18 September 2021   

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. – Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain

Cosas de España/Galiza

The last nun-occupied convent in Pontevedra city closed a year or two ago, and the remaining 3 geriatric nuns went to another place to shuffle off their mortal coils. Last week, stuff from the convent (Santa Clara) went up for sale, including this rather odd organ:-

Few seem to care about Covid in Pontevedra these days. Last night there was a food-stall-and-craft-beers event in the main square at which masks and distancing were conspicuous by the their absence. Though you did have to sign in and gel your hands as you entered. At least until the chap on the door went off somewhere else at 11. The mobile food units included this one, which might or might not have appealed to the locals. Not all the stalls seemed to be having a good night:-

Having said that few people seem to care about the Covid risk, the percentage of us walking in the streets unmasked remains low. A strange contrast.

María’s Not So Fast: September

The UK

Good news for me . . .From October 4: Pre-departure tests will be abolished for fully vaccinated passengers entering England as part of a significant relaxation of coronavirus travel restrictions. 

Judith Woods of The Telegraph doesn’t like Hal&Meg and can get amusingly waspish about them, as in the nice article below. Taster: The couple’s cringe-worthy attempt to capture the essence of brand Sussex leaves us in no doubt who wears the trousers.


A nice dream. Will it ever emerge from the pipe it’s currently in? I certainly hope so.

The Way of the World  

Who knew? Women become less trusting when they can smell fear because of their ancient role maintaining social networks. Researchers took sweat samples from people during an anxiety-inducing public speaking task and from those who were sweaty but relaxed while playing sport. They then gave the samples to men and women to sniff while they played games. Women played in a less trusting and more risk-averse way when they had smelt the sweat from anxious people, compared with the sweat from those exercising. I must remember to clean off all sweat when on the town. But how?

Word of the week  

Verschlimmbesserung: ‘A proposed reform that actually makes things worse’. Just because it’s German doesn’t mean it can’t be British too.

Finally  . . . 

Yet another leak in my water system yesterday. But at least it led to the discovery that I actually have 2 systems – one for the house and one for irrigation of the lawns. For insurance purposes, I managed to convince the plumber to report the material fact that the latest leak in the irrigation system was in the house, not fractionally outside it.

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


Why Harry ‘leaning in’ to Meghan isn’t the picture of equality he thinks it is. The couple’s cringe-worthy attempt to capture the essence of brand Sussex leaves us in no doubt who wears the trousers: Judith Woods 

What does equality look like in the 21st century? How to convey, in our highly visual age, a marriage of equals? If a picture paints a thousand words, how much more inspirational a photograph of the power couple extraordinaire? 

We’ll unpack all that in a moment – but first, might I respectfully suggest it’s most definitely not that toe-curling image of Prince Harry and Meghan on the front of Time magazine? I’ve seen better Elvis-on-the-moon PhotoShop fails than this excruciating attempt to capture the essence of brand Sussex. Is it a hideous misfire? Or does it give a genuine, terrifying glimpse into their relationship dynamic? For a start, Megan is clearly wearing the trousers – great, big white trousers that seem to be sending a message, although I’m struggling to know what it is other than product placement for Vanish Oxi-Action Gold. Which it quite possibly could be for this commercially savvy pair. Harry, meanwhile, has been shrunk to fit and is perched behind her, back (quite literally) against the wall. I couldn’t think who he reminded me of and then the penny dropped: that cruel Spitting Image puppet of former Liberal leader David Steel, portrayed as a tiny, adoring sidekick-cum-ventriloquist’s-dummy to the SDP’s David Owen.

Here is our high-ranking, much-loved Royal who dedicated 10 years to the Army, rising to the rank of Captain and undertaking two tours of Afghanistan, projecting an image of airbrushed emasculation. Dressed all in black, he is the yin to his wife’s shining yang. Bizarre. Unfathomable. Comical, too, but also troubling. In our time-poor culture, the so-called “optics” have become all-important, with carefully curated pictures intended to provide a snapshot of just about everything you need to know about a person, a couple.

It’s not what someone says any more, but the subliminal message communicated by their choice of clothing, their accessories, their pose, that matters. Here, Harry appears to be very much an accessory. In other pictures, his wife adopts (without a shred of irony) that much-derided wide-legged power stance employed by politicians seeking to project an image of strength and dominance. I’m not sure why he’s even there, to be honest. Embarrassed, I have to look away.

It would be less bewildering if Harry and Meghan didn’t have the ultimate role models in his grandparents. Throughout her 73 years of wedlock, the Queen somehow managed to communicate her position without feeling the need to stand like a Portsmouth pub bouncer at chucking-out time. Her relationship with the late Prince Philip was complex, yet equal; she ruled the country while he ruled the roost. He was her consort, but never, ever her inferior.

Of course, Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, were very different. They spent much of their 15-year marriage covertly, and indeed overtly, vying for attention and admiration. Latterly, they were like a manic version of those folksy little weather stations: either the man comes out of the little house or the woman comes out, but never together. By contrast, Prince William and Kate seem to have struck a wonderful balance in their marriage; their ethos is one of co-operation rather than competition. Each generously – and, indeed, very astutely – gives the other an opportunity to shine.

Harry and Meghan’s ostentatious role-swapping – the soldier ceding to the warrior of woke – is crass and clunky. Equality isn’t about mimicking the other gender. Equality isn’t about conspicuously ceding privilege or disingenuously dismissing difference.

Former prime minister Theresa May and her husband Philip were mocked by the PC brigade back in 2017 when she revealed that, at home, they have “boy jobs and girl jobs”. Sexist? Only to the young and foolish. It makes perfect sense to me and an entirely equitable way of carving up domestic chores. That’s equality. Dame Sarah Gilbert might never have created the Covid vaccine had her partner not taken a step back from his career when she had their triplets, born prematurely in 1998 and all now studying biochemistry at university. She says: “My partner gave up work shortly after they were born because we couldn’t afford a nursery for three of them, and I earned more than he did.” That’s equality. 

Of course, women have many more battles to fight. During the pandemic, they were hit particularly hard in terms of being furloughed, made redundant or expected to put in extra hours while doing the bulk of home-schooling. And over and above the motherhood penalty, an analysis by the Fawcett Society has calculated that women in their mid-30s may never get equal pay during their working lives, unless urgent action is taken to speed up closing the gender pay gap, such has been its “devastating” impact. Achieving a fairer society is predicated on both genders challenging assumptions, overturning prejudice and pushing for change together.

In the field of diversity, there’s an oft-repeated phrase: “If you can see it, you can be it.” Girls still suffer from the early stereotyping that limits their opportunities; they need relatable role models. In many ways Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has broken the mould. Together with Harry, she has set up their philanthropic, non-profit Archewell Foundation. But you wouldn’t know it from her Time portrait. She obviously believes this is her moment and so here she is in the spotlight. In a truly equal marriage, however, neither partner is relegated to the shadows so the other can shine.