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Thoughts from Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

TfG 4 June 2020
04 June 2020

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*  

 Note: I'm indebted to Lenox Napier's comprehensive Business Over Tapas for 1 or 2 of today's items.

The Bloody Virus

  • In 7 weeks, Sweden - where some official regrets were voiced this week - has moved from 8th position in the deaths/million table to 5th now. The UK has done even worse, climbing from 7th to 2nd, ahead of Spain and Italy and behind only the bizarrely high number of Belgium. Little wonder that Boris Johnson is getting it in the neck(infra).

Life in Spain

  • There's a new tax in the offing, aimed at reducing the dreadful level of plastic packaging which we all have to struggle with.
  • Talking about shopping problems . . .  There's s a lot of queuing outside locales these days, with everyone staying 1 to 2m apart. So, a lot more hanging around than usual. But I don't perceive a higher level of 'structuring time' by reading a book or magazine than is customary. Or doing puzzles or a crossword. Just more cud-chewing than usual.
  • I cited Spanish racism yesterday but forgot to mention a comment one hears quite often here on this subject: "I'm certainly not a racist but I hate gypsies."
  • Back in Spain's (phoney) boom years of 2002 to 2008, Galicia's president joined the vanity-project club by initiating our City of Culture on the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela. I knew there'd been problems - such as slates falling off the new roof and a library for millions of books remaining empty -  but I hadn't been aware that construction was halted in 2013. I'd thought that - despite the inevitable corruption and massive cost over-runs - it was still a (sort of) work in progress. But no, it's going to be the worst sort of testament to the Spain of those years - an unfinished, unloved and unvisited massive white elephant. Well done, Sr Fraga. The most able of Franco's Ministers, it's said. Lucky not be alive and to have to witness a failure which is monumental in every sense of the word. 
  • Back to everyday life . . . Here's María's Come-back Chronicle Day 24.

Portugal 

  • Brits were given new hope of a sunny holiday this year when Portugal’s foreign minister advised he is talking to the UK government about an “air bridge” between the 2 countries, and that an early agreement would allow travel by the end of June. But quarantine when you get home??

The UK

  • Richard North and John Crace lay into Boris Johnson here and here, respectively. Rather better - and more effective - approaches than the crude insults of Spanish Opposition politicians.  It’s getting harder and harder to know where satire ends and reality starts, says Crace. But perhaps the UK isn't the only country this can be said of.

The USA 

  • As the world looked on in consternation, horror and even fear, Trump congratulated himself in a tweet which confirmed his insane/psychotic authoritarianism: D.C. had no problems last night. Many arrests. Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination. Likewise, Minneapolis was great (thank you President Trump!).
  • Will the Republicans really allow this dangerous inadequate to stand for a second term?

English

  • A verb new to me: To sic: 'To attack (used especially in commanding a dog)'. Seen in US headlines about police/military action against both looters and peaceful protesters. Which to Fart are the same thing, of course.

Finally . . . 

  • Talking of new words . . . I saw infestify in an article yesterday. But I'm guessing it should have been intensify. Click here for said article, para 10. 
  • An impressive performance by Usain Bolt. Or by someone we could at least call 'Mr Bolt':-

 

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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TfG 3 June 2020
03 June 2020

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

Life in Spain

  • More here on Spain's universal benefit for low income individuals/families.
  • Here's a map of Spanish provinces, showing which Phase they're now in. Poor Castilla Y León. I wonder why virtually all of it is stuck in Phase 1.
  • I guess it's inevitable that the prices of terrace drinks have risen. Losses have to be recouped.
  • I clocked my first camino 'pilgrim' heading towards Santiago yesterday. Theoretically, he can't get further north than Pontecesures before breaking the law by crossing the provincial border into Padrón. Unless, I guess, he can claim he's walking to Santiago airport to catch a flight to his principal residence.
  • Spain's far-right Vox party has naturally come out in support of Trump, and indulged in its favourite sport of hurling gross insults at politicians who are less insane than they are.
  • Two legitimate criticisms of many Spaniards . . . Limited civil consciousness and a degree of racism which is, ironically, universally denied here.
  • María comments here on her benighted birth country.
  • I don't know it this is true of other Spanish regions but Google Maps is of limited use when there are 3 or more villages of the same name, as is often the case here in Galicia. Possibly 10 with Portela. Or Couso. 

The UK

  • Effie Deans here makes an excellent point or two re secessionists. But it's not a charge that can be levied at the Catalans, as one of their main gripes is that they're financing Madrid. Or worse, the corrupt, lazy bastards down in Andalucia.

The USA 

  • I was pondering yesterday whether the USA could be considered a 'failed state'. Not only by the likes of Putin, Erdogan, Assad and Xi, I mean. And then, last night, along came this trenchant article, claiming that the Covid virus had exposed the country as exactly that.
  • But, you have to smile.
  • And even  laugh.
  • Fart and Twitter . . . See the nice article below - Twitter has left Trump punching his own fist.

Finally . . .  

  • In the UK, urban foxes are developing in a similar way to domesticated dogs; they've evolved smaller brains and shorter, more powerful snouts that help them scavenge through rubbish. [In contrast, in the USA, Fox News is going in the opposite direction - dis/un-evolving into a group of troglodytes.]
  • A real treat - a boogie bonanza.

THE ARTICLE  

Twitter has left Trump punching his own fist: By facing up to its responsibilities as a publisher the social media giant is neutering the president’s favourite weapon:  Hugo Rifkind, Times

‘Oh God,” you might be thinking, “don’t write a column about Twitter. Twitter doesn’t matter. Normal people don’t even use it.” The thing is, you know who does use it? The 81.1 million people who follow @realdonaldtrump, and countless millions of others (such as me) who don’t, directly, but end up seeing everything he tweets, anyway. Last week, the president and Twitter went to war. And I bet it mattered to him.

In my first draft of this column, this paragraph was going to detail some of what we might call “Important Donald Trump Twitter Moments”. I’m afraid it was a bit long, though. Also a bit mad. We had plunging stocks in there, and the resignation of a British ambassador, and a threat to bomb Iran, and another threat to buy Greenland. Really, you can look up this stuff for yourself. My point is that it is Twitter that makes living in the world of President Trump feel so much like having a giant malign baby sleeping in the room next door. As in, each morning you wake with a feeling of trepidation about what, in the night, he may have dribbled out and spread around.

The president, though, is not the only reason why Twitter matters. You know who else is on Twitter? The people who circulated the video of a policeman kneeling on the neck of George Floyd until he died. Also, the people who spread scores of videos of police actions since then, bringing thousands out on to the streets. This is how people are radicalised. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be — far from it — but observe the process, and accept it is real. Of course it matters. Some might say not much matters more.

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought about how such firms ought to treat the content that they host. The first is that they should be neutral to the point of indifference, no more responsible for the stuff that users post on them than the invisible air should be to blame for carrying soundwaves. The other, which is my view, is that they should be held accountable for their content, both by themselves and by everybody else.

Donald Trump suddenly wants both of these things at once, but backwards. This is confusing, but I think it’s his fault that he’s confused. Last Wednesday, the president tweeted about American postal votes, stating that they were being rigged by his enemies. Twitter, for the first time, attached a link to his post that said “Get the facts about mail in ballots”, which clicked through to an explanation, by Twitter, that there was no evidence that this was happening. That was it. Shots fired.

Although that’s not the best turn of phrase. Two days on, Twitter did it again. This time the company placed a “This tweet violates the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence” warning over Trump’s already-infamous “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet.

They did this even though the president had already responded to the first intervention with a furious, new and wobbly law. Very roughly, it declared that if a social media company edits posts at all, then the law will consider it a traditional publisher, much like a newspaper or magazine, with all the laws and liabilities that entails.

The strange thing about this is that you’d think this would be the last thing Trump would want. Surely, under such a regime, Twitter would end up moderating the incendiary tweets of people like him more, rather than less. His bind, though, is that imposing a free speech obligation on such firms wouldn’t help him either, because the same first amendment that protects Trump’s right to threaten to shoot people also protects Twitter’s right to say, “woah, this is nuts”.

Really, it’s just a threat. “Leave me alone,” Trump was saying to Twitter, “or I will make your life difficult.” And with Facebook, the bigger social media firm, the threat seems to have worked. There, the same message from Trump still circulates. Mark Zuckerberg, the boss, has always insisted his site must not become an arbiter of political speech. “We don’t believe that it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates,” said chief monkey Nick Clegg last year. If this sounds like humility, don’t be fooled. Facebook wants all the power without the responsibility. It wants to publish, and to profit, and for all the blame to lie elsewhere.

The blame, though, is its. Don’t be fooled, either, by people who would tell you that social media has played no role in the rise of Trump, or in Brexit, or for that matter in the rise of Antifa or Black Lives Matters. Of course it has. Why wouldn’t it have done? Such people simply do not understand the world in which we all now live. Particularly, they do not understand that media consumption today is not only about facts, but also about identity; about who we like and trust and who we dislike and don’t. Whereas Trump, even if only on some idiot savant level, understands all of this very well.

 

What I like best about his new fight with Twitter is the honesty of it, at least on Twitter’s part. For a couple of years now, the company has quietly sought to clean up its act, blocking and banning extremism and abuse from left and right, while studiously ignoring the big orange pachyderm in the room. Trump, who has always used Twitter as a weapon, suddenly cannot. Look at him, he’s like a man trying to punch his own fist.

Bravo to Twitter for finally understanding its responsibilities. These firms are publishers. They always have been. They should double down and call Trump’s bluff. Bring it on.

 

 * A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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TfG 2 June 2020
02 June 2020

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

The Bloody Virus

  • In places such as the former Yugoslavia, it's been observed that the BCG vaccine - a cheap immunisation against TB - appears to steel recipients’ immune systems against other infectious diseases as well.  Damn. I wasn't given it as a kid. But, then, this was because the test (on my inner wrist, as I recall) showed that I didn't need it, as my natural immunity was good. Let's hope so . . .
  • But anyway . . . Randomised controlled trials of the effects of BCG on Covid-19 are now being done in the Netherlands and Australia, where Bill Gates has donated $10 million to the research through his foundation.

Life in Spain

  • Spain will lift its 14 day quarantine rule for tourists on 1 July. The relevant Minister insists these lucky people won't only not run any risks coming here but also that they won't bring any risks to our country. Which might well be a good reason for barring currently exultant Brits, it seems. The authorities are working out how to decide who will be let into Spain. And if Brits are allowed in, will they be quarantined on their return to the UK? Confusing times.
  • Dutch tourists might well be allowed in but could, because of this, face a welcome warmer than they anticipated. At least in Majorca.
  • It's reported that smoking in  Britain has fallen from 45% of adults back in 1974 to only 14% last year. I mention this only to point out that: 1. It's said that 34% of 15 to 64-year-old Spaniards still smoke every day; and 2. Smoking here has increased during the lockdown. Not a huge surprise, I guess. Mind you, given that they all talk simultaneously all the time, this might just mean they light up cigarettes but never have time to take many puffs of them . . .
  • Talking of health issues, obesity is a growing problem in both countries. Back in the early 70s, the rate among British kids was around 5%. Now it's 33%. Here in Spain, despite the famous Mediterranean diet, the problem is said to be even greater. Sugar and cheap junk food are fingered.Though some Dutch folk might also cite laziness . . . 
  • María gave us both Day 21 and Day 22 yesterday, of her Come-back Chronicle, of course.
  • Well, I finally got my microwave mica plate yesterday. As I  entered the shop, the chap at the desk told me it had arrived but then interrupted his dealing with me to take 2 phone calls. After which he then fiddled with his computer so that he could print out an invoice for €6. So, it was 10 minutes before I could leave the place. As I've been known to say, Spanish providers don't worry much about wasting customers' time, essentially because the latter aren't much bothered
  • Disappointingly, the blinds on the window and door of my favoured spices shop remain down, meaning I'll have to resort to the other one in town. 

The USA

  • A laughing stock, presiding over a country you'd be justified in crying for:-

  • Not surprisingly, the local bishop took exception to this latest example of Third World 'leadership' in action.
  • Still, if it turns more people off the man, it could well turn out to have been a positive.
  • Meanwhile . . . Twitter makes living in the world of President Trump feel so much like having a giant malign baby sleeping in the room next door. As in, each morning you wake with a feeling of trepidation about what, in the night, he may have dribbled out and spread around.

Finally . . .

  • The word hellebore appeared in an article on British politics this morning. I had to look it up and here it is, coincidentally continuing the gardening theme.
  • The same writer recently used gerbilarium, but I'm not going there . . .

 * A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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TfG 1 June 2020
01 June 2020

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

 Life in Spain

  • Hard to believe but more than 50% of Spaniards are said here to be optimistic re their economic future. Perhaps they mean in the very long term. 
  • Spanish History: A modern-ish tale I meant to include yesterday - The shameful protection of Nazis, even after the end of the Franco regime in 1975.
  • Shopping: Today I'll make my 4th visit to the place which was getting me a new mica plate for my microwave. (It was closed when I made my 3rd on Saturday morning). I've asked before if I'm unique in Spain in having a poor record of retail success. Another recent failure was the spices shop in the city centre, which had been closed on Friday and still was on Saturday. I'm hoping this isn't permanent. There's no sign on the door and the windows haven't yet been brown-papered up.
  • The football matches postponed in March will now take place, in empty stadiums, on June 11.
  • Years ago, I posted fotos of what I thought were bizarre roundabout features in my barrio of Poio. But nothing beats this one, down in Valencia city:-

The UK

  • The caustic view of her country's media of that apparently rare creature - a non-nationalist Scot. I guess they exist in Cataluña too. They certainly do here in Galicia.

The USA

  • Around 450 seconds into this video, Fart says there's nothing he'd like more than to close his Twitter account. Provided that the media prints only what he says. He might well be telling the truth on this occasion.
  • I've taken to wondering what non-US companies I can deal with in preference to, for example, the tax-light behemoths Amazon and Google. A first search just now for a list of these - on Google, of course - wasn't at all productive. But there must be one somewhere.
  • There's an American warship called the USS Ponce. I'm guessing no one involved in its naming was aware of the British meanings of this word. Viz:-

Noun

1. Informal•Derogatory: an effeminate man.

2. Informal•British: a man who lives off a prostitute's earnings.

Verb 

1. Informal•British: to seek to obtain (something) without paying for it or doing anything in return.

2. Informal•British: to live off a prostitute's earnings.

Finally . . .

  • I forgot to mention that, despite the several arboreal deaths in my garden, life goes on. I've got 2 holly tree shoots/saplings which have self-seeded there. Though not in this box, of course:-

With luck, I won't slaughter them, one way or another. And they can join my burgeoning - and also self-seeded - young palm trees:-

  • A musical treat. Followed by another one, from the rather older-looking - but still immensely talented - Jools Holland.

 

 * A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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TFG 31 May 2020
31 May 2020

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

The Bloody Virus

  • Is herd immunity working in Sweden? The reality of no lockdown. The  Sunday Times reports below on conflicting perspectives in the country everyone is watching closely.
  • One of the businesses to benefit is that of printer ink. Volumes have soared and prices are reported to have doubled in the UK. It's an ill wind . . .

Life in Spain

  • Hmm. In a blow to our tourism hopes, Denmark has warned its citizens not to come here this summer. If they do, they'll be quarantined when then get home. Germany is a better bet, says the Danish government. Well, at least if want to eat a currywurst every day. Don't know about the sun.
  • Interesting to see that Spain's 'basic income' for poor individuals/families will be higher than the UK's 'universal benefit'. Even more astonishing, it might involve less bureaucracy!
  • The Museo del Prado and other 'cultural institutions' will re-open on June 6th, it's reported.
  • Tales of zealous Spanish cops. Is there any other sort here? (Warning: Make sure you know what you're supposed to have in your car. It's not a short list.)
  • María's Come-back Chronicle, Day 20. Sad reflections on another place..

Spanish History

  • Spain's 'unsung heroes' and a celebration that really should have taken place but didn't.
  • HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for this item: "The Barbary pirates and Spain, from the 15th to the 18th centuries". ‘This article deals [in Spanish] with the relationship between the Barbary coast (between what is now Morocco and Libya) and the people of the Iberian Peninsula. It presents the situation on the Hispanic coast, its way of life, the reaction to the insecurity of the coasts and the response by the Monarchic authorities to this threat…’.

The UK

  • Ever the critic, Richard North comments today that:We seem to be suffering the perfect storm of an incompetent government scrutinised by an incompetent media. Sometimes the poor chap seems close to suicide. so great is his frustration at the mismanagement which will see the UK overtake Spain in deaths per million today or tomorrow. It's interesting to reflect on whether a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn would have made a better or worse fist of the virus challenge.

The USA

  • A people, it's said, gets the government it deserves. That of the US is presided over by an insane child. Just what you don't need when long-standing tensions explode into riots. What a woeful spectacle.
  • Here is that infant talking about his supporters. "I'm the worst person on earth and the worst president ever and my dumb, stupid, trash, Mountain-Dew-for-brains still love me. But one day this nightmare will be over. Though very possibly not in my lifetime.

The Way of the world

  • A Catholic priest has impregnated 2 nuns in Stockholm. He claimed this was the work of the holy spirit. Not the first nor the last to use this excuse. It's amazing how useful it can be.

Finally . . .

  • My younger daughter writes here of the difference between the tantrums of a normal 2 years old and the meltdowns of a child with autism. If you ever want to properly sympathies with a the mother of one of the latter, this is a must-read.
  • Religionists can be a great source of humour - I write this as a (very) lapsed Catholic - and I was amused to hear that 12th century Franciscan monks abhorred any degree of planning, as being an affront to God's celestial plan for each of us. So, they started each day by spinning round and then, when stopped, heading off in the direction 'pointed by' their face. As this is what God had in store for them.
  • Talking of laughs provided by theists . . . A film which might be worth seeing.

THE ARTICLE

Is herd immunity working in Sweden? The reality of no lockdown: Louise Callaghan, TheSunday Times: Halmstad, Sweden

The blonde sales assistant at the make-up counter fumbled as she gift-wrapped a perfume set. Occasionally, she gave a harried glance at the queue of about 20 women in front of her that stretched almost out of the shop. The customers were standing a few feet apart — what would once have been considered a polite distance, but would now have been unthinkably close in the UK. It was Monday afternoon at a mall in Halmstad, Sweden, and the store was packed with shoppers, none of them wearing masks or gloves. “It’s been like this since the virus began,” said the sales assistant, apologising for the wait. “They’ve drawn down on staff, but the customers have kept coming.”

Nearby, bars and restaurants were preparing to open for the night ahead, albeit with a reduced capacity. Friends were gathering for dinner parties and after-work drinks. Children were doing their homework, ready to go to school the next day.

None of them were breaking any rules. As the world has shut down, Sweden has taken a different approach to Covid-19, attempting to allow the virus to spread through healthy populations while protecting vulnerable people. Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned, and colleges and universities are closed, but restaurants and shops are open with some restrictions.

Many people are working from home, while others carry on as normal — almost everyone taking some steps to socially distance. This approach, officials hope, will let immunity build in the population while limiting the economic and social damage caused by lockdown and isolation, and possibly avoiding a devastating second wave of infections.

It has not worked out quite that way. Almost 4,400 people have died from Covid-19 in Sweden, about half of them vulnerable elderly people living in a particular type of residential care home. Minority communities have been especially hard-hit. The per capita death rate dwarfs that of Norway, Denmark and Finland, which implemented lockdowns early on. During one week this month Sweden had the highest per capita number of deaths in Europe. Its mortality rates, however, are declining, and deaths per capita are still far lower in total than the UK or Italy over the course of the pandemic.

Hopes that the economy might be spared by avoiding lockdown, though, appear to have been overly optimistic. Forecasts predict that despite many Swedish businesses remaining open during the pandemic, the economic effects will still be devastating — albeit not as severe as similar estimates for the UK. Sweden’s central bank predicts that gross domestic product will fall by up to about 10% this year, while the European Commission believes the country’s economy could contract by 6.1%.

Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist, has been the public face of the official Covid-19 response. He has been bombarded with criticism from parts of the Swedish scientific community. Last month 22 scientists wrote an open letter denouncing the Swedish strategy, claiming that “officials without talent” had led the response.

Yet polls show that the majority of Swedes believe that the public health ministry is doing the right thing. One study by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency showed that 77% of respondents cited having quite high or very high trust in the public health agency’s handling of the coronavirus in Sweden.

In another poll last month, only 31% of Swedes said they were “very” or “somewhat” afraid of contracting Covid-19 — the lowest of all 26 countries surveyed. According to Tegnell, that is because Swedes believe the state is doing a good job — informing people of the risks and relying on them to make the right decisions. “In Sweden we know that trying to scare people is not a good way forward when you want something,” he said. “You need to inform people and give them a good background to make their own informed choices.”

Much of this comes down to the incredible trust that Swedish people put in their leaders — paying high taxes because they believe that the state will use the resources to improve services and quality of life. During the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a sense among the people I have talked to that, despite the deaths and the glaring headlines, the state has their best interests at heart. “People are not stupid,” said Tegnell. “They trust us because we give a good explanation of why we’re doing things.” That is a huge responsibility. Should Tegnell and his colleagues fail, they would not only be risking lives; they would also be shattering a key component of the Swedish national identity.

But how did Sweden end up taking this path? How did a country where most alcohol is sold in state depots with limited opening hours decide to reject a lockdown and encourage individual choice?

When the pandemic first began, many European countries — including the UK — had response strategies that looked very similar to Sweden’s. Yet while others changed path when the scale and risks of the virus became clear, Sweden stuck to its plan. Should other countries have done the same?

“There are parts of the Swedish model that could work in many countries. If you look at a lot of the exit strategies that have developed, now it looks like a lot of countries are pretty much closer to the Swedish models,” said Tegnell. “Because you need to have some kind of softer restrictions. You can’t go on having schools closed. That does terrible things to children. And you can’t go on having borders closed. That does terrible things to the economy. So then you try to find another way of keeping social distancing in place.”

It is a measure of how little really is known about this virus that the world’s leading scientists can disagree wildly on seemingly basic points. Take masks, for instance. While more than 50 countries have made masks compulsory — including on public transport and in shops in Austria and Germany — Sweden has refused to encourage the wearing of masks outside a clinical environment. In press conferences and interviews, Tegnell has repeatedly said that there is not enough evidence that they are effective in stopping the spread of infection. A much-cited study in Hong Kong that showed masks could reduce the spread of airborne droplets was, he said, too limited and did not provide strong enough evidence to warrant implementing a new nationwide policy.

I asked him why not, if there is a chance they could save lives. “We don’t think [that approach] could save lives. It actually could cause a loss of life if it’s not used in the right way,” he said. “We’re talking about risks that these masks will not be available for healthcare because they’ll disappear. Furthermore, in Sweden, we say if you’re ill, stay home, isolate yourself, don’t infect anybody else. If we’re telling people to use a mask, they would put one on and then they would go out and definitely infect more people than if they had stayed home and isolated themselves.” His message has clearly got through to the public. In two months living in Sweden while working on Covid-19 — which has involved travelling to Malmö, Halmstad, Gothenburg, Stockholm and Uppsala — I have not seen more than a handful of people wearing a mask in public. The idea of wearing one here is tinged — as it used to be in the UK — with the sense that it is a bit alarmist, or possibly embarrassing. In other countries, it is seen as a vital social responsibility.

As the debate rages, it is clear what works for Sweden might not work everywhere else. The country is clearly atypical: it has a well-funded health system, a dispersed population and a high baseline of public health. But lofty predictions of Swedish success have already started slipping. Last month I spoke to Tom Britton, a maths professor at Stockholm University and adviser to the public health ministry, who said that, according to his modelling, herd immunity could be reached by mid-May, when he predicted that about 60% of the Swedish population would have been infected. He later revised his estimate, saying that herd immunity could be reached at between 40% and 50% of the population, and it was likely that between 30% and 35% would have been infected by mid-May. “The advantage with herd immunity is that once you have it, the country is safe,” said Britton. “But the downside is that the country will get infected and if it happens too quickly the hospitals won’t manage. My point of view is that it is better to slow it down than to stop it.”

Random antibody sampling in released this month, however, has shown that only 7% of Stockholmers had been infected by the end of April. Britton told a Swedish newspaper that it was “surprising” that the forecasts had been so wrong. Tegnell, meanwhile, said that he did not believe that the results were representative, and that new figures would be available soon.

For now it is still unclear whether, when the pandemic has passed, the Swedish model will have fared any better or worse than any other approaches.  “At the end of this we might look at each other and realise, no, whatever we did didn’t make much of a difference,” said Tegnell. “And the Swedish model or the British model or the Dutch model, all of them in the end, they just took a shorter or longer time, and the effects on society and economy were different. But the health consequences might be very similar in the end.”



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TfG: 30 May 2020
30 May 2020

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

The Bloody Virus

  • Sweden continues to move up the rankings and is now very close to displacing France in 5th place in the Top Ten list - after Belgium, Spain, the UK and Italy.. Which means little for the eventual toll but does raise some interim questions about its de facto herd immunity strategy.
  • And it won't be long before the UK moves up from the 7th place of 6 weeks ago to displace Spain in 2nd place. Underlining the incompetence of the British government.

Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera 

  • An optimistic view of the near future?
  • Meanwhile, it had to happen . . . The high-street chain store Mango is selling branded masks, with prices ranging from €8 to €10. Need I add that: To complete the 'look', Mango has also started retailing its own-brand perfumed hand-sanitiser in two different varieties.
  • A propos . . . Chucking your used mask into the street could be a very expensive anti-social act.
  • María's Come-back Chronicle, Day 19. Retail reverses.

Real Life in Spain 

  • Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas gives us here an overview of the tribal politics of the moment.
  • The government has finally introduced its minimum income provision for poor families. I'm guessing this is similar to the controversial (and badly managed?) 'universal credit' in the UK.
  • Well, the high fence down one side of O Burgo bridge has finally been removed, leaving the new railings visible in all their dubious modernistic glory:-

But a temporary fence is still in place on the other side, for no obvious reason:-

But I expect it to be removed by October, the 12 month anniversary of its original completion date. The remaining question is - Will the railings be painted, or left as ugly gun-metal grey? I suspect the latter.

  • Which reminds me . . . I bumped into 2 Belgian 'pilgrims' on the bridge the other day and helped them with their search for a shady place to eat their sandwiches. To my surprise, they were on their way South, to Portugal. As it's still forbidden to leave one's home province, I assume they were heading, not for the Catholic shrine in distant Fátima, but for Oporto airport, en route to their 'principal residence'. No other 'pilgrims' have been seen since early March, almost 2 months ago.
  • There are, of course, 4 other exceptions to the restriction on leaving one's province and here they are.

Finally . . .

  • Because I have 3 or 4 decent house plants, there's a view abroad that I have 'green fingers'. Which status is rather queried by the fact that I've somehow managed to kill 3 trees and 3 bushes in my garden over the last 2 years. Possibly by over-pruning. The latest death is of a large hydrangea(hortensia) at the front of my house. Though this pride of place might soon be taken by my lemon tree, as I've just stripped it of all the leaves suffering from what, I'm told, is a Galicia-wide plague which curls most of these. Thus:-



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Friday, 29 May 2020
29 May 2020

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

The Bloody Virus

  • A clean exit from Covid-19 is implausible and frothy markets are relying on thinning liquidity, claims Ambrose Evans Pritchard in the 1st article below. 

Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera 

  • María's Day 18 of her Come-back Chronicle. I should add that that our temperatures of the last few days - around 34 degrees - are very far from normal for May.
  • Talking of our weather . . . This year we really don't want the normal summer influx of Madrileños and Andalucians escaping their respective ovens/hell-holes. Hence the opening report in this video:-

  • BTW . . . The word carallo/carajo in the chorus is Galician(Galego) for 'prick'. It features quite a lot in daily discourse here. Long time readers might recall a schedule of the many phrases it features in. If not, click here.

Real Life in Spain 

  • Back to the tortuous Spanish legal system. News of a case that's finally been decided after 30 years. Where was a Spanish Dickens when he was needed?
  • I've always thought I lived in the North West of Spain. And I know it takes me more than 4 hours to do the 460km drive to city of Valladolid. And yet Valladolid is described in this Guardian article - on the possible grave of an 8-toed rebel Irish lord - as being in the North West of the country. One of us must be wrong. Though it is about 200km north of Madrid, which might have confused a reporter based in the Deep South.

Portugal

  • This lovely country will be open to tourists in a couple of days' time, a month earlier than Spain. And visitors won't be quarantined when they arrive, facing only ‘minimal health controls’. But the border with Spain will stay closed until June 15. 

The UK

  • An 'old man in a chair' claims the populace is being brainwashed. Possibly, but why? To achieve what? One possible answer is to avoid, at any cost, the collapse of the health system and all the negative political fallout from that - against the background of decades of government mismanagement, in one form or another.
  • As we ponder that, the Guardian is suggesting here that The Utter Shambles of the last 3 months is about to enter Chapter 3. For a more vitriolic commentary, see Richard North here.
  • As someone else has put it: As a matter of strict economics, the notion that we must pick between fighting Covid-19 and reviving growth is irritatingly misframed. The British authorities have shown that if you are seriously incompetent, you get both the worst death toll in Europe and one of the worst economic hits as well.  So, well done Mr Johnson et al. Your'e lucky there's no Vox equivalent in the UK, to accuse you of genocide.

The EU

  • It looks like Spain will do very well - if not best - from the latest EU handouts. Doubtless some of our politicians are rubbing their hands in anticipation of the cash flows.

The Way of the world

  • A civil servant who was  mocked for complaining about the cold, wet weather and branded a racist for claiming it always rained in Wales has been awarded more than £240,000 in a race and age-discrimination case.
  • When life’s difficult, cults are an easy answer: Conspiracy theories and new age nonsense like Universal Medicine offer some middle-class escapism from dark reality, says the writer of the 2nd article below.

The USA   

Finally . . .

  • Things are looking up. After ripping out - without notice - several of the vines which form our joint hedge. My new neighbours have advised me the rest will also be pulled out, so they can erect a BBQ. But this will happen 'next year', giving me a chance to plant replacements on my side of the link fence underneath the vines. Which is sort of considerate.
  • My younger daughter has a new web page which might be of interest to some. I certainly found it enlightening, and I thought I knew about it all. Its self explanatory title is Raising a girl with autism. It will surely help anyone facing this very tough challenge.

THE ARTICLES

1. A clean exit from Covid-19 is implausible and frothy markets are relying on thinning liquidity: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Daily Telegraph

The V-shaped recovery in East Asia is sadly no template for the blundering West. The near euphoric rally on global equity markets is based on a fundamental fallacy.

Most of Europe and North America are not pursuing the policies that enabled China and the Pacific Rim states - with big variations - to suppress Covid-19 and to stabilise their economies rapidly. 

The OECD family has adopted the rhetoric of East Asian strategy - ‘test/track/isolate’ - but most countries in fact have hybrid containment regimes that fall far short. With a few exceptions they lack the surveillance and quarantine structures needed to carry out a clean exit. 

Dominic Cummings would not have been allowed to drive across China, Taiwan, or Korea to find a more congenial lockdown venue. He would have been stopped, arrested, and punished. In Wuhan his home would have been boarded up by Communist Party vigilantes before he had escaped.

There is a common theme in the bullish reports crossing my desk from the big global investment funds. They all start from the premise that the rebound in Chinese economic growth will somehow be replicated. 

Leaving aside the question of whether China’s economy is close to normal - given that a fifth of migrant workers have yet to return from their villages, and hidden unemployment is near 15pc - this ‘one-and-done’ hypothesis repeats the error made by these same funds in February before Wall Street crashed 35pc. 

They were not listening to the warnings of global virologists and epidemiologists. Financial analysts were modelling Covid-19 as if it were like SARS. But it was nothing like SARS. Even then we knew that it was as contagious as influenza but ten times more deadly, and with no cross-immunity or vaccines to check the wildfire spread.

The scientists are warning again. They think that Europe and the US are dialing down containment measures before the tracking and isolation apparatus is fully in place and before the stock of infections has been cut to manageable levels. 

A new paper by Imperial College, London, says the R rate is above 1.0 in 24 US states, including Texas, Florida, and Ohio. “Very few have conclusively controlled their epidemics”, it said. Most are opening up anyway.

The early promise of herd immunity from antibody surveys has come to little. The incoming data confirms the worst fears. There is no hidden reservoir of asymptomatic cases. The case fatality rate is as awful as virologists first thought. 

Imperial said the percentage of the US population exposed to the virus as of May 17 was 4.1pc, and just 1pc in California. The best evidence in Britain is that exposure is not much above 15pc in London and 5pc in the rest of the country. Sweden’s Anders Tegnell is having to row back from his swashbuckling forecasts of herd immunity by late Spring.

This creates a terrible dilemma for western governments. My presumption is that once easing has begun, a second lockdown becomes unenforceable. Discipline is visibly breaking down across Europe and America, Cummings or no Cummings. 

Yet my other presumption is that leaders cannot let the virus run its course and hope that a vaccine will come along. Donald Trump is angling to do exactly that and a great number of investors seem to be betting on it too. 

Jeff Currie, Goldman Sachs’ oil guru, says his ultra-bullish call on commodities works whether the post-lockdown strategy succeeds or fails. His premise is that if the virus roars back, the political classes will go for growth the second time around, and damn the consequences. 

I doubt that western democracies would allow their governments to act with such ruthlessness when push comes to shove, or that people would go about normal business in the midst of a full-blown Wave Two. The likely outcome is that the next few months will be a messy series of false dawns and fresh outbreaks, carving out a protracted Nike swoosh rather than the Chinese ‘V’ assumed by equity markets or commodity bulls.

The rush to reopen is understandable. I don’t wish to enter arguments about morality and freedom. But as a matter of strict economics, the notion that we must pick between fighting Covid-19 and reviving growth is irritatingly misframed. The British authorities have shown - without apology - that if you are seriously incompetent, you get both the worst death toll in Europe and one of the worst economic hits aswell. 

The danger ahead is that the economic deep-freeze - akin to an extended holiday in macroeconomic terms for a while - drags on and reaches metastasis. A study by the Bank of Spain says the damage goes non-linear after two months or so. At that point the buffers are used up and insolvencies start in earnest, with a feedback loop working its awful logic through the economy.

Spanish GDP would shrink 6.8pc this year under its benign eight-week scenario. Contraction would almost double to 12.4pc if the disruption lasts an extra four weeks and is then followed by fresh wavelets for months afterwards, with unemployment topping 21pc and the debt ratio spiraling up by 24pc of GDP. By analogy, Italy would be pushed over the brink. The Club Med bloc would be caught in a debt-deflation trap with no way out. 

The EU Recovery Fund unveiled in Brussels today will not make a dent if the malign scenario plays out. The €500bn of direct grants will be stretched into the 2020s and amount to just 1pc of GDP a year. The money will be spread thinly among countless sectors and regions. Italy will hardly notice the difference and may not ultimately be a net recipient in any case.

The European Central Bank is hamstrung. It must satisfy the German Constitutional Court by early August that its first QE programme complies with EU law prohibiting quasi-fiscal bail-outs - otherwise the Bundesbank will have to withdraw.

If the ECB presses ahead and announces another round of pandemic QE (the current batch will run out by October) it risks an even more dangerous showdown. Leaks this week suggest that the ECB seriously aims to go it alone without the Bundesbank if need be. Such a madcap scheme would have no credibility in global markets and would lead to a two-tier euro. That would be playing with fire.

The US Federal Reserve has no such constraints and is doing its best to backstop the international system, providing dollar swap lines to fellow central banks at near zero cost, and buying the debt of ‘fallen angels’ at home to prevent cascade sales of derated US companies.

But be careful. The Fed cannot stop insolvent companies going bust. All it can do is to create liquidity, and today the flow rate of fresh stimulus is diminishing fast. Hedge fund veteran Stanley Druckenmiller, a liquidity specialist, says the risk-reward for equity markets “maybe as bad as I’ve seen it in my career.” 

His reason is that the Fed front-loaded QE in late March. At one point it was buying $120bn of US Treasuries and agency bonds a day. The effect was $1 trillion of extra liquidity above the giant sums being soaked up by the Treasury. This had to go somewhere. It flooded risk assets.

The flows are sputtering out. The Fed’s purchases have been gliding downwards. Last week the total was just $102bn. The US Treasury is now issuing more debt than the Fed is buying. The excess liquidity is gradually evaporating. 

In the end, the Fed will do whatever it takes to rescue the debt markets and Wall Street. It will buy Treasury notes and equities if need be. But it is not injecting net stimulus right now and will not intervene to shore up Wall Street unless the S&P 500 index retests the March lows.

You cannot count on liquidity alone to keep pumping up stock prices in the face of a massive economic shock, tumbling earnings, and a tide of bankruptcies. It will take a perfect exit from Covid-19 as well. 

Mr Druckenmiller’s advice: put on your seat-belts.

2. When life’s difficult, cults are an easy answer: Conspiracy theories and new age nonsense like Universal Medicine offer some middle-class escapism from dark reality: David Aaronovitch, The Times

Just when you thought there was nothing new to say about the Cummings affair, along comes a conspiracy theory. On Monday the Labour MP and failed leadership candidate Clive Lewis tweeted “how interesting” about a quote from another tweeter, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. It read: “On 12 April Dominic Cummings was seen in Barnard Castle. Two days later GlaxoSmithKline of Barnard Castle signed an agreement to develop and manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine with Sanofi of France. Of course that could be coincidence.”

GSK does indeed have a factory in Barnard Castle, although its headquarters is in London. But Mr Murray failed to spell out, in his tweet or his lengthy blogposts, what possible connection there could be between the now-notorious outing and a vaccine deal with France. I can’t think of one but obviously Mr Murray and Mr Lewis can. Within a day this nebulous nonsense was popping up in WhatsApp groups and Facebook posts all over the place.

Mr Murray is a serial “just saying” conspiracy theorist. When the Russians poisoned the Skripals in 2018, for example, Murray pointed a finger at the Israelis and suggested a British government cover-up. At the moment his big issue is the conspiracy he alleges to “fit up” the former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond on sexual assault charges (Mr Salmond was acquitted). In the past he has accused me and other Jewish writers of being “Zionist propagandists” for the sake of “available riches”. Perhaps if Clive Lewis had done his homework on Murray he’d have been more judicious, but the temptation of the extra, hidden explanation, that banishes the possibility of accident and error and replaces it with something far darker and cleverer, is always powerful.

The week before Mr Lewis’s tweet, I recorded a Stories of Our Times podcast with Rosie Kinchen of The Sunday Times. Rosie had been looking into the case of an Australian cult called Universal Medicine (UM), which has been running its British operation from a very swish guesthouse in Somerset. The story contained some of the classic features of cult encounters: divided families, court cases, bizarre rituals and so on.

This one was also slightly different. UM’s founder and guru is a fifty-something former Australian tennis coach called Serge Benhayon. We learn on UM’s website that in 1999 he “found himself under the impress of a series of unfoldments that led to a re-connection, or, ‘union of old’. As a result, he initiated these impresses via the expression of Esoteric Healing using the forum of his sessions to present the teachings that not long after became his vast collection and volume of service to many thousands.”

Not a few of these thousands have been suitably grateful and have made unfoldments of their own, by opening their wallets and bank accounts, by making bequests and donations, or by booking courses and buying various elements of UM’s “vast collections”. Not only does Mr Benhayon draw what seems to be a substantial income from UM’s activities, but so do his wife, his ex-wife and his children.

In 2018, after a long legal process, an Australian court decided that UM was a “socially harmful cult”. And recently in the British Court of Appeal Lord Justice Peter Jackson ordered a woman to make a “definitive break” with the group or else risk losing custody of her daughter.

What’s really fascinating is not the cult, but its adherents. Not least because a friend told me that he knew several of the leading lay members of UM. They were wealthy, privately educated, holding down professional or creative jobs, and often living in nice houses in the countryside. No robes, no strange tattoos. No secret signs. But on the other hand strict dietary restrictions based on the most improbable analysis of the body’s functioning (did you know that you were made up of 45,000 nadis, or energy centres, and that when bad energy runs across the top of your nadis you get ill?). And ways of dealing with this bad (or pranic) energy include turning things counterclockwise, and going to bed at 9pm and getting up at 3am.

Given that Benhayon’s own “philosophical” musings are the most ridiculous jumble of phrases, that he claims to channel Leonardo da Vinci among others, and that he apparently had his first epiphany sitting on the loo, you might have thought that any rational person’s sense of the absurd would have warned them off him, long before they got to other bits. Instead they go on to endorse the Ageless Wisdom, the esoteric chakra-puncture, the idea that all history is a conspiracy, and the ovarian reading.

When you start looking at the online testimony of adherents you begin to understand why. There’s the middle-class woman who had an abortion at 16 and has felt guilty about it ever since. There’s the wife of a successful film director who, having just given birth, has been taught to see that she and the child possessed all the wisdom they required, and that “I need not look outside for the answers but know that they are already within”. Or, “I am a young and attractive woman who has chronic hormone imbalance and hair loss,” but “the EBM session today has given me an opportunity to go even deeper, and with TRUE LOVE.” It’s where religion meets new age health fad, where the anti-vaxxer meets the Livingness. And what does that mean? “It means Taking Care of You. And, more deeply it means You Loving You.”

Like Serge loves them. Like all the Benhayons love them. They are all beautiful. None of them are disappointing. They are all the carriers of inner wisdom. Not only that but this inner wisdom is so easily achieved! The hugely complex, impossible, often arbitrary world doesn’t need your intellect to grapple painfully with it, because it’s a delusion. Leave off wheat, rise at 3am, get the prana massaged away from your nadis and all will be well.

People often believe what they do not because they choose to, but because they need to. A middle-class under-achiever whose focus is very much on themselves needs to be told that they’re actually very special. A failed Labour politician needs to think he may be necessary after all because he has the key to a great scandal. Very few people are so cynical that they espouse preposterous theories that they don’t believe. Though, looking across the Atlantic, it does sometimes happen.

 

 * A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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Thursday. 28 May 2020
28 May 2020

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

The Bloody Virus

  • Hmm. A planned test of hydroxychloroquine on intensive care patients in Ireland is under review, after the WHO halted its trials because of concerns about efficacy and safety
  • Hmm 2: The lockdowns saved no lives and may have cost them, says a Nobel prize winner. Not just any prize-winner but the chap who correctly predicted the initial trajectory of the pandemic. 
  • Hmm 3: Along the same lines, a salutary read here.
  • Hmm 4: Men with long ring fingers are less likely to die from the virus, says the NY Post here. Credible? Or tabloid nonsense?
  • Spain is proposing EU-wide green flight corridors for the tourists the country desperately needs. Wont' be much help, though, if Brits have to self-isolate when they get home. Depending, I guess, on the post-Cummings-debacle-fidelity to this and, of course, the ability (and willingness) of the authorities to police this.

Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera 

  • Mark Stücklin asks here what we'll be allowed to do in our communal pools this summer. It depends, he says, on who you talk too. And, again, on policing capability.
  • Talking of confusion  . . . A new rule about exercising was announced yesterday. Despite reading the report several times, I'm still not clear about what I'm legally allowed to do by way of 1. walking, 2. exercising, and 3. going to a café or restaurant.
  • But the strict legalities might not matter now. A friend told me last night that a local beach on Tuesday afternoon had been as crowded as ever, with no 2m distancing taking place, and the police making no attempt to enforce it.
  • Another friend tells me of the farcical situation in a Poio bakery, where customers coming to the counter to buy things are obliged to wear a mask but those taking a coffee aren't. IGIMSTS.
  • Sadly, food aid queues here are now growing apace, as poverty levels are already below those of the 2008 crisis.
  • But there is positive news, for some at least . . . The massive political gathering permitted on 8 March was only 'marginal' to the spread of Covid-19 in Madrid, a formal investigation has concluded. I guess we'll be told next that the visit of 10,000 Atlético Madrid fans to Liverpool a few days later had no real impact either. Infected Scousers might disagree.
  • Here's María's Come-back Chronicle, Day 17. Beach practices get a mention.

Real Life in Spain 

  • I fear this won't come as a huge surprise to some of us.  . . . Spain joins Italy at the bottom of OECD rankings for basic literacy and numeracy skills among graduate. I have to confess I sometimes wonder if pupils here are taught to think for themselves. Or merely to just think.
  • What certainly won't be a surprise to anyone here is that Andalucia has been a hotbed of massive corruption for many decades. And that a trial for those who diverted hundreds of millions in EU funds took over 10 years to come to completion and saw few convictions. Click here on this. Nice to see Mercedes Alaya getting credit for her tenacity. Actually, it's always nice to see this 'stunningly attractive' judge. Need I add that she was eventually removed from the case, for being too zealous in wanting to see justice done.
  • With that case in mind, my second confession today is that I occasionally wonder if Spanish politicians don't still - as regards the EU - obey the old 'Third World' dictum that, if someone offers you the chance to cheat them, you're a fool if you don't take it.

The UK

  • Says Richard North this morning: We have a brand new test and trace system to play with, which starts today. . . In the best tradition of English public service provision, we have an entirely new enterprise being run by someone who has absolutely no knowledge of the subject and has a track record of presiding over train wrecks. [At the internet provider TalkTalk.]  What could possibly go wrong?

Germany

  • Read here the reasons why Germany has done so much better than the UK in dealing with Covid-19.

The USA  

  • Russian interference in elections is apparently OK but not that of US social media companies, whose warnings about his lies Fart is attempting to prevent via a presidential executive order.  How sad that this great country has been reduced to this.

English

  • A new word: Testiculate:  To wave your arms around - a la Boris Johnson - while talking bollocks.

Finally . . .

  • I was lucky enough, as a young man in Iran, to learn that hosting is one of life's great pleasures. Or can be. For, 19 years of experience here has revealed a wide spectrum of gestures of gratitude for this. Which range from the over-generous to the, well, very under-generous. Happily, my current guest/refugee is at the former end of the scale. Así son las cosas. Such is life. Nowt as queer as folk, as we Northerners say. And as I regularly remind myself.

    

 * A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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Wednesday, 27 May 2020
27 May 2020

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

The Bloody Virus

  • In a long article, The Local asks here what we can learn from the Swedish experience. Not much yet, seems to be the short answer.
  • Here in Spain, local outbreaks are expected this summer, as the government seeks to breathe life into the critical - nay, vital - tourism industry.

Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera 

  • Despite that risk of outbreaks, sun-seeking foreigners will soon be welcome here again, as travel restrictions are removed. But will Brits still be incarcerated on their return to their sceptred isle?
  • I guess this really was inevitable . . .
  • María's Come-back Chronicle, Day 16.
  • I wonder if and when Apple will come up with technology which allows my fingerprint to be recognised through a plastic/rubber glove.

Real Life in Spain 

  • A worry for some on the horizon. Well, maybe only for a few.
  • Spanish men have a reputation for being 'macho'. I do wonder about this every time I see one walking a dog smaller than the average cat. Or even a full-size poodle. And lots in-between.
  • Talking of reputations . . . The NY Times says here that Spain is known as as a litigious place. I find this odd, as everyone I know thinks it's a waste of time and money to go to court here.
  • Perhaps it's a left-over from the time - until quite recently - when there was no bar to 'frivolous' suits. This was - and maybe still is to some extent - the practice of making a denuncia against anyone who annoyed you. This is a word which is often translated as a 'report'. Meaning, I think, something formal written to the judicial authorities either by a private person via the police (a burglary report) or by the police themselves (a prosecution). These are the several definitions given for the verb Denunciar by the Royal Academy. Nos. 4 and 6 seem to be the most appropriate, and there's no single-word equivalent in English:-

1. To warn or give news of something.

2. To predict.

3. To promulgate, solemnly publish.

4. To participate in or officially declare the illegal, irregular or inconvenient status of something.

5. To betray.

6. To give the judicial or administrative authority part or all of a report of an illegal act or an irregular event.

7. To notify the other party of the termination of a contract, or of a treaty, etc.

8. To have discovered a mine, or to claim the benefit of it.

Portugal

  • Astonishingly, this small and relatively poor country has a testing rate double that of every other. Very impressive.
  • Maybe this helps to explain why Britain is in talks with Portugal over plans to create an “air bridge”[me neither] that would allow holidaymakers to travel to the country without quarantining on their return. 

The EU

  • The corporate mega-bailout bonanza begins, says the estimable Nick Corbishley here. Circumstances change principles, as they say. About which not everyone is happy, of course.

The USA  

The Way of the world

  • Greed begat the banking crisis, which begat the financial crisis, which begat austerity, which begat cuts which increased wealth gaps and left states less able to deal with the virus than they should have been. So, what is being done about the root cause of all the unnecessary deaths - greed born of the corruption of capitalism? Please write your answer on only one side of the paper. 
  • Meanwhile . . . We're in no rush to return to the work-hard consumerism of pre-lockdown life, says a Times headline. 

Finally . . .

  • The recent hot weather here - on the coat-tails of lots of rain - has led to a massive surge in plant growth. Nowhere more so than on my bougainvillea, from which I had to cut more than 30 'suckers' yesterday. Which seem to grow faster than the banana plants in my garden in Jakarta. And then there's the bloody 'hedge bindweed' - Calystegia sepium - which is threatening to throttle my privet and ivy hedges. It's just one damned thing after another . . . 

 

 * A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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Tuesday, 26 May 2020 2
26 May 2020

Note: This is my second post of the day, and the real one. The previous one - posted c. 10 hours ago - was really Sunday's, which had got lost somehow. Scroll down for it.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*

The Bloody Virus 

  • UK cases and deaths per million are now higher than Italy's and 3rd behind Belgium and Spain. And UK tests per million - despite double counting - are still below those of Italy and well below those of Spain. Scandalous, really.

Life in Spain in the Time of Something Like Cholera 

  • Archena, in Murcia, has warned of fines of up to €2,500 for people caught tossing away their used masks on the ground. Might work.
  • Talking of potential fines . . . What if I don't wear a mask when I go out during Phase 1 or 2?
  • María's Come-back Chronicle Day 15. Maria is not a happy camper at the moment.
  • I've realised that there's one way to recognise women whose identity is obscured by face masks - check out their tattoos.
  • I'm pleased to report that the percentage of mask-wearers on O Burgo bridge - still not completed - has shot up to close to 90%, even though it's possible to be 2m apart from anyone else on it.

Real Life in Spain 

  • It's an egregious myth that all Spaniards enjoy La Corrida and support the bullfighting industry. Most, I suspect, wouldn't shed even a crocodile tear for the imminent death Covid-19 is said to threaten it with. El País, for example, claims today that 54,000 employees are at risk of losing their jobs.
  • Meanwhile, news of another Spanish non-sport - fraud/corruption. In this case the widespread but illegal export of elvers to Asia.
  • What Brits will need to retain their residence status after Brexit. The Spanish government is described as generous. Possibly self-interestedly so, given what the million of us residents contribute to the economy here. Only - as Lenox Napier regular reports - to be largely ignored in favour of British tourists, of one class or another.

The EU

  • To be discussed tomorrow, the latest proposal from France and Germany for 'mutualised debt issuance' may mark a turning point in the history of the European integration project and be a game-changer. It says here.

Social Media

The USA

  • Can this really be true? The last sentence surely is,

Finally . . .

  • Quote of the week:  Thanks to the virus, future air travel will be as enjoyable as open-heart surgery.
  • I might have been a tad harsh on the tech service company yesterday. They tell me the factory was closed until last Friday but a new mica plate is on its way. Though this isn't what they'd said they do - get the dimensions and cut a piece from a larger sheet of mica. I fear I will now have to pay the (double the cost of the plate) shipment charges that this was supposed to avoid. Hey ho. Only a flea bite.

 

 * A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant



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