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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: 25 January 2021
25 January 2021 @ 11:38

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'


Starting with some more good news . .  A new nasal spray - currently being trialled - could block Covid

Astonishingly . . .A review of 61 studies and reports suggests that at least 1 in 3 people with Covid don't have any symptoms. Details here.

Some bad news on the impact on the mental health of front-line workers.

An anti-measures view . . . No amount of shutting borders, banning flights, bankrupting businesses, cancelling surgeries, denying children a decent education or wrecking havoc on people's mental health has delivered us to the promised land of a Covid-free existence. Only vaccines provide a solution.

Looking back 12 months:  The lesson from this pandemic?: If you don't act quickly and wisely, you'll be chasing your tail for eternity. And, in the process, badly damaging everyone and everything. Except Amazon and Pornhub.  

The lesson for the next pandemic?: Ditto.

Living La Vida Loca in Galicia/Spain

There's no much doubt about 'typical winter weather' in England. But what about Spain? Here's one answer.

For years, I've been telling newcomers to Spain they'll like/love this country more if they lower their expectations and accept different norms. But, truth to tell, there are things you can get used to - such as unpunctuality and false commitments - but there are others which just seem to go on niggling and niggling. Roundabout behaviour is clearly one of these for me. But there are others. I was reminded of this by this comment on queue-jumping by someone who's been here, like me, 20 years: What fascinates* me is how many locals will talk for hours at the counter to the butcher or fishmonger, totally oblivious to you standing in the queue behind them. Once they’re at the front of a queue, no-one and nothing else matters at all.

*I think he really means 'irritates'.

Just in case you didn't get to the end of yesterday's long-ish article on rural depopulation, here's the relevant bit:- Spain is expected to lose more than half its population by 2100; already, three-quarters of Spanish municipalities are in decline. Picturesque Galicia and Castilla y León are among the regions worst affected, as entire settlements have gradually emptied of their residents. More than 3,000 ghost villages now stand in various states of dereliction. This rural abandonment is one factor that has contributed to the resurgence of large carnivores. The Iberian wolf has rebounded from 400 individuals to more than 2,000, many of which are to be found haunting the ghost villages of Galicia, as they hunt wild boar and roe deer – whose numbers have also skyrocketed. A brown bear was spotted in Galicia last year for the first time in 150 years.

My daughter in Madrid ignored my exhortations and left various Brexit-related matters until late last year. These included getting her TIE and changing her driving licence. Things are going OK as respect the former, but as regards a Spanish driving licence: The service is misleading and chaotic. Each person you talk to gives a different opinion on the law and the process. But at least she has proof of her pre-deadline attempts to initiate the process and hopes these will satisfy whoever she talks to at a future cita.

Which reminds me, although I'm entitled to an EHIC/GHIC frm the British government, my daughter isn't. She has to get a TSE from the Spanish government. If you're working permanently here, this will apply to you too, assuming you're paying social security taxes. Click here.

Marìa's New Year Same Old: Day 24. I’ve said flu cases are down; Maria adds whooping cough and chicken pox.

The Way of the World

Do people want to be free? Or do they prefer security at any price? See the first article below. The worrying bottom line: Perhaps the most important thing we have learned from this deranging time in our history is that fear remains such a strong human impetus that it can easily stampede all the principles assumed to underpin democracy. Does this make it more likely that governments will be prepared to close down all social interaction again, in response to future crises? Almost certainly, and maybe not just for disease epidemics – perhaps for crime waves, terror threats, rioting or mass unrest of any kind. After all, look how easy it was this time.

Thanks to the internet, modern dating - ‘sexual bargaining’ - is complicated, superficial, cold-blooded and hostile.  See the 2nd article below. Can the clock ever be turned back?


The word ‘alibi’ was first attested in Edward Grimestone's 1612 General History of Spain. Possibly through Dutch, it comes from Latin, where it literally translated to ‘elsewhere’ or ‘another place’. More on it here.  

I've never seen the 'Grocers' apostrophe' used like this before, as in the plural of country - countrie's. Perhaps unintended.

Finally . . 

The Miramar Palace of  yesterday . . .Wiki endorses my view it’s a mish-mash: It has a purely English style and presents some neogothic ornaments. Elsewhere I’ve read it’s  built in ‘Queen Anne English cottage’ style.  Reader Eamon has cited a similar mansion, Richthofen Castle in Colorado, USA:-

Built in the styles of Gothic and Tudor Revival. So, another melange/mezcla. 

Finally, Finally . . .

My younger daughter’s latest blog post - on Ebay problems.


1. Do people want to be free? Or do they prefer security at any price? The extraordinary argument that it's okay to sacrifice freedom for security has returned: Janet Daley, The Telegraph.

The present emergency has raised a question that we thought was answered: do people value safety more than freedom? The great political argument of the twentieth century between a totalitarianism that promised lifelong protection, and open democracy which took the riskier path of liberty seemed to have been settled when communism collapsed and its Western acolytes, for the most part, gave up the fight. Or at least re-framed their position in a way that could accommodate the winning side.

Democratic socialism (or “social democracy” if you prefer the more benign title) made an attempt to meld the two visions into some acceptable consensus about how societies could incorporate economic security with individual self-determination. These solutions varied from country to country and from one political party to another - and teetered constantly on the edges of credibility. The Middle Way between government guarantees of what Gordon Brown used to call “social fairness” and free market economics never seemed satisfactory.

But the really big philosophical choice had been made when the Berlin Wall came down. For human beings to lead fulfilled adult lives, they had to be free to take decisions that might involve risk to themselves and possibly even to others, for which they could be held personally accountable. And furthermore, they were fully aware of this truth, which is why they were determined to fight for freedom even when that fight involved very considerable danger.

Of course, in the present context, the notion of risk is quite immediate and absolute. Liberty is no use to you if you are dead, and few people would claim that you should have the right to put other people’s lives in jeopardy. And we are not, however much political rhetoric has been expended, in anything like a war with a sentient enemy. By shutting down so many of the most fundamental personal freedoms we are going further than most countries would ever have done in wartime but we are not handing any sort of moral victory to the enemy – because there is no enemy. This is not an ideological battle with an alien force. It is an argument we must have with ourselves.

I don’t propose to engage yet again in the dispute over the present lockdown restrictions – whether they are effective and how urgent it is to lift them. What interests me is how public opinion has responded to these measures. Do people want to be free? Or do they want to be, above all else, safe? Both, paradoxically, but when it comes to an unavoidable choice which way do they go? It isn’t the imposition of these measures that needs examination here but the willingness to comply with them: the positive eagerness to embrace such unprecedented repression to the point of demanding more of it.

Have we stumbled onto something that was thought to have been extinguished in modern life, at least in the West, but was really a still powerful (maybe ineradicable) force in society? It’s certainly true that when the Soviet system crashed, a great many of the citizens who had lived under it were terrified and appalled: they had genuinely believed the communist state to be the guarantor of stability and survival. But the chaos into which Russia descended, having sold off all its publicly owned assets in a corrupt fire sale, had a great deal to do with that. This wasn’t freedom: it was anarchy and instant impoverishment.

But in the West, there was a glorious moment of belief in the value of enterprise and individualism. In Britain, this had come about as a reaction against the producer-capture of the public services by Leftwing trade unions. So furious was the reaction against state control and nationalised industry, that Labour had to reinvent itself as a party committed to capitalism. Freedom won that round hands down, helped very considerably by the ability of political leaders of the day to identify and articulate the dissatisfactions that really were dominating everyday life.

Is that the formula? For freedom, or security, to dominate public consciousness, must there be that critical combination of ordinary experience, and leadership which knows how to capture and express it – thereby gaining popular trust? If that is so, then it might help us to understand what is going on around us today. The attraction of freedom is that it embodies hope. That is the whole point of it: the hope that people will behave well when they have choices, and that a better future can be created out of human ingenuity and endeavour.

The longing for security, on the other hand, is based on fear: the belief that life (and other people) are so inherently threatening that only an all-powerful institution (or state) can ensure your survival. So it is not difficult to see how the Covid pandemic could present an opportunity for political leaders to craft a message that makes use of fear which will win out over any possible dissent.

Fear will always be a more urgent driver of behaviour than hope, and it is much easier for governments to act on. With enough enforcement and authoritarian regulation, you can deliver a reasonable degree of safety from almost any danger, and righteously suppress any contrary argument. Freedom, on the other hand, is a much more problematic thing to defend. It needs (by definition) constant debate, examination and re-definition. It is an exhausting business that requires an enlightened populace and a government willing to engage in ongoing disputation of quite an abstract kind. Most politicians would be inclined to dislike the precariousness that this involves. (Margaret Thatcher and her mentor, Keith Joseph, were among the few who relished it.)

Perhaps the most important thing we have learned from this deranging time in our history is that fear remains such a strong human impetus that it can easily stampede all the principles that were assumed to underpin democracy. Does this make it more likely that governments will be prepared to close down all social interaction again, in response to future crises? Almost certainly, and maybe not just for disease epidemics – perhaps for crime waves, terror threats, rioting or mass unrest of any kind. After all, look how easy it was this time.

2. The new language of love reveals modern dating's cold-blooded chaos. 'Vulturing’, ‘doxxing’ and ‘eclipsing’ are just some of the terms on a list drawn up by the CPS to help its lawyers understand young people: Zoe Strimpel

Back when I began writing about dating as a columnist for a now-defunct London freesheet, the topic wasn’t taken at all seriously. It was sordid fluff and entertainment, providing voyeuristic distraction for tired commuters. With its high-stakes clash of the sexes, however, I always thought dating was more interesting than it was given credit for, and eventually went back to university to study it academically. But it was hard to get people to take it seriously even then.

It is gobsmacking how much has changed. Dating is finally being appreciated as the ultimate Petri dish of sexual and social relations that it is. In particular, as the great and the good have twigged, if you want to understand the challenges facing young people today, you must boldly enter the jungle of digital semiotics – the slang – through which intimacy is now conducted.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the latest example of an august institution doing just that. This is not the first time it has tried to keep up with changing mores, but its latest guide to key terms, published last week, shows an organisation truly trying to grapple with the pressures faced by the many millions using online dating to find complex combinations of romance, love and sex. The CPS wants its lawyers to understand the ‘new normal’, so that they have a better grasp on the context in which consent is refused, given and abused. This will help it better aid mostly female victims of sexual crimes, many of which now originate online on people’s phones.

Crime aside, however, the new CPS guide is extremely revealing. It shows how complicated but also how superficial, cold-blooded and hostile the sphere of romantic – and sexual – bargaining has become. The guide features a range of outlandish-seeming terms – but for those accustomed to the bewildering dynamics of the contemporary dating swamp, they make perfect sense.

Many deal with the deployment of photos and the manipulation of information in order to maximise options and power. Thus, a ‘thirst trap’ is a sexy selfie posted, almost always by a woman, to attract attention and therefore to accrue power. This is not to be confused with ‘thirsty’, which means desperate for sex, and is generally something someone asserts, sleazily or mockingly, about someone else, rather than in relation to oneself.

Dating today allows access to lots of information about dates, or potential dates, without having to interact with them. You can hoard it instead, and then use it at the right moment. One example of this is ‘vulturing’, which means staying in the shadows on social media, watching for someone’s romance to fizzle so you can swoop. ‘Doxxing’, far more sinister, means harvesting someone’s online information in order to harass them, while ‘exoskeletoning’ is contacting an ex’s new squeeze – easily done thanks to social media.

If this all has a stalkerish vibe to you, then you may be interested to learn about ‘eclipsing’, in which someone becomes obsessed with the hobbies and interests of the person they are dating.

Perpetual awareness of options, and an infinity of distractions, sets the tone of courtship today. ‘Roaching’ means hiding the fact that you are dating numerous people at the same time, while to be ‘sidebarred’ is to be on a date with someone who is looking at their phone in front of you. Phones offer a cascade of stimulation and the illusion of total choice in the human meat market; no wonder the numbing rudeness of sidebarring has become so common, it has come even to the CPS’s notice.

Then there’s the fact that with choice comes bad choices. Enter ‘fleabagging’, named after the romantic car-crash Fleabag character created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, to denote repeatedly choosing incompatible people to date.

If you are long-married or lucky enough to have sought and found your romantic kicks offline, then these terms may seem strange; both overspecific and meaningless. But for those who have dated in the past seven or so years since Tinder came on the scene and changed the whole landscape indelibly and forever, they perfectly represent a familiar chaos. In particular, they capture the twin evaporation of accountability and coherent communication patterns. If communicating used to stand you a decent chance of a timely reply – eg, call was generally met with response – now your call may or may not be met with a response, timely or otherwise, and there is no understanding which it will be or why. I’ve had men disappear in the middle of a back-and-forth conversation, only to pop up three weeks later like nothing happened.

In the good old days (the 2000s and earlier), communication was simpler and more to the point (“Are you free on Friday?”). Now there is a battlefield of text to navigate, a world of emojis to select, and endless grades of tonal subtlety to manage, from the use of full stops (can be seen as passive-aggressive) to length of silences between messages to selfies to send – all without any rules or standards of decency.

Much can go wrong, and does. As the CPS has rightly realised, what happens online can be almost as distressing as, and sometimes more, than what happens offline.

Like 0


GuyT said:
25 January 2021 @ 20:11

Your point re Spaniards being tranquilo..about those waiting behind them at the butcher's is taken....but what irritates me more than the offending customer is the way that the butcher seems happy to accommodate, if not even encourage, their chatter.

Doncolin said:
26 January 2021 @ 11:19

Very true. But, on the other hand, if you only want one item and the person in front of you has a shipping list, it is possible to get in ahead of her/him by agreement with the butcher.

GuyT said:
26 January 2021 @ 11:55

I live in a poor part of Spain (Navalmoral, Extremadura) and am always struck by how so many little old women have endless shopping lists....just when you think thank god it looks like they've finished....they get a second wind and start pointing at €200 hams and whimsically picking up €25 cheeses. It's as if they are catering for huge family gatherings....which they probably are. But it's difficult to imagine a UK granny blowing €300 plus in her butchers. This probably explains why the butcher is prepared to humour them. It's the same story at the pescadero...we have a dozen stand alone ones in a town of less than 20k....and you have to take a number and wait patiently at each one. The Spanish take their food shopping VERY seriously.

Doncolin said:
27 January 2021 @ 08:55

They do indeed. And, here in Galicia,it seems to be the number one conversation topic in bars and cafés. And the cause of much 'discussion' . . .

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