31 March 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’


At least one good consequence . . . Lockdowns gave Brits time to invest in home-cooking, causing a spice boom. Since 2018, imports of ginger, saffron, turmeric, thyme, bay leaves, curry leaves, chilli, seed spices (aniseed, coriander, caraway, etc), nutmeg and cardamom have risen between 7 and 31%. Some of us got there a very long time ago. And we even have 2 spice shops in Pv city. A contrast with 2001, when a supermarket employee told me there was no longer any ginger on the shelves because no one bought it.

En passant, I’ve now leant that star anise is also called badian. Possibly only in the USA.

Cosas de España/Galiza

For the last 23 years at least, the arrival of spring here has been heralded by the appearance of fotos in the media of the ‘celebrity’ Ana Obregón. Usually in a bikini. But she’s 68 now so . . . Anyway, she’s outdone herself this year by incurring the outrage of feminists and left-wingers by getting herself a surrogate baby in Miami. See the Guardian on this brouhaha here.

The other ‘character’ making yet another appearance is the notorious fraudster known as ‘Little Nicolas’, due to the tender age at which his deceptions began He’s been given his 4th jail term. This time around, the Madrid High Court has sentenced him to 4 years and 4 months for a ploy to access confidential information from police databases. He’s now racked up a total of 12 years and 5 months but is yet to serve any sentence thanks to appeals he’s filed in Spain’s Supreme Court.

Which reminds me . . . Things do happen in Spain, but slowly at times. And certainly not when the Tax Office decides to fine you. As for these good folk . . . You can’t trust them to play fair, says the writer of this article – as many of us know well from the application of the outrageous (and illegal) Modelo 720 law of 2012.

Pensions. . . . Spain is forging ahead with pension reforms that include a contentious fix for years of expensive promises to retirees: making younger people pay more. More on this from the FT here.

Meanwhile, we’re told that March’s ‘core inflation’ (without unprocessed food and energy products) was 7.5%, its highest in more than 40 years. No wonder food seems very expensive.

I confess I’ve been desperate for a screw for the last couple of weeks. As you might recall, this is because one fell out of the base of my newish HP laptop. Having been told by HP that they didn’t sell this and not wanting to lash out on a set of 60 screws on Amazon, I set out – without much optimism – for the domestic goods shop where I bought it last November. But then decided to try a computer place on my way into town. This is what happened, over 2 or 3 days:-

  • The computer shop guy inserted the wrong screw and then couldn’t extract it.
  • Back home, I got it out with a magnet
  • Next day, I stopped off at a hardware store. They shook their heads and sent me to an electrical shop.
  • This was closed at 6.30 of an evening, very early by Spanish standards.
  • Next morning, the chap at the electrical store said they didn’t stock such small screws and sent me to a watchmaker in town.
  • The watchmaker said he only had screws either even smaller or larger and recommended a phone repair shop.
  • The phone repair shop. I didn’t bother but decided to go with my original intention.
  • The domestic goods shop: They found a screw of the right size – but wrong colour – in a box of loose items. Probably fell out of one of their other computers, I thought.

I stress that everyone I dealt with in this minor calvario was pleasant but, as in the norm in Pv, no one actually volunteered another place. In each case, I had to ask for advice. Weird. Caveat emptor.

More than 15 years ago, the right-of-centre PP government announced subsidies for solar energy investment and then, not long after, cancelled them – possibly under pressure from its friends in the oil sector. Much the same thing happened in 2011. Now, investors who lost the subsidies are heading to a London court to try to claw back $125m from the government. This has ramifications for clean energy financing across the EU, it says here.

Talking of energy . . . My gas bill Jan-March: In absolute terms, this year’s total is ‘only’ 22% up on last year’s but this masks 2 things:-

  • It covers 7 fewer days and
  • The IVA rate is reduced from 21% to just 5%

On a like-for-like basis, the increase is 78%. Not as much as I expected. Perhaps the price was capped by the government. Who can keep up with these things? This article does indeed talk of a (continuing) cap.

The UK

Thanks, it’s said, to MacDonalds, many Brits think that a full English breakfast includes that American invention, hash browns. But it never did, and the English Breakfast Society – Brits love societies – has called for these to be blacklisted and to be replaced by the more traditional ‘bubble and squeak’. These fine folk are a campaign group, dedicated to the history, heritage, and culture of the English breakfast.

To my surprise . . . Having long disdained British culinary traditions, Spain is suddenly demonstrating an unlikely affection for the full English breakfast. The country’s biggest-selling newspaper, El País, has broken with tradition by publishing an article entitled “God save the English breakfast”, a glowing homage to the fry-up. “It is calorific, tasty, greasy, varied and absolutely wonderful,” said the paper, referring to “the very British combination of sausages, eggs, bread and beans in tomato sauce”.

I’m reminded of someone’s comment years ago – possibly true then but not now – to the effect that: If you want to eat well in Britain, have breakfast 3 times a day.


Unless you live in a cave, you’ll know that Gwyneth Paltrow was awarded $1 in damages after a jury found that a retired doctor slammed into her on a ski slope in 2016. In a statement, Paltrow echoed her lawyer’s assertion that the case was not about money. She said that “acquiescing to a false claim” would have harmed her integrity. Which is a laugh. Cailin Moran has some fun at GP’s expense below.


Good advice, it seems to me: Stop terrorising the young with climate doom. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned and to reduce carbon emissions but hysterical fear-mongering will only backfire. More here.

The Way of the World

Dear god . . . A young Belgian father took his own life after developing a toxic relationship with an AI chatbot, his wife has claimed. He died a few weeks ago after a mental health crisis that culminated in the AI apparently encouraging him towards suicide.

Quotes of The Day

Paul O’Grady grew up surrounded by beloved, hilarious Scouse aunties. I’d envious as I can’t say I had the same advantage on Merseyside. Though my mother certainly made me laugh a lot. Unintentionally,

Jameela Jamil is an actress and an “activist” in the modern sense of the word, meaning that she is rude about people on Twitter. 

Did you know?

These are world’s richest countries. Though there’ll be quite a few poor folk in many of them. More than 30 years ago probably.

Welcome to new subscriber, Val. Who doesn’t have a web page so might be genuine . .

For new readers:- 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.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Caitlin Moran

Although one doesn’t like to minimise anyone’s possible unhappiness or suffering, when it comes to the televised court cases of A-list celebrities who’ve been involved in skiing accidents in Utah, it’s hard to engage the bigger empathy glands. Or, indeed, any of them. Although, for those in need, I have no doubt that Goop almost certainly sells Empathy Gland Booster Supplements — made from Mooncalf Grass and the leaves of the Jabroni tree — and at a very reasonable $189 per jar.

Whatever the opposite of “The Trial of the Century” would be, this is probably it: in an incongruously down-home courtroom in Utah, Paltrow — estimated wealth: $200 million — is being sued by 76-year-old retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, who claims Paltrow skied into him in 2016 and wants $300,000 in damages. In turn, Paltrow is counter-suing Sanderson for a token $1 plus legal expenses, saying Sanderson skied into her.

Sanderson claims that the main consequence of his alleged injuries is a weirdly nebulous one: “After the crash, he is no longer charming,” Sanderson’s lawyer explained.

Well, this is quite the assertion, that you can have the charm bumped out of you by Iron Man’s PA. I had no idea charm was so shoddily affixed. But then charm has been in short supply all round: Paltrow became instantly memed when she was asked what the main impact of the accident was for her. “Well, I lost half a day’s skiing,” she replied, all laconic and icy. But then she has done everything laconically and icily: throughout the trial, Paltrow’s “vibe” has been that of a well-dressed human Valium staring down at the puzzling quotidian hurly-burly of normal, worse-dressed people. Her cashmere has been super-soft; the blow-dries immaculate; the classy neutrals so neutral that they make Switzerland during the war look like, well, Germany. If it’s possible for “beige” to have a gamut, Paltrow has run it. Perhaps the intended effect is for Paltrow to come across as so ethereal and relaxed the jury finds it impossible that she could have crashed into Sanderson: surely someone so incorporeal and elegant would have simply passed through him, like a fragrant mist?

Anyway, it’s all very comforting, for in a world where half the news stakes are immense, bordering on apocalyptic, isn’t it pleasing to dwell on an incident where the greatest loss anyone involved can suffer is a) their charm or b) half a day’s skiing?


  1. We have a few spice shops up the road in Coruña near the Calle Real. 100g of Madras approx 10€. In Oporto I can buy 1kg for 10€.

    In Coruña itself on the edge of the city is a rather superb Chinese supermarket by Spanish standards. I can purchase all the Thai curry pastes, Massaman paste, a dozen types of soy sauce, hoisin, sweet chilli, hot chilli, and much more. There is also a range of frozen goods including Taiwanese pork sausages, and many types of noodles (glass/rice etc). I once bought Korean BBQ Sauce too, lathered my pork ribs and they were delish! They also have a small selection of reasonably priced south Asian spices such as Garam Masala and Madras They even have the mixes for Japanese tempura. And whilst I grow a fair amount of pak choi on our land, the ones in the Chinese supermarket are far larger than mine. It is called Supermercado Amigo on Rua Tornos if anyone is interested


    • Lucky man. I have to go to either SdC or Vigo for those Chinese things. Though I have a Singaporean friend who can get my requirements when she goes for her own. Plus when I go down to Madrid.

      Madras/Red curry is nowhere that price – I think – in Pv’s spice shops.


      • I thoroughly enjoy a lot of Spanish dishes. Hate cocido though :-).
        But I do miss the UK in respect of choice and variety.
        Quality? Whether in Spain, Malaysia, Thailand or Morocco you can find delightful and horrendous food. I think the best Indian I ever ate was in Melakka. The worst Chinese in Shanghai, the best in HK. And in Abu Dhabi a local lass took me to the most wonderful Syrian restaurant.
        My friends here in Galicia claim English food is awful, yet once questioning them is complete, their experience is limited to Oxford Street and Leicester Square cheap (ish) eateries. They don’t know of the wonderful South Asian food in Southall, or of Drummond Street near Euston station. Or further afield, they haven’t visited Birmingham’s china town or Newcastle’s for that matter. They haven’t eaten a giant Yorkshire pudding bursting with a meat and veg casserole.

        A comment on Michelin stars! I don’t take them too seriously, and in Spain in recent years, “Michelin rules” whatever they are, have been criticised as not allowing for creativity. Many chefs have turned their back on them.

        From great food to the most underwhelming, every country has their share. Personally, while I thoroughly enjoy many local and national Spanish dishes, I have really only found the variety I crave by learning how to prepare certain Asian, Middle Eastern and even Brazilian dishes myself. So, there is something positive in all of this.

        And yes, while food here is Hispanicised, the same often applies to Indian restaurants that are anglicised in the UK, and even sushi is Chilefied in Santiago de Chile to the point where it is definitely not sushi. Local adaptations are to be expected, one because no one might eat it otherwise, which leads to number 2. Ultimately, they are a business, so despite potential misgivings they still need to make a profit


  2. When you hear some of the commentators here in the UK talking about the “british food revolution” of the last 2 or 3 decades they make it sound as if british food was about to draw level with the likes of France or Italy. Some people I know actually do believe that. Hooray, we will soon see british-food restaurants conquering the world…………..don’t hold your breath.


    • No one sensible claims that for ‘British food’.

      What they claim, correctly, is that – as with wine – the absence of local quality stuff means a vast spectrum of quality wines and foods from other countries. Which is far better than being confined to Spanish/Galician wine/food. Good as they are.

      Variety is the spice fo British life! You can eat better in London – albeit expensively – than in any other city.

      Not when I was was a student there in the late 60s. Except in India House. Or Chinatown.


  3. Well we will have to disagree on that one. I will say first that the UK has around 180 michelin starred restaurants as opposed to only 90 in Spain. Even if a Michelin is not the be-all-and-end-all of good cooking it says something, and that, as you say, there are good restaurants in the UK. Most of them in London. But the world cuisine here on offer is generally of very mediocre/low quality (everything ends up levelling down to lowest common denominator) because after a while they all realise the general public is not very demanding. If I were you I would be more than happy to be “confined” to Galician food (as most culinary experts around the world agree)


  4. Do you know of a 2nd Galician sauce, after ‘a la gallega’?

    Galician cuisine come a long way after any Asian cuisine for me. Especially indonesian.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, David. Some excellent points there. I, too, see little good in cocido, though the cabbage can be quite tasty in the caldo . . .

        And, of course, the favourite UK ‘Indian’ dish of Chicken Marsala is a British invention. As is kedgeree, a favourite of mine.


  5. Haha. Your cabbage comment brought a smile. I am at the other extreme. Reminds of me school lunches at primary school. That and Semolina.

    Have a good weekend.


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