Monday, March 16, 2020

Thoughts from Jávea, Valencia, Spain: 16.3.20

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
       - Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain [A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.]

Preamble: I'd just like you to know the there's been a ‘remarkable and extraordinary’ drop in temperatures in Spain since yesterday. Everywhere except in my home town of Pontevedra. Where it's forecast to be sunny and hot (24 degrees) this week. As against cloudy and only 16 degrees here in Jávea. Life really is a bitch sometimes. The icing on the cake:- In terms of rainfall, the strongest and most persistent will be seen in the northern half of the Valenciana Community.

I'd also like you to know that, after 10 days in quarantine, my sister and I have just had this conversation;.
- Colin, you'd better steer clear of me, as I have some of the symptoms.
- Well, put down that kettle, get out of the kitchen and go and stay in your room.
- On the other hand, it could be just an allergy. I get these symptoms quite often.
- Go to your room and stay there until you know. And I agree with you.


How to keep this brief????
  • Astonishingly, you might not be able to take your accumulated rubbish to the large containers in the street here in Spain - or to take your sister to the airport - but you can walk your dog and - get this - visit your hairdresser. Can someone explain this for me and the rest of humanity?
  • So, they finally worked out that the R rate in Italy and Spain is higher than Anglo countries because cultural norms are different and there's a lot more by way of social gatherings in the former. Unless - because of individualismo - they are totally banned. Geniuses, obviously.
  • It seems the we are now living not just in a police state but also a militarised state. Both the police and the army have been given rather wide powers to stop and fine folk. No evidence of a revolt yet. But, then, you'd have to congregate for that to be effective. More on this here.
  • Here's El País's summary of measures now in place in Spain.
  • And here's a useful Q+A from The Local, though I'm still left wondering if I can take our rubbish to the contenadores. Perhaps on the way to hairdressing salon.
  • I don't suppose Mercadona will be the only supermarket to go this route.
  • Stuck at home? asks 'The Times'. Here [below] is how you can beat the boredom. 
Spanish Life  
  • This is in suspense for a while.
  • But my daughter in Madrid thinks this is typically Spanish. I'm not sure about that:-

  • There is a new dividing line in politics. Instead of leave versus remain, we have contain versus delay: should we seek to halt, or at least slow, the virus via an Asian-style blitzkrieg, or stick to a war of attrition, as the government prefers, with the aim of ensuring the NHS is never completely overwhelmed?
  • Richard North - a real expert - writes here today: Despite the torrent of support for the government scientists, I am convinced the government have got it wrong. The big difference this time, though, is that I'm not alone, even if I have my one specific "take" on where they've gone wrong. There are groups of epidemiologists and experts from the immunology community who are calling into question the government's stance. And we also have WHO, as well as other national teams, who are taking a different approach to the control of this pandemic. 
Nutters Corner 
  • A Polish Catholic archbishop has attributed the virus to Satan*. He wrote in a recent letter that Catholics should not only continue attending services, but also partake in the communion ritual, because Christ does not spread germs and viruses.

* From the Persian Sheytaan/Sheytoon, Devil


Finally . . . 
  • I'm not too happy with the coughing of the loquacious French lady on the other side of my bedroom wall . . 


Times writers give their tips on what to watch, download, read and eat as you while away the hours (or days, or weeks) in self-isolation:-


The Sopranos (Sky Box Sets/Now TV)
For those who never found the time, what better chance than now to work your way through six series of the mobster drama? The same goes for Game of Thrones (eight series).

Better Call Saul (Netflix)
Some find this prequel to Breaking Bad (also on Netflix) too slow but, watched with quarantined patience, the backstory of the hustling lawyer Saul Goodman has, arguably, even richer rewards.

Inside No 9 (BBC iPlayer)
The anthology series, which has 31 half-hour episodes so far, is like a pick ’n’ mix of tales of the unexpected, veering from the macabre to the comedic. The joy is in not quite knowing what you’re going to get.

Seinfeld (All4)
Lost in the schedules when shown in Britain in the 1990s, the classic comedy about four New Yorkers is a reminder of when you could wander around a city without holding your breath.

The Trip (Series 1 & 2 on Netflix; 3 & 4 on Sky/Now TV)
Aside from the indulgent comic jousting from Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, there is glorious scenery to savour and ten-star cuisine to remind you how good non-tinned food is.

Detectorists (BBC iPlayer)
In sun-blessed Essex fields, two friends (Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones) offer the very best comfort viewing as they gently hunt for treasure together.

The Americans (Amazon)
The belated awards heaped upon this five-series saga — about KGB spies posing as a married couple in 1980s America — are a recommendation to plunge in and binge.


Revisionist History
Malcolm Gladwell finds big stories in tiny matters such as why McDonald’s fries taste different nowadays and why he can’t walk on a local golf course.

Fake Heiress
A six-episode BBC show following the real-life rise and fall of Anna Sorokin, who conned New York high society into believing she was a millionaire.

This American Life
Immersive journalism that delves into such diverse matters as life in Paris, shark attacks and school shootings.

Desert Island Discs
There are hundreds of episodes to dig through. Try plucky Diana Athill, or gloomy, witty Philip Larkin.

New Yorker Radio Hour
No socially aspirational Covid-19 victim should self-isolate without this high-brow podcast.

The Coronavirus Podcast
The BBC’s new show is vital listening to maintain healthy levels of paranoia. Informative and just as cheerful as it needs to be. Hypochondriacs avoid.


Middlemarch, George Eliot
This story of genteel provincial folk in the Midlands has a decent claim to being the greatest novel in English. But don’t let that put you off — Eliot is a witty writer.

Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
This panorama of 21st-century American society, right, is written like a 19th-century novel, taking in middle class families, environmental doom, rock stars, 9/11, love, art and sex.

Regeneration Trilogy, Pat Barker
The scars of the First World War are exposed as we meet the pioneering psychiatrist William Rivers, who has the unenviable task of treating patients with shellshock such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.

The Patrick Melrose Novels, Edward St Aubyn
These five autobiographical novels take you on an emotional journey. We follow Patrick from childhood abuse, through addiction, to a hopeful conclusion. Tragic, but also funny.

The Son, Philipp Meyer
American history is told through the story of four generations of one Texan family. We move from the age of the Indian wars to the discovery of oil and into the state’s modern boom years. It’s a big, bold, brutal book.

Wolf Hall trilogy, Hilary Mantel
These volumes about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell stretch to nearly 2,000 pages. Yes, the story is long, but the details mean you are teleported into the Tudor world.

Troubles, JG Farrell
Britain’s difficult relationship with Ireland is caught in miniature in this novel set in a crumbling hotel owned by a eccentric Anglo-Irish family in the 1920s. Funny, nostalgic and sad.

The Alexander Trilogy, Mary Renault
A modern classic of historical fiction, following the life of Alexander, the Macedonian boy who became conqueror of the ancient world.

Dave Robicheaux thrillers, James Lee Burke
Read any of these stylish Southern Noir thrillers (there are 22 of them) and you’ll become addicted. Follow Dave Robicheaux, a Vietnam veteran and recovering alcoholic, as he investigates crime in Louisiana.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Murder! Blackmail! Secrets! Earnest student discussions about morality! This blockbuster of a book is gripping as we discover what happened to dead Bunny, a Classics student at a small elite college in New England.


Abominable (DVD or on-demand)
Recalling a simpler, pre-coronavirus time, this is an exquisite Chinese-American animation about a magical yeti, and is very family-friendly.

Paddington 2 (Amazon Prime)
You don’t get more life-affirming than this: Hugh Grant set to maximum rogue, the best jailbreak since Shawshank and a loveable marmalade addict. Paddington 2 was named the best British film at the 2018 Baftas

Call Me By Your Name (Netflix)
Italy is having an awful time — let this tender romance starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer remind you of its capacity for epicurean sensuality.

Booksmart (Amazon Prime)
Two girlie swots let their hair down before graduation.

Okja (Netflix)
You want escapism? Try this bonkers romp from Bong “Parasite” Joon-ho, starring Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and a giant pig.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (DVD or on-demand)
Three hours of masterful storytelling, super-savvy nostalgia and DiCaprio and Pitt in vintage threads.


The essential building block for countless dishes. Keep in a cool dark place to prevent sprouting.

Oil and vinegar
It doesn’t much matter which oil, but olive is the most versatile. Add vinegar to brighten up flavours.
Tinned tomatoes
For pasta sauce, chilli, curry, risotto, you name it.

Pasta and rice
Choose a versatile pasta shape such as penne. Basmati rice can also be used for rice pudding, risotto or paella.

Beans and pulses
Kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils, dried or tinned, add nutritional ballast.

Stock cubes
Don’t be sniffy. Use them to add depth.

Tinned fish
Anchovies, tuna or sardines are great in tomato sauce or sandwiches.

Mixed spices and chilli sauce
We’re not back in wartime Britain. A spice mix such as baharat or splash of chilli sauce will perk up a bland stew

  • Galicia Living is a new property development outfit here in Southern Galicia (As Rías Baixas), owned by a friend of mine. So, if you're looking for a house here, get in touch with them. And, if you're particularly interested in the lovely Miño area down on the border with Portugal, let me know on doncolin@gmail.com and I'll send you my write-up on it.

No comments: