PUBLIC HOLIDAYS: Spain will have 14 of these in 2016, against Britain's 8. The USA may have even fewer. New-to-power Sr Rajoy saidhe'd move most of these to Monday - as in the UK - to stop the Spanish indulging their habit of taking Friday or Monday off when holidays fall on Thursday or Tuesday. But, unsurprisingly, he never did. Rather more surprisingly, Spain's total is the same as Germany's and Greece's and only one more than France's. I don't know if the populations of these also take puentes, or 'bridges' on relevant Fridays and Mondays.
SPANISH CULTURAL NORMS: These are said to be some of the things you should or shouldn't do here:-
- You should wait to take a first drink until after the first toast and you only toast with alcohol, not water or soft drinks.
- Café con leche can be ordered at breakfast or as an afternoon pick-me-up, but shouldn’t be ordered with any meals after midday. If you must have a white coffee after dinner, try a cortado—an espresso with a splash of milk.
- As in In Italy, France, Greece and former Yugoslavia, extending your index finger and pinkie and shaking your fist in the “rock on” gesture, is tantamount to taunting the person you point it at about being cuckolded.
- Walking around with a wad of chewing gum in your mouth isn’t just uncommon, it’s often regarded as impolite.
- As in Italy and France, being 5-10 minutes late is considered normal and is not frowned upon. Even in many professional settings.
Truth to tell, I was only aware of the validity of the last one. Indeed, I'd add quite a few more minutes. Or an hour, in the case of my neighbour, the lovely Ester. Who did confirm last night that all the others are true.
WHAT'S IN A NAME: I cited Shakespeare's Will yesterday. One of the witnesses to this went by the wonderful name of Rovert Whatcott. As the forename is sometimes given as Robert, I wonder whether Bs and Vs were once pronounced the same in English, as in Spanish. But, anyway, I now have an alternative Gmail address which consists entirely of my pseudonymous name, without numbers, etc. How many people can say that?
BELIEVING: If you have a faith that owes nothing to rationality, there's no limit whatsoever to what you'll believe. So it is that the Salem Puritans at the end of the 17th century thought that all their troubles – including attacks from Indians and the French - were manifestations of the Devil's evil. And that they were particular targets of Satan because they were so devout. Which would be funny if it hadn't led to the execution of 19 people for witchcraft. Surely this sort of nonsense has died out, you'll say. But very only last week I listened – open-mouthed – to a Christian averring that his terrible suffering was on account of his being chosen by God to be 'tested'. One couldn't deny the comfort this brought him but how indoctrinated and irrational must one be to take this view?
And what sort of god would do this? Bear this in mind when you gasp at the outrageous 'medieval' attitudes of members of ISIS.
A DEFENCE OF IRRATIONAL BELIEFS: Try this account from “the most intelligent man in America” in 1692, who defends his wholehearted pursuit of witches on the basis of his belief in the Devil and in Shapes/Spectres. The head of the Caliphate's got nothing on him. Witness: I believe, that never were more satanical devices used for the unsettling of any people under the sun, than what have been employ'd for the extirpation of the vine which god has here planted, casting out the heathen, and preparing a room before it, and causing it to take deep root, and fill the land. But, all those attempts of hell, have hitherto been abortive; and, having obtained help from god, we continue to this day. Wherefore the Devil is now making one attempt more upon us; an attempt more difficult, more surprizing, more snarl'd with unintelligible circumstances than any that we have hitherto encountred; an attempt so critical, that if we get well through, we shall soon enjoy halcyon Days with all the vultures of hell trodden under our feet. He has wanted his incarnate legions to persecute us: he has therefore drawn forth his more spiritual ones to make an attacque upon us. We have been advised by some credible christians yet alive, that a malefactor, accused of witchcraft and executed in this place more than forty years ago, did then give notice of, an horrible plot against the country by witchcraft, and a foundation of witchcraft then laid, which if it were not seasonally discovered, would probably blow up, and pull down all the churches in the country. And we have now with horror seen the discovery of such a witchcraft! an army of devils is horribly broke in upon the place which is the center, and after a sort, the first-born of our English settlements: and the houses of the good people there are fill'd with the doleful shrieks of their children and servants, tormented by invisible hands, with tortures altogether preternatural. For a lot more of this guff, click here. And recall it was only 300 years ago.
FINALLY . . . MR. PUTIN: “The Kremlin has sent at least 1,000 politicians and officials a 400-page tome of his pronouncements called Words that Change the World. The contains 19 speeches, articles and campaign pledges dating back to 2003. Regional leaders and bureaucrats are urged to study Putin’s oeuvre to find guidance on their decisions”. We now await a similar compilation of Sr. Rajoy's gems. Which will surely be more than a tad shorter than 400 pages.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!