Sunday, January 20, 2013

It seems that foreigners' perceptions of the British have improved as a result of the Olympic Games. We're not seen as grumpy as we used to be. One British commentator took issue with this today - I think the problem might be that other nations have confused the sense of humour we demonstrated in the opening ceremony of the Olympics with bonhomie. It’s much more about self-deprecation, which in turn is a reflection of our innate self-loathing. We are at our happiest when we are laughing at ourselves. Which is why we don't mind foreigners coming to Britain and writing books critical of us. The most famous and successful being "How to be an Alien" by the Hungarian writer George Mikes. As it says here, this “pokes gentle fun at the English and their relationship with foreigners.” Well worth reading.

Here in Spain, there's not much laughter about. Today's papers were naturally full of comment and analysis around the secret multi-million euro fund managed by the Treasurer of the governing PP party over the last 20 years or more. The opposition PSOE party - itself infamous for the corruption of Spain's first democratic administration – has inevitably announced it'll be initiating legal processes. On this, the joke doing the rounds is that the Treasurer will be tried and, after several years, be found guilty, sentenced to a term in jail, then pardoned and appointed to the Telefónica board. A well-worn track.

It hasn't taken long for the suggestion to emerge that this whirlwind has been created by those within the PP party who don't regard Rajoy as the legitimate president and want to bring him down. At any price, it would seem. But, then, one often feels that politicians in Spain don't give a damn what is thought about them. Which reminds me, the demand for an inquiry into the croneyism and nepotism of the ex (PP) President of the Ourense provincial government has been rejected by the current President. His son.

Talking of pardons . . . El País today reported – in English – on the case of the kamikaze driver who last year killed someone when driving the wrong way down an autopista. He was given a 13 year sentence, which was later commuted to a 4,000 euro fine. This was done by the Cabinet, who felt it was persuasive that the guy had “given two irrevocable, sympathetic apologies.” As I say, politicians here seem oblivious to public opinion. Or just arrogantly dismissive. More on this here.

Finally . . . I quite like drawing up lists and here's one I did a month or two ago. It's an attempt to identify where Spanish uses capitals and where it doesn't, in the process highlighting the differences with English. It's a work-in-progress, so incomplete. And possibly wrong but, what the hell, it's Sunday:-

The Government
The Army
The Navy
The State
The Council
The Civil Guard
El Supremo - Supreme court
Oriente Proximo - Near East
Defensa - Ministry of Defence

british, polish, spanish, etc.
monday, tuesday, et.
january, february, etc.


Anonymous said...


This thing you have about what the British are like is as much a reflection of the mental bubble you live as your fixed ideas about Spain and Europe. No wonder. Old, white, male. A living dinasour.

If you think the British like to be laughed at by foreigners...well that certainly is your prerrogative. But it is ostensibly ludricuous as there are few nations as proud and hyper-sensitive to outside criticism as the British. Self-deprecation which I don't want to go into, because it takes too long to explain, has got nothing to do with the capacity of a nation to endure criticism by others.


Anonymous said...


Easyjet was forced to retire this ad.
The Margate town council was not amused. Self-deprecation?


Anonymous said...

sorry: withdraw the ad (not "retire")

Perry said...

Mo's cow has finally exposed the possibility that she is - allegedly - youngish, darkish and probably gayish, if the description proffered about Colin is authentic.

I recommend she read Adam Bolt's column in order to restore herself to her personal comforts and bonhomie. He's got a good post about a baby's milkbar.

Colin said...

We seem to have lost this comment, which is in my in-tray but not here:

"I like how to be an alien too, but for a more up to date lokk at the british, how about Bill Bryson, NOtes from a small island, although ostensibly a travel book, it pokes light heartef fun at the british.

Moscow, why do you seem so grumpy all the time, are you really a brit?"

Yes, Bryson is good, too. Interestingly, they both chose to live in the UK. As did, Theroux.

Don't expect an answer from Moscow. He/she doesn't deal in them once (s)he's pontificated.

Anonymous said...


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