21 April 2022: Barcelona v Madrid, again; Gib hassle; Regional GDP pc; Gallego news; Russia, at length; & 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

Oh, dear . . . Catalonia has suspended political relations with Madrid after allegations that the Spanish authorities used spyware to hack the phones of pro-independence Catalan leaders.

After a brief suspension of EU rules, Spanish police are now stopping Brits trying to enter Spain from Gibraltar and demanding evidence of both onward travel and sufficient funds to finance their stay in Spain, at €100 each per day. But no problems if you have Gibralterian or Spanish residence status. If you’re looking to increase tourism income, this seems a tad counterproductive to me.

Here’s a table on regional GDP levels. As usual, Extremadura is bottom of the income/wealth pile, but the surprise is that Galicia isn’t second to last. All that drug revenue, I guess:-

As you can see, Madrileño per capita income is almost twice that of Extremaduran’s.

Here in Galicia, I note that the local news section of the Diario de Pontevedra is now mostly in Gallego, which is a bit of a nuisance. In contrast, all the national and international news  – presumably syndicated – is in Castellano. I mentioned the power of the Town Hall the other day and I, naturally, see signs of this here, given that the (nationalist) mayor usually talks only in Gallego. Except to foreigners like me.

Need I say that – despite the removal of the obligation – most folk in Pontevedra city are still wearing a mask indoors. Or 100% of them in my Pilates class yesterday. Being a gentleman, I felt compelled to follow suit. For now. This reminds me that, at the door we go through a rigmarole of putting plastic covers on our shoes, then – once past the doormat – taking them off and walking barefoot into the exercise room. Which process seems to me to be vitiated by one or two of the ladies walking onto the (contaminated) doormat in their protected shoes before they enter or leave. But I say nothing. Especially about the research that shows the virus can’t be caught from surfaces. Maybe it’s some other fear behind it all.

On weightier matters . . .


Everyman and his wife have been trying to work out what Putin’s thinking and his strategy were, prior to current failures/limited successes. And how to respond to whatever these actually are. The latest edition of Prospect magazine has several relevant articles:-

1. Russia’s unintended effect on Europe.

2. How to stop a new Cold War

3. Syria was a rehearsal for Ukraine. Putin’s real geopolitical strategy

4. The descent of Putin – a rational man in 2002 – into fanaticism.

In the last of these articles, an ex UK Defence Secretary stresses something I concluded weeks ago: For all the talk of NATO provocation and aggression, Putin’s real fear is of Ukraine joining the EU and becoming a genuine democracy. Like West Germany next door to East Germany, I guess. As he puts it: While Nato has been at the centre of the conversation, that is not what keeps Putin awake at night. What rang the alarm bells in the Kremlin was when Ukraine was offered an association agreement with the EU. . . .  That is the prospect that has long haunted Putin . . . If Ukraine went in that direction, would the democratic virus reach into Moscow too?

And here’s a letter to the mag from someone who should have a good perspective on the issue of What next:-

Ukraine has witnessed horrendous Russian aggression in recent weeks. Western policymakers are focused on how far to bolster Ukraine’s military capability; how to deter the Russians from employing chemical or nuclear weapons in battle; and, if they do, how to respond. At the same time, as the Russian campaign falters and the situation on the ground moves to siege warfare or stalemate, flickers of a reduction in Moscow’s ambitions appear—perhaps a pledge of Ukrainian neutrality and a transfer of territory to form a Russian ‘landbridge’ to Crimea will do?

Even if Moscow plays for time, the allies, with Ukraine, should think now about postwar policy. Three components will be crucial: the territorial and security settlement; the rebuilding of Ukraine, including politically; and policy towards Russia.

There is no appetite for rewarding Russia for invasion, and Ukraine will rightly resist losing territory. But the outlines are visible of an agreement comprising armed neutrality underpinned by credible external guarantees, and a status for Luhansk and Donetsk that is better for Kyiv than that in the 2014 Minsk formula. Crimea will be hard to solve. Allies and western financial institutions should prioritise helping Ukrainians to rebuild their devastated country. The EU should commit to Ukrainian membership, accompanied by the political reform that Kyiv still needs. And Russia? It depends how long the barbarism lasts and what happens inside the Kremlin. Even if Putin is deposed, finding credible interlocutors free from complicity in war crimes will not be easy. There will be no return to cordial relations. Trust, goodwill and too many links, political and economic, have been broken. Equally, indefinite Cold War-style containment, continental division and the implicit punishment of all Russians, with the risk of forcing together a broken Russia and a dominant China, would not be wise either.

A conditional resumption of a much less integrated relationship seems on the cards. The outcome will test western unity.

– Pauline Neville-Jones, former chair, Joint Intelligence Committee

The Way of the World

A clinical psychologist has urged caution for any young person considering transitioning. Dr Anderson warned that teenagers seeking to transition may not be transgender but may be “cycling through identities” during adolescence. As I’ve said, exactly my experience with one of my daughters, at 15.

A British Shakespearean scholar has been sanctioned by Twitter for ‘abuse’ after he quoted the Bard’s famous line “Let’s kill all the lawyers”. Will all of Shakespeare’s stuff be banned next? Or just the historical dramas? And maybe The Merchant of Venice for being antisemitic? And The Taming of the Shrew for being misogynist? As I’ve asked: Where will it all stop?

Finally . . . 

Judging from Google searches, the most common dream in the world is about snakes. The next most common is teeth falling out, which comes first in 17 countries.

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.