Sunday, February 02, 2020

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 2.2.20

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

Note: Today is a very special date. In fact, not since 11.11.1111 has there been a date like it. It's a palindrome, of course. But . . . It’s doubly clever because the words are written in a word square, one above the other, so that as well as reading the same in both directions, they can be read up and down: the first letters of each word form the first word, the second letters of each word form the second word and so on:-

And  .  . . There’s another fact of note about today: it is the 33rd day of a leap year, with 333 days of 2020 left.

Spanish/Galician Life 
  • Yesterday, I mentioned Spain's ubiquitous brothels. I recently had to advise Dutch visitors why an entire building on the outskirts of Santiago - named Kabaret Showgirls - was purplish-pink. These, I said, are the colours preferred for the garish neon lights and large depictions of semi-naked women favoured by these places. Along with a fenced parking lot, so you can't identify the cars of the local dignitaries.
  • The other thing I tell all my visitors is that - compared with Greece and, say, Italy - Spain gets an soft ride in the North European media when it comes to corruption. I was reminded of this when listening to the claim that less than 50% of Greek households pay income tax, that the black economy there is 21% of GDP and that only 200 or so of the 16,000 houses in Athens that have pools owned up to the (newly taxable) fact. None of this is at all different from life here. But when did you hear this mentioned back home when  reading of the Spanish economic miracle?
  • It reminds me that the Galician Xunta has had huge success in the last few years using drones to identify (taxable) pools and house extensions not declared to the authorities.
  • But, anyway, there's a place near Toledo I must go for these croquetas
  • Talking of food . .  . This is today's quote  from Tim Parfitt's A Load of Bull: Most tapas are accompanied by bread, as most Spaniards would rather go without food altogether than eat it without bread. I can vouch for the truth of this. Every time I have Spanish friends for dinner, I  buy 2 barras, cut up one of them and put the pieces in a basket on the table. If I don't do this, they display withdrawal symptoms at the absence of their comfort blanket. The next day, I invariably throw to the birds not only the spare barra but most of the pieces of the first one. My friends may well demand the presence of bread but that doesn't mean they'll do anything but pick at it a bit. Weird conditioning.
  • Two or three years ago, I started to notice the proliferation of expensive-looking, glass-fronted high street dental surgeries. In the last few months, it seems to have become the turn of something I thought had died out - laundromats like this one, near the market. Is there a reason for this?:-

  • Here's a headline straight from the early years of the 20th century: Arrested in Portugal, a fugitive Galician anarchist wanted for murder.
  • After a death in the UK, it's traditional to place a small amount of text in the Births and Deaths column of the local or national paper. Here, the tradition is a black-edged box called una esquela. These can be pretty big and usually contain a headline statement that the deceased died A Christian death. Or passed away comforted by the holy sacraments and an apostolic blessing. Or by auxiliares espirituales. Which might mean priests. I don't know if it saves money but the first of these is sometimes given as: Comforted by the SS.SS and by a BA. Which seems a little creepy to me.
The EU and the UK
  • A bit of recent history: The entire EU enterprise originated as a way of reconciling Germany with neighbouring nations, almost all of which it had recently occupied with a dictatorship of unequalled, industrialised cruelty. For those nations, the beginnings of what is now the EU were coterminous and intimately connected with the return of democracy. Decades later, countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece became members as part of their own emergence from fascism or dictatorship. Similarly, the accession of the east European states was directly linked to their own escape from one-party rule militarily enforced by the Soviet Union. So, for all these nations there is an historic bond between their democracy and membership of a federalising EU.  The opposite is true of Great Britain, an island that has had centuries of uninterrupted, peaceful parliamentary democracy. This might sound all rather academic; but it was the British people’s visceral attachment to the idea of self-government — to the extent of preferring autonomy over “influence”, or even the maximising of GDP — that led to the rupture that occurred on Friday. By finally delivering that verdict of June 23, 2016, the British parliamentary system, in becoming once again fully sovereign, has both ensured its own survival and kept faith with those who were losing theirs. 
The Way of the World 
  • The [Mexican] beer company Corona has put out a statement denying it's responsible for a certain virus. So let’s be clear: you cannot catch coronavirus by drinking Corona beer, unless perhaps you take a swig from a bottle being held by a Chinese man with a hacking cough. 
Social Media
  • Understatement of the century so far: Twitter is no place for a measured debate.
  • Word of the Day:- Espoleado: Spurred on.
Finally . . .
  • Yesterday, I cited a video on Danish. Last night I discussed it with a young Swedish lady, who said she could understand Danish on paper but not by ear. She volunteered one of the views expressed, as I recall, in the video, viz. that Danes sound as if they have a potato stuck down their throats.

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