If you’re going to live in the real Spain and not one of the expat ghettos, then a high level of noise is something you’ll just have to get used to. Even if you don’t live next to my neighbour, Nice-but-Noisy Toni. Who’s due back from sea any minute, since you ask. That said, things aren’t often as bad as they were for those living above a Barcelona disco, the owner of which has just been jailed for five years for flagrantly ignoring the law and driving her neighbours to the psychiatrist. Here in Pontevedra, there’s quite a difference in levels in the two wi-fi cafés I favour but I’m hard pushed to know why as they both cater primarily for young people. In fact, the worst molestia I suffer is in the bar where I take my midday wine and tapas. Here, there’s a group of seven or eight women of fairly advanced years whom I’ve taken to calling La jaula de abuelas salvajes – The cage of wild grandmothers. The racket they make can be quite astonishing but I was amused to hear today that this isn’t necessarily a modern phenomenon. Nor, indeed, an exclusively Spanish one. For here is Jonathan Swift writing about London ladies taking tea in 1723:-
But let me now a while survey
Our madam o'er her evening tea;
Surrounded with her noisy clans
Of prudes, coquettes, and harridans,
Now voices over voices rise,
While each to be the loudest vies:
They contradict, affirm, dispute,
No single tongue one moment mute;
All mad to speak, and none to hearken,
They set the very lap-dog barking;
Their chattering makes a louder din
Than fishwives o'er a cup of gin;
Not schoolboys at a barring out
Raised ever such incessant rout;
The jumbling particles of matter
In chaos made not such a clatter;
Far less the rabble roar and rail,
When drunk with sour election ale.
The line about ‘No single tongue’ is particularly appropriate to Spain, though. Where it seems to be an article of law that everyone’s (invariably) strong opinion should be expressed at the same time. Over everyone else’s, if at all possible.
Talking of women . . . There’s a wide range of Spanish first names which owe themselves to the Catholic religion. Concepción and Dolores being two examples off the top of my head. I once suggested here there was a name Penitencia – or perhaps it was Purgatoria – only to find that reality had beaten me to it. Anyway, having heard the name Lourdes on the radio this morning – obviously named after the famous grotto in south west France – I took to wondering whether there were women in Portugal called Fatima. And women in Ireland called Knock. Surely not. Except, perhaps, as an unkind nickname.
So, Greece is now an economic protectorate of the EU and Brussels has taken a major step forwards or backwards towards resolution of the question of whether we’ll have a true superstate. I guess much depends on how the Greeks react to being managed in what they may see as German economic interests. Not for the first time, of course. Which is part of the problem.
As we wait on further developments, someone has rightly asked whether nationalists in Scotland are observing what being an ‘independent’ member of the EU can mean. Not to mention similarly-minded folk in Catalunia, the Basque Country and ("We need solidarity") Galicia.
No one suggests things in Spain are as bad as they are in Greece but I do recall Edward Hugh forecasting – in his darkest moments – that something like this would happen here sometime this year. It seemed a bit fanciful at the time but now, who knows? Especially if we get the double dip some are now forecasting because of poor German growth in the last quarter. Meanwhile, Spanish consumer spending has risen for the first time in a while. Which presumably won’t count as good news if it’s all gone on exports.
I’m engaged in a goose chase – possibly a wild one – in respect of data on two prominent residents of Pontevedra who met George Borrow when he was flogging his Protestant Bibles here in 1837. You may recall that I made an abortive visit to the town hall archives a week ago. Well, my second visit coincided with the presence of a very helpful clerk , who apologised for not having the town records but pointed me in the direction of yet another building (the third) which might. Polling up there this morning, I found the door locked. Assuming this was another coffee-break problem, I repaired to the nearby library to while away half an hour. Only to find this closed too. And then it dawned on me that the streets were inordinately quiet and that it was Ash Wednesday. Which rather shattered my intention of writing, again, on just how much time can be wasted in Spain trying to get a simple task done.
Finally . . . A nice quotation about modern life, perhaps more relevant to the USA and the UK than to Spain, where journalism is still a respected profession - As journalism loses power, so celebrity gains it — not just in column inches but in the commodity that journalism once claimed for its own: political influence.And now over to Madonna [another funny name, of course] for her view on Spain's risk of becoming a Franco-German economic protectorate . . .