9 June 2022: A great road trip, Prostitution; Restaurant news; Robin Hood; Pleather; & Other stuff.

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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 or Galiza 

The Daily Telegraph today publishes 10 great European road trips you must do in your lifetime, none of which are in Spain. So, I was pleased to see one reader citing a day in the Picos de EuropeThe next nearest thing to flying without your 2 or 4 wheels leaving the ground. The trip from Potes to Riaño, returning via Cangas de Onis, is described as breathtaking, in the company of golden eagles. I’d go along with that.

It’s no secret that prostitution is a massive industry here in Spain. After all, you can’t miss the obvious brothels on the edge of most towns and cities. In fact, the UN puts Spain 3rd behind only Thailand and Puerto Rico for this. Prostitution here involves a great deal of people trafficking from 3rd world countries and the Spanish government intends to stop this next year by criminalising those who profit from it. Though not the sex-workers themselves. This won’t end prostitution, of course, but it might just reduce the appalling trafficking.

There’s to be no Second Coming. With sadness, the disgraced ex-king has said he won’t be returning to Sanxenxo – The Marbella of Galicia – to spend time with with his old sailing pals. His reasons are ‘private’. Some will miss him, I guess.

The Spanish government – in order to reduce waste – is going to make it compulsory for restaurants to offer doggy-bags at the end of your meal. I rather thought this was already the case but maybe, as of now, they’re only obliged to give you one if you ask for it. As with tap water.

Inditex is a major clothes manufacturer* based here in Galicia, in La/Coruña. You might know it better by the name of its flagship store, Zara – the biggest of its several outlets. Anyway, after the poor Covid years, times are now good, with percentage margins and net profits well up on last year. As much as 80% in the latter case, from €421 million to €760 million during the 3 months to the end of April. Which can’t be bad for Galicia.  *Actually, the world’s largest fashion retailer.

HT to Lenox Napier Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas for the news that the traffic police have found yet another way to fine a driver for some ludicrous reason – viz. shopping bags on the back seat. Up to €200 . . .

The UK 

There are several theories about the origin of Robin Hood and I was intrigued to hear that one of these is that, back in the 13th century, he was the sort of picaresque character that the Spanish have more recently taken to their hearts – i.e. a rough and dishonest but appealing hero.

The Way of the World 

‘Twee’ is defined as “over-nice,” “precious” and “mawkish” , as in the phrase “as nauseatingly twee as the worst of Disney”.  The writer of the article below on The Triumph of Twee claims that: Once culturally marginal – a series of aesthetic mannerisms associated with greetings cards and downmarket children’s books – twee is now the establishment style. At least in the Anglosphere, where this child-like and silly approach is the distinctive style of our age. Having originated, of course, in the USA. I do enjoy a good rant.

Spanish

Un gazapo:  A blooper. Such as claiming that Santiago’s cathedral is in Vigo.

Un/una podemita:  Defined as: Un/una afiliado/a o simpatizante del partido político español Podemos. But I also saw it given ‘A Druid’, which is surely wrong, as this is Una druida..

English

Pleather. The  slang term for the material I mentioned recently –  ‘plastic leather’. Which is made by bonding plastic to a fabric backing and is often used as a cheaper substitute for leather, being lighter than the real stuff and not as quick to decompose. And far more acceptable, I guess, to today’s young folk.

Finally . . .

This post is early today because at 9, I’ll set off to walk on the Portuguese Camino from Pv to Caldas de Reis, about 22km. I’m joining a small group of (North) Americans being guided by Mark Auchincloss, a Scotsman resident here in Galicia who – as you can see here – has a finger in several Galician pies. And who  last night kindly bought me dinner in a new place for me in Pv. Would that there were more readers like him . . .

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.

thoughtsfromgalicia.com 

Finally, finally: Write to me here, if you want to see a memoir of my first 15 months in Spain, 2000-2001, entitled So, you fancy moving to Spain.

THE ARTICLES 

The ugly truth about the triumph of twee. The distinctive style of our age is child-like and silly, and the big corporations are exploiting it: James Marriott, The Times

Waking to the news that a massed formation of 400 drones had flown over Buckingham Palace in the shape of a smiling corgi 600 feet high, I reached sceptically for my phone. I spent the jubilee weekend in Budapest and reports of the celebrations back home reached me confusedly. Few of them sounded credible. Paddington Bear assaulted a member of the palace catering staff? The Queen played We Will Rock You on a teapot? A drone corgi? But there it was, luminous and sinister, dominating the nighttime sky over London. I watched the footage with awe — awe, obviously, at the sheer airborne scale of the corgi. But also awe at this almost imperial triumph of twee.

Twee is “over-nice,” “precious” and “mawkish”, according to the OED, which cites the phrase “as nauseatingly twee as the worst of Disney”. Justly. The sugary whiff of Disney is the best evidence of twee. Once culturally marginal — a series of aesthetic mannerisms associated with greetings cards and downmarket children’s books — twee is now the establishment style.

When the Queen was presented to her subjects at the coronation 70 years ago, the emphasis was on dignity and mystery: uniformed soldiers, a naval review, the BBC’s cameras forbidden from capturing the sovereign’s face in close-up. In the 1950s, this was still the language of power: formal, pompous, sternly detached. Parading for the Queen in 2022 were Teletubbies, a man in a Shaun the Sheep costume, women dressed as afternoon tea, a towering motorised cake.

None of this is the invention of monarchy. The organisers of the jubilee pageant understood that modern power clothes itself in twee. In a recent video Mark Zuckerberg guided viewers round the metaverse, the virtual reality universe where he hopes we will one day live for his profit, in the guise of an adorable cartoon avatar of himself. Last year Elon Musk changed his job title to “Technoking of Tesla”. On Twitter he promotes “dogecoin”, a cryptocurrency symbolised by a smiling overweight dog.

When the state or large corporations wish to communicate with us, they soften the interaction by using the language and conventions of twee. Renewing my Vodafone contract last week I was instructed to pour out my grievances to TOBi, an insipid, helmeted “digital assistant” who looks like he has been expelled from a Mario Kart game and condemned to office work. Returning from Budapest I was guided through the electronic passport gate by a video of an animated plasticine man.

Twee is now a cultural default; the distinctive style of our age. Our emojis, gifs and memes will mark us as surely to the generations of the future as the wing collars, tailcoats and elaborate ceremonies of social deference marked our ancestors. Grown-up men and women love Disney and Harry Potter. In Charlie Mackesy’s interminably bestselling The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, the characters advise each other that “help” is the bravest word and “everyone is a bit scared”. The most prominent symbol of the modern far right is a cartoon frog named Pepe.

Twee is peculiarly modern. The past had little notion of twee: consider the harshness and ugliness of the babies and animals painted by Renaissance masters. Its present apogee is often attributed to a desire for comfort amid the “uncertainty” of our times. This seems inadequate. Most of history has been uncertain. The war-shadowed 1930s was an intensely serious decade.

The roots of twee stretch in many directions. Americanisation is part of it, I think. So is the 1960s and 1970s obsession with the naive wisdom of children and the idea we all have an “inner child” with whom we must “get in touch”.

Most important perhaps is the egalitarian spirit that has led to the decline of old-fashioned highbrow snobberies about elite cultural forms such as classical music and poetry. I arrived at university with obnoxious provincial fantasies of philosophical discussion and discovered, alas, a flourishing Disney society. Childhood is the universal experience and the culture of children is the most widely shared (who hasn’t seen a Disney film?). A love of childish things is a mark of democratic taste and an aversion to pomposity. Britain, with its long (often admirable) tradition of anti-intellectualism is especially vulnerable.

I can’t bring myself to hate Paddington and corgis but twee can be as oppressive as the formal, serious culture that preceded it. If our ancestors denied themselves the silly, child-like side of human nature, we now ourselves deny its solemn and difficult aspects. Twee is an aesthetic for an age uninterested in ethical complexity, which prefers good and bad as neatly separated as they are at Hogwarts. It fits the childish behaviour of social media’s most active users who swing between condemnatory temper tantrums and cooing over anthropomorphised animals.

Most of all, I’m suspicious of how easily twee has been appropriated by powerful corporations. It’s easier to rip someone off with a smiling wide-eyed chatbot. A whimsical “Technoking” sounds more benign than a cigar-wielding industrialist. An illusion, of course. Decades ago, an older generation grew suspicious of the way deference, sober suits and formal manners hid wrongdoing and the abuse of power. Today we must learn to be just as suspicious of the hypocrisy and concealments of cartoons, fluffy animals and vapid injunctions to “be kind”.

2 comments

  1. Many thanks. Yes, I did until about 3.10 . . .

    The restaurant – O Bioco – is very good

    C.

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