5 November: Covid good news; Cheese awards; Narco risks; A big scam; Reggaeton; Bloody notaries; EU ‘hypocrisy’; Net Zero & democracy; & Other stuff.

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


The UK is the first country to approve a ‘game-changing’ oral antiviral treatment –  Molnupiravir – which has been shown to halve chances of hospital admission among the most vulnerable.

Cosas de España/Galiza  

Not only the best olive oil in the world but also the number one cheese.

Following a recent high-speed chase of lancheros who’d been downloading cocaine from a yacht in one of our rías (estuaries), the body of young man was found floating nearby. No one knows whether he fell into the sea or – in a ‘settling of accounts’ – was pushed off the yacht by his mates. Such settlings are fairly common in these parts. Possibly even more so than in, say, Sicily.

I suppose it’s good to see that not only Scousers are engaged in this sort of thing.

I confess I knew nothing about reggaeton before reading this article on it by Guy Hedgecoe, who is not a fan. I checked it out and was equally unimpressed. But, then, I’m not young.

Way back in 1513, the Spanish crown invented a document – El Requerimiento (The Requirement) – which provided a veneer of legal (and religious) justification for invasion, appropriation of land and enslavement in South America. Thus . . . A member of the conquistador’s force would read it in Castilian before a group of Indians on the shore, who, with or without translation, remained uncomprehending. But . .. Readings were often dispensed with prior to planned attacks. I cite this not to criticise nor to create controversy but merely to note that, as with everything formal that you do in modern Spain, a bloody notary had to be involved to witness the farce. Plus ça change . . .


News of a surprise Covid development. Cue a reduction in schadenfreude?

The EU

A British novelist of Hungarian extraction has accused the EU of the ‘British vice’ of hypocrisy. He’s not the first to do so, of course, and you can see the justification for his claim in the article below.

The Way of the World/Quotes of the Day 

Will Net Zero survive democracy? This writer thinks not. Quote: People are concerned about climate change and want something done about it. But they, quite understandably, don’t think their (often already quite tough) lives should be made markedly worse, more expensive and less convenient in the pursuit of the environmentalist dream.

While this writer feels that, after a real debate, democracy should be asked for its opinion, so that decisions are not left to politicians who inhabit a different world from most of us. Quote: What particularly worries me is the almost casual alliance between governments and corporate businesses, and the harnessing of financial and legislative power in pursuit of a global agenda based on fear, the imposition of which transcends any idea of democracy.


New word for me: Eco-irritant eg Extinction Rebellion

Finally  . . .

They don’t make amusing songs like this one anymore, of course. More’s the pity. 

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There’s no hypocrisy quite like EU hypocrisy: Brussels likes to lecture Hungary and Poland but turns a blind eye to abuses in Germany and France: Tibor Fischer

I never expected an invitation from the European Parliament. They had a fact-finding delegation visiting Budapest a month ago to investigate the state of the “rule of law” in Hungary. I hadn’t a clue why the delegation asked me, but there is a popular notion that as a novelist you have the zeitgeist in a headlock and that your seer-like gaze peers into the souls around you – as opposed to sitting in a small room in a dirty T-shirt simmering with resentment about your sales figures. I was summoned in a creative “batch” with the director of the National Theatre, and a young actor/director unhappy with the National Theatre, as younger actor/directors tend to be.

My observations about the conduct of the European Parliament will not be original. I had a great sense of bureaucracy: I had several lengthy emails about the challenging business of getting to a particular building at a particular time. The MEPs were surrounded by deferential retinues and for some reason I couldn’t help thinking about the Persian king, Xerxes.

The tone was congenial. It was late in the evening and the two Right-wing MEPs of the delegation were absent. They’d had enough of listening to Hungarians shouting at each other, and had given interviews to the press saying they thought the investigation into the “rule of law” was absurd.

Anna Donáth, a Hungarian opposition MEP, explained that she wasn’t taking part in that capacity, but rather as a representative of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament. I accept that there has to be some formal rota for dividing up duties, but sending an opposition MEP on a delegation likely to criticise the Hungarian government qualifies, as a tabloid would describe it, as Bonkers Brussels Banana Behaviour.

You need at least the pretence of objectivity. Particularly as Ms Donáth has gone on record to say there is no rule of law in Hungary and complained of “dictatorship”. Her comments do beg the question: if things are so grim, how is it that she’s in Brussels earning more than a hundred grand a year, rather than peeling potatoes in prison? Whatever the report concludes, Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, can merely dismiss it on the grounds that is was written by an opposition MEP.

This is another example of the double standards that the EU displays towards Hungary – and increasingly Poland. Brussels’s current hostility towards these two countries is mostly down to political spite. The apparat of the EU leans very much to the Left and it dislikes Right-wing governments.

The police in France regularly detain, hospitalise and maim peaceful demonstrators. President Macron recently sued Michel-Ange Flori, who put up a number of witty satirical billboards in Toulon, one of which caricatured Macron with a Hitler moustache. Talk about petty. I haven’t noticed the grandees in Europe tut-tutting about his conduct or suggesting that free speech is dead in France.

The German Constitutional Court has also effectively told the European Court of Justice to get lost. Spain has a row over the appointment of judges, but no inquisition arrived on its doorstep. No, all you hear about is how the Poles and Hungarians are “back-sliding”, and how democracy is being “dismantled” – stupendously vague terms backed up by little or no evidence.

Back in the 1980s, before the collapse of communism, Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, and Orbán took risks for the sake of democracy. In particular, Morawiecki, as a child, because of his father’s political activities (and his own), had a very rough time from the state thugs. You can understand why these men are not keen to be lectured on democracy by smug lawmakers from Sweden or Luxembourg, whose greatest feat has been to waltz into a polling booth.

The EU has a problem in that Hungary and Poland traditionally are close, and as long as Morawiecki and Orbán are in office they will cover each other’s backs. There’s no question that either wants to leave the EU, but equally, the current governments won’t back down from a fight.

The EU’s tragedy is that it was a great idea, but should have remained a trading and cultural organisation. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that Poles should decide how Polish judges are appointed. In fact, it seems sensible and desirable. It’s that thing called democracy. Although democracy doesn’t always guarantee happiness. Ask a Remainer.