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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: 28 September 2020
28 September 2020 @ 09:56

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 Loca in Spain/Galicia  

This is an article on a trend which Covid might well be reversing.  

Below is a nice short article on the sherry industry (Jerez) .

I'm now into the 11th month of waiting for my Irish nationality, having expected 9-12 months. I'm guessing this isn't an alternative for me, unless I can fake being a descendant of the Scouse hero of this excellent Ken Loach film.       

María's Falling Back chronicle Day 13. Our winter weather.  

A few more choice quotes and refrains from Richard Ford, based on this travels around Spain in the 1840s:-

Swearing: The Spaniards have also added most of the gloomy northern Gothic oaths, which are imprecatory, to the Oriental, which are grossly sensual.  

Rights: [A jarring sentence right out of the 18th century] Every Spaniard has the right in law and equity to kick and beat his own ass to his own liking, as a philanthropic Yankee has to wallop his own niggar. No one ever thinks of interposing on these occasions, any more than they would in a quarrel between a man and his wife. .

Procrastination: The traveller will blot out from his dictionary the fatal Spanish phrase of procrastination - ‘Por la calle de después, se va a la casa de nunca’: 'By-and-by'- a street which leads to the house of never’.

The weather: Fine weather is the joy of the wayfarer's soul, and nothing can be more different than the aspect of Spanish villages in good or in bad weather; as in the East, during wintry rains they are the acmes of mud and misery, but let the sun shine out, and all is gilded. It is the smile which lights up the habitually sad expression of a Spanish woman's face. The blessed beam cheers poverty itself, and by its stimulating, exhilarating action on the system of man, enables him to buffet against the moral evils to which countries the most favoured by climate seem, as if it were from compensation, to be more exposed than those where the skies are dull, and the winds bleak and cold.


Quien al diablo ha de engañar, muy temprano se ha de levantar: All who wish to cheat the devil must get up very early.  

Misa y cebada no estorban la jornada:  No time is ever lost on a journey by feeding horses and men and hearing masses.

Libros y amigos pocos y buenos; The travelling library, like companions, should be select and good.

Bureaucracy: The passport -  that indescribable nuisance and curse of continental travel, to which a free-born Briton never can get reconciled, and is apt to neglect, whereby he puts himself in the  power of the worst and most troublesome people on earth. Passports in Spain now in some degree supply the Inquisition, and have been embittered by vexatious forms borrowed from bureaucratic France.


Tabardillo:  From the RAE dictionary:- 1. insolación (malestar por exposición excesiva al sol). 2. coloq. Persona alocada, bulliciosa y molesta. 3. Med. p. us. tifus (enfermedad infecciosa).

Insolación: Heatstroke


‘Insolation’: 1. Exposure to the sun's rays. 2. The amount of solar radiation reaching a given area.

Finally . . .  

Portuguese coffee seems to me to be superior to Spain’s. If so, why?


The Sherry Triangle, a corner of Spain that is for ever England

Five hundred years ago English and Scottish traders settled near Cadiz and created an industry that is still prosperous today.  Isambard Wilkinson, Jerez de la Frontera

In a country-house garden outside Jerez de la Frontera shaded by palm trees and encircled by vineyards, Doña Luisa González-Gordon, head of Spain’s foremost sherry dynasty, recalled her strict Irish nanny. “She was a darling woman,” she said. “She would say things like ‘pull yourself together’ and ‘don’t butter your toast in the air’.” Doña Luisa, 95, speaks immaculate English with an accent as crisp as fino. “I am a Gordon,” she said. “I learnt to speak English before Spanish.” The descendant of Spanish noblemen and Scottish lairds who emigrated in the 18th century, Doña Luisa is among the last of the Anglo-Spanish sherry families keeping alive the trade’s links with Britain, which go back at least 500 years. Most of the British and Irish sherry companies have disappeared since the tipple’s decline from its heyday in the 1970s, and with them their anglicised owners.

English wine merchants were living in the port city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, which, along with Jerez and El Puerto de Santa María, forms the Sherry Triangle, as early as 1517, when a duke gave them land to build a church. The trade survived the Reformation and Elizabeth I’s reign, when Drake raided nearby Cadiz and left with 2,900 casks of sherry.

The Spanish Inquisition made life difficult for English traders in Sanlúcar, but although exports slowed they did not dry up. Mauricio González-Gordon, Doña Luisa’s nephew and chairman of González Byass, who wears a blazer even in 42C heat, said that the Anglo-Spanish trade took off after 1778 when foreign merchants won a court case allowing them to own their cellars.

By the late Victorian era a plethora of companies run by families with names such as Duff, Terry, Garvey, Harvey, Gordon, Byass and Osborne had set up offices in the sherry region.

“The trade has left a deep legacy on all sides,” said Ignacio Peyró, director of the London branch of the Instituto Cervantes, which promotes Spanish culture. “For example, the fortune Ruskin’s father made as a wine merchant enabled his son to dedicate his life to study.”

The sherry moguls’ love of nature and sport is another inheritance. “Our family brought polo, pigeon shooting and lawn tennis from Britain to Spain,” said Mr González-Gordon.

Englishness was consciously instilled in the sherry dynasties. Santiago de Mora-Figueroa y Williams, Marqués of Tamarón, 79, a former ambassador to Britain and scion of a sherry family, recalled being made to memorise Falstaff’s sherry speech as a child. “A good sherris-sack hath twofold operation in it . . .” he quoted.

His cousin, Beltrán Domecq Williams, 74, schooled at Downside in Somerset, said that he keeps alive the old spirit through his love of gardening and drinking sherry. “I think we are commemorating the links all the time, with tasting and communicating how sherry is done,” he added. He pointed to curious hybrids that the ties have produced, ranging from an Anglo-Spanish terrier bred to kill rats in cellars, to candié, a drink given to children that is made of sherry wine, egg yolk and sugar.

Much of the legacy is based on past glory, as the trade is in decline, but the old families are fighting to revive its fortunes.

In the countryside, Doña Luisa proposed a toast: “Viva España y Inglaterra!”


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



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