Thursday, December 17, 2009

It didn’t snow in Pontevedra yesterday. It rained. All day. I mention this only because all our schools – like those throughout Galicia – were summarily closed yesterday for fear of snow. As you’d imagine, working parents were none too pleased to have to make pointless emergency arrangements for their kids. But, fortunately for many, Spanish society is famously ‘cohesive’. Which in this case – as in many others – means roping in willing or unwilling grandparents to look after your offspring. As it snows about once every hundred years along our coast - even less frequently in the future? - I’m probably not the only one asking why the decision to close the schools was taken at regional level and not at local council level. But I guess that, when you have 17 regional Education Ministers as well as a national Education Minister, jobs have to be justified.

Talking of education in Galicia . . . Regular readers will know that – to indulge in a little British understatement - there’s something of a controversy here about how much teaching should be done in Spanish (Castellano) and how much in Galician. Under the previous Xunta, things moved in the direction of Galician but they’re now moving back in the opposite direction. Rumour has it that the difficult 50/50 issue will be cleverly eliminated by introducing a system of trilingual education, under which a third of the subjects would be taught in Spanish, a third in Galician and a third in English. I suspect anyone who thinks this will calm things down, is living in cloud cuckoo land. For a start, no one has any idea where all the teachers competent in English would come from. Certainly not Galicia. I would offer to come out of retirement and spread myself thinly around Pontevedra province but, of course, I wouldn’t be allowed to teach anyone until I’d studied for and passed the government exams (las oposiciones), under which I'd have to prove to someone who hardly speaks English that I know my own language. Or at least the intricacies of its grammar and syntax.

God knows how they arrive at these numbers but here’s what will be spent this Christmas in respect of each and everyone one of us here in Galicia, with the figures for Spain as a whole in brackets. And all in euros, of course. The last item is the most revealing. And astonishing:-
Gifts 209 (224)
Food 183 (210)
Entertainment 148 (165)
Lottery tickets 129 (112)
Total 669 (711)
Yes, folks, in the poor region of Galicia, even more money will be spent per capita on the big Christmas lotteries than in wealthy Madrid. Perhaps it’s all those questionable folk along our snow-less coast with multi-engined speedboats. Though why they’d need to win the lottery, I can’t begin to guess. Except that, if you’re going to justify your wealth as legitimately gained gambling success, it possibly helps to be seen buying the odd ticket or two.

At last, a snippet of good news from the GW war front . .

Finally . . . and nothing to do with Galicia . . . I was intrigued to read a claim that Cadiz is the city of Tarsis associated with Jonah in the Bible. This led on to Wiki searches on Tarsus, Tarshish and Tartessus. One of the more interesting paragraphs I encountered along the way was this one, the accuracy of which I certainly can’t vouch for:- What bonnection did the "Iberians" have with Tarshish?: Answer: "Iberi" means Hebrew. Israelite exiles were taken to the Tarshish area. They moved northwards through Spain and eventually emigrated to Gaul and the British Isles. Due to their presence all early inhabitants of Spain came to be mistakenly referred to as "Iberians" by foreigners.

Anyway, here are bits of the Wiki entry on Tartessos. You can read it all here.

Tartessos (also Tartessus) was a harbour city and its surrounding culture on the south coast of the Iberian peninsula, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir river. It was mentioned by Herodotus, Strabo, in Pliny's Natural History, and in the fourth-century Avienus's literary travel itinerary Ora Maritima.

The Tartessian language is an extinct pre-Roman language once spoken in southern Iberia. It is seemingly unrelated to any other languages. The oldest known indigenous texts of Iberia, dated from the 7th to 6th centuries BC, are written in Tartessian. The inscriptions are written in a semi-syllabic writing system and were found in the general area in which Tartessos is supposed to have been located, also in surrounding areas of influence. Tartessian language texts have been found in parts of south-western Spain and southern Portugal.

In Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick, Father Mapple gives a sermon on the story of Jonah. He identifies the Tarshish to which Jonah flees with the port of Cádiz in Spain, "as far by water, from Joppa, as Jonah could possibly have sailed in those ancient days, when the Atlantic was an almost unknown sea"


Anthea said...

Don't believe all you read on Wikipedia. According to Guardian columnist Andrew Chancellor Wikipedia has him down as having died last week!!! I always understood Cadiz was Gadix in Roman times (hence the name "gaditanos" for its inhabitants) but maybe its biblical connection goes further back! Not just Galicia but all of Spain is the centre of everything!

Oh, and they close schools here in the UK for occasional snow as well!

Midnight Golfer said...

I wonder if I would be able to pass the "oppositions" exam for English proficiency?

Based on my spelling and grammar on this site, I'd vote "no."

Lenox said...

I was reading on a local forum about an unfortunate boy who had arrived with his family from Wales - having been forcefed both Welsh and English in his tender years - now in the local school being versed in 'hepañol' and 'inglis'. Lucky his parents didn't move to Galicia, hey.