Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 11.7.18

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 
hereGarish but informative.

Life in Spain
The UK
  • Having rebelled against Mrs May’s proposal, the hard Brexiteers don’t now propose to get rid of her. It’s because they appreciate that getting rid of her won’t help them reach their goal. But Mr Davis has gone one step further. He has laid the logic out in a chain. He realises that there is no pathway to their goal. So he has simply given up. I wonder when the rest of the hard-Brexiteer idiots will.
  • I suspect I've asked this before, in the context of the Pamplona bull-running . . . Is jamonero also a colour?? Can't see any evidence of this in the RA dictionary.
  • As regular readers will know, Galicians see themselves as more Celtic than any other Spaniards, even though the rest of the Celtic nations don't see them as full members of the international club.
  • No matter, every year we have a huge festival of Celtic music up in Ortiguiera and it's about to take place this weekend. Click here for details.
  • And here's the basic program, showing acts from Ireland, Scotland, France(Brittany) Canada, and – would you believe? - Poland. Not to mention Galicia and next-door Asturias. Where they also have bagpipes:-

The imminence of this event might well explain the proliferation of Irish accents around the city this week.
  • Having declined to pay at least €450 to have a simple window switch on my car fixed, I now have to remember to close the window with the key. I forgot to do this the other day and later found my car denuded of everything both electrical and portable. Two battery chargers, a GPS and a dash cam. Only the latter will be missed. I did think they'd all be on display at the (illegal) gypsy end of the Sunday flea market but, in the event, was disappointed. I take comfort in the fact that the GPS was 10 years old and valueless. As was the phone charger that didn't work. Funnily enough, the thief didn't take the mount for the camera. Not very bright, then.
  • If you're a muddled modern man, then you'll appreciate this guide - from a woman - to what's considered good and bad manners nowadays. At least in the UK:
Wolf-whistling, door-holding and drink-buying: a gent's guide to modern manners    Christina Hopkinson

The neanderthal traditions of cat-calling and wolf-whistling are in the news again this week. A British Social Attitudes survey has found that women are now more likely to think it’s acceptable for men to shout unsolicited comments or grunt weird noises at them on the street than men do themselves. A revelation that comes hot on the heels of the recommendation from Nottinghamshire police, after a two-year pilot scheme, that any such misogynistic abuse – defined by cops as  “behaviour targeted towards women by men simply because they are a woman” – be recognised as a gender hate crime across the UK.

Cue much harrumphing from both women (“Never did me any harm. I rather like it”) and men (“Never did her any harm. She rather likes it”) of the sort that followed #MeToo and those tales of nefarious knee-touchers.

Many of the very best-intentioned men, however, are confused. Like my lovely, right-on friend who berated himself when he found himself confronted with the chest of a woman who was wearing a skimpy vest top with no bra. Did she want him to look? Was he Benny Hill for noticing? Was it more rude to stare or to studiously ignore?

While most people concede that there’s a reason why wolf-whistling is named after a predator, there are other more confounding questions about gender etiquette at play, here, too. Whom should you hold doors for? What about helping someone with their bags or giving them a seat on public transport? And are you allowed to compliment a woman's appearance, ever again?

If you’re in a muddle, gents, fear not – here’s our handy (never handsy) “aggressive or agreeable?” guide to modern manners...

Grunts, groans, honks and hisses

Noises of any description when passing a woman – car-honking, wolf-whistling, woo-woo noises, hissing or kissing sounds – just no, never, nunca. Have you ever been on holiday to a country where aggressive hawking is the norm? Where you can’t walk the streets without being offered a carpet at ‘very good price for you sir’? Then this is how it feels.

Unsolicited advice

Advice or any sort, especially “smile” or “cheer up, love” is never welcome from strangers. When someone tells me “it may never happen” I can’t help but feel, "well, it just did". Some of us just have grumpy resting faces, alright?

Public commentary on public transport

The primary aim of travel is to get from A to B, not from compliment to compliment. The 8.14am train or the 37 bus are no place to practise your best lines.

Women on bikes don’t welcome flattery either. Boris Johnson’s recent resignation letter claimed that he’d done much to improve the lot of female cyclists in the capital, but he made no mention of the daily irritant of harassment. We know we’re vulnerable when penned by vans, lorries and cars and anything you say just makes us feel more so. Every time it’s happened to me I’ve been distracted from safe cycling by pondering which is the more revolting of the two surprisingly frequent wishes – wanting to sniff my saddle or wanting to be my saddle?

Taking a stand

So when is it acceptable or even mandatory to give up your seat for a woman on the underground? Is she pregnant or just had a big lunch? Is that elderly skin or just sun damage and bad genes?

Since 2005, Transport for London has sorted out the whole fat-or-fecund dilemma by providing expectant mothers with jaunty ‘Baby on Board!’  badges. If she’s wearing one of those, give up your seat. If not, don’t, unless she tells you she’s pregnant. Or her waters break.

As to whether to give up your seat for someone elderly, then this is entirely gender neutral. If someone is very evidently as old as your parents/grandparents (delete as appropriate to your own age) then stand up for them whether they’re male or female. Being an easily embarrassed British woman I just avoid the whole awkward issue by never sitting down unless the carriage is near empty. Hard on my feet, maybe, but easy on my conscience.

Open-door policy

What’s wrong with holding the door open for a woman? Absolutely nothing, nor is there anything wrong with helping a man. That’s polite not patronising. Someone has to give way when you’re coming through a door* and it’s easier just to get in there first rather than do the tango of you-no-you-no-you-first. It’s always cited as an example of feminism gone mad but personally I know of no woman who objects to having a door opened for them – just as I know no woman who wouldn’t do the same back.

Heavy lifting

Some bits of the Bible still hold good. Not the bit about killing sorceresses maybe, but the doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you would find it enfeebling or offensive to be offered help with your bags then perhaps you’re the sort of person who shouldn’t offer it to others. 

If on the other hand, you find it restores your faith in human nature then pay it forward. Back in my buggy-pushing days, I loved the fact that it was always young men who looked like they should be playing for England who helped me carry the pram up the stairs.

First dates: who pays?

Splitting bills is a romance-killer, especially with someone who likes to itemise or is stingy with tips. If there’s to be a second date, someone has to pay and it’s not necessarily the man, but whoever did the asking in the first place. It’s been nearly two decades since I went on a date, but my now husband asked me out so I had no problem with him paying. I said I’d like to see him again so I paid next time. Courtesy is king (or queen).

But I can still tell a woman she looks lovely, can’t I? 

Ah, that depends on who, where and what*. 

A middle-aged man might think he’s being charming when he tells one of his friend’s daughters that he likes her slogan tee, but she’ll be sneering about the ‘pervy uncle’ with her friends later.

In a social situation, the way someone looks and your appreciation of it is far more natural, even mandatory. At work, however, a woman’s appearance should be secondary to how well she’s performing her job. Except if she’s a pole dancer. It’s a bit more intertwined in that case.

It also matters what your complimenting. An item of clothing is sometimes safe, a body part never is. So “you look nice in that dress” is probably OK; “your legs look great in that dress”, not so much.

Touch and go

Touching, again site-specific.* 

On the tube, sexual assault; with a friend at midnight on New Year’s Eve, fine. But don’t follow it up with a bum squeeze as if assessing the ripeness of a melon in the fruit aisle at Sainsbury’s.

Faux feminism

If a man says, “if I were less of a feminist, I’d want to grab you” or “I respect you too much to notice your rack”, then he’s just using the fig leaf of feminism as a cover for the same old sleaze. 

Similarly, starting a sentence with the deathless phrase “As a father of daughters…” means he’s about to patronise all of womankind with knowledge that only he as producer of princesses is privy to. Please don’t.

*  Not in Spain

© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 11.7.18


Maria said...

Where did you park?? I leave my car unlocked all the time (problem with the key fob) and nothing has ever been taken. I've even left it unlocked when I travelled to Madrid with it a couple of times and parked it on the street. Perhaps the thief takes one look at my disheveled car and takes pity on me.

Perry said...

Celticism originated in central Europe. This maps shows modern southern Poland fell within its aegis.

As for the other parts of Wednesday's post, I recommend a health dose of Jordan Peterson.

Feminism will not survive the Islamic take over of Europe, nor the next glaciation, whicever comes first.

Colin Davies said...

@Maria: On a large plot of land in Lerez across the river from Pontevedra, where there are 4 abandoned cars - one of which seems to be used as 'residence' by a woman of uncertain age . . . . Who is visited by disreputable looking men. Careless of me to leave the window open there.

But I think you have been very lucky!

Perry said...

As is his wont, J Delingpole Esq., has hit the nail on its head.