4 January 2023

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

Interesting . . . At least for someone who detests smoking. . . . Under a new law, tobacco companies will be obliged to pay for the clean-up of cigarette butts. Which could well lead to an increase in these, of course.

It says in this article that Spain is the country that makes use of the full 12 days of Christmas. Tell me about it. It’s the time of year when my not-very-quiet neighbours have 3 big dinners and the cars of their family house-guests hog the spaces outside my house and force me to park maybe a 100m down the road.

There’s a tradition in Spain of people wearing black make-up on their faces to emulate one of the 3 wise men who ride horse in a parade to celebrate the Jan 6 feast of the epiphany the night before. But there’s a degree of outrage these days and even calls to end to the practice. See here.

Another tradition is Spain – or Galicia at least – is that the police announce in advance their campaigns against, say, excessive alcohol or worn tyres. This might explain why more than 50% of cars here in Galicia haven’t passed their compulsory annual mechanical test. I imagine that many of them stay off the roads during the campaigns. Such a campaign took place last April against cyclists who ride on the pavements(sidewalks). Fines for this exploded ‘20-fold’ last year but 85% of these took place in April. So, it’s clearly pretty safe to ignore the law outside any campaign. I have to admit that I assumed the total of fines rose from 1 to 20 but if, if 85% is to be a whole number, then the minimum numbers need, I calculate, to be, 2, 40 and 34

A 3rd national tradition is rosca and champagne to celebrate the holy(?) day. See here for the best of these you can buy today.

The first of the cartoons about Galicia I promised yesterday:-

Farlopa = cocaine

The UK

Everyone in the UK – with the exception of the government’s spokesperson – knows that the national health service (the NHS) is in a state of ‘terrible crisis’, with fatal consequences for many. Entire forests have been consumed by the paper needed for all the articles one can read about this crisis – which seems to have existed for at least 20 years, getting ever-deeper. Here’s just one from yesterday, which analyses recent stats in an attempt to understand the key underlying factors. But one can choose others from right across the political spectrum, where people tend to view the crisis – and its cures – from the point of view of the political axe they’re grinding. My own view is that the current model is beyond mending and that throwing an ever-increasing percentage of GDP at it will achieve little on its own. I don’t use the NHS any more but I have a daughter and grandchildren in the UK and the former is currently being badly served by the system. One of very many.

The above article was from a right-of-centre paper and this one is from the left-of-centre Guardian. It’s headline: This NHS crisis is historic*. A war footing is the only way to deal with it. What’s needed is a parliamentary coalition to confront the chaos. Worth a try, I suspect. En passant, the article is notable in not making the standard claim from the Left that the Tories have a secret plan to switch the NHS model to that of the USA, as evidenced by ‘creeping privatisation’. Perhaps things would be better if they had – or ever had had – such a plan.

* Presumably meaning worse than ever.

For what it’s worth, there are articles which stress that the UK is far from alone in having major healthcare problems. Cold comfort for Brits who fall ill.

Possibly the most depressing headline today: NHS delusion is condemning people to death. The model is broken, but still the public and our leaders refuse to consider any of the alternatives.

Russia

I recommend the BBC documentary Trauma Zone, subtitled The collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of Putin. It describes – in 7 episodes – what it felt like to live through the collapse of communism and democracy between 1981 and 1999. Available on YouTube.

Much the same period is covered by a book I’m reading – Putin’s Men. Which is similarly revealing. And also scarcely believable.

Spanglish

Un rave: A rave; illegal music event. Not sure of the Spanish pronunciation. It might ape the English.

Finally . . .

An eminent British historian was watching, I think, episode 5 of the video series on Russia cited above, which deals the desperate attempts to earn a living as society and the economy collapsed. He was sitting on a train next to an elegant lady when up came the (graphic) scene of a married couple resorting to porn to survive. Sensing the woman’s unease, he tried to exit the video but – as he said, the BBC iPlayer is not high tech – and the screen froze on the image of the couple copulating. Distressing as this was for him, I imagine quite a few young British men wouldn’t have been at all embarrassed by this.

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.

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