Saturday, February 01, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 1.2.20

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain  
Spanish/Galician Life 
  • A Spanish (female) professional photographer comments: They say that the bulls are the thing most typical of Spain. But it's not so. It's the brothels.   
  • A propos  . . . . .Deutsche Welle has a documentary in English on YouTube called ‘The Brothel on the Border’. It says: ‘A village in northern Spain has become a hive of prostitution. La Jonquera, close to the French border, has become home to a large number of brothels’. (HT to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for this).
  • Something more impressive about Spain.
  • Another caustic comment from Tim Parfitt, which certainly remains true: Cake shops have adopted the slowest and most complex form of packaging and payment methods known to man. Matched, in my view, by the wrapping of a single screw in newspaper and then sellotaped down at my favourite ferretería. Or hardware store. Or ironmongers?
  • Some advice for Brits and other foreigners living here:-
  1. Post Brexit taxes  1. 
  2. Post Brexit taxes 2.
  3. Taking out Spanish nationality.
  4. How  to enjoy calçots
  5. Seven tips on how to go native here
  • You'll all be wanting to know what's happened on O Burgo bridge in the last month or two. In a word - nothing. But there has been a bit of activity down at the Lérez end, near the petrol station. They've pulled out all the trees and amassed piles of rubble.
The UK
  • The mixing of metaphors  . . As Ernie Bevin remarked in 1950 on Labour’s unwillingness to join the European Coal and Steel Community: “If you open that Pandora’s box, you never know what Trojan horses will jump out.”
Social Media
  • Why it’s time we woke up to the menace of the smartphone. See the article below. Copied to my 2 daughters, who - naturally - never read my blog.
  • In recent years, I've become aware of how much the relative simplicity of English owes to Danish, thanks to the era of the Danelaw. So, I was fascinated by this video on the history of that language. It seems that everyone in modern Denmark speaks as if they have the new corona virus . . .
Finally . . .
  • One of my favourite writers in Caitlin Moran. In her weekly column in the Times yesterday she had this piece about someone called Scarlett Moffatt, who recently had a revelation while on holiday in Barcelona. “One night, we went to watch flamenco dancers,” she said. “I didn’t realise how angry the dance was!” Moffatt is, of course, correct. Flamenco is angry. It’s essentially a woman who’s pulled the valance off her divan bed and wrapped it round her legs having a massive paddy, while a man with a guitar accompanies it in a way modern therapists would term “enabling”. Inspired by Moffatt, I’ve decided to sum up a variety of other dance forms using just one word or phrase, thus:
Flamenco: “angry”.
Tango: “stroppy”.
Ballet: “leggy”.
Jazz ballet: “faffy”.
Traditional Irish dancing: “mad-leggy”.
Morris dancing: “Corbyn-y”.

Brilliant. I'll never be able to watch any of them again. At least not without laughing.


Why it’s time we woke up to the menace of the smartphone: Judith Woods

All hail, Madonna. Just when she was starting to look increasingly irrelevant, Madge has reinvented herself as the most cutting-edge, uncompromisingly bold artist today. She may be 61 years of age, but the Material Girl’s understanding of modern audiences is unparalleled. Which is why you’ve got to hand it to her. Your mobile phone, that is.  Before she took to the stage at the London Palladium this week, fans were required to turn their handsets off and put them inside special green fabric cases that were magnetically locked for the duration of the performance – and reopened by staff on the way out.

So did that constitute an infringement of their human rights? Or an assertion of her artistic rights? I’m all for the latter; performers are entitled to prevent punters from filming their shows, but that’s not to say the hoi-polloi is going to like it.

Separating anyone from their phone is a big deal in this day and age, especially when there’s an Insta-opportunity in the offing because, let’s face it, folks, if you don’t post a picture, did it really happen?

Cleverly, this technology, called Yondr, allows audience members to carry their phones with them, but not use them, however tempted they might feel. Oh, and anyone who fails to oblige will be escorted off the premises by security.

Extreme? Maybe – but what Madonna wants, Madonna gets, because she’s always was pretty scary, even before her current Madame X incarnation, complete with eye-patch and steampunk get-up. Let’s call it the diva dividend, which comes from being in the business for almost 40 years. But she is far from alone in taking back control.

Across the pond, US-based artists including Alicia Keys and Guns N’ Roses have previously used the same locking devices in a bid to keep their gigs phone-free. It’s a way of (forcefully and forcibly) ensuring that fans concentrate on sharing the moment, rather than capturing it. And not compromising DVD sales, obviously. In 2014, Kate Bush asked fans not to use their phones to record her comeback shows at the Hammersmith Apollo. I have it on good authority that her polite request wasn’t nearly as effective as a tamper-proof case would have been.

Time will tell whether Madonna’s smartphone (and, incidentally, smartwatch) embargo will set a precedent over here. She pioneered black lace fingerless gloves, so why not green phone blockers? At the very least, she has helped spark a long overdue conversation about our reliance – over-reliance – on smartphones in the week when it was revealed that 57% of children sleep with a handset by their bed, and 39% say they could not live without their phone.

Let she who hasn’t looked up from her sudoku app to find every other family member engrossed in a tiny screen cast the first aspersion. We all like a little R&R, but the terrifying truth is that the average person in the UK spends more than a day a week online, much of that on a smartphone.

The figure for our children is similar as attested by polling, carried out last year by CensusWide for music streaming company ROXI, which showed kids under 14 spending around 23 hours a week on smartphones and other gadgets – twice as much time as talking to their parents.

Technology that was supposed to be their portal to the world has become their world. No wonder then that 54% of parents worry that their kids are missing out by spending too much time isolated on their devices – yet% admitted to giving children devices in order to keep them occupied.

Am I one of one of the 54%? Yes, and one of the 40 per cent, too, if outing myself has any purpose other than self-flagellation.

It’s why I always deliberately book Scottish holiday cottages without wifi. Or 3G. And you know, once the family fury has subsided, we all admit it actually comes as a relief when the compulsion to stay in touch ebbs away.

Incidentally, Madonna told Vogue last year that giving her older children mobile phones “ended their relationship”. “I made a mistake when I gave my older children phones when they were 13,” said the mother-of-six, before admitting she prevented her teenage son David from getting a phone. Would that the rest of us mere mortal mothers had Ms Ciccone’s cojones.

Like all parents, I worry about social media. Not so much the looming paedophiles and perverts – I’ve drummed “stranger danger” into my daughters – more the enemies within, the pernicious forces of peer-group acceptance and how swiftly buddies can turn into bullies, comparing and criticising.

Connectivity is the early buzzword of 2020, and it is hugely beneficial if applied to joined-up rail services in the north of England. For young people, unlimited connectivity, the echo chamber in their schoolbags and by their beds, can be horribly detrimental to their mental health.

This time last year, a review by the UK’s four chief medical officers found that 38% of teenage girls spending more than five hours a day on social media suffered from depressive symptoms, compared with rates of 18% among those spending between one to three hours on such sites.

The survey found that four in five parents had tried to persuade their children to spend less time on their personal devices. But what if persuasion were replaced by something less abstract and negotiable, more tangible and draconian?

I’m thinking a secure Yondr case or two in every home might do the trick. You can argue with Mum and Dad, kids – not with a magnetic lock. And if you want to appeal to a higher authority, go speak to Madonna. If you dare.


Unknown said...

The description of flamenco by Caitlin Moran made me giggle too, thanks for sharing! xx

Maria said...

My twelve and thirteen year old students have gone nuts over Instagram. I have one or two on my follow list, and yesterday they asked everyone to follow one of their friends so he could reach 500 followers. Good. Lord. No, I did not.

Perry said...

Caitlin Moran needs a really, really good dose of re-education by Tony Gatlif. As he is not currently available, I shall act as proxy & perform the dastardly deed. His 1993 film Latcho Drom contains very little dialogue and captions; only what is required to grasp the essential meaning of a song or conversation is translated. The film begins in the Thar Desert in Northern India and ends in Spain, passing through Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and France. All of the Romani portrayed are actual members of the Romani community.

Spain—Latcho Drom closes in Spain, showing flamenco puro performed by local "Gitanos". The famous "gitana" singer La Caita sings mournfully of the centuries of persecution, repeatedly imploring "Why does your mouth spit on me?" as her query echoes out over the town.

In truth, admiration without envy is devoutly to be wished. Enjoy the film; this is not an instruction.

Colin Davies said...

A beautifully shot film, Perry. But I can't imagine a large audience for it.

Perry said...

Thee & me, so far.