Monday, December 31, 2007

If you’ve missed pictures of the head of the Pakistani suicide bomber, click onto the web page any Spanish newspaper and enter cabeza in the search box. Shouldn’t take too long.

Which reminds me . . . Recently there’s been a spate of hits to my blog using search terms such as:-
arab blood in Spain
are the Spanish white
hola comes from Allah
Spaniards are part Arab

Actually, my suspicion is these originate with ultra right-wing Spaniards who can think of nothing better to do than sit at their computer all day looking for evidence of liberal thinking on, say, immigration so they can then send a stream of bile to the blogger. Anyway, the most intriguing search of the week was:- The burning of red knickers in spain on new years eve. Can anyone shed any light on women shedding scarlet panties?

To be more serious - The end-of-the-year financial overviews are dominated by tales of liquidity problems in the debt-burdened construction industry. Some developers are even said to be selling at cost, simply to get hold of the cash banks aren’t able/willing to lend. The National Association of Estate Agents has demanded the government helps by simplifying the task of buying and selling land. Strange this never surfaced during the decade of what are called fat-cow years here.

I see it’s not only in Spain that the government dictates the dates on which shops can hold sales; the same holds true of France and Italy as well. This is in addition to telling them what dates and at what hours they can open during the year. I have to admit to a degree of ambivalence about all this. I’m a supporter of capitalism but I detest its inevitable progression towards unbridled commercialism. And I quite like the fact Sundays here are how they used to be when I was a kid in the UK. But the Anglo in me rebels at the thought of civil servants telling shop keepers not just when but how they can actually sell their products.

The new high-speed train link between Madrid and Valladolid opened this week. And immediately ran into operating problems. The same happened, of course, with Madrid’s magnificent new airport terminal. Bigtime in that case. I wonder if this is because large projects such as these never come in on time and political pressure builds up for them to be inaugurated before they’ve been fully commissioned. If so, stand by for some huge cock-ups with the much-delayed Madrid-Barcelona link. On top of those which have already happened in the last few weeks, I mean.

For those who think I write a contentious blog simply to maximise traffic which generates advertising income, I should advise I’ve made 96 dollars in 8 months. Or around 60 euros, I think. Just enough for an end-of-year outing.

Finally, my best wishes for 2008 to everyone. And my apologies if a malfunctioning keyboard has led to even more typos than usual. I leave you with the rhetorical question – How come there are mouse droppings in the detergent drawer of my washing machine . . . .?


moskvawhich said...

Glad you enjoyed yesterday's pictures. You see, no need to worry, there's no reputation to be lost anymore.
Shopping hours in Germany are even more restrictive than in Spain. Actually, on this issue - as on so many others - the UK almost stands alone in Western Europe. 24/7 unbriddled shopping may be enjoyed freely in Eastern Europe, though. Here Thatcher is still a bit of an icon.

Graeme said...

The mouse wants to know who left washing powder in its toilet?

mike the trike said...

You're lucky the droppings are in your washing machine soap dispenser and not on your bread board!

Xoan-Carlos said...

As I nurse a hang over I've managed to find the following article which may be of interest taken from :

That Brittany was founded by British emigrants in the post-Roman period is well-known. The Breton language still flourishes and shows clear links with the British languages remaining in Britain. A quick look at a map of Brittany shows, for example, many placenames beginning with 'Lan' (the same as Cornish 'Lan' or Welsh 'Llan'; meaning 'enclosed holy place'), 'Tre' (identical in Cornish and Welsh; meaning 'settlement'), or 'Ker' (same as Welsh 'Caer' or Cumbrian 'Car' as in Carlisle; meaning 'fortified place', generally descended from Latin 'castrum'). Many of the religious centres in Brittany - St Pol, Dol, St Malo, St Brieuc - were founded by Britons, generally from what is now S Wales.

That British emigrants also settled in Galicia is much less well known. Since the end of the Franco regime and a general decentralisation in Spain, many Galicians have claimed Celtic roots, to establish, for example, common traditions in folk music. But this has generally been oriented to Ireland and the Gaels rather than Britain, and largely based on the well-known Irish tradition that the Irish originally came from Spain. Much of Iberia was Celtic in the Iron Age, and the language of the Celtiberians is thought to have been Goidelic; see, for example, Jesús Rodríguez Ramos's site. If so, this would point to a link between Iberia and Ireland. However, whether Iron-Age Galicia specifically was Celtic is less certain; evidence from archaeology, written records, placenames, etc is sparse.

There are however a dozen or so placenames in Galicia beginning with 'Brit-' or 'Bret-', which may (or may not) hint at a British influence. A distinctive feature of the Galician landscape is the castros, Iron-Age hill-forts of which there are several thousand in NW Iberia (see for example paper in E-Keltoi for more info). Intriguingly, one of the finest of these is the Citania de Briteiros, now in N Portugal but in what was formerly Galicia and close to where S Martin set up his monastery at Dumio.

The best-documented link between the British and a 'Brit' placename is however Bretoña, described in a series of ecclesiastical documents from the C6 onwards. Put briefly, these document a British see, churches and a monastery (ad sedem Britonorum ecclesias que sunt intro Britones una cum monasterio Maximi) and one Mailoc, bishop of this see (Mahiloc Britonensis ecclesiae episcopus). This documentation is well summarised in a booklet Historia de Bretoña by Antonio García y García, Emeritus Professor at the Pontificia University in Salamanca, and published by the Diputación in Lugo, though unfortunately now out of print. There's a review in English on the Heroic Age website by Simon Young, a British researcher who has taken an interest in the subject. The latter has set up a website (also available here; this includes an extensive bibliography) and written a book Britonia: Camiños novos (in Galician; see review on website of the Breton-Galician twinning organisation, though 'Comme chacun sait' is stretching it a bit; 'Comme presque personne sait' would be more like it!); an item of his summarising the position appeared in History Today.

Besides these specialist works, more general works on Galicia and the British also mention Bretoña: R.A.Fletcher's study of Diego Gelmírez St James' Catapult does so and is now available online at the American LIBRO site (see Chapter 1 and search for 'brit'); a good recent summary of our knowledge of the British in general, which includes the Galician settlements, is Christopher A. Snyder's The Britons (Blackwell, 2003 - interview with author at Oxbow Books). There are quite a few Bretoña-related websites around: the Diputacion have some info in their list of municipalities; see also Pangalaica and Galicia Espallada; there is a yearly Lugnasad festival in Bretoña parish: see here and here; and there's a tradition that Maeloc's treasure is buried on the nearby mountain of Cornería (see Barreiros site) - a story that bears more than a passing resemblance to British legends.

The presence of a British settlement in Galicia, based in Bretoña where it reoccupied an existing castro, is thus well documented. We do not know when the Britons arrived, though the presence of a see in 569 and its participation in the Council at Braga implies that the community was already well established by that time. García y García states that S Martin's monastery at Dumio was organised on Celtic lines; it's tempting to speculate that this was due to the influence of the British colony - where else would a Celtic church influence have come from? Or was this founded by another British colony? Was this why the Citania was named 'Briteiros'? Though we do not know how widespread the British community at Bretoña was, the diocese appears to have been quite large and extended into what is now Asturias. Although the see was destroyed by the Moors in 716, and later moved to S Martin de Mondoñedo and in the C12 to Mondoñedo itself, references to Britons continue for several hundred years. Simon Young raises the interesting possibility of a Brythonic-speaking people in Galicia as late as the C13 - after the Liber Sancti Jacobi.

Nor is that quite the end of the British-Galician ecclesiastical links: substantial trade links between Britain and Galicia continued throughout the Middle Ages, supplemented by the transport of pilgrims to Santiago, and in 1555 a London merchant named John Dutton brought an image of the Virgin from St Paul's Cathedral (where it was in danger of being destroyed by Protestant iconoclasts) to . . . yes, Mondoñedo, where it continues to be venerated to this day, though as La Inglesa not La Britoña!

Although you would think that Galicia and Britain were too distant to matter very much to the early Church in Rome, this is far from the case. In a curious parallel between these outposts of the Roman Empire, both had charismatic church leaders whom Rome felt threatened by and declared heretical: Priscillian in Galicia and Pelagius in Britain. And when Rome decided that the Anglo-Saxons should be converted, it sent a special envoy, Augustine: Britain was obviously too important to leave to the British church. Galicia of course became one of the leading pilgrimage centres in Christendom. How deliciously ironic if, as some maintain, the shrine in fact houses the remains of the heretic Priscillian!

Though we do not know when the Britons arrived in Bretoña, there is the curious fact that the tribe to the east of Bretoña was called Albiones; a memorial stele to one Nicer Clutosi, 'Princeps Albionum', was found near Vegadeo in 1932, and is now in the Asturian Archaeological Museum in Oviedo. Albion/Albiones was also a term used by various Greek and Roman writers, including Pliny, to describe Britain and its inhabitants. It's clearly linked to Alba/Alban, the word for Scotland in modern Celtic languages, and is listed in the Celtic Lexicon of the University of Wales' Celticity Project as the Proto-Celtic root for Britain.

Archaeology tells us there was extensive trade between Iberia and the British Isles in both the Bronze and Iron Age. Whether or not Galicia was Celtic, there is archaeological evidence of prehistoric peoples from Brittany settling in Galicia. Recent genetic research too points to peoples all along the Atlantic coast from N Spain to Scandinavia being related since the Ice Age. Substantial trade between the Mediterranean, especially Phoenicia/Carthage, and Britain, especially for tin, is well documented (one theory of the origin of the word 'Britain' is that it is Phoenician Baratanak, 'land of tin'). Although the main Phoenician entrepot in Iberia was Cadiz, it's by no means impossible that traders made use of existing trade patterns between NW Iberia and Britain.

All in all, it begins to look as though it is our own time that is the aberration: links between the peoples of NW Iberia and the British Isles were much closer in prehistoric and historic times than has been the case since the C16. The old legend of the Irish originating in Spain was simply part of a much broader pattern of movement of peoples along the Atlantic edge of Europe.

moskvawhich said...

I've already posted a comment about this. Brian Sykes in his new book "Blood of the Isles" adds proof on the basis of genetic evidence - and this is as hard an evidence as you can get - about the ancient links between Spain and Britain.

Colin said...


I was going to congratulate you on such an erudite offering, written despite a hangover, when I went to the web page cited and realised you'd done us the favour of copying and pasting it. For which many thanks. I am sending a copy to all the would-be members of the nascent Anglo Galician Association. It may even stimulate me into writing a thesis on this subject so that I can traverse Galicia at some point in the future lecturing on the subject in both Spanish and Gallego. That's my new year resolution at least.

Personally, I have no problem with being descended from a wandering Iberio-Celt who may previously have been a Phoenecian or even a Mongol from the plains of Asia who had wandered East. And I think it's generally accepted now that early Brits included some who'd sailed out of the Med and up the west coast of Iberia, possibly having stopped off in Galicia to get their first taste of British-type weather. What surprises me is that they didn't immediately turn round and go back to the Med.

Only joking. Happy New Year.