Friday, November 10, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia:10.11.17

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

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

  • There's a growing view that – around the Western world – this generation of politicians is one of the poorest ever. Just a guess but maybe it's got something to do with our demand that we know everything about their private lives . . .
  • Anyway, the British Madrid correspondent who penned the article at the end of this post is in no doubt that the whole world now knows what the Spanish have known for some time, viz that both in Madrid and Barcelona the class of 2017 is 'not up to the job'. As a result of which, Spain is being recklessly marched into another crisis. As for the solution, he suggests that: Spaniards - including Catalans - should demand three things. Both Rajoy and Puigdemont should fall on their own blunted swords. New leaders should call for calm, agree to talks, and establish common ground. And Spain needs to have an overdue conversation about constitutional reform and its own shared identity. Embracing its own pluri-nationality as a strength, not shying away from the word 'nation', and yes, allowing more citizens to have their say in a referendum, would be a good start. I doubt this bit of 'Anglo-patronising' will go down well in either city. If he worked for El País, he'd certainly be given the boot.
Meanwhile . . .
  • Well, as they say, it wouldn't be a show without Punch . . . The European Union has expressed alarm at the increasing propaganda role being played by Russia in the push for Catalonian independence. The vice chair of the Social Democratic group in the European Parliament, on Thursday said he had evidence of Russian interference in the Catalan crisis. He called Catalonia “another case of perverse interference” by Russian-backed media organisations and hackers with the aim of destabilising the EU, which has supported Spain in its crackdown on the Catalonian pro-independence movement.
  • The Spanish government stands accused of turning what is a political problem into a judicial problem and having the courts do its dirty work.
  • And Don Quijones casts his jaundiced eye on the latest developments here. His sad conclusion: For the moment there is not the slightest sign of any reconciliation between pro-independence Catalonia and the rest of Spain. Neither side seems willing to take a step back. The longer this toxic process drags on, the wider the gulf will grow and the more difficult it will be to rebuild bridges afterwards. And both sides of the divide have shown themselves to be perfectly capable and willing to inflict economic pain on themselves in order to harm the other. That should be — but apparently isn’t — a serious cause for concern in Brussels. 
Life in Spain
  • The EU and the Spanish governments agree that the Catalan crisis will lower anticipated growth for next year but, oddly, Brussels forecasts greater growth than Madrid.
  • Spanish citizens are well-advised to seek renewal of their ID cards well in advance of expiry. Unless they live in Ourense here in Galicia.
  • The Catalan crisis has had one important result in the rest of Spain. It has split the 'far left' Podemos party and raised the prospect of the socialist PSOE party regaining some of its lost support and posing a serious threat to the currently triumphalist PP party of Sr Rajoy, who must have felt his hardline approach to Cataluña had assured the PP of success in the next general elections.
The USADoes anyone know – or can reliably guess - what Donald Fart really thinks? About anything. Or at least about China and its leader(s). A propos . . .  Here's a nice cartoon from today's Times:-

Social Media
  • If I've ever known, I'd forgotten that Whatsapp is owned by Facebook. A rich source of info, no doubt.
  • Do smartphones listen to your 'utterances' and pass on the info to advertisers? Very possibly. Here's a recommendation for stopping this:
                 - iPhone Users: Click on Settings > Privacy > Microphone | You will find a list of apps   that have requested access to your phone’s mic. Scroll through and turn off the apps you do not want to have access.
                 - Android Users: Click on Settings > Apps | Go to each app and adjust the microphone access setting.
Finally . . .

Here's someone's view of the 13 kinds of people who should just shut up.

1. Vegan

Do you ever introduce yourself as “a committed meat consumer”? Do you have “eats fish, meat
and animal products” in your social media bio? Do you declare yourself “evangelical about dead livestock”? No, you probably don’t, unless you’re clinically insane. 

Vegans have no such qualms about making their dietary choices a key part of their personality. Personalities which, let’s face, often aren’t terribly interesting. 

At any communal meal, in or out, they’ll make a big old look-at-me fuss. They believe veganism (veganitude? vegbianism?) is an all-encompassing “lifestyle”, not just a diet. They’re judgey and finger-waggy, forever droning on about “ethical” this, “compassionate” the other, putting you off your sausage sarnie. They’re contractually obliged to pretend that vegan food (tofu, soya, almond milk, cheese that tastes of feet) is as good as the real thing. 

Most of all, they talk about it. All. The. Time. What do you want, Holland & Barrett bore, a medal made out of kale?

2. Non-apologisers

Mate, if you’re truly sorry, just say so. Admit you were wrong, express remorse and try to fix it. Enough already with the “different times”, “personal journey” “taken the wrong way”, “seeking treatment”, “if you were offended” get-out guff. It’s fooling nobody and you’re making it worse.

3. Brexit bores

Sure, withdrawal from the EU is a big, era-defining deal. Yet it’s also soul-sapping to talk about all the darn time. Both sides are so entrenched in their beliefs, they’ll never budge. Contradictory figures and predictions fly around like chip-stealing seagulls. The floating layperson - blissfully ignorant about the minutiae of trade agreements, tariffs and jurisdiction - increasingly doesn’t know what to believe. 

Everything gets prefaced with "despite Brexit" or "because of Brexit”. It’s become an unfunny catch-all punchline - “I blame Brexit!”, “What with Brexit and all!”, “That’s Brexit for you!” - before it’s even happened. Worst of all, we’ve got another two years of this. I blame Brexit. 

4. Cyclists

21st century Britain is in the grip of a bicycult. Fleets of brainwashed pedallers are spending all their money and time (oi patriarchy, who’s lumbered with looking after the kids when you’re on a four-hour weekend “training run”?) on two-wheeled tedium machines. Cycling’s the new golf - a mind-numbingly dull time-filler for middle managers to discuss after meetings and become pathetically competitive about.

Men (it’s always men) have mistaken their expensive new hobby for the elixir of youth. They strut around in clacky shoes, phallic helmets, wraparound shades and BO-infused Lycra, deluding themselves they don’t look utterly ludicrous. They talk about their “ride” with a straight face and share their “adventures” on mapping apps, like literally anyone cares.

Hate to break it to you, gents, but you’re more Boris Johnson than Bradley Wiggins. Just a tubby office drone in the midst of a mid-life crisis. It’s a mode of transport, not a way of life. You didn’t hear us going on about our Grifters, Choppers, BMXs and Raleigh racers the whole time. They could do wheelies and were way cooler. 

5. Men’s rights activists

You know the ones. Perma-furious pipsqueaks and conspiracy loons who pop up to “defend masculinity”, whine that “feminism’s gone too far”, “fight political correctness” or “redress the balance”, while bringing shame on decent blokes in the process. 

Unfortunately, their “activism” usually involves misogynist trolling, making women’s issues about them, playing the victim card or misguidedly siding with the likes of Harvey Weinstein. Brave job, crusading keyboard warrior. Let’s hope mummy doesn’t turn off the house wi-fi.

6. Parents obsessing about schools

So you’ve hired a tutor to help little Tarquin get into into the selective grammar? Obviously you’d rather support the local state school but it’s simply not good enough for your precious darlings. Extra-curricular activities, right. Pastoral care. Mmm-hmm, postcode lottery. Catchment areas, of course. No, you’ll only go private if you really have to, like someone’s got a gun to your head or something. 

Sorry folks but a nervous laugh while pointing out that you’ve turned into a middle-class cliché doesn’t make it OK. Far too many social occasions are ruined by interminable schools-based “bantz”. So please, parents of Britain: it’s of the utmost importance to nobody except you, so just drone on to each other and spare the rest of us. 

Property price bores are up there too, but at least most of us live in a house, so can summon up a passing interest for, ooh, at least two minutes. After that, eyes glaze over and thoughts turn murderous.

7. Boo-hooing football fans

Pass the prawn sandwiches and world’s smallest violin because football fans in the Premier League, Sky Sports, all-seater stadium era seem to think their team should win every match. 

Why? Part of the beautiful game’s, well, beauty is its rollercoaster drama, its sheer unpredictability, its shocks and giant-slayings. You stick by your club through grim spells which often last decades (I should know, I’m an Ipswich fan) out of love and loyalty, making the rare golden moments even more glorious.

No such spirit of sportsmanship for today’s over-entitled cry-babies, who believe they’ve got a divine right to always win. Every time they lose (or draw, or even not win by enough goals or with enough “style”), toys come out of the pram. They immediately pollute social media and radio phone-ins with diva-ish demands that managers get sacked or transfers get made. Stop it. Shut it. Suffer it. Be a gracious winner, a good loser and a proper grown-up. 

8. Professional trolls

Let’s not give them the oxygen of using their names but you know who they are. The mega-mouthed outrage machines. The “provocateurs”. The “telling it like it is” merchants. The soulless, s***-stirring contrarians who you wouldn’t want to get cornered by at a party. 

Let’s all start ignoring them and they might shut their poisonous pie-holes. 

9. People who hate Christmas/Halloween/other festivities

Yes, yes, we get it. You’re in some way superior to us gullible “sheeple” who prefer to embrace annual celebrations and have (*clutches pearls in horror*) actual fun. But keep your joyless griping and grumbling to yourself, Scrooge McGrinch, you’re busting our vibe. 

10. Sponsor-me beggars

No really, I’m delighted you’ve become a massive mid-life triathlon cliché. Well done for growing an hilarious ironic moustache or not drinking for a month or whatever it is, because I stopped reading your round-robin email by the end of the first line. What? You want me to log onto JustGiving and pay you actual money for it too? 

At least the ones doing it for charidee make a pretence of public spiritedness, rather than pure attention-seeky self-promotion. The gap yah chancers who effectively want you to fund their holiday - sorry, sponsor them for trekking somewhere, saving something or half-arsedly helping at an orphanage/budgie hospital/amoeba sanctuary - they’re the biggest b******s of all.

11. Public phone talkers

When did people stop self-consciously lowering their voices if they had to take a call in public? We miss those halcyon days.

Nowadays it’s phone at max volume, complete with annoying ringtone and cranked-up keypad beeps. It’s wandering around, shamelessly yelling into a hands-free. It’s boring the faces off fellow bus and train passengers with your end of a tiresome conversation. It’s one-finger-in-the-ear yelling in pubs and restaurants. It’s rudely carrying on your chat while being wordlessly served in shops. 

Memo to all of you: your phone call isn’t remotely important enough to justify being an enormo-git to real-life humans. Also, you’ve got an awful voice. 

12. Runners

Sometime in the Nineties, “jogging” got rebranded as “running” and became even more monumentally boring. Red-faced participants still trudge twice around the local park or sweatily plod to the office, except now it’s not a keep-fit chore, it’s a spiritual quest. 

Rather than the annual London Marathon being the holy grail, they can now spend the entire year wanging on about 10Ks, half-marathons, Parkruns and Tough Mudders. They can upload their times and distances on social media, hoping for pats on the head like a needy labrador.

Some  of them used to be tolerable company. Now they just chunter on about “PBs”, compression tights, Nike+ apps, Garmins, wicking, blisters, Strava, shin splints and endorphins.
Two words: jog on.

13. Clean eaters 

Some overlap here with vegans (see no.1) but the #eatclean #wellness bread-phobic brigade are arguably even worse - polishing their deluded, eating-disorder-in-disguise halos while spending the equivalent of an African republic’s national debt each month on goji berries, chia seeds, agave syrup, flax oil, pomegranate molasses, nut milks, spelt flour, coconut water, matcha tea, quinoa, Himalayan pink salt and over-priced organic veg (chosen on colour rather than flavour - more Instagrammable innit?). Stick that in your Nutribullet and juice it, sweetie. 

They add turmeric to everything for no apparent reason. They contain more avocado than a Seventies bathroom. They gullibly swallow such abominations as “courgetti”, “spirulina” and “cauliflower couscous”. They believe “superfoods”, “detoxing”, “bone broth” and “Buddha bowls” are actually a thing. They pretend they’re gluten-intolerant when most of the time, they totally aren’t. 

It’s all smugness, no science. Does that stop them wibbling on about it until the purple-sprouting broccoli gets bored, grows legs and walks away? Does it flax.


The Spanish already knew their leaders aren’t up to the job—now, the rest of the world sees it, too.

Spain needs to start talking about its national identity—and, yes, allowing more citizens to have their say in a referendum: Liam Aldous

Spain is being recklessly marched into another crisis, yet the forthcoming calamity is no arbitrary episode of history. The world is witnessing a sad truth that most Spaniards have known for some time: their leaders aren’t up to the job. Surpassing even their own conventional standards of incompetence, two agitating agendas—orchestrated in Barcelona and Madrid—seem intent on barking their self-serving rhetoric into the wind. Those stuck in the middle are being forced to contemplate two supposedly imminent realities—one promises to usher in a new Mediterranean Arcadia called the Catalan Republic, the other presumes state intervention will magically diffuse the tension on the street. Neither is probable, both seem impossible.

The latest referendum is the third time in four years this question has been put to a vote. Each time, once non-voters are included, the proportion of all Catalans backing independence has remained the same—less than half. First came the consulta; an informal—and similarly illegal—independence referendum in 2014. Snap regional elections were then called in 2015; framed as a quasi-referendum on whether to secede from Spain, voters were promised an 18-month roadmap to statehood. This was followed by the new referendum, which took place just one month after the legislation paving the way for it was rushed through the regional parliament. Incompatible with Spain’s constitution, it was ruled illegal by the country’s highest court, panned by the national government and dismantled by thousands of police that were shipped in on a specially consigned cruise-liner.

But the blame must be shared with Madrid. For years, the characteristic reticence of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has opened a political vacuum in which the secessionists have thrived. While in opposition, Rajoy led a spirited campaign to sabotage Catalonia’s regional constitution. It was a tawdry attempt to grab votes, but his past success could ultimately lead to his undoing. Most commentators (and Catalans) cite his personal campaign to rally the electorate against Catalonia’s recognition as a nation as the impetus for the modern independence movement. Across Catalonia, as hotheadedness creates a continuous feedback loop of hubris, the descent into “us vs them” identity politics is radicalising the youth, dividing families, and fracturing the social peace. Amid all the noise, no one seems to be discussing—at least with any sensible detail—what a Catalonian republic would actually look like.

So what about the future? As two imagined realities galvanise the national debate, moderate voices are scarce. A recent television appearance by Madrid mayor Manuela Carmena and Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau, saw both female leaders appeal for dialogue, underlining the need for new language, and a change in interlocutors. Yet, as their testosterone-charged peers continue to stare each other down, such measured words have already faded into distant memory.

As both leaders justify their entrenched positions as mandates from the street, Spaniards—including Catalans—should demand three things. Both Rajoy and Puigdemont should fall on their own blunted swords. New leaders should call for calm, agree to talks, and establish common ground. And Spain needs to have an overdue conversation about constitutional reform and its own shared identity. Embracing its own plurinationality as a strength, not shying away from the word nation, and yes, allowing more citizens to have their say in a referendum, would be a good start.On 1st October, as the world glimpsed a long-festering dispute cross a violent rubicon, Catalonia’s quest for independence from Spain suddenly seemed coloured with persuasive clarity. Heavy-handed police clashed with peaceful voters at polling stations, impassioned pleas for freedom were scrawled across placards, and regional premier Carles Puigdemont decried an authoritarian state attempting to silence democracy. Yet this was not, in truth, a struggle to let people vote. It was a battle to legitimise a flailing rebellion.

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