The Spanish Economy: If you can read Spanish or can tolerate Google Translate's efforts, this is a coruscating article on just how bad things are below the surface. HT to my friend Dwight for this.
Cataluña: The 'independence vote' looms. If you're seriously interested in this issue, this FT article (particularly the detailed comments) are essential reading. Assuming you can access the site. You might, like me, have to complete a short survey to achieve this.
The British Labour Party: Clearly, this is undergoing change and the main question arising is exactly where on the left-of-centre spectrum it will eventually settle. Meanwhile, I've been reminded of the old phrase that 'There's always someone worse off than you." It comes from the vainglorious leader of the 1980s miners' strike in the UK - Arthur Scargill. Jeremy Corby, he says, is not left-wing enough. And the Labour Party is in difficulties because it employs not socialist policies but 'socialist democratic' policies. Whatever they are. Oh, how we miss his nonsense.
British Humour: Did you know that it is "A central aspect of English life - the dominant role that humour plays in all social interaction and cultural affairs generally." If not, this blog post will interest and enlighten you. And there's a longish quote from it at the end of this post which might both interest and even amuse you.
The Far East: Anyone who's lived there will sympathise with the coach of the Japanese rugby team which achieved a stunning victory over the South Africans on Saturday and promptly all dissolved into tears on the pitch. They're strange people, he said. "They cry when they're happy and laugh when they're nervous". Or embarrassed, I'd add.
Finally . . . Costa Coffee: As you know, I believe there are a number of reasons for avoiding this company. I'm not sure these should include the fact it shares a name with a Chelsea football player, Diego Costa, who's got himself into hot water over his endlessly provocative behaviour on the pitch. Nonetheless, some folk are boycotting them for this reason and this has to a good thing.
ENGLISH HUMOUR AND ITS IMPORTANCE
The English do not have any sort of global monopoly on humour, but what is distinctive is the sheer pervasiveness and supreme importance of humour in English everyday life and culture.
In other cultures, there is ‘a time and a place’ for humour: among the English it is a constant, a given - there is always an undercurrent of humour. Virtually all English conversations and social interactions involve at least some degree of banter, teasing, irony, wit, mockery, wordplay, satire, understatement, humorous self-deprecation, sarcasm, pomposity-pricking or just silliness.
Humour is not a special, separate kind of talk: it is our ‘default mode’; it is like breathing; we cannot function without it. English humour is a reflex, a knee-jerk response, particularly when we are feeling uncomfortable or awkward: when in doubt, joke. The taboo on earnestness is deeply embedded in the English psyche. Our response to earnestness is a distinctively English blend of armchair cynicism, ironic detachment, a squeamish distaste for sentimentality, a stubborn refusal to be duped or taken in by fine rhetoric, and a mischievous delight in pricking the balloons of pomposity and self-importance. (English humour is not to be confused with ‘good humour’ or cheerfulness - it is often quite the opposite; we have satire instead of revolutions and uprisings.) Key phrases include: ‘Oh, come off it!’ (Our national catchphrase, along with ‘Typical!’) Others impossible to list - English humour is all in the context, e.g. understatement: ‘Not bad’ (meaning outstandingly brilliant); ‘A bit of a nuisance’ (meaning disastrous, traumatic, horrible); ‘Not very friendly’ (meaning abominably cruel); ‘I may be some time’ (meaning ‘I’m going to die’ - although, come to think of it, that one was possibly not intended to be funny).
Need I add that I don't suffer from the English dis-ease myself? Or not a lot, anyway. Which is why, I guess, people are always telling me I'm not very British. One of life's small consolations.