14 September 2021

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

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain

 14 September 2021   

Cosas de España/Galiza  

As electricity prices rose this week to their highest ever, it’s appropriate to cite this comment from Lenox Napier’s Business Over Tapas: Another editorial about the high cost of electricity in Spain, only this one begins by admitting that no one can explain how the monthly bill from the power company is so outrageous. Of course, the real scandal is that so much of this is fixed charges. This hits low users like me very hard and companies don’t get away with this easy profiteering in more competitive economies. Where maybe they don’t have such powerful friends at court. Or boards stuffed with highly paid ex-politicians. Anyway, Lenox also cites this explanatory article.

Good news re a new vaccine, to be made in Spain.

A rogue thought occurred to me yesterday . . . After the flow of bunce from South America had declined and vast debts had piled up, Spain quickly ceased to be global top dog and slipped into centuries of political corruption and relative poverty. So . . . What will happen if and when cash-flows from Brussels dry up? Surely not another precipitate decline. Though I suspect Vincent Werner would be the leading pessimist on this question.

That ‘Invincible Armada’ . . . If I ever knew, I’d forgotten that this set out initially from Lisbon, then under Spanish control. Only later did it stop over in La Coruña here in Galicia. What I certainly hadn’t known is that the adjective ‘Invincible’ was given to it – sarcastically, I guess – by the English, not by the (arrogant) Spanish.

Taking a tiffin in the the lovely Plaza de Teucro last evening, it was impossible to ignore the 5 adolescent seagulls prowling the square in their dull, mottled-grey uniform of youth. Even more aggressive than their voracious parents, I believe. And a bit frightening when they get close.

The Way of the World 

Oh, glorious dawn . . . Driverless delivery pods could be introduced to Britain’s roads ‘within 2 years’, revolutionising online shopping. Battery-powered car will deliver parcels within a  6 miles(10km) radius of stores. Customers will access them using a smartphone.

Yesterday I wrote that I hadn’t found out how to search words in my WordPress posts. This morning I got an email telling me about Jetpack’s wonderful search tool. Probably just pure coincidence . . .

Fearing it was about transgenderism, I almost didn’t read the article below. But, as the father of 2 daughters, I’m glad I did. That’s not a prerequisite, by the way. 

Finally  . . . 

I had 2 items delivered yesterday, each costing €29.99. Here’s the invoice which came with them, showing an interesting calculation:-

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


Emma Raducanu leaves gender stereotypes in ruins. The historic US Open final between two teenage tennis prodigies should end tired ideas of youthful female fragility: Libby Purves, The Times

How must it have felt to be a young Afghan woman, hearing about that tennis final or (across some border) even seeing it? How shocked or inspired might you be by two teenage girls thrilling the world with their agility, skill and split-second mental reflexes? What comfort might you take from knowing about Emma Raducanu’s starry maths and economics A-levels, and Leylah Fernandez fresh from her high-school diploma and driving lessons? Would their triumph — because a match like that is a triumph for both — make you feel bitterly despairing that female freedom, education and dignity are being slammed down again in your own nation? Or would you, Afghana, manage to hope that the atavistic, bullying doctrines of the Taliban will now be seen even more clearly as the aberration they are, and scorned by a saner world?

You did not need to be a tennis fan to feel your heart hammer on Saturday night. Nor did you need to be partisan: those long rallies minute after minute bred simple amazement that anyone could reach some wickedly placed yellow ball and not only hit the thing, but direct it with even more cunning to an impossible corner of the opponent’s court. It was as tense as a two-hour penalty shootout but as physically beautiful as athletics or dance. Even if without patriotic longings it was inspiring to see how the younger, newer contender held her own after three weeks far from home without even family or British fans to cheer her. There she was, leaping and swinging and grinning, repeatedly recovering from nailbiting setbacks, overcoming a painful skidding injury near the end. Emma Raducanu didn’t need to win the final to delight us, but she did. She emerged to hug the loser on court and say with the characteristic quiet politeness people at her club talk about: “I think both of us were playing some unbelievable tennis . . . I hope we play each other in many more tournaments.”

It was hard to get to sleep afterwards, and festive reports suggest that few in the victor’s home town of Bromley did so for a long while. Then in the morning came the added online schadenfreude of observing Piers Morgan, a stoutly harrumphing old bloke not unknown for flouncing out himself, trying with rather less athleticism to climb out of the pit he dug himself after Wimbledon when he agreed with John McEnroe (another flouncer) that Raducanu “couldn’t handle the pressure and quit”, telling her to “toughen up”. The buffoon now adds a preposterous suggestion that his remarks had actually helped. “She toughened up. The words you’re seeking are ‘Thanks Piers’.”

I deviate into this comic aftermath because, while I am not usually much of a gender-warrior, this cheerful sporting event does carry a useful lesson both for very young women and for men who, often without really meaning to, regularly put them down. It is hard for any society to shake off old images and feelings, especially if some of them started out positive. Traditional masculinity is programmed to look at the slighter, smaller, more delicately boned female and feel protective. It’s biology. Fine, but while protectiveness might be welcome in a dark lonely street or a jungleful of tigers, it easily slides into a warm sense of dominance. There’s a paternal desire to make decisions for the fragile creature’s own good, and a doubt as to whether a woman can do a tense and gruelling job. Suppose she cried? Or had some weird Woman’s Problem with her innards?

The presumption of helplessness can get internalised by women too, strengthened by the modish tendency to redefine normal weariness and frustration as “mental health” issues, and the new status in which victimhood wins you points. But sensible girls can just shake themselves and think of Ellen MacArthur and Malala and Greta. It is in men that the fragile-blossom idea is most problematic, because it is all too easy for the alpha male to regard young women as breakable Dresden shepherdesses, delicate flowers emerging shyly from a trembling bud. Older women are more accepted as fearsome rivals, viragos or matriarchs. But a young female adult, still perhaps with a heartbreaking childlike curve of the cheek (Emma Raducanu still has that!) will always risk being intellectually and physically underrated. And sometimes the men who overlook and underuse their talents are, at some deep unconscious level, actually being sort of gentlemanly.

Such undervaluing is not universal, but it is still there, a dragging weight of biological tradition even when it isn’t aggravated by Talibanesque fanaticism. So while every lady can appreciate a bit of civil door-opening, consideration for the pregnant and respect for privacy, the female vigour and aggression on display the other night may have done some good and shaken some preconceptions. Forget frangible blossoms: see two tigresses in their magnificent hard-trained prime, fighting it out in punishing heat with unhysterical grace, unbreakable determination and decisive, lightning-fast spatial intelligence. Remember the aggression and the rather terrifying power: Miles Cowley, at Emma Raducanu’s home tennis club, has said: “I have never seen anyone, male or female, hit a ball as hard as her.”

Remember how a school-leaver emerged from a pandemic year, aced two A-levels, got over being medically withdrawn mid-match at Wimbledon and patronised by middle-aged men, then breezed back a few weeks later and made sporting history. Open the door for her, chaps, by all means. But bow deeply as you do so.