27 November 2022:

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 de España/Galiza

Spain – or a rather, the Madrid to Barcelona bit – now has another low-cost rain option – the Italian company Iryo. I doubt I’ll see either that one or the French one in Galicia during my lifetime. Though I might just get to see a fast train between Vigo and Ooporto.

Spanish politics: A Spanish commentator reflects on the abuse of the last week, in one  of those poor (machine?) translations here. The final word – educated – doesn’t in fact mean ‘educated’ in Anglo terms.

As you’d expect . . . A Spanish olive oil has been judged the joint best extra-virgin in the world – from over 800 others from 20 countries. Details here. En passant, it costs €40 a litre. Galician olive oil – yes, it exists – is a lot cheaper.

Lugo’s main claim to fame has justice done to it in this Twitter stream. Keep going past other examples.

Life in Spain:

1.  A Spanish friend invited folk to wine and finger food at her place last night. One of the invitees replied she couldn’t make it, as she was having lunch with her brother and his family. Intimating that this would last well into the evening. In the event, she arrived at 9pm.

2.  This is the video I wanted to sent to my blood-spitting friend yesterday. Reader David kindly supplied the link

And another video on the theme of Spanish bureaucracy, also from David. What life would be like if everyone serving us was a funcionario.

I don’t know what the overall number for smoking is in Spain but I’d bet a lot it isn’t as low as the UK’s 14% in 2019. Especially not among young Spanish females.

The UK 

The view is growing that the Scottish First Minister – Nicola Sturgeon – has had her day, after failing to achieve majority support for the independence she’s relentlessly pursued for years. To the detriment, say many, to other priorities such as economic growth, education and health. It’s rumoured that the wants to depart elegantly by moving to a job in Brussels. Which prompted one wag to say that, if true, this mean the EU must be in an even worse state than he’d thought. Anyway, I’m sure the British government would be happy to see her kicked upstairs. So, will happily support any job application she makes, stressing that’s she’s an outstanding political performer. Or something of that ilk. Even though she’s detested in Downing Street.

Corruption. The article below raises a nice question or two. Especially the last one.

The World Cup

Cristiano Ronaldo has been called a “total genius” by Fifa for the way in which he won a penalty for Portugal in their victory over Ghana. Bloody ‘ell. It looked like a trademark Ronaldo dive to me. And to many others. Possibly the only way he can score these days, as his glorious talents fade.

But very nice to see Messi scored, helping Argentina give themselves a chance to reach the knock-out phase.

Spanish 

Another letter I need to practice making more forceful – G. I said Gaditano to a Spanish friend last night and he heard Caditano . . .

Did You Know?

Allyson Felix was a US Olympics champion between 2008 and 2016. Her best 400m time would, in 2022, place her at 689th on the US boys’ high-school performance list. Perhaps something to ponder about when deciding whether ‘transgender women’ have advantages over ‘people with a cervix’.

For new readers:-

1. 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.

2. Should you want to, the easiest way to to get my post routinely is to sign up for email subscription. As opposed to using a Bookmark or entering the URL. 

THE ARTICLE

I interviewed Michelle Mone. She makes every grasping, lazy peer look like an angel: Camilla Long, The Times

The moment she strode into the bar at the Dorchester, I knew it was going to be a great — great — interview. The long, tumbling margarine curls, the dark blue claws, the quavering, edgy sense that she might say or do something completely wild. At one point, after she had cried loudly over her divorce from her husband, she turned beseechingly to me to wail: “Why did I want to be Michelle Mone?”

Why did she want to “start all these businesses”? “Why can I never be satisfied with what I’ve got?”

Why couldn’t she simply be happy, when she’d lost six stone and invented “the frontless bra, the backless bra, the frontless, backless bra”, she moaned

A random man came up to tell her she was beautiful and that “if you have any marriage hiccups, I’m always here”. But it didn’t seem to help. Later, almost absent-mindedly, she sat in his lap and the lap of his friend and accepted kisses from both of them, before taking me to see her new collection, where she singled out a long, lacy red sex sheath at the entrance to the Dorchester’s Crystal Room and whispered, “I’ve got no one to wear this for any more.”

I remember thinking: are you for real? She was the most chaotic person I’d ever met.

You occasionally come across people like Mone in interviews. They’re narcissists, obviously — ambitious, flinty, flamboyant. But there’s something else: a nasty whiff, a flicker of anger, a sense that this person might lamp you or knife your Porsche or threaten to “punch in” a group of models. A former member of staff said that while she was working for her, Mone had rounded on some girls who refused to wear thongs. As she said to me: “I am very, very demanding. I am a nightmare. I’ve got OCD. Everything has to be perfect.” The madness, the crystals, the cowering staff — for some reason politicians dig this. Is it because they feel they, by contrast, are poor and therefore boring? But it isn’t long before a huge scandal engulfs them.

If, like me, you are inclined to glaze over at the words “PPE” and “Covid contracts”, you may not have read the granular detail of the story about Mone that appeared in the papers last week. But it is shocking. With the help of her husband, an entrepreneur called Doug, Mone is said to have received £29 million from the profits of an opaque PPE business. To give you an idea of the scale of this — or to put it in blunt terms of Tory greed — Geoffrey Robinson could buy Peter Mandelson at least 77 houses with that amount of money. It is a lot of pasties.

The couple have always insisted they had nothing to do with the company PPE Medpro, but documents from their bank revealed last week that £65 million of profits from the company went to Doug, who then transferred a slice to a secret offshore account for Mone and her children.

The reason they’ve always said they had nothing to do with it is that Mone used her position in the House of Lords to help the company get the contract, telling Michael Gove, among other ministers, to consider it for the VIP fast track in May 2020 and that “my team in Hong Kong” could help. Never mind that PPE Medpro didn’t even exist until five days after she spoke to the government; never mind that it had no accounts, no profile, nothing to show for its expertise but the contact for a factory in China. She took advantage of the chaos of Covid and it ended up with £200 million.

She has continued to deny any connection, even though her actual mansion on the Isle of Man is linked to the PPE business and there are WhatsApp messages to its staff in which “Lady Michelle” advised them about making the gowns from a private jet. I don’t know what was wrong with the surgical garments it produced — too many rhinestones, maybe — but they were unusable, and now the government is seeking to recoup money from the company. She is now the subject of a formal inquiry by the Lords for not declaring her interest in the firm and lobbying for it. The police are also said to be investigating.

What is a woman like this doing in the House of Lords? She makes every single other grasping, lazy peer scoffing its cheap foie gras look like an angel. How did it happen? If I could see, within minutes, that she was trouble, why couldn’t David Cameron?

What was it about this weeping tower of crystal-encrusted Glaswegian cray that made him think in 2015, oooh, let’s put it in the House of Lords? Vanity, I suppose — and his desperation to solve his “woman problem”. Which extended, I think, to underestimating this knicker totty from Glasgow. He probably thought she was too thick or too sexy to do any real damage — people make the same mistake with Angela Rayner.

Mone is typical of a new breed of Tory “lifestyle peers” who have flooded the Upper House in the past decade. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they have done, as long as they’re loaded and serve some minion-like purpose to whichever bored Tory prime minister has put them there. Offering up private jets or hotels, or simply a few vague lols — Mone was basically told to cover up her breasts by the Lords.

Along with Mone there is, of course, Evgeny Lebedev, who is so dedicated to democracy he has not even picked up the briefcase containing his letters patent — the official document granting his peerage — from the Lords cloakroom.

If you look at Mone’s track record now, it is appalling. It is not just the PPE contracts; it is the allegedly racist message she sent in 2019, in which she told a man of Indian heritage he was “a waste of a white man’s skin”. Then there was the cryptocurrency business she set up, intending to raise £80 million — it scraped together £1,600 after hiring 1,000 people to promote it. She described herself, comically, as “one of the biggest experts in cryptocurrency and blockchain”. There was the Dubai development that cratered. And let’s never forget the reason “I’m a Baroness for life” left Labour in the first place: greed, obviously — she didn’t like its 50 per cent top rate of tax.

How does someone like this end up in power? A measly criminal inquiry does not seem enough.