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?
- Begging: I first wrote about Pontevedra’s beggars in July 2001: This appears to be one of the more efficient industries in Spain. There are 3 main categories here in Pontevedra. First there are the scruffy drug addicts. Then there are the slightly less scruffy gypsies, who live in a permanent encampment on the other side of the river from the town and who have a monopoly on the let-me-guide-you-into-this-free-parking-place-and -guard-your-car scam which takes me back to visits to the Everton and Liverpool football grounds in my youth. Thirdly, there are the well-dressed, middle-aged panhandlers who stand at the road junctions and meekly approach each car in turn. A variant of the latter is the immaculately turned-out chap who sits (head down) outside my bank with a small placard. Actually, a 4th category appeared on the street this morning, reminding me of tube rides in London. As I was drinking my coffee in an outdoor café, I was accosted by a man distributing a ‘free’ newspaper and seeking a contribution towards the living costs of himself and his family, of whom a representative sample (a young boy) was standing at his side. After a while, I told him that I was English so couldn’t read his bloody newspaper. Unfazed, he whipped out a laminated card which said in English, ‘I am a Rumanian and I have no money. My family are falling like flies around me. Please give me some money or we will all starve to death and you will be solely responsible’. Or something like that. I told him to bugger off. But not quite as rudely as I imparted the same sentiment last week to a gypsy hag who had cursed me for refusing to buy her pegs in the main square. Verdict: The first 3 categories are still with us, worse than ever these days, at least in Pontevedra. I can’t speak for the rest of Spain, or even Galicia. The old gypsy crone has disappeared, possibly to another world. But we actually have a 5th category - a middle-aged woman who’s an ex-drug addict and who trails a dog after her and chats to her regular contributors. Being successful, she’s a lot less thin that she was 5 years ago.
- Smoking: I also wrote this in the same month: Spain is not only noisy but also a smoky place. Women in particular appear to believe that a fag draped from the corner of one’s gob is the height of sophistication. No Smoking signs are treated with contempt. Verdict: Smoking was banned several years ago, or at least exiled to outdoor terraces. Unlike in neighbouring Portugal, you’ll never seen anyone smoking inside any sort of public establishment these days. Except possibly in a private room, thereof. A massive improvement. Though the incidence of smoking - especially among women - is still higher than in other Western European countries. Which is hard to understand, as smoking - plus sunbathing - does terrible things to facial skin. But who thinks of the future when seeking beauty and (specious) sophistication when young?
Current Life in Spain
- María bring us Days 11 and 12 of her chronicle of the adjusted normal. I endorse her comment on Puebla de Sanoria, a pretty place.
- Spain’s future will be more dismal than most commentators expect, says the writer of this article. Thanks largely, he says, to resource-wasting on tribal politics and the blame game. But who knows right now?
- Meanwhile, social distancing looks as much a minority interest on the streets of Pontevedra’s old quarter as it does on the beaches of Bournemouth. But our region does have - did have? - a relatively minor virus incidence.
- Another 3 refranes:-
- He that fights and runs away lives to fight another day: Quien en tiempo huye en tiempo acude.
- He who pays the piper calls the tune: Quien paga, elige.
- Health is better than wealth: La salud es la mayor riqueza.
Finally . . .
- We had a very sunny spring but now, while the rest of Spain - and, indeed, the UK - swelters in temperatures above 30, we have something less than 20 and the 4th day of rain. No wonder 95% of Spaniards believe that what Americans call ‘precipitation’ never stops here. But it isn’t remotely true and the occasional does make the region - like Ireland - beautifully green. And granite glistens when it’s wet . . .
* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.