A casual visitor to Pontevedra – say from a cruise liner docked in Vigo – could be forgiven for thinking the recession hasn’t hit us. True, if you look hard enough, you’ll see the evidence in the form of retail outlets boarded up. But, against that, my walk into town takes me past three new places opening up - A ladies’ clothes shop (as if the town needed another of these); a store specialising in doors (replacing one that specialised in duvets); and yet another chocolate-cum-sweets shop (replacing a bank branch). I guess these better meet the needs of the large number of civil servants who give Pontevedra its wealth.
The Galician government – the Xunta – has proposed that the current Holy Year (O Xacobeo) be extended into next year. No doubt for sound religious reasons and not because it’s brought so much money into the region in general and Santiago in particular. The Vatican, though, has vetoed the proposal. And, since this rules out the extra indulgences which bring the Faithful here, this has kaiboshed the idea. Which will leave Purgatory a little fuller for a bit longer, I guess. But what’s that compared with an eternity of happiness? For the non-Faithful, the good news is that hotel rooms will be cheaper next year.
As I suspected myself, the Consumers’ Association has said that all this talk of electricity rising by 2,3 or 5 % is misleading. According to them, they’ve risen by more than 30% over the last three years. And elsewhere?
In the ABC newspaper yesterday, Thomas More was referred to as Tomás Moro. Now, most Spaniards would know this surname denotes a Moor from North Africa but I wonder how many Brits think of, say, Berbers when seeing the name More. Not many, I guess. Unless they’re reading Othello at the time. En passant, I also wonder if President Zapatero is referred to as President Shoemaker in the British media.
The other odd British item in yesterday’s press was a picture of Marty Feldman at his exopthalmic best, adorning the front cover of some tract issued in connection with the imminent general strike. He’ll be spinning in his grave.
Here in Pontevedra, the odd sight today was a group of visitors from the Archdiocese of Madrid taking in the delights of our old quarter. I know because, like a troop of geriatric Scouts, they were all sporting a bright yellow neckerchief revealing their origin. Personally, I’d rather have walked naked through the streets.
Bloody Spanish fiestas! I decided to take two heavy winter jackets to the dry cleaners today, ahead of the winter cold. Only to find I had to lug them back to the car as the shopping mall was closed because of a fiesta in Poio municipality on this side of the river. Don’t ask me what we’re celebrating because no one I asked had the slightest idea. And were just as surprised/annoyed as I’d been that the place was closed. And then I scraped my car – again! – when getting out of the tiny space I’d managed to find for it. Not my week.
Finally . . . . Here’s the take of my Dutch friend, Peter, on the usefulness of the term ‘working class’. The question is whether it’s an accurate summary of the Spanish situation as well:- Of course the working classes still exist in our society but the concept no longer plays a prominent role in socio-economic discussions among experts. Except in England, where it seems to be kept alive by barely- reformed Marxists burrowed deeply into state agencies, education, local boards, etc. In Holland and Germany the working classes have become so affluent and so protected in their labour rights that they no longer behave, politically and economically, like their predecessors of a 100 years ago. The emphasis is no longer on the right to strike, increases in pay, organisation of unions, and the formation of a monolithic political block against the right-wing establishment of the owners of the means of production, etc. What we’re dealing with is really a large layer of petty middle class, who’ve considerably more to lose than their chains. And the true proletariat is now mainly made up of immigrant workers who have little, if any, tradition of political organisation, and other troubles on their minds. So they don’t exactly behave along traditional lines either, even if their living circumstances do largely correspond with those of the old-style working class.
Tailnote for new readers: My elder daughter has now net-published six chapters of a novel which is “A fast-paced political thriller but, above all, a personal tale of pride and paranoia.” Set in a fictionalised Cuba, it’s being e-published at the rate of at least a couple of chapters a week. If this entices you, click here. And, if you enjoy it, please tell her. It’s tough being an aspirant novelist.