Friday, September 25, 2009

Writing in 1940, George Orwell said “National characteristics are not easy to pin down, and when pinned down they often turn out to be trivialities or have no connection with one another. Spaniards are cruel to animals, Italians can do nothing without making a deafening noise, the Chinese are addicted to gambling . . . the English are not gifted artistically. Obviously such things don’t matter in themselves.” I happened to read this just after seeing this news item, which will do nothing – 70 years later – to rid the Spanish of their reputation for cruelty to animals. The truth is that - as my experience of walking Ryan in the streets of several cities this week shows – there are many animal lovers in Spain. But, like drivers here, they are betrayed by the appreciable percentage of macho imbeciles who make the headlines. But, then, the Spanish believe that every English youth is an ooligan. So I guess it cuts both ways.

In the same article – the famous The Lion and the Unicorn - Orwell goes on to say that “Nearly every Englishman of working class origin considers it effeminate to pronounce a foreign word correctly.” I wonder what the Spanish excuse is. For they never do. Only this week I heard on the radio of a town’s fiesta based on a TV game called, allegedly, Grand Pricks. Which is a thought to conjure with.

Someone has said you’re nothing in Spain if you can’t claim noble blood. I thought of this when reading the plaques outside all the magnificent Extremaduran and Castillian palaces this week. It’s apparently compulsory for these to give you the (boring) details of the ‘lineages’ (lineajes) of the families who built and lived in them over the centuries.

This emphasis on provenance from a ‘good family’ is certainly as visible in Galicia as it might be elsewhere. And yet countries are as much hives of inconsistency as people. For one of the things I love about Spain is that a street sweeper and a hotel chambermaid will greet you and talk to you – and why not? – as an equal. This, I guess, is the Spanish personal pride that Borrow and others have written about. But how does this square with the alleged Spanish disdain for manual labour? Is it simply that once can abhor the work but value the worker?

Finally . . .The Spanish economy. I did say things were getting worse by the hour. And now we’re told our recession will morph into the worst depression here since the 1930s. And that recovery is further off than previously forecast. Or is this just the super-pessimists at work again? Who knows. All we can do is cross our fingers and, in this pseudo-Catholic country, do a bit of pointless praying. Meanwhile, President Zapatero – reading from the Gordon Brown book on Socialist Responses to an Economic Downturn - continues to tell us it’ll all be over by Christmas and that nothing’s necessary beyond a bit of belt-tightening and the raising of taxes. Meanwhile, the euro continues to rise against the currency of Spain’s key foreign tourists – the stay-at-home Brits. Oh dear. Will we really pass through the next five years without any social unrest? Right now, as the writer correctly puts it, “An odd calm prevails across the Iberian peninsular. There are no street riots, even though youth unemployment has reached 38%.” Can this last?

Given that “The root cause of Spain's trouble is that it joined monetary union before its economy was ready” it wouldn’t be surprising to see the emergence of some antipathy towards the EU here. But this is conspicuous by its total absence. As the writer says – “There is a near total backing for European Monetary Union in Spain. . . . Membership of the EU and the euro is inextricably linked in Spain's collective mind to the country's re-emergence as a modern, dynamic European power, after the stultifying isolation of the Franco dictatorship. It would take a major trauma to test that bond.” A civil war perhaps. Or just a unilateral declaration of independence by Cataluña. Or even Galicia. Just joking. About Galicia, I mean.


Valencia Property said...

Hi Colin

Oh no the sky is falling in. Do you really believe the doomsday merchants? Economics is not called the dismal science for nothing.
Let's face it if there is a bandwagon to be jumped on you can guarantee that journalists will do it and if they can get something wrong they surely will.
Have a look at my alternative reality on and see what you think. (Second post down at the moment under the introduction post)

Anonymous said...

Mr Davies, again your prejudices coming to the surface. It must be too much GB infatuation, you shouldn't foster those mistic experiences in GB steps, in the end he was a grate fabulator, and you are much more sincere, although much more boring too, but you can't have it both ways, can you
About the cruelty to animals, while brits go about this bussiness much more composed and serious, Spaniards never loose their joviality, I never felt "at home" among a crowd of barbaric animal torturers here in the UK as I am sure you have in Spain.

About the clumsiness of Spaniards with foreign languages I think you anglosaxons are pretty much in the same league, though you are easily beaten by them in Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, Greek, Polish, Russian and may be more. Don't know about German, Dutch, Swahili and others though

About the Spanish sweeper-chambermaid that treats you as an equal-why not, that must be because they didn't suspect a thing about your royal roots, that's quite probably why they didn't show you the due respect and deference ...

Finally, a comment about Catalonia and Galiza, while the first will probably go, once they can get rid of that deathly Castilian grip, the second will do as they always did: keep the country (Spain) together. But nothing is eternal, when we let go the whole country will go, and some of us won't be extremely concerned with that

I hope you take due note of my observations to achieve a better understanding

Colin said...

Hola, VP

I suspend judgement and go with the flow . . .

Will now take a look at your alternative view. Have you seen Ibex Salad for Charles' dismissal of Edward Hugh's methodology?

Colin said...







Portugal, etc.


Don't mention it.

PS I suspect you know a lot about boring people. Why not, as Mike as suggested, start your own blog and prove it one way or the other? Or do you lack the balls?

Of course you do.

CafeMark said...

There's an article in the Independent today stating that Brits are looking again at properties in France and Spain to take advantage of lower prices (and also to avoid places like Bulgaria). Also you have to remember that Spain's main export market is Germany. If it's true that Germany is coming out of recession, Spain will benefit. Going to be a long slog unfortunately, but Spain has been here many times before and come out stronger.

mike the trike said...

cade ti si kukavica i pričati gluposti.

Anonymous said...

Mr Davies, don't be impatient, I will open my own blog on due time, for the benefit and education of you and your readership. But it is necessary to prepare the ground first. I must rectify one thing, though: your blog is not always boring, sometimes is quite amusing.

There is nothing wrong with having prejudices. Everyone has, even me. But if you have no qualms to expose them publicly, it shouldn't bother you either that someone exploits them. A bit more of joviality man, you are not a grumpy old man, are you?!

Mike, I thought you knew I don't speak Irish

Colin said...


It must be obvious, even to you by now, that nothing you write bothers me. I am quite content to give you hanging rope.

Actually, that's not quite true - it slightly annoys me that I can't work out whether you are intrinsically unable to understand what I am saying and where I am coming from or whether you are wilful in your failure. But, believe me, I'm not so concerned that this merits a response from you. Paricularly as you probably don't understand my dilemma.

I won't be holding my breath waiting for your blog. And I suspect that, in this, I won't be in a minority.

Why not increase your chances of an audience of more than one by writing in Gallego for your fellow Galicians. Especially those who fight the good fight here in Galicia.

Anonymous said...

Mr Davies, I understand perfectly well where you are coming from and what you are saying, don't you worry about that. If you have no intention in coming to my blog (why did you give me the idea then?!) to instruct yourself and learn to tell good from bad, then there is no reason for me to open it, I'll keep posting my comments here regularly.

To help you work out your "dilemma", Mr Davies, just think about the futility of taking sides in a foreign conflict. It's been a while since I read that fantastic novel, "The bible in Spain", but I've no recollection of the author saying how he publicly and explicitly took sides with any one of the warring factions of the time, especially in front of the opposing faction.

Do you reckon he would have gone too far had he done otherwise?

mike the trike said...

Having gone through all of cade's comments I have come to the conclusion that he is an angry man who is not happy with his lot. Which I suspect he had no control over so he spends his time taking it out on others who he feels shouldn't enjoy the good life that Galicia offers. Jumping back and forth through different cades doesn't help in any way but causes confusion and mistrust in anything that is published by cade and company. My last comment to cade at 3.28pm was in Croation. Any reply from cade will not be taken seriously by me because I never know which cade is posting. Also note that Colin did not give you the idea for your own blog.

Anonymous said...

Yes mike, I am a (very) angry man not happy at all with my lot, hence my corrosive comments here. There is someone posting too with my name, but the same can be applied to mr davies, without us thinking there is more than one of him.

I realise now it was you who gave me the idea for the blog, but mr davies took it upon himself to encourage me towards that instructive aim, so he has a right to give his opinion on this one too.

About your last comment, I knew you were Irish, but never suspectd from Cork.

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