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.
- Is there anyone in the country who doesn't know that UK train ticket prices are the highest in Europe, possibly the entire world - especially if you're dumb enough to buy a ticket for a trip the same day. As a recent report puts it:- Rail passengers in Britain pay at least twice as much to travel as those in major European countries. Passengers paid the equivalent of 55p a mile in the past year, compared with 29p in France, 21p in Spain and only 19p in Italy. Fares in Switzerland, often considered the best rail system in Europe, were 28p a mile. This reflects the high public subsidy for networks in Europe. Separate analysis from the EU shows that the UK’s is the only rail network in Europe in which the day-to-day running costs of the railway are completely funded from fare-paying passengers. Anyone with experience of the state-owned and-run 'British Rail' of 20-30 years ago will know that rail transport in the UK is better for privatisation, but is this what was really planned/expected? I rather doubt it.
- Ticket prices, as usual, will rise again in January in the UK. In Spain, on the other hand: Rail ticket prices will be frozen for 2019 except on medium-distance and Avant connections, which will go up by 3.5% and 7% respectively.
- You win some and you lose some . . .
- A subject that always brings tears to my eyes. Of laughter, of course.
- Spanish New Year traditions. (There's something on one of Spain's odder traditions below. Or should I say 'Cataluña's'?)
- And the answer to the New Year question on everyone's lips.
- I thought the EU was about the harmonisation of taxes but there seems to be some leeway as regardsVAT, at least.
- A reminder for motorists-
- Word of the day: Monada
- Twitter is a compulsion, a heart-pounding addiction, a lightning guide to news and politics in a febrile world, a steady eraser of hours that could be better spent. It is a forum for restless diversion, misunderstandings, instant or long-lasting alliances and feuds. People complain about it all the time or abandon it in despair.
Finally . . .
- Germany is one of those countries which ban certain forenames, as in Spain. Here's a list of some of these. I'm guessing it'll appear ridiculous to most/all Anglo-Saxons. Interestingly, Adolf doesn't appear on it:-
Megwanipiu [A Cree name for one of the seasons]
And here's a second list, entitled in German: Extraordinary exceptions in the assignment of first names. Some examples of first names that seem critical at first glance. Presumably this means they look dubious but are not (yet) specifically forbidden:-
Leonardo da Vinci Franz
Funny people, those Continentals.
© [David] Colin Davies
An Disgusting Tradition?: David Aaronovitch
As I discovered in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago, what can seem like an odd and even possibly rather disgusting tradition can turn out to be a genuinely useful one. And forgive me if you already knew about all this, but I assure you it was news to me.
Outside the big Gothic cathedral of Saint Eulalia (a 13-year-old virgin rolled in a barrel full of knives, subjected to double breast amputation, then crucified and decapitated) they have dozens of stalls selling something called pessebre. This is essentially a cross between a Nativity scene and a landscaped train set, in which people populate a rural tableau with model houses, trees, rocks, Holy Family and traditional figures: Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, innkeepers, a man defecating . . .
Oh yes. When I first saw the caganer, as he is called, a squatting man in peasant clothes in the act of producing a copious movement (sat, if you like, almost on his stool) being sold on many of these stalls, I thought it must be a modern piece of vulgarity. Not so. The caganer goes back as far as the 17th century. In fact Catalans for years have regarded no Nativity scene as complete without him. The question of where exactly to place him in your pessebre is a matter of happy domestic discussion. The church tolerates the custom.
It is right to. Once you get over your surprise and mild disgust, you realise that the caganer is actually a great tradition. It is fundamentally democratic: as novelty caganers sold from some of the stalls make clear, defecation is common to peasants and royalty, Barcelona forwards and popes. The tradition punctures pomposity, it undermines false piety. It is also, unlike Santa, true. We should bring it here to Britain.