Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 14.8.21

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

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galiza 

How Spain has taken the lead on vaccinations.

But . . . the herd immunity target has, nonetheless, moved from 70 to 90+. As in other successful places such as Israel and Gibraltar.

Not being a fan of beach-going, I was bound to find this article spot on.

My travelling companion of the last week is, shall we say, particular about her food. From Paraguay, she tends to eschew meat in favour of fish but still hasn’t taken on board that it’s futile to ask here where the fish came from – farm or river or sea. Especially of the 16 year old waitress of yesterday, who thrice mumbled ‘No sé’ to the questions put to her about the provenance of the cod and the salmon available in the menu del día. 

Two more (very) irritating examples of Renfe’s administrative incompetence yesterday:-

1. I called to add my grandson to the ticket I’d bought for my daughter arriving tomorrow:

OK. From what station?

Madrid Chamartin,

To where?


And is the child older than 4?


What is the reference number of the ticket?


OK, we can’t do that for you. Your daughter needs to go the station to do it?

She’s not in Madrid. Why can’t you do it now?

The system for this failed 2 weeks ago and we’re waiting for it to be fixed.

2. My companion needed to get a ticket from Ourense to La Coruña last night and so, at 5pm, we went online to order a seat on the last train of the evening, at 10.30. This, of course, involved providing all her details and then mine, as her bank cards weren’t working. At the end of the process, we got the message: “You can’t make a reservation for that train”. 

In both of these cases, it would have been possible to tell us the transaction wasn’t possible before going through the data-input farce. But this ain’t Renfe’s way. Possibly, in Case 1, because this keeps you on a premium phone line for longer than necessary. Or maybe it’s just down to the total lack of customer orientation. 

At least I got a Sorry, at the end of the phone conversation and one has to be thankful for small mercies. But I still screamed in irritation. Albeit briefly . . .  I don’t think my companion was impressed. Either with me or with Renfe.

The UK 

A government drive to increase the GCSE uptake of modern languages appears to be failing. Although a record number of pupils began studying Spanish this year, German suffered a dramatic fall. Overall, the number choosing to learn a foreign language has flatlined, primarily because the number studying German plummeted by almost 10 per cent in a year.

French; 128k. Down 0.1%    

Spanish 111k. Up 5.4%    

German. 41k. Down almost 10%.  Time to remind ourselves of this famous – and funny – Mark Twain article.

Can a democratic country’s culture go backwards? Cronyism and nepotism are features of Spanish society – and doubtless of others around the world – but has never been seen as something major in the UK. However, now I read that: Much of the population increasingly views Britain not as capitalist, but “cronyist” – with good reason. And it looks like this is largely down to the government of Boris Johnson, which may well be ejected because of it at the next general election in (?)2024.

Quote of the Day

There’s a difference between believing people are created equal and that they are equal — and a dangerous tendency to elide the two that makes people unwilling to criticise conduct that falls below the standards we should expect from our fellow humans. . . Bad behaviour becomes “challenging”, which shifts the onus from whoever is responsible for the behaviour on to whoever has to deal with it. “Discrimination” is no longer the process of sifting between good and bad, but a means of perpetrating injustice. Passing judgment becomes the pejorative “being judgmental”. And yet we should judge and we should discriminate, because some forms of behaviour, some works of art and some people are superior to others.


New to me: To groak: To stare silently at someone while they’re eating in the hope that they’ll offer you some food. Dogs and some cats, as well as children, specialise in this.


That wonderful scene from My Fair Lady. The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. The Spanish version: La de lluvia en Sevilla es una pura maravilla. 

Finally  . . .

Talking of rain in Spain . . .

There was a young lady from Spain

Who went for a walk in the rain

The dress she was in

Was awfully thin

And her contours were soon very plain.

Arriving home last night, I got a message from a young man unknown to me, together with a foto of him(?) standing in front of a Ferrari. It said he’d found my number in his phone and wanted to know how I and my family were. The start of a scam?

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