Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Thoughts from Cologne, Germany: 16.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Travel Odds and Sods
  • First impressions while driving for an hour or so through Belgium:-
- The road tarmac here is inferior to that of France
- There are no speed signs. Meaning no limit, as in Germany?
- The villages and towns are less picturesque than in France.
- No petrol(gas) nor roadside services for very long distances. And none of the Spanish-style signs telling you there's a petrol station off the highway.
- The Ardennes forest is truly immense.
- When you can find them, the petrol(gas) pumps are confusing, as in France. See next item.
  • The petrol pumps . . . At a clearly self-service Total place in France, there were no instructions on the pump, and the screen didn't go blank when I inserted the nozzle in the tank. Nor did the petrol flow. Noticing there was credit card slot, I put mine in it and got a message about the limit being €150. As instructed, I tapped in my PIN and then filled the tank. A while later, my bank told me I'd been debited €150 plus the cost of the fuel but the former charge had been annulled. I wondered if it'd been a mistake. But the same thing happened in Belgium, except the charge (deposit/bond?) was a mere €125. The wrinkle at the latter petrol station was that, after I'd followed the instructions on the little screen, I was told Pump 4 wasn't operative. So I moved to Pump 1 and filled up. A while later my bank told me that I'd been charged €125 by both Pump 4 and Pump 1 but these charges had also been annulled. So . . . the €150/125 pre-charge seems to be the norm. Maybe in Germany too. I will soon find out. Meanwhile, my guess was that Pump 4 didn't work because I'd unwittingly put the nozzle in the tank before I went through the credit card process. The joys of travel.
  • I had my first experience of Cologne's impressive tram network last night. Looking forward to using it a lot in the next 10 days.
  • Early this morning, in a café, I found it to be untrue that everyone in the city speaks English and would understand what a café americano is . . . But we got there using hand gestures and the words big and black. Though I did wonder for a few seconds what they'd bring me . . .
  • We're staying again in a Premiere Classe hotel in West Cologne, but I think it's 2-star, as against the 1-star place in France. Something must explain why the hotel is very much better overall and our room 2-3 times bigger. Or less tiny, to be more accurate. On the internet, the price for this room varied from €49 to €64 but the hotel declined to deal direct at the former. So we booked on line. Germany is not Spain.
  • The hotel is fine, except for the wifi, which – oddly - is inferior to that everywhere in Portugal. As ever, I wonder if this is really the hotel's fault. 
  • I'm guessing that the hotel owners are not well pleased at having 10+ prefabricated huts on the other side of the street, presumably housing some of Cologne's (in)famous refugees.
  • I also had my first taste last night of the local beer – Kölsch – which I quite liked. But I've been warned not to ask for this in nearby Dusseldorf because of a local urban rivalry far greater than that between Liverpool and Manchester even. 
  • Liverpool, by the way, is one of several cities with which Cologne is twinned. I wonder if this gives me privileges here.
  • And now the really good news . . . I was worried how much a coffee would cost me here, having paid €3 a cup in France. It had been 'only' €2.20 from a machine – albeit a superior one using beans – at a roadside pastry shop in Belgium – but I was afeared it'd be much more in Germany. But, no. My großen schwarzen Filterkaffee this morning also cost me €2.20. And a normal/smaller coffee would have been even 'cheaper', at €1.75. Everything is relative, as I'm fond of telling my daughters.
Matters Spanish
  • For my younger reader(s), here's how to make friends in Spain.
  • The plan to move Franco's bones to somewhere less celebrated could still go very awry. They might well end up in Madrid's cathedral, making this a shrine for unreconstructed 'fascistas'. See here and, more specifically, here.
  • Word of the Day: Tutear. (For the record, I never use Usted.)
Finally . . .
  • England beat Spain at football, in Sevilla, last night. This is a pretty historic result but the local Cologne newspaper today features a report on it of only 8-10 lines, against the full page it devotes to previewing tonight's match between Germany and France. Which struck me as a bit odd. Perhaps they have an early evening deadline.
© [David] Colin Davies: 16.10.18

Monday, October 15, 2018

Thoughts from Charleville-Mezieure: 15.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Travel Odds and Sods
  • Polling through North East France yesterday at 80-130kph was about as enjoyable as modern driving can get. Beautiful weather, magnificent countryside, picturesque villages and car-free secondary roads. Quite delightful.
  • I hadn't realised we'd be passing through champagne country, where I noted far more names than I was familiar with. But, then, I don't particularly like the stuff.
  • Two names brought a bit of a sombre note for a while – The Marne and Ardennes.
  • Yesterday's lunch was in a roadside restaurant, where the Menu of the Day seemed high at €18, and that was before I knew it didn't include a glass of the house red wine at at €5 a shot! There seemed to be a disco being prepared in an adjacent room, by a man practising on - of course - an accordion. This turned out to be for a Thé Danse, which started while we were eating and would've cost us €25 a head (but including lunch) if we'd participated in it. By the time we left, there were at least 20 local oldsters shuffling around the room, and even attempting a sort of jive at times. I reconciled myself to the high cost of this meal by regarding all this as entertainment. Of a sort. 
  • France boasts several 'cheap' hotel chains, where the price of a night's stay varies between 35 and 60 euros, though (as I've said) the notional prices can be 3 times this. They are all brilliantly designed and managed, to keep costs rock bottom. The one we stayed in last night had a bathroom clearly designed by whoever did the tiny ones on the Brittany Ferries boats. The hotel was one of the Premiere Class chain, a misnomer if ever there was one.
  • My (preliminary) verdict on French drivers:-
- Not as bad at tailgating as they used to be.
- Worse even than the Spanish as zebra crossings – The pedestrians I stopped for seemed exceptionally grateful.
- Better than the Spanish at courteous hand-signals of appreciation. Which wouldn't be hard,
  • It's taking some time to get used to coffee at €3 a cup, against €0.70-1.20 in Portugal and Spain. I wonder what it'll be in Cologne tonight.
Matters Spanish
  • As I've said more than once, the go-to insult for people who disagree with you in Spain is Fascista!. Here's a book that folk really should read before they try to stick that label on anyone.
  • A hurricane smashed into the Iberian coast on Friday, the first to cross the Atlantic in 176 years. Hitting poor Portugal first, it then headed into Spain. Figueira da Foz was said to have looked as if it were in a state of war with cars smashed by fallen trees. In contrast, our weather since we left Oporto nearly 2 weeks ago has been little short of perfect. What an October!
  • Yet more corruption down in Andalucia, or is it the old stuff re-surfacing? From ABC: Opaque cards in black hole of €50 million and 8,844 irregular contracts – in the Junta de Andalucía. The payment for prostitutes from the Employment Foundation during the era of Chaves and Griñán are the tip of the iceberg in the Faffe case. Easy-to-get-and-divert EU funds, I suspect.
© [David] Colin Davies: 15.10.18

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Thoughts from Verzion, France: 14.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Travel Odds and Sods
  • Yesterday's lunch was in a roadside restaurant apparently owned by an English woman. There were around 10 French diners. The silence was overwhelming. I could hear my watch tick. But not the conversation at the next table. I felt deprived.
  • I thought last night I'd fallen foul of a French shower which could only be put at a low level, as there was no vertical bar to slide the head up. Only after I'd got out of it did I realise there was a place for this near the ceiling . . .
Matters Spanish
  • Spain's universal healthcare is 'the best' in Europe, it says here. The 'most efficient', that is. But I believe this is on the basis of the rather crude measure of cost per capita against longevity. So, maybe not quite 'the best'. It's very possible, for example, that waiting times are shorter and healthcare outcomes better in, say, France. Though not, I suspect, the UK.
  • Here's Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas on the 2019 budget and the machinations still needed to get it through parliament.
  • The inevitable diversification of drug traffickers down in Spain's non-colony of Ceuta.
  • One of those vicious competitions among Spaniards. I'm with the cebollistas. But also have jengibre added to mine. I probably should be shot for this.
Finally . . . Matters Global.
  • Identity politics is now such a serious threat to personal freedom and democratic discourse, that it must be addressed head on. If we go on like this, some of the most fundamental principles of individual liberty and private conscience will be undermined. It’s time to speak up. See the full article below.
© [David] Colin Davies: 14.10.18


Let’s end the divisive public narcissism of identity politics: Janet Daley, The Telegraph

Obsessions over gender, race and sexuality are a self-indulgent distraction from global crises 

I am not a Woman Journalist. I am a journalist who happens to be a woman – OK? As I have had to explain to any number of BBC producers over the years who were searching for participants in television discussions, I don’t do “Women”. The most memorable instance of this misunderstanding came with an invitation to debate (on a flagship current affairs programme no less) the publishing of sexist tweets by some Football Association executive I’d never heard of. The story was so far outside of my professional frame of reference that I had no idea what the researcher was talking about.

Of course, as you may have noticed from my name and my by-line photograph – and even very occasionally from some reference that I make in this column – I am female. But that is only one thing about me that affects what I think and write. I do not want to be defined as a woman columnist, anymore than I want to be defined as a Jewish columnist, or a white middle-class columnist. All of those things have contributed to my world view and they all influence my opinions, but I refuse to accept any of these limiting categories as a definition of my professional identity.

So this is the column I swore I would never write – because I didn’t want to write about “Women” even for the purpose of saying that I never wrote about “Women”. But the moment has come when it can be avoided no longer. Identity politics is now such a serious threat to personal freedom and democratic discourse, that it must be addressed head on. If we go on like this, some of the most fundamental principles of individual liberty and private conscience will be undermined. It’s time to speak up.

When a Conservative government proposes to enforce the reporting not only of gender but of ethnic pay differentials as well, thus requiring all employees working for large firms to categorise themselves by their racial origins – that is, to self-identify as members of minorities whether they wish to or not, or whether they regard this as clear-cut (as in the case of mixed-race people) or not – we are very close to a tipping point.

What will be done about employees who refuse to be classified by their ethnic origins? Will their employers be fined because whatever government department is in charge of this aggressively intrusive policy will assume that a lack of complete information on their workforce is an attempt to evade the rules?

Suppose you – or your parents or grandparents – are of Jamaican or Indian origin but you now consider yourself to be as British as your white workmates? Surely the right to decide how to describe yourself is a basic freedom in a democratic society and no one should have the power to interrogate you on this matter unless you are suspected of some sort of criminal deceit.

The Government does not generally assume it can legally demand to know your racial history. The question of whether ethnic origin would be required on census forms has long been a contentious matter and questions about ethnicity on NHS forms are always optional. This is more than a violation of privacy: it is a dangerous infringement by the state of our right to decide who we are. The word “define” means literally to set limits, to identify and establish the difference between this thing and the things that surround it.

To insist that people be identified, and thus defined, by their gender, their ethnicity, their sexual preferences, their place of birth or whatever other rarefied specialities the identity police can contrive is perforce to limit them: to determine in advance their relationship to the community and to the country. Such enforced identification has a long and unpleasant history, from Nazi yellow stars to Soviet restricted passports. It is illiberal, divisive and alien to the values of merit and self-determination on which social mobility depends.

Ah yes – social mobility. That is what this initiative is supposed to be about. For women and ethnic minorities are thought to be disadvantaged in the pursuit of equal attainment and pay. In fact, this assertion itself is deeply controversial: virtually all ethnic minority children of both sexes do better in the state education system than white working class boys, and girls currently achieve more university places than boys.

What happens after that in employment is more ambiguous. The reason that women and (perhaps) ethnic minority men earn less than (white) men may be because they are less likely to be promoted to the higher levels of professional life.

For women, we know that this is to some extent by choice – because they give priority to family responsibilities. But the question of preferential promotion for minorities or women is quite a different and less quantifiable matter than unequal pay (which implies that people are being paid less for doing the same work – and this would be illegal) and it is hugely problematic.

I personally believe that there is only one reason why anyone should be considered for promotion to the highest levels of their occupation: because they are the most competent, talented candidate available. I don’t care whether they are male, female, both or neither and I certainly don’t care about their (or their ancestors’) racial origins.

To ignore merit – or downgrade it – as the chief criterion of professional and social progress is to make nonsense of what aspiration and educational achievement are supposed to be about. And it creates bitterness and resentment in places that might surprise the militant pay equality campaigners. Just ask any woman who believes that her husband or partner, son or son-in-law, has lost out professionally to a less able female contender.

The worst of it is that this obsession with identity – which is a kind of public narcissism, an extension of the cult of the Self as the measure of all things – is taking attention away from the real social crisis of our time: globalisation and its consequences for democratic nation states and their populations. Perhaps that’s the whole point. Identity politics is what happens when real politics runs out of ideas.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Thoughts from near Bordeaux, France: 13.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Travel Odds and Sods
  • Los Arapiles: Here's the author, surveying the unaltered battlefield and Little Arapil from the vantage point of the French on Big Arapil. On the slope where the Portuguese were slaughtered:-
  • The little mound from where Wellington observed the disastrous departure of the French left flank is top left.
  • And here's a sweep of the battlefield from that very (windy) spot:-
  • By the way . . . The search there for a souvenir button actually came up with one. Made of plastic . . .
  • Within an hour of entering France via Irún last evening, we witnessed 2 shunts. One of them - involving 3 cars - had produced a tail-back of at least a mile, very possibly two, for drivers heading south. In an October muggy temperature of 27 degrees. We were a tad luckier, heading north.
  • The hotel we're staying in near Bordeaux is one of the 'cheap' Campanille chain. It costs €53 but the sign on the reception desk says:- Your room for tonight is available for €117, reduced from €135. It reminded me of the fun we've had getting different prices for the same room on the same night from booking.com. Anyway, the wifi works fine. So long as you re-register every time you've taken a break from it.
Matters Spanish
  • A slew of articles from The Local and Think Spain this morning:-
- Where/How to stay in this large and much-varied country.
- How to make the classic tortilla
- The positives and negatives of Spain's National Day. Here and here.
- What happened in Cataluña during it.
- Belated progress with the new administration's budget for 2019.
- Finally . . . Where all the Brits live in Spain. Or the minority of them who register on the padrón at least.

Note: I'm not sure you can get all the articles from The Local. Bizarrely, I can read them all when they arrive via my feed and are automatically converted into Mac's Reader view. But, if I then move to the original articles, some of them are behind a paywall. Or not available as I've reached my monthly limit of free articles. Please don't tell the folk at The Local about this wrinkle. But, then, why should they care? I'm advertising their journal . . .

  • Word of the Day – Ganas
Finally . . .
  • Look who you have to embrace when you're a moralist of the Christian Evangelist sort. Jesus must be laughing his head off. Or at least shaking it divinely.
© [David] Colin Davies: 13.10.18

Friday, October 12, 2018

Thoughts from Salamanca: 12.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Odds and Sods
  • Is there any restaurant in the world which doesn't have at least one Terrible review on Tripadvisor?
  • And, apart from me, is there any male cyclist in Spain who doesn't feel the need to tog up as if he were about to joint the peletón of the Tour de France?
  • Yesterday was my third visit to the marvellously unspoilt sight of the Battle of Salamanca, 8km south of the city near the village of Los Arapiles. I was hoping to re-visit the little museum there that I mentioned here a few years ago. It only opens on Thursdays and Saturdays, says the web page. But not Thursday this week. And the phone number there is wrong. And the email address doesn't work. Apart from all that, it's an impressive achievement . . . We compensated for the disappointment by climbing to the top of Arapil Grande, from which General Marmont saw his French troops being soundly defeated by the British allies under Wellington.
  • The allies comprised British, Irish, Portuguese and Spanish troops. Ironically, although this was a key battle on Spanish soil, the local troops played little part in it. The French had 13,000 soldiers killed or wounded, the allies rather fewer but still a lot. The Spanish total was 6. This is largely because – thanks to 'a misunderstanding' – they abandoned a bridge which would have given – and did give - the French an avenue for retreat after their rout. In public, Wellington praised Spanish troops – or at least los guerillas – but in private he didn't. I guess one can understand why, at least in the case of this battle. In sharp contrast, the Portuguese were slaughtered in a 'suicidal' attempt to climb the north slope of the hill on which the French artillery was located. The said Arapile Grande. BTW . . .  You can still stand on the very spot where Wellington was eating the chicken leg when the disastrous French mistake was made.
Matters Spanish
  • The Chinese government is now including Spanish in its university entrance exam. This is a boon for language schools in at least Salamanca. I wonder if it will lead to more of the frauds that my daughter learnt about from her star Chinese pupil in Madrid.
  • So, the run on Catalan banks last year was not spontaneous. Who'd have guessed it?
  • Something you might not know - I didn't – about Picasso's Guernica. A picture I've never rated, to be totally honest.
  • OMG . . . The Franco family want the body of the dictator to be buried in Madrid's cathedral. And only the Vatican can stop them. So, don't hold your breath.
  • It's official – The best olive oil in the world comes from Spain.
  • You see some very odd English on the T-shirts of Spanish women. Here's a slogan I think should be on the front of every T-shirt worn by a Spaniard – Proud to be Loud.
Matters UK
Finally . . .
  • Only in the USA??? A woman was stopped this week from flying with a squirrel in a cage. Many airlines have tightened their restrictions on animals after incidents of passengers trying to bring increasingly exotic creatures on board, plus an attack on a passenger by a large dog. Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more. United Airlines reported a 75% increase in the number of passengers bringing 'emotional support animals' on its planes over the last year. In January, a woman who attempted to board a United flight with her emotional support peacock was denied a seat for the bird.
© [David] Colin Davies: 12.10.18

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thoughts from Salamanca, Spain: 11.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Odds and Sods
  • The Spanish love their puentes(bridges) - the Fridays or Mondays they take off when Thursday or Tuesday is a public holiday. There's one coming up to coincide with Columbus Day – The Day of Spanishness(Hispanidad). We've been staying in a 2-star hotel – with free parking – in the centre of Salamanca for only €28 a night. But tonight this doubles to €56 and tomorrow it almost doubles again to €100. Followed by €120 for Saturday night. Nice business, the receptionist and I agreed.
  • Talking of hotels . . . We had no problems at all in Portugal with wif-fi. Here in Spain in 2 and 3-star hotels, it's not uncommon for wi-fi to only work well in the lobby but not in the rooms. Can it be that internet provision is not only far more expensive here than in Portugal (and virtually everywhere else in Europe) but also less efficient???
  • And talking of what Spaniards like . . . Most hotels here have showers which allow the hand-held option which the locals seem to prefer to a fixed shower head. This leads to problems when the shower head is not firmly attached to its vertical pole. In our room in this hotel, the slightest increase in water pressure causes the head to shoot up and send a drenching shower over the large towels on the rack on the opposite wall. Or, rather, it did yesterday, but we were wise to this risk this morning. Or one of us was, at least.
  • This morning we took a coffee in a bar across the street, not wanting to pay €4.50 for a breakfast we didn't really want in the hotel. Surprisingly, there was no free biscuit, cake or churro. But there were churros on a plate on the counter, available for purchase. Or to be nicked one by one each time the owner turned her head away by a chap sitting at the bar with his €1 coffee. He'd got up to 3 by the time we left.
  • Talking of counters . . . Back in Guarda in Portugal there was a nice row of houses in the square below the cathedral. These are called As Casas das Balcoes in Portuguese, which some genius had translated not as 'The Balcony Houses' but as 'The Houses of the Counters'.
  • Googling can throw up some bizarre responses. Searching – thrice – earlier this week for information on the old Jewish quarter of Viseu, I was presented each time with a BBC page on its TV show Strictly Come Dancing. IGIMSTS.
  • Which reminds me . . . Why am I constantly getting ads for the hotel in which we're already staying?
Matters Spanish
Matters UK
  • The British government is finally doing something about the fact it's the favourite place for the world's corrupt to invest their money in property, especially in London. There are 10 people being investigated around the source of their immense wealth. The first to be prosecuted is the wife of an Azerbaijan banker. In the last 10 years, she's spent the staggering sum of €18m in the Harrods store alone. Before he was jailed for corruption back home, her husband was earning a mere €60,000 a year. Go figure, as our American cousins say.
  • An amusing take on the camino (sort of) from Tui to Santiago and on Santiago city itself.
© [David] Colin Davies: 11.10.18

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Thoughts from Salamanca, Spain: 10.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Travel News
  • Yesterday we drove back to Spain - to magnificent Salamanca - but stopped first, for a coffee, at Vilar Formoso on the Portuguese side of the border, and then in Ciudad Rodrigo once in Spain.
  • The former's proximity to Spain raises the price for a coffee there from €0.7-1.00 to €1.50, which compared with the red wine at €0.60 a glass in a bar in Guarda the previous evening.
  • We knew we were back in Spain when we saw a brothel on the outskirts of Ciudad Rodrigo; when both the noise levels and the prices of soft drinks rose dramatically; when we were accosted by a panhandler; when a taxi driver looked decidedly unsure about stopping for us at a zebra crossing; and when people walked in front of us as if we didn't exist. But at least there were no old men smoking in the cafés/bars. And we got a tapa with our drinks. And it was good to be able to understand what everyone was saying around us. Not to mention the waitress in the restaurant where we lunched.
  • A final cultural difference . . . An attractive young women we spoke to yesterday assured us that men stared at her a lot more in Spain than in Portugal. More macho, I guess.
  • My previous visit to Ciudad Rodrigo - at least 10 years ago - had been very brief. This rather longer one was well worth it, as it's a truly delightful place. But I'm sure that, back then, it still displayed at least one of the two breaches in its walls made by the besieging British troops under Wellington in 1812, during the Peninsular War/War of Independence. But not now. There's been a restoration program, I suspect. Or maybe I only recall noting the evidence of repair (mentioned here) when I was last there.
  • Incidentally, one of the British generals killed in the (successful-for-others) siege was named Crauford. He's cited as a 'friend of Spain' in a plaque at the site of the 'Little Breach' but I confess to thinking they'd got his name wrong, and that it should have been Crawford. Which struck me as not a good thing to do to a friend.
  • Oh, yes. I noticed a yellow arrow near the impressive cathedral in Ciudad Rodrigo. Need I tell you the town is now on a camino? Specifically, the Camino de Torres I mentioned yesterday
  • This is my 6th or 7th visit to Salamanca. Hopefully it won't be as memorable as the last one, when I had to repair to the hospital after possibly the worst night of my life – very probably as a result of eating a sandwich of underheated chicken on the drive down from Pontevedra. Anyway, I spent the first day of our camino on the Via de Plata stretched out on a hospital bed, with a drip in my arm. But attended to by a very attractive, tactile South American lady doctor. Who gave me a hug as I left. You don't get that on the NHS . . .
Matters Spanish
  • I did wonder about this.
Matter Portuguese
  • In my haste to summarise my caminho/camino findings yesterday, I missed another Portuguese option, beginning in Caceres, passing through Viseu and ending in Braga. An old Roman route. It's called the Via de Estrella/Estrela and its trajectory can be seen in detail here. Not well signposted, I understand. And it doesn't feature in the 40 caminos on the Mundicamino page.
  • So, Viseu has at least 2 caminos going through it - one due northwards to Chaves and the other north westwards to Braga. But I could be wrong. Or by next week, it could have a third going directly to to Oporto.
  • The road from Guarda to the border is now a 4-lane highway, not the 2-lane road I recalled from my previous drive along this route, years ago. I wondered where the old road was and whether it'd been incorporated into the new one. Which is a toll road, 'policed' by cameras in overhead gantries. Answers came in a conversation I overheard in the Turismo office, where a lady was warning 2 Spanish travellers of the latter and advising of the need to buy a pre-paid card as they entered Portugal. She added that, as the old road had indeed been transformed into the new highway, there was no parallel un-tolled road to take as a option. This, she stressed, made the tolls illegal under EU law. But, because of the parlous state of the Portuguese economy, Brussels turns a blind eye to this flagrant criminality. I told the Spanish couple they could opt for not buying a card and take the risk of being fined by the police at some time in the future. The Turismo lady added this could well happen if they stopped at a petrol/gas station once in Portugal. Which, given that the price for this is about 20% higher than in Spain, I doubt many clued-up drivers will do anywhere soon.
Social Media
  • Reader Perry queries whether the Times columnist I cited yesterday proffered any solutions. I think not but you can check the full article below. In fact, I also wondered about how on earth to turn the clock back to more civil times, But came up with nothing for now.
© [David] Colin Davies: 11.10.18


Identity politics is killing off healthy debate: Rachel Sylvester  The Times.

Universities are on the front line in a culture war that stifles disagreement and is threatening liberal democracy

It is a year since the Eurosceptic Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris, then a government whip, wrote to universities requesting a list of the names of professors involved in the teaching of European affairs “with particular reference to Brexit”, together with copies of each syllabus and links to the course. He was accused of a “McCarthyite” attempt to undermine academic freedom with his “sinister” demand for information, which was sent out on House of Commons headed notepaper.

Lord Patten of Barnes, chancellor of Oxford University and former Tory chairman, described it as “offensive and idiotic Leninism”. David Green, vice-chancellor of the University of Worcester, condemned the letter as “the first step to the thought police, the political censor and newspeak”.

Mr Heaton-Harris has since been promoted to minister in the Department for Exiting the EU. Many of the universities complied with his request — of the 59 institutions that responded to his letter, 28 provided him with most or all of what he asked for. But now Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, has made a significant ruling warning that disclosing discussions about Europe could harm academic independence and undermine rigorous debate.

In response to a freedom of information request following Mr Heaton-Harris’ letter, she concluded that the vice-chancellor of Worcester was right to refuse to release emails containing the word “Brexit”.

“If the university is required to put this information into the public domain,” the ruling states, “the commissioner agrees that those views would be likely to be much more cautious and risk averse in the future and those concerned would be inhibited from providing a free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.”

Professor Green sees it as a landmark judgment. There was “a clear attempt to misuse the law for coercive and illiberal purposes,” he says. “This is a real victory in protecting academic freedom and the basic human right to engage in open debate and not surrender to sinister attempts to chill discussion and to bully.” Having grown up in 1950s America, with a father who was a scientist in the Air Force Research Laboratory at MIT when McCarthy demanded a list of “reds”, he is acutely aware of attempts at political interference. “There’s a new form of McCarthyism,” he told me. “The language is all about ‘a war’ and ‘the enemy’ as opposed to fellow citizens having a rational debate. Wherever it comes from on the political spectrum it’s to be opposed.”

As politics turns into a culture war, universities are finding themselves on the front line, under fire from left and right. On one side, academics are accused of pro-European bias, on the other they are criticised over their attitudes to gender and race. Trevor Phillips, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said at the weekend that the hounding of Nigel Biggar, the Oxford University professor who suggested there were some good elements to the British Empire, showed a worrying slide towards “Stalinism”. The feminist writer Germaine Greer and the veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell have both been “no-platformed” by student groups over their supposedly “transphobic” views.

One researcher, James Caspian, was refused permission to study cases of people who have surgery to reverse gender reassignment because his university thought the thesis could be “politically incorrect”. Angelos Sofocleous, a philosophy undergraduate, was sacked by his student newspaper after retweeting a comment that “women don’t have penises” — an opinion that his critics said could “belittle trans experiences”.

Perhaps not surprisingly there has also been a rise in “silent seminars”, where students refuse to express an opinion on controversial issues for fear of causing offence. Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, says young people are self-censoring because, unable to differentiate between critiquing an argument and criticising a person, they believe that disagreeing with someone may be a “cultural crime”.

Instead of encouraging diversity of thought, the education system seems to be narrowing the scope of acceptable opinions. At the Tory conference in Birmingham last week, a secondary school teacher told a fringe meeting that she did not dare to admit she was a Conservative at work because the staffroom had become a “socialist convention”. One minister says: “Left-wing identity politics has provoked right-wing identity politics. There’s an unhealthy situation where both sides feel that people can only speak from the silos into which they’ve been put in the culture war. It’s about facts rather than emotion and it’s narrowing the scope within which you can have a proper free exchange of ideas.”

The phenomenon has also infiltrated the arts world. The novelist Rose Tremain says it is increasingly difficult for authors to write from their imaginations: she is convinced that the BBC recently turned down a television series based on The Road Home, her award-winning novel about immigration, because she is not a young Polish man, so her text cannot be “authentic”. If writers can only draw on personal experience, then literature will become narcissistic and narrowly focused, she says.

The bitter row over the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice in the US is symptomatic of a wider trend on both sides of the Atlantic. Politics is about whose side you are on rather than what you believe. The liberal protests against his confirmation following allegations of sexual assault were mirrored by a surge of support for the Republicans among conservative voters ahead of the midterm elections, in what Donald Trump’s allies are already calling the Brett bounce.

From Trump to Brexit, Scottish independence to climate change, politics is increasingly polarised along identity rather than partisan lines. Margaret Thatcher used to talk of cabinet ministers approvingly as “one of us” and now social media divides everyone into tribes. Virtue-signalling to friends is combined with vicious denunciations of enemies. The language of “mutineers” and “saboteurs” on the right is matched by attacks on “traitors” and “melts” on the left. MPs who refuse to conform face deselection or even death threats. There is a lack of civility that derives from the fact that people are playing the man (or woman) and not the ball.

If politics is no longer about persuasion but personal identity, then it is much harder for anyone to change their mind. But a liberal democracy depends on rational debate rather than emotional allegiance. It is based on constantly questioning, challenging and testing ideas. The “will of the people” should be an expression of these freedoms, not an excuse to divide and rule.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Thoughts from Guarda, Portugal: 9.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • The (far-right) ABC newspaper tells us here of a newish - and proudly 'fascist' - far-right party in Spain, one of the few countries said not to see a populist party rise as a result of the 2007-2017 Crisis. Though this party – Vox – rather seems to disprove this claim. The paper refers to the also-newish Ciudadanos party as 'centre-right', which it might well be from its standpoint. But not to the rest of us, as we watch it vie with the PP party for the right-wing vote. Both near and far varieties.
  • Here's one of those reports one regularly sees in Spain – where justice moves very slowly indeed – of a case where someone adjudged guilty is nonetheless let off scot-free. It's usually politicians who gain from this state of affairs, of course.  IGIMSTS. 
  • The writer of this article is another who thinks Spain will – or at least could – take over from the UK when/if the latter leaves the EU. Indeed, she writes, Spain has already been making progress on this front.
  • Yesterday was Columbus Day, I read. Though not here in Portugal. This Irish-American thinks some of the great man's achievement don't merit celebration. And he's surely right. I wonder if Galicians will stop claiming he was a Gallego from Pontevedra if he comes to be universally known as a complete shit.
  • And here's the Times of Israel on the old question of whether CC was Jewish or not.
  • Spain's new petrol/gas pump labels – How to understand them.
Matters Portuguese
  • I hope to be rewarded one day more the more than an hour I've spent/wasted trying to find just how many bloody caminos/caminhos pass through Portugal. This quest was sparked by finding that, not only Viseu, but also Guarda is a town through which (an apparently new) one passes. Here's a summary of my findings. Note that little of this information can be found on the normally very useful Mundicamino site:-
1. There are at least 3 caminos heading north from Oporto to Galicia and Santiago de Compostela.
2. There are at least 2 going north from Lisbon to Oporto:-
- The Coastal
- The Central, via Tomar, Santarem and Coimbra. [This one possibly has a variant via Fátima. And there might be the posibility of branching north from Coimbra to Viseu and then to the Via Plata via Chaves. See next point].
3. In addition, there's said to be a caminho interior, which might be the the Interior Via Portugal Nascente, whose route seems to be: Tavira [not Lisbon], Evora, Belmonte, Guarda, Viseu, Castro Daire, Lamego, Peso da Régua, Santa Marta de Penaguião, Vila Real, Vila Pouca de Aguiar, Chaves, Verín[Spain] and finally, Laza, where it joins the Via Plata, which has come north from Sevilla, via Salamanca and Zamora.
4. Finally(???), there's the Caminho de Torres, which branches off the Via Plata at Salamanca and heads NW to Portugal, passing through Guimaraes and Braga before joining the traditonal Camino Portugués in Ponte de Lima.
  • As you might have guessed, I can't guarantee the accuracy of this information. But I can confidently predict that - within 20, or even 10, years – every town in the Iberian peninsula will have a camino passing through it. Meanwhile, no wonder Mundicamino can't keep up with things.
Social Media
  • From a Times columnist: Politics is increasingly polarised along identity rather than partisan lines . . .  Social media divides everyone into tribes. . . Virtue-signalling to friends is combined with vicious denunciations of enemies. The language of “mutineers” and “saboteurs” on the right is matched by attacks on “traitors” and “melts” on the left. There is a lack of civility that derives from the fact that people are playing the man (or woman) and not the ball. . . If politics is no longer about persuasion but personal identity, then it is much harder for anyone to change their mind. But a liberal democracy depends on rational debate rather than emotional allegiance. It is based on constantly questioning, challenging and testing ideas. The “will of the people” should be an expression of these freedoms, not an excuse to divide and rule.
© [David] Colin Davies: 9.10.18

Monday, October 08, 2018

Thoughts from Viseu, Portugal: 8.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
Matters Portuguese
  • Seven days and we still haven't been assailed by a single beggar.
  • And we're still marvelling at how cheap the drinks are. In cafés at least.
  • Nice to know we could have watched Verdi's Aida on Saturday night here in Viseu. Beamed live from New York. Don't recall this ever having been on offer in Pontevedra.
Matters European.
  • A serious showdown is brewing in the Eurozone -writes Don Quijones - as Italy’s anti-establishment coalition government takes on the EU establishment in a struggle that could have major ramifications for Europe’s monetary union. The cause of the discord is the Italian government’s plan to expand Italy’s budget for 2019, in contravention of previous budget agreements with Brussels. . . . Sooner or later, one side is going to have to blink, for the longer this uncertainty lasts, the greater the risk that Italy’s systemically vital banking system slips over the edge, taking Italy’s economy with it and potentially doing serious damage to the Eurozone economy. More here.
Spanish and Portuguese
  • As with Gallego, Portuguese retains the F in many Latin words where Spanish now has an H. For example: Forno/Horno and Formiga/Hormiga. But I was intrigued to see thisat work in Almofada and Almohada, given that both these words for 'pillow' come from Arabic and not Latin.
Matters Galician
  • The Guardian goes gaga on Galicia again.
  • The writer says he and his family took a boat from the Bay of Vigo, which featured in a chapter in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. But what Verne meant by this term was actually the Bay of St Simón, beyond the Rande Straits. Where the Spanish bullion fleet was destroyed in 1702. None of the boats to the islands goes from there.
  • Reader Sierra has sent me this article on an unusual camino pilgrim. The man-who-walks-like-a-cat.
© [David] Colin Davies: 8.10.18

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Thoughts from Viseu, Portugal: 7.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • Possible good news for consumers of electricity. All of us, then. 
  • This might be more than you want to know about Spain's high-achieving sportswomen.
  • Perhaps of greater interest is this list of Spain's 30 most beautiful villages. Lenox Napier might be pleased to see his included. 
Matters Portuguese
  • The yellow arrows were a clue and, sure enough, there's a camino de Santiago which runs through Viseu. Coming up from Lisbon through central Portugal, it then wends through Castrao Daire, Lamego, Peso da Regua, Sta Marta de Penaguaio, Vila Real, Vila Pouca de Aguiar and Chaves before crossing into Galicia. Interestingly, I can't find it in Mundicamino's list of 39 caminos.
  • Yesterday we biked 40km along the lovely ecopista (ex railway line) which runs from Viseu to Sta Comba Dau. Our day was marred only by a complete failure to find a bike-hire place in the former, forcing us to drive 50km to the latter for this. Oh, and by a puncture in one of the tyres. It's a long time since I changed the inner tube of a bike tyre but it was eventually achieved, midst some ripe Anglo-Saxon.
  • The hotel we're in has an (almost) charming way of doing things. Not for them a computer at the reception desk. Rather, a manual spreadsheet completed in different coloured inks. I was transported backwards.
Matters Galician
  • Click here if you want to know what a botafumeiro is. Specifically the huge one which swings across the main altar of Santiago Cathedral
  • I forgot to mention that Pontevedra has recently been used in the filming of bits of La Sombra de la Ley. It plays the part of Barcelona in the 1930s. The city has also starred in episodes of Fariña and Vivir sin Permiso. I doubt that the numerous beggars feature much.
© [David] Colin Davies: 7.10.18

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Thoughts from Viseu, Portugal: 6.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • Here's a fascinating take from El País 
  • Cataluña: Here's Guy Hedgecoe with his take on the Catalan leader, Quim Torra. Who might just be out of his depth. A lot of water has passed under this bridge since the revolt of a year ago. Has there been much progress?
  • As if 'individualistic' cyclists were not enough . . .
Matters Portuguese
  • Spanish pastries are very good on the eye. Portuguese pastries are far better on the pallet.
  • Far fewer young women seem to smoke here in Portugal.
  • Portuguese drivers are excellent at stopping for pedestrians at zebra crossings. On the other hand - not being used to and tolerant of rule-ignoring, individualist Spaniards (and Englishmen - they're easily annoyed by you walking across the road where there isn't a crossing. Which seems fair enough.
  • Drinks are remarkably cheap here, compared with Spain. On the other hand, you never get a tapa – or even a biscuit with your 70-100 cents coffee – and there's never a box of tissues on the table.
  • Here's someone on Portugal's best culinary offerings.
  • I'm told it's virtually impossible to rent a flat in the centre of Viseu these days. So, if they're all occupied, how come there was hardly a light on in any of them in the centre last night? Perhaps they're neither occupied nor available for rent. Just investments??
  • Wherever you enter a Catholic church in Spain or in Portugal, you can be sure that there's at least one old woman kneeling in or sitting on a pew. Or, at least, that's what I thought until we went into one last night to find we were the only people there.
  • Nearly all of the places you want to see in Viseu have English (and sometimes Spanish) translations of the information plaques outside them. They're not bad but are far from perfect. Are there really no native speakers in Viseu? That's not the real question, of course.
  • Yesterday was what we Brits call a Bank Holiday. Ironic, then, that one of the few places open was the Millenium BPC bank.
Matters UK
The Spanish Language
  • Word of The Day: One we all know well . . . Chapuza.
Finally . . .
  • I'm told that Dutch and German kids are first taught to write cursively and then, later, to write the letters separately, as if they were typed. To the best of my recollection, this is the opposite to what is done in the UK. Or was when I was a kid.
© [David] Colin Davies: 6.10.18

Friday, October 05, 2018

Thoughts from Portugal: 5.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • Pity the poor genuine graduates of the Universidad del Rey Don Carlos. Thanks to its dubious issue of Masters degrees to politicians, "We have a qualification that is useless and that people laugh at".
Matters Portuguese
  • Three days in Viseu and still not assailed by a single beggar. Don't they do drugs here?
  • I know I've said it before but the Portuguese are a very civil, polite people who give the impression of being aware of the existence of others.
  • For any Portuguese readers, I mis-stated the sign that my companion mistook for a street name. It was Afixaçaos, not Anúncios. With the accent.
  • I've mentioned over the years the back page ads for whores in Spanish newspapers.But even this didn't prepare me for the shock of seeing, in the local paper here, not just the small adds but graphic fotos as well . . .
  • Google has decided that I'm no longer Portuguese Dutch. Beats the hell out of me,
The Spanish Language
  1. Word of the day: Anteayer
  2. Below is someone's guide to various rules that might be honoured – even by Spaniards – more in the breach than the observance.
Finally  . . .
  • The universally preferred Spanish insult for someone with whose view you disagree, is Fascista! I was reminded of this when reading this interesting viewpoint:-
The Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread
domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

© [David] Colin Davies: 5.10.18


Ese pozo sin fondo que nunca conoceremos bien del todo. Por mucho que leas, por mucho que escribas con la certeza de hacerlo todo bien, por mucho que te llamen la atención errores en textos que pasan desapercibidos al resto del mundo, siempre habrá algo que todavía no sepas. Lo típico que descubres un día y te entra un pequeño escalofrío al darte cuenta de que llevas toda tu vida haciéndolo mal. Estas son algunas de las normas menos conocidas:

1. En aun así, aun no se acentúa

Tenemos en el diccionario dos formas de escribir esta palabra, aún y aun, pero parece que es la primera la que más ha calado en nuestros cerebros borrando la existencia de la segunda. ¿Cuándo no lleva tilde? Cuando significa ‘incluso’ o ‘hasta’. Es decir, en expresiones como aun cuando o aun así, cuando significa ‘a pesar de eso’. Si ese aún es ‘todavía’, como en cuando llegué todo seguía aún así, como lo había dejado, ese aún sí lleva tilde.

2. Hay raya, signo menos y guion

Y son tres signos distintos con tamaños diferentes. La raya es el más largo y sirve para, por ejemplo, crear incisos —como este—. Va siempre pegada a lo que rodea, como los paréntesis o signos de interrogación. El siguiente por tamaño es el signo menos, –, la mitad de largo que la raya (y el doble que el guion). Se usa, como su propio nombre indica, para restar o para indicar números negativos: estamos a –3 grados. Y, por último, está el guion, el más fácil de encontrar en el teclado y por lo tanto el más usado cuando deberíamos usar alguno de los otros dos. Sirve para, por ejemplo, compuestos tipo teórico-práctico o Castilla-La Mancha y para indicar intervalos (páginas 3-5).

3. Mejor extravertido que extrovertido

Al menos de momento, eso es lo que dice la RAE. Y aunque suene muy raro, en realidad tiene sentido: la preposición latina es extra, no *extro, y si hemos empezado a decir extrovertido es por influjo de introvertido (aquí sí, la preposición es intro). En el Diccionario panhispánico de dudas la RAE admite que la forma más usada es extrovertido, pero recomienda extravertido en el habla culta.

4. No solo ha desaparecido la tilde de solo
Tampoco se pone ya nunca (¡nunca!) la tilde a la o entre números (seríamos 20 o 30, no 20 ó 30) ni a los pronombres demostrativos este, esta. Nunca. Es muy fácil, solo tienes que olvidarlos. Aprovecho para recordar que esto no solo no lleva tilde ahora, sino que nunca la llevó.

5. Las siglas no llevan una ese para marcar el plural
Es decir: no sé qué hacer con todos esos CD. No *CDs. Y así para todo.

6. Punto y seguido, punto y aparte, pero punto final
Esto os puede ser útil si estáis dictando un texto a alguien y queréis quedar muy bien. Está muy extendido decir punto y final por analogía con los otros puntos, pero no: es punto final. Sin y.

7. Las comillas preferidas en español son las latinas «», no las altas “” y desde luego no las simples ‘’
Las altas se usan solo si tenemos que entrecomillar algo dentro de un texto ya entrecomillado: «Me dijo: “no te entiendo”». Las simples úsalas solo cuando ya hayas usado las otras («Me dijo: “no te entiendo cuando dices ‘me aburro’”») o para enmarcar significados: cefalea significa ‘dolor de cabeza’ (es el ejemplo de la RAE).

8. Y los puntos van SIEMPRE fuera de las comillas

También las comas. A veces se ponen dentro por influencia del inglés americano, donde colocan los signos de puntuación siempre dentro (el inglés británico los sitúa fuera), pero la norma del español no es así.

9. Las abreviaturas llevan punto, los símbolos no

¿Qué son los símbolos? Según la RAE, «representación gráfica invariable de un concepto de carácter científico o técnico, constituida por una o más letras u otros signos no alfabetizables, que goza de difusión internacional, y que, a diferencia de la abreviatura, no se escribe con punto pospuesto». ¿Ejemplos? Pues km para kilómetro, h para hora, kg para kilogramo, ha para hectárea o N para norte.

10. Nos reímos ja, ja, ja, no jajaja

Otra norma que posiblemente cambie en el futuro, porque todos sabemos que lo más habitual, un poco por comodidad, es la risa seguida y sin comas. Pero si quieres hacerlo bien y darle a tu risa un toque sofisticado, pásate al ja, ja, ja.

11. Quedó en decimocuarta posición o décima cuarta posición

Es decir: si escribes el ordinal en dos palabras, ambas concuerdan en género con aquella a la que modifican.

12. Las letras voladas llevan un punto antes

Son, al fin y al cabo, abreviaturas: no es Mª, sino M.ª; no es 1º, sino 1.º. Y así con todas.

13. Los extranjerismos se escriben en cursiva (y dependen de la pronunciación)

La cursiva muestra que la pronunciación no sigue las normas del español. Es decir, palabras como pizza o jazz van en cursiva. Y hay casos en los que depende de dónde seas: pijama en España se lee tal cual, con jota, pero en muchos lugares de Hispanoamérica siguen la proununciación inglesa. En ese caso, hay que escribir «piyama» o, si se mantiene la grafía, usar la cursiva pijama.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Thoughts from Portugal: 4.10.18

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 here. Garish but informative.

Matters Spanish
  • Something coming out of Spain to look forward to? Or is hyperloop merely hype?
  • The FT wonders here if Spain in on the edge of a new golden age. The comment I found most true in the article is that: Spain’s Europhilia can appear outdated. Madrid is caught in a time capsule professing views long abandoned by its partners.
  • The wages of sin. At least for one Spanish ex politician. I wonder who he upset.
  • I didn't know alcohol was free in some places around Spain. But possibly not for much longer.
  • The Local provides an A-Z of teaching in Spain here. BTW . . . I don't understand the 'pants' comment under 'H'. 'Trousers' in British English. At least in the North.
Matters Portuguese
  • Viseu boasts a very lovely baroque cathedral. As ever, in these places, I'm astounded by 2 things – 1. Human artistry, and 3. The amount of money extorted from both the rich and the poor to finance this. But, even as an atheist, I can feel gratitude that this was done, while disagreeing with it. It's impossible to imagine todya's public being willing to regularly donate towards, say, a massive architectural project. Vanity projects such as the City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela have to be indirectly financed via the generosity of taxation.
  • The sacristy of the cathedral contains beautiful stone and tile work, and magnificent wooden furnishings. At one end of it, there's a stone basin where the priests could/can wash their hands. In it, bars of soap lie on 2 pink plastic soap-dishes. Which seemed rather out of place to me.
  • In the corridor between the sacristy and a side altar, missing blue tiles have been replaced by any to hand. Which makes for some amusing scenes.
  • Talking of laughter . . . There's a portrait in the impressive Museo Grao Vasco next to the cathedral which has surely produced gales of this. It's so 'honest' that the female sitter's moustache is clearly evident. I wasn't surprised to later read that she's locally known as “The Bearded Lady”:-
  • Still on laughter . . . As we struggled to find street-name plaques, my companion suggested the street we were in was called 'Anuncios Prohibidos'. But she realised as quickly as I did that this mean 'Advertisements Forbidden'.
  • Finally on the theme of amusement . . . The report I clicked on re the Hyperloop thing turned out to be that of RT.com, the Russian propaganda outfit. As I scrolled down, I was met with a foto of young woman who wanted to tell me she was only 200m away from me and keen to meet me. All in Portuguese. The wonders of the internet. And tracking.
  • I have a little difficulty with the double R sound in Portuguese. It's not rolled as it is in Spanish and I'd formed the view that it was rather like the KH sound in, say, 'loch'. I asked a waiter last night and he gave me the helpful answer that “It depends on where you're from”. The receptionist in the hotel this morning said 'Empurra' on the doors was pronounced 'Empukha', as I had suspected, but someone on the internet says RR is pronounced like the H in hotel. Advice welcome . . .
Matters US
  • Read all about it! How Fart really got rich. Totally as you'd expect, really - nothing like how he says he did.
  • If you're (North) American, this sounds like something you might like to watch.
The Spanish Language
  • The Local gives us fugaz here,
© [David] Colin Davies: 4.10.18

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