17 October 2021: Covid in Spain and the UK; Celticness; Roundabouts!; British exceptionalism; ‘Sludge’: & Passport power.

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’


El Pais reports that herd immunity might be near here in Spain. Contrast the deteriorating UK scene.

Cosas de España/Galiza 

It’s almost compulsory in Spain for every region – cumbersomely called Autonomous Communities, or AACC for short – to be very different from every other. Galicia’s claim to fame is its Celticness. I have no real problem with this but, as this map shows, the claim to uniqueness is misguided:-

Celtic expansion

A propos . . . Celtic regions of Continental Europe are those whose residents claim a Celtic heritage, but where no Celtic language has survived; these areas include the western Iberian Peninsula, i.e. Portugal and north-central Spain (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León, Extremadura). So, not just us. They even have bagpipes in some of the regions cited.

Talking of history . . . Here’s a fine article from Marinero on the origins of modern Spain, almost exactly 552 years ago (I think).

It’s a good job I approach roundabouts with great care . . . Yesterday I had someone cut across me on the wrong side of one. This is rare even for Spain.

The UK 

News that will thrill some: Norton Motorcycles, one of Britain’s most established motoring brands is to resume production. The company, founded in 1898, has unveiled a new factory in Solihull. The brand, which was immortalised by Che Guevara when he rode a 1939 model across Latin America in the 1950s, will begin turning out new versions of its V4 superbike and its classic 961 Commando.

On a more serious level . . . There can be few more familiar with the English psyche than the historian Robert Toombs. Below is his take on how and why Brits differ from Continentals. Of course, not everyone will agree with him. Someone has even claimed that: The distinguishing characteristic of Remainers is a pathetic belief in the moral superiority and brilliance of Brussels, seeing the British government as squalid but the EU as pure in its idealist protection of a rules-based order. Not, I imagine, if they’ve read the book I cited yesterday

Social Media

It all started with Facebook. That fatal thumbs-up/thumbs-down icon. A generation was trained to give quick, polarised responses. So now it’s all like-or-dislike, immediately and irrevocably, based on little information and no thought.

Quotes of the Day 

1. Bernard-Henri Lévy: Cancel culture is churning out imbeciles.  .

2. Attempts to impose censorship used to come from the socially conservative Right. Whereas, now, they tend to come from the socially progressive Left. Essentially, you can’t challenge liberal complacency, inconsistency and moral superiority and escape calls for cancellation.



Old meaning: Thick, soft, wet mud or a similar viscous mixture of liquid and solid components, especially the product of an industrial or refining process.

A new meaning: Dispiriting, dehumanising, time-swallowing bureaucracy that actively makes people’s lives worse. Spain has quite a lot of sludge. And it’s said that Covid has markedly increased it in the UK. Specifically around the government’s Trace and Test system,

Finally  . . .

Passport power. Access without a visa:-

1 Japan – to 191 countries

2 Singapore – 190  

3 South Korea, Germany – 189

4 Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg – 188  

5 Denmark, Austria – 187 

6 Ireland, France, Sweden, Portugal, Netherlands – 186  

7 Switzerland, USA, UK, Norway, Belgium –  185  

8 Greece, New Zealand, Malt, Czech Republic – 184

9 Canada, Australia – 183 

This blog can be seen on Twitter. And I think I might now have made it possible for it to be seen on Facebook even if you’re not a friend.

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


It’s thanks to the Anglo-Saxons that the English yearn to be free. They left us a myth of liberty: the idea that before the imposition of “the Norman yoke”, people were free, and one day would be free again: Robert Tombs, The Telegraph

It’s no mystery why 1066 is our most famous date – October 14 1066, to be precise. On that day the history of England changed for ever. But should we give greater prominence to another battle nearly 130 years earlier, Brunanburh in 937, which some historians argue consolidated Anglo-Saxon England – even if they disagree over where it was fought? It was certainly an epic English victory over an alliance of Vikings from Dublin and Celts from the far north and west. But the English triumph was short lived. The Vikings were soon back. The Danish king Knut (Canute) conquered England in 1016. And then of course came the Normans.

So is the history of the rather short and troubled Kingdom of the English really so important? Did they leave much of a heritage apart from a few small churches, fragments of literature, and some beautiful manuscripts and metalwork? William the Conqueror and his successors after 1066 carried out what we might now call cultural genocide, wiping out or dispossessing the political and cultural elite, systematically demolishing nearly all the great buildings, changing religious traditions, and seizing the kingdom’s wealth.

For some Victorians, who approved of the idea of progress through imperial conquest, the Anglo-Saxons were merely “lumbering about in potbellied equanimity” until civilised by the Normans. We have long put that idea behind us. In cultural terms, the English could claim primacy over the thuggish Normans. In particular, Old English literature was unique in a Europe dominated by Latin. The country was more efficiently governed than perhaps anywhere else in Europe, and with a high level of participation by its people. We must not idealise: this was a brutal warrior society, with many of its people enslaved. Yet its rulers, unlike those after 1066, did not need to live in castles, fortified against their subjects.

Why then did the English lose – however narrowly – on that October 14? Partly bad luck. Partly that England was surrounded by enemies, attracted by its wealth: Harold was defeated at Hastings largely because he had just had to fight another battle against invading Vikings at Stamford Bridge. Partly because the Anglo-Saxons were incorrigibly factious.

So what did the Anglo-Saxons do for us? They left an effective system of government, which outlasted conquest: England survived under new management, escaping the fragmentation of much of the Continent. Some of the system they created is with us still. They left us a myth of liberty: the idea that before the imposition of “the Norman yoke” the people were free, and one day would be free again. Myths are important, and for centuries this one – perhaps containing a grain of truth – inspired demands for rights. The most popular version, of course, is the legend of Robin Hood.

Above all –against heavy odds – the Anglo-Saxons left us the core of the English language, preserved by ordinary people and by the Church. In a greatly simplified form, and with large infusions from Latin and French, an English language and literature survived and finally replaced French and Latin. The language of Chaucer and Shakespeare is not the language of Beowulf, of course. And yet today the hundred most frequently used words in what has become the world’s language are all derived from Old English.