17 April 2022: The post-mask era; Neanderthals; Daft relics; A new religion; & 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’


Very few folk down in Madrid are wearing masks in the street, certainly far fewer than back home in Pontevedra city. So, I was interested to read the first article below on he UK’s new Covid tribes: cocky, double-masker or compromise?

Cosas de España/Galiza 

Iberia is a fertile place for archaeological discoveries. The latest of these is the first on the peninsula of a site of Neanderthals living in the open air near the sea, not in (safer) caves. Around 120,000 years ago, near Alicante.

Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas tells us here of Mojácar’s 2 winters, separated by an enjoyable spring.

A ridiculous relic? Each Easter, the Catholic Church is allowed to recommend several criminals for a pardon. That said: All cases are subject to the same conditions as any other official pardon – described in the state bulletin as “reasons of justice, equity or benefit for the general public”. Of course they are. Nowt to do with politics or faith.

More about ridiculous religious relics here . . .


Putin’s propaganda machine is loath to report bad news but even Russia’s national TV channels couldn’t ignore the sinking of the Moskva, though viewers who blinked might have missed the coverage. The entire report lasted 28 seconds. The warship’s fate was barely mentioned in subsequent news bulletins. The ship was carrying a purported splinter from the cross on which Christ was crucified. This had bee bought – for $40 million! – from a Catholic church in Europe by Russian Orthodox Christian businessmen and handed over to the cruiser in 2020. Putin’s admirals are said to have believed the Moskva was invulnerable because the sliver of wood was could deflect missiles and torpedoes. So much for that. If it wasn’t so serious, you’d have to laugh.

As for splinters of ‘the true cross’, there are said to be enough of these around the world to build at least one Noah’s ark. Though this is disputed, of course. 

Some wit in the UK has claimed that ASDA sells a garden shed made from cross fragments and guaranteed to withstand natural disasters such as tsunamis.

The Way of the [Anglo?]World

Not really a brand-new view . . . Diversity is the new national[UK] religion. See the article below.


Brilliant . . .

Finally . . . 

To amuse . . . A topical (black humour) cartoon:-

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.


  1. The new Covid tribes: “cocky, double-masker or compromise”? An end to pandemic rules has resulted in a divided population, with some acting as if we are still in lockdown: Tom Calver, The Sunday Times

With space for 19 filmgoers, the Colosseum in Bournemouth — hidden beneath a bar — claims to be Britain’s smallest cinema. Before the pandemic, this accolade would be a universal selling point. Now, though, the thought of spending 2 hours with more than a dozen strangers in a small, subterranean box is a tough sell. “The older community is definitely much more cautious,” said Paul Whitehouse, the owner. “Quite a few of our regulars still don’t feel it’s right yet to come back.” Whitehouse, 60, opened the cinema in 2013 in a town with one of the oldest populations in the UK. Now, he is often asked about safety. “We have fans, we replace all the air, we have a cleaning process, we’re as careful as possible — but within reason. You have a duty of care but you also have to live your life with common sense,” he said. The cinema specialised in classics from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, popular with older viewers. When he reopened, many of those faces did not return. “We’ve ended up doing quite a few alternative events, like private hire and foreign films instead. We’ve got a children’s party tomorrow, though — those are as strong as ever,” he said.

Two years ago, the government ordered everyone to stay indoors — and most of us obeyed. According to researchers at University College London, 97% reported “majority compliance” with the first rules in March 2020. Now, though, “personal responsibility” has replaced laws and guidance and as a result, we are all going our own ways. The population has been divided into groups, with attitudes varying hugely.

So who are the new Covid tribes? Look at what happened when, 6 weeks after the government scrapped every Covid rule, infections surged to record levels. About one in 13 are infected in England, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Some shrugged, stopped testing and carried on partying. Tyron Wilson, 30, who lives in Bristol, said: “Because it’s easy enough to catch Covid from all sorts of things that aren’t socialising, it feels like pointless self-denial to block off one of the most enjoyable parts of life to avoid something relatively mild.” Others have doubled-up on masks and stopped going out — if they ever really restarted.

The ONS said 29% of adults were still “always or often” social distancing when meeting people outside their household, while 45% avoided physical contact when not at home. “I’m wearing my FFP2 [mask] & scaling back socialising for now,” tweeted Professor Christina Pagel of University College London last week in response to record infections. She has become one of the main online voices advocating a tougher Covid response.

Many of us sit somewhere between these two ends of the Covid spectrum — with a large, third tribe using perhaps what Boris Johnson called British “common sense”. But what factors make people more likely to be Covid cautious, cocky, or somewhere in between?

Risk still plays a part — even in the post-vaccination age, when the risk of dying from a single Omicron infection is, for most of us, no higher than that of flu. But critics of the government’s “living with Covid” policy say the burden of the strategy falls heavily on those most at risk, such as the elderly. This has led to an uneven recovery in the number of people going out.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the industry body UKHospitality, said revenue was back to 2019 levels for most pubs and restaurants. “Many people are happy to be back and are spending more. But the number of people actually coming in is still below pre-pandemic levels,” she said. This drop is not uniform. Nightclubs — “with the least risk-averse customers” — have seen a much faster recovery.

Yet elderly people have been harder to persuade. “The older demographic, 55 and above, are the most risk-averse. Especially at first, they were not coming out as much as they used to,” Nicholls said. Yet age is not the only divider. Sarah, a secondary teacher from St Neots, Cambridgeshire, is 48 — but still will not meet others indoors if they are unmasked. “That has ruled out restaurants and most leisure or hospitality in the colder months — or, if I go, I don’t eat,” she said. The single mother of two worries what would happen to her children if she became ill, a fear she had hoped would ease post-vaccination. “However, it became clear that it’s just so much more transmissible now and is affecting young children more severely. That, plus waning immunity, has meant I’ve not really been able to relax at all. Quite the opposite. I’m incredibly disappointed that measures haven’t been kept,” she said.

All tribes are political, and Covid tribes are no exception. Restrictions are, after all, political decisions: throughout the pandemic, despite the government saying it would be led by data, there was no constant level of hospital admissions at which ministers reimposed restrictions.

Every few weeks, the polling firm Kekst CNC has been asking people whether they would rather protect the economy or limit the spread of the virus. For the first time this pandemic, this month’s data suggests that the balance was tipping in favour of the economy at the end of March: as the rise in the cost of living bites, most people would rather protect jobs than introduce new restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

We might expect Labour voters — who tend to be younger and less at risk — to care least about stopping infection. Not so: about 48% of those who voted Labour in 2019, the polling suggests, would rather prevent the spread of the virus, compared with 31% wanting to protect the economy instead. The pattern is drastically reversed among Tories: just 33% would choose restrictions, while 51% would rather prioritise the economy.

“At the start of the pandemic, views on how to deal with the virus did not vary based on which party one supported,” said James Johnson, who did the research. “But now we see a world in which Conservative voters are more focused on the economy, and Labour voters are more keen to continue limiting the spread of the disease. Now, people’s view on this question is driven more by their support for a party than their own sense of the risk that Covid poses.”

This is a much less extreme reflection of what has happened in the United States, where a range of health issues have split heavily along party lines. In the past year, analysis suggests deaths in Republican states — where vaccination rates have been far lower among the elderly — have been 38% higher than in Democratic states.

There are other reasons behind the caution of some living in Britain. A number of psychologists have criticised the government’s tactics at the start of the pandemic to encourage people to follow Covid restrictions. One powerful campaign used posters of patients infected with the virus bearing captions such as: “Look her in the eyes, and tell her you never bend the rules.” “It was obvious to some experts that the use of fear would slow recovery,” said Laura Dodsworth, author of A State of Fear: How the UK Government Weaponised Fear during the Covid-19 Pandemic. “We were emotionally and psychologically kettled and it is no wonder that some people do not feel ready to socialise,” she said. “Some people might have to take their time, land softly, and others might need professional help with anxiety.”

Professor Marcantonio Spada of London Southbank University also agreed that the “post-Covid anxiety”, which some have been left with, would be hard to shift. A study by Kingston University London found that psychological distress during the pandemic was higher in the UK than in Italy, the US and China. Spada believes that about 10% are still suffering from post-Covid anxiety. And personality traits make some people more vulnerable to it, according to a 2021 paper in the Journal of Affective Disorders. Of the 5 main personalities, “neuroticism” and “openness” were more likely to experience post-Covid anxiety.

It is unclear how long these fears will last. Many, though, are understandably cautious. About 4 million “clinically extremely vulnerable” people in Britain were advised to shield during the first year of the pandemic. Many, who are not able to receive the full benefits of vaccination, are hesitant to rejoin society. Professor Deepti Gurdasani of Queen Mary University of London, who is immunosuppressed, is one of those. “I’ve worked remotely since March 2020 and minimised contact with anyone. Every day I make 4 trips to and from my daughter’s school, to take her and bring her back again for lunch. I don’t want her to take off her mask where some of the children will certainly be infected. This is mine and my daughter’s life,” she said. While infection rates are high, Gurdasani, 39, does not see an end in sight. “My life is over as I know it. I’m dying to go to the hairdresser. My husband and I used to go to stand-up comedy. It’s segregation … Clinically extremely vulnerable people are a significant chunk of society, and include those who are economically active.”

Covid is not the only social-life suppressor: other factors, such as personal finances, are starting to bite. “There’s another subsection of people that isn’t going out — and that’s mainly down to cost,” said Nicholls, from UKHospitality. As inflation bites, this group may grow.

The recovery to our social lives, like so much about the pandemic, has been uneven. Two years on, bars, restaurants and cinemas may be bustling again — but look closer, and some people are still missing from the tables.

2. Diversity is the new national religion. Woe betide any agnostics. The unnatural hush around Sir David Amess’s murder proves that there are some issues we can simply no longer discuss: Douglas Murray, TheTelegraph 

All ages and cultures have their religions. Today Christians around the world celebrate the story of the risen Christ. But whether you are a believing Christian, a cultural Christian or a believer in something or nothing else entirely, one thing should be obvious by now: the Christian tradition no longer dominates British public life. You may celebrate that fact or deplore it, but as all the census and church attendance data shows, it is the case.

It does not follow, however, that ours is an irreligious age. On the contrary our society is deeply religious. It is simply religious about concepts that are different – though often descended from – our earlier belief system. For instance the modern British state’s prioritisation of “tolerance” and “difference” is an inheritance from a Christian ideal. Not least the ideal of equality in the eyes of God.

But as our society has come apart from Christianity, we seem to have become ever more dogmatic about our new beliefs. In part, perhaps, because we sense how hard it is to hold the new faith and keep our reason.

For instance, our society is forced by diktat at every level of public service to bow to the gods of diversity, inclusion and equity. Apply for any public appointment in this country and you will have to demonstrate a commitment to these principles. You will have to explain what you have done to further these religious precepts.

Even the Church of England and other Christian denominations in this country have effectively subjugated themselves to this new religion. A religion which believes that the highest good is “social justice”, something which is both specific and amorphous enough to take the place once occupied by the Holy Ghost.

Say anything that appears to go against these precepts of the new faith and you know what will happen. Idiotic obsessions over the rights of small minorities are now fought over as our forebears fought over interpretations of the Eucharist. To watch Labour MPs contorting themselves as they are asked to answer questions like “What is a woman” is to get a glimpse of what it must have been like in previous eras when people were burned at the stake, or avoided being burnt, depending on whether they could use the precise, correct formulation expected of them that year regarding the status of the communion wafer. It is painful to see them struggle. Even more painful that our society seems to demand it. But that is the way with religions. They have their dogmas, and to speak against them is to suffer potentially serious punishment.

It is only 6 months since Sir David Amess was slaughtered at a surgery meeting in his constituency. It is less than a week since his killer, Ali Harbi Ali, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his murder. And what has been the response of MPs to this murder of one of their colleagues? Almost nothing.

Immediately after Sir David’s murder the House of Commons met and MPs mourned his passing as though their colleague had died of natural causes. The most any of them could do was to stress the significance of the “Online harms bill” – an obsession among MPs, who apparently believe that tackling internet anonymity is one of the great causes of our day.

Of course nothing that Ali Harbi Ali did was anonymous. It turns out that he had staked out a number of MPs, hoping to kill one in the name of his fanatical Islamist ideology. After slaughtering Sir David Amess, Ali sat around waiting for the police to arrive. It would be hard to imagine anything less anonymous.

So where was the MP outrage? “Ah well”, the few of us who asked this question were told, “we must wait for the trial and not risk prejudicing it”. Yet there was no such resistance to finding motives after the equally dreadful killing of Jo Cox in 2016. The trial of Sir David’s killer has now come and gone and still there has been no discussion about it. No lessons learned. Indeed Sir David appears to have been “memory-holed”. It was the same after Khairi Saadallah killed three gay men in a park in Reading in 2020. Almost nobody – even in the gay press – wanted to speculate about the motives of the killer who said he committed his crimes in the name of Islamic fundamentalism.

The reason is not just that our society fears to discuss the connection between Islam and violence (though it certainly fears that). It is that our society is terrified of anything which might throw any doubt onto our great belief in “diversity”. For this is perhaps the greatest, holiest precept of our time.

In fact diversity has upsides and downsides. Allowing a certain number of religious fanatics into the country is one of the downsides, and Sir David was among those to suffer for it. But we don’t like to talk about that, because we don’t really know what to do about it. Any more than a Labour MP knows what to do these days when faced with a basic question of biology.

There are many other similar cases where issues which don’t fit neatly with the new religion of diversity are simply brushed under the carpet. I have covered them in a number of recent books. With each passing year, we seem increasingly intent on pushing away the fact that the world is complex: that most things do not fall along completely clear lines, much though we might wish them to. Few things are unalloyedly good, and a reasonable, not to mention rational society would be capable of accepting that. Only a faith-based society cannot. And our society is now deeply, dogmatically faith-based. Albeit about a faith that has not yet properly worked itself out.

On balance I preferred the old faith. It was the product of generations of thought and wisdom, built upon reason as well as tradition. How one might long for it now, surrounded as we are by dogmatists and bullies (always dressed up in the garb of victims) demanding we submit to their faith, whether we believe in it or not.

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