Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 3.4.21

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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.  


Europe: The EU’s vaccine bullying papers over some embarrassing facts. See  the full article below.

France: Paris gets desperate. Paris has launched an operation to convince residents to get vaccinations by knocking on doors or stopping them in the street. But . . . ‘AstraZeneca? Non, merci’ – sceptical Parisians decline the offer of an immediate Covid jabs. Hardly surprising.

Cosas de España

Such is the nature of politics in Madrid – ahead of a  regional election – that one observer has commented that words have begun to lose their meaning in the discourse there.

Around Spain, changing street names seems to be as popular as changing the direction of traffic is here in Pontevedra city. In Business Over Tapas this week, Lenox Napier gave us this info: The Memoria Histórica is the reason given to erase all reference to the dictadura of Franco. This means the removal of statues and street-names. The Generalísimo (often the name for the High Street) has long gone from the maps, but many names remain. In Oviedo, since Spain is different, the street names have gone the other way, with Francoist names being returned to the corners, and Calle Federico García Lorca becomes once again Calle Calvo Sotelo. Then in Belalcázar, Córdoba, they’ve followed the rules and changed the name of a street from Calle Capitán Cortés (a Francoist) to Calle Capitán Cortés (a local Republican officer). Everybody – for once – is now happy.  Things aren’t much better in Palma, however, where the streets honouring Admirals Cervera, Gravina and Churruca have been replaced; since those names aren’t in memory of Francoist sailors, but illustrious naval men from the XVIII century. I suppose making changes gives bureaucrats something to do and justifies their existence. At  least to themselves. But just confusing the rest of us. 

Cousas de Galiza

Our efficient/officious local police have been on the border with next door Asturias in the early hours of each mornings this week and and issued 67 fines to folk who’ve come into Galicia in motor-homes. Easy work, as there’s only a few places where they can  park. Like  rats  in a trap.

Looking ahead, the police have proudly announced, with fotos, that they’ll be flying drones over our beaches this summer, to make sure you’re distancing and wearing a mask at least most  of  the time.

Meanwhile, I assume the few camino ‘pilgrims’ I’ve seen this week can only have started their walk within Galicia, in Tui for example – 4-5 days from Santiago.

The San Salvador Community of the mountain is a group of people who seem to own bits of the mountains behind my house. A few years ago, they claimed they were owed compensation for the land on which houses were illegally built, they said, on the city side of ‘my’ hill. I think that case is ongoing. And now they say that someone has stolen from them the land around the couza I featured recently, being visited by  the mayor  of Pontevedra. I’m guessing they’re asking for financial compensation in this case too. They might well be justified.

The UK 

It’s reported the government will soon permit holidays in countries with great vaccination rates. This should help many Brits find out how disappointing  Gibraltar is. If it’s on the list, I’d recommend Malta instead.

Meanwhile,  the CEO of NHS England, writing in The Times, lavishes praise on his organisation and points to the possible future successes of ‘joined-up services’. Stand by for a (belated) war on obesity, said to  be a major factor in the Covid death rate.

The UK and the EU 

I’ve just finished the book I cited yesterday – ‘The Sovereign Isle: Britain In and Out of Europe’, by Brexiteer Robert Tombs. Who is the emeritus professor of history at Cambridge university and ‘a brilliant historian of England and of 19th-century France’. Not surprisingly, I found little or nothing in the book with which to argue. So, what I’d really, really like is for for someone who disagrees with him to either 1. Convincingly address all his points and prove beyond reasonable doubt that the EU is a good thing and the UK should have stayed in it, or 2. Make a bloody good attempt at this which is at least half convincing. It’s generally acknowledged this wasn’t done by Remainers during the run-up to the Brexit referendum in 2016 and I’ve seen nothing of this sort since then. Meanwhile, the  Guardian  reviewer of Tombs’ book airily dismisses his stance as that of a historian and not of, say a political columnist – as if that were at all relevant – and basically accuses him of having nothing more than ‘faith’ in a post-Brexit Britain. As if this were different from a Remainer who retains faith in the EU’s founding myths, its efficacy and its future. I’ve enough experience of people with a deep faith to know it’s little use arguing with them. But at least Tombs admits his will be put to the test over time. I’d add that faith in the EU has been well-tested in the last 70+ years, justifying apostasy on the part of some of us who supported the UK’s entry into the  EEC in 1973 and again later in the 1975 referendum on membership in ‘the Common Market’. But we will see .  . .

Naturally, I recommend Tombs’ book to (candidate) Remainers. But I have no faith I’ll ever see what I really, really want from any of them. Of course, if anyone can nominate a relevant book, I’ll happily buy it to check out the strength of the case. I don’t suppose there’s one out there called ‘The EU, what has it ever done for all of us Europeans?’. 


As seen by  the Times cartoonist . . .


The Way of the World

The betting queen’s empire is founded on misery. Does she ever think about the addiction she profits from?  So begins an article on the woman I mentioned yesterday.


The EU’s vaccine bullying papers over some embarrassing facts. Even Michel Barnier has called for a cease-fire in this unnecessary, ugly fight. A Telegraph leader.

The EU has said that “zero” AstraZeneca jabs will be shipped from a factory in the Netherlands to the UK if the company fails to meet its commitments to the bloc. This is protectionism in tooth and claw. It shamelessly disregards contracts and it also overlooks critical British investment in research and production.

Our vaccine success is not only down to staying out of the EU procurement programme and signing contracts early – though both were a stroke of genius. We also spent heavily on research and upscaling production. As we report today, the UK invested more than £21 million to build up capacity at the Halix plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, before the Oxford vaccine was even proven to work.

Moreover, the Dutch government, and by extension the EU, was invited to join the project and secure doses for themselves – but chose not to take part. Unquestionably, this initial expenditure should entitle Britain to its fair share of the jabs made on the site (British engineers also travelled to Halix to improve production over Christmas). The UK has spoken of “sharing” inoculations; it is the EU that is being unreasonable.

Europe has paid a heavy price for failure when it comes to immunisation, as signalled by France’s humiliating extension of its lockdown, but the EU’s leadership is determined to paper over the cracks with bullying.

Even some of our old Brexit sparring partners are disgusted: Jean-Claude Juncker labelled the trade war “stupid” and Michel Barnier, thought to be a Gaullist rival to Emmanuel Macron, has called for a ceasefire.

Mr Barnier spent much of the negotiations lecturing us over the inviolability of the Single Market, giving every impression that its workings were logical and just. But the EU is not about free trade, as this sordid affair proves, but is really a political project, now betraying its authoritarian nature in a moment of self-imposed crisis.

The world is watching and can judge the facts. Had the Dutch joined the investment at Halix, they might have been able to reserve jabs for the EU. Instead, the UK signed a contract of first refusal in return for its investment,  fair and square. There are benefits to acting fast and acting strategically, an argument Eurosceptics made often – and for which they were ridiculed by their opponents.