Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 18.5.17

Now Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Life in Spain:-
  • I read years ago there were more than 40 ways to order coffee here. My standard request is cafe con leche grande. A large white coffee. But the confirmatory response is often: Un café doble. Two days ago, for the first time in over 16 years, I ordered a un café doble and was asked if I wanted it 'double charged' or just 'long on water'. Since then I've checked with 3 waiters/waitresses to be told that both grande and doble merely mean with more milk and that one has to specifically request a double charge of coffee. I wonder if this is true throughout Spain.
  • There's been some caustic follow-up here to the latest abysmal failure of the Spanish entry to the Eurovision song contest. Mostly, it seems, focusing on the singer's failure to hit the high notes and doing a great impression of a rooster. I missed it but caught up with it here.
  • The Frogification of Spain?
I've finished extracting quotes from Morton's 1955 book A Stranger in Spain and, having given you his many comments on Life in Spain, I now offer you some on Spain's History.
  • Against the story of the Muslim Goliath we must put that of the Christian David. There was a time when the resistance movement was reduced to a few warriors in a cave. Then with their first success the movement grew, the Christian kingdoms developed in the north – Asturias, León, Navarra, Aragón and the counties of Barcelona and Castilla - ruled by kings and nobles who often spoke Arabic, wore turbans and, married Moslem women.
  • But no matter how often they fraternised, they had at the back of them the Church, a law and language derived from Rome, and the fellowship of Europe.
  • Internal dissensions, almost as bad as those which helped to deliver the enemy into their hands, prevented the Christians from wiping out an isolated and self-indulgent pocket of Islam centuries before they did so.
  • Arab life, with its luxury and its polygamy, had powerful attractions for many Christians.
  • The Reconquest of Spain was not a black and white struggle between stern-faced crusaders rallying around the Cross and eternally vigilant adherents of the Prophet. Most of the time both sides rubbed along pleasantly together and there were many exchanges of courtesy. But when war did break out it was it was carried on with the utmost vigour and no holds barred.
  • War, in the sense of crusade, had to wait until the young Christian kingdoms had healed their internal disputes and were ready to fight side by side.
  • In this strange country, the Jews, who had been an important part of the Spanish nation since the Temple was destroyed by Titus in A.D. 80, were generally valued and trusted by the Arabs.
  • The Mozarabic Mass is one of the greatest liturgical curiosities of the Western Church and there is still one church in Spain [in Toledo] where it is still said every morning.
  • The Pizarro brothers and their followers were the first American gangsters and their bloody disputes with each other seem to have set the pattern for all South American revolutions.
  • Ferdinand and Isabel . . . Isabel and Ferdinand . . . “Los Reyes Católicos”. Everywhere the stranger goes in Spain he meets their memory and hears people speaking of them, a gift they made, or of something they said or did; and this is as much of immortality as anyone can hope for.
  • [In the 15th century] A regular fleet of pilgrim ships left England for La Coruña and their names and those of of their masters are known.
  • Spain can boast of having had more capital cities than any other country in Europe – Oviedo, León, Burgos, Toledo, Sevilla and Valladolid have all at various times been the seat of court and government.

Tomorrow, Morton's comments on Spain's Architecture. And, later, Geography and Culture . . . 

Corruption: The investigations and accusations go on and on, with the Presidentas of both Madrid and Andalucia now being in the firing line. Or at least under suspicion. Plus others, of course. See herehere and here.

Local Stuff:-
  • Here's a site designed to help you find out what's available for tourists in Galicia.
  • A couple of years ago, Pontevedra's Sunday flea market was moved to a new location and cleared of the illegal Rumanian gypsies who'd largely driven out the licensed traders. But things now seem to have largely reverted to the status quo ante, if my visit last Sunday is anything to go on. One wonders why this is allowed to happen.
  • It's reported that Galicia's 7 fixed radar controls are among the most active in Spain, with both the 2 most profitable ones being on the N-634 at O Pino and O Marquiño, on a 4/6 lane highway north of Santiago that doesn't look - doubtless accidentally - as if it has a 50kph limit. I believe I was one of their many victims years ago.
  • If you're going to be doing the Camino Francés, take care on the stretch between Arzua and O Pedrouzo. There are regular accidents there involving pilgrims walking on the dangerous N-547, near Arcan.

Finally  . . .  The USA. As we know, Trump's sleazy past and his dysfunctional personality were no secret before his election as US president. (See here on the former). So, few can be surprised at his current plight - besieged by an adversarial media and the establishment and flailing like the [insert your favourite noun here] he is. Nor should anyone be surprised at the low odds now being given on impeachment happening by the end of the year. Unless he resigns or, perhaps more likely, is assassinated before then. Meanwhile, the religious right – as personified by Jim Bakker - continues to defend a man they think is genuinely theirs and to accuse all his critics of displaying the 'spirit of the First Horse of the Apocalypse'. Whatever that is. My own growing conviction is that 'they' knew full well what Trump was like but - once Michael Moore and others had predicted his victory - decided to let him go forward to beat Clinton, planning to use him as a useful idiot once he was in power or watch him hoist himself on his own petard, if that didn't work. But they might well have seriously underestimated his idiocy bordering on insanity. So I sincerely hope they have a back-up plan to implement before he hits the nuclear button in an infantile fit of pique. Perhaps Amendment 25 of the Constitution. Interesting times.

Today's (topical) cartoon:-


Alfred B. Mittington said...

T'is a while ago, so one should not be too surprised that your man Morton - who clearly was no great classicist - gets dates wrong. The (second) Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 CE.

As for the 'spirit of the first horseman', do check out the Wikipedia entry on the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Fascinating stuff.


Sierra said...

Clearly the instruction had gone out - "don't win Eurovision, we can't afford to put on next year's show".