28 March 2022: New Covid rules; Mad dogs and Spaniards; Russia’s future?; Vs and Bs; & 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

Covid: From today people with mild symptoms won’t have to take a test. Instead they should reduce social interaction as much as possible, avoid contact with vulnerable groups and wear a mask outside their home. This doesn’t apply to vulnerable people, such as those over 60 or who are immuno-suppressed. People in care homes and healthcare workers will also continue to be tested and, if positive, will have to self-isolate, as will those with serious cases of the virus. Facemasks will remain compulsory in indoor public spaces.  

This is a Spanish greyhound – un galgo – wearing a coat on a very warm spring day. 

It reminded me that I’ve noted over the years that the Spanish – in Pontevedra city at least – are now crazier about their canine pets than the Brits. I’ve seen numerous examples of long-haired dogs wearing coats in what are, objectively, pretty mild winters. And I’ve even seen dogs wearing shoes. Perhaps the most frequent annoying sight is of both adults – even men – and teenagers with dogs on their laps at bar/restaurant tables. I guess some of these folk are fans of our annual corridas, not seeing this as rather inconsistent in the animal-loving department.

I see from my eyrie that the huge government office building in Campolongo down in Pontevedra is ablaze with lights on all it 8 floors at 7.15. Not much sign of energy-saving there, though it might be necessary if the funcionarios start work at 7.30.

This sign – which endorse my suspicions – might just be genuine:-


Below is an analysis of what’s happening and a guess of what might happen in consequence, under the heading: Defeat in Ukraine will spell doom for Russia. As the rot spreads, Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin will lose its clout and restless regions will rebel. But, in reality, who knows? And, meanwhile, we all live in fear of what a desperate Putin might do.

If you want another analysis of a prolonged ‘stalemate’ and its economic consequences, see Richard North here:-


New to me . . . Melenudo: Long-haired; Hairy; Shaggy; Shaggy-haired

So . .  Alfombra melenuda: Shag carpet??

Interesting to note how the Spanish pronounce vice versa – Beethé bersa. I guess it would confuse both ancient Romans and modern Brits.

Finally . . .

This a British group of the 70’s which never made it big back home but have been very popular in the USA for more than 40 years.

More about them 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.


Defeat in Ukraine will spell doom for Russia. As the rot spreads, Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin will lose its clout and restless regions will rebel: Edward Lucas, The Telegraph

Vladimir Putin’s military onslaught has proved dreadfully ill-planned, ill-led and ill-supplied. Losses are high, progress scant. Once it seemed all too likely that Russian forces would take Odesa, leaving Ukraine landlocked and crippled. Not any more. The invaders have all but run out of puff — “culminated” in military jargon. The first plan failed, so did the second and third. Now the Kremlin’s war aims have shrivelled to a vague pledge to protect the Donbas region: territory that Russia already controlled.

Ukrainians treat the invaders as sitting ducks. Near Kyiv, the Russians are at risk of encirclement. Seven generals are thought to have died in combat, worse than in the most intense month of the Second World War. Other officers are looking nervously at their own men: furious at the lies and losses, members of one unit ran over their commander with a tank. Nato said last week that Russia’s initial 190,000-strong force had lost 40,000: killed, wounded, deserted or surrendered. The toll has risen since then.

Equipment losses are extraordinary, too. Ukrainians have destroyed or captured 300 Russian tanks, equivalent to the entire stock of the French army and half of Britain’s. Conventional wisdom is also in trouble. Outsiders grossly underestimated Ukrainian morale and effectiveness, and overestimated Russia’s ability to fight a real war. Ben Hodges, the retired general who until 2018 commanded the US Army in Europe, is one of many now scratching his head. He tells me: “How the hell did I miss it so badly?”

Evidence of Russia’s recovery from its 1990s nadir included snazzy new weapons and big set-piece exercises. These involved moving huge numbers of troops and equipment quickly over long distances. Western countries find such manoeuvres too disruptive and costly. Russia’s abilities were daunting for Nato’s thinly protected frontline states, dependent on creaky and unrehearsed emergency reinforcement plans.

Now Russia’s renewal looks like the villages Prince Potemkin built to impress Catherine the Great: a glitzy façade with nothing inside. The tightly scripted exercises gave little scope for initiative, crucial for learning to deal with unexpected setbacks. Nor did they feature combined operations. These are the trickiest part of modern warfare, when air, land and naval forces work together. Russia’s evidently cannot.

Whereas the US military prizes logistics, this vital capability is a poor relation in Russia, plagued by corruption. Hodges asks: “How can they run out of fuel within 100 miles of their own country?”

The biggest weakness is morale. A poll a week ago found that more than 90 per cent of Ukrainians expect they will successfully repel the attack. They fight fiercely and loyally for freedom, even against overwhelming odds. The invaders are motivated by booty, or not at all.

The growing toll on Russian soldiers and equipment lowers spirits further, which is fertile ground for mutinies and surrenders. Such a snowballing disaster would reprise the fate of the tsarist armies in 1917, or the imperial German forces a year later. Conventional wisdom, for what it’s still worth, predicts something less dramatic: a bitter stalemate, with Ukrainians hanging on grimly against an invader that can kill and destroy but not conquer. Even that is a bitter blow for the Kremlin, which fetishises the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany of 1945. To be robbed of triumph by the Ukrainians (depicted as cowardly and stupid in Russia’s chauvinist stereotypes) will be particularly humiliating.

Other countries will scent weakness. Azerbaijan is already upending a Kremlin-brokered peace deal with Armenia. Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian dictator, is in a particular bind. He depends on Russian money and muscle. Both are evaporating. Worse, Putin wants Belarus to join the attack on Ukraine. Belarusians hate that idea, just as they hate their clownish, brutal ruler. The collapse could start there.

Failure to win in Ukraine spells regime change in the Kremlin, far more than any ill-chosen words from President Biden. It could also prompt the break-up of Russia itself.

Conscription draws heavily on the country’s regions: casualties and cover-ups corrode confidence in Kremlin rule. So do sanctions. Oil-rich places such as Tatarstan will wonder why they are paying for Putin’s war. Life outside the Kremlin’s greedy and incompetent grip will look a lot more tempting. The carrots used to keep the regional satraps in line — cushy contracts and other bribes — are shrivelling as Kremlin coffers empty.

The sticks are looking flimsy, too. Sergej Sumlenny, a Berlin-based expert who used to run a think tank in Kyiv, says belief in the “might of Moscow” is withering. The goons that are used to crush regional dissent are busy elsewhere. Putin may see escalation as a way out. But bigger lies and more horrific weapons only worsen the underlying problem. His rule is destroying the institutions and loyalties that hold Russia together.

Soon, fear and greed will stop working. Sumlenny says that once one regional leader defies the Kremlin others will join him. He reckons that Russia will split in five years, leaving a rump Muscovy and a dozen or more independent states based on historic ethnic identities.

We are ill-prepared for this, just as we were flummoxed when the Soviet Union disintegrated. Our diplomats barely speak Russian, let alone Tatar.

The question now is whether Russia’s hubristic war leads to nemesis quickly or slowly, and at what cost. Our answer should be to ignore the conventional wisdom and give Ukrainians the tools to finish the job.