Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 19.8.21

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

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galiza 

Yesterday was the target day for the vaccination of 70% of the population. This hasn’t been achieved but Spain’s performance has nonetheless been impressive.

I know that many regard Spain as a ‘low ethics’ society but I was still shocked to read that, in the 2000 Paralympics the majority of the Spanish basketball team were able-bodied athletes who’d faked intellectual disability. Astonishingly, the relevant Spanish Federation had provided forged paperwork. The Spanish team went on to beat Russia in the final. The unhappy consequence was a controversial worldwide ban on Paralympic athletes with intellectual disabilities for more than a decade, curtailing many promising careers. 

Bit of a surprise: Brits have regained their appetite for Spanish property. A rise in demand for second homes in Spain has seen a resurgence in sales among British buyers – with property in the Costa del Sol proving the most popular’

The UK

Humpty Dumpty gets closer to falling . . . The Guardian, on yesterday’s Commons debate on the Afghanistan debacle: When events demand stature, Boris Johnson always shrinks to the occasion.

Good news for me: PCR tests could be replaced with a 10-minute test at airports.  

Click here for a fascinating map of London c.1561


The French have long looked for ‘dark forces’ to blame for everyday events. Social media has turbo-charged France’s historic tendency to see conspiracy behind the travails of life. See the full article below. Some have suggested the Spanish are much the same.

The USA 

Biden’s presidency looks more like a respite from the malady of Trump than its remedy.  


This was a a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, has been acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated. Not a comment on the last 20 years but on the UK’s first invasion of That benighted country in 1839. On this, I recommend William Dalrymple’s Return of a King: the Battle for Afghanistan 1839-42.

Social Media

Jonathan Swift: It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom. The 18th century equivalent of Twitter, it’s been said.

The Way of the World

Has rock music finally reached its ‘Me-too moment’? See the 2nd article below.

Finally  . . .

On Sting’s impulse-buy of a duff vineyard in Italy . . . In fairness to Sting, most holiday impulse buys are deranged. In the way that Brits take a cavalier attitude alfresco sex in the sand when abroad, they also lose their minds and spend money on utter tat. It’s why British homes are filled with dolphin figurines, “sand art” pictures, Venetian masks, Mexican maracas, Spanish donkeys with plastic flower baskets on their backs and dust-covered bottles of ouzo that tasted lovely on a beach at sunset but are as drain cleaner on a Tuesday night in November. 

But Sting knuckled down and vowed revenge on his dupester by making the vineyard work. Which it does, now making award-winning wines. So he had the last laugh

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


1. The French have long looked for ‘dark forces’ to blame for everyday events. Social media has turbo-charged France’s historic tendency to see conspiracy behind the travails of life: Charles Bremner, The Times

Long before fake news, centuries of civil wars, absolute monarchy and revolutions made the people of one of Europe’s most distrustful of authority and most willing to discern dark forces behind the most banal events:

In 2018, before the unhinged claims that emerged from the gilets jaunes revolt and the epidemic, a survey showed the extraordinary degree to which the French ascribe events to sinister forces.

An astonishing 48 per cent of the country believed in the so-called “great replacement”, the far-right belief that the “ruling elite” is working to erase white French civilisation by promoting the mass arrival of immigrants, according to the Ifop poll.

Among classical theories, 54 per cent of the French were sure that the CIA was behind the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 and 32 per cent believed that the Aids virus was created in a laboratory by the Americans to infect Africa.

Widespread hostility to the Covid-19 vaccine, at least at the outset, was signalled in advance by the poll finding that 55 per cent of the French believed in 2018 that the health ministry was in league with pharmaceutical companies to conceal the danger of vaccines.

The young are especially gullible, according to the survey, commissioned by Conspiracy Watch and the Jean-Jaurès think tank. A fifth (21 per cent) of under-35s believe in at least seven major conspiracy theories — four times the rate of the over-65s.

Nearly one in three under-24s believe that a broad conspiracy involving western states was behind the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.

President Macron promised legislation in 2017 to combat fake news and its promotion by Russian and other unfriendly state players, but his intentions have proved no match for the might of the internet belief machine.

2. Rock’s MeToo moment has arrived. As Bob Dylan is accused of abusing a girl in the Sixties, Lesley-Ann Jones asks who’s next 

The #MeToo times they are still a-changin’. Faster than a tambourine man up a drainpipe when the lawman comes knocking — as he did for Bob Dylan on Friday when the Manhattan supreme court published allegations that in 1965, at around the time he was blowing 24 candles into the wind, the revered Nobel laureate had groomed and abused a girl of only 12.

The lawsuit, which alleges that the star had “befriended and established an emotional connection” with the plaintiff (identified only as “JC”) during April and May that year, further accuses him of having “exploited his status as a musician by grooming JC to gain her trust and to obtain control over her as part of his plan to sexually molest and abuse” her. Were drugs and alcohol involved? She says so. Did the notorious Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan have something to do with it? Do bears poop in the woods?

Dylan is also accused of threatening violence, scarring the child emotionally and causing her psychological damage that she is still blighted with. Now aged 68, she stayed schtum until last week. What rattled her? Not the bailiffs knock-knock-knocking, although they may have done for all we know. It was the closure on Saturday of the look-back window of New York state’s Child Victims Act, which had extended a suspension of the time bar imposed on adults against bringing civil lawsuits for abuse apparently suffered when they were children.

While the octogenarian superstar must be presumed innocent until and unless found otherwise, the woman’s allegations must be and are being taken seriously. Many like her have for decades remained silent. Others who poked their heads above the parapet found themselves vilified and gunned down. What goes around. Ladies and gentlemen, having feasted on Spacey, Weinstein and Hollywood, I give you rock’s #MeToo moment. Again.

I first wrote about it months ago in this newspaper. The banks looked set to burst, but the waves receded. This was just after the actress Evan Rachel Wood outed the shock-rocker Marilyn Manson as her abuser last February. We thought it was all over. Music biz folk sat around making grim predictions about the future of the former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman and his Lolita, Mandy Smith, with whom he first slept, Smith insists, when she was 14. We raked over unsavoury anecdotes about David Bowie and Jimmy Page’s underage groupies, of John Lennon’s self-confessed domestic violence and homophobic assaults, of Gary Glitter, who groomed me in the 1980s to get to my little sister — true story; I’ve just made a documentary about it. In the wake of revelations about the Def Jam rap mogul Russell Simmons, the rapper Nelly, the singer-songwriter Ryan Adams and the R&B star R Kelly — and in Lily Allen’s 2018 memoir, My Thoughts Exactly, in which the singer-songwriter alludes to assault by a music executive, and album, No Shame, which went further still — the tsunami loomed. Then silence.

That’s the thing about tsunamis. The signs are all there. The cliff fractures, the glacier shifts, the earth quakes, the rocks drop. Pause and savour the still, small voice of calm. Everybody breathe now; there’s nothing to fear. They think they got away with it. Then the suck-back. Then the mega-wave breaks, obliterating life beyond recognition.

Industry insiders joke — they have to me — that rock’n’roll’s predicted #MeToo moment can never happen. In response to a social media post announcing my appearance on Times Radio to discuss the Bob Dylan case, a household-name artist called me with a gag about backstage openers most feared by 1960s pop stars: “ ‘You don’t remember me . . .’ ‘You know we’re related, don’t you . . .’ ‘This is Charlie by the way; he’s 12 . . .’ ”

Dylan, 60 years at the top, one of the bestselling musicians to date, who has shifted 125 million records and is said to be sitting on £250 million, may turn out to be rock’s #MeToo turning point. We didn’t see it coming. Asked to identify the musician most likely to fall foul, few would have named him. A father of six, a grandfather of at least 11, he drives a van bearing the bumper sticker “World’s Greatest Grandpa”. Born a Jew, he metamorphosed into a born-again Christian and made gospel records before folding back into Judaism, claiming later to recognise religion only in music. He is hailed as a devoted family man, not a hellraiser.

Only wait. It has been claimed that he acquired his first girlfriend at the age of 14. By the time he made it to college, he was rumoured to be dating five girls at once. He is said to have introduced the Beatles to marijuana in New York during August 1964, after which they would never again sound the same. He famously dated the queen of folk Joan Baez, who later described him as a “toad”. His first wife, Sara Lownds, once a Playboy bunny, married him in November 1965, about six months after the abuse alleged by JC is reckoned to have taken place. The couple divorced 12 years later.

When Dylan took his backing singer Carolyn Dennis as his lawfully wedded in June 1986, the couple had a five-month-old daughter. They divorced in October 1992. The eternal mystery man is not believed to have married since. You never know. Dylan’s most recent album, Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020), was an unmitigated triumph, but the world’s greatest rock poet now faces a trial by jury for allegations of assault and battery, false imprisonment and the infliction of emotional distress so severe that the alleged victim has sought medical treatment on numerous occasions. The accused denies all charges, naturally.

JC knows all this. What she now faces will have been explained to her in graphic terms. Although we don’t yet know her name, she can’t hide for ever. Her family know who she is. Her friends, neighbours and colleagues must have an idea. Knowing that people who come forward for such reasons are routinely doubted and blamed, she has shown enormous courage. We know that rape is incredibly common: one in five women has experienced assault. We also know that false reports are extremely rare: between 2 and 8 per cent.

If a woman emerges from the shadows to make allegations of historical abuse, however long it takes, the chances are that she is telling the truth. But our tendency as a society is to automatically assume the opposite — especially when the accused is filthy rich and globally famous. The accuser will be denounced as a gold digger, an attention-seeker. We wonder, just as we wondered when a Miss Black America pageant contestant adjourned to a hotel room with the boxer Mike Tyson in 1991: didn’t she ask for it by going with him alone? Didn’t she consent to what was about to happen, then change her mind?

But a 12-year-old cannot consent, despite which, forced to regard our musical heroes in an unfavourable light, our knee-jerk reaction is to resist the notion that this god, this genius, could secretly be a sex offender. While we may not like the idea of Bob Dylan as a monster, we must now face the possibility. If JC has waited all this time to accuse her alleged attacker, might she not have tried to bury it, brush it under the rug, get on with her life? Fetched from the woodwork by the legal look-back window, she has perhaps given herself a stiff talking to. She may have said, “My entire life has been ruined by what happened to me when I was a child. Now that I have been given the opportunity to claw back some dignity, some self-worth, while I am still sane and have a few good years left, I am going to take it.” What would we do in her shoes?

What I’m interested to know is how JC and Dylan met, if they actually did. What were the circumstances? A 12-year-old wouldn’t normally be at a gig without her parents, for example. Who wasn’t watching? Who didn’t take care of her? Has she been protecting someone all these years? Might they have died?

None of which is to say that I hope Dylan is found guilty. I hope only that truth and justice prevail, whichever way that goes. Meanwhile, who’s next?