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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain

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

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 24.7.21
24 July 2021

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' 

Note: I’ve been posting my blog in 3 places in the last year, including here. I’ve now reduced this to 2 and, in the near future, will be confining posts to one site on Wordpress. This is the link, if you want to start using it now.  Maybe sign up for email receipt, as this helps me understand my readership.


Interesting that cases are again rising everywhere except in Sweden. Wonder what it means.

Spain's rise among the young is horrendous and we wait to see what the hospitalisation and death rate consequences are of our 5th wave. As of now, the daily rate of 17,716 is close to the all-time peak of 18,504 of 21 January. As we wait, curbs on nightclubs and partying are being restored. Inevitably, Spain is accused of being too quick to lift these, as it rushed to save the summer and attract foreign tourists. Not surprisingly, Germany has downgraded Spain to 'High Incidence', which is a major blow to the tourism industry, especially in the Balearics. See the link to María's post below.

Cosas de España/Galiza 

A Times columnist today on recent developments here: Banning support for Franco is anti-democratic. Spain’s socialist government has a problem dealing with Franco's legacy. It has decided to airbrush him from history by criminalising the “glorification” of his regime, effectively censoring public debate about Spain under his rule. This is an assault on free expression and fundamentally anti-democratic. Free and open societies should come to terms with their history rather than try to erase it. . . . This legislation criminalising unwelcome or unpalatable ideas ignores the fundamental importance in any democracy of the free flow of thought and liberty to speak one’s mind. Spain’s leaders are playing with fire in a country that is still a relatively young democracy. They should reverse course. 

María's Not So Fast: Days 15-19 Our Reality 

The UK  

An ex-Tory MP: I have no idea how Freedom Day will end and nor do you, but I do know this: if it ends badly, with deaths soaring and an NHS again staring at disaster, that will finish Boris Johnson. . . . As a classicist, there's bound to be the nagging understanding that nemesis waits in watchful attendance upon hubris. In defiance of all appearances, I’m sure Johnson lives in a state of constant anxiety that he has tempted fate too far, and everything is about to go horribly wrong. 

Well, I don't much care about him but what happens will determine when I can make my long-planned trip to the UK to see my latest grandchild, now several months old.


What is it about the Frogs?: Riot police hit the streets as antivaxers gear up for yellow vest-style protests.

The Way of the World

Emojis showing a pregnant man and gender-neutral royalty are expected to be included among a fresh crop of symbols to be released in autumn.


Guess how I've learned that un chubasquero is a raincoat.

Finally  . . .

You surely will believe this . . . 

1. Yesterday on the Renfe site I tried to get times of trains from Santiago to Pontevedra next Tuesday, to be told there were none. 

2. Today I tried to get the times of trains next Saturday from Pontevedra to Madrid, to be told I hadn't entered a valid station of origin. This is by no means the first time this has happened.


Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here


Losing the plot 

It doesn't much matter what Boris Johnson says on 19 July, many people have given up listening. Many vaccinated adults have already ditched masks, apps and social distancing, and never bothered with free lateral flow tests. 

Disgraced former health secretary Matt Hancock's hypocrisy and the waiving of rules for Uefa dignitaries attending Euro 2020 matches have also helped fuel the abandonment of all caution by many fans. Sanctions will probably be lifted on 19 July because many people will not take them seriously now. Hancock's resignation makes no difference. He conned us all, and possibly for a long time. 

Hancock snared 

How British that the end of Hancock's tenure as health secretary was not the UK's high rates of Covid death and long Covid, nor the failure to protect care home residents and healthcare staff from Covid. Nor was it the expensive failings of Test and Trace, the secretive award of lucrative jobs and contracts using personal contacts, nor a failure to declare clear conflicts of interest. 

The appointment of Gina Coladangelo as a non-executive director of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) - her job being to independently scrutinise its work at taxpayers' expense- elicited no sanction, despite the fact she is a very old friend of Hancock's and her brother is director of a healthcare firm with several NHS contracts. When Hancock and Coladangelo became a couple, they kept it quiet. It was only when the pair breached social distancing rules under a spy camera that Hancock's game was up. Having been so sanctimonious about other rule breakers and repeatedly declared that "if one person breaks the rules, we will all suffer", Hancock - and Johnson's support for him - destroyed all remaining credibility. Those following the rules feel angry and betrayed; those breaking them feel vindicated; and those lucky enough not to have a spy camera in their office have roared with ridicule. 

How dysfunctional can a government department be when the health secretary is secretly filmed in his own office? And when he himself is secretly using a private but hackable gmail address and WhatsApp groups to conduct government business? It's as if the Nolan principles on ethics in public life never happened. 

The Good Law Project is gamely trying to get to the bottom of Hancock's Covid contracts, and he has already been in breach of the law once by failing to hand over details. Michael Gove also broke the law by awarding a £560,000 contract to associates of his and Dominic Cummings at Public First. Gaining access to private email and WhatsApp accounts to find the full extent of governmental wheeling and dealing will be an equally lengthy legal affair, and by the time the public inquiry kicks in, the accounts may have long vanished. 

Blame magnet 

Johnson may have been hoping to keep Hancock in place long enough for him to take all the blame at a public inquiry, but now he has gone he will be blamed for everything on the understanding that if he takes it on the chin and doesn't squeal, he'll be back in the fold before too long. Like Cummings, Hancock will have uncomfortable evidence showing Johnson was, say, slow to lock down. If the blame gets too unfair, he might just let it slip. If your boss has called you "totally fucking hopeless" and you no longer work for him, the least you can do is return the compliment. 

Just a little prick [British pun/joke]

When Hancock was asked how he would be remembered after the pandemic, he replied: "For the vaccine programme." That seems a little less likely now; but any role he did play in the acceleration and roll out of vaccines deserves to be acknowledged. Cummings is less gracious in his appraisal of Hancock, declaring that responsibility for vaccination was taken away from the DHSC because it was "a smouldering ruin" for PPE procurement and would be likely to screw up vaccines too. Thanks to former Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley's reforms, Hancock had relatively little control over NHS England or the NHS frontline. The leaders who deserve most credit for the vaccine programme arc Kate Bingham of the Vaccine Task force (for procurement) and NHS England's Emily Lawson (for the planning and rollout). 

Power grab 

Hancock gave the impression the pandemic was a career opportunity rather than a public health emergency. Had he survived, he would shortly have grabbed more power than any health secretary in modem times under the proposed "Lansley-reversal" health bill.

But the baton now passes to Sajid Javid, the 17th health secretary MD has served under in my 34 years in the NIIS. Most have stuck it for two years. Johnson must seriously distrust Jeremy Hunt, the longest ever serving health secretary, who would have been an obvious choice to replace Hancock, having been fully up to speed on the pandemic as chair of the health select committee, and knowing where all the bodies are buried from his previous lengthy tenure. Perhaps Hunt was the one who left the spy camera in the office. 

Rarely does a former chancellor accept the poisoned chalice of health, but the new powers coming Javid's way may have been hard to resist. With no experience or previous professed interest in health, and just a day to look at the data, Javid declared that all sanctions would be likely to end on 19 July and all changes would be irreversible. He is right to be mindful of the many harms of lockdown and the destruction of town centres, livelihoods, children's mental health and education, but who knows what the winter will bring? 

Even if all Covid measures are rescinded, many people will continue to wear masks and socially distance. Some people may even retain the habit of washing their hands. Others will continue to break the rules as they have throughout. Traffic in many UK sexual health clinics has not reduced during the pandemic, because some people view sexual contact as an essential bodily function that trumps the need for social distancing. Doctors now call it the Hancock effect. 

Hospital pass 

Pandemic aside, Javid has accepted a mammoth hospital pass from Hancock. The anger of NHS staff exposed to unnecessary risk during the pandemic, record NHS staff shortages and patient waiting lists, and the crumbling NHS estate are all well documented. But Johnson made some glorious promises on health and social care to get elected in December 2019, and it is Javid who will now have to deliver them or explain why he can't. 

They include: 40 new hospitals; 50,000 new nurses; 6,000 more GPs; 20,000 more primary care professionals such as physiotherapists and pharmacists; 7,500 extra nurse associates; and 50m more GP appointments. 

Johnson also promised £1.6bn for research over the next decade to find a cure for dementia; a new £500m fund to give patients quicker access to the most cutting-edge medicines for cancer and other diseases; 12 trailblazer schemes for adult mental health; and 1,000 extra staff in NHS community mental health services. This is part of a £975m increase in community mental health funding every year. All schools and colleges in England will be offered mental health training, and 73 mental health support teams and additional training for teachers "will ensure pupils will be able to gel the mental health support they need, when they need it". 

Then there's a promise to level up and reduce the UK's endemic health inequalities, which Covid has made even worse. As for social care, Johnson declared on his election as Tory leader: 

"My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care and so I am announcing now - on the steps of Downing Street - that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared. And we will give every older person the dignity and security they deserve." No wonder Javid wants to focus on the pandemic. The challenge he faces is immense. 

What next? 

Vaccination of adults is continuing apace, including many walk-in centres, and this remains the best chance of keeping 

hospitalisations and deaths low, and is the most widely supported control measure. Other measures have far greater side effects. Currently, anyone pinged as a potential contact by the NHS app is required to isolate for 10 days even if they have been double jabbed, have no symptoms and test negative. Many employees, including health and care staff, are off work as a result, as coronavirus infections rose 72 % in a week. If they continue to rise, and this policy continues, 1m fully-vaccinated people with no symptoms could be in quarantine. But they will soon be able to visit Germany. 

Child abuse? 

Nearly 400,000 school children are already in isolation, most with no symptoms, because someone in their bubble has tested positive. The JCVI (joint committee on vaccination and immunisation) is still appraising the risks and benefits of vaccinating the under 18s. Some experts, such as Prof Calum Semple, a member of SAGE, believes there is "rock-solid data" to show that the risk of severe harm to children from Covid is "incredibly low". Others believe we should remain very cautious about exposing children to a novel pathogen with unknown long-term consequences, and vaccination would be a far safer- but not risk-free - option. If and when it is offered, it should remain voluntary. 

We do know that children desperately need other children to play with for their physical, social and emotional development. We also know that for some children the haven and support of school - and a school dinner - is essential to their health and safety. 

Children should clearly stay away from school if they are sick, but if they are well and deemed to have been even a fleeting Covid contact, they currently have to sit at home and watch crowds of adults enjoying Wimbledon, the Euros and wild, drunken celebrations. Unsurprisingly, rates of suicide, self-harm and eating disorder in children have risen during the pandemic. And educational losses may never be regained. Sajid Javid should start by making the welfare of children his paramount concern. Our futures depend on it. 

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 23.7.21
23 July 2021

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' 

Note: I’ve been posting my blog in 3 places in the last year, including here. I’ve now reduced this to 2 and, in the near future, will be confining posts to one site on Wordpress. This is the link, if you want to start using it now.  Maybe sign up for email receipt, as this helps me understand my readership.

Cosas de España/Galiza 

In both depth and breadth, there are just too many politicians in Spain. Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas gives us this translation from a Spanish article in the NY Times, headed ´l‘Too Many Politicians and Not Enough Managers: "Spain's Unsustainable Bureaucratic Machine’. Perhaps there is an explanation why Spain needs 22ministries when France has 16 and Germany, with almost twice the population, manages with 14. But the Spanish government does not offer an answer to this conundrum and citizens have good reason to believe that this mammoth administration, with its army of advisers, is part of what we Spaniards know as the 'chiringuito nacional'" - the bureaucratic and institutional paradise created by a political class determined that taxpayers pay the bill for their excesses. Says Lenox.

While Black Lives Matter and other movements have focused on which statues to pull down, Spain - says the BBC - is immersed in a battle over which figures to erect and what parts of its past to commemorate - or to consign to history's dustbin.

Personally, I find the legionnaires a tad camp and vainglorious and am no admirer of their  dirge, The Bridegroom of Death. The hair-raising lyrics of this can be found below and you see it sung here and, with lyrics, here. The legion was the idea the brutally insane - Long live Death! - general José Millán Astray and I venture to say its time has passed.

Staying in critical mode . . . The wheels of the train went too fast at Angrois, near Santiago 8 years ago but the wheels of justice are rather slower . . . On the 8th anniversary of the accident - 70 dead - the judge has convened an oral trial against the only 2 people in the dock - the driver of train and the ADIF director responsible for safety. The Public Prosecutor is asking for 4 years in prison for each of them for 80 crimes of reckless homicide. Superficially, if the company was guilty of negligence  - because it ignored warnings and didn't install an appropriate safety system - can the driver really be guilty too? 

There's an article on the Spanish judiciary here.

HT to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for these 3 times:-

1. It’s no secret that the RENFE online booking system is beyond hopeless. The company now suggests that buyers from abroad use a VPN to get past the first level of online negatory bureaucracy. 

2. The traffic police now have 39 drones flying around to catch us while speeding.  Click here for a map of locations, plus a list of the 50 radars with the highest revenues.

3. There's a stethoscope in my soup.

The UK 

The government says it'll be slashing by 50% the funding for “high-cost” degrees such as those for footwear production, media studies, floristry, design studies, clothing production, gardening, cinematics[?] and drama and art. One wonders why some of these were financed in the first place. Other than to achieve Tony Blair's objective of having 505 of kids go on to university.

Finally  . . . 

As I look out on The Atlantic Blanket normally associated with winter, I'm delighted to read that the UK's heatwave will continue throughout August. Albeit only by the Daily Express, famous for its claims about the death/'murder' of Princess Diana.


Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here


The Bridegroom of Death

No one in the tercio knew

who that legionary was

so bold and reckless

who joined the legion

No one knew his story

but the legion supposed

that a great pain was biting him

Like a wolf in his heart


But if anyone asked him who he was

With pain and rudeness he would reply


I am a man whom fate

has wounded with the paw of a wild beast

I am a bridegroom of death

who will be united in a strong bond

with such a loyal companion


The harder the fire was

and the fiercer the fight

defending his Flag

the legionary advanced

And fearless of the thrust

of the exalted enemy

he knew how to die like a brave man

and rescued the ensign


And by watering the burning earth with his blood

murmured the legionary in a mournful voice


I am a man whom fate

has wounded with the paw of a fierce beast

I am a bridegroom of death

who is going to unite in a strong bond


With so loyal a companion

When at last they picked him up

between his breast they found

a letter and a portrait

of a divine woman

And that letter said

"... if one day God should call you

a place for me

that I will soon come to look for you!

And in the last kiss he sent her

his last farewell he consecrated to her


To go to your side to see you

my most loyal companion

I became death's bridegroom

I embraced her with a strong bond

and her love was my banner

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 22.7.21
22 July 2021

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' 

Note: I’ve been posting my blog in 3 places in the last year, including here. I’ve now reduced this to 2 and, in the near future, will be confining posts to one site on Wordpress. This is the link, if you want to start using it now. Maybe sign up for email receipt, as this helps me understand my readership.


It's said to be good thing that the Delta variant can outmuscle the ('worse') Beta variant. Which is claimed to be what has happened in the UK but isn't happening in France. This, it seems, is the song sung by those trying to explain the bizarre decision of the UK government to put France in an Amber+ box all of its own.

Cosas de España/Galiza 

According to the Spanish Statistical Office, 50,000 Brits have disappeared from official registers since Brexit - though this might also reflect the fear of the dreadful Modelo 720 law of 2012. This total is 17% of the official number of 300,000 Brits in Spain. Applying this to the unofficial total of 1,000,000 would mean 170,000 Brits have gone back to Blighty. Or maybe somewhere else. 

Another development in the wake of the Civil War . . . Apologising for Francoism and glorifying the Spanish Civil War are to be banned under a new law intended to stamp out the last vestiges of the fascist dictator’s grip on the nation. More on this here and here.

In the UK, A young girl has been seriously injured by an e-scooterist. I'll think of her every time I see someone here (illegally) weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic at speeds of 20kph or more. Ignored by the same police who are officious when it comes to car drivers where there are no pedestrians.

For history buffs . . . This is a nice podcast on The Spanish Century.

Here in Galicia, nightbirds must now present a negative test result or a vaccination certificate at the door of a nightlife venue. So, an enterprising local firm is now offering an antigen test on site - plus a glass of wine - for €20.

After a few hours of sun yesterday afternoon/evening, the bloody advection fog has returned this morning. And, to add injury to insult, as we luxuriate in temperatures of 19-20 degrees, we learn that the skyrocketing price of electricity - now the highest in Europe - is in large part due to folk further south having their ACs on 24/7 . . .

The UK

Simon Jenkins: Boris Johnson's leadership was never suited to collective government. It is egomaniacal, based on charm, fumbling, humour and an addiction to publicity – all handicapped by his relationship with truth which is as dysfunctional as his relationships with women. Sounds about right.

Quote of the Day

Tom Stoppard: Eternity’s a terrible thought. I mean, where’s it all going to end?


According to the writer and critic Jonathan Meades: Although Received Pronunciation[RP]  has been derided as the accent of southern elites, social climbers and stuffy Radio 4 announcers, it doesn't deserve its snobby reputation and should be celebrated as a tool of social mobility. The decline of RP, also known as the Queen’s English, will make it harder for Brits from diverse backgrounds to suppress “accentual tics” and build careers in which they were assessed on skills rather than upbringing. In other words, speak proper and you'll be judged proper.

Finally  . . . 

Oh, dear . . . Liverpool has been stripped of its coveted world heritage status after Unesco blamed years of development for an “irreversible loss” to the historic value of its Victorian docks. But, as someone has correctly opined: Who cares? The city was popular for visitors long before Unesco arrived and it will remain so after it has gone. This won't take the gleam off a fine city. 


Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 21.7.21
21 July 2021

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'   

Note: I’ve been posting my blog in 3 places in the last year, including here. I’ve now reduced this to 2 and, in the near future, will be confining posts to one site on Wordpress. This is the link, if you want to start using it now.  Maybe sign up for email receipt, as this helps me understand my readership.

Cosas de España/Galiza 

Our coastal weather was forecast to change today, with the sun breaking through the low cloud - or ‘advection fog' - we've had for 5 days now. But it hasn't so far. As one local paper put it yesterday:  Galicians living on the coast are talking about nothing other than our extraordinary weather - the fog that has thwarted their beach plans. But up in our hills there's 'no trace of maritime air'. And the temperature is as high as 37 degrees, against barely 20 on the coast. See the Weather Special below.

An apt cartoon . . 

So,  not just problem here in Galicia . . The rising number of invasive wild pigs is having a greater impact on the climate than a million cars because the animals unearth carbon trapped in soil. Populations of feral pigs, such as wild boar, are growing in many countries where they are not native but have spread after animals escaped from farms or were illegally released.

So much for the AVE high speed line between Galicia and Madrid being fully operative by end last year or even end this year. As if we ever believed it would be . . . ADIF is finishing the last stretch of the AVE to Galicia, which will take 3 years to complete. The train will reach Ourense this year, along the current route, while construction of the bypass line is being put out to tender. If you believe it really will be 3 years, you haven't been watching and listening for the last 30 years

Here's a nice example of how granite 'scrubs up' well. This building - about to be a new pilgrim's albergue - was very weather worn - i.e. pretty black - only a few months ago:-


I've been sent a legalistic email by a woman who ran a charity cited here a month ago as being accused of fraud. It's all untrue, she says, and I must redact the citation. I may yet get my day in a Spanish court.

The UK

Thanks to the government's overactive Test & Tracing app, the UK is now to be called the United Pingdom . . .

I've never been clear as to whether I and my daughter are entitled to free treatment on the NHS. That said, neither of us have ever been charged for this. Now comes an announcement that British expats could face large NHS bills when returning to visit their home country as they will lose their rights to healthcare coverage when they visit the UK. That said: These rules do not apply to those already living in the EU prior to Dec 31. So, maybe we both were and still are entitled to free NHS services.

The Way of the World

New research reveals how the design of digital products exposes children to harm. Features designed to maximise engagement, activity and followers — the 3 drivers of revenue — create a world in which children are offered an unfettered diet of pornography, distorted body images and suicide and self-harm content, all within 24 hours of creating an account. These services are not deliberately designed to put children at risk, but engineers and designers told researchers they design for engagement not safety.


An amusing report, for Brits at least: For decades Americanisms have rampaged through Britain laying waste to swathes of the Queen’s English. Now Peppa Pig is leading the fightback. The animated anthropomorphic pig is being credited with infusing American children with a vocabulary and accent honed in Britain. The “Peppa effect” has taken hold during lockdown, according to parents in North America, who claim their children are talking about strange objects with funny accents. Biscuits, petrol stations and telly are among the Anglicisms some claim have taken hold as a result of the increased popularity of the 17-year-old cartoon series.  But at least one parent sees positives in this development:  My daughter now sounds like a little lady”. “She says ‘lovely’ and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ all the time.”  

Finally  . . ,  

Can it be true that a Norwegian women's beach handball team has been fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms? Apparently it is: The European Handball Federation has penalised the team over its decision to wear 'improper clothing', as the rules forbid the covering of more than 10cm of their bums. 

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here


The advection fog* covering the extreme west of the region is directly related to san Atlantic anticyclone and one of the effects it generates: the upwelling of cold, deep water. In this sense, the low cloud that appears suddenly and catches bathers unawares is by no means a phenomenon exclusive to the Galician coast. For a start, these days the maritime air also covers almost the entire Portuguese coast, where icy waters are emerging. Moreover, this type of humidity is common in California.

The truth is that the US state and the Galician community share a lot in terms of weather. A coincidence that is determined by their geographical location. Both are located in the west of their respective continents and are the gateway to the influences of their oceans, the Pacific and the Atlantic.

In addition, the meteorology is strongly conditioned by the oceanic anticyclones, which have exactly the same origin. Both the Azores and the Pacific high pressure system are of a semi-permanent type. They are part of the general circulation of the atmosphere and are always located in the same position. They only move north and south depending on the time of year.

Anticyclones are fed by warm air, so they rise in latitude in spring and summer, when solar radiation increases in the northern hemisphere. And because anticyclones at these latitudes rotate clockwise, they generate northerly winds that set cold water upwelling in motion. In the absence of wind, in California, as is currently the case in Galicia, the moisture that moves over the very cold sea cools and condenses easily. To try to find more reasonable similarities, it is worth noting that the tongue of sea air often engulfs the bay and the San Francisco bridge, making it very difficult for vehicles to circulate. In Galicia, the same often happens with the Vigo estuary and the Rande bridge.

* Advection fog is fog produced when air that is warmer and more moist than the ground surface moves over the ground surface. The term advection means a horizontal movement of air. Unlike radiation fog, advection fog can occur even when it is windy. ... As air cools the temperature drops closer to the dew-point.

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 20.7.21    
20 July 2021

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'

Note: I’ve been posting my blog in 3 places in the last year, including here. I’ve now reduced this to 2 and, in the near future, will be confining posts to one site on Wordpress. This is the link, if you want to start using it now.  Maybe sign up for email receipt, as this helps me understand my readership.

Cosas de España/Galiza  

How to get your Covid passport here in Spain

A few extracts from the article on the siesta I cited yesterday, pertinent to the crazy Spanish horario:-.

- A light lunch and a heavy evening meal: To a certain extent, this is catching on in Spain, mainly in big cities where it takes too long to get home and back and where opening hours for offices and shops tend to be longer, frequently all day, meaning midday breaks are taken in shifts and cannot afford to be more than an hour or two for this reason.

- In bigger towns and cities, and in tourist-heavy areas, the midday shutdown might only be from 14.00 to 16.00, if at all, but in smaller towns, it can be from 13.00 to 17.30, whether or not there is any practical need to do so, whether or not there is any practical need to do so.

- For some time now, various economists, health experts, sociologists and politicians have been calling for a more northern European-style work schedule, since not returning home until night-time makes the work-life balance extremely difficult, especially for families, and even with an extended break in the middle of the day, it is tiring for employees to be starting work at around 09.00 and not finishing until 20.30.

- Whilst it is often argued that the long lunch break and siesta are a 'Spanish tradition', they are more a habit than part of a custom or culture, and it is just as likely that future generations will adapt to a light lunch and early finish in the same way other nations have done, since practical considerations, like having to travel a longer distance to get to work, forced them to alter their routine. The pandemic and opening restrictions thrust similar changes on Spain.

An interesting map from a local paper, in an article informing us of the growing importance of the Pontevedra port of Marín to the world's drug barons:-

[Go here to see the foto I'm not allowed to post here]

I set off for the kilometre walk to my pilates class at 8.30 yesterday but had to return to my car to get my reserve mask there. But no mask. No problem, I thought, as I knew I'd pass 3 farmacias en route to the sports centre. As I did, plus another 2 within sight. All closed. As was a 6th I detoured to. All in vain, since - even when one of them opened at 9 - I had to wait behind one of those customers who regards a chat with the pharmacist as essential to their good health. By the time I got a mask, it was too late to finish the walk to the venue and join the class. So, I had a coffee, read the local and national papers before walking back to my car, parked at the bottom of my hill across the river.

En route, I passed a young woman remonstrating with her 3 year old for dropping her little umbrella. ¿Que pasa, coño? she shouted at the child. Which is roughly equivalent to What happened, arsehole? Only worse It might be hard to believe but, to motherland speakers of Spanish, c**t is a term of endearment. South Americans are generally much less vulgar, eschewing the palabrotas so common here in Spain.

As I sat outside the café, I twice enjoyed one of my little pleasures - seeing cars arrive at the top of a side road where the single direction of traffic was changed at least a year ago. Resulting in a 6-point U-turn back to whence they came. I suspect that the culpability lies with their satnavs(GPSs).

[Go here to see the foto I'm not allowed to post here]

In the UK, temperatures this week are in the high 30s, leading the Met Office to issue its first ever Extreme Heat warning. Here in Pontevedra it was 37/38 on Friday and Saturday but only 21 for the first 2 days of my daughter's visit from Madrid. But it might rise to 25 today, when the sun finally clears the persistent low cloud/mist by early afternoon. I feel a bit sorry for the vacationers from the capital and the South. They surely didn't expect the sought-after coolness to be this cool, even if they were aware of the capriciousness of our Atlantic seaboard climate.

The UK

A couple of heavy-ish articles:-

1. As we see a spike in non-Covid related deaths - a result of reduced general healthcare services offered by the NHS - we will eventually reach a situation where dealing with Covid indirectly becomes a more important cause of death that the disease itself – if we are not already there. More here.

2. From a British doctor who is an NHS respiratory consultant and works across a number of hospitals: I work in an NHS Covid ward – and I feel so angry. But it's hard to summarise exactly why I feel so angry. See the article below.

The Way of the World

For those seriously interested in the dialogue around transgenderism - The Sex Deracination gambit.


Una siesta sentimental - A euphemism, I believe.

Finally  . . .

The recent British Open golf championship was won by a young American called Collin Morikawa. So, an extra L compared with my forename. But not here in Spain, where it's rendered Colin in the press. Which is a tad ironic, as when I give my name to receptionists and bureaucrats here, they usually write it as Collin. As my first surname, by the way. Since David is my first forename.


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I work in an NHS Covid ward – and I feel so angry. 

It is hard to summarise exactly why I feel so angry. While the third wave is clearly under way, things are definitely different this time around. For the equivalent case numbers, hospitalisations are far lower, and people overall are less unwell. Vaccines have made the difference.

Many of our admissions have not been vaccinated, however. Some want to achieve “natural immunity”; it is unclear whether they realise that the only way to do this is to get the disease instead. Another wants “to see some real data”, as if all the information assessed by the regulatory authorities before approval, and the clear real-world data about the reduction in cases, is somehow fabricated. Someone’s friend got some side-effects from the vaccine so she didn’t have it; guess which one of them ended up in hospital. Most of these people have the decency to look sheepish, or to describe themselves as “one of those idiots”.

Not all, mind: some remain defiant as they are wheeled off to intensive care, and their families deny that Covid itself exists even as their relative is placed on a ventilator.

How can you even begin to have a conversation with that as a starting point?

Conversely, well over half of our Covid admissions have been vaccinated. These patients are a mix of ages, and are less unwell than they used to be, for the most part; very few need admission to intensive care after vaccination. The vaccination clearly works, but is not 100% effective in all people. This much we knew.

There are other problems brewing now. Our paediatricians are seeing a rapid increase in cases of RSV, a seasonal virus that in severe cases causes respiratory distress in children. Children have been mingling much less recently and immunity has dropped, so cases are rocketing. Conversations have already begun about how we are going to share vital equipment – ventilators, Cpap machines – between adults needing it for Covid and children for RSV.

On top of this, other respiratory viruses are starting to rise again in adults. We are starting to see cases of flu, parainfluenza and others that have been almost entirely absent for months. This creates a huge headache as we try to isolate different cohorts from one another. Two cohorts were hard enough – Covid and non-Covid – but now that we have different Covid variants and patients with other respiratory viruses to isolate from one another, we are rapidly running out of side rooms and space in the hospital to do so.

It is hard not to watch the steeply rising curve of daily cases with horror. It is obvious that we are not even near the peak. Current predictions seem to be that this will not occur until later in August, or September. The number of cases we have in hospital is doubling every 14 days or so. At the current rates, that suggests we will need to open new wards and restart our Cpap unit in a couple of weeks. Just the thought makes me feel tired.

We are all still exhausted. Levels of unhappiness among staff are high; I know several consultants who have gone off work with stress and many others who are receiving treatment for mental illness. Planning childcare is a nightmare on the shifting sands of unexpected isolations in children and their caregivers, and this increases the strain. Interestingly, I have sensed an increasing openness and willingness to discuss mental health that has long been lacking for doctors and perhaps this is one small silver lining.

Meanwhile, however, our junior doctors are so close to the edge that minor events regularly bring them to tears. Their training has been hugely disrupted through this, and they have high anxiety levels about the future. The most junior were fast-tracked through to qualification last year and have never worked in a hospital without Covid. They have missed out on so much of the camaraderie, shared experiences, nights out and human contact that formed my coping mechanisms during my first few nervous months as a doctor. No wonder they are struggling. I want to tell them that this is not normal, that it won’t always be like this, but reality bites: it may well be.

We are undoubtedly in for a horrendous winter that is likely to surpass any previous years in terms of the complexity and intensity of work over a prolonged period. The burden of long Covid and patients left broken and damaged after severe Covid infections is not decreasing and will need to be provided for alongside everything else. Vaccines have clearly weakened the link between cases and hospitalisations, with people not getting as ill as they were before, but if cases hit 200,000 a day even a small proportion of these could bring hospitals to their knees. Meanwhile, we are also about to allow all the other respiratory viruses to again flourish in a population whose immunity will be relatively depressed by 18 months’ reduced exposure to them.

In this context, it is hard not to feel undermined by the relaxing of all restrictions. Any pretence of “data not dates” or “following the science” is nonsense; why not hold on a bit longer? I appreciate that we will all have to “learn to live with Covid”, but surely we must continue to mitigate risk, and opening up in the face of exponentially rising case numbers is idiotic. We have to learn to live with the risk of getting run over; that doesn’t mean that we cross the road in front of an articulated lorry. Surely we can at least wait until the curve of new cases is flattish, not steepening, and hospitalisations are not rising? And give a few hundred thousand more vaccinations while we’re waiting?

For the most part, I think that the patients I see have been following the rules. But if people are allowed to do something, they will. And this is what makes me most angry. When rules are relaxed, people will quite reasonably relax their behaviour. Urging caution thereafter is as nonsensical as asking people to “stay alert”. This is a pernicious, contagious, invisible virus that a person can spread for days before they even know they have it. I have met tens, if not hundreds, of careful, cautious, law-abiding people who have been infected despite following the rules. All that the current verbal gymnastics can do is to shift the blame away from those in power – who have access to a wealth of data, the whole picture – on to ordinary people who don’t have the information to make an informed decision. We need to be given simple, clear, safe rules to follow, however unpalatable that may be. It is craven and disingenuous to do otherwise.

Meanwhile, the mood in the hospital is one of weary resignation. We watch the unfolding case numbers with horror and try to carry on as usual. It is hard to escape the feeling that, once again, we will be bearing the brunt of our leaders’ mistakes. 

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 19.7.21
19 July 2021

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'    

Cosas de España/Galiza  

Law courses: As I was late in adding it, 1 or 2 early readers might not have seen this yesterday, nor my comment that, at 98%, some Selectividad marks demanded are far higher than the 5.5(49%) of others. Here are a few local ones:-

La Coruña: Law  alone 60%  Law + Business Admin 81%

Santiago de Compostela: Law alone 67%  Law + Labour Relations 70%

Vigo - Pontevedra Campus: Law alone 56%  Law + Business Admin 76%

Siestas: Why do (some) Spaniards (and I) have them?

You think you've seen it all - or most of it - but then, in the supermarket, you come up against a woman doing her shopping on an e-scooter

Ever since I came here, the mayor of Pontevedra city has been trying to get rid of a factory on the city's outskirts. As this is by far the largest private employer, you might think this is an odd thing for a left-of-centre politician to do but there we are. Its licence was scheduled to expire in 2018 but in 2016 the top Galician court extended it for 60 years. Last week, though, a national court reversed this decision, leading the company to say it'll appeal to the Supreme Court. So, there's several more years of this saga to run yet. It looks rather more like a personal vendetta to me. Perhaps the mayor hates the factory even more than he does cars on his city's streets.

María's Not So Fast: Days  13 & 14. Lessons of Yesterday. 

The UK

A valid comment? In recent yers, the government has legitimised all sorts of nannying measures, including greater taxation of foods high in sugar or salt. Plans for rebuilding after the pandemic, particularly those associated with the green economy, almost always involve the spending of vast amounts of taxpayer money or greater government intervention. It is a dangerous moment for government by fudge. Unless the statist trend is arrested, the great risk is that, despite having voted for Brexit to free itself from the EU’s stultifying rule-making, the country becomes like France, with a French economic model and a French attitude to the state. There are already worrying signs of a drift towards dirigisme, grands projects of questionable value, and a prevalent cultural attitude that government is an empowering force whose diktats are to be followed without question. The old common law idea that you can do what you like, so long as it is not explicitly prohibited, threatens to be turned on its head. The country can no longer avoid the choice that governments have faced ever since the Brexit vote. Is the UK’s future really that of a European-style social democracy, with high levels of tax and regulation, and an expansive and interfering state? Or are we to follow the logic of Brexit to a more coherent conclusion, and embrace American-style freedom and enterprise, and all that entails?

The Way of the World

Dietary science:  Scientists have lurched one way and another over the past 50 years. Carbs were good and then bad. Eggs bad and then good. We’ve had dozens of government guidelines, policies and fad diets, from the F-Plan to Paleo, Atkins and the Mediterranean. No wonder people are confused. The reason for this surreal history? They framed the problem the wrong way: they analysed groups rather than individuals. But this is flawed. We all have different microbiomes, genes and metabolisms and so react to the same food in different ways. When it comes to diet, the focus has to be the individual. And it’s now possible, with a couple of measurements, for doctors to provide personalised nutrition. After 50 years of chaos and growing public distrust of nutritional guidance, this could go a long way to solving the obesity crisis. Let’s hope so.

Finally  . . ,  

I have my daughter and grandson from Madrid with me this week. It's amazing how quickly they can convert my house to a replica of her flat, viz. a toy shop hit by a minor earthquake.


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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 18.7.21    
18 July 2021

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'



Are masks really effective? I’ve long suspected not. So wasn't surprised to read the article below. But then came this long thread, containing the claim that: Evidence from observational studies is pretty consistent, though causality is hotly contested . . . Broadly speaking, in countries and regions where mask mandates were introduced, the rate of spread of the virus subsequently fell substantially. 

Cosas de España/Galiza  

It seems that the ex-king established his personal pension fund not just via commissions on one thing and another but also by actually being an arms-dealer. Which might just explain why some folk - possibly quite a few - don't want much to do with him these days. Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas advises that Nine (fringe) parties are asking Congress to investigate his alleged illegal sale of weapons. Not the major parties, of course. That would be far too radical and destabilising. That way lies the 3rd Republic..

A Spanish friend has responded thus to my query about lawyer salaries:- There are indeed differences between the graduates of Spanish universities, as some are more prestigious than others, e.g. La Complutense in Madrid and Comillas in Cantabria. In addition, the big law firms take the best qualified and, during their professional careers, they train them and, as they move up the career ladder, they gain enormous experience and then specialise a lot, generally working longer hours than usual, as their clients are multinationals who, although they pay good fees, demand quality and speed. The employees who can keep up with this pace are promoted until they become partners. Even within this position, there are 2 classes: "salary partners" and "equity partners", and the remuneration of the latter reaches the very high levels cite, as this remuneration is the sum of 2 components: salary and profit sharing.

Andd here's an article showing that the Selectividad mark required can be as high as 13.685 out of 14, or 98%, way above the 5.5 required by some lesser places of study,


Here's the estimable Marinero on the dreadful Lisbon earthquake of 1577, which killed between 30,000 and 50,000 residents - 20% of the population of the city.

The UK

The highest number of EU citizens granted 'settled' status so far in the UK are Romanians. They total almost a million, despite being only 282,000 in the month of the 2016 referendum and 404,000 in June 2020. Officially at least.


Astonishingly, the devastating floods in the West of the country may well be the result of  a "monumental failure of the system". There exists a highly sophisticated international flood prediction resource, part-funded by the EU. The first signs of catastrophe were detected 9 days ago by the Copernicus satellite. Over the next few days, a team of scientists sent the German authorities a series of forecasts so accurate that they now read like a prophecy. I guess it's possible that the delegation of reaction responsibility to the regions which worked so well in the early stage of Covid militated against effective measures in the case of the very heavy rains and the apparently inevitable floods. But a German friend has endorsed the claim that the country’s alarm systems are in a 'parlous state'.

Not what you'd expect of Germany.

Finally  . . ,  

Once worth $100m, the antivirus pioneerJohn McAfee, was broke when he died in a Spanish prison. Takes some doing. Had a fondness for 'bizarre mansions', it's said.


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Cloth face masks are 'comfort blankets' that do little to curb Covid spread, Sage adviser warns. Dr Colin Axon warned some cloth masks have gaps that are invisible to the naked eye, but are 500,000 times the size of viral Covid particles: Justin Stoneman, Telegraph

Standard face coverings are just "comfort blankets" that do little to reduce the spread of Covid particles, a scientist advising Sage on ventilation has said. Dr Colin Axon, who has advised the government on minimising the risk of cross-infection in supermarkets, accused medics of presenting a "cartoonish" view of how how tiny particles travel through the air. He warned some cloth masks have gaps which are invisible to the naked eye, but are 500,000 times the size of viral Covid particles. "The small sizes are not easily understood but an imperfect analogy would be to imagine marbles fired at builders' scaffolding, some might hit a pole and rebound, but obviously most will fly through," he told The Telegraph.

The mask debate has been reignited this week after the Government published 'Freedom Day' guidance recommending their continued use. It led to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, enforcing their continued use on the London Underground. 

Dr Axon said the public need to be offered a wider view of the science behind face masks, rather than the "partial view" of information being pushed by medics over their effectiveness. 'Medics have a cartoonish view of how the world is' "Medics have this cartoonised view of how particles move through the air - it's not their fault, it's not their domain - they've got a cartoonish view of how the world is," he said. "Once a particle is not on a biological surface it is no longer a biomedical issue, it is simply about physics. The public has only a partial view of the story if information only comes from one type of source. Medics have some of the answers but not a whole view."

Dr Axon, Brunel University's senior lecturer in engineering, said that the true mechanisms involved are best evaluated through science. "When the particle enters another body it returns to a biomedical issue but the mask debate is about the particle journey," he said. "Masks can catch droplets and sputum from a cough but what is important is that SARS CoV-2 is predominantly distributed by tiny aerosols." Dr Axon said that medics were "unable to comprehend" the miniscule elements at play, adding: "A Covid viral particle is around 100 nanometres, material gaps in blue surgical masks are up to 1,000 times that size, cloth mask gaps can be 500,000 times the size." Dr Axon, whose report on ventilation in supermarkets was used by both Nervtag and Sage to aid decisions, says that medics "cannot have it both ways" over asymptomatic spread. He added: "Not everyone carrying Covid is coughing, but they are still breathing, those aerosols escape masks and will render the mask ineffective." Droplets from coughs are much larger, and more likely to be stopped by a properly used mask, Dr Axon says. An Oxford study last summer concluded that masks were "effective" in reducing the spread of the virus. 

However, other studies have cast doubt on their effectiveness. A subsequent Danish study involving 6,000 people concluded that there was no statistical difference in infection spread in non-wearers, while data on US states with non-mandated usage failed to show a correlated uptick in cases.

"The public were demanding something must be done, they got masks, it is just a comfort blanket," Dr Axon noted. "But now it is entrenched, and we are entrenching bad behaviour. All around the world you can look at mask mandates and superimpose on infection rates, you cannot see that mask mandates made any effect whatsoever. The best thing you can say about any mask is that any positive effect they do have is too small to be measured."

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 17.7.21    
17 July 2021

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'

Cosas de España/Galiza  

Covid: Today's rules across Spain. Keep checking.

Much less notice is taken in Spain these days of developments in the Catholic Church but this one is surely of more-than-average interest.

I wonder if any reader can explain a conundrum . . . Whenever I see the Selectividad marks required for university courses in local universities, those for law degrees are amongst the lowest. This is in line with the relatively low status of lawyers in Spain. Against this, a recent article spoke of salaries of around €200,000pa for lawyers working in a good law firm(bufete) - a claim endorsed by this 2020 article. This is said to be twice that of senior personnel in an accountancy firm. And I believe that more than 50% of MP and government ministers have a law degree. So, do some universities demand far higher marks? And/or can the best lawyers make a hell of a lot more money than the vast majority of their colleagues? Who really aren't anywhere near as well paid as in the Anglo world?

María's Not So Fast: Days 10-12 Propitiating the sea.

The UK

Although many have returned home post-Brexit, the government has discovered that there were (and still are) a lot more EU citizens in the UK than it thought. Around 6m have applied for settled status, well above the 3.5-4.1m expected. This is only bad news to the extent that, especially in some parts of the country, this means public services risk being run based on unrealistic expectations of demand. For GPs for example. But the restaurants will be better.

Quote of the Day

Another couple of Simon Jenkins' views on football, which I've long held myself. Well, the first one, anyway. If more goals are wanted, then widen the goalposts. Otherwise honour the result: a sport that cannot accept a draw is not a sport, it is show business.

Finally  . . ,  

HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for the information that, when products get smaller, it's called reduflación, against ‘shrinkflation’ in English.


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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 16.7.21
16 July 2021

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'

Cosas de España/Galiza  

Covid: The overall incidence rate has risen to 470 per 100,000 inhabitants for the past 14 days - way over the ‘extreme risk’ level of 250. It’s highest in Cataluña, Castilla y León, and Navarra. It's sad - and worrying - to relate that, with 279 Covid cases, Galicia has entered the ‘extreme risk’ box. Fortunately - as elsewhere - hospitalisations and deaths aren't growing at the same rate as cases. Which, again as elsewhere, are very largely among the unvaccinated young. Some restrictions are expected to return. Unlike a lot of tourists.

So, 6 of the 11 judges on the Constitutional Court have opined that the lockdown of March 2020 - under a State of Emergency  - was illegal, as it should have had parliamentary endorsement under a State of Exception. Theoretically, then all fines should be repaid, but I would advise victims of this illegality not to hold their breath. Unless a US-style 'class action' has a chance of success.

Listening to a podcast on 16th century England yesterday, I was struck by something that's still true in Spain - too many bloody women named 'Mary'. That said, not just one but three of Henry VIII's six wives were call Catherine. . .

 told my visitor about my decision not to signal both before roundabouts or when I was on them. He asked me if I was also going to adopt the uniquely Spanish custom of only using the outside lane. I said this would take a few more years. Meanwhile, I'd rely on my mirror and 6th sense to avoid being side-swiped from the right.

Quote of the Day

There can be no doubt that penalty shoot-outs are dramatic. But equally true is Simon Jenkins'  comment that they involve the ritual evisceration of young players’ emotions on the altar of entertainment. And that: A penalty shootout is staged cruelty that should be beneath the dignity of team sport. It degrades a noble game to the toss of a dice.

The UK/The Way of the World

A ludicrous English lout who, before the final Euro game on Sunday, stuck a lighted flare up his arse, was wearing a (stupid) bucket hat that sells at £545/€640. Presumably to people who have a lot of money but not much below their headwear.


I guess most readers will know that 'vaccination' comes from vacca, Latin for 'cow', as the substance injected originally came from cowpox, not human smallpox. 


'Cow' is vaca in both Spanish and Portuguese. But is pronounced baca in Spanish, of course. 

And a ‘Basque cow’ is a vaca vasca/baca basca . . .

Finally  . . ,  

My daughter talking to her husband:-

Daughter: I think you have ADD

Husband: What's that?

Daughter: Attention Deficit Disorder. When you lack attention.

Husband: Well, I definitely don't have that. I could sit in a room all day with a coffee and wouldn't be at all bothered if no one gave me any attention.


Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here.  

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 15.7.21
15 July 2021

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'

Cosas de España/Galiza  

Covid: Spain’s overall incidence rate has jumped 470 per 100,000 inhabitants for the past 14 days – still well over the ‘extreme risk’ level of 250. The incidence rate is at its highest in Catalonia (1,068), Castilla y León (779) and Navarra (700). As of next week, we’ll be able to buy antigen tests in pharmacies without a prescription from our GP.

Some busting of traffic fine myths here.

Talking of travelling . . . Returning from a short Camino walk yesterday, I paid for our tickets on the train, as there was no office at the station. I offered my discount card and helpfully pointed out that I was the old one. The ticket-collector (el revisor) took our phone numbers, printed out a receipt and then insisted - with a laugh - that I look at it. He'd put me down as a child, which might have been even cheaper than the one I was entitled to. So we all had a good laugh.

The EU

AEP is once again unimpressed with an EU initiative: Europe picks a fight with the whole world by going for green protectionism. The EU's carbon border tax plan is an attempt by the bloc to impose its political agenda on everybody by unilateral means. See below.


A surprise . . . More Americans Watched the Euro 2020 Soccer Final on TV Than the NBA Finals. The stat is a testament to soccer’s growing popularity in the United States, more than it is a knock on the NBA.

Quote of the Day

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. If I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did'. Very true, both generally and specifically. There are other groups. 


For those Americans who wonder why Brits say 'queue' instead of ’line’ . . . Since being borrowed into English in the 1470s, ‘queue’ has had a lot of meanings: it could refer to a band of parchment, a line of dancers, a plait of hair, the long end of a string instrument, a cask, the bottom part of a lance, or the tail of a beast in heraldry. All of these definitions have something to do with length, and that last one is closest to their origin in Old French ‘coe’ or ‘cue’, meaning ‘tail’ (or, colloquially, ‘penis’).That's from Latin ‘cauda’, meaning ‘tail’, and we can trace it back to Proto-Italic ‘kauda’ and Proto-Indo-European ‘khu’, meaning ‘cleaved’. Or ‘cloven’, I guess. 

Finally  . . , 

The sacred tortilla: The Guardian claims here that the with-onions-faction has finally won the age-old war against the without-onions faction. As if.


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Europe picks a fight with the whole world by going for green protectionism: The EU's carbon border tax plan is an attempt by the bloc to impose its political agenda on everybody by unilateral means: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

The European Union has jumped the gun. It has charged ahead with plans for a carbon border tax before it has secured the necessary cooperation of key allies. 

It is attempting to impose the EU’s political agenda on everybody, by unilateral means, in the face of implacable opposition across the globe. 

The putative carbon fee on imports is the centre-piece of the European Commission’s climate plan, unveiled today with the tantalising moniker “Fit for 55” - meaning a 55pc cut in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by the end of the decade. 

China deems it disguised economic warfare, a first step towards circumventing the World Trade Organization and excluding China, without having to admit the ulterior purpose. Tackling climate change should not become an excuse for geopolitics, or for attacking other countries with trade barriers,” said President Xi Jinping.

The BRICS quintet agree with him, even if some agree with him on nothing else. The EU is inadvertently burnishing Xi’s claim to leadership of the emerging world when Western interests would be better served by courting India, Brazil, and South Africa, (if not Russia).  

“The whole developing world sees this as self-serving protectionism. It throws gasoline on international trade tensions,” said Michael Liebriech, the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and a key negotiator in global climate policy. “Think of the optics: the wealthy EU, levying a charge on manufacturers in the world’s poorest nations and using it to defray the costs of running the Berlaymont building,” he said. Mr Liebreich said the EU is up against a powerful coalition of countries that views this overreach as a form of latter day colonialism, dressed in green garb. “The risk is that these countries will say ‘if that is how you are going to treat us, count us out, we’ll trade with each other’. That way we will end up with a two-speed world and a meltdown in Glasgow.” 

US climate chief John Kerry pleaded with the EU not to press ahead with the border tax before the COP26 climate summit this autumn, fearing that it would undermine months of careful diplomacy, which has already led to net-zero commitments by countries making up 78pc of total emissions. The tax should be “a last resort, when you’ve exhausted the possibilities”, he said.

The decision to ignore Mr Kerry marks the definitive end of the post-Trump honeymoon, and probably the start of a fractious and chronic trade conflict that could have been avoided. It is certainly careless statecraft. 

Nobel economist William Nordhaus is the guiding mind behind the border tax, hoping it will evolve into a “carbon club” of like-minded green pioneers, although it takes more than one to form a club. The idea is that once Europe, America, and G7 allies have together established a broadly compatible carbon price, others will have to follow suit or face exclusion from the world’s biggest combined market. 

Prof Nordhaus starts from the premise that the United Nations’ COPs regime has reached a “dead end”. He is wrong about that. The 2015 Paris Agreement has proved to be an irreversible turning-point, coinciding with a sudden leap forward in green technology that renders fossil fuels obsolete on the forward curve. 

Big Money has switched sides, chastened by the prospect of a regulatory sledge hammer, but mostly seduced by the allure of fortunes to be made in more competitive sources of energy. Nobody wants to be stuck with stranded assets.  

There is a theoretical elegance to the Nordhaus carbon model. It uses the price mechanism to set signals, letting markets sort out the best technologies. A variant of his plan has reached the US Congress in the form of HR 763, with the backing of all former chairmen of the US Federal Reserve. “We’re heading down the road of using very ineffective, costly tools. We could reduce emissions much more efficiently with much less intervention and a much lighter hand on the economy,” he said. However, elegant theory is useless if decoupled from the realities of global geopolitics.  

You can see why the EU has ended up in this position. The price of emissions under its carbon trading scheme (ETS) has rocketed tenfold over the last three years to €52 a tonne as a result of rationing permits. This is generating lots of tax revenue. 

But the higher the EU carbon price, the greater the imperative for a border adjustment tax to level the playing field, and to avert ‘carbon leakage’ to free riders. This will become ever more necessary as the ETS scheme is extended over time from the power sector to a wide range of tradable industries. Most companies are currently shielded by free carbon credits.

The German chambers of industry and commerce (DIHK) said “politically-induced rises in CO2 prices are only sustainable if at the same time compensation is provided for hard-hit companies that are particularly affected.” It cited steel, aluminium, and cement producers, along with 900 mid-sized German contractors.

The EU logic is impeccable but how can the border tax be reconciled with countries such as the US that do not have a carbon price - though California and New England have permit schemes - and instead rely on other instruments to curb emissions?

The Biden administration is not hostile to the principle of a carbon border tax. The Democrat party platform last year called for a US version, leaving it no doubt that the target was Xi Jinping’s China. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has long favoured such an idea. But the White House has concluded that anything like a federal carbon tax is doomed in Congress. The administration is snookered.

Brussels has charged ahead anyway and risks turning what could be a cooperative Atlantic venture - a sort of trade Nato - into a fractious and chronic trade conflict. Could Liz Truss possibly proceed with her post-Brexit trade deals the UK went along with the EU plan as currently designed? Clearly she could not. So Brussels is inviting interminable friction with London as well. 

“This is going to cause a furore and bog us down in all sorts of problems for little purpose,” said Tom Burke from the green energy think tank E3G. He blamed France’s Emmanuel Macron for pushing the border tax to the top of the EU agenda.

How does one measure the relative national carbon content of an imported Washington machine in any case? It is nigh impossible, as one can see in “Counting Carbon”, a brave effort by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute. “The literature quickly disappears into a thicket of diagonalized vectors, final demand matrices and Leontief inverses,” said Mr Liebreich.

What is the CO2 footprint of a car made from parts in thirty countries and shipped criss-cross in Brownian motion, or the footprint of an Apple iPhone made with components from the US, China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the UK, France, Germany and Denmark? Even the great Wassily Leontief would struggle with this. 

“China can simply redirect its low carbon production to the EU and ship dirty production elsewhere,” said Michael Jacobs, Gordon Brown’s former climate adviser and now at Sheffield University. “The biggest impact is going to be on places like Turkey, Ukraine, or North Africa just outside the EU that produce cement and steel,” he said.

Does the energy and climate wing of Ursula von der Leyen’s commission talk to colleagues in the foreign policy and defence wing?

This opening salvo from the commission is the start of a long winding road. The European Parliament will want to make it tougher. East European states in the EU Council will want to make it weaker. Corporate lobbyists will fight tooth and claw to secure exemptions. 

You could say the EU’s negotiating tactic is already working: one reason why China is introducing its own carbon trading scheme is precisely because it fears border taxes by the Western axis.

But the risk of screwing up COP26 in Glasgow surely outweighs any advantage at this juncture if the objective is to fight climate change, while the refusal to heed the warnings of the Biden White House reduces Western leverage.

The EU has been admirably ambitious but it is also trying to impose its internal regulatory policy and methods on the world through trade policy as if it were the global hegemon. It is not the hegemon.

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