21 December 2022: This and that.

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

I’ve yet to get grips with the details but it seems that the Constitutional Court has narrowly kaiboshed the (left-of-centre) government’s attempts to reform the law on judicial governance so that ending the 5-year log-jam on the appointment of judges can be achieved. These reforms are opposed by the right-of-centre PP party, which sees an opportunity to be supportive in return for the government agreeing to drop its attempts to reform the laws on sedition and embezzlement. Which are being progressed as a concession to (unpopular) Catalan miscreants. Horse-trading, the essence of politics. This article helps a bit.

Following on from Lenox Napier’s article on the institutional advertising that keeps newspapers in business. I looked at the VdG yesterday and today. Sure enough, there were ads/announcements from both the regional and national governments, plus a greenwashing notice from an energy company. The DdP possibly had the same things in it. And the Faro de Vigo, etc., etc.

A hundred years or so ago, the Hispanic Society of America was initiated. Shortly thereafter, a lady photographer wandered through Galicia, snapping away. There’s a TV Galicia program about her and episodes can be seen on YouTube, here. I found the Gallego chat relatively easy to understand but I wondered whether this was because the pronunciation was close to that of Spanish, and quite far from that of our hinterland. Years ago, Gallego-speaking friends of mine use to mock the ‘Castellano’ accents of news readers on TV Galicia. Or maybe the series features the Gallego of this coast, very different from the varieties further inland, I’m told.

Down at street level . . . I had thought that the habit of just chucking your used tissues on the floor had passed into history. But it seems I was wrong At least as regards terrace tables.

At a side road where you used to be able to turn left onto the main road, you now can’t. And on a main road where there used to be an obligatory STOP sign, there now isn’t. All this endorses my suspicion that there’s a 17 year old non-driver in the relevant town hall department employed solely to keep it in existence, via arbitrary changes to traffic and parking rules in and around the city. Will he/she one day run out of ideas? We can but hope.

The UK 

Brits should stop wallowing in negativity and pessimism, says the writer of the article below. columnist. Probably correct. It’s rather boring, for one thing.

Case in point? The UK continues to hold the European crown for funding fast-growth technology businesses, raising a near-record level of investment this year of £24bn. The total was far ahead of France, ranked second, which raised £11.8bn, and Germany, ranked third, which raised £9.1.bn

The World Cup

Back home – crazy Argentinean fans . . .On Twitter. On YouTube

The Way of the World

H&M are the monarchs of victim culture, says this columnist.


Something for native Spanish speakers* . . . 50 years ago, it’s said, the LL sound was LY, as in tortiLYa – as opposed to just Y these days, as in tortiYa. But, when I pronounced brilli-brilli as briYi-briYi last night, my 2 neighbours laughed and said it was briJi-briJi – using the soft English J sound, not the harsh Spanish J sound of Kh. So, I looked on the web this morning and came up with this, where: 1. the LL is Y in both cases, and 2. the first vowel of brilli is pronounced differently for the 2 identical words. Which is not supposed to happen in Spanish. Could it be South American pronunciation? Or, as a Spanish friend suggested this morning, influenced by all the English in the media here?

*Or, of course, non-native speakers with an opinion

Postscript: If the national/regional/local pronunciation of LL can indeed sometimes be the English J, then this would explain why I always have to repeat my order of a Godello wine. I should be saying GodeJo, not GodeYo . . . . Especially if J is the South American pronunciation, as all serving staff in Spain are of South American origin.

On the other hand, said Spanish friend says it’s more likely to be because I say the first O too long. Oh as in Go, as opposed to just O, as in god. I have tried to ensure that I don’t do this but . .

Finally . . .

To amuse . . A couple of years or so ago, my lemon tree almost died as a result of an aphid infestation. But I managed to get rid of the little buggers by spraying the tree with a mixture of washing-up liquid and olive oil, and the tree revived, giving me 30+ lemons this autumn. Picking some for my neighbours last night, I noticed this one:-

I’m left wondering how it got into this state.

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.


Don’t fall for gloomy tales of British decline: Times are tough but wallowing in pessimism won’t fix any of our problems – politics needs a good dose of optimism: Daniel Finkelstein. The Times

“Nothing in this country actually works any more.” Thus spoke Nigel Farage last week after a gritting failure led to the closure of the M25 at South Mimms. This he attached to some words about strikes to form part of a thesis that Britain is broken, which he delivered in a short video from the back of what appeared to be a taxi.

Farage has always been the articulate spokesman for those who think Britain is going to hell in a handcart. He offers himself as the leader of people who think nothing has been right since decimalisation and the onset of “women’s lib”.

The view that nothing works, that the country is failing, that it is visibly falling apart is no longer restricted to the sort of people who complain that you can’t wish anyone “Merry Christmas” these days.

Along with those people who are furious about there ever having been a female Doctor Who, there are Remainers who believe we are fatally wounded by Brexit and that things are so much better on the Continent. There are people who think our colonial past dooms us to a racist future. There are people who are sure humanity is about to become extinct. And there are those who just find that the Metropolitan line isn’t working properly this morning.

“Nothing in this country works any more” is almost the only thing that unites these people — but it doesn’t unite me. I think the idea that nothing in this country works is objectively wrong. I also think it is a ruinous way of thinking. I think our national pessimism is pulling us down — and we mustn’t let it.

Before I explain why, I’d better make clear this: I accept that we are being tested. Things are obviously hard at the moment and it has been a difficult year. The rising cost of living, the strikes, the need to remove two prime ministers who proved incapable, the crisis in the NHS . . .

Many people are struggling to get by. Anybody arguing that things are looking good would seem laughably out of touch, so it is important to emphasise that this is not my argument at all. I am simply suggesting that we are far more likely to overcome our challenges if we remain optimistic than if we succumb to pessimism.

In 1990 Martin Seligman published his classic book Learned Optimism. The author’s view is that optimism is a way of thinking and it can be learnt: “The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: circumstances, bad luck or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.”

There is abundant evidence that optimists do better at school and at work. Seligman also presents startling evidence of the electoral attraction of optimism. Scoring the speeches and public statements of presidential candidates to see if they tend towards optimism or pessimism, he found that the more optimistic candidate won nine out of ten times.

A compelling example came from research on sales executives. Optimists do better at selling because they are more persistent and less easily discouraged by rejection.

Seligman’s work shows why Boris Johnson’s boosterism, which greatly irritated his critics, was almost certainly an electoral advantage. Not only that, it may also have had advantages for the country.

Sometimes I felt it blithe, and more a denial of reality than a rhetoric of hope. And I certainly didn’t feel it compensated for his other failings. But I did think his relentlessly upbeat rhetoric had something to say for it. I still do.

For all the current difficulties of this country, it is simply not true that nothing works any more. By any standards — global comparison, historical comparison, simple observation — we live in a country that is remarkably stable and prosperous, one that is relatively peaceful and secure, law-abiding and lawful. Technological advances are dizzying; creativity is extraordinary. We are also learning all the time to be more tolerant and less prejudiced.

The best way of appreciating what an amazing country we live in is that departures from all these norms are what make news stories. Our worry about the present and the future is that we won’t be able to maintain the progress we have made or carry on living at the standard we have become used to. Farage complains that the M25 was closed at South Mimms but doesn’t mention that for most of human history we didn’t have an M25. Or a South Mimms, for that matter. Or a car.

We can choose how we look at events. We can look at the migrant boats as an example of the fact that this country can’t control its borders. Nothing works here any more. Or we can look at it as showing that so much works that people are desperate to come here, risking their lives to do so.

We can see the calamity that was Conservative leadership for much of this year as a symbol of failure, or as evidence that our parliamentary democracy is still strong enough to assert itself and remove those who need to be removed.

We can look at the things we have done that may have made our situation worse. I, for example, believe that Brexit was a mistake. However, we don’t need to fall into what Seligman sees as the pessimists’ trap — believing that all our problems are permanent, that they will undermine everything we do and are all our fault.

The cost of living crisis, for instance, is obviously primarily the result of Covid and the war in Ukraine — things that happened to us, not things that were our fault — and it is temporary, not permanent. The strikes will pass as well, and we are not passive victims of them either, whether we favour resistance or conciliation as a response.

In the 1970s, this country began to think it could never reverse its decline. The view was debilitating, leading to a sort of passive acceptance. Of all the things that Mrs Thatcher did to tackle the country’s problems, I would argue that rejecting this passivity was the most important. Britain, she felt, was a great nation. Of course it could revive. She was right then, and it’s the case now.

This is still a great nation. I am still able to wish you a happy Christmas. I wish you an optimistic new year as well.