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Thoughts from Galicia, Spain

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

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 22 July 2020
22 July 2020 @ 10:46

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'*

Living La Vida Normal in the Netherlands . . .

  • Travelling into Utrecht from Gouda by train yesterday, I got to wondering how similar the scenery was to that of East Anglia, to which, of course, it was connected some 8-9,000 years ago, via Doggerland. Both are very flat, as Noel Coward famously remarked.**
  • My experience of Dutch houses to date - maybe 5 or 6 - suggests they're all equipped with narrow staircases more appropriate to mountain goats than humans. Maybe it's something to do with a sea-faring tradition. And boats. Or space-saving in a crowded country. [Friends at dinner last night all agreed it was the latter].
  • Like Pontevedra, Utrecht has beggars. Though not, it has to be said, on quite the same scale. And not as young. But still something of a nuisance.
  • Nice to see that - unlike in, say, Hamburg - the area around Utrecht's central station is not populated by various forms of low-life. But exiting it into Catharijnesingel street seems to mean you can't get anywhere without going through a huge shopping mall. 
  • I've no idea whether it's due to high taxes or rampant profiteering but prices of Spanish wines in bars and restaurants seem to be 4 times what they are in supermarkets back home. Reminding me of the €32 tag on a €8 bottle of Albariño in a place in Liverpool last year. Is this how it is everywhere in Europe now? Compared with the mere doubling of the price when I was a youth.
  • From  my experience in Utrecht's city 'museum', I'd have to warn you that this word in Dutch can mean more 'art gallery' than what Brits are used to in a museum.
  • Face masks . . . Maybe only one observed all day in crowded Utrecht yesterday. Ironically, I was told by a guard on the train there to put one on. At least on public transport they're compulsory here.

Life Back Home

  • There are c. 325,000 bars in Spain. As of now, 13% (42,000) have permanently closed. And this is expected to reach 20% (65,000) by the year end. One major factor is the increased working from home, meaning far fewer folk are going out for their early coffee, their ‘elevenses’ and their menu del día. An unmitigated disaster. 
  • Day 37 of María's chronicle.


  • The weekend interview I cited yesterday "opened a fire hose of crazy that boggles comprehension, even after accounting for the demolished standards of the Trump era and processing it several times”, it says here. A "televised fever dream." 

Quote of the Week

  • As nations grapple with a new world order, celebrities begin to look like part of an outdated freak show. Their lives no longer look glamorous or enviable but bizarre and desperate. Their tweets sound needy, their Instagram posts self-obsessed and no one is calling for the return of red-carpet events.


  • Chevere: Another suggestion from a reader: When I worked in Ecuador in 1975, I often heard ‘chevere’ used to mean excellent. I was told that this was a corruption of the Basque surname of Echeveria, and that Echeveria was the best mattress on the market in Peru. 

Finally . . . 

  • Of all things, I  had an ‘authentic Cuban sandwich’ for lunch yesterday in Utrecht. In a place called Papi Churros. Owned by a young English guy, who said the name was the sort of of pun favoured by Brits. But I still haven’t figured out what it is . . .


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

**  'Very flat, Norfolk.' (In his play 'Private Lives’). Always gets a big laugh. Not sure why.

*** It wasn't bad but the Maté drink was probably not very authentic.      

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