28 November 2022: A song and gossip; An unmourned murder; Vox in Pv; German failings; China on the edge?; & Other stuff

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

All you need to know about the (wordless) Spanish national anthem.

For those interested in royal gossip, the latest podcast from Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn/Larsen is now out. With tidbits about ‘drooling sycophants’ and the ex-king’s fondness for fake Xmases.

One of those Spanish headlines I treasure: They killed El Malaguita next to a witchcraft altar in a drug den. I think we can correctly guess his profession and why he was knocked off.

Here in Pv city, this was a stand I saw in the centre yesterday.

It was for those who wanted to know more about the execrable Vox party. The slogan says Afraid of nothing and no-one. In contrast, most of us are terrified of them and what they’d do if they got into power. 

I often advise newcomers to Spain: The Spanish don’t have plans; only intentions. So, I’m wondering if I should sign up for a trip to Portugal set up for next Monday, during one of Spain’s many puentes . . . . On the plus side, a hotel has already been booked by 2 of the group. A good sign.

The UK 

Scotland again . . . Effie Deans addresses Nicola Sturgeon here. This should be read by all who think the break-up of the UK is inevitable. A very relevant sentence:Scotland is called a country but it is not an independent sovereign nation state and cannot suppose that it has the rights of one. I suppose one must say the same of The Basque Country. And Cataluña. The next 2 sentences are also very relevant: The UK is a unitary state with devolution and it has the same right to territorial integrity as Scotland would have if it were independent. The fact that the parts of the UK are called countries and play international football is quite immaterial.


A fluent German speaker and ‘friend of the country’ – Ian Dale – feels that: Germany’s Putin appeasement still shames Europe. And that: Even now, the country’s political elite is attempting to justify its scandalous approach to the Kremlin. Despite Boris Johnson’s loose relationship with the truth, he adds, this time he’s surely rightGermany should never be allowed to escape the shame it ought to feel over both its reaction to the Ukraine crisis and its policy in the previous decade of cosying up to Vladimir Putin in order to suck on the teat of cheap Russian energy supplies.


Quite possibly optimistically, one commentator says of the riots there:This could be the beginning of the end for Xi Jinping. Only a month after China’s leader consolidated his rule, the country’s citizens may have reached a tipping point due to draconian lockdowns. I expect, with confidence, Mr Xi will react ever more severely to the threat of revolution. What other options does a (still breathing) autocrat have? Witness Putin in Russia, for one.

The Way of the World

You couldn’t make it up . . . A Cambridge University college dean has been accused of heresy after backing a sermon that suggested Jesus Christ had a “trans body”. He said such a view was “legitimate” after congregation members were left “in tears” by a sermon at evensong. The address at the chapel was delivered by a junior research fellow, who supported his claim by showing 3 medieval and renaissance paintings of the Crucifixion, depicting a side wound that he likened to a vagina. How our grandchildren will laugh.

More seriously, below is a review of a program I was glad I’d decided to watch last night. Enough to make you cry, not laugh.

Did You Know?.

The majority of Brits – 56% – don’t use the Oxford comma. 25% do but the remaining 19% don’t know what it is. Which is this. I do and I don’t, depending on whether it’s necessary for clarity.

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. 


Simon Schama’s History of Now review — this rage against apathy was personal for Schama

Now feels like a pretty good time for the BBC to broadcast Simon Schama’s History of Now. “Now” is when we have Vladimir Putin peddling lies to justify his vicious war on Ukraine, when Alex Jones can foully claim that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, when not long ago Donald Trump’s aide used the phrase “alternative facts”, about which people sniggered (ho, ho, ho — what’s he like?) but is straight-up Orwellian.

Schama reminded us, using the world’s recent past, how political disinformation helps to destroy democracy and erase truth (try finding history books in China about the Tiananmen Square massacre). He was in no mood for pussyfooting. For Schama, 77, this was personal and emotional because he has lived a lot of this history, as have many of his viewers.

He said that he was born in February 1945 during the Nazi rocket attacks on London, and stood on a balcony in Prague recalling how he wept in front of the television during the Velvet Revolution in 1989, which ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia, because he had thought it would never happen.

His voice cracked again as he told his camera crew: “Between us, you know, that’s why I’m so upset about what’s happening right now with Ukraine. We cannot afford the liquidation of democracy . . . or else we’ll all be sunk back into a life of lies again.

The despair hung on his face as he recalled those people who say that Putin and Ukraine are “none of our business”, that it’s “just the way of the world”. People should be taking notice, getting angry, not just buying “a new pair of sneakers and [getting] on a plane to Ibiza,” he said. “I’m an old man. I don’t want to die with the world selling its soul down that particular crummy river.” It was a quiet rage against apathy and taking freedom for granted. They kept this apparently unscripted aside in, presumably because it was one of the best bits.

When Schama is on form, there is no guide quite like him to serenade the viewer through history, even though he did use the phrase “speak truth to power”, which is becoming as tiresomely ubiquitous as “Keep Calm and Carry On”. He was eloquent explaining how at times of crisis it is not always politicians but artists, writers and musicians who are the true agents of change. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and Ai Weiwei’s installation featuring 200 tonnes of mangled rods to signify the student deaths caused by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake were cited as examples.

So was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, written after he witnessed the totalitarian lies told by General Franco’s military during the Spanish Civil War. But also the very brave Nadya Tolokonnikova, a Russian political activist and founding member of Pussy Riot, who served two years’ hard labour in a penal colony. She credited reading Vaclav Havel’s The Power of the Powerless for getting her through the ordeal. “Art can save people’s lives,” she said.

More time could have been spent with Ai, whose studios were destroyed by the state, so much do they fear his art; he said the world is now like the Titanic drifting towards an iceberg. But it was a fine episode and one that should be required viewing for all the fake news and conspiracy theory hawkers. But they probably won’t watch it because it was on the “mainstream media”.