Cosas de España or Galiza
The Spanish love to walk along the water’s edge on their beaches – something I’m not sure I’ve seen anywhere else. But, then, I avoid beaches, if I possibly can. Anyway, I read yesterday – but can’t quite believe – that you can pay a company to organise beach-walking tours for you. It takes all sorts.
Talking of fun . . . Galicia will be host to 44 ‘fiestas of touristic interest’ this summer. Something for everyone, then, ending here in Galicia with the Feira Franca celebration of the medieval city in early September. Or maybe the Octoberfest in a big tent in mid-October.
Heading for a car-less city‘ says a headline in the Diario de Pontevedra, above an article on our car-hating mayor’s latest urban plan. This calls for another 4km of city centre streets to be ‘humanised’/pedestrianised. Something that won’t be universally welcomed but the man is on a mission, fulled by global fame for what he’s done over the last 22 years in power here. Enough, perhaps, to justify the label cacique.
Land ownership in Galicia . . . María has kindly advised me that: The hill behind your house belongs to a “Comunidade de Montes.” These common associations are quite old. Ours supposedly dates from the 18th century, at least. The profit from them is destined to the village or parish it belongs to, sometimes in the form of dividends, others in betterments of the community. It’s a medieval institution that has, surprisingly, survived. The community behind my house is currently involved in a dispute re the legality of houses built on the hillside. The issue centres on 2 conflicting boundary maps of the 1980s. If the community wins, we’ll all have to pay them something. Which is what it’s all about.
Crucially, the monarchy’s central role in British life moderates our politics and society. It drastically reduces the threat of extremism, violence or ideological overreach. More below, justifying this rosey view.
The Times: As TV viewers wondered what was happening outside the Stade de France, the French interior minister offered an explanation: “Thousands of British ‘supporters’, ticketless or with fake tickets, have forced their way in and sometimes assaulted the stewards,”. Perhaps he thought his countrymen would rally around his attempt to blame Liverpool fans for the mayhem. However, instead of being lauded for attacking ‘les rosbifs’, he was accused of peddling lies to divert attention from a law and order breakdown that the right attributes to youths of immigrant origin and the left to heavy-handed police tactics. The upshot is a political setback for Macron that could have damaging consequences for his next 5 years in power.
Ukraine v. Russia
Putin’s war is just beginning, says the writer of this article.
Vegan leather: This is often made from polyurethane but can also be made from materials such as pineapple leaves, cork, apple peels, other fruit waste, and recycled plastic. So, not really ‘leather’, then.
Finally . . .
Lest I forget, I shall have to expand the acronym on the back of my front door, to avoid this:-
For passing readers: 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.
Welcome to new subscriber Foxpass. As ever, I wonder if my posts will ever be read by him/her/ze/them
Britain still has a chance of avoiding the terrible fate of America and France. Monarchy gives the UK in-built advantages over the powerful authoritarian forces now battering the West: Allister Heath, The Telegraph
Britain is a lucky country, and not just because we have been blessed with the most extraordinary Queen these past 70 years. The constitutional monarchy she heads has turned out to be one of our country’s greatest strengths, a central reason why we remain a haven of tranquillity, prosperity and liberty in a world of chaos, revolution and warfare.
The monarchy is not an afterthought, a symbol, a relic of the past: it is one of Britain’s central institutions, a driver of who we are as a nation, an engine of renewal and unification, absorbing the present into our past, powering our unusual ability to reinvent ourselves without jettisoning our essence. It serves as a bulwark against extremism, against demagogues, tyrants, fascists, communists, and woke cancellers.
The 1,136 years of Royal continuity since Alfred the Great have been a remarkable story of evolution, a shift from absolutism to rule by consent, from feudalism to a form of capitalism, from Catholicism to a multi-faith society, from Anglo-Saxon kingdom to empire to Brexit. The monarchy, paradoxically, given what it was prior to Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, now protects the people against power. The monarch serves as a reminder to politicians that they are not, ultimately, in total control: there are forces and institutions above them.
Other methods exist to protect nations against extremism or tyranny, such as the division of powers at the heart of the US constitution. But the downside for America is constant paralysis and an inability to reform institutions that are broken. Thanks to our constitutional monarchy, we are able to evolve when necessary; others must raze everything if they are to change. This is no naive paean to a Whiggish view of history: plenty of the changes made to this country over time have been bad, with botched devolutions a case in point. But we can cope with and absorb damaging ideas or ideological revolutions without losing our souls; the French and Russians and even Americans cannot.
It used to be argued by republicans that meritocracy was incompatible with a monarchy: the huge changes of the past few decades, Big Bang in the City, the drastic progress made by the working classes in the 1980s and by minorities in the 2010s, has shown this not to be true. Anybody in Britain today can be prime minister or a billionaire.
Crucially, the monarchy’s central role in British life moderates our politics and society. It drastically reduces the threat of extremism, violence or ideological overreach, a quality that the rest of the world values hugely about Britain.
A monarchy, with its titles, palaces, carriages and servants, is obviously not compatible with communism, although it can coexist with pretty radical Left-wing governments. The Royal family is inherently internationalist, as is the Commonwealth: autarky or complete isolationism would be psychologically difficult. When military personnel sign up to the Armed Forces they swear an Oath of Allegiance not to the prime minister, but to the Queen: the threat of a coup organised by some hothead demagogue is vanishingly small.
The Queen’s role as head of the Church of England – and the possibility that, one day, the monarch’s role may broaden into that of defender of all faiths – militates against compulsory, official secularism as well. The Queen’s heartfelt Christianity, her moral language and leadership, have helped break down barriers between the faiths, made it easier for minority worshippers to feel fully British, and, in a way that baffles legalistic French and American observers, helped enshrine religious pluralism in Britain. Over time this will hopefully help defuse both Islamism and extreme-Right sentiment, and forge a more tolerant and integrated society at a time of mass immigration.
Monarchies’ time horizons are extremely long, a useful counterpoint to a social media-addled age where attention spans are diminishing, where senior roles turn over too quickly in the public and private sectors, where ministers come and go every year, and where wisdom and experience are undervalued. Western societies also tend to downplay the importance of the family: nepotism is rightly taboo in educational institutions, big firms and the public sector. But in the private sphere, in the real world, the family and blood ties matter, and often more than anything else. The Royal family reminds us of the continuity between the generations, even when there are tensions, disagreements and scandals. When millions are battling atomism, a demographic implosion, loneliness and a quest for meaning, anything that rebalances our perceptions of the good life is surely welcome.
Yet the greatest danger to our societies today is disintegration from within, the idea that our countries are inherently evil, racist and “white supremacist”, that free speech, the rule of law and democracy are cover for “microaggressions” and “violence”, that genders and ethnicities should be pitted against one another, and that anybody who disagrees should be “cancelled” and destroyed.
Here again I’m hopeful that Britain will, in time, be better placed to stave off much of this woke revolution. The monarchy has become a unifying focal point around which every group can coalesce without degenerating into identity politics: all can feel pride. It is an institution that reminds us of our unique history, of the extension of rights, individual and political freedoms and immense economic opportunity that has characterised British history. No honest reading of the past 1,000 years can remotely claim that we are uniquely bad – for all our flaws, all our mistakes, we have long been a beacon among nations, improving and developing before others and tackling injustices more quickly.
The Queen’s reign, and her deeds, expose the woke critique as preposterously wrong-headed and imbecilic. Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi, perfectly captured Her Majesty’s remarkable qualities and dedication in his special Jubilee prayer: “Her crown is honour and majesty; her sceptre, law and morality. Her concern has been for welfare, freedom and unity, and in the lands of her dominion, she has sustained justice and liberty for all races, tongues and creeds.”
The monarchy, and the Queen in particular, have provided us with an in-built advantage in contending with the destabilising forces battering Western democracies. For that, and for everything else Her Majesty has given us during her 70 extraordinary years on the throne, we should be eternally grateful.