Saturday, December 31, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 31.12.16

Welcome to my last post of 2016 . . .

The smaller of our 2 Xmas lotteries is El Niño, The Kid. Galicians spent only a measly €16 per head on this, compared with €56 on El Gordo, The Fat one. The latter, incidentally, returned to Galicia only €5m of the €167m wagered on it. Just 3%. Or, as it would be reported here in Spain - 2.994%

On the morning of the results of El Gordo, La Voz de Galicia had 15 pages of articles, plus a huge insert with all the winning numbers. El Faro de Vigo went even further overboard, with 20 pages of articles and 10 pages of numbers. By the way, at only €56 per head, Galicia's spend on El Gordo ranked only 10th nationally. The first 3 were Castilla y León(87), Asturias(82) and La Rioja(79). The last 3 were the Balearics(36) and Spain's 2 non-colonies in Africa, Ceuta(14) and Melilla(12). Not sure what any of that means. If anything.

Note: If you're anally retentive and found that these numbers don't correlate, blame the local press, not me.

I see there's to be a new TV series called El Final del Camino, filmed here in Pontevedra. Here's the trailer. Interesting to see there were no really dirty people nor ugly women back in the 11th century. But there was a lot of sex, apparently.

Life in Spain: At 6.50 last night, I received an email from the Spanish Post Office (Correos) telling me I'd shortly (en breve) be receiving a packet sent by my new bank and giving me a link to a site.  This merely advised they'd got it from the bank and gave me a tracking number which revealed nothing more. This was followed, at 7.20, by a text message to my phone saying the same thing. So, I postponed my plan to go in town and waited in. Until 8.45, when I decided this was long enough. At dinner later with Spanish friends, I asked them what en breve means to them. The consensus was anything up to 2 weeks, though one soul insisted on as much as 2 months. So, now you know. I rather feel Correos hasn't quite got the hang of customer service via new technology but let's see what today brings. Meanwhile, I've just confirmed there's nothing in my buzón advising they tried to deliver something after 8.45.

In the USA over the past 200 years, there've been more than 700 proposals introduced into Congress to reform or even eliminate the electoral college. As you might recall, this gave victory to Trump, despite him not winning the popular vote by some way. Can't see him agreeing to any changes.

Reader Perry has kindly provided this video of bizarre foods from Portugal. It includes an early section on percebes, the seafood I love to hate. Enjoy.

Happy New Year's Eve to everyone. Here and here are recommendations on how to enjoy it here in Spain. Can't say I knew about the red underwear.

Todays' cartoon, on a Spanish theme:-

Finally . . . Here's an article by Giles Coren from The Times on the celebrity deaths of 2016. It jives very closely with my own views:-

I’m not exactly dying to see Heaven’s super-band

The pitiful handwringing over a bunch of celebrities who lived fast and died fairly young was deluded codswallop

This is the season when columnists do their best to sum up the year just gone and attempt to impose some sort of order upon it. To give it a personality. Not because they feel any especial artistic need to do so, or because they have spotted a pattern that might offer their readers genuine enlightenment, but because they plan to be away skiing and won’t have time to write anything proper.

Or if not skiing, then dossing down in the country in front of roaring fires and hearty stews and magnums of something ruby coloured and anaesthetising that was just a tiny bit cheaper than buying two normal bottles. Watching a bit of telly. Going for the odd walk. Wading into a frozen lake after the pensioner who waded in after his dog, who will climb out safely while you and the old boy drown. All that traditional Christmas stuff.

We certainly don’t want to be writing. Nobody else is working, why should columnists? If I can’t get my boiler seen to or my children babysat or my cat spayed then I’m blowed if I’m sitting down to write a topical column about an actual piece of news, such as the FTSE hitting a record high or Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum thinking his personality is changing because of playing Sherlock Holmes, which would require sitting down to write in Christmas week itself (or at the very least sitting down to fill in the line I left blank and marked with “something topical here” when I wrote it back in early December).

So we file a chatty 1,000 words — often in the form of a quiz or a set of New Year’s resolutions — that seek to sum up the year. But this year that has not been possible. Because 2016 came to us pre-summed up.

A bunch (well, millions) of feckless free media snowflakes who didn’t even bother to vote saw results they didn’t like in a couple of elections they barely understood, a handful of cross-dressing musical smack addicts popped off early and, before we knew it, 2016 was no longer a year at all, it was something that was being done to us. As if “2016” were not the arbitrarily appointed name for the period it took the earth to go most recently round the sun but a monster of some sort. Like King Kong. Or Godzilla. Except with a very specific bloodlust for hard-living crooners and the democratic process.

In its intellectual dunderheadedness and sheer paganism, this superstitious codswallop put me in mind of that speech by Edmund in King Lear on his father Gloucester’s belief in astrology: “This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars; as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on.”

It was Twitter and Facebook that did this. Thanks to the collective dimwittery, cliché dependence and creative laziness of social media, 2016 was reified and then vilified in a way that has happened to no other year before, around the time that Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne died young either side of the Brexit vote.

Though it is arguable that it happened as early as January 10, when David Bowie died at 69, a pretty decent age to live to if you spend your life smoking and doing drugs. But for some reason everyone went mental. So the sort of (weak-minded, infantilised) person who falls to pieces when a pop star dies had already decided by then that 2016 was the worst year of all time (people who are into pop music like to put “of all time” at the end of pretty much every sentence). They didn’t need all the subsequent deaths — though they got them. 2016 never had a chance.

Every new death — Prince, Muhammad Ali, Howard Marks, David Gest, Pete Burns, AA Gill, Rick Parfitt, George Michael, Carrie Fisher — was hashtagged #2016 and treated as a biblical judgment on some unspecified moral failure by our online moronocracy, with its collective reading age of 12 and a quarter. There was talk of the “Rapture”, genuine discussion of the notion that an apparent lurch to the political right could see the end of the world in 2017, for which purpose the great talents were being taken early as both a warning to us and a relief to them.

There came with it all the usual vomitous talk of a “band in Heaven” with a roster of three-chord exhibitionists gathering to play some grotesque festival in the sky. The kind of consolatory gibberish you spew to console a child about the death of a pet. Not to an adult about someone they have never met. Anyone would think that the death of religion in the western world had left a gaping spiritual hole of some sort.

There is nothing especially tragic or meaningful about the cavalcade of celebrity mortality in 2016. Because they lived exactly as long as you should expect to live if you do drugs, smoke fags, drink or are overweight for most of your life. Or, in the case of Muhammad Ali, get punched in the head a lot for money. I’m not making a moral judgment. I’m obviously not saying any of them deserved to die. I’m just saying they didn’t try not to, so it’s daft to weep for them.

If these people — sad though it is for their families that they have gone — had lived modest lives in the suburbs and played a bit of golf then they would have lived as long as Ronnie Corbett. Or Terry Wogan. Or Andrew Sachs or Richard Adams or Paul Daniels or George Martin or Jimmy Perry or Arnold Wesker.

But it is a choice they made, like the 83 per cent of middle-aged Brits who, I read this week, are overweight, inactive or drink too much — and will die young and miserably as a result. Many of them are resigned to their slow suicides with the solace that “you only live once” and the example of these bright flames of 2016 who, we are so desperate to believe, burned themselves out in a grander universal cause than gluttony, excess and the solipsistic search for oblivion.

Alas, as Edmund tried so hard to tell us in King Lear, you’ll find nothing but disappointment in the stars.


Maria said...

Careful with emails from Correos. I've heard of a fraud involving phony emails from the postal office that look authentic, but direct you to a page that will infect your computer and steal your data and important bank information.

Colin Davies said...

Many thanks, María. In this case, I hope I'm OK because I knew the bank was going to send me something. But, then, perhaps they did too . . . . Already hacked my laptop????

Sierra said...

Found Correos to be fairly reliable - don't expect anything until "En proceso de entrega" is posted on their tracking site:

Penelope said...

Thanks Colin - great piece by Coren.

Did like George Michael tho´... I think the zeit geisty stuff is due to the number of early deaths of people of my generation of journos. Hence the rather oft comments of: makes you think doesn´t it. If anyone else tells me GM was my age when he popped his clogs, probably suicidally, I will grumble loudly! Of course he was part of the "high profile" HIV generation which has seen the massive kick in the head to the gay artists of the time who contributed so much to the culture. That may have been a better chapter heading for the social commentators along with the current drab and lack of flamboyance among the current gay stratas of society here who no longer have much to fight against or dramatise.

Colin Davies said...

@Sierra: Thanks for that useful citation. Amusing too.