13 July 2022: Covid bills; Our heatwave; Spanish customer service; Bullrun no. 7; A guide to the Camino; French corridas; & Other stuff.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Dawn%2BBox%2BDay%2B2015.JPG
Awake! For, Morning, in the Bowl of Night, has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight
And, Lo, has caught the Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’


The bills are coming in . . . In New Zealand, PM Jacinta Ardern was one of the leading evangelists of zero-Covid. Her country was the laboratory for closed down borders, strict quarantines, and tough lockdowns. No one denies for a moment that some lives were saved. And yet as her economy crashes, we will see the cost of that. And right now it looks as if the price will be a very high one.

Life in Spain

The dial hit 38 degrees in Pv city yesterday, and it was 27 in my salón at 7 this morning, against ‘only’ 24 outside. Up in Ourense it was even worse, at 42 or more. As this map shows, it’s the only place in the whole of Spain on red alert this week:-

Ourense, in fact, is the only Spanish city which can be both the hottest in summer and the coldest in winter.

I’ve claimed that cheap modern technology allows Spanish companies to, effectively, ‘play at’ customer service. I ordered a replacement Lego part from a company called ToyPro and over the next 2 days received 5 emails from them – thanking me for the order, sending me an invoice, confirming payment, advising that the part was being packed and, finally, telling me it was being despatched. Eleven days later, it has yet to arrive. So, it was a bloody good job we found the missing piece shortly after I’d placed the order and were able to calm down my distraught grandson. Who’s now back in Madrid, so won’t be here when the part finally arrives. Unless this happens when he’s back here in 3 weeks’ time. Which can’t be ruled out at this point.

Sitting outside one of my favourite watering holes midday yesterday, I noted – as I have done many times – 2 or 3 folk going in with a notebook or PDA in hand. And exiting not so long afterwards. Guessing these were agents of suppliers, I asked the owner if the relevant companies didn’t have a phone or internet access. She told me some suppliers did but she preferred to deal with those who sent agents with a pencil or stilo. [Hola, Marta]

Cosas de España/Galiza

The 7th – and penultimate – bull-run in Pamplona this morning was very rapid and muy violenta, resulting again in 6 injuries. Unusually, it was led down the course by one or more of the bulls, not the cows(las cabestras). One of the injuries was to the head of a youth who was hit, tossed and trampled on. Happily, he was able – while being bandaged – to phone his mother to confirm his survival.

This is a Times guide to the Camino de Santiago, originally published in 2020. It’s fine as far as it goes and I learned that:-

  1. Long before Christianity, the ancients had broken the same trails en route to Finisterre — once believed to be the end of the world and the resting place of the sun.
  2. A total of 347,578 pilgrims made it to the shrine of St James in 2019 — an all-time record.
  3. God only knows why the Camino is so popular, but there’s always been a strange energy in Galicia. [Really? Does he mean rain?]
  4. There are more than 50 official pilgrimage routes. [I thought there were ‘only’ 43]
  5. As if I didn’t know, the Primitivo is a 193-mile knee-crunching option.

But . . . A few notes:

  • Mundicamino is a better option for info on the Camino
  • The lauded Camino Norte – as you can see there – doesn’t turn southwards from Santander but goes much further along the coast before it does this.
  • You can get Compostela stamps in cafés as well as the other places cited.
  • The ‘last stage’ of the Via de la Plata – through fairy-tale landscapes from Ourense to Santiago – is not a continuation of the Plata but part of the Camino de Sanabrés, which begins in Granja de Moreruela.

Talking of customer service . . . Here are the companies in Spain best thought of by the public. I’m not surprised that Mercadona is finally number one but the relatively high position of some banks did come as a bit of a shock.

Yesterday at midday, I was passed twice by a truck cleaning the streets of Pv`s old quarter. These, of course, are pretty crowded with adults and kids in July. Both times he passed, the driver was on his phone. Surely a sackable offence.

The UK

A topical view of the UK`s outgoing PM:-

And a valid valediction: There could be no grimmer epitaph for Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership than the list of his aspiring successors. On coming to power 3 years ago, he decapitated his party of talent. Like a new emperor fearful of rivals, he threw out anyone who offered an ounce of competence and dignity to his administration. Instead, the path to Downing Street is now crowded with a jostling rabble of second-raters. Including a certain
Rehman Chishti, whose name is totally new to me. And, I suspect, many others.

If you can bear it, there’s an article below from an ex Guardian columnist now writing for the right-of-centre Telegraph. Entitled: None of our leaders, Left or Right, has a clue.

Finally, a nice comment on the ‘heatwave’ there: The sun worked its usual magic on the British. As, with our heads raised from the usual driving rain, we spoke to strangers.


Here’s a surprise . . France, it says here, is the last bastion of bullfighting. The French fancy for bullfighting is at odds with the country’s penal code, which under article 521-1 bans “cruel acts and serious ill-treatment towards animals”. But this is a nation where patrimoine, heritage, is always the trump card.

Here’s a protest song, in French, sung from the bull’s point of view.


The James Webb telescope . . . Wow!


Lenox Napier has kindly sent me this chat, from ‘Middlemarch’. Rosamond and Fred Vincy arguing:-
“Are you beginning to dislike slang, then?” said Rosamond, with mild gravity.
“Only the wrong sort. All choice of words is slang. It marks a class.”
“There is correct English: that is not slang.”
“I beg your pardon: correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang of poets.”

Finally . . .

The famous Lola Montez was not the Spanish dancer she claimed to be, but the daughter of an Anglo-Irish family, born in 1821 with the name Eliza Rosanna Gilbert. I think it’s fair to say she was something of an adventuress, packing an awful lot into her 39 years. Much of which was spent sleeping her way around Europe, ending up as the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who bestowed on her the title of Countess of Landsfeld. In Spain, she’s known as Una hija de la fortuna but her luck ran out in Bavaria and, after less-than-totally-successful tours of the USA and Australia, she finally died just short of 40, allegedly of syphilis. See here for (a lot) more details of her colourful odyssey through life.

For new readers: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the i, you’ll find a guide to the city there.


None of our leaders, Left or Right, has a clue: Britain is stuck hobbling along with a tired two-party system that narrows thought and innovation: Suzanne Moore, The Telegraph

Boris has gone and he has not gone, and it is too hot to think about anything. Let us drift through summer being governed by a has-been, with various wannabes intimating that they have a clear vision for this country without ever really explaining it.

Some want to deport migrants to Rwanda, a cruel, unworkable policy. Jeremy Hunt wants the return of blood sports. Otherwise, it’s pay less tax but somehow get more stuff. There is a difference between taxing wealth and taxing income, which needs spelling out if “levelling up” is to mean anything. I prefer the word redistribution, but no Tory can utter it.

The country is stuck, as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pointed out, but can his party unstick it?

I fear not, as we hobble on with a generation of lightweight politicians and a tired two-party system that narrows thought and innovation.

The electorate, awkward as they are, simply cannot be squished into the holes that the old school Right and Left want to fit us into. We change our minds, we can want freedom and fairness at the same time and know that is a hard balance to achieve. We want to protect the vulnerable but look after our own families first. We can have more than one identity, one allegiance. We can see the world changing fast and question our place in it. We can aspire to the collective good but know that individualism is more of a vote winner – hence every Tory wannabe’s story of ‘struggle’, even Rishi Sunak, who apparently didn’t have any working-class friends.

Both main parties are now trying to hold together coalitions of voters with widely differing views. Brexit blew up the old allegiances. The pandemic reminded us about what mattered and now as we reshape ourselves, the Tories look aimless and Labour unprepared. Brexit itself has become little more than a form of identity politics; an incoherent belief system for the Right. It is part of the stuckness too.

Johnson has left the Tories exposed as they try to remember what it means to be a Conservative beyond cutting tax, but the Left are trapped in their identity crisis. What does it mean to be Left beyond telling others off for not being as good as you? The purity spirals are not, regrettably, a Right-wing fantasy. Someone called me an “apostate” this week – I am apparently falling into assured destruction by turning my back on a religious faith. It is true that I still hold to a fairly standard set of left-wing beliefs. But I turned away from the party that is meant to represent them aeons ago, long before Corbyn and the exhausting in-fighting of Labour.

It is not my job to be a client journalist for anyone. This accusation was levelled at my colleague Tim Stanley by a sneering Alistair Campbell last week on Question Time, when Stanley mentioned the Iraq war. This is hardly controversial. We live with the consequences of that disastrous war daily. We watch Russia flattening cities in Ukraine just as it did in Syria, and we didn’t intervene in Syria largely because of Iraq. But Campbell has made a career of all this: you are a friend or an enemy, there is no compromise, no humanity. Johnson’s moral universe is another wasteland, but if you ask me to choose between the likes of Campbell or Johnson, I say neither.

The Left appears to think it owns anti-racism and anti-sexism but has yet to be in striking distance of electing a woman leader. Does this matter? Well, yes. ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ is a feminist slogan after all. Perhaps my apostasy is tied to my quaint belief in material reality and biology which, for some unknown reason, much of the Left have chosen to denounce. Such gender heresy – believing women’s rights need to be protected – is now punishable by a Twitter bonfire fuelled by the bin juice that dribbles from the minds of so many self-righteous fools.

All this squabbling over identity and a tick-box set of beliefs means that as power drains away, vision is missing. “We must move on, we can’t move on” as Beckett did not write. Our politicians love to talk about a reboot. I say switch them off and don’t switch them on again.