As elsewhere in the world, education is a political football here in Spain. The last 15 years have produced at least 3 new comprehensive laws, each with its own acronym. I forget the latest one. And now - coincidentally just ahead of the very imminent elections - the PP government has announced it'll be improving the teacher-pupil ratio, increasing grants to those entitled to them and upping the education budget by 11%. The Opposition says it's pure electioneering. Which is quite possibly true.
Meanwhile, looming on the September horizon is a book which threatens to blow the gaffe on the financial shenanigans of the PP party over the last couple of decades. And which might just impact on (tribal) voting intentions. See here for more, if your Spanish is up to it. The Google translation is the worst I've yet seen. So, forget that.
Even today, Galicia is a land which oozes legend and magic[Oh, yes?], and over 2,000 years ago, this was even more the case. In the modern-day[meaning?] province of Ourense, the River Limia was believed by the Celtic [yet again] inhabitants to contain special magical qualities, causing anyone who crossed it to lose their memory. Or their brains, in the case of this nonsense.
On a ranking of clean Spanish hotels, our neighbouring urban competitor, Vigo, came in a close third, with a score of 89%. So, at least it's got something going for it. As well as being an embarkation point for the lovely Atlantic Islands. Which score 100%. Or would, if there were a hotel on them.
Here's an amusing (but worrying) commentary on a meeting of British alternative medicine practitioners, from the ever-useful site, The Quackometer.
My daughter has an old friend visiting from Oporto. On the drive from the station to the house, she told us that, when she'd last been in the UK, she'd been asked by friends if she wanted to go with them to the spa. Leaping at the chance, she (un)dressed accordingly and then re-met her friends. Looking at her in amazement, they said they'd meant the Spar grocery store. How they laughed!
Talking of amusement . . . This has been adjudged the best joke of the current Edinburgh Festival - Aren't all cars people carriers? Funny people. A 12 year old submitted: They keep telling me to live my dreams but I don't want to be naked in an exam room. Big future, I predict.
Just wondering - Why do people with gashed jeans not tear holes in their shirts as well?
Finally . . . For those with the staying power, here's a single sentence from The Autumn of the Patriarch, by Gabriel García Márquez. Obviously didn't have his grammar check on. Truth to tell, it reminded me of Alfie Mittington's stuff. Boom! Boom!
All her life Bendición Alvarado would remember those surprises of power and the other more ancient and bitter ones of poverty, but she never brought them back with so much grief as after the death farce when he was wallowing in the fen of prosperity while she went on lamenting to anyone who wanted to listen to her that it was no good being the president’s mama with nothing else in the world but this sad sewing machine, she lamented, looking at him there with his gold-braided hearse, my poor son didn’t have a hole in the ground to fall dead into after all those years of serving his country, lord, it’s not fair, and she did not go on complaining out of habit or disillusionment but because he no longer made her a participant in his shake-ups nor did he hurry over as before to share the best secrets of power with her, and he had changed so much since the times of the marines that to Bendición Alvarado he seemed to be older than she, to have left her behind in time, she heard him stumble over words, his concept of reality became entangled, sometimes he drooled, and she was struck with the compassion that was not a mother’s but a daughter’s when she saw him arrive at the suburban mansion loaded down with packages and desperate to open them all at the same time, he cut the twine with his teeth, broke his fingernails on the hoops before she could get the scissors from her sewing basket, dug everything out from the underbrush of debris with flailing hands as he drowned in his high-flying anxiety, look at all this wonderful stuff, mother, he said, a live mermaid in a fishbowl, a lifesize wind-up angel who flew about the room striking the hour with its bell, a gigantic shell in which the listener didn’t hear the sound of the waves and the sea wind but the strains of the national anthem, what fancy stuff, mother, now you can see how nice it is not to be poor, he said, but she couldn’t feed his enthusiasm and began chewing on the brushes used to paint orioles so her son would not notice that her heart was crumbling with pity thinking back on a past that no one knew as well as she, remembering how hard it had been for him to stay in the chair he was sitting in, but not these days, lord, not these easy times when power was a tangible and unique matter, a little glass ball in the palm of the hand, as he said, but when he was a fugitive shad swimming around without god or law in a neighborhood palace pursued by the voracious swarm of the surviving leaders of the federalist war who had helped overthrow the general-poet Lautaro Muñoz, an enlightened despot whom God keep in His holy glory with his Suetonius missals in Lathi and his forty-two pedigreed horses, and in exchange for their armed help they had taken over the ranches and livestock of the outlawed former owners and had divided the country up into autonomous provinces with the unanswerable argument that this is federalism general, this is what we have shed the blood of our veins for, and they were absolute monarchs in their territories, with their own laws, their personal patriotic holidays, their paper money which they signed themselves, their dress uniforms with sabers encrusted with precious stones and hussar jackets with gold frogs and three-cornered hats with peacock-tail plumes copied from ancient prints of viceroys of the country before them, and they were wild and sentimental, lord, they would come into the presidential palace through the main door, with no one’s permission since the nation belongs to all general, that’s why we’ve sacrified our lives for it, they camped out in the ballroom with their respective harems and the farm animals which they demanded as tribute for peace as they went along everywhere so that they would always have something to eat, they brought along personal escorts of barbarian mercenaries who instead of boots used rags to clothe their feet and who could barely express themselves in Christian tongue but were wise in tricks of dice and ferocious and skilled in the manipulation of weapons of war, so that the house of power was like a gypsy encampment, lord, it had the thick smell of a river at floodtide, the officers of the general staff had taken the furniture of the republic to their ranches, they played dominoes gambling away the privileges of government indifferent to the entreaties of his mother Bendición Alvarado who did not have a moment’s rest trying to sweep up so much fairground garbage, trying to put just one little bit of order into that shipwreck, for she was the only one who had made any attempt to resist the irredeemable debasement of the liberal crusade, only she had tried to drive them out with her broom when she saw the house perverted by those evil-living reprobates who fought over the large chairs of the high command with playing-card altercations, she watched them do sodomite business behind the piano, she watched them shit in the alabaster amphoras even though she told them not to, lord, they weren’t portable toilets they were amphoras recovered from the seas of Pantelleria, but they insisted that they were rich men’s pisspots, lord, it was humanly impossible to stop General Adriano Guzman from attending the diplomatic party celebrating the tenth year of my rise to power, although no one could have imagined what awaited us when he appeared in the ballroom wearing an austere linen uniform chosen especially for the occasion, he came without weapons, just as he had promised me on his word as a soldier, with his escort of escaped French prisoners in civilian clothes and loaded down with goodies from Cayenne which General Adriano Guzman distributed one by one to the wives of ambassadors and ministers after asking permission from their husbands with a bow, for that was what his mercenaries had told him was considered proper in Versailles and so he went through it with the rare genius of a gentleman, and then he sat in a corner of the ballroom with his attention on the dance and nodding his head in approval, very good, he said, these stuck-ups from Europeland dance good, he said, to each his own, he said, so forgotten in his easy chair that only I noticed that one of his aides was filling his glass with champagne after each sip, and as the hours passed he was becoming more tense and flushed than he normally was, he opened a button on his sweat-soaked tunic every time the pressure of a repressed belch came all the way up to eye level, he was moaning with drowsiness, mother, and all of a sudden he got up with difficulty during a pause in the dancing and finally unbuttoned his tunic completely and then his fly and he stood there wide open and staling away on the perfumed décolletages of the ladies of the ambassadors and ministers with his musty old hose of a buzzard’s tool, with his sour war-drunkard’s urine he soaked the muslin laps, the gold brocade bosoms, the ostrich-feather fans, singing impassively in the midst of the panic I’m the gallant swain who waters the roses of your bower, oh lovely rose in bloom, he sang on, with no one daring to control him, not even he, because I knew I had more power than any one of them but much less than two of them plotting together, still unaware that he saw the others just as they were while the others were never able to glimpse the hidden thoughts of the granite old man whose serenity was matched only by his smooth-sailing prudence and his immense disposition for waiting, we saw only his lugubrious eyes, his thin lips, the chaste maiden’s hand which did not even tremble on the hilt of his saber that noon of horror when they came to him with the news general sir that General Narciso Lopez high on green pot and anisette had hauled a cadet of the presidential guard into a toilet and warmed him up as he saw fit with the resources of a wild woman and then obliged him put it all into me, God damn it, that’s an order, everything, my love, even your golden little balls, weeping with pain, weeping with rage, until he found himself vomiting with humiliation on all fours with his head stuck in the fetid vapours of the toilet bowl, and then he lifted the Adonic cadet up into the air and impaled him with a plainsman’s lance onto the springtime tapestry of the audience room like a butterfly and no one dared take him down for three days, poor man, because all he did was keep an eye on his former comrades in arms so that they would not hatch plots but without getting enmeshed in their lives, convinced that they themselves would exterminate each other among themselves before they came to him with the news general sir that members of General Jesucristo Sanchez’s escort had been forced to beat him to death with chairs when he had an attack of rabies that he got from a cat bite, poor man, he scarcely looked up from his domino game when they whispered in his ear the news general sir that General Lotario Sereno had been drowned when his horse had suddenly died under him as he was fording a river, poor man, he barely blinked when they came to him with the news general sir that General Narciso Lopez had shoved a dynamite stick up his ass and blown his guts out over the shame of his unconquerable pederasty, and he said poor man as if he had had nothing to do with those infamous deaths and he issued the same decree of posthumous honours for all, proclaiming them martyrs who had fallen in acts of service and he had them entombed in the national pantheon with magnificent pomp and all on the same level because a nation without heroes is a house without doors, he said, and when there were only six combat generals left in all the land he invited them to celebrate his birthday with a carousal of comrades in the presidential palace, all of them together, lord, even General Jacinto Algarabía who was the darkest and shrewdest, who prided himself on having a son by his own mother and only drank wood alcohol with gunpowder in it, with no one else in the banquet hall like the good old days general, all without weapons like blood brothers but with the men of their escorts crowded into the next room, all loaded down with magnificent gifts for the only one of us who has been able to understand us all, they said, meaning that he was the only one who had learned how to manage them, the only one who had succeeded in getting out of the bowels of his remote lair on the highland plains the legendary General Saturno Santos, a full-blooded Indian, unsure, who always went around like the whore mother that gave me birth with his foot on the ground general sir because we roughnecks can’t breathe unless we feel the earth, he had arrived wrapped in a cape with bright-colored prints of strange animals on it, he came alone, as he always went about, without an escort, preceded by a gloomy aura, with no arms except a cane machete which he refused to take off his belt because it wasn’t a weapon of war but one for work, and as a gift he brought me an eagle trained to fight in men’s wars, and he brought his harp, mother, that sacred instrument whose notes could conjure up storms and hasten the cycles of harvest time and which General Saturno Santos plucked with a skill from his heart that awoke in all of us the nostalgia for the nights of horror of the war, mother, it aroused in us the dog-mange smell of war, it spun around in our souls the war song of the golden boat that will lead us on, they sang it in a chorus with all their heart, mother, I sent myself back from the bridge bathed in tears, they sang, while they ate a turkey stuffed with plums and half a suckling pig and each one drank from his personal bottle, each one his own alcohol, all except him and General Saturno Santos who had never tasted a drop of liquor in all their lives, nor smoked, nor eaten more than what was indispensable for life, in my honour they sang in a chorus the serenade King David sang, with tears they wailed out all the birthday songs that had been sung before Consul Hanemann came to us with the novelty general sir of that phonograph with a horn speaker and its cylinder of happy birthday in English, they sang half-asleep, half-dead from drink, not worrying any more about the taciturn old man who at the stroke of twelve took down the lamp and went to inspect the house before retiring in accordance with his barracis-bred custom and he saw for the last time as he returned on bis way through the banquet hall-the six generals piled together on the floor, he saw them in embrace, inert and placid, under the protection of the five escort groups who kept watch among themselves, because even in sleep and in embrace they were afraid of each other almost as much as each one of them was afraid of him and as he was afraid of two of them in cahoots, and he put the lamp back on the mantel and closed the three locks, the three bolts, the three bars of his bedroom, and lay down on the floor face down, his right arm serving as a pillow at the instant that the foundations of the building shook with the compact explosion of all the escorts’ weapons going off at the same time, one single time, by God, with no intermediate sound, no moan, and again, by God, and that was that, the mess was over, all that was left was a lingering smell of gunpowder in the silence of the world, only he remained safe forever from the anxieties of power as in the first mallow-soft rays of the new day he saw the orderlies on duty sloshing through the swamp of blood in the banquet hall, he saw his mother Bendición Alvarado seized by a dizzy spell of horror as she discovered that the walls oozed blood no matter how hard she scrubbed them with lye and ash, lord, that the rugs kept on giving off blood no matter how much she wrung them out, and all the more blood poured in torrents through corridors and offices the more they worked desperately to wash it out in order to hide the extent of the massacre of the last heirs of our war who according to the official statement had been assassinated by their own maddened escorts and their bodies wrapped in the national flag filled the pantheon of patriots with a funeral worthy of a bishop, for not one single man of the escort had escaped alive from the bloody roundup, not one general, except General Saturno Santos who was armoured by his strings of scapulars and who knew Indian secrets of how to change his form at will, curse him, he could turn into an armadillo or a pond general, he could become thunder, and he knew it was true because his most astute trackers had lost the trail ever since last Christmas, the best-trained jaguar hounds looked for him in the opposite direction, he had seen him in the flesh in the king of spades in his sibyls’ cards, and he was alive, sleeping by day and traveling by night off the beaten track on land and water, but he kept leaving a trail of prayers that confused his pursuers’ judgment and tired out the will of his enemies, but he never gave up the search for one instant day and night for years and years until many years later when he saw through the window of the presidential train a crowd of men and women with their children and animals and cooking utensils as he had seen so many times behind the troops in wartime, he saw them parading in the rain carrying their sick in hammocks strung to poles behind a very pale man in a burlap tunic who says he’s a divine messenger general sir, and he slapped his forehead and said to himself there he is, God damn it, and there was General Saturno Santos begging off the charity of the pilgrims with the charms of his unstrung harp, he was miserable and gloomy, with a beat-up felt hat and a poncho in tatters, but even in that pitiful state he was not as easy to kill as he thought for he had decapitated three of his best men with his machete, he had stood up to the fiercest of them with such valor and ability that he ordered the train to stop opposite the cemetery on the plain where the messenger was preaching, and everybody drew apart in a stampede when the men of the presidential guard jumped out of the coach painted with the colours of the flag with their weapons at the ready, no one remained in sight except General Saturno Santos beside his mythical harp with his hand tight on the hilt of his machete, and he seemed fascinated by the sight of the mortal enemy who appeared on the platform of the coach in his denim suit with no insignia, without weapons, older and more remote as if it had been a hundred years since we saw each other general, he looked tired and lonely to me, his skin yellow from liver trouble and his eyes tending toward teariness, but he had the pale glow of a person who was not only master of his power but also the power won from his dead, so I made ready to die without resisting because it seemed useless to him to go against an old man who had come from so far off with no more motives or merits than his barbarous appetite for command, but he showed him the manta-ray palm of his hand and said God bless you, stud, the country deserves you, because it has always known that against an invincible man there is no weapon but friendship, and General Saturno Santos kissed the ground he had trod and asked him the favour of letting me serve you in any way you command general sir while I have the ability in these hands to make my machete sing, and he accepted, agreed, he made him his back-up man but only on the condition that you never get behind me, he made him his accomplice in dominoes and between the two of them they gave a four-handed skinning to many despots in misfortune, he would have him get barefoot into the presidential coach and take him to diplomatic receptions with that jaguar breath that aroused dogs and made ambassadors’ wives dizzy, he had him sleep across the doorsill of his bedroom so as to relieve himself of the fear of sleeping when life became so harsh that he trembled at the idea of finding himself alone among the people of his dreams, he kept him close to his confidence at a distance of ten hands for many years until uric acid squeezed off his skill of making his machete sing and he asked the favour that you kill me yourself general sir so as not to leave someone else the pleasure of killing me when he has no right to, but he ordered him off to die on a good retirement pension and with a medal of gratitude on the byways of the plains where he had been born and he could not repress his tears when General Saturno Santos put aside his shame to tell him choking and weeping so you see general the time comes for the roughest of us studs to turn into fairies, what a damned thing.