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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: 21 January 2021
21 January 2021 @ 14:21

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'  


Just to confuse us further . . . A team of Stanford University researchers recently published a study in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation concluding that harsh lockdown policies have had minimal impact on preventing the spread of Covid-19 compared to lighter policies.

This is a nice essay on the damage done to scepticism by Covid. Bottom line: At times of crisis, scepticism can be unnerving and the temptation to try to silence dissenting voices is understandable. But which is the bigger danger? That people are allowed to question the orthodoxy and potentially get things wrong but are held accountable in an open debate? Or that sceptical voices are censored for  “misinformation”, and no one dares dissent? Everyone loses when doubt becomes a vice once more.

Spain:  Two reports. 1. The over 70s will start being vaccinated in March - if there are enough doses. 2. The ministry of Health says those over 80 will be vaccinated from March. Spain currently has more than a million doses but only 15,600 people have been fully vaccinated so far. I am not confident of March.

Living La Vida Loca in Galicia/Spain

The horrendous Modelo 720 law was (very quietly) introduced in late 2012, allegedly causing many expats to flee Spain. Within a couple of years or so, the EU Commission declared aspects of it illegal and demanded a response from Spain. Which never came. More than a year ago, the issue finally reached the European Court of Justice but we still await its decision. With some interest, given the nature of possible fines and the size of them. Whatever the decision is, Spain will doubtless appeal against it, taking uncertainty - and quite possibly more interim arbitrary taxation - into further years of delay. God help those, like me, who eventually seek repayment of a huge fine for as little as a day’s delay.

HT to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for this - accurate - comment from our Voz de Galicia: The monthly statement from the power company, an indecipherable hieroglyph for most, continues its climb towards the clouds. A single piece of data is enough to corroborate it: the price of the megawatt hour has multiplied by five in ten years. What was €20 in 2010 is now more than €100 today. An expert, probably paid by the electricity companies, explains it in four words: "It's the market, amigo.” And then there's the issue of the very high fixed costs, which penalise single folk like me. Easy money. A profitable business to be in.

Hardly a surprise . . . There's a trickle of stories about politicians of all parties around the country jumping the jab queue. They're not known to be a highly principled group of people.

A classic Spanish tale from Maria yesterday. Spain, she says correctly, is a country pushing online communication to the nth degree for everything, but not guaranteeing good connection outside the cities and larger towns. I guess this is related to my comment that Spain is sometimes in the 19th century and sometimes in the 21st century, having missed out on the 20th.

The USA  

An interesting observation from AEP: Overzealous Democrats in Congress have made it more difficult for the incoming White House to reach out across the aisle for compromises. They missed a trick in not agreeing to a deal with House Republicans for a motion of censure against Donald Trump rather than impeachment. That would have been a healing ritual. There is no need to ban Trump from future office. His brand is spoiled beyond repair.

Can it be true? Riley June Williams is suspected by federal authorities of stealing a laptop computer or hard drive from Nancy Pelosi's office and trying to sell it to the Russian foreign intelligence service.  

The Way of the World

Book reviews here not what they were: Woking the dead. See below.

Finally . . .

From my hijo político:-  Una curiosidad: Hoy a las 21:00 h. Será : la hora 21 del día 21 del  año 21 y del siglo 21.


Woking the dead: Bookman, Private Eye

Back in the bad old days, the specimen literary biography was nearly always faintly censorious in tone. Basically, you lined up the book-world titan of your choice - Kingsley Amis, say, Philip Larkin or Iris Murdoch - and took pot-shots at him (or her) on grounds of sexual infidelity, neglect of significant others or general all-round egotism. 

Here in 2021, on the other hand, the moral compass has shifted a bit. Gone are the complaints about serial bonking - pretty much a lifestyle choice these day - and in come offences against the prevailing liberal orthodoxy. 

For hard evidence of how this moral climate has shifted, one need only take a look at Richard Greene's compendious new life of Graham Greene. This is much less hung up on the subject of Greene's sexual peccadilloes. But that doesn't stop the ethical framework against which Greene the man is periodically held up for inspection from being a very peculiar piece of architecture indeed.  

As early as page 4 tor example, Richard Greene is shocked to find that one of his namesake's remote ancestors owned 255 slaves on St Kitt's ("a discreditable episode in the family history"). A page or so later we encounter the subject's father the Berkhamsted headmaster; Charles Greene, and his work for the Cavendish Association, a late Victorian ginger-group founded with the arm of promoting a better understanding between social classes - all very well-meaning, the biographer decides, but of course "cautious and paternalistic" by today's standards. 

The tocsin of today's standards chimes quite a bit through the next 200 or so pages. Visiting post-Great War Germany, the teenaged Greene is ticked off for "accepting uncritically the complaint that the presence of black soldiers failed to respect the sensitivities of the Germans". Back at university he is further rebuked for writing an article in an undergraduate magazine called the Oxford Outlook lampooning the homosexuality of his student contemporary Harold Acton "in a phrase that makes the contemporary reader cringe". 

And so the reprimands stack up. There is more "cringe-inducing" in Land Benighted, the title chosen by Greene's cousin Barbara for her book about the pair's exploits in Liberia. Greene himself is excoriated for hiring some local porters whom he describes as "boys" (" a condescending term endemic to imperialism"). Meanwhile, Stamboul Train, published in 1932 and the novel which set him on the path to success, is found to contain a character who is referred to as "the Jew" rather than his given name, a habit with which Greene persists until as late as 1941. 

And all this, it should immediately be said, is fair enough. This is not our world and some of its casual racism and class-bound assumptions may indeed grate on the ears of the contemporary reader. At the same time, Richard Greene, so eager to criticise his subject for failings he very probably wasn't aware of, so punctilious in referring to the man-eating African tribes among whom Greene ventures as, er, "anthrophages" rather than plain old "cannibals", takes hardly any interest at all in the behavioural shortcomings of the husband and father. 

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