20 March 2022: Covid deaths?; A Spanish strike; Odd cafés; Bonkers Bono; & 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 number of people who have died from Covid in Britain is impossible to determine because of the inconsistent definitions of what is meant by a coronavirus death. Experts from Oxford University discovered that public health and statistics organisations across the UK are operating under 14 different definitions to classify a death from Covid.

Could well be true elsewhere also.

Cosas de España/Galiza 

The employees of small transport companies – unsupported, it seems, by anyone at all – are adding to supply problems caused by Covid and the Ukraine war. A major threat to the entire economy, it says here

Those caterpillars. Don’t let you dog sniff them:-

I’ve mentioned that Spain’s Los Leones are through to the finals of the rugby World Cup. What I hadn’t realised that, along with Georgia, Spain could soon be vying for inclusion in the annual Six [big] Nations competition, which ended last night, with France as – deserved – champions. For Georgia or Spain to be involved, they’d have to push out Italy. Which would be a shame. Especially as last night – after 36 consecutive defeats in the competition – they played brilliantly to beat Wales. 

My friend Eamon up in La Coruña tells me they did get the orange dust there:-

Checking my own car, I noted evidence of slight yellowish dust. But I think this is the pollen we get every year, and to which my elder daughter is allergic. But not when she’s in Madrid.

There’s a café in town – Piada Romagnola – which serves pricey coffee but gives not even a tiny biscuit with it. And has no wifi. I wasn’t surprised it was almost empty. Money-laundering?? By an Italian gang of drug smugglers?

Talking of cafés in town . . . We have a lovely Art Nouveau one – Café Moderno – which used to be in the premises of a bank and have banking hours. The bank has moved elsewhere but the cafe remains on its odd hours. So, not open yesterday or today for example. Perhaps the staff are on old contracts which can’t be changed. Unlikely but I can’t think of another reason for forgoing peak business. Other than money-laundering, of course.


Richard North thinks that mainstream reporting has been very poor. Does it really matter? He asks. And then answers: Well, Putin could very easily resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons against the West if Ukraine’s resistance to the war continues. If we are getting to the point where the Russians are suffering severe setbacks , then this is something we all need to know, if it is bringing us close to the point of nuclear warfare. I would expect then for people to be making their views known as to the appropriate policy lines, which might be very different to those of a populace fed solely on a diet of human experiences of war. The media, we are told, plays a basic role as the provider of information necessary for rational debate, thereby fostering a healthy, functioning democracy. It is about time the media remembered what it was for.

Camilla Long has written nicely on Bono’s role in the war. See the article below.

The Way of the World 

Ms Long again.What does any rational person think upon seeing a hulking man-bodied swimmer winning a women’s race? Do they think: What a great victory for trans people? Because that is precisely what it isn’t.


More recognisable Old English words below, plus one or two nice words/phrases we’ve lost. The penultimate list . . .

Finally . . .

A comment from a reader of Camilla Long’s article:-

Here’s a poem I wrote about said U2 singer:-


Oh no

This is a funny ad which I’d have to pay to upload here . . .

For new reader(s): If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.


Pronunciation in brackets

From Hana Videen’s ‘The Wordhord’  

ān-būend, noun (ahn-boo-end): Hermit (one-dweller). (One being?)

ælmes-georn, adjective (al-mez-yeh-orn): Diligent in giving alms, benevolent. (Alms giving?) 

cristen-dōm, noun (kris-ten-doam): Christianity, the Christian faith.

dēaþ-scūa, noun (day-ath-shoo-ah): Shadow of death, death. 

dēofol, noun (day-oh-voll): Devil, demon; Satan, the Devil. 

dūst, noun (doost): Dust (of the earth); dust or ashes; what anything is reduced to by disintegration or decay; material out of which the human body is made (to which it returns and from which it will arise again). 

dūst-scēawung, noun (doost-shay-ah-wung): ‘Dust-viewing’, observation or contemplation of dust (visiting a grave or considering one’s mortality). (Dust showing)

engel, noun (eng-gell: Angel. 

fǣge, adjective (fae-yuh): About to die; doomed.  (Fated?)

for-legnes, noun (for-ley-ness): Fornication, adultery. f

gāst-cyning, noun (gahst-kue-ning¡): Spirit-king, God. Ghost king

lof-georn, adjective (lov-yeh-orn ): Desirous of praise; (in a good sense) eager to deserve praise; (in a bad sense) ostentatious, boastful.  (Lovelorn)

miht, noun (mi’ht): Power, might. 

sanct, noun (sahnkt): Saint. 

sāwel, noun (sah-well): Soul. 

slǣwþ, noun (slaewth): Sloth, laziness. 

un-fǣge, adjective (un-fae-yuh): Not doomed or fated to die.  Unfated.

wēamōdness, noun (way-ah-moad-ness): Anger. 

wuldor-cyning, noun (wul-dor-kue-ning): Glory-king, God.

wyrd, noun (wuerd ): Fate, fortune, chance; event, occurrence, circumstance; what happens (to a person), lot, condition. 

wyrd-writere, noun (wuerd-wri-teh-ruh): One who writes an account of events, historian, historiographer.


Amid the death and destruction in Ukraine, a ray of hope — Bono has written a poem: Camilla Long, The Times

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a Ukrainian tank operator, hiding next to a pile of dead comrades’ burnt limbs. Or a tear-stained Ukrainian woman trapped in Mariupol, watching people bleed to death on the streets. Or an orphan at the Polish border, alone, crying and frightened, in some bone-cold, friendless makeshift camp.

What do you need right now?

The answer, I hardly need tell you, is not a poem from Bono. No one ever needs anything from Bono, not even if the world is exploding in the furnace of a thousand nuclear bombs and Vladimir Putin is riding around his dacha naked except for a $10,000 Loro Piana puffer.

That didn’t, obviously, stop the Irish singer supplying his “poem for Ukraine” to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, who read it out at a St Patrick’s Day lunch in Washington. One look at the video and you just think: what remote purpose does any of this serve? It was amazing to see how greedy, uninterested, apathetic, boorish and inward-looking liberal America has become.

It wasn’t even the poem that was the problem, you see, although its jaunty, semi-rhyming, limerick-like vibe didn’t feel right (“for the snake symbolises/ An evil that rises”). It was everything else.

For a start, no one bothered to stop eating. On and on the pigs troffled, sometimes openly talking over Pelosi, as she mugged her way through the poem, which cannot have taken more than five minutes to write. After she read the final three lines, “Ireland’s sorrow and pain/ Is now the Ukraine/ And St Patrick’s name, now Zelensky”, she actually laughed, and then everyone else began laughing and clapping as well, before she shouted “Riverdance!”, and a load of skimpily dressed Irish dancers appeared and suddenly everyone perked up.

I watched the video, wondering how you might feel if you were a Ukrainian soldier seeing these safe, rich people laughing their way through a poem about your dying friends? Or watching these gross old men lifting their bored cameras the moment the poem stops and the tits pitch up?

How might they feel watching another extraordinary appearance by Pelosi, in which she talked about how she would really like to “take out those tanks”, she said last week, referring to Russia’s 40-mile convoy, but they just couldn’t. Couldn’t or wouldn’t? To people such as Pelosi, the war in Ukraine isn’t actually that interesting. It’s only useful as a way of gathering intelligence or explaining away other domestic problems, like rising prices and falling jobs: the “Pootin price hike”, for example, at gas stations.

I don’t think this is senility; it is worse. It is a kind of apathy mixed up with the sense that nothing really matters if you’re an old smug guy at a Capitol buffet. Sainting Zelensky is as politically lazy as saying all Russians are demons. It’s breathlessly trivialising — like Amy Schumer saying she wanted the Ukrainian president to “satellite in” to the Oscars, which she is presenting, because there are “so many eyes and ears” on the ceremony. Imagine being so self-obsessed that you think Zelensky needs the Oscars, and that the profile he desires is yours, Amy Schumer’s.

Deliverance came from an unlikely corner: Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Terminator released a wonderful ten-minute message for the Russian people. Sitting in his office, looking rugged and worldly wise, he got the tone, message and delivery perfect. It was measured and intelligent and, above all, spoke directly to Russians as fellow humans and equals.

Among the film’s many tiny glories was a half-naked picture in the background of him flexing his muscles as a young man. Next to him was a liddle blue koffee kup given to him by the famed Soviet weightlifter Yuri Petrovich Vlasov, a great man whom Schwarzenegger met when he was 14. He said he still had a “boy’s hand” when he met him. A clever, humble touch, recognising Russia’s historic greatness.

It is such a long time since I saw a leader actually being a leader that Arnie’s film came as an intense shock. Who was this strange, confident, intellectually engaging person who could communicate so effortlessly without trying to second-guess his audience? Who was this commanding figure who spoke with genuine compassion about the Russian people while weaving in his wide range of first-hand experiences, including conversations with his father, who was injured fighting for the Nazis at Leningrad? Who else could then say he’d also filmed the first American movie in Red Square?

It made all other gestures seem empty and self-seeking. Bono’s poem, Schumer’s Oscars, Pelosi’s giggles; even the picture David Cameron posted on Friday of himself “driving to Poland”. Just why? Does the former prime minister really have a trucker’s licence? And why, exactly, do Ukrainian refugees need a mercy mission from the Cotswolds? Are they short of artisanal mustard and excellent ham around Krakow? As a friend darkly put it: “Is George Osborne driving to Russia with an empty truck to collect some cash as well?”


  1. I was surprised to read that Italy had beaten Scotland this weekend. I watched the (sad) defeat for Wales by who I thought were Italians


  2. Oh, yeah. Italy beat Wales . . . . Ireland beat Scotland . . . I find all these Celts look the same . . .†


  3. Thanks for the reference to Georgia in the Rugby World Cup. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_at_the_Rugby_World_Cup

    When God was distributing portions of the world to all the peoples of the earth, the Georgians
    were having a party and doing some serious drinking. As a result they arrived late and were told
    by God that all the land had already been distributed. When they replied that they were late only
    because they had been lifting their glasses in praise of Him, God was pleased and gave the
    Georgians that part of earth he had been reserving for himself.

    The Georgians were late: they had broken the rules. The model appeals to one contemporary
    Georgian self-image: Georgians are seen to be clever and resourceful, properly concerned with
    pleasures. They are seen not to be concerned with punctuality, for Georgians often pride
    themselves explicitly on their disregard for the constraints of time as for other rules and
    limitations. Georgians often speak of themselves as clever rule-benders, cunning and intelligent.
    Such a self-image had particular appeal for a people who lived in a land closely regulated by an
    alien authority. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supra_(feast)

    I posted this article on Dr. North’s blog.
    Why Russia calls a limited nuclear strike “de-escalation”
    By Nikolai N. Sokov | March 13, 2014

    In 1999, at a time when renewed war in Chechnya seemed imminent, Moscow watched with great concern as NATO waged a high-precision military campaign in Yugoslavia. The conventional capabilities that the United States and its allies demonstrated seemed far beyond Russia’s own capacities. And because the issues underlying the Kosovo conflict seemed almost identical to those underlying the Chechen conflict, Moscow became deeply worried that the United States would interfere within its borders.

    By the next year, Russia had issued a new military doctrine whose main innovation was the concept of “de-escalation”—the idea that, if Russia were faced with a large-scale conventional attack that exceeded its capacity for defence, it might respond with a limited nuclear strike. To date, Russia has never publicly invoked the possibility of de-escalation in relation to any specific conflict. But Russia’s policy probably limited the West’s options for responding to the 2008 war in Georgia. And it is probably in the back of Western leaders’ minds today, dictating restraint as they formulate their responses to events in Ukraine.

    Russia’s de-escalation policy represented a re-emergence of nuclear weapons’ importance in defence strategy after a period when these weapons’ salience had decreased. When the Cold War ended, Russia and the United States suddenly had less reason to fear that the other side would launch a surprise, large-scale nuclear attack. Nuclear weapons therefore began to play primarily a political role in the two countries’ security relationship. They became status symbols, or insurance against unforeseen developments. They were an ultimate security guarantee, but were always in the background—something never needed.

    Then a very different security challenge began to loom large in the thinking of Russia’s political leaders, military officers, and security experts. That challenge was US conventional military power. This power was first displayed in its modern incarnation during the Gulf War of 1990 and 1991—but the game-changer was the Kosovo conflict. In Yugoslavia the United States utilized modern, high-precision conventional weapons to produce highly tangible results with only limited collateral damage. These conventional weapons systems, unlike their nuclear counterparts, were highly usable.

    The Russian response, begun even before the conflict over Kosovo had ended, was to develop a new military doctrine. This effort was supervised by Vladimir Putin, then-secretary of Russia’s Security Council, a body similar to the National Security Council in the United States. By the time the doctrine was adopted in the spring of 2000, it was Putin who signed it in his new capacity as president.

    The doctrine introduced the notion of de-escalation—a strategy envisioning the threat of a limited nuclear strike that would force an opponent to accept a return to the status quo ante. Such a threat is envisioned as deterring the United States and its allies from involvement in conflicts in which Russia has an important stake, and in this sense is essentially defensive. Yet, to be effective, such a threat also must be credible. To that end, all large-scale military exercises that Russia conducted beginning in 2000 featured simulations of limited nuclear strikes.

    De-escalation rests on a revised notion of the scale of nuclear use. During the Cold War, deterrence involved the threat of inflicting unacceptable damage on an enemy. Russia’s de-escalation strategy provides instead for infliction of “tailored damage,” defined as “damage [that is] subjectively unacceptable to the opponent [and] exceeds the benefits the aggressor expects to gain as a result of the use of military force.” The efficacy of threatening tailored damage assumes an asymmetry in a conflict’s stakes. Moscow reasoned when it adopted the policy that, for the United States, intervening on behalf of Chechen rebels (for example) might seem a desirable course of action for a variety of reasons. But it would not be worth the risk of a nuclear exchange. Russia, however, would perceive the stakes as much higher and would find the risk of a nuclear exchange more acceptable. Indeed, in the early 2000s, Russian military experts wrote that US interference in the war in Chechnya could have resulted in a threat to use nuclear weapons.

    The new strategy did not come out of the blue. Its conceptual underpinnings follow from Thomas Schelling’s seminal books The Strategy of Conflict and Arms and Influence. At the operational level, the strategy borrows from 1960s-era US policy, which contemplated the limited use of nuclear weapons to oppose “creeping” Soviet aggression (as expressed, for example, in a 1963 document produced by the National Security Council, “The Management and Termination of War with the Soviet Union”).

    How and where? Common sense might suggest that any limited use of nuclear weapons for de-escalation purposes would involve non-strategic (shorter-range) weapons. But this does not appear to be the thinking. In 2003, the Ministry of Defence issued a white paper that dotted the new doctrine’s i’s and crossed its t’s. The white paper emphasized, among other things, that because the United States could use its precision-guided conventional assets over significant distances, Russia needed the ability to deter the use of those assets with its own long-range capabilities.

    Accordingly, simulations of the limited use of nuclear weapons have featured long-range nuclear-capable systems (long-range air-launched cruise missiles above all, but medium-range bombers as well). To the extent that one can determine the targets that have featured in these exercises, they seem to be located over much of the world—Europe, the Pacific, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and even the continental United States. Targets appear to include command and control centres as well as airbases and aircraft carriers from which US aircraft could fly missions against Russia. In other words, for limited-use options, Russia appears to target military assets rather than the population or economic centres that were typical targets under Cold War strategies.

    It is important to note amid all this that Russia’s nuclear weapons are assigned only to conflicts in which Russia is opposed by another nuclear weapon state. When Russia was preparing the 2010 edition of its military doctrine, some proposed that the possibility of using nuclear weapons be expanded to more limited conflicts, such as the 2008 war with Georgia—but this proposal was rejected. Ultimately the 2010 doctrine tightened conditions under which nuclear weapons could be used. Whereas the 2000 document allowed for their use “in situations critical to the national security” of Russia, the 2010 edition limited them to situations in which “the very existence of the state is under threat.” (Otherwise, the nuclear component of military doctrine remained fundamentally unchanged from 2000.) Lessons acknowledged? Nuclear weapons command attention and generate fear. But their utility is limited. Outside the most extreme circumstances, the damage they can inflict is simply too great and horrible for the threat of using them to be sufficiently credible. Furthermore, nuclear deterrence is fundamentally a defensive strategy—capable of deterring attack but incapable of supporting a proactive foreign policy. The United States, because of its conventional military power, is able to pursue a proactive foreign policy, and this has long been the envy of Russia’s politicians and military leaders.

    The 2000 version of Russia’s military doctrine characterized the limited use of nuclear weapons as a stopgap measure to be relied on only until Russia could develop a more modern conventional strike capability, similar to that which the United States possessed. Russia’s efforts to develop such a capability have been under way for more than a decade. Progress was slow at first due to chronic underfunding and the poor state of the Russian defence industry. The substandard performance of Russia’s conventional forces during the 2008 war in Georgia led many to dismiss the idea that Russia would ever match the United States in conventional capabilities. But Moscow learned lessons from its Georgian experience, and modernisation efforts have intensified in the last five years.

    Today, Russia can boast of a new generation of long-range air- and sea-launched cruise missiles, as well as modern short-range ballistic and cruise missiles and precision-guided gravity bombs. Theoretically, the cruise missiles could carry nuclear warheads, but their envisioned role is primarily conventional. Additionally, Russia’s GLONASS satellite constellation now enables precision targeting and communications across the globe. Russia has also begun developing a global strike capability, analogous to the US Prompt Global Strike initiative, in the form of a new intercontinental ballistic missile that the military has said is primarily intended to carry conventional warheads.

    Military manoeuvres conducted last year, known as West 2013, were apparently the first large-scale Russian exercises since 2000 that did not feature the simulated use of nuclear weapons. This hints that Moscow has gained more confidence in its conventional capabilities. As these capabilities continue to improve, Russia is likely to rely less on its nuclear weapons. But this shift will significantly alter the Eurasian security landscape.

    If Russia becomes able to project military force in the same way that the United States has projected force in Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya, Moscow will likely become more assertive in its foreign policy. This will affect NATO policy in turn. The alliance, owing in large measure to US dominance in conventional military power, has been able in recent years to reduce (though not eliminate) its reliance on nuclear weapons. But if Russia begins to close the conventional weapons gap with the United States, some NATO countries might argue that nuclear deterrence should regain some of its former prominence.

    Thus, though Russia’s reliance on nuclear weapons, including their “limited” use, is not good for international security, the likely alternative will hardly enhance security either. To avoid a new arms race—one centred around conventional weapons, which are less terrifying but more usable than nuclear weapons—it makes sense to begin work now on arms control options that would cover modern conventional strike and defence assets. Unfortunately, the majority of the US Congress refuses to consider arms control arrangements for classes of weapons in which the United States currently enjoys an advantage. But as history has demonstrated, no technological advantage lasts forever. One hopes that those capable of averting a new arms race acknowledge history’s lessons before it’s too late.


  4. I was wondering exactly how severe the transport strike is. La Voz as usual are taking pictures of empty shelves … allegedly at 9.30pm … allegedly of either the bread section (or corn oil) …. allegedly I use the word allegedly because the Beeb do it so nobody can sue them. I have heard of milk producres threatening to chuck their milk out, I mean they could always give it to the needy, which it appears one or two producers have cottoned on to.
    In the meantime, my Amazon deliveries still turn up a day early, usually when I am out. No complaints from me, but they dont appear to be affected by shortages or delivery problems. More importantly our legendary local fishmonger stated that fish would be hard to come by, as the flota was also on strike. And yet somehow from somewhere, he still manages everyday to come up with a bellyful of fresh delights. I did notice he calls my better half “amor” in the fishmongers whatsapp group. I think I shall be picking up our orders for the foreseeable future.

    Well done Italia, hard luck Wales, snigger.


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