I’m getting a little tired of having my sentiments stolen by paid journalists. An editorial in El País today points out it’s one thing to use the excuse of ‘cultural heritage’ to stave of excess bureaucratic interference in Spain’s risk-ridden fiestas but quite another to use it to justify the chucking of goats off the top of towers. I suppose, though, it’s quite possible this thought occurred to the writer independently . . . Incidentally, the article mentioned the ‘aquatic sport’ of strangling live geese. Which is a new one on me.
Another thing which caught my eye in today’s El País was a long letter which essentially said that no country which had joined the wonderful EU should be allowed to criticise whatever came down from the decision makers. And this from someone who saw the institution as a welcome advance on the despotism of the Franco era. Que ironía. Or not, in this correspondent’s case.
Last week my younger daughter and one of her friends enjoyed four days here and spent each of them on the beach, relaxing in the sun we’d not seen for at least three weeks. When I mention this to Spanish friends, they virtually scream in astonishment that anyone could go to the beach in February, regardless of the temperature. This, though, is not a real surprise. After you’ve lived here a while, you appreciate that – while the Spanish can demonstrate an irritating individualismo – they’re really not very individualistic all. In fact, they can demonstrate something of a herd instinct. Which can, of course, be used to one’s advantage. For example, in these parts at least, it’s not done to go to the beach except between the 15th of July and the 31st of August. And then never between 2.30 and 5.30. So, chose accordingly and you can have a mile-long beach to yourself.
And while I’m pontificating about the natives . . . The Spanish like to see themselves as non-racist. One can differ with this take but it’s true they don’t mean to be insulting when they indulge in casual racism. Such as this remark from one of the Galician pensioners furious about being tricked into listening to a political address instead of getting the trip to Portugal he’d paid for – “They conned us like we were [stupid] Chinese.”
More seriously, the evidence continues to rise that, as the recession bites, the massive immigration of the last five years – leading to a 10% population increase – is beginning to generate high levels of racist antipathy. Sadly, I guess we could soon find out whether the Spanish belief that they’re not really racist is well-founded or not.
Switching on the TV this morning for news from the UK, I found that both the BBC and Sky were leading with the story of the dying 'celebrity' who’s being paid a fortune both to get married and to die in front of the cameras. In contrast, I read this afternoon, that on the evening of the first post-war elections in Britain, your radio choice was between a political commentary and the Benjamin Britten opera, Peter Grimes. Times certainly change.
Back to Spain . . . Come the end of the hunting season, come the abandonment of unwanted hounds. Here in Galicia, there were more than a hundred in the Lugo province alone. Something of a ritual, I guess. As is the recent announcement from the Galician Supreme Court that a huge block of flats in the centre of Vigo must be demolished as being illegal. This happens every two or three years and has been going on for twenty years now. And it will probably continue for another twenty, as various legal niceties are discussed in one forum or another. All very Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.
But to end on a positive note . . . The beginning of Lent brings us the Galician celebration of Entroido and, of course, the sort of processions associated with Mardi Gras in Rio. For the first time in years, I went down to have at look at Pontevedra’s last evening. It was huge fun and a tribute to the creativity and industry of a great many people. There’ll be more tomorrow but here’s a snap of one of the winners.
As you’ll all recall, Jules Verne had the Nautilus sail into one of the bays near Vigo, in search of the gold and silver bullion long-rumoured to lie on its muddy bottom. However, I bet he never had Captain Nemo indulge in the Spanish custom of parking his craft on a zebra crossing.