Monday, May 13, 2019

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 13.5.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
  • Octopus is very fashionable in the USA, I read, meaning that prices are rising around the world, including here in Galicia. Here's one remedy that isn't finding universal favour.
  • The Olive Press reports on a 'fantastic surge' in the number of Brits registering with town halls in Andalucia. Something doesn't sound right. At least not for me, as I don't regard a 2% increase as much of a surge, never mind 'fantastic'. Perhaps it should be 20%.
  • A couple more observations from Brett Heatherington:-
o To the average Spaniard, who typically thrives in public and is most at home in a crowd, the fields of Extremadura could be intimidating.
o I drank a glass of white wine; savouring the atmosphere where people of all ages were meeting, chatting drinking and eating together - exemplifying that Spanish brand of conviviality in public places that they do so extraordinarily well.

The UK
  • A pat on the national back: There is one area where top English football clubs are significantly different from their continental counterparts: they are more culturally diverse and globalised. And this is something that trickles down from the very top, beyond the manager and playing squad. A few years back, one well-known manager marvelled at Chelsea’s top brass which at the time included a woman (Marina Granovskaia), an American (Bruce Buck), a Canadian (Eugene Tenenbaum), a Nigerian (Michael Emenalo), plus, of course the Russian owner. “You wouldn’t see that in Italy, Spain or Germany,” he said. “Not in a million years.” . . . In that sense, English clubs are reflecting that other hugely successful British export: finance. The City of London is about as multinational and diverse as you can get. Financial institutions care far more about who can deliver results in a global marketplace than someone’s nationality.
In contrast . . .

  • Not Only In Spain: There is a pleasing regularity to the rites of the Berlin spring. At the start of April the city gorges on the first harvest of white asparagus. On May Day left-wing revolutionaries gather in the streets to torch cars and heave paving stones at the police in the name of solidarity. And then, as the prospect of hazy summer days begins to loom, Berliners discover the latest slapstick reason why their long-delayed international airport cannot open. The highlights of nearly a decade of world-class mismanagement have included bankruptcies, bribery scandals and a narrowly aborted plan to pay 300 workers to stand by the ventilation flaps and open them manually in case of fire. This year the problem appears to be plastic dowelling. Several miles of electrical cable have been pinned to the walls with thousands of little plugs that may or may not conform to Brandenburg state’s building regulations. It could turn out to be an inordinately expensive mistake. Officially, Willy Brandt Berlin Brandenburg airport, known almost universally by the code BER and touted as the most modern in Europe, will be ready to welcome its first passengers next autumn, a mere nine years late. Unofficially, there is growing talk of simply tearing the whole benighted edifice down and forgetting that it ever existed, after 13 years of work, €7.3 billion of investment and the bulldozing of two entire villages. . . After decades in the shadow of the air hubs at Frankfurt and Munich — let alone Amsterdam or London — the city elected to build an exemplary new airport from scratch. Even as the costs swelled to three and a half times the original budget, the plans were repeatedly torn up by warring politicians and, though inspections suggested it would be better to start the whole thing again, the authorities ploughed on. Bloody 'ell. Beats the British HS2, I suspect.
The UK/Brexit
  • A Brexiteer who, like me, gave up months ago on Brexit happening and predicted how it would be killed over this year, now gives her prediction of the next steps: So the people will be offered the choice of leaving with a permanent customs union “deal” or staying in the EU. Whereupon almost every Brexiteer in public life and the commentariat (including this column) would be obliged to advise voting to stay in, on the grounds that remaining an active member of a declining, corrupt protectionist bloc was preferable to being a colony of a declining, corrupt protectionist bloc. As I've been saying for a while now.
The Way of the World
  • UK TV: Suranne Jones must not only portray a lesbian but, in a post-#MeToo world, she must conform to an accepted way of making love for lesbians as prescribed by the BBC. And so an ”intimacy director” has been hired to mirthlessly ensure that the actresses in the series are “doing right by the lesbian community”. Yes, you heard it right: the BBC is worried that viewers might be offended by lesbians having sex in the wrong way. This is, obviously, madness, part of the ludicrous groupthink that is eating up every aspect of cultural life. It reminds me of the poor lesbian activist at Oxford University who sacked herself from all her positions after she met up with another woman and “failed properly to establish consent before every act”. 
  • A reformed termagant, now in her 50s, writes: In a world where showing emotion is increasingly demanded of us as proof of our humanity, keeping calm and soldiering on looks like not just the sensible but the self-willed option. After the hurly-burly of the touchy-feely – to misquote Mrs Patrick Campbell – it’s understandable to crave the deep, deep peace of the stiff upper lip. See the full article below.
  • Is Fart really losing his war with the media?
  • NRA news: Somewhere in the course of standing up to the gun-control lobby and defending the freedom of Americans to bear arms, Wayne LaPierre allegedly took a $542,000 luxury-spending detour. The long-serving CEO of the NRA billed the group’s advertising agency for expenses including $39,000 splurged in a single day at a Beverly Hills boutique, $18,300 on a car and driver in Europe, and $13,800 to rent a flat for a young female intern. The allegations are at the heart of a financial management crisis that is consuming the gun-rights group. Couldn't be happening to nicer people.
Finally . . .
  • Doing the camino with friends over the last 10 years, we've normally counted on walking at an average speed of 4kph. Or about 6 hours walking a day, if you want to do 25km. But 8, if you go wrong on a mountain near Segovia and end up doing 32. The ever-increasing numbers of 'pilgrims' passing through Pontevedra move at various paces, from Teutonic/Nordic striding to the painful crawling of a 90-year-old-looking Japanese woman I saw last year. Frankly, I'm surprised some of them can do 20km a day, unless they walk around 8-10 hours. Which is doable, of course. But miserable below the Galician rain. Or snow.

Forget feelings. I found happiness in the deep, deep peace of the stiff upper lip. Julie Burchill.

Feelings. Everybody’s got them but, until quite recently, they were thought to be something one didn’t talk about, like sex or religion. Now sex is everywhere (but we’re having less), religion is on the rise (seeking to sanction everything from what can be taught in schools to what can be shown in art galleries) and feelings (a strange blend of the two, which sees us invest a basic instinct with the certainty that unproved things are true) are impossible to escape. Every morning on BBC News, we are presented with a parade of our fellow citizens whose emotions have gone awry and who have been led to believe that the public airing of them is the best way to proceed.

On social media, you find a world where feelings reign supreme and the Culture of Offence runs riot. Careers can be smashed and reputations ruined if a cavalier public figure offends enough people, and hard-bodied but thin-skinned reality TV stars can be driven to illness by the unbridled unkindness of strangers.

Not many noons pass when I don’t think of what The Sainted Christopher Hitchens said: “If someone tells me that I’ve hurt their feelings, I say, ‘I’m still waiting to hear what your point is’. I’ve been told, ‘That’s offensive’ as if those two words constitute an argument. Not to me they don’t.”

From my own experience, I don’t believe that showing one’s feelings is the road to happiness. I spent my teens, 20s, 30s and 40s as a diva, living life as a more or less permanent temper-tantrum; a few years ago, I discovered the writings of the Stoics, and it changed my attitude completely and my life for the better.

I got away with my antics because I was a woman – a man who’d acted in the same way would have been a laughing stock, unless of course he toiled in the ateliers of couture or on the pitches of the Premier League, where hissy-fits are expected to go hand-in-glove with talent. But I’m not proud of this. For centuries, women were kept out of the interesting jobs because we were thought to be slaves to our hormones – isn’t the constant harping about the life-changing horror of the menopause and PMT taking us back this way?

We’re always being told that it’s better to express our emotions rather than “bottling it up”, but I wonder what proof there is of this. Feelings – especially negative and exciting ones, like anger – aren’t a finite thing that we cast out cathartically and definitively. Science shows that habitual negative thinking forms neural pathways in the brain to which anger is the pay-off, the money-shot, the jackpot; it becomes its own reward, dopamine-wise. Sorrow can feed on itself, too; an interesting survey showed that, of a group of traumatised people, the ones who were encouraged to talk about their trauma took longer to get over it than those who refused counselling.

If it’s true that expressing emotion is the key to the life well lived, the healthiest and happiest souls among us would be those who frequently blew their tops – look around you and see this isn’t so. Angry people just get angrier, and then drop dead from high blood pressure or a heart attack; on the way there, they tend to become lonely, as people don’t generally care for being around someone who can go off like Krakatoa over an imagined slight.

Now, a study from Canada says that old people like me – whom we tend to write off as a joke nation of Meldrews fuming impotently over everything from parking spaces to inappropriate punctuation – are especially at risk from anger, as it fuels the inflammation that exacerbates heart disease, arthritis and cancer.

There’s a reason why we all like the Queen – even bloodthirsty republicans like me – and that’s because she never shows her feelings. She makes us feel that a safe pair of hands is steering us to a calm harbour. Regrettably, I was one of the media mob who bayed for her blood when she refused to rend her clothing over the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, but now I’ve calmed down, I get it. In a world where showing emotion is increasingly demanded of us as proof of our humanity, keeping calm and soldiering on looks like not just the sensible but the self-willed option. After the hurly-burly of the touchy-feely – to misquote Mrs Patrick Campbell – it’s understandable to crave the deep, deep peace of the stiff upper lip.

1 comment:

Geoff said...

Camino speeds & distances noted :-) :-)