Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 29.6.21

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’ 



1. Though the death rate remains low, the incidence rate has increased from 95 to 100 per 100,000 for the past 14 days. In 2 regions – Andalucia and Cantabria – it’s over 150. 

2. Majorca’s Green status is in danger in the UK, after a massive number of Spanish young folk became infected after post-exam beach parties and a concert there.

3. Following these celebrations, infections have been reported in 8 regions of Spain. Says The Times: The country’s slow vaccination programme means that almost none of those aged 17 to 21 have been inoculated. Actual numbers here.

The UK: Spain and Portugal either have are about to introduce new restrictions on unvaccinated Brits. As someone has written, it now looks like no summer family holidays for Brits in Europe this year. Other than in Gibraltar, of course. Devastating for the Spanish tourism sector.

AustraliaThe prime minister has vowed to keep the nation’s borders closed as part of his government’s attempt to grapple with rising cases of the Delta variant. The spread of this is said to threaten to wreck Australia’s successful efforts to suppress the coronavirus.

The Delta variant: A well-known Brit has warned that, firstly, you can get this despite being fully jabbed and, secondly, that the initial symptoms – before it hits you hard – are ‘very, very similar’ to a light ‘summer’ cold. Only a PCR test will reveal what you actually have. Bearing mind, he says, that you’re very infectious, such light symptoms shouldn’t be ignored.

Cosas de España/Galiza

Spain in Africa: Lenox Napier takes a quick look at this here.

This is the ‘famous’ Pollería in the Madrid barrio of Chueca, where the ice lollies come in the shape of penises (pollas).

The queue, I’m told, largely comprises young women. Given that Chueca is the gay barrio of the city, this possibly came as a surprise to the entrepreneurs who erected the business, as it were. 

Here in Madrid, it’s rare to see any of the idiots weaving in and out of pedestrians on e-bikes or e-scooters wearing a helmet. This, too, is illegal. And unenforced, apparently. What’s less rare is seeing them go the wrong way down a one-way street

Train travel: 

1. Yet more hassle with Renfe’s web page. See the details in the Special below. It might help others trying to buy a ticket on line. Or at least be some compensation.

2. Another nice email from Adif the train operator, telling me, effectively, that my beisbol cap left on the train was filched. I can’t lay claim to an iota of surprise.

The UK

Opines a newspaper leader: Authority must be ethical. It needs to be about public service, not selfish interests. It needs to be open and transparent. It needs to be held by people committed to maintaining standards of honesty and integrity. And yet, if we are truthful, far too many institutions in Britain, and far too many people in positions of authority, fall short. These possibly include the Prime Minister himself, of course.

Talking of Johnson . . . If there’s one thing he has a genius for, it’s sophistry. Ambiguous statements intended to make you draw an inference favourable to him. So it is that yesterday he claimed, in respect of the belated departure of the Health Secretary: When I saw the story on Friday, we had a new secretary of state for health on Saturday. Said hapless secretary, of course, resigned because of pressure from his own party and the public, not from the Prime Minister, who had publicly supported him.

Possibly more than you need to know on this subject but a Times reader has commented: Johnson is the most accomplished and successful liar in public life – probably the best liar ever to serve as PM. Some of this maybe a natural talent – but a lifetime of practice has allowed him to uncover new possibilities. And said reader has added these comments, allegedly from an ex Conservative MP: He has mastered the use of error, omission, exaggeration, diminution, equivocation and flat denial. He has perfected casuistry, circumlocution, false equivalence and false analogy. He is equally adept at the ironic jest, the fib and the grand lie; the weasel word and the half-truth; the hyperbolic lie, and the obvious lie. Which is, I guess, in line with what I wrote above. Lloyd George springs to mind as the only possible competitor for these honours.

O tempora! O mores!

Finally  . . .

Possibly because it’s quite large, my mask tends to slip down towards the tip of my nose, though my nostrils remain covered. I’m rather tired of zealots ordering me – albeit only inside buildings (and trains) now – to raise my mask until the top of it is at the  bridge of my conk. Does this happen to anyone else, I wonder.


The Good News

– There’s now a box next to the One Way/Return box which asks you to enter your discount entitlement, including via the Tarjeta Dorada. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t there last week.

– When you get further into the process, there’s a box in which to enter your Tarjeta Dorada number. This is above the line which asks if you have valid discount. I’m 100% sure this wasn’t there last week.   

The Bad News 

It took me well over an hour to buy a ticket on the net this morning. Problems arising:-

1. After selecting a preferente ticket. I was told there were no tickets available on that train for those not in a wheelchair.

2. After I selected a normal ticket and entered all my data, my debit card was rejected 3 times by my bank. I’ve no idea why. Never happened anywhere else before

3. I tried to change my debit card but could find no way to do this.

4. So, I selected New Card and was told to enter the details in the next section.

5. But there was no section, or at least not until I’d confirmed I’d wanted to pay.

6. I entered my credit card details but the card was rejected twice.

7. The third time I entered the details, it seemed to work, but

8.  After 45 minutes to get to this point,  I then I got the dreaded Renfe message: We can’t deal with you now. Please try later.

9.  When I tried later, again using my registered account, the price had literally doubled.

10. So, I logged out and started the whole process yet again. By this time, not in a very good mood . . .

This time it finally worked and I got confirmation of purchase, at the price originally quoted. By which time – at 11am – I felt in need of a G&T. And I knew it would have been easier to make the 40 minute metro  trip to Chamartín station and back.

I have wondered if it’s only me who has this hassle with Renfe but I know my daughter does and a friend has told me this week he does. Most tellingly, you can easily find Google searches under Is Renfe’s page the worst on the internet. Click here and here, for example. The second one contains some very sound advice when facing this challenge.

What the hell, I’ll save you some trouble . . .

– Buying tickets on Renfe is quite possibly one of the worst travel experiences one can have.

– The poor website design and seemingly impossible network results in many headaches as purchase attempt after purchase attempt get denied and timeout. This process repeats itself several times over such that many people often just give up on trying to get the deal and spend more money at a 3rd party websites to get past the time required to get Renfe to work altogether.

– Website is constantly full of bugs and issues. Totally unacceptable. Laughable. The train service on the other hand is excellent. [Agreed]

– Booking on the site often feels like performing an activity on the internet from the mid-1990s. Some computer in their system, located in some part of Spain, has likely not been updated since then.

I don’t seem to be alone. To say the least.

My daughter says she always uses the phone. She’s fluent in Spanish but says they have English speaking operators. These might just be the correct numbers to call for this:-

– Information (24 hours a day), Reservations, Telephone Sales, Changes and Cancellations: 912 320 320 [Not free]

– Group Coordination Office: 915 066 356 (09:00-14.00 Monday to Friday) / 

–  Accessibility. Request assistance to the station platform service: 900 920 922. [Free!]