Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Talking to my lovely neighbour Ester today, I learned that the seventeen (unoccupied) new houses behind mine, being illegal, are now subject to a demolition order. As are two other developments in our barrio, in one of which a famous judge has his house. Only in Spain?

Of course, no one expects the houses to be knocked down - they belong to Spaniards, not foreigners - but it'll be interesting to see what happens next. If they are demolished, it'll mean more noise and dust, to go with that of the six years it took to build the bloody things.

Anyway, here's what William Dalrymple had to say about the "Spanish character" in the final pages of his 1777 book about his trip through Spain in 1774. I stress that I don't necessarily agree with him. Or even, at times, understand him. You can make up your own mind how much things have changed in three hundred years:-

The Castillian, Andalusian, Galician are strongly marked, each a separate people; but since the same government, one religion, and the like education prevail, a similarity of character is conspicuous; the gravity of the natives, is carried to a proverb, and their deportment would convince a stranger that it were true: they have no idea of walking for exercise, or even stirring abroad in the heat of day, but when obliged to it, and then they move with a solemn gait, which becomes habitual; till lately and that only now at the capital, among people of rank in the provinces, they had little communication with strangers, or with each other, consequently a reserved behaviour whenever they met in company, and their turn for gallantry, obliged them to keep a guard on their countenances, lest they should betray their intrigues to their associates: as this long been the seat of of bigotry, the gloom of religion hangs upon their brow; and the inquisition, employing its familiars in every corner of the realm, urged them to have a curb upon their tongue, for fear that they should utter what might be interpreted to their ruin: all these causes combined, naturally produce those effects of external sedateness we see prevalent amongst them; but children of the sun, though not volatile, they have as acute and lively imagination as any people of Europe: sanguine in their dispositions, and warm in their affections, if thwarted in their pursuits, they often become enraged to a degree of passion, with which we are in general unacquainted: they are revengeful, and stabbing still prevails, the lowest peasant will not brook a blow, and that the honour of the soldiers may not be hurt, there is an article in the ordinances for the army and they are to be beaten only with the sword. They have the highest notions of the dignity of their birth: the Castillian, but more the Biscayan, though poor and beggarly, hold the Andalucian in the utmost contempt, as being if immediate descent from the Moors: the latter is crafty and designing, but a nobler spirit runs through the vein of the former. Marriages are generally made between persons of equal distinction: the old nobility seldom contracts themselves with the new; and the superior never connects himself with the inferior. They are temperate, or rather abstemious, in their living to a great degree: 'borracho' [drunk] is the highest term of reproach, and it is rare to see a drunken man, except it be among the carriers or muleteers: both men and women are fertile in resources to the attainment of their favourite pursuits, the latter, in particular, limited in their education, confined with bars at home, and attended by spies abroad, still find means to elude the vigilance of their 'dueñas' [mistresses] and pervade the grates made to restrain them. It is particular, that the people throughout, are free from diffidence, they have a manly character, and speak to their prince with the same sang froid and confidence that they would to their fellow; they never utter anything at which they seem the least abashed, each man appears to have a conscious dignity, which is not so conspicuous in other parts of the world: they treat one another with the greatest civility and respect; if even a beggar ask alms, and it not be granted, the supplicant is refused in most compassionate terms, another time, they tell him, and God go with him, God conduct him, etc. insult is never added to misfortune. Such are my cursory remarks upon the present prevalent character of this people. There was a time when the ardent flame of liberty fired each Spaniard's breast; but it has been extinguished by the malignant blasts of despotism, never to be kindled more.

That's it, then. I'd just add for now that Dalrymple regularly - and oddly - refers to women as 'the sex'. As in this reference to the ladies of southern Portugal - In this country, the sex have sparkling black eyes, white teeth and fine hair, to which they add powder and pomatum in such quantities, that they increase their heads to a most enormous size; they wear rouge, but with delicacy, and patch a great deal.

As for Spain, I will add that one quickly forgets just how noisy this place is. In a cafe this morning, I had to ask three times for the (unwatched) TV to be (further) lowered so I could hear my companion speak. True, the staff were very gracious about it but they clearly had no notion of what an acceptable level of (pointless) noise is. Likewise the imbecile who'd removed the noise suppressor from his scooter and who passed us at a manifestly illegal level of decibels when we were walking to my car.

Talking about the Spanish attitude to rules . . . As we landed at Vigo airport last night, there was a reminder that we should leave our phones off until the doors had been opened. Whereupon, every single passenger I could see immediately switched on his/her phone and called someone.

But the good news is that no one has walked into me yet.


Graeme said...

Can't resist the temptation to ask Colin - the famous judge with an illegal house in the hills wouldn't by any chance bear any resemblance to that judge who is presenting the case against another even more famous judge?

BTW: I think "unonespe" as word verification is astonishing

Colin said...

Yep, that's the one. But can't recall his name just now. Genuinely.

Graeme said...

Does the illegal urbanisation he lives in have a name?

Colin said...

Probably but I don't know it, I'm afraid. Have enough difficulty remembering my own!

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