Saturday, June 21, 2008

Demonstrating how culturally far apart the two countries are, today is Midsummer’s Day in Britain but the first day of summer in Spain. It’s also the feast-day of St. John/San Juan/Santiago. It’s the custom in these parts, as it might be elsewhere, to grill sardines around 11.30pm and then, at midnight, to leap over a blazing fire. It’s also the custom for the price of sardines to at least double.

Extending the fish theme . . . The list of market prices in today’s paper is headed by turbot at, €13-28 a kilo, and sole, at 19-24. I was looking for my favourite fish – mackerel – but this is so disregarded by the hake-adoring Galicians that it doesn’t even figure. Usually it goes for around €2 a kilo. Which is only a third of what sardines were selling for yesterday. Chacun à son goût. Whatever that is in Spanish. Logically, of course, it should include gusto but it might not. No doubt someone will kindly tell me.

At the end of 2007, there were 5.2m foreigners in a Spain of 46m souls. Or 11.3%. And they’ve provided 90% of the recent growth. The region with the lowest proportion of foreigners is Galicia, at only 3.4%. Or 95,000 in a population of 2.8m. Nationwide, the largest group is the Romanians [729k], followed by the Moroccans [645k], the Ecuadorians [420k] and the Brits [352]. As I’ve said before, many of the Romanians appear to be overweight and taking it in turns to beg on the streets of Pontevedra. Which might be a slight exaggeration.

Down in Vegetables Square last night, I had the pleasure of watching and listening to some Galician folk-dancing and bagpipe-playing. It turned out these were part of the celebration of an award which Pontevedra had either received from the Galician Xunta’s Culture Department or awarded to itself - for nine years of urban improvements under our two-term mayor. All the leaflets were, naturally, only in Gallego but, happily, no one can stop you listening in whatever language you want. And I suspect the exclamation Bravo! Is the same in both Spanish and Gallego – Brrrabo! Actually, while I might disagree with the language policy of the Nationalist mayor, I’m a huge fan of what he’s done for the city aesthetically. Except for some of the aluminium benches and waste bins to be found in one part of it. Which, somehow, didn’t make it into the photo section of the main leaflet.

Finally – These are the six stage of life as defined by Confucius, heard this morning in a podcast of this year’s BBC Reith Lecture. I’m pleased to say that – through a nice mix of success and failure - I think I got to the last one 25 years ahead of K'ung Fu Tzu. Which I can heartily [if patronisingly] recommend:-
At fifteen I set my heart on learning
At thirty I found my balance through the rites
At forty I was free from doubts about myself
At fifty I understood what heaven intended me to do
At sixty I was attuned to what I heard
At seventy I followed with my heart what my heart desired without overstepping the limits.


Lenox said...

We have the 'hogueras de San Juan' - leaping over fire whilst pissed - on Monday night (Almería).
Of course, these days it's now 30000kws of sound plus 50000kws of light, plus ten bars, gogo dancers, bands and djs (no - not dinner jackets), the burning of an old fishing boat and a mad thrash until, at least, dawn.
Can't wait!

Midnight Golfer said...

I remember the first time I learned about St. John's Day. It was in eastern Canada, and I was told it was for remembering the birth of John the Baptist, (although that actually happened in what we would call the first week of October, in 1 BCE.)
In the Canaries, in 1997, I was told that the bonfires were both a chance to get rid of a lot of debris, and to commemorate John the Baptist.

Is it really also for St. James? (Santiago)

In any case, it always seems like the longest day of the year comes too soon.

mike the trike said...

The only thing I can find in my little pocket dictionary for Chacun à son goût is entre gustos no hay disputa and a second one sobre los gustos no hay disputa. Perhaps a Spanish reader can confirm this is correct.

Colin said...

Mike, Try this one - 'Para gustos, colores'.