11 September 2021   

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

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain

Cosas de España/Galiza

This will surprise all those folk who think it rains every day here in Galicia, especially in Santiago de Compostels.

I’ve said a few times the Camino de Santiago is really more about making money than saving souls. And that there are 43[sic] caminos in Spain. Possibly now 44, as I’ve just read of another one, El camino de Azahar*(orange blossom). This starts in Cartagena in Murcia and then joins another one. And then another one, and on to Santiago. Needless to say, there’s proof that it’s an authentically ancient route.

*Not to be confused with La Ruta de Azahar.

Here’s Lenox on something I largely escape.

The UK

It’s reported that: The UK’s ‘expensive and poorly regulated’ traffic light system could be scrapped by October 1, a move that would be welcomed by Spain’s stricken travel industry. And by me. It’s also reported that vaccinated incomers won’t have to take a PCR test.

The EU 

The latest crisis . . Private eye’s Afghanistan Refugee Watch: EU leaders are less preoccupied with the geopolitical consequences of the US withdrawal and the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan than by their fears it will prompt a wave of refugees similar to the several million people who fled the Civil War in Syria in 2015. Unfortunately, that opens up the usual divide between the Visegrad countries led by Hungary and Austria, who say they won’t take part in any redistribution of Afghan refugees, and a group led by Italy and France who want to agree a common EU resettlement programme. The Commission’s “new pact on migration and asylum”, tabled last September following more than 5 years of deadlock, primarily over whether to introduce mandatory refugee quotas, is still blocked by ministers, despite the mandatory quotas having been replaced with a voluntary system.   “Our position is rock solid: no one can enter Hungary without official approval. and we will only take in those Afghan citizens who had helped the Hungarian troops in some way over the past several years,” said Levente Magyar, State secretary in the foreign ministry. The government would not make Hungarians pay for the “flawed geopolitical decision” of the US military to withdraw from Afghanistan, Magyar added. Janez Jansa, the Trump supporting prime minister of Slovenia, who holds the EU’s rotating presidency, tweeted that “the EU will NOT open any European migration corridors for Afghanistan”.  After weeks of virtual silence from the Commission and council, EU ambassadors began talks on belatedly agreeing a common European position on Afghanistan and its migration implications in late August, ahead of a September summit. With German elections just weeks away, there’s fat chance of Berlin weighing in to support the Mediterranean countries likely to again take the bulk of the refugees. The leader of the Christian Democrats insists there is no chance of a repeat of Merkel’s open border promise for Syrian refugees.  

The Way of the World 

Nothing illustrates the growing gulf between rich are poor during the pandemic better than the sudden trend among large companies of offering potential £100m bonus schemes to reward their already well-paid CEOs. This is a comment about the UK but I imagine it’s just as valid for the USA.

An indictment: Maiming a generation. The medicalisation of gender non-conforming young people is the biggest medical scandal of our time.


Heldentenor: ‘A powerful tenor voice suitable for heroic roles in opera’.


A bit on the origin of Spanish words. . . It’s estimated that around 4,000 Spanish words have some kind of Arabic influence — 8% of the Spanish dictionary. About 1,000 of those – 3% – have Arabic roots, while the other 3,000 – 6% – are derived words. As for Gothic influence, this seems to be minimal: Just two dozen of words: for example, banda, estaca, frasco, ganar, parra, ropa; and the suffix -engo. Many Germanisms in Spanish are common to the other Romance languages, coming via Latin. Also a lot of them came later, via Old French/Occitan. In fact, Visigoths (few in number) were half latinised when they arrived in Hispania, so Hispanic Latin was never heavily affected by Gothic. On the other hand, Arabic was never spoken in the North, where Castilian, Galician and Catalan were born. 

In short, Spanish – as María has said – is nowhere near as bastardised as English . . . 

Finally  . . . 

Listening to a podcast on medieval England has left me astonished that anyone ever disagreed with a monarch. And I do mean ‘disagreed with’, not ‘rebelled against’. For, the usual result was execution, with the issue of whether your guts were pulled out before you were sliced into quarters depending on your prior social status. Things were even worse if religion entered the equation. If you disagreed with the monarch’s faith, you were given the chance to recant. Your choice was then between not doing so and suffering 45 minutes of acute agony in a terrestrial fire, or agreeing to recant and spending an eternity in the flames of Hell for denying your version of a (not very merciful) Christian god. Given the depth of belief in the latter risk, it’s not really surprising that many Protestants and (later) Catholics chose to go out as the peak of a pyre. If you were lucky, with a little bag of gunpowder tied round your neck. And you thought the Taliban were nasty.

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