Thursday, October 04, 2012

Palencia has several fine churches and a cathedral. I only got to see 3 of the former and each, in its own way, was impressive. But they all fuse together in the memory. Except for the one attached to the convent of Sta Clara. For, in this one there was a permanent grill at the back of the church, through which the nuns could see and hear the Mass and the nuns could be observed at prayer. Which all felt a tad medieval. But the lasting memory is of the five or six nuns there all being below five feet, or 150cm. This rather endorsed my theory that every Spanish family is forced to send any daughter below this height to a nunnery. Though I've also wondered whether nuns in Spain aren't all put in some sort of press immediately after they joined the order. To be more serious, each of them clearly had some difficulty in moving, though only one of them looked particularly old. A result of spending so much time on their knees, maybe.

Back in the real word – There's something odd about a city which names one of its crossroads Square of the European Constitution and one of its main arteries Avenue of Human Rights. A left-wing council, one assumes.

And in the real, real world – The previous mayor of Alicante has been arraigned for corruption, alongside the current one. A family affair?

290 kilos of cocaine have been stolen from a police lock-up in Cádiz. The fourth time in so many years this had happened. The thieves broke in from an adjacent building. Spanish has a special word for such a hole – Un butrón. Which may or may not say something.

Satnavs – Don't you just hate them! Driving from Palencia to Pontevedra this afternoon, I became increasingly irritated with the instruction to turn off every time we approached a junction. I'd told the satnav to take me to my Home address and so I couldn't fathom its bolshie behaviour. After an hour or so, though, I realised I'd set Palencia as my Home address yesterday afternoon. So, the satnav, poor thing, was driving itself mad trying to take me back to where I'd come from. I apologised and put it out of its misery.

Here's a tip for those driving on Spain's wonderful autovias and (expensive) autopistas – Unless you're desperate for petrol(gas), don't go off unless you can actually see the petrol station signposted off the main highway. The reason is that, as today, you may see a couple more signs and yet never come upon a petrol station. Particularly if the sign is for Allariz – a pretty place, made even more attractive by not being scarred by a purveyor of petrol. Happily, though, it's only another 12km to a real Repsol station, visible beside the A52.

Another sign of the times – Shops/kiosks buying gold in Barcelona have risen in number from 82 in 2006 to 589 this year. I wonder if the prices paid reflect the recent increases in the price of gold.

Leaving the Alfajería in Zaragona, I called in the first bar I came to for a shandy. The owners were Chinese and I had difficulty getting them to understand what I wanted. When I later went to pay, the husband had disappeared and so I spoke to the wife. She clearly didn't have a word of Spanish and had to ask her 10 year old daughter to translate. And so it was I got a shandy for one euro from a woman with one of the prettiest smiles in Spain. On reflection, perhaps I should have tried English.

Finally . . . When I first came to Spain, I was told that the Local Police were the lowest of the several levels - five? - in Spain. Little more than clowns or country bumpkins, it was suggested. Well, here are two of them providing some proof of the veracity of this claim. Oddly enough, it's said it was the wife of one of them who posted this job-destroying video on the internet. Showing there's someone even more stupid than her husband.


Anonymous said...


Sorry. But I am sometimes stunned by some of your outpourings. I know British culture rejects "intellectualism" - which you tend to mix up with "elitism". Britain is dead-on elitist but perish the thought someone would pretend to "know" something (or anything). Which is why you have a most expensively educated and aristocratic PM who does not know how Magna Cart translates into English (or was he just pretending ignorance least he would come accross as too pretentiously intellectual?). We will never know.....which is precisely how the Brits like it.

And now to the point. Gothic? On top of @Perry's wikipedic explanation, I'd like to add that Gothic art and Romanesque (romanic) are the two art forms/schools/styles that dominated the Middle Ages in Europe - Romanic during the 11th and 12th centuries, and Gothic form the 13th century onwards. Both originated in France - although there are Catalans who claim romanesque was born in Catalonia (of course they would). In any case there are several pre-romanic styles -Asturian from the 8th to the 10th century is one of them -which are thought to have preceded pure/mature romanesque.

The two styles then expanded to the rest of Europe, which is why you can find romanic and gothic buildings in Spain, Germany, Italy and Scandinavia (another fact proving that european cultural unity is not a fiction). And of course, in Britain where, for some odd scurrilous reason, they were given the names of norman and perpendicular, perhaps to hide the fact that (as almost with everything else) Britons copied something from the continent.
Some things never change.


Anonymous said...


Forgot to add that, of course, you might have placed the comment about Gothic so as to get some reaction (not the first time). But this also is British(ness). It shows you are not ashamed to feign ignorance. Ordinary Spaniards would have a hard time understanding why someone would do that.

Colin said...

I have no problem with either intellectualism (I spend a lot of time listening to intellectuals on Radio4 (pre-eminently IOT with MB). Nor do I have a problem with elitism. I am elitist, whatever other Brits are or how they think. I don't really care. So is my close friend Alfie.

I don't profess to be an intellectual, though. With which you surely agree. Though I have to add that a few readers have accused me of bing an intellectual.

As for Romantic and Gothic, you didn't really need to take the time to write a mini-lecture. It's all there on Wiki, which I read before I made my comment. The latter could probably have been better expressed. I intended to say that I had seen/heard the suggestion (not endorsed by Wiki) that, at one time it had been considered a pejorative term. But I've just read this
"The Gothic revival began in the 18th century, partly as a reaction to the prevailing rationalism of the Augustan age. This was the time of the Enlightenment, when many artistic and literary trends prior to the 17th century were considered unrefined and primitive. The favoured approaches in architecture and the arts were classical models derived from antiquity. The word 'Gothic' was frequently used as a pejorative term to describe the barbarism and superstition of the Middle Ages. Gothic fiction actively railed against these schools of thought by openly celebrating the phenomena of the medieval era."

And "Gothic: pejorative term coined in the 16th century to denote pre-Renaissance (15th c.) art
"Goth" referred to "barbarian" invaders from Central Europe"

Perhaps I mis-rembered what I'd read. But you're right that I don't really care whether my throw-away remarks are right or wrong. That's what they are - light-hearted throw-away lines. Possibly very Anglo, who are surely the main readers of this blog. I can live with the risk that Spanish/'European' readers may misconstrue them. If they understand them at all.

As for Romantic and Gothic style buildings in Spain. I think I'm well on the way to seeing them all.

Have you read Cies Nooteboom's 'Roads to Santiago'? He's a big fan of churches as well. And knows his stuff. Though my Dutch friend, Pieter, doesn't rate him.

PS Of course Cameron was feigning, to distance himself from his greatest threat, Boris.

PPS Sometime I am stunned by your (apparent) sense of humour.

Colin said...

Sorry -

1. . .apparent LACK of a sense of humour.
2. Romantic should be Romanesque.

Rushing around ahead of guests arriving.

Perry said...

England came under Norman domination in 1066 AD and during the 11th and 12th Centuries, the Normans developed their own style of Romanesque architecture in the lands they had conquered. Norman architecture is the term traditionally used for English Romanesque architecture. There is another distinctive variation known as Sicilian Romanesque, incorporating Byzantine & Saracen influences.

Durham cathedral is a fine example of Norman architecture; consequent upon the Norman conquest. Some surviving elements of Norman attribution in lesser churches, might be Anglo-Saxon Romanesque? Edward the Confessor had been brought up in Normandy and he engaged Norman masons in 1042 AD to re-build St Peter’s Abbey, founded in the early 7th Century, as his burial church. In 1245 AD, Henry lll started to re-construct the Romanesque church into the Gothic Westminster Abbey we know today.

In 1817 AD, Thomas Rickman published “An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation”, in which the terms Early English (13th Century), Decorated (14th Century) & Perpendicular (15th Century) were applied to Gothic buildings in England.

Thus, there were no scurrilous reasons, as Moscow writes, behind the desire to classify English architecture with terms that identified the evolution of Norman & Gothic buildings in England.

Anonymous said...


"Possibly very Anglo, who are surely the main readers of this blog."

Sorry that should be:
"Possibly very Anglo, who are surely the only readers of this blog."

Colin said...

I didn't want to be so specific.

Plus, I know some Spanish readers. And some Hispano-American readers.

Anonymous said...


2%-3% of readership?

Colin said...

Who knows? Who cares?

Just read this . . .

Gothic architecture revolutionised the appearance of Mid-Medieval buildings. Do remember though, that 'gothic' is actually a retrospective term. It wouldn't have been used in Medieval times. This style of architecture was, back then, called the "Modern Style", and it was a revolutionary influence for all castles, churches and palaces in Europe.

The style originally became popular in France from the 1150s, and spread with surprising speed across the whole of Europe.

Some 300 years later, in the 1450s, this style began to go out of fashion. Renaissance architects, the new vogue, started to pour scorn upon this style of architecture.

They derided it as being old-fashioned and uncouth, because it was fantastical, exaggerated and daring. Their Renaissance style was classical, solid, pure, and symmetrical.

To express their scorn, the Renaissance architects actually coined the term 'gothic architecture'. 'Gothic' was a pejorative term, as the goths were barbarians who had wreaked havoc on Europe hundreds of years earlier. The choice of "gothic architecture" expressed their disgust for an architectural style that they felt had blighted the face of Europe."

Seem pretty conclusive to me. I didn't mis-recollect. What I'd read.

trebots said...

What a load of bullshit. The only feature of Palencia worthy of comment is its marvellous bars. This summer after a long day in the saddle in boiling temperatures I had plate after plate of excellent tapas, a bottle of good wine, and various afters in a dedicated munchies bar, and the total bill was only about 20€. I then proceeded to a modernish corner bar just round the corner and met some delightful ladies, who nevertheless abandoned me, at which point I finished the evening slouched on the counter of the filthy old men's bar next door.

(I'm a Celtic Goth, if that's of any assistance to the demographics dept.)

Alfred B. Mittington said...

This must be the last blog in the Western world where people earnestly discuss church architecture of the last 1,000 years, instead of the tattoos of Rihanna and the political inanities of Miss Madonna. No matter your differences: I hail you both as guardians of culture.

Oh, and incidentally: I have counted Portuguese among the readership, and Dutch, and Irish, and South African, and - last but most certainly not least - Anglo-French.


PS Oh and one more thing: "Magna Cart" translates as "Great Big Wagon", I suppose? (Sorry Moscow, I couldn't resist that one)

Colin said...

Alfie, I don't know anything about the tattoos of Rihana. Nor do I know who Rihana is. How come you do??

Colin said...

Thanks, Perry. I appreciated that. Sorry for the delay in saying so.

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