Sunday, June 08, 2008

Yesterday, I predicted there’d be a delay of at least three years in the completion of the Galician high-speed train network. Meaning 2015, instead of the government’s long-standing – but increasingly non-credible – forecast of 2012. Yesterday, it was reported that knowledgeable engineers are now saying it’ll be impossible to achieve this until at least 2016. Things certainly move fast in this area. Or, rather, they don’t. I’m now betting on 2018. After all, the new market in Pontevedra was five years late in coming on stream and this, I suspect, was a challenge of considerably less technical complexity.

The good news is that, when the Spanish national network is all in place, it will be the largest in the world, ahead of both Japan and France. And, of course, the UK. But it’s Italy, I believe, which will be at the bottom of the West European pile. As of now, there’s not a single kilometre of high speed track there. And not much optimism there’ll be any arriving any time soon.

There was a cartoon in one of the Spanish papers yesterday featuring a line of 38 trucks belonging to the Mercedes-McLaren Formula 1 racing team. The line was that, if there were any fewer, there’d be nowhere to store Lewis Hamilton’s ego. Not bad but it’s interesting to reflect that you could publish exactly the same cartoon in a British paper, substituting Alonso for Hamilton. Except, perhaps, that most people in the UK have probably already forgotten poor Fernando in his under-performing Renault.

According to the US meteorologist Anthony Watts, global temperatures dropped by 0.77 degrees Celsius between January and end May. I mention this just in case you never saw it in your newspapers or heard it on your TV. Which raises an interesting question – Has anyone ever heard of a ‘left-wing conspiracy’? If not, is it because it’s technically impossible to conspire with others occupying the same moral high ground as you?

In my post of 1 June, I expressed surprise at an odd comment by the President of the Galician Xunta during a press conference down in Madrid. The Voz de Galicia columnist Roberto Blanco Valdés also took exception to this and here’s a translation of his article:-

Annoyed, it seems, by journalists’ insistence on asking him about linguistic imposition in Galicia, the President of the Xunta last Thursday revealed the existence of an alleged plot against Gallego involving everyone on the Right. Or, as he put it, ‘not only politicians but also all the ranks of the Right’.

It’s possible that Sr Touriño has got privileged information and that we are on the brink of a right-wing campaign to finish off the language which, as we all well know, every member of the Xunta has spoken since childhood. But it’s also possible that the President has become, unwittingly, the spokesperson for a long-standing nationalist accusation – according to which all those who don’t share their language policy are right wing, if not actually fascist enemies of the people.

In fact, what’s certain is that many socialist delegates were included in this group in the past, when the Galician Socialist Party didn’t see itself obliged, as it does now, to defend linguistic propositions it never shared. And it’s even possible that Touriño himself has been described in the same way as he now happily describes those who don’t share the language policy of the government over which he presides.

Whatever the case, it’s to be expected of a President who in his youth defended our liberties that he now – with ever greater reason – prepares to defend these by denouncing not only hypothetical campaigns against Gallego but also real campaigns endured by those who don’t share the linguistic credo of a radical nationalism.

For example those suffered by teachers who, as victims of well-known fascist techniques, are featured on hundreds of posters as being responsible for the extinction of Gallego in the University of Santiago, where officially Spanish doesn’t exist. Or those suffered by the teachers who receive identical and anonymous accusations in their offices or homes. Or those suffered by citizens who are quickly made the subject of official suits brought by a private entity [The Committee for Linguistic Normalisation] with the aim of intimidating them. Or, going further, the campaign which resulted yesterday in Galicia Bilingüe being made the subject of police action. These are real campaigns. The one announced by Touriño has yet to make itself visible.

If the President had any doubts about the atmosphere in which many of these initiatives against freedom and pluralism are forged, it would be enough for him to recall the verses of Manuel Maria. Reproduced in a poster stuck up a few weeks ago in the Law Faculty of Santiago University, they invited the undergraduates [in Gallego] to ‘defend the language as it is - with rage, with fury, with machine guns. With tanks, with planes, with your fists’. The Falangists would be delighted.

For some reason, re-reading this article has reminded me that a Spanish friend told me this week the Xunta will give you a 100 euros if you elect a Galician name for your child. Say Xoan instead of Juan, for example. Can this really be true? Or is it just a canard? And what is the Gallego version of the still all-powerful María?

Finally – Here’s the snazzy new web site of the Pontevedra Council, just announced. The logo features a seagull saying Ola but not, incidentally, the response I make to those trying to steal my Sunday lunch in Vegetables Square. The home page is only in Gallego, as are all the others I’ve clicked. But there may some Spanish hidden in the site somewhere. If you want the weather, click P!Meteo. And remember that moderado does not mean moderate but strong. Or, when it comes to rain, heavy. Believe me.

The Anglo Galician Association – open to all who speak English – now has a Forum on the web. If you have a query about Galicia, why not register and post it.


Luis said...

"The Xunta will give you a 100 euros if you elect a Galician name for your child."

It is true. And they will make it 500€ if you choose Anxo or Anxela in particular.

Colin said...


Unless you provide some proof, I shall assume you are tomando o pelo.

Colin said...

Or, more charitably, that it is an example of retranca . . .

moscow said...

It appears you take the view that all this global warming thingy might just be one big scam. Or at least, you leave the door open to the possiblity that it might be - a hoax, I mean. The winter has been non-existant in Moscow this year - by Russian benchmark standards, of course. But so far the spring/summer has been rather rainy and cool. What is certain, is that a few people are getting extremely rich on the back of all this paranoia.

Mark said...

Is there a site giving occupancy levels of all these high-speed rail links? I would have thought that if the economy is hitting the rails (groan) that people would stop using expensive high-speed train services. Unless, of course the Spanish economy is still doing fantastically well :¬D
Still, it all augurs well for Madrid's future prosperity (where do all the lines lead to??)

John said...

Hey, Colin, I know this is totally off the topic, but can I get a plug for my new website in Spanish, I think it's pretty good, and that it fills a gaping hole in the Spanish internetosphere.

Colin said...

Absolutely. Monday is the best day . . .

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