons between English as a global language and Spanish as a global language--the latter is not a global language it is a regional language restricted to approximately half of Latin America and just over half of the Iberian peninsula.

15. Would you, as President of independent Galicia, be happy to forego ‘Spanish’ subsidies?

Any such "subsidies" if they exist, would be replaced by European cohesion funding.

16. Would you compensate by trying to attract investment by low tax rates, a la Ireland?

There would be nothing to compensate, but lowering tax would be an option. A workforce capable of speaking Spanish and Portuguese-Galician would also be the best suited for any businesses that are exposed to the increasingly seamless Iberian market (banking, call centres, HQs for various multinationals who already treat Iberia as a single market but set up offices elsewhere in Spain or in Portugal).

17. Do you think that the Dutch have benefited not only from not having any global language imposed on them but also from being free to choose to learn whatever language they wanted?

People in smaller countries with native languages such as the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, Hungary etc generally learn more languages than people in Spain or England, they can learn what ever language they want but all learn their own national languages (as well as those prescribed in schools). You'll rarely hear a Dutchman say that English should replace Dutch in schools because English is more useful.

Xoan-Carlos said...

Oh, and happy birthday!

Asturchale y Chulo said...

Hi there! Just entered back your blog to ask you: Have you watched "Elizabeth, the Golden Years?" and if so, are you going to write a comment on it? The movie is rising a storm of discussions in about the Armada, the Golden Years of England and the depiction of Spaniards in English popular culture. Very interesting.
PD-By the way, this winter is crazy! Curse Global warming!

Colin said...

Well, I'm certainly not going to watch it, though I may write about it. I happened to hear a review of it on the BBC last night and it was described as a poor film that was, in addition, inaccurate about British history. So I guess it's not too kind on the Spanish.

But things could be worse. Imagine the Aztecs or Incas making a film!