Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 2.4.21

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’


The UK: Coronavirus infections in Britain are lower than in all the main EU nations as the number of second vaccine doses administered reached a record high. The UK has lower daily infection rates than 26 of the 27 member states, despite being the worst hit in January. Only Portugal has a lower rate. 

Hungary is the worst-affected nation in the bloc, with a daily rate of 868 cases per million.

France: The weekly infection rate is about 8 times higher than in the UK, as a sharp rise in cases pushes intensive care units to breaking point. President Macron has blamed the “British variant” for the surge and announced a 3rd national lockdown. He’s been pilloried for this, with Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, saying he’d met his Waterloo in the delayed vaccination campaign.

Spain: With vaccinations being outpaced by a growing wave of new infections, the government has urged the public to increase precautions in order to “buy time.” This plea came as Spain surpassed 150 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days — which national authorities consider the high-risk threshold. “We are at a critical moment, with an upward trend in the virus in almost every region.”, said a MOH official. Spain had stabilised its contagion rate following a sharp uptick after the Xmas holidays. The government blamed the rise on the spread of the more contagious virus variant first identified in Britain, which now accounts for 60-70% of all case.s. The increase is sharpest in Madrid, and the northern regions of Navarra and the Basque Country. All three areas have more than 240 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days.

Cosas de España

The tourism industry is not well pleased with the nationally-imposed obligation to wear a mask when sunbathing – or when in the sea.

The Times claims that some Spanish restores are so upset they’re revolting . . .  Galicia is said to be deviating from the rule -‘Pending clarification from Madrid’.

On Wednesday night, Spain’s football team played one that didn’t exist. That of Kosovo, which Spain –  for Cataluña-related reasons- doesn’t recognise.. On TV, Spain’s national broadcaster disregarded normal protocol by not mentioning Kosovo as a country and using lowercase letter for ‘kos’ in its graphics, compared with ESP for Spain. Needless to say, without anyone to oppose them, Spain won the game.

Most countries which have a President make do with just one VP. Spain usually has 2 these days but I don’t know why. Right now, it has 4 – 2 each from the 2 coalition parties which form the government. All 4 are women. I don’t know why, other than on pure merit, but I do know 2 of them are Gallegas. To be completely honest, I also don’t know what they do to earn whatever extra money goes with the title and (possibly) increased responsibilities. All I know is that, once again, Spain is Different. . Café para todos, perhaps.

Good to read that the government has approved funds for exhuming graves at the dreadful Valley of the Fallen. A total of €665,000 has been allocated for the exhumation and identification of some 33,000 victims of the Civil War buried there.

Cousas de Galiza  

Cyclists are going to be banned from Santiago’s old quarter. I wonder if this law will be any more obeyed or imposed than the one which bans them from pavements(sidewalks) in Pontevedra and elsewhere.

Did I joke last week about Spain being now a police state? At Pontevedra station  yesterday, a friend yesterday tried to buy train tickets for 3 of us going to Vigo today. She was denied them, as she couldn’t give all our full names and ID numbers. To get a bloody train to another bloody Galician city . . . These details are obligatory when you buy  on line  but I’ve never been asked for them at a station.

This is not by any means the first time a stranger to Pontevedra has done this and, thanks to GPS technology, it certainly won’t be the last. Best witnessed from the first floor window of the adjacent Savoy café:

The UK 

How it works . . .The Scottish nationalist government that wants to end the subsidy paid to it by the rest of the UK is, in the meantime, using that same subsidy – plus the extra cash intended to fight covid – to fund electoral bribes in an attempt to persuade Scots to vote for independence and, therefore, a permanent end to high spending on services.  

The EU 

Historian Robert Tombs, writing in his book: ‘This Sovereign Isle’: The pandemic might in theory have galvanised the EU into improvising a workable confederation based on a suddenly realised European solidarity. This would have begun by raising an adequate fund to sustain damaged economies which, not being in control of their currencies, are dependent on joint action. Instead, it exposed the national, cultural and economic tensions behind the gold-spangled banner.  . . .  A senior American diplomat predicted more than a decade ago: The European Union is likely in coming years to be a theoretically powerful but crisis-prone second-rate power caught in an unending geopolitical tug-of-war between other poles in the international system … [It] is likely to resemble, not 19th-century Britain or Germany, but their palsied polyglot neighbor, the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

This, by the way, was written before the vaccine debacle.


Tombs again, on the EU’s Covid bail-out: This episode gave another indication of the power of Germany to make or break European policies, and of the reluctance of the German state and many German politicians – whatever the views of the present German government – to allow fundamental decisions to be taken by ‘Europe’ when German taxpayers and savers stand to foot the bill. Germany’s enviable financial surpluses enabled it to launch a vastly greater fiscal stimulus package for its own economy than any other EU member, including subsidies to German corporations, which would inevitably increase its dominance of the Eurozone. As Joseph Stiglitz had warned, ‘Without a course correction, the euro will become little more than a tool for German prosperity”.


New word for me: Disyonquey: Discjockey.


I’m used to seeing apostrophe errors, mainly in the case of possessives, but today was the first time I’d seen theirs’s for theirs. They don’t even sound the same . . .

Quote of the Week

Old but good: No one should ‘never prophesy, especially about the future.

Finally  . . . 

Caitlin Moran: In Italy they have the word umarells. It describes those old, retired men who turn up at construction sites, hands behind their backs, barking out “unwanted comments and advice” to the men busily working there. Umarells are such a recognised phenomenon in Italy that you can even buy little umarell figurines — they are 14cm high and you put them on your desk “and let them watch over you as you work”, as the manufacturer puts it, wryly. Trump appears to be a full-time, real-life umarell — popping up wherever people are trying to get on with their lives and commenting on, basically, how he doesn’t have a clue how to get on with his.