Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ponters pensées

Only in Spain?: An organisation called Manos Limpios(Clean Hands) has brought many, if not most, of the suits for corruption against politicians and civil servants but, needless to say, is now is under investigation itself. The action may even be non-frivolous. Or even just vexatious.

Desperate Times: Desperate measures. Perhaps not surprisingly - given the huge size of the underground economy here - the Spanish Tax authorities have powers unknown in the Anglo world. For example, they can embargo your current account. Or even simply take money from it, I suspect. And now they've given themselves the power to do the same with deposit accounts. You've been warned. Don't cross them!

Galician Airports: We have 3 small, (minimally) international facilities. Yesterday the local paper reminded us of what we've known for years – that you can't get either a bus or train from Pontevedra (the provincial capital) to any of them. But you can to Oporto airport in nearby North Portugal. Guess which airport is growing most rapidly. Truly astonishing but symptomatic of the stupid 'localism' - and pathetic politics - that hold back development in Spain.

Galician Weather: When the weather changes here, it really can change. I like to think we actually live in the Atlantic. And when the wind shifts from the warm, wet south west to the cold, dry north, the temperature can drop rapidly by 10 degrees or more. Which explains why I nearly froze to death walking across the bridge from town yesterday. Midst a northern, hail-laden gale.

ECT: Or electro convulsive therapy. I have reason to be grateful this is still permitted in cases of depression resistant to drugs, in the UK at least. So, I was fascinated to read that it enables dyslexic kids to read faster. I wonder how they found out. Maybe I should read the Times article that I can't link you to. But here's a Telegraph article to be going on with.

The UK Property Market: House prices in Britain seem to have been rising for ever, though I know this isn't true, as I've lived through 2 eras of decline. But, in one city in the UK, prices have actually fallen in the last 15 years, against an general increase of 172%. Poor bloody Bolton. Or the centre of it, to be specific. The second worst performer was Leicester, the Curry Capital of Britain, I believe.

The UK Establishment: The EU Referendum blogger, Richard North, is not very impressed by this. Witness: The one thing you can guarantee about the establishment is that they look after their own. Arguably, that is one of the reasons why they are the establishment – they have that insiders' willingness to defend themselves against all comers. Even allowing for that, though, the affection being shown for a son of the establishment, millionaire Boris Johnson seems to transcend even the loyalty of the clan. For a man whose full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, this affection approaches a level of morbid pathology that is close to disease, defying any imaginable logic. [X is one] of the seemingly helpless establishment patsies who have fallen under the spell of this man. Besotted with him, they seem prepared to forgive any amount of abuse and professional misconduct.  More here. Dr North is on the verge of despair at this situation. See here for details.

Donald Trump: I was going to write that his latest astonishing act was to revoke his pledge not to stand against the official Republican presidential candidate, if he's not selected. But then he opened his gob on abortion and pronounced that women who'd had an illegal abortion should be punished 'somehow'. You couldn't make it up.

Finally . . . As a liberal user of English, I enjoyed these bits of a review of a new book Horrible Words by Rebecca Gowers: It is the latest attack on those awful, unholy “gripers” in our midst (John Humphrys, Simon Heffer, Kingsley Amis, Peter 'Dutch' Missler) who dare to lay down the law about English for the general reader, and thereby attract the ire of all those who work on language in an academic capacity. Such “naysayers”, you see, are too quick to cry, “Non-word! Horrible word! Do not use this word!” when they see something new that offends them. 

Thanks to Rebecca, we can see that in 1926, the great philologist Henry Watson Fowler described the word “optimism” as “repulsive”. In 1935, AP Herbert said that “personalise” was “obscene”. And in 2010, Simon Heffer not only pronounced against the word “onto” but claimed (against all visible evidence to the contrary) that it “does not exist”. Obviously, all these chaps look ridiculous for taking such stands. But at the same time, I can’t help feeling that someone here is missing the point slightly. Isn’t reading style guides meant to be a source of entertainment as well as enlightenment? Also, doesn’t the reader have the right to disagree? I rejoiced in all Partridge’s strictures and pronouncements. I still do, while doubtless breaking most of his rules every time I sit down at my keyboard.

In a more general way, though, one must defend the style guide for the simple reason that many [inadequate] people desire everyday guidance on sticky issues. There is no authority governing the English language: we all know this. There is no academy. No wonder we turn to the “naysayers”, because at least they understand what we are crying out for, which is a bit of certainty, for pity’s sake.

You might think you can trust in dictionaries, but no: dictionaries keep apace with usage, so as to have relevance — and also to keep selling new ones. You ask them for bread: they give you stones. So I think we should be very grateful to all those chaps (it’s usually chaps) who are willing to draw a line in the sand. Yes, they can end up looking absurd; yes, they invariably over-reach themselves. But at the same time, those of us who want to know what the hell to do when pluralising spokesperson, shouldn’t we have somewhere to turn? I have to admit I have no sympathy for this view, based on my experience of Peter 'Dutch' Missler.

So, what's odd about this foto?

Well, in 15 years, this is the only person, apart from me, I've seen reading a book in public in Ponters. And I can't see myself, of course. So, unique.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mid week pensées

Teaching English to the Spanish: A man on a mission. Good luck to him. One of his problems will be the silly Spanish notion that they are less able than others to learn foreign languages. Possibly true of the pronunciation challenge - only 5 vowel sounds in Spanish – but otherwise quite daft. Just in case you can't be bothered to read the article, here are the main problems he thinks Spaniards have:
  • An obsession with grammar
  • Pronunciation (see above!)
  • Fear of speaking and engaging in the essential conversation. Especially in front of other Spaniards.
  • No clear goals

Some would add 'A tendency to give up when it becomes hard'.

Another Funny Spanish Female name: Covedonga. The site, I think, of a battle in Asturias, where the Reconquista against the Moors began. HT to Jennie for this.

The Don: This comment, from a Trump insider, says it all: What was once his desire to rank second place to send a message to America and to increase his power as a businessman has nightmarishly morphed into a charade that is poised to do irreparable damage to the USA. Cry, my beloved country.

  • An immigration 'expert' on RT TV yesterday spoke immaculate RP English, with only the hint of a foreign accent. So, you'd think he'd get the pronunciation of 'bombing' right. But, no. Like a tyro, he pronounced the middle B. Has no Anglo ever been 'rude' enough to correct him?
  • Shrift: This is an old word for 'penance', as in 'short shrift'.
  • Spandrel: I saw this word recently. It means this.

RT TV: Crimea's democratic return to Russia. Says it all really.

  • Facebook: WTF are Related Articles? Why do I get them on my timeline? And why do I still get Memories that I've said a dozen times I don't want to see? Are they determined to force me off FB to Google+?
  • Amazon: You'll all be wondering whether the Spanish branch is back at their desks and whether I've had a follow-up to the 2 messages from the USA last week about the 'free' e-book I was invoiced for. Well, no. In a word. Third message sent to the US of A early today.
  • Gmail message box. I've serendipitously discovered that the way to enlarge this to to simply hit the D key when you want to write a message. Doesn't work after you've hit the Reply button. So you have to insert the sendee's address.
Finally . . . I've belatedly realised that things do wear out after a few decades. Like the cushions inside the cushion-covers. And the rolled-up, rubber slip-mat that my daughters had left in a corner of their bathroom and which had become so frangible, brittle, etc. that it fell to pieces as I picked it up to chuck it out. I guess I'll start to wear out soon.

Which reminds me . . . I've a couple of caminos arranged for this year and here's a card a lovely lady friend sent me this week:-

But, seriously . . . .


Here's an excellent article from the estimable Kevin Myers of The Times on how Europe isn't facing up to realities:-

Fundamentalists laugh as the politically correct West burns

Turkey is the soggy blotting paper that preserves Europe

On my way into the GPO in O’Connell Street last Monday to record a Prime Time programme to discuss the April insurrection in 1916, I passed a fully veiled Muslim woman traipsing modestly behind her strutting husband. Perhaps you have noticed this phenomenon: a sort of eff-you swagger of the slave owner with his hooded chattel, his demeanour loudly proclaiming: “I’m here with my rules in your society, whose rules and culture I disdain and am systematically violating. So what are you cringing kaffirs going to do about it?”

Not coincidentally, war-racked Syria and Egypt both banned the veil because they knew what it symbolises; not just a personal choice but a visible secession from the consensus of civil society. Everywhere without exception that the veil has appeared, other rejections of the rules of civil society have occurred.

At the same time as I was crossing O’Connell Street, in Brussels a group of men were putting the final touches to a bombing operation that the next morning would end more than 30 lives and maim three hundred. They lived in the mini Islamic society of Molenbeek — the innocent-sounding Millstream — which had already seceded from mainstream Belgian life, and where accordingly veils are commonplace. Salah Abdeslam, a veteran of the Paris slaughter in November, was able to move freely here, as was the bomb-maker Najim Laachraoui.

What are we doing obsessing about the details of the past, when the Christian traditions that once made us, and that are in their different ways embodied in either side of the 1916 debate, are being challenged as never before? The so-called barrier preventing Europe from being irreversibly altered is Turkey.

Yes, Turkey, whose borders with Syria are as stout and impermeable as the legendary south Armagh-Louth frontier, and which has been steadily undoing the heroic secular revolution imposed by Ataturk. When I was first in Turkey, more than 30 years ago, not a veil was to be seen. When I was last there, five years ago, veils were everywhere, and — according to westernised women I spoke to — attacks on unveiled women in public were commonplace. Turkey is the soggy piece of blotting paper between us and the transformation of Europe into a caliphate.

Unduly alarmist? Alarmist certainly, but unduly? Hardly, given that most magical dimension known as time. Baghdad, 100 years ago, was more Jewish and Christian than Muslim. Syria was the birthplace of early Christianity, hence the Road to Damascus. Aleppo, the scene of such appalling fighting recently, was a deeply Christian city before the 7th-century conquest by Islamic forces.

The Epistles tell you a lot. The Epistle to the Ephesians was for the people of Ephesus, now a Muslim city. Likewise with the Epistle to the Galatians, of the province of Galatia, whose capital was Ancyra, now Ankara, formerly a seat of Christian scholarship. Colossians lived in Colossae, Anatolia, which is now almost totally Muslim. In other words, once Muslim, always Muslim, or Dar al-islam, forever. Islam is not a tide that recedes voluntarily, especially in post-Ataturk Turkey, our protection against mass migration of alien and immiscible peoples.

Alien? Immiscible? Am I even allowed to use these words any more? In the deranged cosmos of state-funded quangissimos, where defence of native values is regarded as heretical and almost criminal, probably not: lead me out to the flogging post. The fate of Matthew Doyle in the London suburb of Croydon says a lot. Clearly an idiot, he confronted a woman in a veil about the Brussels bombings, which she, quite reasonably, said had nothing to do with her. It’s a measure of this cretin’s utter stupidity that he later boasted about his heroic feat on Twitter. Croydon police went to his home and arrested him on suspicion of “inciting racial hatred” and took him off to the clink.

Even the thickest plod, and that’s pretty thick, must surely know that Islam is not a race, and anyway, who knows what race lurks behind the veil? Isn’t that the point? But then, isn’t politically correct policing also the point? Isn’t that why the English police did nothing while thousands of underage girls were groomed and raped by Muslim men? Not just the bobbies — English feminists have been weirdly silent about the fate of these girls, perhaps because their assailants were of immigrant stock, which presumably makes them almost honorary women.

Beyond the official screen of state-endorsed liberal orthodoxy across Europe, ordinary people don’t like what is happening to their cities, and they don’t trust Turkey to become the self-policing dam that will protect our values. The quid pro quo that Ankara is seeking for this guardianship is that the EU fast-tracks Turkey’s application for membership, so allowing free movement of its people across Europe, from Bothnia to Bosnia, from Bucharest to Ballina.

Turkey’s increasingly feverish embrace of Islam hasn’t protected it: two recent suicide bombings in Ankara by Islamic State have killed about 140 people. Yet Turkey is to be the night watch
on our eastern ramparts. Very comforting. Nearly as comforting as our native cultural defences. The National Women’s Council has posted on its website a lengthy Irish Times article almost lauding the virtues of the burqa/niqab facial coverings, even though these not merely violate our cultural norms, but also reduce women to a protected and autonomous species. I scoured the website looking for a comparable article extolling the advantages of a career as a sex-worker, which after all is another option open to free women, but in vain. Why is an organisation whose founding principle is the achievement of equality between women and men effectively endorsing the wearing of the veil as a lifestyle choice? Or will it now campaign for the right of men to wear the niqab and the burqa also?

You already know how intrinsically absurd this is. Yet the dogmatic implementation of ideas that are intrinsically absurd has been a defining feature of European multicultural policies for the past 50 years. Behold the harvest: 7/7, Bataclan, Maelbeek, Madrid, Lee Rigby, et cetera. What is the EU cure? To hand the keys to our eastern borders to an increasingly Islamic state whose lands were once a heartland of Christianity, and which today cannot even safeguard a peace rally in its own capital. Namely, poacher turned poacher.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tuesday, Tuesday . . .

Easter Celebrations: Here's the reliable Local with some pix of these. Nothing very different to ones I posted last week, though.

Spanish Nationality: Joanna Styles here sets out 5 Reasons for taking Spanish nationality. And then balances these with 5 reasons why not. Can't say I'm totally persuaded just yet. But come June . . . Who knows?

Spanish Sensitivities:
  1. Possibly these aren't as well developed as elsewhere. And not just in respect of gypsies. Yesterday, for example, I learnt that the Spanish equivalent of M&Ms is Conguitos, which used to advertised on TV thus. This, I stress, no longer happens. But the packaging still looks like this. 

    Ironically, only a couple of days ago, I was explaining to a Spanish friend what a golliwog was and why it was no longer acceptable in everyday parlance. He seemed a tad surprised.
  2. Walking into town yesterday with a duff iPod, I started to compile a list of things which don't annoy Spaniards. So far, in no particular order:
  • Tailgating
  • Blocking the pavement to chat with friends
  • Blocking the traffic to let people into or out of a car (cf. Being slow at traffic lights)
  • Deafening levels of noise.
  • 3 TVs in a bar, each on a different channel
  • Lateness. Or even great lateness (Ester).
  • Absence of any real planning. Relative chaos. (Equals spontaneity).
  • Multiple simultaneous conversations.
  • Using a mobile phone when with others.
  • Invading your personal space in the street and elsewhere.
  • Knocking against someone else or vice versa (as a result of the previous item)
  • Smoking when others are eating, albeit outside these days.
  • Talking loudly. Shouting even.
  • Listening perforce to the private lives of others (as a result of the previous item).
That's probably enough for now.

English: It's said that our vocab is so extensive because we've stolen so many words from other languages and then used them to generate nuances(matices). Take, for example, this set of adjectives which all mean 'easily broken or damaged': fragile, breakable, frangible, flimsy, brittle, crisp, friable. God help the poor foreigners, I say.

Finally . . . Spanish Names: As I've noted, some of these for women are quite extraordinary. Like Penitencia, Concepción, and even Dolores(Pains) or Pilar(Pillar). My GP is called Betsabe and I wonder whether this is the Spanish/Galician version of Bethsheba.  

Despite Facebook . . . 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Monday thoughts.

Easter in Spain: Is a big thing. Here's The Local with an Essential Guide to it and Eight Surprising Facts about Holy Week. Might be useful for next year.

Meanwhile . . .

The Easter Weather: God played a little celestial joke yesterday and, late in the afternoon, drew back the sun and gave us only gales and rain. Needless to say, the big evening procession was cancelled and my heart went out to the poor buggers who've spent months learning how to slowly walk and sway in unison below the heavy platforms which carry the garish statues. And this scenario wasn't confined to Galicia; the whole of Spain was hit by the same depressing mix of elements. As to why? I guess it's because the Atlantic has been bequeathed 'free will'. How we laughed.

The Spanish Language: More than 150 academics, novelists, poets, scientists and other experts of language descended on San Juan in Puerto Rico, recently to debate the future of Spanish — and whether words such as "selfie" will be admitted into the prestigious Diccionario de la Real Academia (Dictionary of the Royal Academy). How terribly 19th century.

Nature and Science: I rather liked this paragraph I read yesterday, about the late 18th century: The troubling image of a shy, reluctant, persecuted female Nature who is crudely questioned and even physically assaulted by an exclusively male Science now begins to appear. It slowly replaces the older Romantic image of a mysterious and seductive Nature, at least a goddess, who is infinitely more powerful than her merely human petitioners and questioners. The rhetoric of assault, molestation and penetration and even 'rape' of Nature by 'Science' develops, though partly unconsciously, throughout the 19th century and was keenly identified by 20th century feminist criticism. Pick your century, pick your view of Nature.

Facebook: How is it that, when I only permit friends to post on my timeline, someone called Shaun King put stuff there yesterday? Plus at least 3 organisations, one of which was called Psicología Inversa. I guess I'll never know.

Finally . . . Michael Faraday was a famous British scientist. Sadly, he couldn't pronounce the letter R properly - called rhotacism - and so went through his entire life introducing himself as Mr Fawaday. Not that this held him back in any way. What a guy!


An Outer presents the positive view: Our vision is of a reinvigorated country liberated from a political and judicial union that renders us sclerotic. It is one of a strong, dynamic and adaptable 21st century economy reaping the benefits of its newfound agility and flexibility in a modern globalised world. We thus speak of an open, liberal, democratic nation state leading in the world as a champion of free trade, liberty and democracy. Instead of dependency on a domineering middleman, we can be a pioneer of the emerging global marketplace; speaking with an independent voice in the vast network of global bodies that are facilitating trade, raising standards and formulating global solutions for global problems. In that process our world class expertise, leadership and experience will be in high demand.  What's not to like about that?

The Smiling Nieta, a huge improvement on the Mona Lisa . . . 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Snippets

Semana Santa:
  • The rain was forecast for Saturday and Sunday but arrived on Friday, along with high winds. So, once again, the processions were cancelled. You'd think an omniscient, omnipotent God would do a better job of managing the weather at times when people are planning to glorify Him/Her. So, one wonders why not.
  • Apart from not being able to get into the Post Office, I realised yesterday there'd be no letters or even a sight of the postman all week. So, worse than the summer months, when at least some staff are working.
  • As ever on a public holiday, Pontevedra was dead from the cake shops down when I walked into the centre yesterday. But for the rain, I guess people would have emerged, for one thing and another, during the evening. But I'm not sure they did.
Gypsies: The Spanish are not fond of their own gypsies, the standard phrase being: I'm not racist but . . . How, then, must they view the Rumanian Roma couple arrested in Malaga for trying to sell their 15 year old daughter for €3,500 in cash, 100 bottles of whisky, two sheep and a pig? How honest Rumanians – Spain's 2nd most numerous foreign residents – must despair of the image this sort of thing gives them.

The Great EU Committee: The President, the ineffable Mr Juncker, has criticised national leaders for what they are or aren't doing about the vast refugee problem. He seems to me to be a man who can be relied to have his finger on no pulse whatsoever. And would probably merit execution in a properly functioning society.

The British Press: Citing - would you believe? - a right-wing German politician, the Daily Mirror has repeated the view that Mrs Merkel was the worst Chancellor in German history. Yes, indeed; much worse than that little Hitler chappie.

Yoko Ono: To be honest, I hate her. And, after hearing this yesterday, I now I detest her. For a laugh, click at minute 3.02. For an even bigger laugh, contemplate the fact that her CD will cost you 23 dollars and the vinyl version a mere 230 dollars. Don't all rush but there's only one left. Which is one too many, of course.

The 620s BC: How many people knew that this decade was one of the most important in history? I certainly didn't. But historian Robin Lane Fox tells us – in 'The Unauthorised Version' – that, from Israel to Athens, it was one of the world's vital eras of written law. Lane Fox's book, by the way, is sub-titled Truth and Fiction in the Bible and is a fascinating read. Especially for an atheist.

Daughters: Needless to say, I'm very proud of mine. And I'm almost as proud that they share 10 and 12% of their friends with me.

Finally . . . I wonder how many people know that the famous mariner Walter Raleigh was also a decent poet. I certainly didn't. Having fallen out with Liz I, he was jailed and later executed by her successor, James I. Before this [when else?] Raleigh wrote this contemptuous dismissal of just about everyone in any position of power. Something more characteristic of the Middle Ages than of the dawning era of humanistic optimism, it says here.

The Soul's Errand

O, Soul, the body's guest,
Upon a thankless errand!
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant:
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie.

Say to the court it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
Say to the church it shows
What's good, and doth no good:
If court and church reply,
Then give them both the lie.

Tell potentates they live
Acting by others' action,
Not loved unless they give,
Not strong but by a faction.
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lie.

Tell men of high condition
That manage the estate,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practice only hate:
And if they make reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell them that brave it most,
They beg for more by spending,
Who, in their greatest cost,
Seek nothing but commending:
And if they make reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell zeal it wants devotion;
Tell love it is but lust;
Tell time it is but motion;
Tell flesh it is but dust:
And wish them not reply,
For thou must give the lie.

Tell age it daily wasteth;
Tell honor how it alters;
Tell beauty how she blasteth;
Tell favor how she falters:
And as they shall reply,
Give every one the lie.

Tell wit how much it wrangles
In tickle points of niceness;
Tell wisdom she entangles
Herself in over-wiseness:
And when they do reply,
Straight give them both the lie.

Tell physic of her boldness;
Tell skill it is pretension;
Tell charity of coldness;
Tell law it is contention:
And as they do reply,
So give them still the lie.

Tell fortune of her blindness;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindness;
Tell justice of delay:
And if they will reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and school reply,
Give arts and school the lie.

Tell faith it fled the city;
Tell how the country erreth;
Tell manhood shakes off pity;
Tell virtue least preferreth:
And if they do reply,
Spare not to give the lie.

So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing,--
Although to give the lie
Deserves no less than stabbing,--
Stab at thee, he that will,
No stab the soul can kill.

In conclusion . . . My jasmine first came out in December but is now heading towards full bloom. A lovely, odiferous time of the year.

Next, my plum cherry tree, assuming it isn't deflowered by the storms . . .

P. S. God got the weather right for today, Easter Sunday. The sun scheduled for Monday has been brought forward.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter news.

Spanish Amazon: I'm getting the impression this isn't quite as efficient as or Having recently bought a Kindle – after 4 years of consideration – I accepted an offer for a free e-book. And was then invoiced for it. told me would reply to my query within 24 hours. They didn't. Four days later, I wrote again, to get an apology and the same assurance. Which again hasn't been fulfilled. I assume the entire organisation is on holiday for Semana Santa and I might get a reply – almost certainly in Spanish – some time next week. Unless they're even more inefficient than I fear.

Norway: This small country is usually among the top 3 of all those surveys of Lucky-One-Way-Or-Another countries. It certainly seems to have got education right. Largely, it seems, by ignoring all modern, trendy nostrums. See here for more on this. As it happens, Norway has just become the first European country where atheists(39%) outnumber both theists(37%) and don'tknows(23%). Significant? Of course it is. When you're an atheist, you concentrate on improving this life for yourself and for others.

Which reminds me . . .

  • In the 16th century – until the Reformation – Canterbury Cathedral boasted the dust from which Adam was created. (Or am I being gullible to believe anyone with a brain could believe this? Especially as I can't find any reference to this claim on the net.)
  • It's a money maker, of course. Click here to see one of the best of the many, many religious shysters in action.

  • Leather jackets: In contrast to my Inditex/Massimo Dutti jacket, the US bomber jacket I bought more than 20 years ago still has nary a tear.
  • Shakespeare: Dr Johnson: Trying to persuade anyone of Shakespeare’s genius by dangling quotations before them is like a man trying to sell you his house by carrying a brick in his pocket as a specimen.

Galicia/Pontevedra Tidbits:
  • 46,000 'pilgrims' passed through Ponters last year, on the Camino Portugués. They're expecting 80,000 a year by 2021. Bloody 'ell.
  • During Semana Santa, diesel prices in Ourense and Ponters have been the highest in Spain. But this isn't exactly news, of course.
  • Wolves are increasingly attacking livestock in our hills. So they're being increasingly poisoned. Along with itinerant dogs.
  • House evictions by the law-backed ruthless banks are now decreasing but there are still 6 a day here in Galicia.
  • Galicia is consistently bottom of the list when it comes to the marks of Spain's university entry exams (the Selectividad). At the top of the list, the regulars are the Basque Country(very rich), Asturias(not rich), Extremadura(very poor) and, of course, Cataluña(pretty rich). Pick the bones out of that. Education is, of course, a hot political issue in every region here but especially so where there are 2 official languages and, so, nationalist aspirations to have Spanish subordinated to the local language. Whether the lessons necessary to assure this are a good or a bad thing, depends on where you stand on the nationalist spectrum. At one extreme here, people aspire for both Galician and Portugueses to be taught in preference to Castellano. And for Galicia to adopt Portuguese spelling. It takes all sorts.

Finally . . . Being down with the kids, I am naturally on Instagram. Essentially to send fotos of my granddaughter - Graciña - around the world. Strangely, she's very popular with Russian models, who regularly start following me. Who'd have thought it?


Here's the ineffable Don Quijones with his take on the subject of Project Fear and the aspirations of all our lovely banks. And the differences of view between the current and the previous head of the Bank of England.

And now, what else but the latest foto of the wonderful Graciña:

The poor child is felt by most to resemble her doting grandfather. But not because of her lack of hair!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ponters ponderings

Spanish Tidbits: As ever, I'm indebted to Lenox Napier's weekly Business Over Tapas bulletin for some of these. OK, all of them:
  • The country's tourist sector grew in 2015 by more than 7%. It now provides nearly a million direct jobs and comprises 16% of Spain’s GDP. Thank God/Gaia for the sun and the coastlines.
  • The second biggest foreign investor in Spain is . . . Spain. This is because Spanish companies route their investment via profits declared in Holland, Luxembourg and Ireland, where corporate tax rates are lower. I guess this makes sense to the accountants.
  • The average spend on Semana Santa will be €874 per person. Or about €50 in my case.
  • Eight % of Spaniards – 2.3 million people – will resort to borrowing money for their holidays this week, at an average APR rate of 18%. Live today, pay handsomely tomorrow.
  • A very popular TV performer - El Gran Wyoming – claims that he sees himself countering the 'brutal' manipulation and appeasement of a news media which is in large part owned by the banks. 
  • Unsurprisingly, a recent study found that Spain’s media is the least trusted of 8 EU members.

Semana Santa: I discovered yesterday this is not the best week of the year to go shopping or to try to deal with civil servants. It's not just Good Friday that's taken off here. But the Turismo was open, though they suggested I come back next week to get the information I wanted. My compensation for all this frustration was that the owners of my regular tapas bar invited me to lunch with them and their staff. This began at 5 and ended around 6. When I discovered that the Post Office also works holiday hours all this week.

Which reminds me . . .

Odd Spanish Names: The Semana Santa processions have highlighted the groups (the Cofrades) which finance and deliver these. Two mentioned in yesterday's reports were Our Father Jesus of Silence and Our Mother of Great Pain. A spokesperson cited was María Jesús, whom I assume to be the feminine equivalent of Jesús María. But I could easily be wrong. I mean, it took me 3 chapters of Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday to realise that Mary and Joseph – Joseph and Mary? - was only one person.

Shakespeare: Scientists with equipment say they've proved the centuries-old rumour that some thieving bastard broke into his grave and looted his head. And no one now knows where it is. Shame Will isn't still with us to write a play about the incident. Incidentally, the inscription on Shakespeare's grave curses anyone who moves his bones. But there's no evidence he wrote it. Or that it's been effective. Sadly.

Renting in Spain: The most expensive places in which to do this are Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Pamplona, San Sebastián, La Coruña, Cádiz, Marbella and Zaragoza. And the least expensive are Huelva, Alicante, Castellón, Elche, Torrent, Granada, Málaga, Jerez de la Frontera, Almería and Jaén. For the life of me, I can't understand why the north coast Galician city of La Coruña is expensive. Unless it's related to the HQ of the impressively profitable and expansive Inditex, parent company of Zara.

Local Drug-trafficking: During a pre-'lunch' tiffin with a local friend yesterday, he pointed to an innocuous looking chap and said he was Pontevedra's leading narocotraficante. Last year, he added, competitors had beaten him up and left him for dead. Were we talking marijuana?, I asked. Yes. Plus cocaine and heroin, he replied. And something else that might well be crack cocaine. Yet everything looks so serene and civil on the surface here. Albeit far wealthier than it should on the basis of merely legal business.

Finally . . . I, for one, will never again be shopping in any of the numerous Inditex retail outlets. At the insistence of my younger daughter, I resorted to their upmarket Massimo Dutti shop for a rather expensive leather jacket. Said leather is so thin it rips if it catches on so much as a cotton bud. This unique feature demands regular repairs so I can get my money's worth from the garment. At least 15 todate. Some people would be ashamed to still wear it. Patently, I'm not one of these.

I can't recall if I've posted this rude list before. If so, feel free to enjoy it again:

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Spanish Jamón: I bought another of these gastronomic delights yesterday and started on it last night. I wonder if there's a Jamones Anonymous.

Cultural Differences:
  • As I was saying about that bloody leg pixellated out in the British newspaper on Tuesday . . .
    Here's the same picture in yesterday's Voz de Galicia
  • I talked to my neighbour, the lovely Ester, about last Thursday evening's Community meeting. I couldn't tell what decisions were made, I complained. There weren't any, she replied. So, I now await the Minutes with even greater anticipation, to see how much of them is a post-facto fabrication.
Shakespearean English: Here are 21 phrases we use today, often not aware of their origin:-
Salad days” – Antony and Cleopatra.
As good luck would have it” – The Merry Wives of Windsor
Send him packing” – Henry IV Part I
Short shrift” – Richard III
Neither here not there” – Othello and Merry Wives of Windsor
“Mum’s the word” – Henry VI, Part II
“More fool you” – The Taming of the Shrew
“That way madness lies” – King Lear
“More in sorrow than in anger” – Hamlet
“With bated breath” – The Merchant of Venice
“The green-eyed monster” – Othello
“Vanish into thin air” – Othello & The Tempest
“All of a sudden” – The Taming of the Shrew
“Wild goose chase” – Romeo and Juliet
“The be-all and end-all” – Macbeth
“Up in arms” – Henry VI Part II / Richard III
“Heart of gold” – Henry V
“Eaten out of house and home” – Henry IV, Part II
“Devil incarnate” – Henry V & Titus Andronicus
“Foregone conclusion” – Othello
“All that glitters is not gold” – The Merchant of Venice
See here for more on these.

Pontevedra's Beggars:
  • An intriguing exchange: Lunching with friends yesterday, we were approached by one of the beggars who usually don't bother me. The one with whom I had a short chat on the bridge a few weeks ago. When I told him he knew who I was and that he was wasting his time since I saw him in the drugs barrio every day, he replied that things weren't as bad as I imagined and that we should have 'a serious discussion' at another time. To which I, naturally, agreed.
  • This reminded me of an ex-beggar who'd hauled himself up by his bootstraps to become an itinerant book-seller, and to whom I give an occasional book in English. He noticed one day I was reading a book on Spain's corruption by Judge Garzón and engaged me in a discussion about the author. I haven't seen him around for a few weeks and do hope he hasn't gone backwards.
  • On Tuesday I was approached by an unfamiliar young woman garbed like a rather well-dressed camino walker. I was rather surprised when she stuck out a hand and baldly asked for money. Having got nothing from either me or the old ladies at the next table, she turned to walk down towards one of our little squares and took a recorder out of her backpack. Desperate times, desperate measures. And bloody awful musicianship.
Finally . . . The Glory of the Morning. As opposed to a morning glory, of course. I'm waking earlier than usual these days, around 5.30 or 6. The compensation is that Galicia's trees harbour many types of bird and there's now a dawn chorus at this time of the day. So, I switched off Sky News and opened a door to let in both the birdsong and cold. Whereupon there was a brief power-cut. As I moved towards the kitchen to warm up my coffee, I noticed that there was one bird with a particular piercing and persistent call. Not to say irritating. And then it dawned(!) on me it was a bloody alarm somewhere down the hill, presumably triggered by the power cut. So, goodbye birdsong; hello 20 minutes of Sky News. But at least it wasn't RT TV. And I could close the door and warm up.

Tuesday's Semana Santa procession, featuring both Jesus and his immaculate mother. I'll just say it was strangely impressive to see so many females involved. But I suppose they sin as well . . . . 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Some text and many pix.

Spanish (non)Government: We're all treading water here until, probably, a second go at general elections in June. With the awful prospect of another stalemate. Meanwhile, the politicians with nothing to do but collect their salaries and expenses are getting bit antsy. Poor things. 

Cultural Differences: Here's a picture of one of the victims of the Belgian bombings, from a British newspaper. I rather doubt that his bloody left leg would have been obscured in a Spanish newspaper. Gore is a staple fare of the hardier Spanish media.

A False Friend: In English, 'prevarication' means: Deviation from what is right or correct. Or Transgression, perversion. Or Evasion of the truth; deceit, evasiveness. But most of us won't know that it also means: A secret abuse in the exercise of a public office. Here in Spain it only seems to mean the latter – A crime in which someone in authority, a judge or a civil servant hands down a judgment which is known to be unjust. It's something judges are regularly accused of, either by politicians or by people who've been charged and who, I suspect, want to slow down an already snail-like process so as to increase their chances of getting off because of the statute of limitations. But I'm happy to be corrected on this.

The EU and Turkey: This is the best explanation – indeed, the only explanation – I've read for the arrangement cobbled together between the EU Grand Committee and Turkey: Europe, for the sake of its credibility and unity, desperately needs a deal – however legally dubious and ugly – to stick. Anyone got a better rationale for something that seems inexplicable to me?

Galician Businesses: Last week I came across 2 references to these – Showcooking and PersonalShopper. I thought the first might be a new market niche but it turns out to be an events company in La Coruña, providing personalised gastronomy. Possibly what we used to call 'catering'. The second is an established business in the Anglosphere, of course, but in this case the reference was to a course at some higher education institute. This place also offers an introduction to Coolhunting. Wikipedia tells us WTF this is here. We used to call it 'trend spotting'.

Retirement: Have you got a million quid and a hankering for something unusual for your autumn years? Then, click here for a modern option.

Finally . . . A Challenge: What is most bizarre about this sentence?: The acclaimed artist, Tracey Emin, wearing her father's funeral shroud, has married a rock in her garden. Yes, you're right; it's the word 'acclaimed'. I would have said 'artist' but these days art world experts – or at least those who buy and sell works of 'art' – tell us that an 'artist' is anyone who thinks that the work he/she/ze produces is art. Quite. Who could possibly disagree with that?

And . . .

Fotos of Monday night's Semana Santa procession here in Ponters. One or two aren't entirely in focus but you get the picture. It might not be Sevilla but it's colourful - and eerie - enough. I believe this is where the KKK got their bad habits from . . . And - suggests my New Orleans friend, Rick - the Mardi Gras costumes there.

The vanguard
Learning (being indoctrinated?) early.
Lighting the way.
The main attraction, passing the building that burned down a few weeks ago.
Christ hidden by a lamp . . . 
Deafening trumpeters
Error 1
Error 2
Could be Mary Magdalen. Could be a sacrificial virgin. Not sure.
Equally deafening bagpipers.
A Liverpool contingent?
Ladies not entirely in fancy dress.
Did one guy get his colours wrong? Or is he the head honcho? 
Rather plump section. Friars?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The usual

Spanish Snippets:
  • All is not well in the USA for Europe's biggest bank, Santander. Hubris?
  • It must be Easter; the French air-traffic controllers are on strike, hitting flights into and out of Spain.
  • Details of the finale of Las Fallas down in Valencia.
  • Interesting to see that Ian Duncan Smith – a eurosceptic in English – becomes un eurofobo in Spanish.
Local Snippets:
  • Searching for a shop selling walking gear in Ponters, I discovered that Bolboreta is a gay bar. Didn't know and have never been there, though I walk past it every day.
  • Galicia is famous not only for its scenic beauty but also for its feismo, Or 'ugliness'. This relates to both finished and, especially, unfinished buildings which are blots on the landscape. But now we have a new Lei de Solo/Suelo. A Soil/Land law. This compels owners to complete the construction of buildings. Which could well be an improvement in at least some cases.
  • Click here for my review of the Meigas Fora tapas bar and restaurant in Ponters.
Ignorant American Views of 'Socialist' Europe: HT to my friend Dwight for this nice article.

Finally . . . Outrageous Christianity: A while ago, I watched – with jaw agape – an ad for The Financial Freedom Bible. This involved two shysters using phrases which included the following:-
  • Breaking news
  • I am appointed by God to tell you . . .
  • There's an anointing falling on me now
  • Jesus broke the back of poverty at Calvary
  • You don't have to live under the Babylonian system
  • Satan has attacked you and your family
  • You have lost much but will gain total restoration of all you have lost
  • Believe in the prophet [Not Mohammed] and you shall recover what you have lost
  • Your financial harvest is coming
  • There are 1,189 chapters in the bible and each of them has a financial message, if you know how to read them.
  • The prosperity profile of Abraham
  • We will give you financial deliverance
  • 112 dollars is the seed for your harvest
  • Real estate miracle
  • There will be a wave of miracles in your life if you call and place the 112 dollars 
  • The number on your screen is your deliverance number.
I watched with mounting anger, as the ad was clearly aimed at poor people of colour, as I think we have to say for the moment. I've no doubt that the 112 dollars is for the first of several volumes. I know you have to be rather credulous to be a Christian but this is clearly taking things too far. You can see a presentation by the main crook – Morris Cerullo - here. A man who's doubtless made his own pile. BTW . . . Don't you just love the dyed hair. You'd think he could afford a better hairdresser.


If you're really interested in the view of the all pro-Brexit bloggers – i.e. Los eurofobos – click here.

Another reprise  . . .

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tidbits etc.

Spanish Tidbits:
  • The birth rate here – even though it includes more prolific foreigners from Rumania, Morocco and South America – is only 1.3. Behind just Portugal and Greece in Europe.
  • Sky News this morning is referring to the Fallas festival in Valencia as Spain's largest firework show. This is rather like calling Shakespeare a scribbler.
  • The newish political party, Podemos, is being investigated in respect of its financing. Well, why not? Every other party has been.
  • Think you can recognise all or most accents of those countries which speak Spanish? Click here and find out if you do. I got only 5 out of 20, I have to confess. My Spanish colleagues in the English Speaking Society managed 15, working as a (sort of) team.
Local Tidbits
  • The cost of reducing Pontevedra's dreadfully high speed bumps to a max of 10cm/4 inches is forecast to be between €1.2m and 2.1m. Which, of course, will be wrong. This is because all the adjacent kerbstones which led to the problem in the first place will have to be reduced to the same level. Madness? Probably.
  • Spring has arrived, rather sunnily. And along with the season comes the bane of city life – the beggars, drug addicts and street 'performers' that harass us. These categories overlap, of course. Anyway, I now have to go through the process of making the new arrivals aware they're wasting their time with me. Helped, I suppose, by the fact I'm always in the same place and, so, easier to remember. Should be achieved by summertime.
  • In Vigo, I read, there are now some turbo-glorietas (See Google Images).Or turbo-roundabouts/circles. And an awful lot of confusion. Or, rather, even more confusion that there normally is on these in Spain. A recent chat with a member of the Guardia Civil has thrown up the most important legal principles in facing this challenge: You can go through a roundabout in either lane but, if you hit someone on your right when doing so, you're at fault. Even if the driver is acting with a total lack of logic and common sense. For example: using the right hand lane to do a U-turn. So, now you know. If you're in the inner lane, always use your mirror. And don't expect a sensible signal from anyone.
  • For the first time ever, an olive plantation has been set up in the wine region near Pontevedra. I blame global warming. Or AGW, even.
  • The low-cost airlines airlines which decline to give us a winter service - Ryanair, Easyjet, Vueling and Air Nostrum – have all announced their spring-autumn schedules. Mostly to and from Santiago de Compostela. And 4 out of the 5 'London' airports.
British Politics: A branch of PR? Click here for an answer.

Finally . . . North KoreaHave you noticed how everyone there is slim? Except whatsisname. Who seems to be eating for millions.

Query: Did anyone else get yesterday's post in small text ?

Another posting of one of my favourite cartoons . . . 

Oh, fuck!