25 September 2021

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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

Spain’s economy grew at less than half the pace previously estimated in the second quarter, raising questions about the strength of one of western Europe’s leading recoveries and possibly creating a political headache for the Prime Minister as he seeks approval for next year’s budget.

A 9th century architectural gem in Soria – Gormaz castle – is under threat from . . . pigs. Spanish ones, nowt to do with the Moors the castle was originally built in mind of.

Here’s Spain’s best small cities, per Guardian readers. I endorse all of the opinions except those on the 2 places I’ve yet to visit – Tarazona and El Burgo de Osma. But I have to say that whoever wrote about the ‘red’ stone of Salamanca’s magnificent buildings must be colour blind; they’re not red but as mellow yellow as those of the Cotswold.

A topical paragraph, written in 1955:- The human voice shouting Fire! Fire!, though it refers to the most creative as well as to the most destructive of the elements, is even more appalling. It is the cry to which there is no answer. Moreover, against the real terrors of fire, no cry can be heard: for when this element combines with earth, it sets even this most static of the elements rolling and roaring down the steep slopes of volcanoes, advancing inexorably over the countryside. Nothing is heard except the bellow of the angry mountain and the hissing of the lava snakes as they proceed. Of the great elemental sounds, the terrestrial are the most alarming: the slowness of volcanic advance is even more frightening than the rush of a huge wave, the shudder and rattle of an earthquake or its prenatal warning, caused by the shift of weight below, worse than crash of an avalanche.

My daughter in Madrid left it until the very last moment to exchange her British driving licence for a Spanish one and, as a result, now faces some of those famous Spanish bureaucratic hurdles – ‘No, we can’t trace your application’ – and will probably end up having to take (expensive) lessons and the 2 tests. I sent her this article this morning. It won’t improve her mood, as she heads off for a week in the UK, already hassled by all the documentation requirements. But a father has to do what a father has to do . . . Parenting ain’t a popularity contest.

Another nice tale-let from Lenox Napier.

The UK 

Could English wine really become a major player on the world stage? English wine is having a Cloudy Bay moment and production could reach 40m bottles a year by 2040. But who is going to drink it all? Answers here.

The Way of the World

See below for a worthy predecessor of this section. I like to think the power of this blog has forced its return . . .


South Americans I chat to – pretty inescapable, as all bar staff seem to come from there – tell me they’re shocked at the volume of obscenities in daily parlance here. So, this article didn’t surprise me much. But I did do a double take at the claim that Spain is only the 5th most ‘sweary’ country worldwide. I wonder if they really mean ‘Spanish’, as that the less rude South Americans would dilute the overall rating.

Finally  . . .

Talking about the parental challenge, here’s something for all you parents of today’s teens . . .

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


I’m taking a leaf from Auberon Waugh’s book – and reviving his legendary satirical column: Michael Deacon 

Dig up a copy of The Daily Telegraph from the late-Fifties, and you’ll be instantly transported to a world very different from our own. That world was much more staid, more sober, more solemn – and the paper, naturally enough, reflected this. Except, that is, for one small column, generally located towards the back. Because inside that single, mysterious oblong, anarchy reigned. Its contents were a vicious, volatile and often disorienting mix of the satirical and the surreal. In it could be found parodies of gutter-press comment pieces (“‘Wake Up, Britain!’ Shouts Jack Moron”), send-ups of Literary London’s Angry Young Men (“Eric Lard is still wearing the same clothes he wore when he was evacuated in 1939 and, in spite of success, says he intends to go on wearing them”), and spoof news reports on the wonders of nuclear power (“At that moment a five-headed goat with eight legs ran at him from behind and butted him into a radioactive pond”).

This head-spinningly fantastical section of the paper was known as Way of the World. Its aim was to mock the absurdities of modernity, to lampoon the pretensions and pieties of fashionable thought. And, for more than 60 years, it was one of the most popular and most original columns in Britain. It first appeared on October 18, 1955, and was initially the work of various pseudonymous hands – but, in 1957, it became the exclusive territory of the great Michael Wharton, writing under the name “Peter Simple”. He went on to produce four Way of the World columns a week for the next three decades. Fleet Street had never seen anything quite like it.

Among Wharton’s admirers was Kingsley Amis. The author of Lucky Jim was rarely generous in his praise of contemporary writers. Yet to Wharton he was almost helplessly devoted. Amis confessed to having “a clinical dependence” on Way of the World: some days, he said, it was the only thing that could help him “hold back the onset of gloomy rage at the state of the nation… By [Wharton’s] laughter and scorn, the dominant vices and follies of our age are made to look pathetically shabby”.

Another disciple was Auberon Waugh, son of Evelyn. From early youth, he yearned to be anointed as Wharton’s successor. Indeed, in 1960, at the age of 21, he begged Wharton to take him on as a kind of satirical apprentice. Sadly, it was not to be. “Michael Wharton heard me out with the exquisite politeness of an older generation,” Waugh later recalled, “and with the same politeness, showed me the door.”

Thirty years later, however, Waugh finally realised his long-cherished dream. For the final decade of his life, he took over Way of the World – and remade it in his own gaily outrageous image. He was forever proposing bold new policies to make Britain a happier place: for example, the introduction of “National Smack a Child Week”, and the imposition of a nipple tax on the newspapers of Rupert Murdoch. Meanwhile, he railed against what he saw as the most deplorable developments of the 20th century (hamburgers, rambling, the works of AA Milne) and was every bit as scornful about politicians of the Right as those of the Left (“Anybody who went to public school will have recognised Alan Clark as the sort of Old Boy who returns to his old school in some veteran or vintage car to impress the smaller boys”).

Waugh, in turn, was succeeded by Craig Brown, who wrote Way of the World from 2001 until 2008. After that, however, the column fell into abeyance. Until now. Because tomorrow Way of the World finally returns – and, after 10 years as The Telegraph’s parliamentary sketch writer, I’ve been given the honour of reviving it.

In some ways, it’s a daunting prospect. Not least because the news has become so relentlessly farcical that, were a time-traveller from the Fifties to pick up a copy of any paper published today, he or she might assume the entire thing was a Way of the World parody. In the past, satirists only had to lampoon the news. Now they have to compete with it.

I’m sure I’ll miss writing the parliamentary sketch, but 10 years of listening to MPs’ speeches is quite enough for anyone. Any longer and it might well have driven me mad. Just ask an MP. They have to listen to MPs’ speeches all the time and it certainly doesn’t seem to do them much good.

But that, of course, is the way of the world . . .