Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thoughts from Galicia

Well, my daughter's doctor friend confirmed that the Accident & Emergency centres of the UK's NHS operate in exactly the same way as the Urxencias here in Galicia. Only it's worse. The NHS operates a telephone line which serves to send more folk to the A&E centres than would otherwise be the case. Hence yesterday's reports in the press that patients can wait in an ambulance for as long as 8 hours, thanks to a lack of beds/gurneys. Clearly, I got off lightly

Another abused gerund - El coaching. This appears to mean 'training' but it gets worse:- La persona que realiza el proceso de coaching recibe el nombre de coach (entrenador), mientras que la persona que lo recibe se denomina coachee.

Talking about funny words . . . The menu of the restaurant I dined at with friends tonight took a novel approach to the item Rape. This is normally given as 'Monkfish' in English. But not here, where it was translated as 'Toadfish'. This, it seems, is a Spanish alternative for Rape - Pez Sapo('Toadfish') - and it reflects, insisted the waitress, the ugliness of the fish. Spanish bluntness? Or poor marketing?

On the same menu there was an item called Cocochas de Merluza. Now, cocochas means 'cheeks' but it's not a word which would be known even to those with a reasonable command of Spanish. So it was a bit puzzling to see the English version given as 'Cocochas of Hake'.

But perhaps the best thing about this menu was the translation of the Spanish heading Revueltos. This is one of the rare examples where the Spanish is shorter than the English, for it means 'Scrambled Egg Dishes'. Admirably, perhaps, the menu kept it short and had it as just 'Scrambles'. Which is a word I think we should keep.

There was an article in today's Voz de Galicia on the number of Galician drivers who are on the verge of losing their licences because of the points they've lost after committing offences. It contained a useful list of said offences and the points lost in their respect. Interestingly, you can lose 3 points for using a mobile phone, having earphones in or using your satnav. I wonder if the last 2 are offences in other countries.

Der Spiegel reports that a combination of La Crisis and Brussels pressure have forced the Spanish to give up the hallowed tradition of the siesta, meaning the (crazy) split day. Allegedly, this has become 'a thing of the past' in the pursuit of increased consumer spending and, thus, higher profits and related tax revenue. Well, you could have fooled me. We still have 'the dead hour' (actually 2 or 3 hours) in Pontevedra. Maybe not in Madrid and Barcelona.

Finally . . . The critic A A Gill was clearly unimpressed with the performance of Al Pacino in his latest film, which is (not) about Phil Spector:- The writing started off tentatively, a bit too theatrical for the small screen, but then Pacino got hold of it and made it too ­theatrical for a theatre, too theatrical for a circus, too messianically over the big top for a biblical revival. He makes Brian Blessed look like Sooty. Al has ceased to be an actor in the sense that he exists in a given scenario with other actors and interacts. He has transcended into a monomaniac emoticon, with a character that is entirely self-generated from his memories and previous performances.
There's been a new twist every day this week in the saga of the princess and the alleged sale of 13 properties. A couple of days ago it was the Tax Office (Hacienda) admitting it had made 2 mistakes but blaming notaries and registrars for the other 11. The notaries, basically, said 'No way'. And yesterday the head of the Tax Office 'resigned', the very first person to do so in the life of the current PP administration. If I understand things correctly, the Tax Office also admitted they made 1.5m mistakes in respect of ID numbers in 2004-5. Which is impressive, isn't it?

Anyway, the other astonishing thing to happen this week is that Sr Bárcenas - the ex-treasurer of the PP and the man with many millions in various accounts around the world - has been sent to jail by a brave judge who feared he would destroy evidence if left free. Sr Bárcenas is reported to have threatened the prosecution lawyer on his way to clink but the real interest now lies in whether he'll make good on his threat to blow the gaffe if he were ever sent to prison. Sr Rajoy says the threats don't worry him. Possibly because he knows better than the rest of us that the State Prosecutor will soon find reasons why Sr Bárcenas shouldn't stay in jail.

Here's some more tosh on Galicia. Some of it's OK but what and where, for example, is 'Galicia's rich Celtic heritage'? Certainly not in either of its official languages, Spanish and Callego. I doubt they can muster 10 Celtic words between them. Which is why Galicia has never been admitted to the Celtic League of Nations. Or whatever it's called.

The EU: I regularly say I believe the superstate will eventually collapse under the weight of its internal incongruities. Or, as I read today:- "The European Union will collapse under its Eutonian vanities". When you read how low the support for the institution now is in France, you do wonder whether this will be sooner rather than later. And the (non)results of this week's summit have done nothing to undermine this suspicion.

Nice cartoon in Private Eye this week. Ryanair flight announcement:- "Ladies and Gentlemen. If you'd like to look out of the window, there's a small extra charge."

Finally . . . I read this article in El Mundo this week. This is a Google translation that I've tarted up. If anyone knows what it's all about, I'd be pleased to know. The Spanish original can be read here:

There is a Jew

The Holy Father has said that within every Christian there is a Jew and he has thus summarised the history of civilization. Christianity is an evolution from Judaism and this evolution takes the shape of love. The universality of the Church lies in mercy. Deus Caritas Est. Judaism has been reduced to its people because it has not learned to forgive.

But, when Pope Bergoglio says that within each of us there is a Jew, he is reminding us to what point we have to go to make demands upon ourselves and that it is offensive to God to trivialise pardoning. Jesus was a Jew and it is He we carry within us. Jesus with his commitment, his tenacity, dignifying with his integrity every inch of land he walked on. Also with his infinite love, his compassion and ability to forgive the world, and to redeem it through this pardon and this love. It is Christian caritas which embraces everything: body and soul, love and forgiveness, mercy and passion.
When so many Spaniards take Christianity lightly, and forgiveness as an excuse to do whatever they please, when they believe that being Catholic is based on a hearty lunch, a siesta and going to church on Sundays; and ridicule the sacrifice and mock the Cross with their superficial lives, their hairdresser's rhetoric and their rough morals, they descend into backwardness and excess, and live as if there were no hope.

To overcome the crisis, Spaniards need to rebel against the social-democratic yoke and the various types of the Left that have always ruled them. The most socialist, by the way, was Franco. But in order not to fall into this, Spain needs to listen to the Holy Father and remember that in each of us there is a Jew struggling to be free and to be worthy of God.
Peace is not to not commit, peace is not to stay afloat, peace is not to not get dirty, "I curse the poetry conceived as a cultural luxury for the neutrals." Peace is to have tried everything, to have lost everything and then to pray an Our Father. Peace is in following ourselves, kissing the profound Son. Forgiveness is not a papal Bull and forgiveness is not hiding in your mother's skirts to avoid the consequences of your latest nonsense. Within every Christian is a Jew. Forgiveness is in being able to forgive our executioners and all the muscles of Mary are tense in Michelangelo's Pieta.
A large majority of Spaniards have forgotten that within each of them there is a Jew and therefore we have known this devastation and this cold. Without a permanent dialogue with the Jew within us, any Christianity is a parody of itself and is like again nailing Jesus to the Cross. When anger guides us and we are unable to forgive, his death is emptied of meaning.
Whenever Bergoglio speaks, he alerts the world to its repeated tragedies. In every Christian is a Jew. In each of us there is a mandate and to live is a duty. God knows how to forgive us, but we only sincerely ask forgiveness when we plough the earth and sow wonders. To work is to pray and the only love is that which bleeds.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Escotes: After my experience at the Columbus museum this week, I couldn't fail to notice this bit of news. The BBC has made the sort of apology which isn't really an apology: "We're sorry if some people were upset etc."

Unrelatedly . . . Here's a fascinating podcast from the BBC, asking the question What do we really know about pornography? It seems there's no overall definition of what this is, meaning that all depends on which branch of science or philosophy - or religion - you're coming from. As it were. And on the boundaries of your personal distaste. The presenter does an excellent job of weaving her way between the differing opinions and arriving at an answer as to whether her feminism or her liberalism should hold sway.

Down in Gib, someone says a member of the Spanish Guardia Civíl fired on him in British waters, when he was out on a pedalo or something. He even claims to have a video of the event. The Guardia Civíl, on the other hand, says it never happened and lambasts the British government for giving credence to mere rumours. Now, the Spanish public rates the GC higher than almost any other institution. Admittedly, this isn't saying much, but it does put me in a who-to-believe dilemma. I mean, would the GC really lie? I've always found the Trafico officers to be scrupulously fair and honest. I'll have to give it some thought.

Finally . . . Before he died, I became a great fan of the comedian Bob Monkhouse. Well, he went off quite a bit after that. One of my all time favourite lines appeared in an article sent to me by an old New Orleans friend today and here it is - "They laughed when I told them I wanted to be a comedian. Well, they're not laughing now!" Click here and scroll down to the end for more of his best one-liners.

Talking of these . . . I also rather like this one from Odgen Nash:- You are only young once but you can stay immature indefinitely. I'm reminded of a car ride with my elder daughter which developed into a spat. After a while, she said "Well, how are we going to resolve this? One of us needs to grow up and it sure as hell isn't going to be you." She was that kind of daughter. Still is really.

Having chosen which brand of new TV I wanted, I went to one of their 2 official distributors today to see what they had in stock. Only to find it yet another victim of La Crísis. If the other one is also closed, I guess I'll end up in either Carrefour's Hypermarket (which I hate) or in El Corte Inglés. As the latter is in Vigo, I think I'm justified in regarding it as out-of-town shopping. I walked past yet another closure this morning - a florists - but this time the place had been opened as yet herb&spice shop. But at least/last I was able to get the coriander seeds I wanted.

Spanglish? Or just plain robbery? Angela tiene muchos fans. On this theme, my fellow blogger, Anthea, has come across Toppings being used by ice-cream vendors in Sanxenxo. What's remarkable about this is that it's being used in the way it is in English. In contrast with spinning, lifting, picking, parking, footing, etc., etc.

Finally, finally . . . Depression: No sooner do I cite the list of famous depressives than El Mundo brings us an interview with the man who plans to use brain implants for those of us who don't respond to brain-changing chemicals but do to ECT. Log off now if you've no interest. Otherwise, here's an interview with him. It's a Google translation, as I'm out having Arroz con Bogavante tonight. So you'll have to decide for yourself what the meaning is when the computer comes over all 'Spanish':-

Already there are volunteers prepared to that we put electrodes to them to improve its memory”

Andres Lozano is one of the world pioneers in the use of deep brain stimulation to treat various neurological and psychiatric diseases. Although born in Seville, when he was only three he moved with his family to Canada.

He is 50 and he has lived there and is currently head of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Toronto. After so many years dedicated to neurosurgery, this scientist will continue to fascinate the mysteries of the brain, many of you will know, thanks to new research techniques.

What more confident to further expand the knowledge of the brain, imaging tests in genetics?

Many times the great discoveries have been a matter of chance. For example, when trying electrodes on a patient with obesity, found a region capable of improving memory. When you go to a new site in the brain, reveal new neural circuits and you can discover things you never imagined.

Where is the limit of brain stimulation? Can we treat anything with electrodes?

All psychiatric and neural circuits are altered brain base, but so have the memory, joy, sadness, intelligence ... For example, we have two volunteers willing to put them to improve your memory electrodes. This is unethical today, but it is something that society is going to have to raise, that kind of 'cosmetic neurosurgery'. Breast implants, for example, a few years ago were reserved for cases of cancer while surgery is now very common. Things change over time and in the case of the brain that debate will have to face in the future.

Has advanced knowledge of the brain much? How much we have to know?

We do not know how memory works, what is the anatomical basis of consciousness, how to write information to the brain ... There are still quite mysterious things, many regions of the brain do not know exactly what they are doing, why they have developed both in humans compared to animals, where they reside more developed functions such as empathy, ambition, justice ...

How do the patients before they start trading your brain?

Keep in mind that we do surgery for well-established diseases, such as Parkinson's [already treated 100,000 patients worldwide]. When we go to new targets, operate patients who have unsuccessfully tried all kinds of treatments with diseases resistant to conventional therapies, and are on the verge of death. They are very brave when they agree to be the first in the world who put electrodes with a new purpose.

After 50 years living in Canada, what is your relationship with Spain?

We have several collaborations in Spain and Spanish doctors are coming to Toronto to train in the art of deep brain stimulation, and this surgery and is routinely used in hospitals to treat Parkinson Spanish. However, its use in psychiatric disorders such as depression, is less widespread here.

What does the crisis from Toronto?

The crisis in Spain is quite worrying because the investigation is not advanced pace one would like due to lack of resources. But I think you have to invest in this for several reasons, and one of them is economic. For example, if you have a 30 year old patient with depression, stuck at home without going out, drawing a pension, it is costing the government money. However, if you manage to electrodes turn this person into someone who is working and paying taxes ... I think that even from the economic point of view, we must invest in science.

Would it have been you do in Spain what they do in Canada?

I do not know if everything I do I could have done, but curiosity is intrinsic, and I guess I had had anywhere. In Spain there are scientists fantastic.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

After the Triumph of the Columbus museum yesterday morning, I met that other impostor, Disaster, in the evening. A lady friend rang to ask if I could take her to the Urxencias department of the hospital, as she was worried about a pain that had already lingered for a week. So I picked her up at 4 and set out on a 5-hour saga of tedium. Or, rather, I would've done if I hadn't thought to take a book, a Prospect magazine and an iPod Shuffle full of podcasts. Well, I'm almost an old hand now. I've been to the Urxencias before with my daughters, albeit usually in the middle of the night, when some rancid shellfish has taken painful possession of their guts.

The waiting room was virtually full, with around 40 people sitting around on hard chairs or in wheelchairs. At times, this fell to around 25, as people left to have one test or another. Most interesting was a family of 4, dressed in gypsy style and doing the slightly outlandish things gypsies are noted for. I was a tad worried about this as one of the things said about them is that the entire family comes to join the patient and then harangues and threatens the medical staff until a cure is effected. Or the patient dies and all hell breaks loose. Happily, this wasn't the case here. The only real distraction was provided by the succession of people who, on entering the toilets, naturally flicked a switch on the wall just outside, plunging us all into darkness. But, by the 20th time, this had long ceased to be amusing.

At 8 o'clock, someone came to say I was allowed to sit with the lady in question. Apparently some surgeon she knew had pulled a string or two. I found her in a bed in one of 2 wide corridors, down the sides of which were numbered Boxes (bays with curtains) into which the arrivals were taken and assessed. This was a little disconcerting as the only other use of Box in Spain I know is the cubicle where you jet-clean your car. Anyway, there were 30 to 40 of these bays and parallel to most of the was a patient in or on a bed, waiting for results. One, however, looked very dead, possibly accounting for the 2 people standing by her bed, filling in forms. And the wailing my friend had heard earlier.

The place was certainly busy but, ironically perhaps, there was no urgency. Virtually all the staff were in white, so it was hard to tell doctor from nurse from cleaner. The only clue was the stethoscopes worn by some. Frankly, it looked like organised chaos but this could be a very wrong impression. It was certainly impressive that the test results for everyone were available in real time, even if the taking of several tests meant you could be lying on your corridor bed - more accurately your gurney - for 5 hours or more. Or you could get get lucky and be out after only an hour or two. Which was the case with my daughters at 3am and 5am.

My tentative conclusion was that the Urxencias facility was being (ab)used by some people who weren't really very sick and that the staff were accepting of this. In other words, people were going to the hospital instead of to a GP. A doctor friend endorsed this observation this evening, telling me it was done to save all the time waiting, first, to see a doctor and, then, to see a specialist or hospital follow-up. When I asked whether the staff ever turned anyone away for presenting with a trivial complaint, she said No. Because the WHO had pronounced that an emergency is whatever a patient thinks is an emergency. (Rather as a work of art these days is whatever anyone considers to be art.) All that said, I can't help wondering whether the UK NHS would tolerate what they consider to be abuse. So, I will now send this to a lovely doctor friend of my younger daughter in the UK and see what she has to say.

Meanwhile, for those who want to review the work of the guy who really does believe Columbus was born in Pontevedra, click here.

Finally . . . I say that I had to face Disaster yesterday but it was nothing to compare with what happened to the latest of only 8 White-throated Needle-tails seen in the UK in the last 170 years. Whilst being watched by 40 enthralled 'twitchers' on the island of Harris in the Orkneys, it flew into the blades of a wind turbine. You may be the fastest bird in the world but this counts for nowt when you come up against one of these subsidised monsters.
Praise the Lord and pass the mustard! Or something like that. Today we finally got to visit the Christopher Columbus museum here in Portosanto, Poio, Pontevedra. Indeed, our clear impression was that the place had been opened exclusively for us. The evidence? The speed with which the hypertanned young lady with a disturbing escote closed up as we departed. Oh,and the fact there was no one else in it either when we arrived or when we left. Which wasn't a huge surprise.

The expedition began badly. Sort of. We'd decided to have a coffee in the museum next to the museum, only to find it closed. Which was ironic, as the door to museum was clearly open.

So, here we are - pix of the Columbus family home and the ugly modern 3-storey building attached to it. Complete with a lovely lift which is possibly the least used in the entire world:-

First of all, the one indisputable fact:- The Santa María was certainly built in a local shipyard and launched, I believe, as La Gallega.

Secondly, the alleged fact:-

There used to be a cruceiro - a stone crucifix, you'll recall, with the Virgin Mary on the backside - in front of the house, bearing the name of Juan Colón. Or John Columbus. As to its current whereabouts, no one knows. But it certainly did exist as someone photographed it in 1919. Here are the snaps and a modern stylised version:-

Needless to say, cruceiro is translated not as 'cross' but as 'cruise' in the Manglish version of the museum's handout. 

Next, the famous Galician writers and poets who've endorsed the claim that CC was from hereabouts:-

And the local place names which were reproduced in the New World:-

As for the house itself, here are a couple of pix of how it is now and some drawings of what it (may have) looked like:-

And here are some books and articles supportive of the belief that Portosanto deserves recognition of its claim to fame:-

Finally . . .  The least convincing showcase in the exhibition. High- lighted by the ghostly hand of Truth:-

Footnote: As we left, we saw the café next door was open. So, we took the chance to have our delayed coffee. In surprising silence, as the TV was off. Albeit not for long. Anyway, we were joined by the young lady with the tan and the chest. So we did what any full-blooded male would do and bought her a coffee. For which we got a nice big smile.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Columbus Museum - Chapter 26: Well, we polled up at 5.45 to find both doors shut and bolted. In the adjacent bar they told me there used to be two chicas working the morning shift but they thought they'd stopped. This was rather odd as both the web page and the notice on the door said the place was only open in the evenings. Disappointed but not overly surprised, we hied ourselves to the Poio Centro de Turismo and to a very pretty young lady with a disconcerting little silver ring through one nostril . . . .
- Hello. Good evening. Is there anything I can help you with?
- Yes, there is. Or at least, I hope so. I'd really like to visit the Crístobal Colón museum but I've tried 5 times without success. I've just been there and it's closed.
- Well, there were 2 chicas there during the morning and 1 during the evening but there's been a re-arrangement and the 2 chicas have ended their collaboration. I'll get the phone number of the chica who's supposed to be there in the evening . . . . . . Right, got it. I'll give her a call . . . . She's not taking the call. Anyway, she'll be there in the morning, I suppose.
- That's odd, both the web page and the horario on the door say it's only open in the evenings. But, nonetheless, we'll go in the morning and, if she's not there, I'll come back and let you know.
- OK. That would be good. We need information about what they're doing. It's not for want of asking. It's embarrassing not knowing and having to deal with enquiries.
- OK. I'll let you know either way.
- Thanks. By the way, there's no exhibition at the moment. So, if you do get into the museum, there's really nothing to see except the building.

I have to say, all this is beginning to shake my faith in the validity of the belief that Columbus was from around these parts. There seems to be a certain lack of seriousness.

Gardening Corner. My hydrangeas have been blue for at least a decade. This year they're white. Can it be because I did what Nice-but-Noisy Toni recommended and pruned all the 'male' branches? Those without flowers. Or is it because something has lowered the acidity of the soil? If so, what? Excess winter rain?

Those crazy Brits: The dancing vicaress.

Those unhappy Germans: Majorca mon (ex)amour.

Summertime: And the post goes awry. Received a letter today 14 days after it was posted in the UK. Magazines nowhere to be seen.

Youth unemployment in Spain: The rationale.

Things are different in Spain: Well, not exclusively. An Italian observation: "It's unlikely that Mr Berlusconi will ever go to jail."
15 Spanish tapas recipes: Well, 14. One is from the Philippines. And one is Pulpo a la gallega, which I dislike for 2 reasons. 1. It's pulpo, and 2. It's a la gallega. Meaning an awful lot of sweet paprika.

The moribund corrida?: Death in the afternoons?

Finally . . . Spain's super-moon: I tried to snap it a few times without success so here's someone's else's achievement.
Summer: Friday was the first day of summer here in Spain but Midsummer's Day in England. Make of that what you will. My mother tells me she's thinking of putting the heating back on.

Wimbledon: Well, there were those who thought it very wrong to make Rafa Nadal the number 5 seed. Turns out they were right, though not in they way they meant.

The Christopher Columbus Museum: I said yesterday there was always tomorrow. But there wasn't. Today was a locally-dictated holiday - San Juán - and everywhere was closed. Except for the cafés, bars and cake-shops, of course. Surely tomorrow.

The Crisis: Picking up a repaired pullover on Friday at a local mercería(seamstress's), I asked how business was. 'Pretty good' said the guy behind the counter, which rather surprised me. Until I realised it was logical people would be spending more on repairs than on new tackle right now. And possibly for some years ahead.

Depressives: For no good reason - possibly stimulated by Stephen Fry's admission he attempted suicide last year - I looked up 'famous depressives' and found this rather long list. It seems almost compulsory for creative sorts, across the arts. But I must say it was news to me that Queen Lizzie was a sufferer. They kept that rather quiet.

Manglish: A fine example here from an explanatory note to a cruceiro(crucifix) in a small square in nearby Combarro. I particularly liked the backside touch, as it were. A not uncommon feature of non-native translations.

Noise in Spain: Some progress on the anti-noise front. Possibly.

FWIW: Another new (to me) anagram - For what it's worth.

Brits in Spain: Here's one who's doing well.

Finally . . . Computers: I discovered today that my Mac stores copies - sometimes several - of all fotos attached to emails I receive. They seem to stay on my machine until they're permanently deleted from the trash. So, thank God I don't know anyone with strange tastes. One foto which appears over 100 times in the All Images file is this one. Starting with the easy question - Does anyone have any idea who she is?

Monday, June 24, 2013

5 or 6 years ago, it was reported that the first people to move into Britain as the the ice receded 15,000 years ago came from northern Spain. Specifically from the Basque Country, as I recall. Well, we are all Gallegos now. The latest DNA research suggests it was people from Galicia who colonised both Britain and Ireland. Something which the Brits returned in small measure when they settled in Bretoña in the north of Galicia in the 6th century. For those who can read Spanish, here's the details.

Something else which some readers may not be aware of is that Christopher Columbus - Crístobal Colón in Spanish - hailed not from Genoa but from a little hamlet in a parish of my barrio, Poio - across the river from Pontevedra. As a firm believer in the validity of this claim, I've been trying for a couple of years now to visit the museum set up 3 years ago in CC's natal home in Portosanto, a few hundred metres down the road from me and visible from my eyrie above the city and its environs. Along with my visitor, I tried again on Saturday, only to discover it doesn't open at weekends. But there's always tomorrow.

One thing we did get to visit this weekend was the Archeological Park of Campo Lameiro, 20km out of Pontevedra up in the hills. This is a splendid exhibition of prehistoric petrogliphs(rock carvings) and it deserves to be a success. But it won't be. Visitors are few - almost certainly because of the location - and once subsidies are withdrawn as a result of La Crísis it will surely go under. Shame.

Talking of the economy . . . Here and here are articles from foreign newspapers on the consequences of Spain's phoney bum(boom) and its collapse. They make very sad reading.

I noted this star high up on the roof of a building in the old quarter today. 

As the back of the building is in one of the streets which formed the pre-1492 Jewish quarter, my first thought was it was the star of David. But then I wondered whether it wasn't a Masonic star. A bit of research on the internet revealed that these can look exactly the same, so I'm no wiser. A prize for anyone who tells me which is which below.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Spanish cardinal recently selected 8 priests to work as an 'exclusive exorcist squad'. Last week he turned to more terrestrial matters and said the best way to help Spain's troubled royal family was "to pray". "The church always prays for heads of State and the king as well," he added. "I think it's the best form of help we can give them at this moment, both to them as individuals and the institution". "Asked for his response, the Devil said he'd appointed a team of 10 fallen angels who'd easily be able to overwhelm the priests. And he expressed confidence that the world would continue to be, on balance, an evil place and that prayer would be as useless as ever thanks to the spatial reflective screens he'd set up millions of years ago. Asked about the future of the Spanish king, the Devil chuckled and cited him as an excellent example of the futility of past prayers. He followed up by asking why Spain's Cardinals had entered the comedy business. And then departed laughing.

Whilst on matters religious . . . I listened to a discussion on celibacy earlier this week. It may not be widely known but this was only introduced for Catholic priests in the 11th century. But, anyway, the comment that brought me up sharp was that of a priest who viewed celibacy as a 'gift from God'. Some bloody gift. And one which a significant number of priests around the world have thrown back in his face.

Yesterday I gave an hour of English conversation to two of my neighbours, Ester and Ana. There was clearly a misunderstanding between Ana and I as to what time this kicked off but I couldn't swear who got it wrong. The real problem, though, was that Ester's 17 year old daughter, María, felt it necessary to call her 8 times during the lesson. Credit where credit's due, Ester only answered 4 of the calls.

Talking of María . . . It was end-of-term party time last night and, as I sat reading in my garden, I espied her and 3 friends setting out for the evening's festivities. Dressed to slaughter. I was tempted to tell María she'd left her skirt at home but refrained. Just as well, really, as Ester later told me she'd been wearing shorts. With the emphasis on the first 4 letters.

My Anglo-Australian friend, Ian, has come to stay for a week or so, armed with a fancy new hearing aid. He explained it has 3 settings - 'Normal', 'Crowded Room' and 'Television' but lacks the one he really needs this week - 'Spain'. I sympathised, having only just recovered from the raucous wedding I attended a month or so ago.

James Gandolfini: Well, I didn't know who he was but the world's papers seem to have regarded him as the best actor ever to have trodden the boards. El País gave him the longest obit I've ever seen therein - 2 pages. I suspect this is even longer than the Nelson Mandela encomium they've got on file. So I did a bit of research and came up with this article by the estimable Clive James. The outcome? I'm resolved to watch the box-set of The Sopranos which a kind friend left me a few years ago. And which, shamefully, I've never opened.

The EU has rapped Spain over the knuckles for starting the construction of an AVE high-speed train line down south without first carrying out the requisite environmental study. It's not as if this is anything like the first line to be built; there are dozens of them. So, inexperience can't be the excuse for the oversight. I wonder whether funds are dry and the Spanish government would prefer to blame Brussels for non-construction of the line.

Finally . . . Here's another review of the book I mentioned the other day - All is Silence, by Manuel Rivas. The reviewer manages to pull out all the hackneyed adjectives employed by those who don't really know Galicia - misty, damp, Celtic, etc. but this doesn't mean the book isn't worth reading, of course.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Well, today is the official start of summer here in Spain. Maybe. As Richard told me yesterday, up in Ferrol - as well as down here in Pontevedra - people have joked it wouldn't be a bad idea for spring to start first. Save for the excellent week I and my friends had on the Camino at the end of May, we've not seen a lot of sun. It's much the same in the UK, where meteorologists have recently forecast a decade of cool, wet summers. Thanks, of course to Global Warming and some sort of persistent new weather system in the Atlantic. I wonder if this forecast will be any more accurate than that of a decade ago, when we were told Galicia would be as hot as Andalucia by now and that hordes of Brits et al would be driven up here to buy our properties. Ya veremos .

Meanwhile, click here if you want to know more about how Spain's equinoxes are calculated this year. And, on the off chance that summer might swing into action, here's a list of Spain's top ten beaches, including one up here in Greener-than-ever Galicia.

Just in time for this as-yet-non-summer, Easyjet has announced a new Gatwick-Santiago flight. Three times a week and all year round, they say. Let's hope their promises are more credible that Ryanair's

And here's a recent article on corruption here in Spain and the (lack of) confidence in national institutions on the part of Spaniards. Politics scored an even lower total than the one I cited earlier this week.

Right on cue comes the news that, as expected, the Public Prosecutor (i. e. the government) has secured the release of the banker who was only jailed a couple of weeks ago. It seems he didn't get a fair trial. Though it wasn't a jury which reached this decision. Just him, his lawyers and said government. Well, at least justice has been transparent.

Things are clearly getting serious when the Galician government announces that, in the interests of a more productive economy, 3 of the 12 regional holidays next year will be on Saturday and 5 will fall on Friday or Monday. If this doesn't bring people onto the streets, nothing will.

Said economy is not all bad news. Exports continue their excellent growth, allowing some to say things will start to turn up late this year. Though only as a prelude to several more 'difficult years'. I hope so. If not, there won't be a shop left open in Pontevedra. Except those which were never really in business anyway.

The recent kerfuffle about Princess Cristina's sale of 13 properties and the alleged error that led to this, have highlighted a fact that all buyers of Spanish property should be aware of - Notaries make mistakes. More importantly, they don't check all aspects of a property. This can leave you with considerable problems after you've bought the property, when you need to sort out - at the cost of time and money which should have been the seller's - discrepancies between your purchase document(Compraventa) and the town's property register(Catastro) and the local Land Registry(Registro). Here in Galicia, at least, these are very common and I've met many folk who've rued the fact they accepted the property agent's claim that the notary would take care of everything. Astonishingly, even though people would always use a lawyer in the UK and even though every independent web page tells them to do the same here in Spain, most of them ignore all this and plunge in on the basis that a property agent surely wouldn't lie to them, even when he wants a quick sale. And will be long gone when the problems arise.

Anyway, don't take my word for it. Read this article by an expert on what a Nota Simple is, how you get one and how you go about things when it's inaccurate. As Mark would surely agree, it's best to use a lawyer to ensure it's accurate in the first place. And here's the web page of one who is not just honest but who's handled dozens of purchases for Brits and other foreigners over the last 8 years.

Finally . . . The last of the balconies:-

This is the rear of the priest's house, alongside the cathedral-basilica of Santa Maria. Not a bad joint. But the bishop's place is (even) bigger, of course.

And here are three more under-frequented boutiques that look like surviving La Crísis, one way or another:-

All within a stone's throw of each other, in the same short street.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

El País has joined me in querying the trustworthiness of the Inland Revenue's statement that there'd been 'a clerical error' behind the accusation that Princess Cristina had sold 13 properties she didn't own. Turns out that, unlike the 7 numbers the rest of us have in our ID, she only has 2. So, quite a mistake. And made by several notaries on the same day in different parts of the country. Frankly, you have to question the sanity of the person who expects us to believe this. Or the arrogance. But, never mind, the IR is going to have an investigation and give us details of what took place. Possibly.

Spain may be corrupt but she knows a good thing when she sees one. Meaning anyone or anything that displays 'solidarity'. Or, in other words, a willingness to move cash towards the Iberian Peninsula. So the EU continues to command a degree of fidelity. Next year? Who knows.

That said, not all individuals here view the EU through rose-tinted glasses. The ex President of the Andalucian government has recently written:- The Europe we are experiencing is not the one we European citizens want. The uncompromising policies of austerity and compliance with deficit targets above all other considerations, the adjustments to and cuts in the welfare state, the fears raised by the EU rescue of Cyprus are all causing economic stagnation in Europe and causing greater inequality, poverty and social exclusion. Not enough solidarity, then.

Talking about glasses . . . Looking today in the window of a knick-knack shop that's closing, I saw some Kama Sutra Shooter Glasses. Not knowing what these were and wondering why one would wear them when out shooting, I looked them up. Was my face red!

The Queen - or, rather, her horse - won the prestigious Gold Cup race at Royal Ascot today, mid scenes of joy in the stands. Especially on the part of Liz herself. After the race, the trainer of the horse (Estimate) pointed out the young lady, Michelle, who rides Estimate every day and commented she was 'a pain in the backside sometimes'. Which I thought was rather rude, especially on nationwide TV. It wasn't until much later I realised he'd been referring to the horse.

HT to my Ferrol friend, Richard, for pointing me to the news that Galicia's most reckless driver has now had all 8 cases against him tried on the same day. Because his lawyer apologised so eloquently on his behalf - a Spanish speciality - his 10 year sentence was reduced to 15 months. But, additionally, he was deprived of his driving licence for 18 years. Or he would've been if he'd had one. So, for his sentence to be implemented, he has to apply for one. Do they give licences to people convicted of reckless and dangerous driving in Spain? I guess it's possible.

Richard and I also laughed over the story that, up near Lugo's courthouse, residents are having to put signs on their front doors saying "This is not a house of appointments". Which is one way of advertising you're not a brothel. They're fed up of having the city politicians and judges knock on their doors, asking for Lascivia. No, I made that bit up. Apparently, the place next door used to have a sign saying Casa de Muñequas. Which means 'House of Wrists'. Or 'Dolls', as you prefer. Perhaps a very clever pun. But, anyway, Tener muñequa means 'To have friends in right places'. Again, I've no idea why.

Finally . . . Three awful bits of graffiti from Pontevedra's old quarter and then some of the better ones:-

In the last week or so I've read two books set in Galicia. In Vigo and Panxón to be precise. Now comes news of another set along our coast. It's reminded me, as it did the reviewer, that our regional president is accused of consorting with a well-known narcotrafico. The national president, Señor Rajoy, has also been accused of misdeeds in the last month or so - in his case receiving regular salary top-ups from a slush fund financed by - surprise, surprise - developers and construction companies. In each case, the reaction has been a denial and a shrug of the shoulders. As far as I can see, that's it. Life goes on. Is it any wonder that Politics had the lowest rating in the confidence table I cited yesterday? Incidentally, the slush fund case (El caso Bárcenas), like that of Princess Cristina, also gets curiouser and curiouser by the week, with regular revelations that the eponymous Sr Bárcenas had yet another Swiss account with 10, 20, 50 million euros in it, unbeknownst to the Inland Revenue. Some of this he's been kind enough to pass on to PP politicians but the rest has stuck to his fingers. Notwithstanding all this, there's not much expectation he'll end up in gaol. They never do. Anyway, read the book and find out what life in Vilagarcia is like. Though I expect it's called something else by Sr Rivas.

Does anyone know the mellifluously named Anneka Tanaka-Svenska, who was snapped with a large hat on at Ascot on Tuesday? I ask because she was tagged 'the well-known presenter and conservationist' in the foto I saw. Perhaps in Sweden they mean.

Who would have thought that the EU crisis would make lawyers even richer by providing endless excuses for challenging things at both macro and micro judicial levels. Well, everyone with any nous, I guess. What a world. Here's some info on the all-important German one.

Which reminds me . . . Do you think the imminent trade negotiations between the USA and the EU will be successful - assuming the French let them get off the ground? Well, if so, click here for a bucketful of cold water from someone who doesn't agree. With good reason, it seems to me.

In fairness, it has to be reported that it's now said that it was a clerical error which suggested Princess Cristina had laundered funds by pretending to sell properties she didn't own. It wasn't her ID number, it's claimed. But this doesn't explain why the properties are recorded as having been sold when the existing owners say they weren't. Will we ever get the full truth? I doubt it. By the way, it seems this is the second time that an ID error has led to a princess facing accusations of crimes. Odd that. Does anyone else get off on this excuse, I wonder.

Those of you with a burning interest in what George Borrow got up to in Portugal when flogging (Protestant) bibles in the 1830s should click here.

Finally . . . I was listening today to a program about religion in US politics. Which meant, of course, Christianity. The 3 participants were asked at the end whether they thought an atheist could ever be voted president. The first two thought not and the third said "I certainly hope not. But, if that were to happen, God would have every right to withdraw his blessing on this country." What blessing would that be? I thought. And would it be different from Jehovah's blessing on Israel or Allah's blessing on, say, Syria? And does God really have rights and, therefore, obligations? And couldn't he have foreseen the withdrawal of his blessing when he first gave it, making it merely temporary and perhaps pointless in the great scheme of things? This, I find, is the most endearing quality of God/Jehovah/ Allah/etc. - His/Her capacity for obfuscation. The great Cosmic Jokester. It's a good job there's going to be a Day of Reckoning, when all these things will be clarified. After all, it would rather un-Christian to send anyone to Hell - or even Heaven - not knowing what it had all been about. And which God had been the right one.