29 December 2021: Covid havoc; Spanish Customs; Grave problems; Pathetic Brits; & 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’

Cosas de España/Galiza  

I suspect it’ll be all too clear one day that, by concentrating on the state of healthcare systems and not on the the total health and wellbeing of the nation, we’ve paid a far higher price – in profound economic, social and mental and physical health impacts – than we should have done in responding to Covid. Which might just be of use when the next plague comes along.

Cosas de España/Galiza  

Only in Spain?  . . . From the early morning of December 31 until January 18 in Galicia there will be a 3am-6am curfew for non-cohabitants and time restrictions in hotels and nightlife.

Spain’s protocols for the conservation of objects found in the mass graves obliges them to be reburied if they cannot be assigned to a victim. This inevitably causes pain to relatives.

Spanish Old  Year/New Year Customs:-

1. Eating 12 (little) grapes at midnight

2. The Roscón de Reyes.

The UK  

The first sentences of a podcast titled. ‘Peace and Goodwill’: The British, apparently, are the world leaders in saying Sorry! We do it all the time – 8 times a day on average. Much more than other nations. And we do it even when we’ve nothing to be sorry for. I can vouch for the accuracy of that. Shopping in a busy supermarket is punctuated by apologies from strangers.

King Richard III is being unfairly maligned and he may not have murdered the princes in the Tower more than 500 years ago. The [rather biased?] team which discovered his remains under a car park in Leicester, say the older prince Edward may not have been murdered and instead allowed to live elsewhere under a false name. This link might work.

As for modern Britain . . . Why have our politics become so acrimonious? See the article below.

The Way of the World

Bushy eyebrows? So last year! Now we’re going back to the Nineties. Must dig out my tweezers 


Tweezers: Pinzas   tongs, clips, clamps

Time to remind ourselves that catarro can mean not only catarrh but also – and more usually – a cold. So could be Omicron.

Finally  . . .

I’ve started to get non-spam emails from real companies, writing to me as if I’d agreed to receive offers. As this is something I never do, it must mean that accepting cookies without reading all the guff about what this involves makes even less sense that it did before. More ballsaching scrutiny is now required, it seems.

This blog can be seen on Twitter and on the Facebook group page – Thoughts from Galicia.  

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


Britain’s new divisions make victims of us all. Resentment driven by age and education has politicised all areas of national conversation but unity is not a lost cause James Kanagasooriam, The Telegraph

Why have our politics become so acrimonious? Political resentment and division are at an all-time high and the issues that divide us, whether they are left v right, north v south, Leave v Remain, city v country or England v Scotland, are all amplified by social media.

After the 2019 general election, the London School of Economics and the research firm Opinium released a troubling report suggesting that 48 per cent of Conservative voters felt disgust for Labour voters and that 68 per cent of Labour voters felt the same way towards Conservatives. Somewhere in the past two decades political disagreement turned into something else — but the diagnosis of why this happened has always been hazy.

The academics Thomas Piketty, Clara Martinez-Toledano and Amory Gethin have gone some way to providing answers. In a magisterial new book based on election data from 21 countries including the UK, they show how left and right-wing voting coalitions have changed since 1948. The story is a familiar one to British ears after Brexit: voting divisions across the West used to be based on class, with the more affluent voting to the right and less affluent voting to the left. Marginal seats were squarely middle-income. But, imperceptibly, right-wing coalitions became more defined by lower education levels, older age and living in sparsely populated areas, while voting left is better associated now with youth, higher education levels and living in urban conurbations.

Nothing new there. But Piketty and his colleagues provide another subtle clue about why western politics has become so rancorous. They argue that it is not merely the low-educated that are now likely to vote for right-wing parties, but the low-educated who are wealthy, in particular what the authors called the “merchant right” class. They note that the opposite is true of the left: it’s not just the highly educated who tend to drift left now but the highly educated who happen to have low incomes — what the authors call the Brahmin left, named after India’s traditional intellectual caste.

The fact that these archetypes came to dominate the political landscape must surely be explained by the rapid expansion of higher education. Back in the early 1990s privilege in Britain was quite simple to analyse. It meant a high income, an expensive house and sometimes but not always a university education. All of these moved in lockstep and they probably meant you voted Tory.

Since then, incomes, asset values and education levels have decoupled: the highly paid may not be university educated, those with assets may not have high incomes and those with a university education are not guaranteed high incomes or big assets. The complexity has created multiple dimensions of underprivilege and therefore the conditions under which all sides can claim alienation. Some on the merchant right, with their lesser social capital, claim they suffer from cultural alienation and snobbery. They may also argue that over the past 30 years investment and improvement in public services has shown a strong differential in favour of Remain areas. The Brahmin left might reply that the post-2016 “left behind” debate skirts around the fact that pensioner incomes are high in many Leave areas and that Remain-voting but less affluent parts of inner-city London, Liverpool and Glasgow are conveniently ignored in the merchant narrative.

Swept under the carpet too is the fact that the red wall contains many of the areas with the highest rates of home ownership in the country, including Hartlepool (70 per cent Leave) which switched from Labour to the Tories in May this year. The Brahmin left’s sense of financial insecurity, with soaring graduate debt and a low-growth job market, is topped off with the accusation that they are elitist.

Added to this complicated mix is a fact that Piketty et al don’t quite pick up on: ethnic minority voters in western democracies don’t conform to these trends. Highly educated minority voters are more likely to vote for the right-wing option than low-educated non-white voters.

Resentment and confusion abound. This mutual antipathy is accelerated by the geographic self-selection that has taken place in the UK, especially England, in the past 30 years. Populations have self-sorted to create far greater political and attitudinal homogeneity at the micro-level. Neighbours aren’t just that: they are fellow travellers.

In 2005 there were only 92 seats in England that returned an MP with a majority of greater than 30 per cent (if one calculates the 2005 figures on the present boundaries). By 2019 this figure had ballooned to 239 seats with a majority of greater than 30 per cent: that’s almost half the country.

A sense that most people feel they are getting a worse deal than everyone else underpins so much of today’s polling. Add to this miserable mix the declining sense of solidarity between the four nations and it’s easy to see how the UK has become a cocktail of resentment.

This conflict has in turn created political deadlock. The hyperactive election history of the UK — with votes in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 — has been predicated (with the exception of 2015) on breaking an impasse of some kind. My company’s own polling shows that 67 per cent of people believe “everything is too politicised in this country”. The repeated summons to vote is now one of the few common national experiences and it is not a unifying one.

The culture wars are downstream from this: they flow from a mindset that is permanently politicised, and the victims are Britain’s institutions, ranging from the monarchy to the BBC, and in some ways the Union itself.

The pessimists don’t have it all their own way, though. First, King’s College London reported in May that the culture wars were an artificially inflated debate. The public are as likely to think that the omnipresent term “woke” is a compliment (26 per cent) as an insult (24 per cent) and they are most likely to have no idea what it means at all (38 per cent). Our differences may yet be bridged.

Second, the NHS stands alone in confounding our institutional pessimism. It looms large on Britain’s mental map and not just because of the pandemic. Polling shows that 85 per cent of the country sees the health service in a favourable light, with higher overall support than the Queen (67 per cent), the GB Olympic team (60 per cent) or the BBC (54 per cent). It is one of the last remaining national institutions that we can all use, fund and connect with. There are few other meeting points for all on such a fragmented national landscape.

As the new year beckons, Britain’s voters clearly need a more unifying and optimistic narrative. The demand for hope is high, and supply is low; the question is when and how this will be delivered.