Dawn

Dawn

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: .4 7.20

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.


Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain’*- after exists - 

 Life in Spain: What has changed this century? 

  • English teaching/speaking: When I came in 2000, I was frequently told how poor both of these were in Spain, or at least Galicia - thanks, in large part, to a traditional emphasis on grammar and an almost complete avoidance of conversation practice. Though there were unos listenings. Or ‘dictations’ as we actually call them. (I recall visiting a new School of Languages in Vilagarcia around 2005 and being told the up-to-date language lab wasn’t in use). The first thing I seem to have written on this theme was in January 2004: Elections Nonsense: The socialist opposition party, the PSOE, have said that they will ensure bi-lingual teaching [Spanish and English] in all state schools if they are elected. Thirty per cent of lessons will be given in English, with the local teachers backed up by a phalanx of native speakers from the UK and USA. In order to achieve this, the school day will be extended. Thus, in one fell swoop, the PSOE has lost the support of one of its most reliable constituencies, the less-than-taxed teaching profession. Brilliant. Especially as no one normally believes electoral promises here.  
  • I seem to recall President Zapatero promising that schools would be swamped with 200,000 native-speakers as teaching assistants. This never happened, of course, but - judging by the volume of American, Australian and Irish accents around me these days - mostly young females - I conclude that a fair few did come in the end. And, in the process, enormously increased the supply of private English teachers on the market. Which has had the result of keeping the cost at the same level - max €15 an hour - which it was 19 years ago. Or about half in real terms. Useful for beer money but - unless you can find a profitable niche - not enough to keep you in much else.

Current Life in Spain: Living La Vida Loca . .   

  • As promised, taxes and handouts will be rising. The Local: Spain is to hike taxes to offset the impact of the coronavirus crisis. President Sánchez also pledged €9 billion for Spain's regions to reinforce the public health system, which was stretched to the maximum by the epidemic.
  • Our officious traffic police are about to become even more zealous, it says here.
  • María’s chronicle of our Adjusted Normal Day 19.
  • The Movistar/O2 saga: An irony and an oddity: 1. When I called Movistar re the fault last Saturday morning, I had to give my fixed line number 3 or 4 times. Because - said the woman at the other end - the line was bad. . . .  2. Yesterday I received the inevitable machine call asking me to rate Movistar’s performance. As I was trying to switch to loudspeaker, I heard the computer thank me for my feedback. Which can only have been the wind and/or my (unintended) heavy breathing. 

The USA

The Way of the World

 Spanish/English

  • Another 3 refranes:-  

- Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: El major halago es que le imiten a uno.

- In for a penny, in for a pound: Ya que estamos en el baile, bailemos. 

- It just makes things worse: Es peor el remedio que la enfermedad.


Finally 

  • Caitlin Moran: Daisy May Cooper has said that her daughter had told her ‘I’ve got a present for you’ and took her to the garden shed. Where her daughter had done a poo on the floor and put a tiny Union Jack flag in it. Cooper’s daughter is 2. It’s good to see she’ll be winning the Turner prize by 2025 at the latest.
  • I might be ‘a bit nervous in the Fanny way’ turned out to be a rendering of ‘a bit nervous in a funny way’.


* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant. 

Friday, July 03, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 3.7.20

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.


Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain’*


 Life in Spain: What has changed this century? 

  • Education: My first comment on this seems to have been in June 2004: There are now British levels of rancour and chaos in the Spanish education world, resulting from the new government’s decision to suspend a keynote reform of the last administration. This was called the Law of Quality and it was designed to improve university education. But it also strengthened the position of religious instruction in the curriculum and the rather more secular new government takes exception to this. The uncertainty that now surrounds this subject has been exacerbated by the refusal of at least one Autonomous Community [Madrid] to take any notice of the suspension of the law. A complete mare’s nest, then. Stuff the kids. 
  • Verdict: One of the problems in talking about this is that it's a devolved matter, meaning policies can differ between Spain's 17 regions (Autonomous Communities), especially if there's a local language, such as Basque, Catalán/Valenciano or Gallego. But there are national edicts and every new government seems to bring one in. I can't really say what the current one is but I can say that concern is as great as ever that a higher percentage of Spanish kids drop out of school/college than elsewhere, and that Spain doesn't do well on the PSA annual international tests. So much for the ever-changing national policies, then.

Current Life in Spain  

  • Depending on how you look at things, this large and sparsely-populated country is among the most densely populated in Europe. It says here.
  • This is a powerful article on the residual influence of Francoists in today’s Spain. Taster: For Spain, the consequences of fascism’s victory still live on, in power relations and structural inequalities that plague the country to this day.
  • María’s Adjusted Normal, Day 18. To mask to not to mask?
  • I clocked this terrifying warning on the gate of a restaurant in my barrio. Can it really be genuine?


Maybe the owners are Francoists. And Vox supporters. . . Who could do with a spellcheck.

The USA

  • I mentioned a high level of religiosity. This video  from a nicely-spoken - and possibly well-educated - imbecile needs to be seen to be believed. Abject bloody nonsense.
  • Speaking of cretins . . .

English/Spanish

  • My banker has postponed a meeting scheduled for this morning on the grounds that - with my daughter et al arriving midday - I might be ‘a bit nervous in the Fanny way’. I’m still waiting for a translation, but I assume predictive text is responsible. 

Finally 

  • Does everyone know about Google’s reverse image search function, via which you can check if someone's foto is now being used for nefarious purposes?
  • As the ex owner of 3 border collies, this made me laugh . . .


* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant. 

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 2.7.20

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.


Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain’*- after exists - 

Life in Spain: What has changed?

  1. Corruption: According to a recent article (HT to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas): The annual amount of corruption in our country is estimated at 90 billion euros, or €2,000 per citizen, but the means are not in place to end it.
  2. Fun: Is this still the superordinate goal of Spaniards? I think so. Especially after 3 months of its suppression.

Life in Spain  

  • El Pais talks here of the unreliability of Spanish data re the virus. Disturbing.
  • Better news here, if you bought a Spanish property off-plan and haven’t been able to get your deposit back from the developers.
  • Surprising to read here that the current left wing government has used the infamous 'gag law' even more that the right wing government which introduced it. But I guess the virus has played a part in this, in helping the various officious police forces I’ve labelled ‘officious’.
  • Modern slavery down South.
  • Trivia: I was wrong about the pelican crossing near the bridge. At least at certain times of the day the previous system of conflicting signals for drivers and pedestrians is still in operation. Forcing me to stay alert.

The USA

  • According to officials who listened in, President Trump tried to bully female leaders of US allies while seeking approval from President Putin in “delusional” phone calls. Trump called Angela Merkel “stupid” and Theresa May “a fool” over Brexit. In contrast, to Mr Putin he talked mainly about himself, emphasising how much smarter he was than the “weaklings” who held the presidency before him.
  • A broad alliance of American conservatives is putting pressure on President Trump to wear a mask in public to convince his supporters to follow suit and help reverse the surge of coronavirus cases sweeping the southern [Republican] states. Perhaps they’ve realised that 1. Their president is killing people, and 2. He’s likely to lose the November election. Tellingly, they weren’t so concerned when the hotpots were in Democratic states.

Social Media

  •  Says it all  . . .


English/Spanish

  • Another 3 refranes:-  

- If you lie down with dogs, you get fleas: Quien con niños se acuesta, cagado se levanta. Quien con perros se echa, con pulgas se levanta.

- If you think the worst, you won't be far wrong: Piensa mal y acertarás.

- It you want good advice, consult an old man: Quien quiere saber, que compre un viejo. [Buy??]


Finally 

  • I might have killed a tree or 4 but no one can take away from me my success with training the bougainvillea at the back of my house over the years:-
  • For Blues lovers: Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup was a delta blues singer and guitarist, best known for songs covered by Elvis Presley and dozens of others, such as "That's All Right", "My Baby Left Me" and "So Glad You're Mine." Hang on for the Elvis version of the last one. Not exactly Blues . . .

   

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 1.7.20



Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.


Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain’*- after exists - 

Life in Spain: What has changed? 

  • Corruption: At the higher echelons of Spanish society - especially among politicians - this is all about money. Down below, it’s far more about nepotism, croneyism (amiguismo) and the avoidances of taxes in the large ‘black’ section of the economy. I’ve written about it - in both general and particular terms - many times over the years. 
  • The Verdict: My impression is that - thanks to exposés - corruption might well have reduced in the politico-commercial nexus but that nothing much has changed below this. Spain is still not a meritocracy, for example. As María noted the other day, personal relationships still count for too much. You can see Vincent Werner’s comments on this subject at the end of this 2018 post, plus many more of his acerbic (and controversial) views on Spain. 

Current Life in Spain  

  • The saga of a switch from Movistar to O2 . . .  Well, I never got to the Movistar shop. As I was arriving in town, a técnico called me to say he could only check my connection during the morning. So, I returned home and let him in. He solved the problem in only 5 minutes or so, saying it was due to a loose wire at the back of the modem. Not a ‘connection’, I rush to say, as I’d checked all these.
  • There was a fight in the changing rooms of Pontevedra’s Zara store the other day, which ended with 3 women going off to hospital. I confess to expecting that the main protagonist - who was ignoring the rules about how may items she could take in - will be said to be a resident of my barrio. Which is code in our local media for ‘gypsy’.
  • The UK’s ability to control people during its lockdown has been unfavourably compared with Spain’s acknowledged success on this. I’ve mentioned that, in part at least, the latter has been due to officious police forces and potentially huge fines. So I wasn’t too surprised that the former will be using drones above Spain’s beaches to keep locals and tourists at the right distance from each other. I’m not suggesting this is wrong, just that it’s hard to imagine British police going to these lengths. Though I might well be wrong on this.
  • Here’s María’s Day 16 of said Adjusted Normal.  A trip to the clinic.
English/Spanish
  • English: Child gate. 2 words,  2 syllables. Spanish (according to Amazon, at least): Barrera de seguridad de niños, 5 words, 11 syllables . . . . No wonder they talk fast.

The USA

  • My elder daughter asked me yesterday why stupid folk in the USA appear to be thicker than those in other countries. I suggested a mixture of low intelligence and high religiosity. Bang on cue comes ex Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who says God is upset with  Fart’s peace plan for  the Middle East. COVID-19, she claims, is divine punishment of the USA for putting too much pressure on Israel. So, why did her ‘just and merciful’ god inflict it on the rest of us?
  • Another overheard phone chat . . .

 Social Media

  • For all the talk of “cancel culture”, no [extremist] today can really be silenced at all. However many times you’re no-platformed, there’s always another platform. There’s always a new cesspit into which to sink.

The Way of the World

Finally . . .  

  • According to Nicholas Jubber - a young English chap writing of his experiences in Iran in his book: ‘Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah’s beard’ - It’s no coincidence that the names of Ireland (Eire) and Iran come from the same root. Long before Hitler made Aryanism unpalatable, it suggested a shared ancestry spanning the Indo European world. Some support for this contention comes from the Wiki page for Eire, where the word is said to have reached us - from a proto-Indo-European word - via Proto-Celtic, Proto-Goidelic, and Old Irish. 
  • Can’t resist posting this simple schedule, which rather tickled me:-
  • And this amusing but very serious video:-



* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 30.6.20


Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.


Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*


Life in Spain: What has changed? 

  • Customer Service: In the light of my saga with Movistar and O2 - see below - I’m not really in the best state of mind to address this subject but, hey ho . . .  Once again, I first wrote on this in June 2001, after 9 months here: To date – while I’ve had exceptionally pleasant service in a many (small) shops, petrol-stations cafés, and bars – I’ve found little evidence of a belief that the customer is king in Spain. Certainly not amongst the protected fiefdoms (or medieval guilds) such as the pharmacists, notaries, opticians and the utility companies. Truth to tell, I have recollections of very bad experiences in my early years here with banks, utility companies and Movistar’s predecessor Telefónica. Or ‘thieves in white gloves’, as one one my new neighbours described them all. Particularly irritating was my chosen bank demanding a percentage of the proceeds of the sale of my UK house that I was proposing to deposit with them.** I think it’s fair to say there’s been an improvement with all of these operators, largely because there’s now more competition between providers. The internet has, of course, given them the opportunity to at least play at offering better customer service. But then there’s the bloody machines which answer your phone queries. Which is not unique to Spain, of course. There is, in fact, a consumer rights organisation - FACUA - and a national ombudsman but both of these seem to be weaker entities than in other countries, meaning that Spain remains behind the game in this area. Eighteen years later, the customer is still not king. Or queen. Though I return to my initial comment that you can get exceptionally pleasant service in a many (small) shops, petrol-stations cafés, and bars. Especially if you talk in Castellano of course. And smile when you speak it. 

** Solved in the traditional Spanish why of having a friend of the bank manager having a word with him.


Current Life in Spain  

  • The saga of a switch from Movistar to O2 . . . Today will be the 4th day without internet in my house and there’s no sign yet of being able to solve this problem. In short, I’ve fallen between the 2 stools of Movistar and O2, even though they are companies in the same group. Early this morning, Movistar sent a message to my phone suggesting I download their app and manage things through that. After 7 or 8 failed attempts to log in via my NIE or my mobile phone number and then a call to their customer service number 1004, it became crystal clear that - despite sending me the message re their app and despite have a breakdown report on their books from last Saturday, Movistar regard me as an ex-customer. Of course, getting hold of a real Movistar employee to discuss this is impossible as, in a catch 22 situation, I have to go through a machine which no longer recognises my direct line or mobile numbers as belonging to Movistar, so won’t connect me with someone. Assuming Movistar still employ real people. So, today I will attempt again to get  hold of someone in O2. Where they’ll doubtless decline to recognise the reference number for the breakdown given to me on Saturday by Movistar. Looking back, it’s clear that it was unfortunate that this breakdown caused me to get O2 to recognise I had a contract with them, leading to them ending my contract with their parent company, Movistar, just after I’d reported the problem. And it’s salutary to note that, if 4 weeks ago I’d applied to join, say, Vodafone and not O2, none of this would have happened. As of right now - because it’s been impossible to get through to anyone on O2’s customer service number of 1551 - I’m heading for the Movistar shop in town, after posting this. I have 2 expectations based on experience there - one high, one low. The first, that they won’t solve the problem; the second that I, the customer, will be blamed for the mess. Which, in a way, is fair - for being dumb enough to attempt a trouble-free switch of provider . . .  But ya veremos.
  • I’ve often wondered why saffron is relatively cheap here. Perhaps the answer has been given by a report in yesterday’s press that: Back in 2010, Spain exported 190,000 kilos of saffron, worth $50 million, but the country's total production amounted to only 1,500 kilos. At the time, a local farmers union reported that up to 90% of Spanish saffron exports were fraudulent. Shades of the massive flax fraud of 1999. It’s possible this sort of thing is still happening, leaving me wondering what I’m actually putting in my rice.
  • On Sunday - during our 4 days of rain - I saw the first 2 camino ‘pilgrims’ of our Adjusted Normal. They looked miserably drenched and - suitably attired pioneers as they were - they brought the words cape crusaders to my lips. 
  • I’ve said that the Tax Office ( La Hacienda) is one of the (few?) organisations not to extend their deadlines by 3 months because of Covid. Today is the last day for tax returns for 2019 and many (older?) folk would have spent June trying to get a last-minute appointment with someone in the national and/or regional tax office to complete their forms. This year, I read, this has led to greater problems that usual, with many people needing to have recourse to asesores (accountants) to get their forms submitted on time. This is important to those contribuentes - the majority - expecting a rebate of the amounts deducted at source, most obviously by their banks on the (miniscule) interest payments made to them.
  • My daughter and grandson are coming here by train on Friday. Hopefully, they won’t have to suffer the inconvenience inflicted on last weekend’s passengers of having to take a coach from Zamora to Ourense because the AVE high-speed train works weren’t completed by last Friday. And haven’t yet been finished this week . . .
  • Here’s María’s  Day of said Adjusted Normal. Rule bending.
English/Spanish
  • English: Child gate. 2 words,  2 syllables. Spanish (according to Amazon, at least): Barrera de seguridad de niños, 5 words, 11 syllables . . . . No wonder they talk fast.
  • Another 3 refranes.  As ever, I can’t vouch for exactitude of equivalence:- 

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again: El que la sigue la consigue/Persevera y triunfarás.

-  If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride: Si con desear bastará.

-  If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen: Si, quítate en medio.


Finally . . . 

  • Here’s what my neighbour’s hydrangea (hortensia) looks like:-

And here’s what the sole flower on my surviving hydrangea looked like yesterday evening:-


At least it improved when I watered the plant:-


 


* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 29.6.20

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.


Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*


Life in Spain: What has changed? 

  • Corruption: Is Spanish society as corrupt some say?, I asked in a post a few years ago. Or is it - as a Spanish reader once wrote merely ‘a country of low ethics’? Click here for my answer to this.  
  • I wrote yesterday that the most important thing for Spaniards is having fun. And then I read of the comment of Ayatalollah Khomeini that: There is no fun in Islam. Which left me wondering if modern Spanish culture is a long and deep reaction to almost 800 years of Islamic rule/influence . . . 

Current Life in Spain  

  • The saga of a switch from Movistar to O2 . . . I wrote this yesterday but it mysteriously disappeared from my draft, so I had to rewrite it this morning from memory . . . Well, there's still been no progress since I made an application to O2 on June 4 for a switch in telecoms provision from them to their parent company Movistar. Worse, the absence of an internet connection yesterday led to conversations with both companies, in which O2 denied having got an application (despite having confirmed it in an email) and Movistar denied I'd cancelled my contract with them. Even worse, O2 advised me that, if I'd cancelled my contract with Movistar - as they'd asked me to do - then O2 would take no further action. I can't say I can understand this nonsense but it's hard to avoid the temptation of concluding it's down to dishonesty rather than 'mere' inefficiency. With the objective of making me stay longer with the more expensive company in the group. Certainly, it looks - on the face of it - exactly like the sort of thing Vincent Warner complains about in this book 'It Is Not What It Is: THE REAL (s)PAIN OF EUROPE'.  Either incompetence or duplicity. Though I guess it's more probable it was the former, not the latter. Well, possible.    So, that was Saturday. Yesterday - armed with all the emails between us - I called O2 again and this time was told I did have a contract with them but things had been slow - more than 3 weeks! - because I'd asked for a new number. This was untrue and my suspicion is that it's the staple spurious ‘excuse' given to people who complain about delay. Interestingly, within seconds of this call, my phone showed O2 as my new provider. But I still don't have an internet connection at home and now wonder if Movistar will send the technician they promised to send when I spoke to them on Saturday morning . . .
  • Incidentally, it’s surely ironic that, at the time I’m contending with these problems with Movistar and its subsidiary O2, I should have coincidentally cited this refran yesterday: ‘His left hand doesn't know what his right hand is doing’: Borra con el codo lo que escribe con el mano. 
  • Here's María's Day 14 of her chronicle of these adjusted normal times. Love is Love. 
  • I used to complain that the (Pelican?) crossings I use every day before/after crossing O Burgo bridge were confusing for both pedestrians and drivers, as the respective lights were in conflict. And so, dangerous. But now they’ve been replaced by new lampposts and the solution has been adopted of switching off the pedestrian lights and leaving the drivers’ lights permantently flashing orange. Which is an advance. And conceivably less dangerous.
  • No, the works on said bridge still haven’t been completed. I suspect a problem with the ‘first-in-the-world’ lighting system - of garish read and green bulbs - in the base of the railings.
  • Which reminds me . . . The last official forecast for the completion of the AVE high speed train between Galicia and Madrid was 31.12.19, though - with elections imminent - I suspect it’s now 31.12.20. Against an original date - I kid you not - of 1993. And multiple dates since then.

English/Spanish

  • Another 3 refranes:- 

-  Honesty is the best policy: Lo major es ser franco. [Really quite the same???]

-  Hope for the best and prepare for the worst: Procura lo major, espera lo peor, y toma lo que viniere.

-  If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well: Si vale la pena hacerlo, vale la pena hacerlo bien.


The USA

The Way of the World

  • UK celebrities are making humungous amounts of dosh by charging idiots for personalised videos to show their friends. And who can blame them? A refrain I cited other day remains as true as ever - A fool and his money are soon parted: A los tontos, no les dura el dinero.


* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 28.6.20

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.


Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*


Life in Spain: What has changed? 

  • I've claimed more than once that you'll never understand the Spanish until you appreciate (in at least one sense) that their superordinate goal is to have fun, in one way or another. Looking for my first reference to 'fun' in my blog over the last  18 years, I came across this paragraph of February 2002 and decided to change the theme: The Spanish have a cavalier disregard for laws which they regard as personally inconvenient. This gives them huge scope, of course. It includes such serious things as blatantly ignoring the building regulations - I was in a village earlier this week where I was told that all the houses were illegal - and such regulars as paying no attention to parking fines. Well, I was playing around with a computer programme I have which advises you of the best routes between places in Spain. This is supplied by a major petrol company, by the way. I discovered that there's a facility for setting your average speed for the various types of roads. More interesting was the discovery that the pre-set [or default] speed set by the company for the motorways was 150 kph, which is 30 kph above the legal limit! I imagine that, if a company did this in the UK, it'd face at least a good deal of adverse press comment and quite probably a legal suit for negligence. None of my Spanish friends seemed to think there was anything untoward about it. I rather got the impression they thought it was sensibly pragmatic. Accurate, even. Verdict: You won't get away with 150kph on Spanish motorways these days, or even 130. As for the question of whether Spaniards are better rule-obeyers now, the scene is clouded by the recent high level of observance of the lockdown rules. I suspect not. This comment of Angel Ganivet possibly remains as true as when he said it in the 19th century: Every Spaniard's ideal is to carry a statutory letter with a single provision, brief but imperious: "This Spaniard is entitled to do whatever he feels like doing”.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Current Life in Spain

  • More praise for (unexpected) Spanish Covid discipline/restraint has come from the WHO.
  • Will all the perspex screens remain when we're no longer terrified of the Covid virus? I suspect many of them will. Why subject yourself to the risk of (potentially fatal) winter flu, after all? It's still raining today . . .
  • Here's María's Day 13 of her chronicle of these adjusted normal times.

Quotes of the Day:

  1. Camilla Long: On the Bournemouth beach billions . . . The idiots are those who didn’t predict it.
  2. Rod Liddle: In these woke times . . . The greater the truth, the less one is allowed to say it.

English/Spanish

  • Another 3 refranes:- 

- Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned: No hay mas de temer que una mujer despechada.

- His left hand doesn't know what his right hand is doing: Borra con el codo lo que escribe con el mano. 

- Home is where he hangs his hat: A donde el corazón se inclina, el pie camina/El verdadero hogar es donde uno tiene a los suyos.

 


* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 27.6.20


Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.


Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

  

Life in Spain: What has changed? 

  1. Begging: I first wrote about Pontevedra’s beggars in July 2001: This appears to be one of the more efficient industries in Spain. There are 3 main categories here in Pontevedra. First there are the scruffy drug addicts. Then there are the slightly less scruffy gypsies, who live in a permanent encampment on the other side of the river from the town and who have a monopoly on the let-me-guide-you-into-this-free-parking-place-and -guard-your-car scam which takes me back to visits to the Everton and Liverpool football grounds in my youth. Thirdly, there are the well-dressed, middle-aged panhandlers who stand at the road junctions and meekly approach each car in turn. A variant of the latter is the immaculately turned-out chap who sits (head down) outside my bank with a small placard. Actually, a 4th category appeared on the street this morning, reminding me of tube rides in London. As I was drinking my coffee in an outdoor café, I was accosted by a man distributing a ‘free’ newspaper and seeking a contribution towards the living costs of himself and his family, of whom a representative sample (a young boy) was standing at his side. After a while, I told him that I was English so couldn’t read his bloody newspaper. Unfazed, he whipped out a laminated card which said in English, ‘I am a Rumanian and I have no money. My family are falling like flies around me. Please give me some money or we will all starve to death and you will be solely responsible’. Or something like that. I told him to bugger off. But not quite as rudely as I imparted the same sentiment last week to a gypsy hag who had cursed me for refusing to buy her pegs in the main square. Verdict: The first 3 categories are still with us, worse than ever these days, at least in Pontevedra. I can’t speak for the rest of Spain, or even Galicia. The old gypsy crone has disappeared, possibly to another world. But we actually have a 5th category - a middle-aged woman who’s an ex-drug addict and who trails a dog after her and chats to her regular contributors. Being successful, she’s a lot less thin that she was 5 years ago.
  2. Smoking: I also wrote this in the same month: Spain is not only noisy but also a smoky place. Women in particular appear to believe that a fag draped from the corner of one’s gob is the height of sophistication. No Smoking signs are treated with contempt. Verdict: Smoking was banned several years ago, or at least exiled to outdoor terraces. Unlike in neighbouring Portugal, you’ll never seen anyone smoking inside any sort of public establishment these days. Except possibly in a private room, thereof. A massive improvement. Though the incidence of smoking - especially among women - is still higher than in other Western European countries. Which is hard to understand, as smoking - plus sunbathing - does terrible things to facial skin. But who thinks of the future when seeking beauty and (specious) sophistication when young?

Current Life in Spain 

  • María bring us Days 11 and 12 of her chronicle of the adjusted normal. I endorse her comment on Puebla de Sanoria, a pretty place.
  • Spain’s future will be more dismal than most commentators expect, says the writer of this article. Thanks largely, he says, to resource-wasting on tribal politics and the blame game. But who knows right now?
  • Meanwhile, social distancing looks as much a minority interest on the streets of Pontevedra’s old quarter as it does on the beaches of Bournemouth. But our region does have - did have? - a relatively minor virus incidence.

English/Spanish

  • Another 3 refranes:-  

- He that fights and runs away lives to fight another day: Quien en tiempo huye en tiempo acude.

- He who pays the piper calls the tune: Quien paga, elige.

- Health is better than wealth: La salud es la mayor riqueza.


The USA 

Finally . . .

  • We had a very sunny spring but now, while the rest of Spain - and, indeed, the UK - swelters in temperatures above 30, we have something less than 20 and the 4th day of rain. No wonder 95% of Spaniards believe that what Americans call ‘precipitation’ never stops here. But it isn’t remotely true and the occasional does make the region - like Ireland - beautifully green. And granite glistens when it’s wet . . .


* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 26.6.20


Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.


Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

  

Life in Spain: What has changed? 

  • Roundabouts . . . I first wrote of my problems with the way these were negotiated back in October 2004: It was reported today that 90% of Spaniards have mobile phones, though I suppose this really means Spaniards above a certain age. Say, 8. Of course, this finding would neither surprise nor interest many people. What we'd really like to know is what percentage of the populace have phones super-glued to their ears. Or navigate roundabouts or blind corners while using them.  My next comment was only a month later: An article in one of the local papers today was headlined ‘Those Cursed Roundabouts’ and its theme was the high number of accidents on these new-fangled things. It ended with the peroration – Something must be done! A good first step would be to teach all the driving instructors how to approach and exit them. Their pupils might just then stand a better chance of learning how to negotiate them. Then they could move on to the examiners, who currently seem to pass people who have absolutely no idea what to do when confronted with one. As long term readers will know, I’ve returned to this subject many times over the intervening 15 years - recording, for example, that the advice/instructions of the Traffic Department were being ignored, at least in Galicia. And that learners here are still being taught to enter and leave incorrectly and unwisely. But that’s (more than) enough on this subject. At least for now . . . 
  • Verdict: Nothing has changed.

Current Life in Spain 

  • Giles Brown has written, in respect of our severe lockdown: Spaniards demolished the stereotype of rowdy, rule-breaking anarchists. Instead, they observed lockdown with fortitude and discipline.  Speculative explanations for this display of national restraint abound, including a culture of obedience inherited from a 40-year dictatorship. More probably, it is because Spaniards have a deep, unquestioning respect for science, medicine and doctors.  I can’t help wondering whether the existence of several officious police forces only too willing to impose fines of up to €30,000 was more of a factor than he suggests. When I was in Jávea in early March, you couldn’t walk 20 metres without being challenged as to why you were on the street, so frequent were the police patrols.
  • Sadly, Spain’s success is seriously threatened by British louts, whom the tourist industry feels must be let back into the country. See the Guardian on this here.
  • María has pointed out that the Hacienda is a lot less speedy when you're due a tax rebate.
  • Briefly back to driving here - and to officious police forces  . . . Here's a list of ‘unbelievable’ driving laws.
  • Still on Spanish ’culture‘ . . . Says the relevant Minister: Bullfighting will be excepted from the future Animal Welfare Law and bullfighting professionals are entitled to the Government’s special aid for 'artists'.

English/Spanish

  • I used the expression ‘with his wife of 20 years’ when writing to a Dutch friend. Her response made it clear that this is ambiguous to non native speakers . .
  • Another 3 refranes:- The USA:

- Give a dog a bad name (and hang it): Cría fama y échate a dormer.

- Great minds think alike: Los genios pensamos igual.

- Half a loaf is better than none: Algo es algo; menos es nada/Peor es nada.


The USA

  • Donald Trump meets the Poles.
  • At a session in Palm Beach, Florida giving residents the chance to oppose a law obliging the wearing of masks, one contributor angrily insisted “'They want to throw God's wonderful breathing system out of the door’. Another accused the authorities of “obeying the devil, by imposing a communist dictatorship and dishonouring the American flag.” The backcloth is a massive increase in infections.  

Finally . . . A nice series of contrasting scenes:-










* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 25.6.20


Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.


Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*


Life in Spain: What has changed? 


Driving in Spain 

  • My first reference to this was in July 2002: Spain's statistics of death from driving are among the worst in Europe, particularly among the young, who have a reckless disregard for safety. Maybe they don't attend bullfights these days. Verdict: Things have improved drastically, thanks mostly to police campaigns and a range of new and ruthlessly applied laws, on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, for example.
  • In April 2004, I wrote: It continues to amaze me how Spanish drivers will quietly tolerate the most flagrantly stupid and obstructive driving of others, whilst getting very irate if you delay a micro-second at the traffic lights. I’m not so much talking here about blocking the road with inconsiderate parking or coming the wrong way down a one-way street. My impression with these [relatively] minor misdemeanours is that other drivers don’t complain because they know very well they would do the same thing if they had to. What I mean is imbeciles who drive down the hard shoulder when there are long delays on the motorway and then signal that they intend to rejoin the traffic when they get to the head of the queue. Without fail they are immediately let in, even by someone who's resisted the temptation to do the same thing. Verdict: Things have improved, in Pontevedra at least, possibly because our mayor is anti-car and has made driving in the city a massive challenge. And where you can still drive, every street is only one lane wide, reducing the opportunities of doing something truly stupid or inconsiderate.
  • In June 2004, I made my first of many references to roundabouts: I've decided to stop signalling at roundabouts. This clearly confuses other drivers as, when I signal that I'm turning left, it incites them to rush in front of me. I'm told that this is because they assume that I'm going right round the roundabout and, therefore, the same way as them. So they accelerate to get ahead of me. Better to leave them guessing as to where I might actually end up as this forces them to hesitate. Stop even. The most astonishing thing about this advice is that it works. I will return to this theme tomorrow, with my verdict.   
  • Meanwhile, here's an entire blog I wrote back then on How to Drive in Spain.
  • Yesterday I was approached by someone whom I thought might be a tad 'touched'. He was pushing a bike, trilling on a luminously green set of pan pipes and shouting something indeterminate. But as I passed the rear of the bike, I realised he was an itinerant knife grinder. Of the sort that's been on Spain's streets for hundreds of years. And which I used to see when I was very young in the UK. No longer, I suspect.
  • I mentioned yesterday that the virus had slowed down all the country's service providers. But that's not entirely true. Within seconds of making my annual tax declaration to the Hacienda on line on Tuesday, I got confirmation that money was being taken from my account. There's simply nothing more efficient than the Tax Office in Spain. Certainly not bloody Renfe, with whose webpage my Madrid-based daughter has had the usual problems this week. 
  • Here's Day 9 and 10 of María's Adjusted Normal chronicle. Christian and pagan practices. Very Spanish.

English/Spanish

  • Another 3 refranes:-

- Faint heart never won fair lady: El mundo es de los audaces.

- Fine words butter no parsnips: Las cosas no se arreglan con palabras elocuentes.

- Fools runs in where angels fear to tread: El necio es atrevido y el danio comedido.


The USA

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 24.6.20


Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

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

Life in Spain
  • What has changed? It's said that Japan is the noisiest country in the world, with Spain only in 2nd place. Having been to Japan thrice, I beg to differ. Perhaps it's a question of machines rather than  people, as there's no doubt in my mind that Spain takes the biscuit in this regard. Here's my earliest note on the subject, from mid 2000: Spain is a noisy place. Bars almost invariably have a TV blaring in at least one corner. People talk loudly and simultaneously. Sometimes it is hard to believe that anyone is a group is listening to anyone else. A single table of four Spaniards can easily make more noise than a whole restaurant full of Portuguese. One wonders at this stark difference between neighbours. Even on a quiet night in a small bar the music will be at a level that forces one to shout at the only other person there. No-one seems to notice that this is going on, which gives a surreal quality to the evening. The verdict? Nothing has changed; Spain remains in first position. The best place in the world to listen to - or at least overhear - private conversations in public places.
  • The virus has affected a lot of businesses, of course, and surely accounts for delays in deliveries of magazines and parcels from Correos, for example. But does it explain why, more than 3 weeks, after applying, I still haven't got 02 as my telecoms provider? Or is this because O2 is a subsidiary of the more-expensive-for-the-same-service Movistar? So it's in the latter's financial interest to stretch things out?
  • This (pretty universal) cynical (Spanish) attitude was reflected in (British) comments to a Guardian article on the latest desecration of a religious painting. One person suggested the 'renovated' Murillo was actually a copy, with the original having been sold by the (alleged) restorer for a fortune. Which seemed credible until someone else pointed put that the original is, in fact, in the Prado. So  . . .This poor restoration happened on a copy of that painting. Or the copy was sold as the original to some credulous fool and a new (crap) copy made.
English/Spanish
  • Another 3 refranes:-
- Eat, drink and me merry for tomorrow we die: A beber y a tragar, Que el mundo se va a acabar.
- Every dog has his day: A todos les llega su momento de gloria.
- Every law has a loophole: Quien hace la ley hace la trampa.

The USA
  • The re-election of President Trump would be a “danger to the republic” and would have “grave consequences”, Mr Bolton has said. As if we needed to be told.
  • Someone else has opined: There's never been a president like Donald Trump. And there'll never be another one. Unless, of course, the mystifying American electorate keep him in power in November.  
Finally . . . A relatively new (but 'truly authentic) camino has brought income to a tiny village below the monastery of Oia, on our coast between La Guardia - at the mouth of the Miño - and Bayona. Where, incidentally, Columbus made footfall on his return from 'India'. It's a lovely place but this wouldn't be Galicia if there weren't nearby examples of the region's (in)famous feismo. Or 'ugliness':-




* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.