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
Galician courts – as well as others around Spain – have begun to retroactively reduce the sentences of those jailed for sexual offences now deemed less serious than rape. Hard cases make bad laws is a British legal dictum and it does seem that the left-of-centre government rather rushed into reform in this area, allegedly ignoring a warning from the judiciary that this would be one of the consequences. The Opposition is naturally calling for the head of the relevant minister. Which is very unlikely to be presented to them on a plate. Or in any way at all. People don’t resign or get sacked in Spain. It’s possible she’ll become an EU commissioner, the European equivalent of the British House of Lords as a refuge for sinners you don’t want to execute..
Yesterday’s flea market in Pv city was thin gruel when I went there around 1pm. The stands remaining were mostly the (illegal) ones of the gypsies. So, not much of interest. One of the latter was advertising his particular wares en alta voz and it struck me that I’ve never seen/heard this before in any Spanish street-market. In contrast, British markets are a cacophony of noise, with traders shouting such enticing come-ons as: ‘I’m not asking 10 pounds for this genuine chine tea-set. I’m not asking 5 pounds. Just 1 pound’. I exaggerate for effect, of course. Ironically, then, in this – the noisiest country in the world – street markets are as silent as the proverbial grave. Except for the loud chatter of the potential customers, of course.
I got to wondering why it’s called a flea market. Perhaps because a singe flea would cost more than most of the tat on sale there.
One of our less attractive narcos . . .
Bad news . . . They’re getting closer and closer to home . . . An 81 year old woman was killed on a zebra crossing on the main road of my barrio of Poio, at 19.45 of a dark evening last week. And a 62 year old woman – a Poio resident! – was stopped when driving the wrong way on the AP9 as it passed Pv city.
Better news . . . Below is another couple of good-value Spanish wines for UK residents.
Does this only happen to me? . . . Having decided not to fork out €800 for the repair of my newish Mac Air, I bought an HP PC for rather less. This froze on page 4 of the set-up process, meaning an immediate return to the shop. Where they eventually got it to function. I guess//hope I’ll eventually work out how it works. It currently seems confusingly over-stuffed with options and links. And has a touchpad which doesn’t work like Apple’s. Very frustrating.
I’ve said that there’s a torrent of negativity from the UK. The first 2articles below are from folk who dislike and disagree with it.
The EU has approved France’s plan to ban short-haul flights when there’s a rail option that takes less than two and a half hours. This will put an end to flights between Paris Orly Airport and the cities of Nantes, Bordeaux, and Lyon. If rail services improve, 3 more routes could be added – between Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Lyon and Rennes, and between Lyon and Marseille. Spain next? Madrid-Barcelona and Madrid-Malaga?
The Way of the World
It takes all sorts . . .
The 3rd article below is about The Court of Mob Justice. Which sits very frequently these days.
I wonder which historian will be the first to write: The Hilarious Era of Wokeism. Which, in Truth,wasn’t at all Funny for Some.
New word: Technotyranny: Think China
If you’re a lover of rare words, this is the article for you . .
Did You Know
The Mustelidae are a family of carnivorous mammals, including weasels, badgers, otters, ferrets, martens, minks and wolverines, among others.
Finally . . .
To amuse . . .
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 in your browser.
A COUPLE MORE WINES
Marqués de los Zancos Rioja Blanco 2021 (12.5%, Tesco, £5). This refreshing Spanish white is very good value indeed. White rioja is sometimes oaked; so it’s not in the vanilla-and-wood-spice mould. Instead expect a refreshing, lemony white.
El Duque de Miralta Rioja Crianza 2018 (13.5%, M&S, £10). Made by El Coto, this is a lovely, mellow rioja reminiscent of fading autumn leaves and baked strawberry pie. [As if]
- A rising tide of anti-Britishness is turning our national virtues into unforgivable sins: The fact that we exported freedom to the world is now deemed to make us the baddies. Daniel Hannan, The Times
When I was an MEP, federalist colleagues would often deliver what they plainly regarded as an absolute zinger of a putdown. “So, Hannan, you also are in favour of an independent Scotland, yes?” Sometimes, they would not wait for a reply, but would wander off, giggling at their own cleverness like Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows.
It was a spectacularly silly question. Being a democrat, I backed both the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and the 2016 British independence referendum. And, being a democrat, I respected both results.
More interesting, perhaps, is the converse question: why do so many people who detest Brexit favour Scottish separatism? That position – the policy of the SNP, and the default stance of the most hardline Euro-zealots – makes little sense unless your over-riding consideration is anti-Britishness.
Anti-Britishness may be a minority creed, but it is in the ascendant. It lies behind our statue-smashing spasm and behind the “decolonisation” of school and university curriculums. It drives the reordering of museum exhibitions and the campaign to give away legally purchased artefacts. It animates the idiotic campaign for “climate reparations” to badly-governed countries.
Sure, each of these campaigns has other notional justifications. But none of them stacks up. If you want to argue that a connection to slavery, however tenuous, wipes away everything else that a historical figure achieved, fine. But I can’t help noticing that the agitators who make this case never apply it to Chinese or Arab or African slave-owners. Nor, more damningly, do they seem to care about the places where slavery is most common today (in declining order of prevalence, North Korea, Eritrea, Burundi, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan).
Slavery was practised across every continent and archipelago, but social justice warriors reserve their vituperation for the country that distinguished itself by pouring its blood and treasure into a decades-long campaign to extirpate the foul trade.
“Colonialism-and-slavery” is almost a binomial phrase, like “law-and-order” or “wear-and-tear”. But colonialism was partly driven by abolitionism. Having halted the Atlantic traffic, Britain sought to eliminate the practice in the African kingdoms where it remained endemic.
The Benin bronzes, for example, were seized in an 1897 punitive expedition against a slave kingdom that thought nothing of burying alive the people it owned. That fact is rarely mentioned because Britain must always be the villain. Thus, the British Museum, which owns most of the brass carvings, says on its website that their acquisition was a consequence of the “expansion of colonial power”, and mentions slavery only glancingly, and in a way that implies that it was somehow imposed on the region from outside: “While by the late 19th century this trade had been largely abolished, its increasing scale and barbarity in the preceding centuries had a massive impact on West African societies.”
Most of our intellectual leaders are pulled by the same current. There may well, for example, be a case for a more heterodox school curriculum. But heterodoxy should mean intellectual and stylistic variety. Adding black anti-colonialist writers to white ones does not make a curriculum diverse. (One of the reasons that George Orwell’s place is secure is that, despite being male, white and rampantly heterosexual, he wrote devastating criticisms of the British Empire.)
Similar thinking lies behind demands for carbon reparations. Climate change is a global concern, and wealthier countries have so far been happy to bear more than their share of the burden. But the idea that Britain should be penalised for having given the human race industrialisation, which released billions from backbreaking toil, is asinine.
Logic, though, has little place here. Everything has to be squashed into the approved format of our age: poor-against-rich, colonised-against-coloniser. Outrage trumps inconvenient facts. Does Pakistan, which is leading the calls for climate reparations, have 100 coal mines while Britain has none? Meh. Has China emitted more CO2 over the past eight years than the UK over the past 220 years? Who cares? Britain should pony up because exploitation and something something.
So widespread is this attitude that, on Friday, the President of the European Commission casually likened Britain’s relations with Ireland to Russia’s with Ukraine. Now British-Irish relations have at times been painful. But is the UK – a parliamentary democracy that was driven by the logic of its values to quit the parts of Ireland that voted for separation – really comparable to Putin’s dictatorship? These days, apparently so.
We can hardly blame the SNP for exploiting the zeitgeist. Its activists were furious when the Supreme Court rejected their demand for another referendum, dismissing what it called their “absurd claim” that Scotland was an “oppressed colony”. As a matter of historical and political fact, that statement is unarguable. If anyone felt colonised when James VI united the realms in 1603, it was the English. If anyone felt oppressed when the parliaments merged in 1707, it was English MPs, grumbling at having to assume Scotland’s debts.
There is, though, a logic to the SNP’s tactics. Unionism used to rest on a sense of satisfaction at living in the world’s greatest country. Nowadays, though, victimhood is the supreme virtue. The fact that Scots created, defended and administered the Union and later its Empire is a cause of embarrassment.
One of the most irritating aspects of this whole debate is that I find myself being dragged into it unwillingly. As a Gladstonian, I regret most of our imperial moment. We should have contented ourselves with coaling stations and trading posts rather than assuming responsibility for vast and expensive tracts of land. This was also, incidentally, the view of the Colonial Office throughout the nineteenth century. They knew that the British paid far higher taxes than their imperial subjects (who also benefited from lower taxes than the rest of the world). If the Empire was an attempt at exploitation, it was stunningly ineffective.
And, of course, I dislike the repression – notably in India, Cyprus, Kenya and Burma. (Ireland, which was considered a core part of Britain rather than a colonial possession, was a different story.)
Still, as I frequently find myself reminding anti-colonialists, the British Empire had a self-dissolving quality. Its administrators spoke of “stewardship”, and brought most of their colonies to independence without a shot being fired in anger – an extraordinary and unsung achievement.
Several countries petitioned to join. Some, like Malta, were admitted; others, like Uruguay and Ethiopia, were not. Why did they ask? Perhaps because, in many parts of the world, Britain was seen as the sort of adult that a lost child might approach. People in the Empire were, on most measures, vastly better off than the people living under German or Belgian or Japanese rule. And the authorities in London at least tried to keep colonists in some kind of check. It is hard to argue that indigenous populations were worse off under British rule than in autonomous settler states such as Argentina, the USA or the Boer republics.
The Empire was self-dissolving because the British have a peculiar obsession with representative government. The same obsession makes the UK uniquely sanguine about its own potential dismemberment. Those separatists raging at the Supreme Court might ask whether Corsica or Bavaria or Lombardy would have been offered a 2014-style referendum.
Our obsession with representative government, personal freedom, private property and independent courts defines us as a nation. And that obsession, albeit worn lightly, drives our enemies to distraction.
Listen, for example, to how Vladimir Putin talks of the current war. Russia, he says, is fighting against the West’s determination to impose liberal values everywhere. What liberal values? Freedom from arbitrary arrest, uncensored broadcasters, genuine elections, that sort of thing. He correctly associates liberal values with Britain, for no country has done more to disseminate them.
That dissemination happened partly through example and partly through imposition. Some countries saw that our liberal institutions had made us rich and free, and chose to copy them. Others had liberal institutions forced on them by colonial authorities, and were left to decide, after independence, whether to keep them.
But does the fact of having exported these values really make us the baddies? Would people rather live in a world dominated by Erdogans and Xis? I have a nasty feeling that we might soon find out.
2. It’s time we stopped talking Britain down: Iain Dale, The Telegraph
In Britain, there’s nothing people like to do more than run down their own country. Nothing works. We don’t produce anything. We’re a small, insignificant island, they say. Brexit has ruined us.
It’s the British equivalent of what president Jimmy Carter used to call “a national malaise”, which afflicted America in the late 1970s. It took Ronald Reagan to shake the USA out of this self-harming language and self-inflicted misery. One of Rishi Sunak’s tasks is to do the same here.
When you point out to people that Britain is the sixth largest economy in the world, people respond with “Yes, but we used to be the fifth.” You tell them that we are the world’s ninth largest manufacturing economy, and they simply don’t believe you. “Yes, but…,” they splutter. Brexit hasn’t hampered our response to the Russian war in Ukraine. Britain has led the international diplomatic and military response. Just ask any Ukrainian.
2.Social media amplifies the voices who like to sow self-doubt about Britain’s past, present and future. It’s so easy to knock our past, pick out things that are going wrong in the present, and to predict a dire future. It’s easy to be a moaning Minnie, but when you try to exalt Britain’s often glorious past you’re accused of colonialism or even racism. Why should people feel guilty if they have the temerity to declare they’re proud to be British, or even worse, English. Being proud to be Scottish, Welsh or Irish is OK, of course.
It is true that too many things don’t work in this country at the moment. You can’t get a doctor’s appointment for love nor money. Strikes and managerial incompetence mean that trains often don’t run when they should. The road network is often brought to a standstill by the combined forces of environmental protesters and the incompetence of the Highways Agency, or whatever it has decided to call itself this week.
But let’s celebrate the counter side to all that. We have the finest entertainment, arts and culture sectors in the world. We remain pre-eminent in many sports and our Premier League is the envy of the world. People used to make fun of our cuisine, or lack of it. No longer. Our life science and Fintech industries are world leading, as is our financial services sector. Why don’t we shout about these and all our other successes? Because we wouldn’t be British if we did.
3. An unblemished record? Proven innocence? Neither counts in the court of mob justice. Rod Liddle: The Sunday Times
I turned on the radio last Wednesday at five o’clock and the lead story on the BBC’s PM programme seemed to be about how some woman had asked another woman where she was from. There were absolutely loads of people commenting on this incident, most of them beside themselves with an inchoate rage. I went out with the dog. Did a little bit of light shopping. Came back and Evan Davis was still terribly upset about the woman who had asked the other woman where she was from. Later, it was the lead story on the ten o’clock TV news and Huw Edwards was doing that slightly snarly thing with his mouth about it. When, the next morning, it was still the BBC’s news story du jour, I poured some hot milk, which I had prepared for my coffee, over the radio. It sizzled and then went mercifully silent. I told my wife it was an accident.
What a to-do. Every time I meet a stranger, I ask them where they’re from, because I’m a nosy bastard and also because I like guessing accents. Then, when someone tells me they are British but is wearing the traditional costume of, say, a Tongan nose flute player, I am tempted to prolong my interrogation to, you know, find out more. But no longer. It just won’t be worth it. I’ll have Huw and Evan banging at my door in tears, and I’ll be sacked and my godchildren will disown me. I will become a pariah.
Is it racist to ask someone where they are from — and to persist with this line of inquiry when the response seems to be a little wary? Perhaps it is. If so, it demonstrates very clearly that the UK is very far from being structurally or institutionally racist. The fact that one of the royal family lackeys asked a black woman where she was from and that this became the No 1 story in the nation for two full days, with universal outrage and odium poured on the lackey, who was very rapidly sacked after six decades of unblemished service, suggests to me that this is a country which not only not only takes even the very slightest intimation of racism very seriously but is perhaps also a little deranged by it. The lackey, Lady Susan Hussey, was perhaps ill advised to pursue her interrogation once she saw the black woman, Ngozi Fulani, bristle a bit. But the rapidity with which the King, Prince William and the royal family hung her out to dry seemed to me both cowardly and a cynical genuflection to the mob.
Meanwhile, here’s a story that was not the lead item on any news programme — just a squib in the Bournemouth Echo. The Conservative MP Conor Burns has had his party’s whip restored. Burns had been peremptorily suspended and sacked as a trade minister after allegations of a sexual nature had been made about him. Stupid allegations — as I believe I mentioned at the time, back in mid-October.
Burns had been at some awful Tory function, full of braying, half-cut halfwits with no chins (I am guessing this bit), when he put his hand on another gentleman’s thigh, as you do. There was no complaint from the bloke who had his thigh pawed. He may have been very pleased that his thigh was pawed. Mine was last pawed in the late summer of 2002, so I can see that it might have been very welcome.
Either way, the pawee wanted no action taken and was not distressed. The complaint was made by somebody who had witnessed the brief pawing and decided that it was time for Burns to get well and truly stuffed. Liz Truss (c’mon, you remember) and the Tories sacked Burns and suspended him from the whip; then they held an investigation and he was cleared of misconduct. The sensible thing, I would suggest, might have been to let Burns remain in office while they examined, perhaps via VAR, the allegation. Or dismissed the whole thing when it was found that the pawed person had no complaint. But they were, like the royal family, beholden to the mob.
And so all vestiges of fairness went out of the window and, like Hussey, Burns was hung out to dry, his career seemingly over. Where is the apology from the ghastly Truss? Why has he not been restored to his ministerial job?
And that’s the thing — once you’re a victim of mob justice, there is no way back, no matter how pristine your innocence.