Monday, October 17, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 17.10.16


Bullfighting: In the UK it would be rejected as 'not cricket' but I'm not sure there's an equivalent expression in Spanish. 'Bullfighting' from a 4x4 vehicle. Click here for more evidence of how low some men can sink. And possibly a woman or three. P. S. This excellent site suggests the relevant Spanish phrase is: Es una juega sucia. Dirty play.

Teachers in Spain: I was surprised to read yesterday that they're among the highest paid in the world. Click here for more on this.


The PSOE Party: More trouble for this stalwart of the post-Franco democracy, as both the Catalan section and the majority of membership at large reject the proposal of the rebels who've taken over the party that President Rajoy and his right-wing PP party be allowed to stay in power. So, it remains anyone's guess as to whether current negotiations will lead to a minority government and avoid a third general election in December. We should know relatively soon, though, as there's an October deadline.


Politics & Economics: I thought it was Bismarck but it turns out to be have been Lenin who said Politics is a concentrated form of economics. Anyway, I recalled the quote when reading this article by one of the major figures in the history of the EU. The euro, he says, has been betrayed by politics. He means politicians, of course, who've ensured that the experiment went wrong from the beginning and has since has degenerated into a fiscal free-for-all that masks the festering pathologies. Realistically, he adds, it will be a case of muddling through, struggling from one crisis to the next. Which cannot go on endlessly. It all makes the Brexit look like a side show.


Brexit: I tend towards optimism - assuming the EU survives - as I don't see it in anyone's economic interests to punish the UK. The writer of this article takes the same stance. He asks whether the EU is really in a position to 'face down' the UK and concludes: Politicians in many countries appear to have become detached from the realities on the ground. Wherever one looks the hard facts tend to show that it is in everybody’s interest to ensure that Brexit is carried out in an orderly fashion and in a spirit of continuing cooperation. But vamos a ver.


Francis Drake: Not a popular chap here in Galicia, which he raided several times. So, I was surprised to hear from my neighbour, Toni, yesterday that his surname is not uncommon in Spain. It's pronounced Draké, of course, and there are 250 folk here with Drake as their first surname, 84 with it as their second surname and 6 with it as both of their surnames. I can't find any data on Galicia, though, and have yet to come across it here. In case you're interested, here's the top 100 surnames in the Pontevedra province.


Art: Watching a BBC program on the Goths yesterday, I was interested to hear of a 7th century Visigoth chapel in Palencia, the oldest church in Spain. The presenter was a chap I like a lot - Waldemar Januszczak - and, by pure coincidence, later in the day I read a heartfelt article by him on the place of art in the school curriculum. See the end of this post for this.


The final examples of Finnish/British daydreams:-

And here's a Finnish smile . . .

And, finally, the identity of the cartoonist and her lovely book, to which we now bid Goodbye . . .


I've added the top one. Note the various links:-

The case
Another surprise?

Princess Cristina
Sister of the king

A surprise?

Tried to bribe the authorities not to proceed with the corruption case against his daughter.

No prospect of a trial.
37 politicians and businessmen
Senior position holders
Illegal party financing

Bankía/Black Cards

Numerous ex-politicos and businessmen

Senior position holders
Use of 'black credit cards' to avoid taxation on income of more that €12m.
Bog standard case
Ventura Sierra Vázquez
The mayor of Vilareño de Conso, Galicia.
Falsification of docs and corrupt practices.

Trial just started
Bog standard case
José Ramón [Nené] Barral
The ex-mayor of Ribadumia, Galicia
Money laundering and drug smuggling

Under investigation
Bog standard case
María Antonia Munar
Ex-president of the Balearics parliament
4m bribes for changing property
Awaiting sentence. 4 years demanded.


A prayer for art history:      Waldemar Januszczak

Inane decisions have come at us like a water cannon this year, so none of us ought really to be surprised by any announcement. But the news that art history is to be dropped from the A-level syllabus after 2018 had me clutching for an armrest. Is it Halloween already? Are the National Socialists back?

AQA, the only exam board to offer art history as an A-level, has taken the grim decision to axe this marvellous subject for bleak reasons. The first of them, the one that had me choking on my carpaccio, is that it says it cannot find “sufficient experienced examiners” to mark the papers for the new syllabus. Ha! There are enough experienced art historians living within a couple of miles of me in north London to mark the nation’s art history papers 10 times over! I probably have enough on speed dial. If AQA cannot find enough in the whole of Britain, it needs to go on a Duke of Edinburgh weekend to learn some basic search skills.

No. Let’s deal here with the second and real reason for the axeing, which is that in the ghastly post-Govian mindset of our education overlords art history is viewed as a distraction. It doesn’t lead directly to a job. It won’t put a roof over your head. Only toffs are interested in studying it. In the especially irritating nomenclature currently employed for these things, it’s a “soft” subject. Grrr.
What’s really happening is that a collapse in educational values is taking place on our watch. And during this collapse in values, the understanding of our history through art — the best and truest understanding there is — is being viewed as a luxury. This new mindset has taken an axe not just to art history, but to humanity’s mirror.

Here is an example. What does Henry VIII look like? Go on — everybody loves a Tudor, so what does Henry VIII look like? Well, he’s fat and jowly and looks a bit like Arthur Mullard. How do we know this? Because his court painter, Holbein, a German genius brought over from Basel, has left us an unforgettable image of him. If Holbein had not painted Henry VIII as fabulously as he did, none of us would ever have been able to visualise Bad King Hal as tangibly as we do. A crucial slab of British history would have remained faceless.

Let’s go back even further. What is the earliest display there is of human civilisation? What proof survives from our ancient past of the cultural sentience of Homo sapiens? It isn’t a book. It isn’t a play. It isn’t an accounting ledger or a syllabus. And it most certainly isn’t a display of politics. Long, long before we humans got round to doing any of that, we were descending deep into the bowels of the earth, as far as the cave system would take us, and drawing things on the walls. Animals, mostly. But also our own evocative handprints, which would touch our ancestors across the ages.

When we wanted babies, we carved fertility statuettes. When we needed success in the hunt, we imagined it on the walls of our caves. When we wanted water, we drew it. When we needed to know what we were worshipping, we asked art to describe the gods. “Soft” subject? Art history is the most revealing window we can open onto the human condition.

And let’s kick this “privileged” thing into touch as well. I was not a toff. My father was a cleaner on the railways in Basingstoke. My mother was a milkmaid. Neither of them had got past the third year of school. The war saw to that. No one in my family had ever gone to university before. But I did. Because of art history.

It saved my life, if you must know. Art history lifted me out of a dark immigrant’s existence, where people washed their dogs in our communal bath, and turned me into a graduate. I was eight months old when my father was run over by a train in Basingstoke. I never knew him. I couldn’t speak any English till I was six. But I could look at paintings, at sculpture, at books full of pictures of beautiful things, at all the glorious art-historical evidence that survives from the story of humanity, and I could enjoy it and learn from it.

It soothed me. It educated me. Not just about my own world, but about all the other worlds out there. It filled my head with hopes and dreams. If it weren’t for art history . . . well, I dread to think how that sentence should end. One day I even found out that Picasso’s astoundingly intimate image of two enraptured blobs going at it like the clappers on a sandy beach was painted on my birthday — January 12. Who needs family photos when you have art history?

Of course, I am making this too personal. But that’s art for you. It communicates stuff deep inside you to stuff deep inside other people. It’s a vital tool of human interaction, and always has been. Before there was language as we know it, before there was history as we know it, before there was anything as useless as party politics or Govian education reforms, there was art. Understanding its story is a crucial human qualification.

So go out there, AQA, and find some examiners. Trust me: they exist. You call yourself an educational board? Well, start educating.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

A little more interesting than the tally itself - which doesn't really surprise - is the origin of some of these last names. And then I'm not really thinking about the obvious Portuguese ones, whose presence in Pontevedra is easily explicable, but rather of two such cute ones as 'Iglesias' and 'Rey'. Anybody who carries this last name has a 18th or 19th century ancestor - usually in the masculine line - who was an anonymous foundling taken to the 'Inclusa', or Foundling Hospital, where such nameless children were baptized and given a last name which put them under the (informal) protection of the Church or the King. Sometimes this even resulted in a somewhat bizarre play of words, such as the very frequent 'Immanuel Rey', which may be understood to mean: 'Jesus is King'.


Colin Davies said...

What is the world coming to? An interesting comment from Alfie Mittington. I have to go and lie down . . .

Maria said...

I agree whole-heartedly with the ending article. The Spanish Ministry of Education can join that Educational Board in England and be happy together in their ignorance. With every reform, the humanities are chipped away from the curriculum, under the excuse that they don't "help the kids get jobs when they leave school." Having read Descartes or knowing how to decipher a Renaissance painting may not help them fix a car's motor or program a neat video game, but it helps them be human beings. Education is first about passing on knowledge to the next generation that has shaped previous generations, and secondly about preparing young people for the workforce. My daughter is studying Philosophy in college. That won't prepare her for a job, but it will help finish off her formal education by understanding the different lines of thought that have brought us to where we are. She will (hopefully) have learned how to think. When she graduates from that, then she can do a vocational course in FP to try to find a decent-paying job somewhere.

Colin Davies said...

Spot on, Maria. Thanks.

Eamon said...

There can be problems if you have a surname like Ferreiro which can also be written Ferreira and also with Regueira/Regueiro etc. Some know it all in the office will write an A instead of an O which will then screw up all your documentation for the rest of your life. Talking from experience here.

Perry said...

Observations from Saturday.

Artur Mars. If Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled that the separatist Catalan non-binding ballot in 2014 was illegal because all Spaniards have to have the opportunity to vote on an issue that affects the entire country, then Westminster could scotch N. Sturgeon with the same argument.

Avoiding damp. Aren't damp proof membranes (DPM) included in Spanish building regs?

Past participle of plead is pleaded, not pled. Observed in Daily Mail article some days ago.


Chasing bulls. “The civil guard are normally present but don’t appear to enforce the law.” !!!!!

'Issing Sid may bewail the Euro, but it's taking an unconscionable time dying. Shoot it someone.

Waldemar Januszczak. I take issue with him. How many job opportunities were there/are there for art history graduates? He got the only one going at the Grauniad around 1977. Pseuds corner! Take a look.

Art appreciation does not require A level study, just access to Google. It's all there, but if British SKOOLS continue to turn out 16 year old kids who require remedial help before they can find employment, then all the art appreciation in the world is unavailable, if dyslexia ROOLS.

Children should have the option at 13/14 to elect to study building skills, if they so desire. My youngest son withdrew from formal schooling at 13. He was placed into the programme until he reached 16. It took some while for him to be accepted as an apprentice bricklayer, but 2 years training got him his certificate. Then he worked on various sites as an "improver" on £80 to £100 per day for 4 years.

Since the end of 2013, he's worked his way up at one site & he's the senior brickie there now on £200 a day. Had he been able to start developing his trowel skills at 14 instead of from 17, he'd have earned "improver's" money much earlier & I would not have spent 2 years driving him to & from college.

So, getting equipped for the world of work is the first priority. Stupid people can survive only in a welfare society, but if there are too many of them, then the welfare society will collapse.


Colin Davies said...

Am 3/4 of the way through the Fall of Civilisations(?? It's in the car). Do you share his view that the death of religion is the main cause of the fall of fertility and the death of civilisations?

More on the other stuff late.

Colin Davies said...

Avoiding damp. Aren't damp proof membranes (DPM) included in Spanish building regs?

It's a shared garage wall. She has converted her garage into a large utility area and has damp in the corner of one shelf. Hardly unusual in Galicia . . .

Children should have the option at 13/14 to elect to study building skills, if they so desire

And other things as well but the Secondary Moderns debacle has probably killed this for ever. Tho' I seem to recall there was a third option back then. 'Technical schools'. wonder what happened to them.

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