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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: 1.8.21
Monday, August 2, 2021

Dear reader,

Please note that I no longer post this blog here. 

You can find it on Wordpress here.

My apologies for any inconvenience to you.

Colin Davies

Pontevedra, 2 August 2021

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 1.8.21    
Sunday, August 1, 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, as tomorrow. I 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 

Walking the camino yesterday, I told my British visitors that - despite having 1,000 years to do it - the adjacent regions of Galicia and Asturias hadn't managed to agree on how to show the way to Santiago. In Galicia, I said, the yellow arrows went the 'feathers' of the stylised concha, thus:-

Whereas those in Asturias pointed in the opposite way.  A couple of kilometres later, we came across proof that Galician municipalities can't even agree amongst themselves:-

How very Spanish to be different . . .

My thanks to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for these items. 

From Sur:: Why do the Spanish all live in flats? Only 34 per cent of people in France live in apartment blocks, while in Spain the figure is almost double. A combination of factors explains the trend, it says. 

From El País:: The migrants bringing small rural communities back to life in Spain. Several projects run by non-profits are helping asylum seekers find jobs and housing in villages at risk of disappearing due to population exodus, such as Brañuelos in León province.

   María's Not So Fast: Days 24-27: Change is real.

The EU/Germany

Couple of British headlines:

Blow to Merkel as the German economy struggles to bounce back. Italy and Spain are driving the eurozone recovery but now risk being flattened by the delta variant. Germany's economy failed to recover as fast as had been expected in the three months to June, dealing a fresh blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel as she prepares to stand down after September's elections.

The EU’s vaccine failures will leave a toxic legacy. AstraZeneca has bent over backwards to do the right thing and been punished every step of the way.

Finally  . . .  

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

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 31.7.21    
Saturday, July 31, 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, as of next Monday 2 Aug., I 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 

Why in Spain there are two surnames and why it does not happen in most countries? See below.

Those electricity price hikes and how reduce their impact

This will be of interest to those looking to buy property in certain parts of Spain. Including along the Galician coast.

And this will be of interest to those in Spain who patronise Deliveroo.

And this - from the estimable Marinero - will interest those who believe in the preposterous myth of the Holy Grail. And perhaps to some who don't.

Lenox Napier goes to jail without passing Go . . .

Caesura - Gaseosa. Lemonade. Fizzy water with a hint of a lemon-tasing chemical . . .

The UK  

The "amber plus" regime for those returning from France is on one level a trivial detail, hardly newsworthy when set against the magnificent fiasco of the British pingdemic.  Yet nothing quite so illustrates the bureaucratic incoherence of Britain’s post-vaccination policy as this lunatic quarantine rule for travellers. 


Has the Swedish strategy been vindicated? Or is it still too soon to say? Currently it has a low rate of cases and no deaths, despite there being no compulsory mask-wearing. 

Finally  . . . 

Something very Spanish last night . . . Someone I didn't know was kind enough to ring my doorbell to ask if it was my car with a window open outside my house. At midnight. Which is equivalent - according to my rule-of-thumb - to 10pm in the UK. Where this might well not have happened.


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


Why in Spain there are two surnames and why it does not happen in most countries?

The double surname system was consolidated in our country in the 19th century and spread throughout Latin America, but it is uncommon in much of the world.

In Spain, as well as in other Spanish-speaking countries, it is very common for newborns to have two surnames: the father's and the mother's. However, this system is not very common in most of the world. However, this system is not very common in the rest of the world. In fact, neither was it in our country until the 19th century, since Spaniards used to adopt a surname that they could even choose during adulthood, as explained in laSexta by Antonio Alfaro, president of the Hispanic Genealogy Association (HISPAGEN). "For centuries the choice of surnames prevailed, as long as it was not malicious, although it was most common for the firstborn to adopt the father's name and the rest of the brothers or sisters other family surnames." In this way, it was normal for siblings not to share a surname, since boys usually acquired their father's and girls that of their mother, grandmother or other women in the family.

Origin and consolidation

In the 16th century, the double surname system began to spread among the upper classes of Castile, but "it was not consolidated in the rest of Spain" until the 19th century, says Alfaro. At the beginning, it was a tool to differentiate the population: "The Administration realized that it is much easier to control us with the double surname system". Thus, it was established and in 1833 it was already very common, although it was not regulated.

It was not until 1889, with the creation of the first Spanish Civil Code, when the official use of the maternal and paternal surname was established. Specifically, Article 114 stated that "legitimate children have the right to bear the surnames of their father and mother". Therefore, from this moment on, the double surname was extended to all areas, until it became an obligatory rule that, according to Alfaro, served to identify "in an effective and reliable way the Spaniards". Likewise, from the point of view of the president of HISPAGEN, he also recognized the importance of the maternal surname. Currently, in Spain, the order of the surnames can be chosen, so that the first one can be that of the father or the mother.

After Spain, the custom of the double surname was incorporated into other civil registries in Latin America, where the tradition has also been maintained to the present day. But outside the Hispanic sphere, citizens usually have only one surname. For example, in Portugal, the Civil Code establishes that children may use the surnames of both parents or only one, which is the parents' decision. If no agreement is reached, a judge will determine which will be chosen. It is customary in this country for surnames to be registered in reverse order: first the mother's and then the father's, which is the one usually used.

In Italy, only the father's surname used to be used, but since 2016 the law allows both to be used. Something similar happens in France, where since 2005 the parents can choose to put both surnames, in the order they want, or one of them. Even so, in the Gallic country, more than 80% of the time it turns out to be the paternal one, with which a movement has emerged, driven by the collective Porte Mon Nom (Take my surname) and the deputy Patrick Vignal to put an end to what they call "patronymic patriarchy".

In Germany, as in the United Kingdom and Turkey, this matter is not regulated, but married couples usually adopt the man's surname for both partners and, therefore, also for their children. This position has been followed in many other countries such as Japan or China, although women do not lose their maiden name, or the United States, where some choose to make it their middle name.

 In Russia, and other countries such as Bulgaria, the surname is formed by adding a suffix to the father's name, varying according to the gender of the son or daughter. On the other hand, Sweden is a rare case within Europe, because it usually adopts both surnames, in the order chosen by the parents, but, if the couple does not reach an agreement, only the maternal surname will appear in the registry.

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 30.7.21
Friday, July 30, 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, as of next week, 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 the blow to the tourist industry here, Americans have been advised not to travel to Spain and neighbouring Portugal, despite the fact that vaccination rates in both these countries are higher than in the majority of other countries.

On the issue of vaccination . . . Given the importance of the tourism industry, it's hardly surprising that Spain has put immense effort into this. Facing this challenge, it's benefitted from having fewer anti-vaxers than in, say, next-door France, and from a round-the-clock campaign. These 2 charts show Spain's excellent performance relative to other countries, and the PM yesterday claimed that Spain - with 400,000 shots a day - has moved up the rankings, giving it 'the gold medal in vaccinations', with 66.6%  of the population having had one jab and 56.3% having had 2. But Chile(63%) and Canada(57.4%) would surely dispute this, at least for a few days. But no one Spanish believes what our politicians say anyway . . .

From a point of view of both economics and art, Spain's 16th century was truly 'golden'. More recent centuries have been of baser metals. I cited reviews of Paul Preston's book 'A People Betrayed' in March 2020 and in January 2021 but I'd missed Isambard Wilkinson's of October 2020, included below. Taster: Preston’s thesis is that corruption and  political incompetence have created the social division that has blighted Spain from the 19th century to the present, impeding the country’s progression towards liberal democracy. I'm not sure many would argue with that. Though both corruption and political incompetence might well be at a rather lower level nowadays, if not exactly negligible.

At a local level, infections continue to rise and restrictions have been re-imposed in several councils, against the backcloth of 80% of cases being among those below 40.

The UK  

Latest Office for National Statistics figures suggest that nearly 92% of adults now carry antibodies to coronavirus, representing about 73% of the population as a whole. Some say herd immunity has been reached but others say it hasn't for important variants. Who knows?  University College London, for one, estimates total population immunity is now at 87%, although they believe the delta variant has shifted the herd immunity threshold to 93%. 

In Britain, we have at least achieved success with vaccine roll out, but little good does it seem to have done us, with policy on international travel stuck in the muddled, neither fish nor fowl, halfway house of the current traffic light system. What’s really behind the se absurd and restrictive foreign travel rules? See the article below for a cynical(?) answer to this.

Possibly good news, though not for Norfolk trees . . . A baby beaver has been born there for the first time in more than 600 years.

The UK and the EU post Brexit

Northern Ireland. For those (very?) few interested, here's Richard North today: One can hardly avoid noticing that talks are at an impasse, with no common ground and not the slightest sign of agreement. The EU is saying that the protocol is the solution to the problem of Northern Ireland, while the UK government argues that Northern Ireland's problem is the protocol. You can't get much further apart than that. Possibly a good example of British understatement.

The Way of the World

Caitlin Moran. The South Korean TV coverage of the Games has given viewers a bit of a surprise. There, MBC decided to “jazz up” the section in the opening ceremony and illustrated the Ukrainians’ entry with pictures of a devastated Chernobyl; Romania got a picture of Count Dracula; while Haiti got shots of the street protests following the assassination of their president. In this respect, Italy got off lightly: no pictures of Mussolini hanging from a lamppost, but a nice pizza instead.

Finally  . . . 

My niece and I sat down to Spag Bol and pasta last night, without the 2nd carbohydrate of bread. It struck me that very few Spaniards would do this. Though they might not actually eat the stuff. I often thrown to the birds virtually all of what I've put on the table for Spanish guests. Who'd display withdrawal symptoms if I didn't supply their meal-time comfort blanket to break up and leave on a side-plate.


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


1. 'A People Betrayed' by Paul Preston. The pain in Spain continues to reign:  The country’s history is a tale of corruption and violent division: Isambard Wilkinson, TheTimes

Paul Preston has written a Spanish history about a period so steeped in assassination, mob violence, civilian bloodshed, corruption and failed governments that about halfway through reading it I wondered if I had the grit to carry on

I hadn’t even reached the civil war of 1936-39, but General Francisco Franco had just put down a largely unarmed rebellion of Asturian miners with artillery and bombs. Women were raped, prisoners tortured and executed. “This war is a frontier war and its fronts are socialism, communism and any force that attacks civilisation in order to replace it with barbarism,” Franco commented of the bloody suppression of the miners in October 1934.

March, dubbed the “Sultan of Spain”, embodies the corruption, that, according to Preston’s thesis, along with political incompetence, has created the social division that has blighted Spain from the 19th century to the present, impeding the country’s progression towards liberal democracy.

He pops up like a bad penny in the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, the Second Republic and Franco’s rule, bribing his way out of jail, avoiding arrest dressed as a priest, bankrolling rebels and governments, buying a parliamentary seat or paying off debts run up by Queen Victoria Eugenie with Parisian jewellers. March is also representative of a gallery of rare breeds, including light-fingered prime ministers, fornicating aristocrats and a somnolent dictator, that give life to the narrative of this hefty tome.

The story begins with a portrait of an impoverished country riven by social inequality, civil strife and coups d’état. Preston, professor of contemporary Spanish history at the LSE, notes that between 1814 and 1981 Spain witnessed more than 25 military coups. The first of four civil wars began in 1833 and the last ended in 1939.

The unrest did not only lead to the rise of a militant left. By the 1830s Spain had lost the bulk of its empire and in the Carlist Wars of that decade and the next the “forces of reaction” — the army, the church and establishment — were on the march. In the 1860s there were fewer than 50,000 priests; at the end of the century, more than 88,000; by 1930 there were 135,000.

Preston, the author of an acclaimed biography of Franco, has a reputation for being pro-left, pro-republican. The clue to the tenor of the work is the title, which belies the fact that many Spaniards did not feel betrayed by a lack of social progress. Still, the book’s depth of research cannot be faulted, and the examples of grand malfeasance and political corruption are extraordinary. For example, after years of turmoil, in 1876 a new constitution was drawn up by the conservative Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, a cultured man who learnt by heart the speeches of Gladstone and Disraeli. It instigated an idiosyncratic form of British democracy, known as the turno pacifico, whereby the two main monarchist parties took turns in power, marginalising republican parties.

This sham strengthened the cacique, the local strongman, usually a landowner, who had the tax collector, the mayor and the judge in his pocket; such was the vote fixing that there were examples of the cacique’s favoured deputies being returned to parliament with majorities bigger than the electorate. Flying squads of voters were deployed in Madrid, with one man voting more than 42 times. To deter undesirable voters, voting urns were put in fever hospitals, pigsties or on a high roof.

The turno, however, could not stop the spread of anarchist ideas and protests. In 1897 Cánovas, then prime minister, was assassinated by a young anarchist journalist. A wave of bombings and shootings led to mass arrests of anarchists, republicans and freethinkers. Alejandro Lerroux, the editor of El País, then a scandal-mongering and left-wing newspaper, came to prominence by exposing the abominable treatment of prisoners in the bleak fortress of Montjuic, “the Spanish Bastille”, in Barcelona. A civil guard officer accused of being a torturer challenged Lerroux to a duel; he refused, but they ended up fighting with walking sticks when they met on the streets of Madrid.

Lerroux entered politics, becoming prime minister in the 1930s; he was outrageously corrupt and was on March’s payroll. As Preston puts it: “A lifetime of shameless corruption reached its peak when, as prime minister in 1935, Lerroux brazenly sponsored a system of fixed roulette wheels.”

Before that the fallout from the loss of Spain’s last colonies in 1898 had led to economic crisis, a collapse of morale and repression. Fears over the political influence of the army, which was heavy-handed in dealing with rising Basque and Catalan nationalism and unpopular because of the use of conscription to fight its north African misadventures, intensified opposition to the ancien regime.

Symptomatic of the desperation of the time, the conservative elder statesman Antonio Maura, whose reforming efforts seem quixotic in the context of Spain’s apparent ungovernability, at first welcomed the coup in 1923 of Miguel Primo de Rivera, who saw himself as the “iron surgeon” needed to cure Spain’s body politic.

The scion of a large landowning family, Primo, prime minister from 1923 until 1930, was viewed by the middle and upper classes as a bulwark against disorder. He was also “a gargantuan eater, an inveterate gambler, a heavy drinker who loved binges”. His semi-official biography stated that “among his loves there have been women of high and low origins”.

His sexual appetites caused a scandal when he formed a relationship with La Caoba (the Mahogany), an Andalusian cabaret artist alleged to be a prostitute and drug addict. After a relatively popular start, his dictatorship ended, amid strikes, coup threats and the collapse of the peseta, with his resignation, which led to the Second Republic.

Preston charts the republic’s doom and the rise of Franco out of the ashes of the north African campaigns, recording that, besides Nazi German and Fascist Italian support, his flight from semi-exile in the Canary Islands to Morocco and his Africa Army’s onward passage to Spain to join the coup that led to civil war, were financed by March.

Preston offers potted histories of the civil war and Franco’s 38-year rule until 1975, from its pernicious and economically harebrained origins to its corrupt end, when the ageing siesta-prone caudillo could just about lift an eyelid to sign off on garrotting political opponents.

Buried in the narrative lies ample treasure: Franco’s brother, Ramón, a famous aviator and republican, in 1930 set off to bomb the royal palace, but aborted after seeing children playing in the gardens; Pablo Picasso’s uncle was a general who compiled a key report on a military disaster in north Africa; one of the tutors of the future King Juan Carlos was a member of the extreme right who once plotted a suicide attack on the Spanish parliament with poison gas.

Preston’s account takes us through the close-run, coup-endangered transition to democracy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He concludes that the long history of corruption scandals and political incompetence — left, right and monarchical — is the cause for Spain’s polarisation and fragmentation today. Perhaps he oversimplifies the reasons for the country’s present woes, not giving due weight to wider influences such as the global rise of populism and international economic pressures. Nonetheless, after I had finished reading A People Betrayed, I applauded Preston’s — and my own — heroic feat.

2. What’s really behind these absurd and restrictive foreign travel rules? Following the money seems as good an explanation as any for the traffic light system. Jeremy Warner, The Telegraph

“Leave thine home, oh youth”, urged the Roman courtier Petronius Arbiter in a poem made famous by the celebrated British travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, “and seek out alien shores; a wider range of life is ordained for thee”.

In the homogenised sameness of today’s world it is regrettably ever harder to find any genuinely alien shores yet to be explored, but just the chance to travel in the last year and a bit of on/off lockdown would have been a fine thing.

For some of this time, there has been an absolute ban on non-essential travel overseas; though the restrictions have now been partially lifted, the Government continues – to the dismay of a once thriving travel industry – to discourage it, and indeed seemingly to make it as difficult as possible.

At every stage, moreover, there has been the threat of bringing back the more hardline constraints. This in itself has been a major deterrent to booking an overseas holiday. Rumours of another crackdown this winter are already rife among beleaguered tour operators and airlines, many of whom won’t survive another year like the last one.

The fault is not entirely with the UK Government. There is plainly not a great deal ministers can do about policy in the US, New Zealand and Australia, all of whom have in effect banned non-residents, including UK citizens. Attempts to persuade the Biden administration to reciprocate on freedom of travel for the fully vaccinated have run into the sand.

As an aside, it is worth noting that when President Trump began the process of closing American borders by imposing a ban on travel from China in the initial stages of the pandemic, he was almost universally condemned. The World Health Organisation claimed that there was no evidence that border controls would halt the spread of the disease.

Seemingly taking his instruction directly from Beijing, the WTO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that because of the actions already taken by China, it was wholly unnecessary to interfere with international travel and trade. And yet when the saintly Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, similarly closed her borders, with the aim of going beyond suppression to complete eradication of the disease, she was hailed as setting a shining example to all.

What we now see is that failing to combine zero tolerance strategies with an effective vaccination programme – only 14 per cent of Australians and New Zealanders have been fully vaccinated – condemns a country to never-ending isolation, and as in the case of Australia (where there is now a growing public backlash against the eradication strategy), lingering and repeated economic lockdown. Once buoyant tourist industries have been all but annihilated.

In Britain, we have at least achieved success with vaccine roll out, but little good does it seem to have done us, with policy on international travel stuck in the muddled, neither fish nor fowl, halfway house of the current traffic light system.

Britain’s most popular tourist destinations have all been left stranded at the amber to red end of the spectrum of continued restrictions. Even when those destinations are relatively open to UK holiday makers, the conditions attached to returning home are costly, bureaucratic and off putting, seemingly deliberately so. The threat of a sudden change in status adds to the deterrent effect.

All this might be just about tolerable if properly justified on public health grounds; as it is, there appears to be no rhyme or reason to the various categorisations. Infection rates in many amber designated countries are considerably lower than here; we are much more likely to give it to them than them to us.

Though it pretends otherwise, the Government would, it seems, much rather you stayed at home. No, no, no, say ministers. We fully understand that these restrictions are bad for the economy, and we wouldn’t be imposing them if there were not good public health reasons for it. We cannot risk another wave.

Well perhaps, but I can’t help but think that the Treasury would be rather more active in pushing the case for a further lifting of constraints were it not for one rather important fact.

Time was when international travel was largely the preserve of the rich and particularly intrepid, but that all changed from the 1960s onwards when the age of mass tourism arrived and an overseas holiday started to become accessible to all. Today, Brits are more likely to holiday overseas than almost any other nation, if they could, that is. As a country we take almost as many trips abroad as the whole of the US, which has five times as many people.

The upshot is that we run a huge trade deficit in tourism. In 2019, British nationals made 93.1 million trips abroad, spending an astonishing £62.3 billion. There were on the other hand only 40.9 million trips to the UK, with spending of £28.5 billion. If the money we spend abroad were instead disgorged in the UK, it would theoretically be a huge net boost to the economy, even if we lost all those tourist pounds from overseas.

That in essence has been the effect of the pandemic and the travel restrictions policymakers have deemed necessary to counter it. Small wonder that Spain, Portugal and Greece are so keen to welcome us back. By the month, they bleed billions of British euros. Small wonder too that the Treasury would much rather we spent its furlough largesse here in the UK than a Benidorm or Mykonos nightclub.

From an overall economic perspective, it would of course be better if things returned to the way they were; hundreds of thousands of UK jobs depend on overseas tourism, both outward and inward bound. But the magically shrunken tourist deficit does at least provide some consolation as a positive both for the balance of payments and for tax revenues. It also provides support for the levelling up agenda; relatively rich southerners who would otherwise be splashing the cash abroad will be spending their money in the UK regions instead.

I’m not suggesting this is the underlying reason for keeping us all locked up. Yet it is ever harder to see any other justification. If there is one, please tell.

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 29.7.21
Thursday, July 29, 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, as of next week, 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 

There are c.4.8m foreigners in the Spanish population of 47m. The top 3:- 1. Moroccans, 2. Romanians, and 3. Brits. But these are the official figures and there are - or have been - many more retired Brits living here below the (registration/tax) horizon. So, Brits might (even now) outnumber at least the Romanians, who need to go public in order to work.

So, from next week, we double-jabbed Brits will allowed to go to the UK without going into very expensive quarantine. But: Ministers are "getting jumpy" about the number of Beta cases in parts of Spain and are considering placing Spain on a new “amber watchlist”, putting tourists on notice that the country risks being relegated to the red list if cases rise further. Who'd rule out yet another farcical twist in this saga?

Reading about the Challenger and Chernobyl disasters, I was struck by the accounts of how engineers’ concerns were ignored and decisions made on cost-savings grounds. Just as in the case of the safety system on the train which crashed near Santiago 8 years ago, leaving c. 70 people dead. And with fingers pointed mainly at the driver, not at the management which took the fatal decisions.

Possibly more than we need to know about Spain's disgraced ex-king: His estranged mistress has accused him and the Spanish secret service of spying on her in the UK. She claims that he put her under illegal surveillance as part of a long-running row over an alleged gift of €65 million[sic]. I don't suppose he's much concerned about this. His reputation couldn't get much lower and he'll financially survive any verdict.

Lenox with a bit of fun on ciggies. [Which my spellcheck turned into ‘piggies’]


Germany plans to tighten the rules for returning holidaymakers amid growing concerns in northern Europe over a sharp rise in infections being brought back by tourists. 

‘Countdown to Surrender – The Last 100 Days’: A WW2 series told from the German perspective. This PBS America documentary series was an excellent, dispassionate programme that left sensationalism at the door. The unusual thing is that the story is told from the German perspective.  

Quote of the Day

The UK: Nothing about the post-Freedom Day situation makes sense. The cost of our newfound “freedom” is overwhelming guilt.

The Way of the World/Social Media

In the UK at least, Facebook turns out to be the least trusted of social media platforms for news, with just 27% of people saying it's trustworthy, and only 28% saying it's accurate. But it’s stilll favoured by the young for their information.

Finally  . . . 

I have a niece visiting me. Passing through the process at Stansted airport, she offered her father's vaccination QR on her phone by mistake, but was waved through . . . Things were rather more rigorous at Santiago airport, with document examiners all in full PPE.


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

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 28.7.21
Wednesday, July 28, 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, as of next week, 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 

The word 'Annual' might not mean much to most readers. But it does to at least some Spaniards, being a battle in North Africa in which the Spanish army suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the - very heavily outnumbered - Moroccan Berbers. This was back in 1921, a hundred years ago. An anniversary which the Spanish government is  - understandably - said to have pasado por alto. i.e. overlooked/ignored.

Yesterday I noted that Spain is said to have the highest percentage of double-jabbed in the world. But its ranking is much lower when it comes to the percentage of the population with one jab. I can't pretend to know which - if you have the choice - is the better option.

Yet another case this week of a Galician 'kamikaze', a driver heading the wrong way on the A6, at 6pm. This time not a confused geriatric but a drunken 33 year old. We seem to have quite a few of these kamikazes every year. Don’t know about other regions.

The Galician police were as officious as ever over the weekend, fining folk for all sorts of Covid infringements, including an excess number of no-conviventes together out in the street.

María's Not So Fast: Days 22-23  A [Health] Service We Pay For

The UK  

OTOH: Daily Covid infection numbers are on the decline. With hospital admissions hovering around a quarter of what they once were during infection peaks, evidence is building that the vaccines are working: preventing not just serious illness, but reducing transmission as well.

OTOH: We can’t get too comfortable: Covid is constantly surprising us and numbers may well rise again

OTOH: The economy appears to be racing ahead. EY’s latest estimate shows it growing at its fastest rate in 80 years, forecasting 7.6% growth in 2021.Its analysis fits a trend: other economic heavyweights are also predicting a faster bounce back than initially anticipated.

OTOH: Don’t be fooled: the situation remains fragile and a rapid recovery is still not guaranteed.

The UK and the EU post Brexit

Query. Did the British not read the fine print when they signed their Brexit deals? Not only do they regret agreeing to a lay a customs border down the Irish Sea to avoid the need for passport checks and inspections of goods on the Ireland-Northern Ireland border; they also have second thoughts about their agreement with Spain for Gibraltar.

'Perfidious Albion' yet again?

The Way of the World 

The Scottish Government - which likes (like Spain) to be 'different' - is backing proposals to encourage 8,000 civil servants to pledge they’ll specify their preferred pronouns at the end of each email. Effie Deans mocks this development here.

I'd like all to know that, henceforth, my personal pronoun - for I, me and you - will be Zak.


Zak've often wondered and, yes, there used to be an adjective 'miscontented', back in the 16th century. Now displaced by 'discounted', of course.

Zak've finally looked it up . . . 'To cosplay': To dress up as a character from a film, book, or video game.


To cosplay: Hacer cosplay.

Finally  . .

A conner conned. Nice one. But gullibility and immoral profiteering continue, of course.


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

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 27.7.21  
Tuesday, July 27, 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, as of next week, 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.


The UK: the case rate has fallen for several days now but no one really seems to know why. As one headline put it: The fall in Covid cases is great news (but a bit baffling). And fears remain that last week's Freedom Day will soon reverse the trend.

Spain: An impressive achievement.

Cosas de España/Galiza 

All our (many) local newspapers carry large announcements - 'tombstones' - about very recent deaths. I've often wondered why people incur the expense of these but, in a country where the law obliges burial or incineration within 24-48 hours, it's one way to publicise funeral details. I assume that, as one ages, one increasingly goes through the morbid process of checking if any of your contemporaries has just passed away and you need to clear your diary for an evening engagement.

There is, by the way, a huge Death Insurance business here - allied with the funeral director business - to deal with the complicated implications of the rapid-burial obligation. You can initiate the process at any time of the day or night. Impressive, if not cheap.

The wheels of Spanish justice 2: Up in Cataluña: The corruption case against ex president Pujol is still without a trial date 7 years after his admitting he had a fortune in a bank account in Andorra. I wonder if they're waiting for all the other folk he can implicate to die. Or at least Pujol himself, as he's already his 90s. Or maybe the objective is to let the statute of limitations work its magic. Either way, it's doubtful that the truth will out. Or that any of the implicated family will end up in clink.

I'm not clear why but - under our new pricing system - we're now paying more for electricity than in both Germany and France, both of which are rather richer. The cost of a MW/h rose from €28.49 in February to €91.31 in July, or by more than 200%. If that's the consolidated price, the new peak time rate will be even higher. 

The UK and the EU post Brexit

Richard North: As regards resolution of the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute, it’s evident that nothing rational is going to come from the present cast of actors. . . It’s hardly surprising that this issue is heading towards a collision.

Quote of the Day

We’re in this weird sort of cuddly capitalist thing where companies pretend they’re our friend. I’m perfectly happy to pay my money without entering a co-dependent relationship with them or being told to “give us a call on the banana phone". 

Finally  . . . 

In Pontevedra's Tapas Alley on Sunday, this chap's choice of clothing caused a bit of a stir, especially when - the first time he walked past - he was wearing a jacket in the same style. Which you could characterise in one of two ways. One of which would be pyjamas but the other would be more provocative.

A shaggy cat story?


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

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 26.7.21    
Monday, July 26, 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, as of next week, 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.


The UK:  Good news . . . As of August 1, double-vaccinated expats - me for example - will be able to travel to the UK, as the Government plans to recognise foreign jabs from then. Unless, of course, there's yet another U-turn by Johnson's hapless government. If it does happen, it'll mean I can avoid both quarantine and the cost of 2 PCR tests at around 90 quid each. But does the single J&J/Janssen jab count as a double vaccination? And here's a potential wrinkle . . . “UK nationals who've been vaccinated overseas will be able to talk to their GP, about what vaccine they've had and have it registered with the NHS - to ensure it is approved in the UK." What bloody GP? After 20 years, mine is here in Spain. My ex UK GP wouldn't know me from a hole in the ground.

Second query . . . Will this change remain valid if Spain moves to Amber+?

Cosas de España/Galiza 

The wheels of Spanish justice . . . Right-wingers are fed up with waiting for the verdict of the Constitutional Court on the law of a previous (socialist) government permitting abortion. I guess you can understand their frustration, as it's been 11 years already. 

If you're a student thinking of moving to Spain, this guide is for you.

María's Not So Fast: Days 20 & 21 Santiago's Holy Day

Need I say that I don't subscribe to the ludicrous - but immensely profitable - myth of St James's headless body coming to Galicia in a stone boat manned by angels. Below is what the famous Protestant George Borrow had to say about Santiago and its cathedral. As you can see, he was wrong about its glory passing. Richard Ford was even more scathing about the myth, as you can see from his long, but learned, diatribe, also below.

The UK  

Weeds are defined as 'Flowers growing in the wrong place'. In other words, wild flowers that no one wants in their garden. Well, almost no one. It's reported this morning that, at a  Royal Horticultural Society show in Cheshire last week, 'a garden full of weeds - labelled Weed Thriller - was awarded a gold medal, despite its creator expecting to receive “nul points”.

A topical headline: Roses out, olives in: the new English garden in a time of climate crisis.

The EU

Richard North this morning avers that this is far more of a 'regulatory union' than a trade or political union. A system, he stresses, which devotes a 409-page regulation to specifying the forms to be used by exporters of animals and food products into the EU has to be considered all bad. It's a system, he adds, in its terminal stage of bureaucratic decay. 

The Way of the World 

Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. One of the reasons he was 'turbulent' for the king was that he refused to allow even murderous priests to be tried in civil courts. I was reminded of this when reading that this week, for the first time ever, the Vatican will allow a Cardinal to be tried by professional judges, not other Cardinals. A mere 851 years later. And some say Spanish justice is slow . . .

Finally  . . . 

So, is this Catalan politician unfortunate in having a mop which looks like a rug? .

This article suggests not . .

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


Santiago stands on a pleasant level amidst mountains:  the most extraordinary of these is a conical hill, called the Pico Sacro, or Sacred Peak, connected with which are many wonderful legends.  A beautiful old town is Santiago, containing about twenty thousand inhabitants.  Time has been when, with the single exception of Rome, it was the most celebrated resort of pilgrims in the world; its cathedral being said to contain the bones of Saint James the elder, the child of the thunder, who, according to the legend of the Romish church, first preached the Gospel in Spain.  Its glory, however, as a place of pilgrimage is rapidly passing away.

The cathedral, though a work of various periods, and exhibiting various styles of architecture, is a majestic venerable pile, in every respect calculated to excite awe and admiration; indeed, it is almost impossible to walk its long dusky aisles, and hear the solemn music and the noble chanting, and inhale the incense of the mighty censers, which are at times swung so high by machinery as to smite the vaulted roof, whilst gigantic tapers glitter here and there amongst the gloom, from the shrine of many a saint, before which the worshippers are kneeling, breathing forth their prayers and petitions for help, love, and mercy, and entertain a doubt that we are treading the floor of a house where God delighteth to dwell. Yet the Lord is distant from that house; he hears not, he sees not, or if he do, it is with anger.  What availeth that solemn music, that noble chanting, that incense of sweet savour? What availeth kneeling before that grand altar of silver, surmounted by that figure with its silver hat and breast-plate, the emblem of one who, though an apostle and confessor, was at best an unprofitable servant?  What availeth hoping for remission of sin by trusting in the merits of one who possessed none, or by paying homage to others who were born and nurtured in sin, and who alone, by the exercise of a lively faith granted from above, could hope to preserve themselves from the wrath of the Almighty?

Rise from your knees, ye children of Compostela, or if ye bend, let it be to the Almighty alone, and no longer on the eve of your patron's day address him in the following strain, however sublime it may sound:

"Thou shield of that faith which in Spain we revere,

Thou scourge of each foeman who dares to draw near;

Whom the Son of that God who the elements tames,

Called child of the thunder, immortal Saint James!

"From the blessed asylum of glory intense,

Upon us thy sovereign influence dispense;

And list to the praises our gratitude aims

To offer up worthily, mighty Saint James.

"To thee fervent thanks Spain shall ever outpour;

In thy name though she glory, she glories yet more

In thy thrice-hallowed corse, which the sanctuary claims

Of high Compostella, O, blessed Saint James.

"When heathen impiety, loathsome and dread,

With a chaos of darkness our Spain overspread,

Thou wast the first light which dispell'd with its flames

The hell-born obscurity, glorious Saint James!

"And when terrible wars had nigh wasted our force,

All bright 'midst the battle we saw thee on horse,

Fierce scattering the hosts, whom their fury proclaims

To be warriors of Islam, victorious Saint James.

"Beneath thy direction, stretch'd prone at thy feet,

With hearts low and humble, this day we intreat

Thou wilt strengthen the hope which enlivens our frames,

The hope of thy favour and presence, Saint James.

"Then praise to the Son and the Father above,

And to that Holy Spirit which springs from their love;

To that bright emanation whose vividness shames

The sun's burst of splendour, and praise to Saint James."


The town of Santiago is so named after St. James the Elder; it is also called Compostela, Campus Stellæ, because a star pointed out where his body was concealed. It is impossible to understand many important portions of Spanish fine art and religious character, without an acquaintance with the history of this St. George of the Peninsula, which has never been fully detailed to English readers.

The Spanish legend of St. James the Elder, when not purely pagan, is Muslim. The Gotho-Spanish clergy adapted these matters from the ancients and the Muslim, just as Mohammed formed his creed from the Old and New Testaments, making such alterations as best suited the peculiar character and climate of their people and country; hence the success, and their still existing hold over their followers.

The custom of choosing a guardian over kingdoms and cities prevailed all over the ancient world, and when by the advice of Gregory the Great the pagan stock in trade was taken by its successor into the Roman Catholic firm, the names being merely changed, the system of patron-saints was too inveterate to be abandoned. The Spaniards contend, without a shadow of real evidence, that St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. James, came all 3 to the Peninsula immediately after the crucifixion. Rome, however having monopolized the 2 former for her guardians, Spain was obliged to take the latter. The making his burial-place a place of pilgrimage was next borrowed from the East, and was one of the results of Santa. Helena's invention (and a rare one it was) of the cross at Jerusalem in 298. The principle of visiting a sacred spot was too inspiring to be overlooked by Mohammed, when he adapted Christianity to Arabian habits, and pilgrimage became one of the 4 precepts of his new creed, Mecca being selected in order to favour his native town by this rich influx. The ill-usage of the Christian pilgrims led to the crusades, in which Spaniards took little part; nay, they were forbidden to do so by the Pope, because they had the infidel actually on their own soil. Yet Spaniard and Moor felt the spirit-stirring effect of a particular holy spot, and determined on having a counterpart Jerusalem and Mecca in the Peninsula itself. The Spanish Moors were accordingly absolved by their clergy from the necessity of going to Mecca, which being in possession of the Khalif of the East, was inaccessible to the subjects of his rival in the West; and Córdoba being the capital of his new state was chosen by Abdu-r-rahman, who, like Mohammed, wished to enrich his new city; and a visit to the Ceca, where some of the bones of Mohammed were pretended to be preserved, was declared to be in every respect equivalent to a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Thereupon the imitating Spaniards, who could not go to Jerusalem, set up their local substitute; they chose their mountain capital, where they, too, said their prophet was buried: thus the sepulchre at Compostela represented alike those of Jerusalem and Mecca. The Aragonese, whose kingdom was then independent, chose for their Ceca their capital Zaragoza, where they said the Virgin descended from heaven on a visit to Santiago; and the religious duty and saving merits of pilgrimage became as much a parcel of the orthodox Spaniard's creed as it was of the infidels, whom they always fought against with a weapon borrowed from their own armoury. As the Moors had established soldier-monks or Rábitos to guard their frontiers and protect their pilgrims, so the next imitation of the Spaniards was the institution of similar military religious orders, of which that of Santiago became the chief. Founded in 1158 by Fernando II. of Leon, it soon, like that of the Templars, from being poor and humble, became rich, proud, and powerful, insomuch that El Maestre de Santiago, in the early Spanish annals, figures almost as a rival to the monarch. When Granada was conquered their assistance was no longer needed, and Isabella, by bestowing the grand-mastership on Ferdinand, absorbed the dreaded wealth and power of the order into the crown, without having recourse to the perfidy and murders by which Philippe le Bel suppressed the Templars in France.

This was now accomplished without difficulty, for these corporate bodies lacked the security of private properties, which every one is interested in upholding. They were hated by the clergy, because rivals and independent brotherhoods - half priest, half soldier - without being either one or the other, although assuming the most offensive privileges of both. The people also stood aloof, for they saw in the members only proud knights, who scorned to interchange with them the kindly offices of the poor monks; while the statesman, from knowing that the substance was no longer wanted, held the order to be both obsolete and dangerous. All parties, therefore, aided Ferdinand, who was greedy of gold, and Isabella, who was determined to be really a queen, and the order virtually ceased to exist, save as conferring a badge on nobles and courtiers.

But in the medieval period it was a reality, as then a genuine lively faith existed in both Moor and Spaniard; each grasped the legend of their champion prophet as firmly as they did the sword by which it was to be defended and propagated. Proud towards men, these warriors bowed to the priest, in whom they saw the ministers of their guardian, and their faith sanctified and ennobled such obedience: both equally fanatical, fought believing that they were backed by their guardians: this confidence went far to realise victory and especially with the Spaniard, who has always been disposed to depend on others; in the critical moment of need, he folds his arms and clamours for supernatural assistance; thus the Iberians invoked their Netos, and afterwards prayed to the Phœnician Hercules. All this is classical and Oriental: Castor and Pollux fought visibly for the Romans at Regillum; Mohammed appeared on the Orontes to overthrow Count Roger, as Santiago, mounted on his war-horse, interfered at Clavijo in 846 to crush the Moslem. There was no mention of Santiago, or his visit to Spain, or his patronage, in the time of the Goth, and simply because there being no Moors then to be expelled, he was not wanted.

For this Hagiography consult 'El Teatro de Santiago,' Gil. Gonzalez. Florez has collected all the authentic facts which different infallible Popes from Leo III. have ratified. The best book is 'Historia del Apostol de Jesus Christo, Sanctiago Zebedeo, Patron y Capitan General de las Españas;' Mauro Castellá Ferrer, 1610, for this is the correct title of the apostle in Spain. The conferring military rank spoke the spirit of the age and people when bishops rode in armour and knights in cowls, and a nation of caballeros never would have respected a footman guardian. Accordingly Santiago, San Martin, and San Isidoro are always mounted, and represent the Fortuna Equestris of the Romans.

Froissart felt the full rank of this chief of a religious chivalry, and of a church-militant, and, therefore, like Dante, he calls St. James a Baron—Varon, Vir, a gentleman, a man emphatically, in contradiction to Homo, Hombre, or a mere mortal clod of earth. So Don Quixote speaks of him as "Don Diego," the Moor-killer, and one of the most valiant of saints. The Cids and Alonzos of Spain's dark ages at least had the common sense to choose a male guardian to lead their armies to victory; it was left to the enlightened Cortes of Cadiz in 1810 to nominate St Teresa, the crazy nun of Ávila, to be the fit commandress of the Cuestas, Blakes, and suchlike spoilt children of defeat.

According to church-authorised legends, St. James was beheaded at Jerusalem in 42, but his body was taken to Joppa, where a boat appeared, into which the corpse embarked itself, and sailed to Padron, which lies 4 leagues below Santiago; it performed the voyage in 7 days, which proves the miracle, since the modern Alexandria Steam Company can do nothing like it. It first made for Barcelona, then coasted Spain, and avoiding the delicious South. (probably because polluted by the infidel), selected this damp diocese, where the wise prelate Theodomirus, who planned the self-evident trick, resided. The body rested on a stone at Padrón, which hollowed itself out - wax to receive, and marble to retain - although some contend that this stone was the vessel in which it sailed. The corpse was then removed to a cave sacred to Bacchus, and the whole affair was forgotten for nearly 800 years, when, says Florez, "Spain breathed again by the discovery of the body, which occurred after this wise:—Pelagius, a hermit, informed Theodomirus bishop of Iria Flavia, Padrón, that he saw heavenly lights always hovering over a certain site. It was examined, and a tomb found which contained a body, but how it was ascertained to be that of the apostle is not stated: that unimportant fact was assumed. Thereupon Alonzo el Casto built a church on the spot, and granted all the rich land round for 3 miles to the good bishop. In 829 the body was removed for greater security to the stronger town of Santiago, wild bulls coming by "divine inspiration" to draw the carriage, as a delicate compliment to the guardian of the land of Tauromachia. Riches now poured in, especially the corn-rent, said to be granted in 846 by Ramiro, to repay Santiago's services at Clavijo, where he killed single-handed 60,000 Moors.. This grant was a bushel of corn from every acre in Spain, and was called el Voto and el Morion, the votive offering of the quantity which the Capt.-General's capacious helmet contained. The deed, dated Calahorra 834, convicts itself of forgery. This roguery in grain recalls that in oil of Hinckmar, who, 360 years after the right date, forged the story of the Sainte Ampoule being brought down by a dove from Heaven for St. Remy in 496 to baptize Clovis at Rheims.

This corn-rent, estimated at 200,000l. a-year, used to be collected by agents, although not much eventually reached Galicia, for grains of gold and wheat stick like oil to Spanish fingers, and Quien aceite mesura le unta las manos. The jokes in Spain on these and other corn-collectors were many: Quien pide por Dios, pide por dos; anda con alforjas de fraile, predicando por el saco. This tax was abolished in 1835. When corn-rents were given to discoverers of bones, revelations never were wanting if the land was good; hence every district had its high place and palladium, which however tended indirectly to advance civilization, for the convents became asylums in a rude age, since in them the lamp of learning, of the arts and religion, flickered. The duty of visiting Compostela, which, like that of a pilgrimage to Mecca, was absolutely necessary in many cases to take up an inheritance, led to the construction of roads, bridges, and hospitals,—to armed associations, which put down robbers and maintained order: thus the violence of brute force was tempered.

The scholar will see in the whole legend a poverty of invention. "Lucida Sidera," strange constellations, eclipses, and comets, are the common signs of pagan mythology, palmed on an age ignorant of astronomy. These star-indicated spots were always consecrated. Compare this Compostela with the Roman Campus Stellatus. The Galicians, however, of old, were noted for seeing supernatural illuminations, and what was more, for interpreting their importance. Thus, when the gods struck with lightning the sacred hill, gold (not bones) was sought for. But ancient avarice was straightforward and unblushing: the results nevertheless were the same, and the invention of the modern priests gave them the philosopher's stone, the magnet wherewith to attract bullion.

As to marvellous transportations by sea in miraculously sent ships, Lucian tells us, that the head of Osiris was carried to Byblus by water, and also in 7 days; again Herodotus  records that Corobius was transported by sea, and also to Spain and also through the Straits. Pausanias particularly names Tyre as the port whence an image of Hercules was carried by a ship conscious of its sacred cargo to Priene, and there became the object of pilgrimage; so, according to the Greeks, Cecrops sailed from Egypt in a boat of papyrus. But it would be mere pedantry to multiply instances extracted from pagan mythology, and for every one a parallel might be found in papal practice in Spain.  

That rocks soften on these occasions, all geologists know well. Thus the stone at Delphi, on which the Sibyl Herophile sat down, received the full impression, second only in basso-relievo to that grand stone on which Silenus reposed, and which Pausanias was shown at Trœzene: so among the Moslem, when Mohammed ascended to Heaven, his camel's hoofs were imprinted on the rock (just as those of Castor were at Regillum); and his own footmark is shown near Cairo, at Attar é Nebbee, and in the Sahara or sanctum of the Haram at Jerusalem. Such a metamorphosis was an old story even in sceptical Ovid's times.

Some antiquarians, with sad want of faith, have pronounced this stone to be only a Roman sarcophagus; if, however, people can once believe that Santiago ever came to Spain at all, all the rest is plain sailing; yet this legend, the emphatic one of Spain, is not yet disbelieved, for see Mellado's Guide (1843) on Santiago and his cockleshells; but the Phœnix of the ancients is no bad symbol of the vitality of superstitious frauds, which, however exploded for a time, rise up again from their ashes. As the inventive powers of man are limited, an old story comes round and round like the same tune in a barrel organ. There is nothing new under the sun, said the wisest of kings. The Pontifex maximus of old and modern Rome have alike fathomed the depths of human credulity, which loves to be deceived, and will have it so, "and the priests bear rule by their means:"

The first cathedral built over the body was finished in 874, and consecrated in 899; the city rose around it, and waxing strong, the Córdobans felt the recoil of the antagonist shrine and guardian, even at their Ceca; whereupon Al-mansúr, dreading the crusading influence, determined on its total destruction, and in July, 997, he left Córdoba on his 48th jihad, or holy crusade, having also sent a fleet round to co-operate on the Duero and Miño. He advanced by Coria, and was met at Zamora by many Spanish counts, or local petty sheikhs, who with true Iberian selfishness and disunion sided with the invader, in order to secure their own safety and share in the spoils. Al-mansúr entered Santiago Aug. 10, 997; he found it deserted, the inhabitants having fled from the merciless infidel, whose warfare was extermination; then he razed the city, sparing only the tomb of the Spaniards' Prophet, before which he trembled: so close was the analogy of these cognate superstitions.

Mariana, however, asserts that he was "dazzled by a divine splendour," and that his retiring army was visited by sickness inflicted by La divina venganza. Had this taken place before Al-mansúr sacked the town, it would have been more creditable to the miraculous powers of Spain's great guardian. The learned Jesuit, however, dismisses this humiliating conquest in a few lines, and these contain every possible mistake in names, dates, and localities. Thus he fixes the period A.D. 993, and kills Al-mansúr, whom he calls Mohamad Alhagib, at Begalcorax in 998, whereas he died in 1002 at Medinaceli.

Shant Yakoh, the "Holy City of Jalikijah (Galicia), is thus described by the more accurate contemporaneous Moorish annalists; and it affords a curious proof of the early and widespread effect and influence of the antagonistic guardian and tomb on the Moors. The shrine was frequented even by those Christians who lived among the Moors, and the pilgrims brought back minute reports. "Their Kaaba is a colossal idol, which they have in the centre of the church; they swear by it, and repair to it in pilgrimage from the most distant parts, from Rome as well as from other countries, pretending that the tomb which is to be seen within the church is that of Yákob (James), one of the 12 apostles, and the most beloved of Isa (Jesus): may the blessing of God and salutation be on him and on our prophet!" "They say that the Moslems found no living soul at Santiago except an old monk who was sitting on the tomb of St. James, who being interrogated by Al-mansúr as to himself, and what he was doing in that spot, he answered, I am a familiar of St. James, upon which Al-mansúr ordered that no harm should be done unto him." The Moslem respected the Faquir monk, in whom he saw a devotee borrowed from his own Kaaba of Mecca. His great object was to destroy the idols of the polytheist Spaniards, as the uncompromising Deism of the Hebrew, and his abhorrence for graven images, formed the essence of Islamism. Al-mansúr purified the temples according to the Jewish law, and exactly as the early Christians in the 4th century had treated the symbols of paganism. Thus, by a strange fate, the followers of the false prophet trod in the steps of both Testaments, while Christianity, corrupted by Rome, was remodelling and renewing those very pagan abominations which the old and new law equally forbade.

Al-mansúr returned to Córdoba laden with spoil. The bells of the cathedral of Santiago were conveyed to Córdoba on the shoulders of Christian captives, and hung up reversed as lamps in the Great Mosque, where they remained until 1236, when St. Ferdinand restored them, sending them back on the shoulders of Moorish prisoners. Al-mansúr is said to have fed his horse out of the still existing porphyry font in the cathedral, but the horse, reply the Spaniards, burst and died. Possibly, coming from Córdoba, the change of diet had affected his condition, and certainly we ourselves nearly lost our superb haca Cordobesa from the "hay and oats" of Galicia.

Al-Mansúr could not find the body of Santiago, at which some will not be surprised; however the soundest local divines contend that the Captain-General surrounded himself when in danger with an obfuscation of his own making, like the cuttlefish, or the Lord Admiral of the Invincible Armada; and to this day no one knows exactly where the bones are deposited. It is said that Gelmirez built them into the foundations of his new cathedral, in order that they never might be pried into by the impertinente curioso, or removed by the enemy. In the same way, it was forbidden among the Romans to reveal even the name of Rome's guardian, lest the foe, by greater bribes, or by violence, might induce the patron to prove false. The remains of Hercules were also said to be buried in his temple at Cádiz, but no one knew where. However, Santiago lies somewhere, for he was heard clashing his arms when Buonaparte invaded Spain; as Hercules did before the battle of Leuctra, so the old war-horse neighs at the trumpet's sound. The Captain-General, valiant at Clavijo, had already given up active service in 997, and it could not be expected that such an invalided veteran should put on, like old Priam, his old armour and turn out of his comfortable resting-place to oppose Soult 812 years afterwards. After all it is just possible that the veritable Santiago is not buried at Compostela, for as the Coruñese claimed a duplicate body of Geryon, to the indignation of the Gaditanos, so the priests of St Sernin at Toulouse, among 7 bodies of the 12 apostles, said that Santiago's was one; and when we remember the triumph of Soult at Santiago and his trouncing at Toulouse, it is difficult not to think that the real Simon Pure is buried at St Seernin, and helped our Duke.

Be this as it may, all Spanish divines lose theur temper whenever this legend is questioned; volumes of controversy have been written, and the evidence thus summed up:—Primo, The scallop shells found at Clavijo, prove that they were dropped there by Santiago, when busy in killing 60,000 Moors. Secundo, If the Virgin descended from Heaven at Zaragoza to visit Santiago, of which there can be no doubt, it follows that Santiago must have been at Zaragoza. However the honest Jesuit Mariana thinks no proof at all necessary, because so great an event never could have been believed at first without sufficient evidence; while Morales concludes that "None but a heretic could doubt a fact which no man can dare to deny;" be that as it may, the Pope soon became jealous of this assumed elevation and Baronius resented pretensions which rivalled those of St. Peter, and were pretty much as unfounded. Accordingly Clement VIII. altered the Calendar of Pius V., and threw a doubt on the whole visit, whereat the whole Peninsula took alarm. The Pontiff was assailed with such irresistible arguments, that his virtue gave way, and the affair was thus compromised in the Papal record: This would not do; and Urban VIII. in 1625, being "refreshed" with golden opinions, restored Santiago to all his Spanish honours.

The see, now an archbishopric, was formerly suffragan to the metropolitan Merida. It was elevated in 1120 by the management of Diego Gelmirez, a partisan of Queen Urraca, who prevailed on her husband Ramón to intercede with his brother Pope Calixtus II. Diego, the first primate, presided 39 years, and was the true founder of the cathedral; and although the people rose against him and Urraca, he was the real king during that troubled period when Urraca was false to him and to every one else. There is a curious Latin contemporary history, called 'La Compostelana,' which was written by two of his canons; and none can understand this period without reading it. The city and chapter of Toledo opposed the elevation of a rival Santiago, for as in the systems of Mohammed and the imitating Spaniard, religion went hand in hand with commerce and profit, as it had since the days of the Phoenicians. A relic or shrine attracted rich strangers, while its sanctity awed robbers, and shed security over wealthy merchants; hence an eternal bickering between places of established holiness and commerce, and any upstart competitors: as Medina hated Mecca, so Toledo hated Santiago.

But Gelmirez was a cunning prelate, and well knew how to carry his point; he put Santiago's images and plate into the crucible, and sent the ingots to the Pope. He remitted the cash to Rome (where no heresy ever was more abominable than the non-payment of Peter's pence, for, no penny no paternoster), by means of pilgrims, who received from his Holiness a number of indulgences proportioned to the sums which they smuggled through Aragon and Catalonia, then independent and hostile kingdoms, and the "dens," say these historians, "not of thieves, but of devils," for Spain in those unhappy times resembled the Oriental insecurity of Deborah's age, "when the highways were unoccupied, and travellers walked through the byways."

Following the example of the pagan priests of the temple of Hercules at Cádiz, Gelmirez now extolled the virtues of making a visit and an offering to the new guardian at Santiago. The patron saint became el santo, the saint par excellence, as Antonio at Padua is il santo. He never turned a deaf ear to those pilgrims who came with money in their sacks: and great was the stream of wealthy guilt which poured in; kings gave gold, and even paupers their mites. Thus all the capital expended by Gelmirez at Rome in establishing the machinery was reimbursed, and a clear income obtained; the roads of Christendom were so thronged, that Dante exclaims: Mira mira ecco il Barone Per cui laggiu si visita Galizia!

At the marriage of our Edward I, in 1254, with Leonora, sister of Alonzo el Sabio, a protection to English pilgrims was stipulated for; but they came in such numbers as to alarm the French, insomuch that when Enrique II was enabled by them to dethrone Don Pedro, he was compelled by his allies to prevent any English whatever entering Spain without the French king's permission. The capture of Santiago by John of Gaunt increased the difficulties, by rousing the suspicions of Spain also. The numbers in the 15th century were also great.  916 licences were granted to English in 1428, and 2,460 in 1434.

But the pilgrimage to Compostela began to fall off after the Reformation; then, according to Molina, "the damned doctrines of the accursed Luther diminished the numbers of Germans and wealthy English." The injurious effect of the pilgrimage on public morals in Galicia was exactly as at Mecca; it fostered a vagrant, idle, mendicant life; nothing could be more disorderly than the scenes at the tomb itself; the habit of pilgrims, once the garb of piety, became that of rogues. It was at last prohibited in Spain, except under regulations. But smaller pilgrimages in Spain, as among the Moslems, are still universally prevalent; every district has its miracle-shrine and high place. These combine, in an uncommercial and unsocial country, a little amusement with devotion and business. The pilgrims, like beggars in an Irish cabin, were once welcome to a "bite and sup," as they were itinerant gossips, who brought news in an age when there were no post-offices and broad sheets; now they are unpopular even at Santiago, since they bring no grist to the mill, but take everything, and contribute nothing; they are particularly hated in ventas, those unchristian places, from whence even the rich are sent away empty; hence the proverb, Los peregrinos, muchas posadas y pocos amigos.

A residence in holy places has a tendency to materialize the spiritual, and to render the ceremonial professional and mechanical. Thus at Santiago, as at Mecca, the citizens are less solicitous about their "lord of the apostles," than those are who come from afar; as at Rome, those who live on the spot have been let behind the scenes, and familiarity breeds contempt. They are, as at all places of periodical visit ancient or modern, chiefly thinking how they can make the best of the "season," how they can profit most from the fresh enthusiasm of the stranger; and as he never will come back again, they covet his cash more than his favourable recollections. Accordingly the callous natives turn a deaf ear to the beggar who requests a copper for Santiago's sake, he gets nothing from them natives but a dry Perdone usted por Dios, Hermano! Therefore the shrewd mendicant tribe avoid them, and smell a strange pilgrim, for whom even the blind are on a look-out, even before he descends the hill of St. Marcos. He enters the holy city, attended by an attendant group hoarse with damp and importunity. 

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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 24.7.21
Saturday, July 24, 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
Friday, July 23, 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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