8 August 2022: Spain’s future?; Train deals; Clouds v. clouds; Memories; & Other stuff

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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’

Cosas of Spain/Galiza

A gloomy view of Spain’s future?  

More on train ticket deals here.

There’s a bar in nearby Bueu which is handing out water pistols with which to fend off pigeons and even seagulls. I’ve been doing this for years in my favourite watering-hole, after the life-size wooden owl I brought from the UK had ceased to work.

Not what you want to see Saturday evening after that huge fire on the horizon on Friday evening. 

It turned out to be not what I feared but what I’d hoped it’d be – a sea mist crawling up the river. But I had to go down to the latter to confirm this. By Sunday morning it had covered the entire city, reducing the temperature from 30 to 16.

As it has done today too . . .

Which will probably shock my visitors from Madrid when they eventually wake up.

Finally/To amuse  . . 

Looking for a book in Spanish for my visiting son-in-law, I came across a little book of short stories by Ambrose Bierce and realised it was the first book in Spanish that I’d attempted, back in early 2001. The glaring proof of this was many, many pages like these:-

The first short story is An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, and I recalled being very impacted by a short (French) film of this, way back in the early days of my first marriage. You can see this here but don’t read anything about it before you do, other than: Author Kurt Vonnegut wrote in 2005: “I consider anybody a twerp who hasn’t read the greatest American short story, which is ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,’ by Ambrose Bierce. It is a flawless example of American genius, like ‘Sophisticated Lady’ by Duke Ellington or the Franklin stove.”

The Spanish rendition of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is El Puente sobre el rio del búho, and the French version is even shorter, La rivière du hibou. One wonders why.

Inside the back cover, I found this short list, in my own hand. It gives the reasons why I’d quit the UK 4 months previously. No idea why I committed these to paper, and at that point in time:- To move from existing to living To flee women [Actually just one] To escape stress To abandon a culture in decline To live in a less anally retentive society To find the peace and time to write Worked out pretty well. Except the women one . . . .

There’s also the words The Asociación de Habla Inglés, which was a godsend for me when I was first here, knowing almost no one and not speaking Spanish. Or Gallego . . .

Very sad to see that Judith Durham of The Seekers has passed away, at 79. Not so many years ago, after suffering a brain haemorrhage, she was asked by the doctor to sing a song, this is the one she chose. And here’s one of her earliest hits. What a voice. Different days. But the carnival is now over.

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 Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.


  1. On John Carlin: I know of a German chap somewhere up in Lincolnshire – not a rich chap at all – who hired and brought all the way from Poland an entire team of workers to re-do his house. He rented accomodation, paid for travel, the lot. Anything but hire brits, he said. I generally agree with Carlin, but I hope when he writes about the lack of meritocracy in Spain he does not mean “total absence of..” because that would be totally untrue. And also let’s not pretend that Britain is a meritocracy either. It is unsurprising for a waiter coming from a country with a harsher working environment and were being a waiter is a craft, and to a country where the locals are generally lazier than you are, to thrive. But as the letter in this blog implies, the media, the arts, the top echelons of the City and high ranking civil service, i.e. the positions coveted by the elite in the UK are off bounds to mere mortals, more so than in any country in Europe. Try getting into that realm without the required public school background……


    • Agreed.
      The problem with generalities is that they’re generally true.
      I’ve heard many stories of thwarted talent in Galicia/Spain and none of the same thing the UK.
      And I, as a council house kid and grammar school boy, didn’t suffer from any obstacles in my career in a large international company.
      But, of course, things might have been different in the Civil Service or in one or more professions.
      As for the rewards of hard work in Spain, my neighbours on both sides are evidence of this – one being a doctor and they other an entrepreneur making good money from a chemical process invention.


  2. I know your story…because I have been reading your blog on and off for the last 20 years. You worked for ICI, isn’t it?The, so called, British elite would not touch a job in manufacturing industry with a barge pole. Explains why companies like ICI were left to rot, then were dismembered and the bits sold off to (mostly) foreign multinationals – interestingly, all the companies that swallowed up parts of ICI are still doing mightly well and thriving. John Carlin never really worked in Spain, He worked as a correspondent and for a while wrote articles for El Pais. What does he know about office life in Spain? But overall there is a morcel of truth in what he writes. Nevertehless, I also know countless numbers of Spaniards who got their jobs without enchufes, thrived in them or their careers, and even enjoyed their jobs while working in Spain and/or for Spanish companies. Had Carlin spoken to one of his Spanish peers in Washington, are you telling me they would say they were not enjoying their job? Maybe his relative worked at bank branch, or held some boring civil service position. We don’t know because he does not say. I find Carlin’s explanations not entirely convincing, although, in general, as I said before, there is an element of reality in what he says.


    • Hi,

      Apologies for delay . . .

      Yes, ICI. A great company to have worked for, especially the rapidly growing Pharms Division which eventually became Zeneca and then merged with Astra. Plenty of opportunities.

      It seems we’ve lived and travelled in the same number of countries, which gives perspective. I’ve said several times that Spain’s culture is the best for me at my age and in my (early) retired situation. But that I doubt I’d have enjoyed working for a Spanish company, for one reason and another. I did set up a conveyancing business back in 2005 but my Spanish parter deatl withall local aspects while I dealt with the foreign customers, until I got bored and left the biz to my partner.

      The stories of endogamy, nepotism and croneyism do tend to colour one’s overview and Galicia will be worse for this than Madrid or Barcelona. A friend about to divorce was told by a judge in Vigo last week that Pontevedra is still in the Dark Ages wen it comes to considering custody of children . . . Along with 4 or 5 other cities in Spain.



  3. I read Ambrose Bierce, including Owl Creek, in my teenage years. I’ll have to look for his stories online and read them again. Somehow, they seemed much darker than other ghost stories. And Bierce’s disappearance gives them another air of the mysterious.


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