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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: 29 November 2020
29 November 2020 @ 10:53

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 Galicia/Spain

Expats certainly have Spanish cities in high regard, it seems.

Galicia is fighting against Catalan equalisation proposals which would mean higher income and inheritance taxes here. Looking at the tables, I was astonished to see that the Madrid region was among the lowest tax-takers in every category. Doesn't seem fair. 

Thanks to the pandemic, there are 32 hotels for sale here in Galicia, one of them for a mere €3.7m. 

Given the concerns about 'aerosols' being implicated in causing infections, I was rather surprised to see a group of 5 or 6 Galician bagpipers(gaiteros) parading through the centre of the city yesterday.

Here's María's Riding the Wave - Day 14

The UK

Watching the England-Wales rugby match on the Welsh channel yesterday - the only one showing it - I saw the Welsh for England given as LLoegr.  Which bears no relation to any other word I know. Checking on Google for the Welsh for 'England', I was first given 'England' but I eventually got LLoegr to come up, and compared it with these:-

Irish Gaelic: Sasana

Scots Gaelic: Sasain

Breton: Bra-saoz 

Cornish: Pow Sows  (Pow is country, region, land)

Easy to see these are all cognates, whereas Welsh isn't. Odd. Especially as the Welsh for  the English language and an English person are (cognates)Saesneg and Sais. One explanation offered is that the word Lloegr means ‘lost lands’ which would make sense in the context in which the distinction from Cymru (Welsh for Wales and meaning ‘countrymen’) needed to be made at the time of the Saxon invasion. When the (alleged) Celts were driven Westwards into the Welsh mountains.


The village of Fucking, in Austria, is to change its name. The locals are sick to the back teeth of sniggering foreigners taking photographs of the sign bearing the name, stealing the sign and even, on a few occasions, filming themselves engaging in the activity mentioned, with the sign in the background. They’ve plumped for  . . . Fugging. 


I've steadfastly ignored all the OTT articles about Maradona, except the one below. It's by a writer - John Carlin - whose articles on Spain I've enjoyed. And it's really about Argentina, not Maradona.

The USA 

The words to the US anthem - The Star-spangled Banner - were written on board a British ship, by an American who'd witnessed the bombardment of Baltimore . . . But the tune is that of a British drinking song - 'The Anacreontic Song'. A tad ironic, then. You can hear it here and here, with the words. I think the second one is the same guy in various wigs, singing in different ranges. It’s been pointed out that the Myrtle of Venus is vesica Pisces and the Bachus vine is the phallus. So a pretty dirty song to those with a Classical education. 

The Way of the World

BBC Lincolnshire has suspended its football pundit he described a scuffle on the pitch as “handbags”. Never mind that Collins dictionary defines “handbags” as “an incident in which people, especially sportsmen, fight or threaten to fight, but without real intent to inflict harm”. The BBC says “listeners” complained. How many, you right-on dweebs? And why didn’t you tell them to get a life?

French MPs are considering a bill to curb la glottophobie — the prejudice against regional and lower-class accents. 

Eton College students are in open revolt against their headmaster as a row over free speech threatened to boil over into a major fall-out. Pupils have accused it of acting in a “heartless and merciless” way by dismissing one of its masters amid a dispute over a lecture that questioned “current radical feminist orthodoxy”. They’ve signed a petition accusing Eton of “institutional bullying”, claiming it was a “gross abuse of the duty of the school to protect the freedoms of the individual”. And so it wokefully  goes.


Cabincore - El estilo de la montaña. Seems to mean wearing wellies with every outfit.

Finally . . .

Stupid question in a British newspaper: Is this dramatic stretch of Somerset England's best-kept seaside secret? Not now, mate.


Maradona remembered: Adios, Saint Diego. Argentina cries for you.  John Carlin. The Times

Three official days of national mourning, flags at half-mast, queues two miles long filing past a coffin lying in state at the presidential palace, police dispersing hysterical crowds with tear gas, Covid be damned. Jack Charlton did not get that after he died earlier this year. But Charlton was not Diego Maradona, and England is not Argentina.

It has already been suggested in the Argentine media that November 25, the date of Maradona’s death, should be declared a public holiday. It would be surprising if it were not. Or maybe Argentina will choose the day of his birth, October 30 — or perhaps June 22, the day it defeated England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals, led to victory by the man who scored the two most memorable goals in football history.

That was the defining moment in Maradona’s life, the one that raised him to the sublime in the eyes of his compatriots, for whom he became not a footballing god but God himself, Dios.

Defeating Germany in the final was a footnote. Beating the English (los piratas, as every Argentinian learns to call them from an early age), the old enemy that had crushed them in the Falklands conflict four years earlier, and doing so with a goal that hurt the English all the more for being so utterly unjust and then with the greatest one ever scored in a World Cup ... all this sealed Maradona’s role as Argentina’s redemptive hero, a status no amount of drug abuse or buffoonery would efface, a light that no failure — not even his abject management of the national team in 2010 — would dim.

I was at that game in Mexico’s Azteca Stadium. I had interviewed him there, on the grass, 24 hours earlier. Half a dozen other English journalists were there, but I was the one who spoke Spanish, so I asked the questions. The consensus was that we should try to get him to declare war on England, or at least to say that the game would be revenge for the Falklands humiliation. But no — for once in his life he played the diplomat. I insisted, but there was no getting round him. “Come on!” he cried. “You journalists, always trying to stir up controversy! It’s just a game of football. A big game against a big rival, sure, but just a game.”

God lied. But it was divine intervention that gave Argentina victory by two goals — two miracles — to one. I and the other 120,000 spectators in the Azteca saw that he scored the first with his hand. Only the referee did not. The second — well, years later I got hold of the tape of the commentary on Argentina’s biggest radio station. Here is an attempt at a translation:

“Diegooooooooooooooo!” the commentator howled. “Maradooooooona! The greatest player of all time! ... What planet did you come from? ... Argentina 2, England 0! Diegoooooooool! Diegoooooool! Diego Armandoooo Maradonaaaa!” . . . The commentator paused for breath, stilled his bursting heart, let out a strangled sob and then began again, his voice softer, more fervent, more awed. “Thank you, God, for football ... For Maradona ... For these tears ... For ... this ... Argentina 2 ... [sob now clearly audible] England ... 0.”

Had Maradona not scored those goals, had he not declared that the first one had been God’s work, had England won an evenly poised match, Maradona would not have spent the next 34 years of his life as Argentina’s Napoleon. Argentinians would not have built a church in his name, would not have sung songs casting him as Jesus Christ, would not have responded to his death the way the British did to Winston Churchill’s or the South Africans to Nelson Mandela’s.

Argentinians are a people hungry for heroes, hungry for some glorious history, hungry for expiation of their sins. Possessed of a sharp sense of collective failure, they know that as a nation they blew it. The best-educated people in Latin America, living in a land outrageously rich in natural resources, they were three times richer than the Japanese a century ago; now they are many times poorer.

Argentina is the only country I know, and I have filed stories from 60, that is visibly tattier and more underfed than it was half a century ago, when I lived there as a child.

Nostalgia is the national characteristic, expressed in the tango and in a hopeless longing to recover the lost glory of a century ago, when a Polish or Italian immigrant was as likely to seek their fortune in Buenos Aires as in New York. There’s a hankering, too, for the Europe their ancestors left behind. Vivimos en el culo del mundo — “We live in the arsehole of the world” — is an expression you hear 10 times a day in Buenos Aires. Argentinians have a love-hate relationship with themselves, as they do with the English, who do have a rich history, who have done things, invented things, conquered the world — not excluding the Falkland Islands, a stain on the national honour of which every child is reminded at school.

Maradona wiped the slate clean on June 22, 1986. Argentinians clung onto the myth of Maradona the redeemer with the despair of drowning men. He gave the most football-mad people in the world what they wanted, Evita Perón in boots. He was a natural-born demagogue and they hung on his every utterance, even when he was so drunk or drugged or sick he slurred his words, to his dying day.

I went once to the Church of Maradona in the city of Rosario. The faithful — who at one point numbered about 250,000 — wish one another “Happy Christmas” on the day of Maradona’s birth. The other big holiday of obligation is, yes, June 22. “For us Argentinians that victory against England is the Maradonian Easter,” the church’s founder told me. “It’s the Sunday of Resurrection.”

The church has its own version of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Diego, who art on the pitch, hallowed be your left foot, thy magic dazzle our eyes, let thy goals be remembered, on earth as in heaven.” And then they have the hymns: Our Beloved Diego, sung to the music of Schubert’s Ave Maria.

Maradona believed it. I saw him on TV 10 years ago on a show watched by the whole of Argentina. He emerged on stage out of a nitrogen cloud, singing, 

I sowed joy among the people, I bathed our land in glory.

If Jesus stumbled, why should not I?

The studio audience joined in with goggle-eyed fervour, stamping and waving Argentine flags. There was not a suggestion of irony from them or from Maradona. No sense of the ridiculous, no awareness of the spectacle’s utter madness — surpassed now, as was entirely to be expected, by the wild excess of pomp, melodrama and grief that has greeted the saviour’s death.


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

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