Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 9.5.21

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’ 

NOTE: If you want to know more about Galicia or read my Guide to Pontevedra city, click here.  

Cosas de España

The estimable George Carlin has written an accurate article on the Madrid elections. It’s reproduced below and contains this nugget: If there is one thing the Spanish enjoy more than anything else — more than football, more than flamenco, more than bulls, more than sex — it is to sit and drink and eat and chat with family and friends. A former ambassador to London offered me the insight, over lunch, and, as a half-Spaniard living in Spain, I experienced that shock of recognition one has on hearing a truth hidden in plain sight. Again and again, people say: En España se vive muy bien — in Spain we live very well.

It reminds me that I routinely tell people they’ll never truly understand Spain until they take on board that the superordinate goal of the Spanish is fun. In its  local forms, of course.

In contrast . . . My latest frustrating brush with RENFE:-

Get the phone number for phone reservations from the web 

Wait until it’s operative at 10am (‘first thing’ in Spain, at least on a Sunday)

Call this number 

Wait 7 minutes on a premium number

Talk about what I want for my daughter coming from Madrid

Am asked if I have registered my credit card

I say I have for on line purchases

Am told this is not good for phone reservations and I have to register separately

I say there’s nothing about this on the Help page for phone purchases

Am told I can be sent the link by email or SMS

As I am saying which I prefer the phone goes dead

The phone stays dead.

The Way of the World/Quote of the Day/Social media

The social-media-obsessed Left believes that the culture wars are an all-or-nothing fight to the death and that it is therefore obligatory to eviscerate opponents for minor heresies. Most right-minded people, on the other hand, wish to eradicate racism and other forms of discrimination, but in a way that leads to reconciliation, not hatred. The concept of forgiveness is central to the western tradition  .


Well, I never . . .The word ‘monk’ comes from the monachoi, who lived a life of chastity and self abnegation in the Loire valley of the early Middle Ages. 

And ‘chaplain’ comes from the name of the folk who looked after the (rendered in two) cloak – the capella – of St Martin of Tours – the capellani.

Where would we be without religion? 

Finally  . . .

I went to the supermarket last night for a couple of food items and ended up buying a shirt as well. Looking this morning for the cleaning instructions, I found this label:-

It seems to serve absolutely no purpose. So, as instructed, I cut it off. And managed to cut the shirt in the process. Need I say that this was above the waist-line . . .?


She gave them beer and tapas; they handed her a shot at PM

Isabel Díaz Ayuso’s winning election strategy in Madrid helped her crush her Socialist rivals: Let the people party

John Carlin

If there is one thing the Spanish enjoy more than anything else — more than football, more than flamenco, more than bulls, more than sex — it is to sit and drink and eat and chat with family and friends. A former ambassador to London offered me the insight, over lunch, and, as a half-Spaniard living in Spain, I experienced that shock of recognition one has on hearing a truth hidden in plain sight.

Consuming beer, wine and tapas is the national pastime and the key reason why the festive “iron lady” who heads the Spanish right scored a landslide victory in regional elections in Madrid on Tuesday, more than doubling her tally of votes two years ago.

A victor on all fronts, Isabel Díaz Ayuso crushed the ruling Socialist party of the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, saw off the threat on her right flank of the Franco-friendly Vox party and slaughtered the radical-left party Podemos, forcing the immediate retirement from politics of Pablo Iglesias, its pony-tailed and hitherto charismatic leader.

At a time when the left is in retreat in Europe, as in England, Sánchez’s Socialists are rattled. They won a majority of votes in the last national elections but had to go into a coalition with flailing Podemos to form a government. The next general election is due at the end of 2023 but Ayuso’s victory, signalling a possible change in the national mood, raises the prospect that it may be sooner.

The 42-year-old darling and likely future leader of the centre-right Popular Party had an unbeatable formula. On the one hand, Ayuso played the reds-under-the-bed card, appealing to the primal populist emotion of fear, while championing low taxes; on the other, more imaginatively and to far more decisive effect, she turned the pandemic to her political advantage. Instead of battening down the hatches, she played down the risks and encouraged the people to make merry.

Under the wide powers of discretion ceded by central government to the autonomous regions, no city in the country, perhaps no city in Europe, has had a more carefree approach to Covid-19 over the past six months than Madrid. Not only have schools continued to function as normal, but bars and restaurants have been open until 11pm every day since October. The contrast with London and Paris is staggering. Closing time in Barcelona has never gone beyond 5pm.

Madrid’s restaurateurs have not been slow to express their gratitude. Among the dishes named after her in recent months: “Calamares a la Ayuso”; “Papas a la Ayuso” and “Pizza Madonna Ayuso”.

A member of the “getting out of bed is a risk too” school of thought, Ayuso placed more emphasis than other parts of Spain on keeping the economy going and allowing Madrid residents their God-given right to have fun. But she was not entirely devil-may-care. Curbs were imposed. Limits were placed on indoor dining, there was an 11pm-6am curfew, and when a neighbourhood registered infection rates above a certain threshold, residents were banned from crossing municipal boundaries. Just over a quarter of the population has been vaccinated and infections are down, prompting a national easing of restrictions that comes into effect today. Madrid will be going further than any other region, declaring an end to the nighttime curfews and extending restaurant hours till midnight.

The mortality rates in the Madrid region have been higher than in Barcelona’s region, Catalonia, but not catastrophically so. The most recent figures reveal a death toll in Madrid, whose overall population is 6.6 million, of 15,075. In Catalonia — population 7.5 million — it is 14,292. A brutal truth Ayuso would have factored into her calculations is that only a fraction of the Madrid electorate have suffered a Covid-19 death in the family, and many would rather die themselves than vote for a party of the left.

It has not escaped the attention of voters that whereas the Marxist Iglesias and his like-minded wife own a villa with a pool on Madrid’s outskirts, Ayuso, who split up with her hairdresser boyfriend last year, lives alone in the city in a rented flat.

Ayuso’s campaign played up the positives of her pandemic response. Her winning slogan could not have been simpler: Libertad! What did that mean? Freedom, as her political cousin Donald Trump might have imagined it, from “communism”? Yes, in part. It was not long ago that Iglesias, political cousin of Jeremy Corbyn, used to declare he “envied” what has turned out to be the disastrous Chavista regime in Venezuela. Hence the Ayuso election banner: “Madrid or Caracas?”

But what libertad meant to the majority who voted for Ayuso was something more immediately meaningful. It meant the freedom to eat and drink to your heart’s content; it meant reopening Madrid’s Las Ventas bullring last weekend for the first time since the pandemic began; it meant being different from the benighted inhabitants of most of the rest of the planet; it meant, dammit, being proudly, defiantly Madrileño.

My friend the former Spanish ambassador in the UK, a Catalan resident of Madrid called Carles Casajuana, nailed it in a column in Barcelona’s La Vanguardia on Monday. “Bearing the standard of freedom and defence of the Madrid way of life,” Casajuana wrote, “Ayuso has portrayed herself as the protector of people’s right to spend their money as they wish and of the longing for a full life of a citizenry fed up with the pandemic, like everybody else.”

Ayuso won big by flattering her constituents, “by massaging their egos”, as Casajuana wrote. What she did, he explained after the election, was to hold up a mirror to them and show them an image that concurred with their idealised sense of themselves as unapologetic bon viveurs.

Many Spaniards, Casajuana agrees, have a complex about the Anglo-Saxons, whom they regard as more organised, more diligent and less corrupt (the Boris Johnson cash-for-curtains scandal seems inexplicably banal here). Yet they take solace and pride in the conviction that they have a wiser approach to life. A Spaniard may lament the failings of the society he or she inhabits, but a comforting reflection will never be far away.

Again and again, people say: En España se vive muy bien — in Spain we live very well. Ayuso’s rocket-lik rise is down to her instinctive understanding that, after a year of gloom, this was the moment to celebrate Madrid’s chief article of secular faith. Ten years ago she ran the Twitter account of the Madrid regional leader’s dog. Now she is the regional leader and a potential future prime minister. Her secret is contained in an extract from a campaign speech.

“Madrid must be one of very few cities in the world that has traffic jams at three on a Saturday morning, and as citizens of Madrid you know exactly what I mean,” Ayuso said. “The hallmark of our city is that the streets are always alive. For women like me, going out and enjoying my city with absolute passion, going out for dinner, for a drink in an outdoor terraza and coming back late at night, is something that makes me proud of my city, for it is part of what Madrid is.”

The applause was thunderous. After Tuesday’s vote the Socialist vice-president, Carmen Calvo, complained about what she perceived to be Ayuso’s frivolity. “We don’t talk about beers and tapas,” Calvo said. “We talk about programmes and policies.”

That is why Ayuso won more seats in the Madrid parliament than all three left parties combined. By appealing to self-love, food and drink, she connected, as the left did not, with the masses.

Nice comment to this article.-  Everything Carlin says is very true, of course. But what isn’t ever said by Spaniards about their good life is that it’s in part financed by OPM – other people’s money. Specifically, Northern European taxpayers. And few pay the price of the vast corruption of the politico-corporate nexus. And the inefficiencies can be mind-blowing, as anyone who’s lived here or read Vincent Werner’s “It’s not what it is; the real(s)pain ” will know. Because of the emphasis on fun, it’s a fabulous place to retire to but I do wonder how many non-Spaniards could happily work here. Though journalism is probably a good number, especially if you’re half Spanish . . . 🙂