Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 28.6.21

 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’


Spain. HT to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for this citation of advice on getting your Covid certificate.

The UK v. The EU: Today Germany will attempt to secure an EU-wide ban British travellers into the EU, regardless of whether or not they’ve been vaccinated. The German chancellor wants to designate UK a “country of concern” because the Delta variant is so widespread. For obvious reasons, the plan will be resisted by Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta but backed by France.  

Cosas de España/Galiza

Another HT to Lenox Napier for this citation – All you need to know about those mobile, hard-to-see radar machines.

Time to point out, as Lenox does, that a volte-face on reckless driving has led to a massive decrease in deaths on Spanish roads. Down, I think, to less than a 5th of what they were when I came here in 2000. Sad to say, in Galicia, is now seems to be more dangerous to use a zebra crossing than to travel in a car.

A friend who’s new to Spain and who’s started teaching English to kids has asked me if it’s normal for parents not to tell him when their child isn’t coming to the class. I told him this is a problem all private teachers face here, as this seems not to be considered impolite in Spain. His real challenge, I added, is to determine if the no-show is a one-off or permanent. I suspect the Spanish attitude is: “Well, he could always call to find out”. And I’ve assured him that, if he does call – there’ll be copious apologies for not keeping him informed. And possibly for ending a vital source of income. After the event.

María’s Final Stretch, Days 20-23 

I enjoyed the ethnic museum in Grandas de Salime cited by María the day I aborted my attempt at the Camino Primitivo after only 3 days. Read all about that here. And my advice on tackling the punishing Primitivo here. Which I still find very funny, even if I did write it myself . . .  My fotos of the museum can be found among these.

Update: I’ve received a nice email from Adif, telling me they’re checking if they’ve got my beisbol cap. So far, so good.

The UK & Brexit

The positive/optimistic view: Even at this early stage, it’s clear Brexit is altering the balance of power between labour and business, causing wages to rise, while allowing the creation of a regulatory and worldwide trading regime that suits the UK – and will ultimately boost our prosperity. See the full article below.


Donald Trump has held his first rally since leaving office, in Wellington, Ohio. These are 5 things said to be learnt from it, none of them very surprising:-

1. Trump will exact revenge.

2. Trump’s base is huge – but there are cracks in it.

3. Immigration is a winning issue

4. Many believe his stolen election claim.

5. He has returned to social media and claims he will start his own social platform in addition to joining Rumble.

The Way of the World

With its genius for turning good things bad and true things false, woke ideology has decided that even basic standards of coherence and accuracy themselves are evidence of a white, male Euro-centric (and therefore bad) worldview. At a number of universities in Britain, good spelling, proper grammar and robust essay structure – not to mention concepts like facts, truth and argument – all now fall under suspicion. 


Pronunciation. I may well have admitted before that, as a teenager, I thought ‘misled’ was pronounced myzled, not miss-led. Only by reading it out loud in class – twice! – did I discover my error. Of course, I knew of the miss-led pronunciation but assumed it was one of those cases of 2 options running side by side. Possibly.

Finally  . . .

Not easy to forget – The blistering heatwave of summer 1976. In this cool and damp end to June it may be difficult to believe that on this day 45 years ago the UK’s highest temperature for the month, 35.6C, was recorded at Southampton. This fell during a heatwave of 18 consecutive days with temperatures at 30C or more in southern England. It was the hottest, driest and sunniest summer in the UK’s history. After 2 or 3 years of drought, it shone an alarming light on how critical water supplies were in much of England, and that London is one of the driest capitals in the world, with annual rainfall similar to Barcelona. Who knew? Manchester, on the other hand, has a reputation for endless rain. Just like Galicia. In both cases, it’s undeserved. But impossible to scotch.

Note: If you’ve arrived here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try this.  


Brexit is shaking up the balance of economic power. Brexit is allowing the creation of a regulatory and worldwide trading regime that suits the UK – and will ultimately boost our prosperity: LiamHalligan, The Telegraph 

I was in a studio at LBC radio when the Brexit result was confirmed in the early hours of June 24 2016. Sleep deprived, and full of caffeine, I’d been glued to live feeds of currency markets and other financial indices, giving regular updates on sterling losing ground as the result became clear.

“The British people have spoken – and the answer is we’re out,” declared an ashen-faced David Dimbleby, as shocked as the rest of the broadcast media establishment. For all the warnings Brexit would be bad for the UK, the majority of those voting had opted to leave.

Over the last five years, a lot has happened. For one thing, much of our political and media class spent until December 2019 trying to reverse the referendum result. The parliamentary shenanigans, as countless MPs went back on their manifesto promises to honour and implement the referendum result, were dark days for our democracy. I think historians will look back and conclude the “second referendum” crowd were wholly in the wrong.

But eventually, after a spate of all-night parliamentary sittings and a dramatic snap election, Brexit finally “got done” – up to a point, anyway. For it was only at the start of this year that the UK finally left “transition”. And, of course, negotiations and flare-ups between the UK and Brussels will continue. That’s partly because the Eurocrats are determined to make clear that leaving the European Union is difficult – pour decourager les autres, – discouraging other members of the 27-nation bloc from leaving, should they not want “ever closer union”. But ongoing cross-Channel tensions are inevitable. Big, powerful nations don’t always see eye to eye – whether they are in the EU or not.

The pound plunged as the Brexit result came through five years ago. But the fact that sterling is now almost exactly where it was during the months before the referendum – against both the dollar and euro – is barely commented upon.

That’s because arguments about the economic impact of Brexit have been overshadowed, of course, by Covid – which has seen the UK economy contract by almost a 10th last year, the biggest GDP fall in 300 years. But it’s clear, even at this early stage, Brexit is changing our pattern of trade.

UK exports to the EU were, in fact, falling as share of our total exports long before Brexit – down from 55pc in 1999 to 43pc just before the 2016 referendum. Our EU exports have been below 40pc of the total for some years – if you include the “Rotterdam effect”, which recognises some British goods sent to the huge Dutch port, while counting as exports to the EU, are destined elsewhere.

The UK has exported more to non-EU nations than to the EU for many years, even before Brexit. That trend will continue. And the UK’s trade with the EU, as well as shrinking, has long been in deficit – despite our membership of the EU’s single market and customs union. Our non-EU trade, in contrast, while growing, has been delivering repeated surpluses – adding to national wealth. This was a major part of the economic logic of Brexit.

Another pillar of the argument to leave was that fewer than one in 10 UK firms exported to the EU, yet all our companies had to comply with EU regulations, which tended to be dirigiste and restrictive and over which British lawmakers had little control.

The UK’s trading relationship with the EU is clearly important – and trade won’t stop, despite the inevitable scratchiness in current relations. Neither side wants that, especially the EU, which continues to run a large surplus with Britain – so a lot more French, German and Spanish jobs and wealth rely on cross-Channel trade than vice versa. The economic case for Brexit was also based on the shifting balance of the world economy. When the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973, the bloc accounted for 38pc. That figure is now just 15pc, despite the EU today comprising far more member states.

Free of the EU, the UK is cutting bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) more advantageous than the EU-wide deals Brussels agreed on our behalf. Already, Britain has already rolled over 66 of the EU’s 70 free trade agreements – a major achievement, for which Liz Truss, the Trade Secretary, deserves credit. The UK also has new preliminary trade pacts with important commercial partners including the United Arab Emirates and Australia.

And, of course, we’re set to join the Comprehensive Partnership on Trans-Pacific Partnership – a group of 11 nations around “the Pacific Rim” – including Japan and Canada, as well as Mexico and Peru. CPTPP is a trade agreement between nations accounting for 13pc of global commerce. If Britain joins that would make 16pc – more than the EU27.

What’s more CPTPP is primed for growth, its share of the world economy set to expand to almost 25pc by 2050, by which time the EU will account for just 10pc. Powerful demographic and technological trends ensure that, over the next two decades, 90pc of global growth will happen beyond the EU – and that’s an estimate from Eurostat, the official Brussels statistical agency.

The “Commonwealth”, meanwhile, is often derided as Britain’s “lost empire” – yet this voluntary 53-nation group includes the biggest economy in Africa and second largest in Asia, a third of the global population and a fast-rising share of global GDP.

Trade is increasingly less about distance than digital and cultural connections – particularly for the UK, the world’s second largest services exporter. The Commonwealth nations share a common language and legal code, plus strong blood and cultural ties, providing a perfect platform to expand the UK’s trading footprint as we move on from our fixation on Europe, and focus more on the world beyond.

These early Brexit years are tough – not least for our fisherman, as that sector’s transition period runs its course. And Brussels seems determined to make the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol as difficult as possible, taking serious risks with the peace process.

Yet even at this early stage, through the Covid storm clouds, it’s clear Brexit is altering the balance of power between labour and business, causing wages to rise, while allowing the creation of a regulatory and worldwide trading regime that suits the UK – and will ultimately boost our prosperity.