Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 28.8.21

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

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galiza  

The Galician health service is worried about the 250,000 folk who didn’t turn up for their Covid jabs. This is just under 10% of the total Galician population but a much higher percentage of adults. Says the Voz de Galicia: The Health Council [Consellería de Sanidade] has not yet explained what it intends to do about this.

Wild boars have become a widespread problem here in Galicia. I even saw evidence of their rooting in the gardens of the Pazo de Rubianes this last week. The Voz de Galicia reports that: The Xunta has extended the ban on hunting wild boar in 29 Galician regions beyond the official hunting days, a measure that doesn’t entirely convince anyone. Farmers believe it’s insufficient, while ecologists consider it has no scientific basis. So, as ever, you can dis-please all the people all the time.

The speed limit on the hill to my house is 30kph, or 19mph. As it’s steep, this is hard to stick to, if you want to get out of 2nd gear. This limit of 30 – imposed a year or so ago – contrasts with 50 once you get to the bottom of the hill, where it’s still a residential area with houses on both sides of the road. Anyway, I wasn’t surprised to hear that the 18 year old daughter of a neighbour had got the first of what will surely be the many fines of her driving life, when she was done for speeding at 38kph, or 24mph. At €100 a time, I imagine it was a very profitable day for the traffic cops with their portable radar machine, as they must have caught absolutely everybody going up and down the hill. Which takes me back my oft-stated question – If they’re so interested in revenue maximisation – not to mention safety – why don’t they put a camera on every roundabout to catch all the cretins going round them while using a mobile phone? 

On a lighter note . . . Spanish card games.

The USA

By any estimation the first 7 months of the Biden presidency have been a devastating period for America’s standing in the world. There are pros and cons to the American presence in Afghanistan as there are to its leaving. But the manner of the withdrawal and the range of basic incompetence on display is something that the rest of the world will not easily forget.

English

Two new-isn words:-

Covidflation. As a consequence of which, in the UK at least, the price of ‘rubbish  [Airbnb] properties’ has become inflated.

Shrinkflation: The sneaky phenomenon where costs stay the same but items reduce in size or number.

Spanish 

My 2 year old grandson speaks mainly English at the moment but does throw in some Spanish words – for example, Mira! (Look!), Toma!(Take) and, best of all, Pisar for ‘To tread/walk on’. So it was last night that, trying to put his feet on top of his mother’s, he said: “I want to pees on your feet, Mummy”. How we laughed.

Finally  . . .

It happens every time I go away and it happened after my recent road-trip around Northern Spain – the sparrows and greenfinches take at least a week to return to the feeder outside my back door. I’ve wondered what they do in the meantime – find another kind human? Or starve to death?

That reminds me that the neighbour on my left hand side has told me that one regular feeder of the seeds which fall to the ground is a large rat which comes from the garden of the neighbour on my right hand side. About which I’ll have to do something. The rat, I mean. Not my neighbour.

The article below might just be a marriage saver for some. I offer it without comment or endorsement . . .

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

THE ARTICLE 

How to save your marriage (after a long lockdown).

This year has tested couples like never before. If you’re not divorcing (yet), Shane Watson gives her guide to getting your old (ie better) life back

It’s no secret that the past 18 months have taken their toll on relationships, and divorce stats are up; lockdown was not for sissies. However, those of us who think we dodged a bullet shouldn’t celebrate just yet, because now we’re into the Long Marital Strain period. Not to be alarmist, but the riskiest days may lie ahead. What we’re experiencing is the anticlimax after the big reveal, the slump after the effort, a slight feeling of “Hang on, this doesn’t feel as free and fun as advertised, plus I’ve been on holiday and I’m knackered”. We thought it was all over, but it’s not and – on top of that – we’re not back to where we started from, marriage-wise. A lot has changed. So here is our guide to staying married in 2021, the hardest year to stay married since records began, probably.

1. Maintain the new domestic order 

Over the course of this year many of us discovered that our partners (male) could empty the clothes drier (not just fish out their socks), cook (not just bacon), clean (not just football boots) and do some light gardening. Lockdown was almost worth it for exposing all that untapped domestic potential that had gone to waste previously on account of him being AAW (always at work). Since we still live in a world where work trumps everything (Your mother’s funeral… a whole day off? Well, OK then) there is every possibility that we will get sucked back into the old routines, but men (or whichever half of the partnership was AAW) backtracking on shared responsibilities will not be tolerated. There is no longer someone who is naturally “good at” doing the laundry and someone who could do it, but wouldn’t do it well through no fault of their own. Those days are gone gone gone.

Marriage maker: Woke up early, thought I’d iron the sheets.

Marriage breaker: Honey, I’ve shrunk your cashmere on a boil wash.

2. Reconsider all the things you now do together that you didn’t used to

Maybe during the lockdowns you both started running, or doing an online yoga class together, or shared an Italian lesson. Now ask yourself, are we these people? Because if before March 2020 you had your own exercise routine, walked the dog on your own and Facetimed friends on your own, then that is going to suit you better in the long run. Similarly, the enforced Covid stone-repelling diet (his idea) could become a bit oppressive if it goes on for much longer.

Marriage maker: You really should go to the festival with Jane.

Marriage breaker: I’ve booked us a couples’ massage at home.

3. Re-establish or establish date night

It is well known that the pandemic was – for monogamous married couples, not so much the ones having affairs – an instant passion-killer. A jug of homemade cocktails on a Friday may have worked, once or twice, but then inertia set in, and now everyone’s sex lives need a proper kickstart. This means bringing back date night (a cringey concept, but it could be the difference between being permanently closed for business or a reviving pop-up) and it can involve other people. In fact, we recommend it does given the year we’ve had. All you have to do is: wash your hair, leave the house, meet some friends, have some fun and then, when you get home, resist turning on the TV or opening another bottle. This is important. If you do open another bottle then date night can turn into “Why did you say that like that?” night. And then all your grooming effort has been wasted.

Marriage maker: A perfectly timed Uber.

Marriage breaker: Answering a work email at midnight.

4. Take a long hard look in the mirror 

Women Wear one of the four pretty dresses you bought online this year. Because what you might be doing is wearing mainly the Churchillian boiler suit and pool slides.

Men Get a haircut. You think you look like Justin Trudeau, but you actually look like Frank Gallagher from Shameless. Also, can’t you wear a lovely crisp shirt every so often? You don’t need to go all Blue Harbour with matching socks and a tie, but we can tire of looking at joggers.

Marriage maker: Washing.

Marriage breaker: Dentist-starved teeth.

5. Watch out for LOE (late-onset exhibitionism)

This could happen to either one of you. He’s thinking, “I never got the chance to wear that Texan suit,” and you’re thinking, “No one has seen my legs since summer 2019 and they’re OK! I don’t care if they’re not OK. They’re coming out!” If you are experiencing LOE simultaneously then that’s absolutely fine; it’s only a problem for your friends.

Marriage maker: Looking unexpectedly decent.

Marriage breaker: Visible pants.

6. Men, ease off being kitchen Führers 

Stop telling us how to cook; we’ve been doing this stuff for decades. We’re the ones who taught you, remember? Lovely that you’ve developed this new enthusiasm, but if we’re talking about avoiding situations that create tension and resentment in the marriage, then this is definitely one of them. Back off, hands off our spatchcock chicken recipe and stop loitering by the cooker looking mildly pained, like John Torode.

Marriage maker: I’ll just wash up as you go.

Marriage breaker: I took the soufflé out – someone has to pay attention.

7. Women, ease off the sexual objectification

Your “Mrs Grealish 69” T-shirt (hilarious); phwoaring over Barack Obama’s Not Dad Bod; getting steamed up about the Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini (His hands! His eyes! His legs!), and so on. It was all a harmless bit of fun pre-Freedom Day, but now it’s a bit off and may – if things continue in this vein – start to irritate him.

Marriage maker: Rein it in.

Marriage breaker: I’ve booked paddleboarding lessons so you can get a body like Barack’s.

Some issues on which you may no longer be united (better not assume… a lot has changed in 2021)

The staycation 

You’re on it, or you’re halfway through it, and having a perfectly nice time. Very happy not to be in the villa in Sicily this year, or trying to get off an island in Greece. All good. Just make sure that one of you (him) isn’t thinking, “Wow, this is cheap! And no airports. No kennel fees. No car hire. Normal TV, including cable. No need for suncream. Fish and chips on the doorstep. What’s not to love about this, every holiday, for the rest of our lives?”

Marriage maker: I booked this place in Mustique in January.

Marriage breaker: I bought a timeshare in Wales.

The relocation… to the country

Please tell us you are only renting the place near Little Midden, because there’s a very good chance that someone is getting cold country feet. While one of you is part of a bacon butty swimming group, an enthusiastic novice twitcher and loving the isolation, the other is struggling to keep the garden alive, missing their friends, worried about the scratching noises in the roof and too spooked by the darkness and silence to stay overnight on their own. What’s the point of living the country dream if no one can see you, is what they are thinking, but not saying… yet.

Marriage maker: Keeping one foot in town.

Marriage breaker: Taking notes watching Clarkson’s Farm.

Reconnecting with friends

One of you was very happy to wave goodbye to the rammed diary. The other one is pushing for a gala re-entry party for all your friends plus the neighbours. Here’s the problem in a nutshell: before the pandemic both of you subscribed to the theory that you have to see people, because that’s normal and healthy. Now only one of you thinks that, and the other one is thinking more circle of trust, every other weekend, and no travel.

Marriage maker: Do both.

Marriage breaker: Do your own thing.

Alcohol

We’ve all been on the same journey. Loads of drink at the start, followed by strict drinking containment rules, followed by loads of drink, followed by no drink, and now we’re somewhere in the middle, but probably not back to where we started. This is fine so long as one of us isn’t eyeing the other one’s drinking and/or secretly furious with them for opening bottle after bottle when the Whatsits came round (midweek, which then turned into the Whatsits staying the night). It’s certainly possible for couples to drink at different rates – we’re grown-ups, after all – but there needs to be agreement on the ground rules to avoid any misunderstandings and bitterness.

Marriage maker: Have rules and stick to them, unless having an accidental lock-in.

Marriage breaker: Being hungover when the other one isn’t.

Tidiness and being way better organised

One of you loves the new order, and the other one assumed the tidiness push was only an emergency measure, and now you can revert to never making the bed. The weird thing is the roles can switch: the original tidiness monitor may now be finding the tidiness irksome, in the same way that they can no longer be bothered to stick to the exercise routine and weekdays off drinking. That’s what we mean by these being dangerous days. Are you sticking with new habits, or not?

Marriage maker: Be the tidiness you want to see.

Marriage breaker: Pretending not to notice that the dishwasher needs emptying.

WFH or not

What if one of you used to WFH, then the other one had to WFH, and now you’re a bit: “WTF are you still doing WFH and when, exactly, are you going back to the office, FFS?” What if you don’t want to know what the other one is up to, would really rather not overhear their boomy Zoom meetings, and feel inhibited/judged on those days when WFB (working from bed) or WDT (watching daytime TV… it was the Olympics)? What if you just want Your Own Space Back.

Marriage maker: Go back to the office – or build a shed.

Marriage breaker: Expecting to have lunch together.

Why didn’t we have a life-changing lockdown? What’s wrong with us?

This is largely the fault of your friends, who during lockdown established an organic gin business, an alpaca yoga sanctuary, took up painting, built a wild swimming pond, and are now happier than they have ever been. Exposure to people like this will cause serious tensions in the marriage if you feel that you have come out the other end with nothing to show but 6ft of stockpiled pasta and a bigger TV. (They didn’t watch TV; they listened to his collection of vinyl.)

Marriage maker: Avoiding the Lockdown Made Us couples.

Marriage breaker: Hanging out with the Lockdown Made Us couples.

Christmas 2021 

It is far away, but it’ll creep up on us, and it’s best to be prepared because now we’re in new territory. Christmas last year was not by the book and nothing happened the way it usually does. Why does this matter? Because one of you secretly loved having the excuse to sit tight with a rib of beef and four crackers, and that person is praying that now Christmas will be a scaled-down, low-effort, infinitely less stressful occasion, while the other one is eyeing up the Dukeshill catalogue and dreaming of four generations gathering around a twinkly tree eating homemade mince pies – the day before Christmas Eve.

Marriage maker: Delegate.

Marriage breaker: A two-family Christmas.

Don’t say

Some trigger expressions:

● I don’t know if I need to go abroad ever again.

● Think of the money we saved by not having your birthday party.

● It is nice with just the two of us though, isn’t it?

● Maybe it would be easier if we shared an office.

● I’m thinking of growing a beard.

● I fancy just staying in and watching TV.

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