Said a friend of the Borja lady (Cecilia) who botched the restoration of the church's Ecce Homo fresco – “She's better at landscapes.” A sentiment with which there can be no arguing. Media attention continues and the mayor has had to put security round the fresco, as people queue to have their foto taken next to it. Back in Madrid, a few of Spain's cultural elite have called for it to be left as it is, since Cecilia has “turned a stuffy academic piece into an icon of our time”. In doing so she has “dared to take a step that even Picasso never took by adapting a classic by intervening directly onto the canvas and converting one work of art into another”. A second voice says that “the painting now represents 'an act of love' and 'intelligence' that reflects the contemporary social and political environment, intelligently combining the primitive expressionism of Goya with figures such as Ensor, Munch, Modigliani and the German expressionist movement, the Die Brücke group”. So, there you have it – A modern classic. So modern, it makes me laugh just to glimpse it. Here, incidentally, is a brilliant graphic which shows how the fresco has changed as you move your cursor over it, left and right. Scroll down the page.
Talking of culture . . . As always happens here, a change of government late last year meant an immediate ousting of the board of the public TV service, TVE. In a not-very-surprising development, the new management has decided to allow bullfighting back onto the box. Which will be welcomed by an industry suffering from a fall in ticket sales and the effective banning of the fiesta nacional in both Barcelona and San Sebastian.
I was intrigued by an article on the hardest and easiest languages to learn. I would have guessed at Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Japanese being among the hardest – but why not Farsi? - though I found the easiest language to be rather more tendentious, especially as English took the palm, followed by Spanish and Italian, if I recall correctly. Hungarian was in the top five hard tongues, though not Finnish, of the same Magyar group. Anyone interested in knowing why should click here.
Listening to a BBC podcast on the Italian family and how much strain it's being put under by the return home of unemployed kids, I was reminded of the Spanish scene. Specifically of an announcement made this week by the government that they are, effectively, going to 'means test' the monthly payment of 400 euros given to the unemployed when their dole finishes. Anyone who's then living with a family whose monthly income is more than 480 euros per capita won't be get the payment. I assume the family's income will be gauged via their income tax declarations. So any family not submitting or merely diluting these won't be hit, I guess. Moral hazard anyone?
In the UK, people on the street with collection boxes are called chuggers (Deriv: charity muggers). Here in Pontevedra, the only people more annoying are the bloody accordion players, one of whom came into the restaurant we were in last night. And almost got a plate of smoked salmon on his head.
Finally . . . Still more culture. Here's a bit of verse in Gallego, put out by the Xunta of Galicia. If you're a Portuguese – or even Spanish - speaker, you should be able to translate. As for me, I think I get it but am not totally sure of Coida do teu. With your help?
O porvir de Galicia fiase agora.
Porque a nosa paisaxe, as nosas casas,
as nosas rúas e negocios
son o reflexo do noso futuro.
Coida do teu. Dálle valor.
Paisaxe Galicia, unha tarefa de todos.