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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: 2.8.20
02 August 2020 @ 09:07

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'* 

Covid 19

  • Food for thought . . Based on the data, there seems to be no relationship between lockdowns and lives saved. That’s remarkable, given that we know for sure that lockdowns have destroyed economies the world over.   . . .  It was pure speculation that lockdowns would suppress this virus, and that speculation was based on a hubristic presumption of the awesome power and intelligence of government managers.  . . .  Billions of lives fundamentally altered. Economies wrecked. Centuries-old traditions of liberty and law thrown out. Police states everywhere. And to what end? The data indicate it was all for naught. Apparently, you cannot control a virus with state policies. The virus just doesn’t seem to care. More here 

Living La Vida Loca in Spain 

  • “Empty Spain” - The potential solutions are examined here
  • More good news re the  mass graves of Republican victims of murderous Francoists.
  • Someone has had a very different TIE application process from mine, as I described here and here recently.      
  • In parts of Spain, autopistas are being taken back into public ownership and tolls abolished. Here in Galicia - and for reasons unclear - the government seems determined not only to leave ours in private ownership but also to protect the company’s interests come what may, en route to the most expensive toll road in Spain. So.  . .  The state will compensate Audasa for the fall in traffic on the AP9 caused by the pandemic. Friends in high places?
  • María’s Chronicle Day 48

The UK

  • Richard North is at his pungent best again here: I am entirely unconvinced that the government has a handle on this epidemic, or that its central management of local outbreaks is contributing anything of value.  
  • See the article below on the theme of UK government (in)competence.
  • According to a Guardian’s survey: ‘No one stops you': shoppers' attitudes to masks differ across UK. Some shopkeepers report wide compliance with coronavirus rules, but others say the message isn’t getting across.  While adherence to mask-wearing rules was estimated to be as low as 30% in some areas of the UK, other areas have had near-complete compliance. At least there’s consistency in The Netherlands; no one wears one, except on public transport. And the government there has just decided not to impose an obligation. In very sharp contrast with Spain, of course


  • If senior Republicans really have given up on Fart, will we see the assassination I forecast years ago? 
  • But, I guess, if he really does quit before the November elections, as postulated here, that won't be necessary.  
  • Meanwhile, some more amusement.    

The Way of the World

  • Fortunes are being made by collusion between Chinese manufacturers of counterfeit/copy products, internet influencers and 'retailers' who invest in nothing but act as (legal) middlemen. Drop shopping, it's called. Needless to say some of it is fraudulent. Who'd have thought the internet would facilitate this . . .    


Finally . . . 

  • Here's a surprise . . . Experts pour scorn on celebrity wines. Sommeliers have spoken out against the trend of celebrity-endorsed wines, saying it usually signifies a mass-produced product that the star in question would be unlikely to drink themselves. Can we at least look forward to one from Gwyneth Paltrow which tastes something like her frontal nether regions? To coin a phrase.
  • Last mention of my garden . . . The weeds have naturally had a field day (a garden day?), especially this blighter, the Portulaca oleracea, known - I see here - as common purslane, duckweed, little hogweed, and pursley. Bloody nuisance, even if edible:-   


Careless words could cost PM the goodwill of a long-suffering public: If the Government wants to heed the lessons of wartime, the key one is to make its message clear: Janet Daley,  The Telegraph

When this whole saga began, you may recall, Boris Johnson was very fond of war analogies. Britain had been forced into battle against a “hidden enemy” which would only be defeated by unified action and national resolve etc. Last week Matt Hancock was at it again: the country was “as close as you can get to fighting a war” which required constant vigilance and sacrifice etc.

With all these nostalgic metaphorical calls on the British Blitz spirit, you might have thought that the fundamental principles of wartime government would have been observed in regard to the use of language - which is of such huge importance in ensuring the confidence of the people in a crisis.

So what are the basic rules for a government addressing its population in a war against a foreign power which should also apply (as per Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock’s analysis) to a viral epidemic? First, there should be consistency and an appearance of agreement between all members of the government (and its official policy advisers) at all times. Second, there must be an unshakeable sense of calm clarity which is to say, an absolute prohibition on any statement that could give rise to hysteria or panic. Finally - and most important of all - there is the urgent need to maintain public morale, the collapse of which would be catastrophic: pessimism and hopelessness are the true enemies in any war effort.

It is only fair to say at the start that this pandemic has been so unpredictable in its progress that most of the established rules for dealing with health crises have been pretty useless. So I am not talking here about the practical matters of organising hospital resources or instituting testing programmes which have been largely a matter of trial and error throughout the world.

Whatever mistakes were made - or not - about lockdowns and tracking regimes will have to be debated on empirical scientific grounds sometime in the future. But political leadership is something which governments can control and on which they can be judged now.

It would have been beyond the reach of almost any politician to evaluate properly the solutions, which were at various points conflicting, being offered by the scientific experts. But where politicians should have their own expertise is in the words that they use to present their case for action. Even if they cannot control events, they can control the description of them.

The present Prime Minister is known to be less than assiduous in his command of factual detail but he has an awesome capability with language and an unrivalled understanding of its force. So there is really no excuse for the imprecision and bluster which has created confusion and despondency at best, and outright rebellion at worst.

It would take some beating to produce a statement more utterly meaningless than the sentence uttered by Mr Johnson at his briefing last Friday: “We can’t fool ourselves that we are exempt from a second wave.” What in the name of God does that mean in actual life-changing terms? Is it a cautious way of saying that we are now, at this moment, into a second wave of the virus? Or that we might be, but there is no way to be sure? Or that we are not yet in a second wave but if we persist in our dangerous habits (which until a few hours before this announcement, were acceptable) we shall be in one? And what exactly is this dreaded thing - a “second wave”? What are the criteria for determining that it has arrived? How can it be distinguished from occasional lingering flare-ups of the first wave? All of these questions are left hanging in the air.

What will remain in the minds of most people are those terrible words, “second wave” which keep being repeated wildly and loosely by almost everybody in a position to pronounce on policy, producing a vague vision of thousands more victims dying alone in overflowing hospital wards. Is that what the government wants - to scare everybody back into submission to the rules (whatever they are at the moment)?

At the time of writing this column, the only thing that can be indubitably and unquestionably stated is that there has been an increase (not a huge one) in the number of positive tests for the virus in some areas. Even to label these “new cases” is dubious because so many of those testing positive are not, in any perceptible sense, suffering from the illness. The fact that they are carrying the virus has been discovered by a vastly increased use of testing. For all we know, they may not be “new” instances of the virus at all: they may have been positive for quite a long time before random testing found them.

Again as I write, there has been no increase in hospital admissions so this rise in the number of positive tests seems not to be equated with what most people would understand by the emergence of a “second wave” of the pandemic. We have not had an increase in disease, we have had an increase in positive tests - which logically would follow from a massive increase in testing. So why bandy around this peculiarly emotive and almost indefinable term (“second wave”) when you could just speak, strictly correctly, of local recurrences? And why is there so little reference in official pronouncements to the fact that treatment of actual cases of the disease has improved so much that it has become a manageable condition for many patients? That is genuinely good news and would, presumably, affect the outcome of any future second wave.

Many people I gather are beginning to suspect that the government deliberately plays down good news for fear that we will all just throw out the rule book and run riot thus putting the NHS under threat of being overwhelmed once again. (Except, of course, that the NHS never was overwhelmed.) The populace has been, as ministers constantly acknowledge, extraordinarily forbearing through this on-again, off-again suspension of life as we know it. But - you can feel it in the air - the good will is running out.


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


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