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'.


  • 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.


  • 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.

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