Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 5.7.21

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’   

Cosas de España/Galiza

The latest rules for Brits hoping to come to Spain.

The Paradors are government-owned hotels in ex palaces, mansions and monasteries throughout Spain, Mostly, they’re architecturally magnificent, though the modern ones don’t find favour with me. But I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about the staff, some of whom offer only desultory service. Or, as I once out it, they seem to invest themselves with the importance of their celebrity guests and look down on the rest of us. I mention this because of my Sunday morning experience in Pontevedra’s Parador in the last year. Especially when it’s sunny, I go there to have a coffee before my midday tiffin. If any of the ladies are on duty, they answer immediately the (compulsory) bell in the lobby and then guide me to the terrace. But the one chap who works there always retreats out of sight and doesn’t emerge to answer the repeated summonses of the bell. Leaving me to stand waiting – ignored also by the receptionist – until, after 7-10 minutes, I get fed up and leave for a place where they still offer newspapers. My assumption is that this happens because the waiter knows I’m  not a guest, just a would-be coffee client. Anyway, more annoyed than ever yesterday, I took out my plastic Amigos de los Paradores card and – with some difficulty – ripped it in half,  then threw it in disgust on the floor below the little table with the notice and the bell on  it. I’m sure this will have no effect whatsoever but – as I departed in high dudgeon – I felt a bit better. 

A propos  . . . One of the best Paradores is up in the Galician hills, featured in this post.

María’s Final Stretch. Days 29 & 30. It has to be asked what’s been done with all that freedom . . . .

The Way of the World

See the article below to see how Oxfam has lost its way over anti-racism. It takes some believing.

Quote of the Day

Samuel Johnson is said by some to have got most things right. Like Eric Blair, I guess. He certainly in this case IMHO: A cucumber should be well-sliced, dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out. But I don’t know if EB liked them. 


Here’s an example of something in English which isn’t quite right, to me, as a translation of the Spanish. Not, I guess, the original German:-

Is ‘has pain’ really the best option? Why not ‘feels the pain of failure’? And I’d prefer ‘trying’ to ‘attempting’.

Finally  . . .

Nice work, if you can get it . . .

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


How Oxfam lost its way over anti-racism. By attacking its own staff’s integrity, the charity seems to care more about race theory than the wellbeing of actual women.

Zoe Strimpel, The Times

There have been promising signs recently of a growing backlash in Britain to some of the institutionalised excesses of wokeness. The Government has given the kibosh to unconscious race bias training in Whitehall, and cracked down on universities’ ability to no-platform speakers deemed racist (and transphobic, and all the other ics and ists). Last week I wrote about the Office for Students’ decision to investigate higher educational establishments, including the universities of Hull and Worcester, who claim it is racist and Euro-centric to mark down essays for bad English.

But alongside the prickings of hope there is still a current of deranged woke thinking bubbling up in certain environments with chilling regularity. Last week Oxfam offered a sharp reminder of just how far the extremes of anti-racism ideology have seeped through. It is hardly surprising that a charity working with people in developing countries has an interest in race that, given contemporary fixations, invites theorising about white privilege and white supremacy. What is more surprising, what takes one’s breath away, is the sheer insulting viciousness of this interest; more of a fixation, really. 

The charity circulated a “whiteness” survey to its 1,800 UK staff, 88 per cent of whom are white. The survey stated that whiteness is “a power construct created by white nations for the benefit of white people”, bulldozing, as contemporary race zealots are wont to do, all notion of class or gender. It’s hard to imagine that the Irish labourers and Lancaster loom workers of the Victorian period, working in infernal conditions, or men slaving in mine shafts, or working class women facing their 11th baby, would have felt in receipt of a “power construct” to their benefit. But hey ho.

With the stone-cold hostility of tone that has become the hallmark of social justice warriors, the survey intoned that those who quibble with blanket condemnation of whiteness as a form of racism itself should think again: Oxfam “does not recognise reverse racism”.

The ideas and tone of the survey raise the question of how leadership – or whoever has the power to determine organisations’ internal literature and their “training” programmes – can be so badly out of sync with what ordinary people deserve or think.

Oxfam staff rightly felt insulted. “Why are they presuming their workers, who are working for a humanitarian charity, are racists and bigots?” asked one employee.

It is a sign of the times that Oxfam is investing its energy in lunatic, insulting documents that appear to favour a kind of armchair race war while failing to make any material difference at all to the cause. The proportion of ethnic minority employees at Oxfam GB actually fell from 16 per cent in 2019 to 11.8 per cent in 2020.

There is an added unpleasant irony to Oxfam’s vicious line on whiteness: its apparent neglect of interest in gender and the wellbeing of women. The charity is still reeling from the Haiti sex scandal in 2018, in which it was revealed that top staff paid earthquake survivors, some allegedly underage, for sex, along with further charges of a culture of harassment, bullying and intimidation. In April, a female aid worker quit, alleging a “toxic” culture in which her sexual harassment complaint had been ignored. Earlier this month, meanwhile, Oxfam sacked three aid workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo after allegations of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, intimidation, nepotism and fraud. As one employee subjected to the whiteness survey last week pointedly asked: “Surely the time and money should be better spent on the real findings that some of the men they employ are sexual predators?

It’s not just that Oxfam seems to prefer going on about critical race theory to thinking about actual women’s welfare: its fixation with race and particularly whiteness has led it to open hostility towards women. A training pamphlet put together by the charity’s LGBT network in 2020 and seen earlier this month by The Telegraph included gems like: “Mainstream feminism centres on privileged white women and demands that “bad men” be fired or imprisoned”. In reporting rapists and other criminals, white women “[legitimise] criminal punishment, harming black and other marginalised people”. Then there was the charming assertion that the women who report men of colour for rape are “contemptible”. The document advises staff to read Sussex gender studies professor Alison Phipps’s book Me Not You: The Trouble with Mainstream Feminism, which concludes that “Mainstream feminism is supporting, not undoing, the root causes of sexual violence”. The four-week “learning journey” links to Phipps’s Twitter account, which, in its own summary of the book, declares: “White feminist tears deploy white woundedness, and the sympathy it generates, to hide the harms we perpetuate through white supremacy.” Come again?

The pamphlet was optional, but the existence of documents like it, and its race survey, indicate the infiltration of an ideology that is redefining what Oxfam is – a theory-twiddling charity more obsessed with race than with the wellbeing and dignity of its female staff. Most Britons – and especially most people working at Oxfam – are deeply sympathetic to the fight against racism. Attacks on their integrity, such as that of the whiteness survey, are not only entirely uncalled for, they serve to sow racial tension where there was none.