Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 18.7.21

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Covid: Are masks really effective? I’ve long suspected not. So wasn’t surprised to read the article below. But then came this long thread, containing the claim that: Evidence from observational studies is pretty consistent, though causality is hotly contested . . . Broadly speaking, in countries and regions where mask mandates were introduced, the rate of spread of the virus subsequently fell substantially. 

Cosas de España/Galiza  

It seems that the ex-king established his personal pension fund not just via commissions on one thing and another but also by actually being an arms-dealer. Which might just explain why some folk – possibly quite a few – don’t want much to do with him these days. Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas advises that Nine (fringe) parties are asking Congress to investigate his alleged illegal sale of weapons. Not the major parties, of course. That would be far too radical and destabilising. That way lies the 3rd Republic.

A Spanish friend has responded thus to my query about lawyer salaries:- There are indeed differences between the graduates of Spanish universities, as some are more prestigious than others, e.g. La Complutense in Madrid and Comillas in Cantabria.. In addition, the big law firms take the best qualified and, during their professional careers, they train them and, as they move up the career ladder, they gain enormous experience and then specialise a lot, generally working longer hours than usual, as their clients are multinationals who, although they pay good fees, demand quality and speed. The employees who can keep up with this pace are promoted until they become partners. Even within this position, there are 2 classes: “salary partners” and “equity partners”, and the remuneration of the latter reaches the very high levels cited, as this remuneration is the sum of 2 components: salary and profit sharing.

And here’s an article showing that the Selectividad mark required can be as high as 13.685 out of 14, or 98%, way above the 5.5 required by some lesser places of study,


Here’s the estimable Marinero on the dreadful Lisbon earthquake of 1577, which killed between 30,000 and 50,000 residents – 20% of the population of the city.

The UK

The highest number of EU citizens granted ‘settled’ status so far in the UK are Romanians. They total almost a million, despite being only 282,000 in the month of the 2016 referendum and 404,000 in June 2020. Officially at least.


Astonishingly, the devastating floods in the West of the country may well be the result of  a “monumental failure of the system”. There exists a highly sophisticated international flood prediction resource, part-funded by the EU. The first signs of catastrophe were detected 9 days ago by the Copernicus satellite and, over the next few days, a team of scientists sent the German authorities a series of forecasts so accurate that they now read like a prophecy. I guess it’s possible that the delegation of reaction responsibility to the regions which worked so well in the early stage of Covid militated against effective measures in the case of the very heavy rains and the apparently inevitable floods. But a German friend has endorsed the claim that the country’s alarm systems are in a ‘parlous state’.

Not what you’d expect of Germany.

Finally  . . ,  

Once worth $100m, the antivirus pioneerJohn McAfee, was broke when he died in a Spanish prison. Takes some doing. Had a fondness for ‘bizarre mansions’, it’s said.

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


Cloth face masks are ‘comfort blankets’ that do little to curb Covid spread, Sage adviser warns. Dr Colin Axon warned some cloth masks have gaps that are invisible to the naked eye, but are 500,000 times the size of viral Covid particles: Justin Stoneman, Telegraph

Standard face coverings are just “comfort blankets” that do little to reduce the spread of Covid particles, a scientist advising Sage on ventilation has said. Dr Colin Axon, who has advised the government on minimising the risk of cross-infection in supermarkets, accused medics of presenting a “cartoonish” view of how how tiny particles travel through the air. He warned some cloth masks have gaps which are invisible to the naked eye, but are 500,000 times the size of viral Covid particles. “The small sizes are not easily understood but an imperfect analogy would be to imagine marbles fired at builders’ scaffolding, some might hit a pole and rebound, but obviously most will fly through,” he told The Telegraph.

The mask debate has been reignited this week after the Government published ‘Freedom Day’ guidance recommending their continued use. It led to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, enforcing their continued use on the London Underground. 

Dr Axon said the public need to be offered a wider view of the science behind face masks, rather than the “partial view” of information being pushed by medics over their effectiveness. ‘Medics have a cartoonish view of how the world is’ “Medics have this cartoonised view of how particles move through the air – it’s not their fault, it’s not their domain – they’ve got a cartoonish view of how the world is,” he said. “Once a particle is not on a biological surface it is no longer a biomedical issue, it is simply about physics. The public has only a partial view of the story if information only comes from one type of source. Medics have some of the answers but not a whole view.”

Dr Axon, Brunel University’s senior lecturer in engineering, said that the true mechanisms involved are best evaluated through science. “When the particle enters another body it returns to a biomedical issue but the mask debate is about the particle journey,” he said. “Masks can catch droplets and sputum from a cough but what is important is that SARS CoV-2 is predominantly distributed by tiny aerosols.” Dr Axon said that medics were “unable to comprehend” the miniscule elements at play, adding: “A Covid viral particle is around 100 nanometres, material gaps in blue surgical masks are up to 1,000 times that size, cloth mask gaps can be 500,000 times the size.” Dr Axon, whose report on ventilation in supermarkets was used by both Nervtag and Sage to aid decisions, says that medics “cannot have it both ways” over asymptomatic spread. He added: “Not everyone carrying Covid is coughing, but they are still breathing, those aerosols escape masks and will render the mask ineffective.” Droplets from coughs are much larger, and more likely to be stopped by a properly used mask, Dr Axon says. An Oxford study last summer concluded that masks were “effective” in reducing the spread of the virus. 

However, other studies have cast doubt on their effectiveness. A subsequent Danish study involving 6,000 people concluded that there was no statistical difference in infection spread in non-wearers, while data on US states with non-mandated usage failed to show a correlated uptick in cases.

“The public were demanding something must be done, they got masks, it is just a comfort blanket,” Dr Axon noted. “But now it is entrenched, and we are entrenching bad behaviour. All around the world you can look at mask mandates and superimpose on infection rates, you cannot see that mask mandates made any effect whatsoever. The best thing you can say about any mask is that any positive effect they do have is too small to be measured.”