4 February 2022: Mask-wearing; Franco flesh; The BJ comedy turn; & Galician damp.

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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

Despite opposition from several regions, the government is maintaining the obligatory wearing of face masks outside.

On this, I wasn’t aware that: The rules include many exemptions. Face masks are not compulsory if you are doing exercise; in natural spaces, mountains or the beach; walking alone or with members of your own household, or walking with someone not from your household but where you can maintain 1.5m of social distance. 

Yesterday, I noticed the local police driving round and round the city centre, doubtless looking to fine those not complying with the law on masks. While ignoring the cyclists and e-scooterists not complying with a different law. Even those going downhill at at least 20kph.

More seriously . . . I promised to put some meat on the bones of yesterday’s comment about Franco and here is said flesh. The words are mostly those of Paul Preston, with a few added (or deleted) by me. For me, it defies belief that there can still be folk in Spain who see Franco as a great man, a saint even. But I suppose there are Nazis who view Hitler in the same way. Rather more worrying is the rise of the nakedly Francoist Vox party:-

Franco was way ahead of QAnon suspicions about a secret cabal ruling the world. Almost a hundred years ago, one of his central beliefs was of a global Jewish-masonic-Bolshevik conspiracy. He was convinced that Judaism was the ally of both American capitalism and Russian communism, though the biggest enemy of the 3 for him was always [non-existent global] freemasonry. 

Franco believed that the Vatican was a nest of Freemasons and Communists and that priests sympathetic to the tribulations of the [starving] poor were all Communists in disguise.

Franco saw himself as the ruler of Spain by the grace of God – the saviour of Spain and the restorer of Spain’s greatness. His belief in his own divine purpose was unshakeable. His ambition was to create a new empire, to go alongside that of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. When one of his ministers was killed in a car crash in early 1975, Franco was saw this as a sign that an experiment with political ‘associations’ didn’t have divine approval.

The power he arrogated to himself was of a kind previously only enjoyed by the kings of medieval Spain. His perception of himself as heir to the great warrior kings of a glorious imperial past was enshrined in the ceremonial and choreography of his regime – including the canopy on entering and leaving a church customarily only accorded to monarchs.

Believing himself to be an economist of genius, Franco rashly adopted fascist-style policies of autarky without taking into account the reality that Spain did not possess the necessary technological and industrial base. Autarky, he claimed, would make Spain safe from her numerous enemies. “The world needs Spain more than Spain needs the world”. In fact it was truly disastrous. But Franco attributed Spain’s appalling economic situation of the 1940s caused by the policy of autarky to an ‘international siege’ of Spain, which he used as a convenient excuse for almost every failing of his regime. At the same time he declared that his superior system placed Spain 10 years ahead of other nations in moral standing and social evolution. In fact, the consequences of his policies were hardship, malnutrition, starvation, epidemics, and the growth of both prostitution and the black market. Not to mention vast corruption.

Franco’s egregious errors were compounded by his touchingly naive faith in magical wheezes, such as alchemy. He envisaged this giving Spain massive gold reserves.

Franco had not the slightest concern about the humungous corruption of his ministers. All that mattered was their loyalty to him, and his ability to blackmail them. He himself garnered – in various ways – a fortune valued at €400m in 2015 prices by the time of his death in 1975. In 1942, Franco described Spain’s 1920s dictatorship under Primo de Rivera –  a period of relentless corruption – as “The happy years of the glorious General Primo de Rivera, years of good government, exemplary years of Moroccan victories, of peace and of progress”.

To say the very least, right to the very end, Franco believed in the use of exemplary violence against his enemies. Anyone, in fact, who opposed him.

Franco had the gift of being convinced by his own lies. In 1945, he denied he’d come to power with assistance from the Axis powers and claimed Spain was being attacked because it had suppressed freemasonry and defeated communism. He praised himself for his generosity from 1940 onwards towards a defeated France and claimed that Spain had saved Britain from defeat.

Until his death in 1975, Franco retained a conviction he was indispensable to Spain. 

On this, perhaps this is an apt comment, taken from another context: At some point, politicians become so wedded to policies that they can never allow themselves to believe they were errors. Tony Blair will never accept that the Iraq war was a mistake, just as Margaret Thatcher never disowned the poll tax. Franco, of course, didn’t end with a belief in his own God-given omniscience but started with it. A true narcissistic megalomaniac.

Quote of the Day

If only they’d listened . . . . Caitlin Moran in The Times today: In 2008 I wrote a column about Boris Johnson — then running for mayor of London. While primarily an opportunity to call him “a posh blond fanny-hound”, I did also offer the information that, despite deeply disliking his politics, I felt, to a certain extent, an odd kinship with him. To wit: “He is disabled by his own funniness.” “I understand Boris’s weakness, only too well,” I wrote. “As someone who spends most of her life at least trying to be funny, I know just how much effort it takes. It’s a full-time commitment. It obsesses you. Which is why it — obviously — makes you fatally, fundamentally unsuitable for a job with genuine responsibilities, and consequences. “Any effective politician should be too busy doing useful, serious, boring grown-up stuff, like admin, or meetings, to be thinking about puns, quips, bantz or zingers. Boris is ideologically committed to something that will always take precedence over his true vocation, which is: Boris being funny. Boris being a legend.”

Finally . . .

Damp in Galicia. This is what a cornier of my basement looked like after I’d removed mould from the wall and then taken out all the cardboard boxes stored there and removed the rotten cork tiles underneath these:-

I’m not clear if this is the result of 20 years’ deterioration or the consequence of closing the basement windows when I was in the UK for 6 weeks. But I assume the former, unnoticed by me.

For new reader(s): If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here

2 comments

  1. As regards Spain’s gold reserves, have you watched “La Casa de Papel” (aka Money Heist)? At the end of the final series, it is suggested that the gold is actually all brass, just thinly coated with gold. Is the gold reserve of nations actually needed? Maybe we just need the idea of a gold reserve?

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  2. No, I haven’t yet got round to seeing that but intend to, as the reviews have been very good. As for gold, I recently listened to a podcast on the the gold standard – BBC Radio 4 In Our Time: History – and suspect gold reserves – which don’t fully back up fiat money in circulation – are an historical relic. A sort of semi- comfort blanket.

    P. S. Have you just ruined the series for me???

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