A bit more from Kamen’s book The Disinherited . . . Referring to the writer Ramiro de Maeztu (1874-1936) Kamen says he “contended quite simply that Spain had civilised both America and the world. This was its legacy and Spain had to return to it. Maeztu referred to ‘the great achievements of the Reconquest, the Counter-Reformation and the civilisation of America.’” I wouldn’t feel this merited quoting but for the fact that Kamen maintains that “These three peaks remain, even today, firmly fixed in the historical perception of many Spaniards, who would not give a second thought to the possibility they might be ideological fictions.” Surely not.
Which reminds me – I read an article the other day in which the author said both Spain and Britain needed to achieve a more accurate understanding of what happened on the high seas in 1588. In the UK, he said, it had been common until recently to teach that the defeat of the Invincible Armada was down to divine providence. Well, not in my schools it wasn’t. But, on reflection, maybe this is because they were Catholic . . .
Talking of awful storms . . . To say the least, this winter has been damp in this part of Spain, reminding me of my first few months here, when it rained almost every day from October 2000 to end May 2001. So I wasn’t surprised to read that someone has determined that some atmospheric factor or other now causes waves of winter storms every eight or nine years. This has the acronym NAO - for North Atlantic Oscillation – and I guess it's a close relative of Global Warming. But the theory certainly fits our facts. Which it would do if its proponent had worked backwards, of course. Maybe I’ll hold off booking long winter holidays in Africa in 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, if you work backwards for 8 or 9 years, do you get to 1588, I wonder.
I’m not entirely clear why but we attended a documentary on Senegal down at the Caixa Galicia cultural centre last night. It would be an exaggeration to say this was well attended – of that the technology was fully functional – but it did at least provide a test of my Gallego. For the intro, the subtitles and the answers to queries from the floor were entirely in this language. Which rather contrasted with said questions, as every single one of these – and the rejoinders to the answers – were in Spanish. Given that the questioners were French, Mexican and Senegalese, one can debate whether this was polite or not, but my point is that I doubt it would have happened ten years ago. When there was rather more ‘linguistic harmony’ than there is now. I suspect that, back then, the chap who gave the presentation would have felt it to be good manners to answer in Spanish to those who spoke in Spanish, even if he’d made his introductory remarks in Gallego. But, Así son las cosas hoy día. Or, if you prefer, Así son as cousas, hoxe día. I think.
For some weeks now, the Pontevedra town council has been operating an impressive bike-hire facility in the town. When I took a look at the system on the first day it wasn’t yet working but it was today. Needing a smile and knowing that, however much the budget was, the council wouldn’t have lashed out 50 euros to get a native speaker to check things, I clicked on the English button. To be told - “Bring the card over to the reader placed under the monitor”. Raising the question – at least for us pedants - “And then what?”
Finally, I should advise that, thanks to the sterling efforts of some hero called Xosé Calvo, Google now offer an automatic translation service between English and Gallego. I wonder what this post would look like if passed through it. Or even brought over to it.
Maybe one day Google will get round to including my blog in their Alerts for Galicia. Perhaps I should run it through the translation service to increase the chances.