Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 29.5.21

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’ 

Detailed info on Galicia and Pontevedra city here

Covid 

The UK:  The one-shot J&J/Janssen jab has been approved there. Good news for those of us who’ve already had it.

Spain

1. It’s now feared that, though Malta, some Greek and Caribbean islands and Finland will be added to the UK’s Green List next week, Spain’s Canary and Balearic Islands won’t be. It’s claimed this is because the UK government fears immigration officials will be overwhelmed on the return of holidaymakers. An excuse which is unlikely to go down well in suffering Spain

2. Spain will soon be trialling the new EU Covid Certificate/Passport scheme.

Cosas de España/Galiza

More on the saga of the (non)pardons  for Catalan rebels

News to calm the beating breasts of Brits worried about being deported from Spain for disobeying the 90/180 days rule.

And good news also for those who failed to exchange their driving licence in time.

Who can win at this game? A racism row erupts in Spain after ‘equality’ stamps are given lower value to dark skin tones. The Equality Stamps range was launched to coincide with the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by a US police officer.

The first folk I helped to look for a house in Galicia 15 years or more ago had come up from Andalucia because of predictions that, by now, that region would be Sahara-like. I thought of them when reading this headline: Experts predict Iraq-like weather for Spain in the near future. Heatwaves at currently unimaginable temperatures will increase throughout the Iberian peninsula in 2 projected scenarios by 2050. I’ve put the date in my diary to remind me to check how true that is then.

Quite a few articles have been written on ‘unknown’ Galicia since I started writing about the place back in 2001, followed by my Guide, and then a much fuller one by my friend Martin Lambert. Here’s a decent article explaining why Galicia is the most underrated region in Spain. It gets a lot right but not everything . . . .

 Galicia is wet and windy: Not always and not everywhere.

– Galician (Galego) has several Celtic words: I’d like to know what these are.

– Galicia is a member of the Celtic League: No, it isn’t. They won’t let it join because Gallego is not a Celtic language. https://www.celticleague.net/about-us/

– The surf scene is only now emerging: Not my perspective but never mind.

María’s Level Ground: 52-54

Portugal

Our local media tells us that Portugal has committed itself to building a high-speed train from Lisbon to connect with ours up to La Coruña. The priority stretch will from Oporto via  Braga to Vigo airport, starting in 2025. Of course, with the 30 year delay in our own  high-speed line from Madrid to Galicia behind us, none of us believe any of this.

The UK 

Gwyneth Paltrow’s shop in London has failed and closed. Someone has suggested this is because Brits just aren’t Goopy enough.

The EU  

Below is a 2nd article on the surprising development of a collapse of a trade etc. deal with Switzerland. Brussels has turned nasty, and wants to extend its reach, previously limited largely to economic affairs, into other fields such as justice, home affairs, and entitlements.

France 

A double-dip recession rocks Macron. I do believe AEP predicted this.

The USA

15% of (North) Americans believe the theories of QAnon, the group that thinks a Satan-worshipping cabal of international pedophiles conspired to keep Donald Trump out of the White House last year.

The Way of the World

PPSD – Post pandemic stress disorder . . .

Which reminds me . . . Psychiatry: Said to be the only branch of medicine where practitioners both invent and treat conditions. Criticised by some for: Increasing bio-reductionism[?], decreased humanism, diagnostic exuberance, and excessive dependence on prescribing medication. Even worse, this study concluded that: Psychiatric diagnoses are scientifically worthless as tools to identify discrete mental health disorders. Hmmm.

Spanish

The Canary Islands . . . Las Canarias. Named after . . . dogs. Latin: Dog, Canis. Spanish: Perro. But the Galician for dog is Can. Plural Cans. Hence our annual spoof Festival de Cans. Which I’ve yet to attend. Maybe next September.

Finally  . . .  

A few notes on William Buckland, a 19th century English eccentric geologist:-

– He had a taste for eating his way through every kind of animal, from bluebottles to porpoises.  

– His fascination with all aspects of the animal kingdom was such that he had been the first to identify the faeces of an ichthyosaur, and could distinguish bat urine by taste,

– His most startling feat, perhaps, was to gobble down what was reliably reported to have been the heart of King Louis XIV of France.

THE ARTICLE 

The looming threat of Switzerland’s own Brexit moment risks calamity for Brussels.  There are striking similarities between Brexit and the treaty negotiations Switzerland has been holding with the EU.  Jeremy Warner, the Telegraph

You’d have thought that Switzerland would have welcomed Brexit with open arms. For the Alpine state, being outside the European Union but wholly surrounded by its presence has been a lonely experience. Brexit seemingly ended that isolation, potentially offering an alternative vision of cohabitation between sovereign European nations.  But perhaps surprisingly, that sense of common purpose was never much of a thing in Switzerland. It wasn’t that the Swiss disapproved of Brexit; rather it was that Britain’s act of defiance brought an unwelcome degree of focus on their own, faintly privileged economic arrangements with the EU. These have long been regarded by Brussels as outdated and therefore ripe for absorption into the regimented whole.  Prior to Brexit, they had managed to slip through under the radar; the apparent anomaly was too small to be much bothered with. There were bigger fish to fry. With Brexit, the presiding clerics of EU orthodoxy have turned their gaze back on the Swiss misfit with renewed ferocity, forcing Bern finally to confront the choice between subjugation and a fuller form of divorce. Application of the EU thumbscrew has failed to work; to the contrary, as in Britain, it has only succeeded in strengthening Swiss resolve. With as little idea of where the decision might take them as Britain’s Brexiteers, the Swiss have seemingly chosen freedom over enslavement. 

Switzerland may not be a member of either the EU or the European Economic Area, but it is to all intents and purposes very much a part of Europe’s single market, with virtually unrestricted access. Happily, it has also managed to escape many of its obligations. Rather, its relationship is governed by a bewildering array of bilateral agreements, gathered together under seven overarching treaties. These have enabled Switzerland to enjoy some of the same “cake and eat it” attributes of being outside the club but enjoying its privileges that Boris Johnson once aspired to, but failed to secure. Yet as is its wont, Brussels has turned nasty, and wants to extend its reach, previously limited largely to economic affairs, into other fields such as justice, home affairs, and entitlements.

Negotiations on new arrangements long pre-date Brexit, but it is Britain’s two fingers to the EU that brought matters to a head. The EU has been threatening and cajoling Bern ever since.

In so doing, Brussels has completely failed to learn the lessons of Britain’s departure, making intolerable demands which it must know Swiss MPs and voters cannot accept.  Unilaterally, the Swiss government has therefore pulled the plug on the talks, risking breach of the treaties and expulsion from the single market. It’s not yet come to that, but the moment of truth is fast approaching. Full scale Swexit looms into view.

European policymakers have no-one to blame but themselves and their own intransigence. The particular sticking points are surprisingly similar to the ones that bedevilled Britain’s post referendum negotiations with the EU – subservience to European state aid and free movement rules. The underlying politics of Swexit are also strikingly similar. With its four official languages – Italian, French, German and Romansh – Switzerland could scarcely be a more European country. But like Britain, it has a centuries old sense of national exceptionalism and identity. For the UK, it’s our history of empire and commonwealth that sets us apart; for Switzerland it is the tradition of neutrality, of being of Europe but not part of it. The EU’s remote and unaccountable decision makers are the very antithesis of the direct democracy that Switzerland and its cantons aspire to.

Bern still has levers it can pull against the EU leviathan, not least its pivotal position in European trade. Huge amounts of it pass through its Alpine tunnels, and along its roads and railways. It would be easy to obstruct the unfettered transit rights the EU currently enjoys. This is potentially a much more powerful card than anything Britain had to play.

A further similarity with Brexit is the divide between business, which is broadly in favour of further integration into Europe, and the popular will, which is very much against it.  But even among businesses, there is no single voice. There are two halves to Switzerland’s business community; the big multinationals such as Nesle, Roche and Swiss Re, all of which think and act in dollar terms and for whom, with subsidiaries all over the world, membership of the EU is of little importance.  Yet the bulk of employment is provided by the Swiss “mittelstand” of medium sized enterprises, many of them highly integrated into and dependent on Europe’s single market. Here there is an evident mismatch between the perceived interests of the bosses, and the instincts of their workers.

Some kind of denouement is approaching. Much depends on how Britain fares, having rejected the half in, half out approach Switzerland has followed to date. If the UK prospers economically on the arm’s length basis it has opted for, then Europe’s single market loses its raison d’etre, and Switzerland will soon be following Britain into fully fledged divorce; in such circumstances, others will quickly follow.

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