Monday, January 06, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 6 .1.20

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Spanish Politics
  • The interminable investiture saga continues
  • Nice to see the dreadful Vox party leader threatening to take the PM to court for treason because he's trying to negotiate a political settlement with the Catalan government. In which challenge the previous PM - Mariano Rajoy - so spectacularly failed. 
  • Which reminds me  . . . I'm advised by the author that this book will be out in English on February 20.
  • By pure coincidence, I recently read this comment on this theme in a book written by Richard Ford in 1845:- The real permanent and standing cause of Spain's thinly peopled state, want of cultivation and abomination of desolation is BAD GOVERNMENT, civil and religious: this all who run may read in her lonely land and silent towns. But Spain, if the anecdote which her children love to tell  be true, will never be able to remove the incubus of this fertile origin of every evil. Poor Spain. 
  • BTW . . . I suspect that over-recourse to courts is a feature of all new/newish democracies. Both personal (denuncias) and political (pleitos?).
Spanish Life
  • The year has kicked off with a blitz of stuff from The Local:-
  1. The ever popular Three Kings (Los Reyes). The Epiphany, of course.
  2. Spain's best cheeses
  3. Saving money on your electricity bills.
  4. How to make the most of your life here.
  5. Your Spanish bucket list.
I suspect one or two of these might be familiar to long-term readers.
  • The Spanish have been renowned for centuries as individualists. Indeed, individualismo - mostly seen as the ignoring of personally inconvenient rules - can be an irritating aspect of life for foreigners resident here. Or at least for me. And maybe even for some Spaniards. Anyway, despite this individualism, the Spanish can sometimes act like clockwork sheep. As I looked around on a sunny terrace yesterday, I noticed that - while I'd taken off my jacket - most of the women around me were in fur coats - something that didn't happen until the day dawned on January 1. Naturally, it reminded me of something I wrote way back in February 2001, which is posted below. Back then, I clearly didn't clock that the fur-donning commenced - whatever the temperature - on January 1. But I have since then. Every year. Like clockwork . , .
Galician Life
  • The lady from Oz writes here about their first Xmas in the Galician wilds.
  • This is a nice set of Youtube ideos on Pontevedra. Bizarrely, the one which takes you through the old quarter of the city includes - at minute 4.38 - a statue of horses which I think is actually in Tui. 
  • And here's a cute guide - with better music - on the city, from Repsol. It's now a bit out of date. At least as regards the opening image of O Burgo bridge.
  • Here's a foto of a parade in Pontevedra's main square (Plaza de Herrería) a century or so ago:-

And here's a foto taken recently from much the same spot. Note that, as usual, 2 storey buildings have had a floor added. And the pillars (soportales) have changed shape. Because the original buildings have been entirely replaced:-

  • Word of the Day:   
  1. Liviano: Light, lightweight.
  2. Un tostón: A bore
Finally . . .

ALL FURRED UP February 2001  

In this part of Spain, it rained virtually non-stop from the start of November until early February. I went through at least two umbrellas during this period, an experience I've never had during many years in  England’s ‘wet’ climate. The locals say it’s been worse than anything in living memory but I’m not sure I believe them. They all have umbrellas strapped to their sides like US sheriffs have guns. But, anyway, 10 days ago the sun came out and it has stayed out ever since.

Being  English, I regard a temperature of 18 degrees C (say, 67 degrees F) as a signal to move out of winter gear and into something lighter. If not necessarily shorts and a T-shirt, then at least a shirt with its sleeves rolled up. I know from visiting here last May that this isn’t how they see things here, especially on a Sunday. Pullovers, jackets and even overcoats apparently remain compulsory – by law or convention – until some time in June, when the temperatures reach a level which would close Wimbledon.

Should you shed one or more of these layers before this date, you expose yourself not just to the rays of the sun but also to the shaft of a sarcastic comment along the lines that you are dressed ‘awfully summery’ for the time of year. This helps to explain why, when I sat baking in the town square last weekend, the kid next to me was wearing a duffel coat buttoned up to the neck. But at least he’d taken his scarf off. In fact, I think he offered it to me, there being no fear of paedophiles in Spain. This is not because they don’t have paedophiles here; it’s because they don’t have a gutter press to whip up hysteria about them.

Anyway, what has particularly struck me in the last 10 days is the number of women of a certain age (at the very least) who have been parading through town in fur coats in the blazing sunshine. And two nights ago my neighbour’s wife walked all of 30m to my house for dinner in a fabulous mink coat for which she’d be stoned to death in London, I suspect. As it happens, she does seem to feel the cold but, as far as I was aware, there was no cold to feel that evening.

I found all this very hard to credit and it began to exercise my mind somewhat. But, after 10 days, the explanation finally dawned on me this afternoon. Just as the rain was abnormal, so is this long stretch of sunshine. It is not normally so warm this time of year but it is usually drier. So, it's a time when the wearing of hideously expensive fur coats can be both justified because of the ‘low’ temperatures and risked without too much fear of a damaging downpour. In brief, February is the Fur Coat Season. And what constitutes a little bit of sun – or even a bloody heat wave – isn’t going to be allowed to get in the way of the annual strutting competition. Hell would have to boil over first.

I can be very slow sometimes.

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