Monday, June 19, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 19.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

Note: If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • For the second time in a year or so, a Spanish bullfighter has been gored to death. See here for details. Some folk deny that these men (and the occasional woman) are brave but I beg to differ. Without disagreeing with the contention that the fiesta nacional is cruel.
  • Yesterday was the Catholic feast of Corpus Cristi. I should have remembered why the procession and the flowers but had to rely on a friend for an explanation. It was, she confided to me, one of the 3 days of the year when 'there was more light than there ever is from the sun':- Corpus Cristi; the Assumption; and one I've already forgotten. (Maria? Sierra? Diego?). I used to participate, as an altar boy, in these ceremonies but they leave me cold these days. I can't imagine the poverty-loving Jesus endorsing the pomp that goes with them.

But I enjoy the bagpipes and the national costumes, even if they are an 18th century invention.

Here's a bit more on the developments on the left wing of Spanish politics.

Don Quijones writes on the German elections here, explaining how candidates there strive to outdo each other with disingenuous criticisms of the EU. As he puts it: These days it’s easy to tell when general elections are approaching in Germany: members of the ruling government begin bewailing, in perfect unison, the ECB’s ultra-loose monetary policy. By attacking ECB policy they can make it seem they take voters’ concerns about low interest rates seriously, while knowing perfectly well that the things they say have very little effect on what the ECB actually does. In brief, says, DQ: The ECB’s binge-buying of sovereign and corporate bonds has spawned a mass culture of financial dependence across Europe. And there's always the same outcome: At first, it’s deny, deny, deny. Then taxpayers get to bail out the bondholders. I guess it makes sense to someone.

At the end of this post, there's an article by my favourite gadfly - Christopher Booker - on high-rise flat-blocks such as the one in London which immolated more than 50 residents last week. Europeans who happily live in such blocks might well disagree with him.

Back to religion . . .  For many centuries in the Middle Ages, Popes excommunicated and then incommunicated temporal rulers on a whim. But the practice died out a while ago and even Hitler didn't merit it, though this might be because he'd dumped Catholicism before he started slaughtering people. Yesterday, though, I read that the current Pope is thinking about inflicting this punishment on (convicted) mafia members. What the hell took him so long? Or any of his predecessors.

And still on religion . . . Unless you're a Mormon, this video should amuse you.

Here's a genuine conundrum . . .  I pass a spot each day where 3 roads arrive at the same roundabout:-

I guess priority goes to the driver who arrives first but what if 2 or 3 of us arrive at exactly the same time, as happened yesterday? What does the Spanish equivalent of the Highway Code have to say about this?

Finally . . . So, one of the ubiquitous British duo, Ant and Dec, has revealed he's got drink and ('prescription') drug problems. We have his name. But does anyone really know which of the irritating bastards it is??

Today's cartoon:-

On a Christian theme . . . 


Grenfell Tower stands as a chilling tombstone to a megalomaniac dream: Christopher Booker

It was certainly an ominous coincidence that 1974, the year Grenfell Tower was opened was also the year that Hollywood released what was arguably the most famous “disaster movie” ever made, The Towering Inferno. On Wednesday, as we woke up to the horror of what was happening, I received an email that added another curious detail to this awful story.

It was from the man who back in the Seventies sold to the local council the original cladding for Grenfell Tower. As he explained, it consisted of Glasal panels in which were sealed white asbestos cement, so tightly compressed that no fibres could escape.

“It was totally safe,” he told me, “and would certainly have stopped the spread of any external fire; unlike this new cladding, which contains combustible plastics which can spread a fire up a building so fast that in some countries it has already caused whole buildings to go up, and in others it has been banned.”

A much more immediately relevant point, however, on which the forthcoming inquiry will certainly have to focus, is what might be called the “European” dimension to this tragedy. So far wholly missed has been the fact that making construction regulations, including those relating to fire risk, is an exclusive “competence” of the EU. Britain has no right to make its own, without Brussels permission.

Furthermore in 2014 the Department of Energy and Climate Change issued its National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, setting out how it planned to meet its EU targets for reducing “carbon emissions” (and also those set under our own Climate Change Act).

In particular, it emphasised the need to comply with EU directive 2012/27 on “energy efficiency”. This explained that the top priority was to improve the insulation of buildings, responsible for 40 per cent of all emissions. Local authorities were thus made aware of the section on renovating older buildings.

When Kensington and Chelsea council chose the new cladding for Grenfell Tower it would, therefore, have known that top of the list was the need for “thermal efficiency”. On this score, plastics such as polyurethane, polyethaline or polyisocyarunate rated most highly, despite their fire risk. There was even financing available under the government’s Green Deal scheme.

I long ago took a personal interest in the estate on which Grenfell stands, when I spent much of the Seventies investigating the disaster that had been inflicted on so many cities by the Sixties mania for massive “comprehensive redevelopment schemes” and giant council tower blocks.

When I began in 1972 with a book called Goodbye London: An Illustrated Guide to Threatened Buildings, listing all the demolition schemes then planned across London, it opened with a page of pictures showing the vast area of pleasant, human-scale 19th century streets in north-west Kensington shortly to be demolished for the estate that would include Grenfell Tower.

By 1979, I had been commissioned by the BBC to make a two-hour television film, City of Towers, which for the first time told the whole story of how the destruction of our cities had been inspired by the megalomaniac dream in the Twenties of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier; and how this led 40 years later to those vast dehumanised council estates, dominated by tower blocks like Grenfell, half of which have since been demolished.

The way our politicians, national and local, were taken in by this maniacal vision was yet another perfect case-study in the deluding power of groupthink. As so often, a beguiling dream had led in reality to a nightmare reality. Grenfell Tower stands today as the most chilling tombstone yet to that mad dream.


Bill said...

The bull never gets out of the ring alive, this one just did his bit to even up the score - poetic justice. If you live by barbarity, dressed up as "sport", then you must take the consequences.

Colin Davies said...

OK up to a point, Bill. But no one calls it a 'sport' in Spain. Bullfights are reviewed on the Culture pages . . .

And the bull is occasionally 'pardonned' and allowed to leave the ring to applause. Then promptly killed by a butcher.

Maria said...

Well, the other important holy day this time of year is the Ascension, in May. And Pentecostes is sometime in June, I think. I've forgotten quite a few of these feast days.

At the roundabout, I would assume that if three cars arrive at the same time, the car furthest on the right should have the right-of-way. I got my license back in Boston, though. It seems the most logical. All cars have to turn right, so the car on the right should be the first. But, sometimes logic simply doesn't enter into Spanish driving or its rules.

Bill said...

Oh I know it's regarded as a part of the "culture" Colin; I know also that some bulls are permitted to leave the ring alive "to applause", before proceeding to another end. Sometimes too a matador gets badly injured or killed - it's tough, but indulge in this "culture" and a bull will occasionally "win" (until of course being put down, for its trouble). I would not dream of trying to change what Spain does, it's their country and their "culture", but nor will I cease saying/writing what I think about this aspect of their "culture".

Perry said...

The Greco-Roman running of the bulls has a long history that survived the Visigoths & the Moors.

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