13 January 2022: Covid reckonings; Bad hamming; Daft dogs; Galician pirates: BJ’s death throes; & Other stuff.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Dawn%2BBox%2BDay%2B2015.JPG
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’

My thanks to Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for some of today’s items.  

Covid

Findings highlight the importance of short-range Covid transmission . . . Coronavirus loses 90% of its ability to infect us within 20 minutes of becoming airborne – with most of the loss occurring within the first 5 minutes.

The reckoning is getting nearer . . . A fascinating letter from an Israeli expert to his government: There is currently no medical emergency, but you have been cultivating such a condition for two years now because of lust for power, budgets and control. The only emergency now is that you still set policies and hold huge budgets for propaganda and psychological engineering instead of directing them to strengthen the health care system.  . . . This emergency must stop!

Cosas de España/Galiza

Beware of folk hamming it up . .

This takes some believing. It reminds me that back in 2000 I thought an awful lot of Spanish dogs were called Ben. Because of ‘Ven aquí!

Oh, dear. I put this bad news down to young females, who still seem to think the habit is sophisticated and are too young to think about death.

Reports Lenox: The EU-sponsored plan to charge for motorway use in Spain has been quietly shelved for now, as the government finds the idea to be highly unpopular.  

See the 2d article below – a machine translation – about dastardly Galician pirates of the 18th and 19th centuries. And they moan about Francis Drake despoiling this coast!

The UK

Boris Johnson . . . No one skewers him better that John Crace, in the Guardian. Even better than Richard North.

The EU

In Brussels, diplomats and officials have a long-held belief that Boris Johnson targets the EU for criticism to divert attention from his own domestic failings.  Now they fear he will trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to override Brexit trade checks in the Irish Sea as a ploy to whip up a row with the EU. Very possibly. The rat is cornered.

The Way of the World

A must-read article.

It’s impossible not to notice on British TV . . . Advertisers are so worried about being accused of racism or homophobia that they are shying away from using images of white people and straight couples. . . .  Marketing departments are even putting diversity above relevance to their target audience, ‘to avoid accusations of bigotry’. . . . It would have been a healthy and normal thing if advertisers had made this decision of their own volition. That they have made this overcompensatory move because they fear accusations of racism or ‘perceived discrimination’ is, conversely, thoroughly depressing. More here.

Social Media  

As you might have guessed . . . Hundreds of thousands of people are trading fake reviews on Facebook and Twitter but, despite promises  the 2 social media companies are failing to tackle “fake review factories” on their platforms, in which people offer freebies or money in exchange for positive reviews of products on Amazon.

English 

Treasury brain: The desire to cut any and all spending without asking whether that spending is actually saving money elsewhere. False economy, I guess.

See something about American v British spellings below.

Finally . . .

As ever, it’s taking time for the birds to return to my garden, after a long absence on my part. Ironically, I bought 2 flashy new feeders in the UK. Currently being ignored.

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

THE ARTICLES

  1. English spellings

1. U-less spellings: Americans omit the u in words such as colour, honour, humour, labour, neighbour and splendour.

2. To ‘er’ is American: Instead of our –re spellings, Americans go to the theater, eat more fiber and wield a saber.

3. Doubling down: Double consonants are very confusing between the two conventions. Americans do not double consonants in some past participles (eg we are dishevelled, but they are disheveled). However, they do so in some infinitices (eg to appal is English, but it is to appall in the US).

4. Dropping an e: Noah Webster, the American lexicographer, sometimes dropped the silent e which came from French “loan words”. This could also involve dropping an extra consonant. For instance, grille became grill, annexe became annex, gramme became gram and tonne became ton.

5. Creeping in simple: A number of “simplifications” in American English have appeared in common usage in the UK. We may still cash cheques rather than checks but we don’t have “get out of gaol free” cards, while some have been known to plow through the snow and others complain of a chilly draft.

6. Ise, Ize, Maybe: An example of a non-controversy. While there is a conception that, for instance, Britons are civilised and Americans are infantilized, both the “s” and “z” spellings are legitimate.

2. Galician corsairs who terrorised the Atlantic Ocean. 

During the 18th and 19th centuries Galicia and its sailors terrorised the Atlantic Ocean with pirate ships such as “El Audaz”, “El Veloz” or “El Atrevido”.

Throughout the 18th century and part of the 19th century, privateering in Spain became big business. The crisis in trade with the Overseas Colonies and the wars with England made it necessary to look for alternatives to generate income. This was how merchants and businessmen from all over Galicia embarked on the adventure of capturing enemy merchant ships under the protection of the Patente de Corso, granted by His Majesty. To understand the magnitude of the corsair episode in Galicia, just one figure is needed: 424. This was were the number of enemy ships that the Galician corsairs managed to capture in just one year, 1799.

“El Audaz”, “El Veloz” or “El Atrevido” were some of the fabulous nicknames of legendary corsair ships that plied the Galician estuaries, and turned Vigo and A Coruña into some of the most feared corsair bases in Europe. This is how corsair Galicia sowed fear and terror in the Atlantic Ocean. And it all started because of an ear.

Some time ago we talked about the last great pirate of the Atlantic, the Pontevedra-born Benito Soto Aboal. On 26 January 1830, this Galician was hanged in Algeciras for the crime of piracy. He died before his 25th birthday and it is believed that the famous “Pirate’s Song” by José de Espronceda was based on his life.  

But the corsairs were not pirates, although they were very similar. Both were dedicated to plundering ships, but pirates did it by breaking the laws for their own benefit, in times of peace or war, and against any enemy or nation. Privateers, on the other hand, did it only in times of war and under the permission of their country, granted in a Patente de Corso. In other words, it was legal, and what they did was to sabotage the maritime traffic of enemy nations in order to weaken them.

In times of scarcity of more “normal” business, the Letter of Marque was highly coveted, due to the privileges granted to the shipowner who possessed it: military cover, supplies of ammunition and armament, noble titles, military ranks, pensions… as well as most of the booty of the attacked ship.

Thanks to these reasons and the privileged geographical location of Galicia, on the trade route between England and Portugal, Galician privateers proliferated. 

But it was not easy to be one. It was necessary to own a ship, weapons, supplies and crew, which had to be inspected by the Maritime Command. In addition, the Patente de Corso had an important requirement that few could fulfil: it was necessary to present a bond or guarantee as a guarantee against behaviour outside the law and the Patent. This explains why the greatest corsairs in Galicia were merchants, businessmen and shipowners of the time. And, as we have said before, it all started with an ear…

In April 1731, the Spanish coastguard vessel “La Isabela” captured an English smuggler ship, the “Rebecca”, in Caribbean waters. Its captain, Julio León Fandiño, cut off an ear of the English captain, Robert Jenkins, warning him: “Go and tell your king that I will do the same to him if he dares”. Faced with the Spanish affront, the British Empire assembled a huge fleet of 180 ships and 20,000 men to attack Cartagena de Indias. The Spanish defence consisted of six ships and 3,000 soldiers… The ‘War of the Seat’ or ‘War of Jenkins’ Ear” began. And with this “excuse”, the activity of the Galician privateers began, during a war that lasted from 1739 to 1748.

British merchant ships were their best prey. Sailing along the Atlantic Corridor, they had a small crew of no more than 10 people, while the corsairs usually numbered 40. Moreover, it was common for them to have superior weapons, which meant that most of their victims surrendered without putting up a fight, reducing human and economic losses. During this period in Galicia, 60 corsairs were armed, capturing a total of 170 enemy vessels. Vigo and Marín were, at that time, the largest corsair bases.

After a few years of calm, corsair activity returned to the fore. The colonial trade crisis and the signing of the Peace of Basel with France in 1796 put England back in the spotlight and privateering was once again a booming business.

During this new stage, A Coruña was the most important corsair centre in Galicia, with 171 privateer patents being granted. Among the greatest privateers in A Coruña were illustrious businessmen such as Juan Francisco Barrié and Marcial F. del Adalid. In Vigo, perhaps the greatest privateer of all time was the industrialist Buenaventura Marcó del Pont, who would become mayor of the city, lender to the Crown and, in 1800, in the face of news of a British invasion of Vigo, defender of the city, gathering 800 men and several cannons to prevent the English fleet of 50 ships from disembarking.

Of all the battles that took place in the Galician estuaries between corsairs and their prey, perhaps the most epic was the one that pitted the Vigo ship “Santa Victoria” (renamed Corsair “Fortuna”) against the English cargo ship “Friendhisp” on 27 June 1798. The Galician ship had a crew of 25 men and a single gun. Her English prey had 12 guns. For an hour, the “Friendship” fired all its artillery at the “Fortuna”, which managed to dodge it and counterattacked with its only cannon. It would have been logical to give up. But when a Galician gets something between his eyebrows, it is better not to stand in his way. The captain of the Fortuna gave an unexpected order: Board!! At dawn the next day, the silhouette of two ships entering the Vigo estuary through the Cies Islands left their countrymen speechless. The small “Fortuna” had captured the English giant “Friendship”.

Once peace was signed with the English, privateering eventually gave way to calmer, less stressful and more “peaceful” business. 

Thus it was that for 100 years, with Her Majesty’s permission, the Galician privateers became the terror of the English, some beoiming legendary thanks to their audacity and were the best contributors, with their “business”, to the rise of large cities such as Vigo and A Coruña.

Businessmen, corsairs and Galicians: what could go wrong?

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