Y Muera Espana?

Due to my time spent living in Spain I still retain an interest in what goes on there; however I have no claim whatever to be an expert on Spanish politics nowadays.  In the Madrid of the 1990’s, the country seemed like a place just waking up to democracy.  They’d had barely fifteen years of being able to speak their minds; the long sleep of fascism was over and the citizens emerging into the daylight rubbing their eyes.  They were testing the limits; marching on demos with the glee of children being allowed to stay up late, not quite believing that they wouldn’t be arrested for publishing newspapers.  Habits of democracy take time to form, as we know only too well – and as we also know, they can be easily erased.  True, ours wasn’t much at the outset, just a few nobles wresting power from a king; but it was a start.  We didn’t have full democracy until 1928 when all adults could vote on an equal basis: but, imperfect as our system may be, it is part of our DNA.  Not so in Spain.

Like many places – like the former Yugoslavia, like the Soviet Union; like the UK itself – Spain is not one country but many.  Ask a person from the Basque country if they are Spanish and see what reaction you get: it’s like asking a Scot if they are English.  Regions such as Catalonia are analogous to Scotland: the area has its own language and culture; it has a history of self-government.  To complicate matters, Catalunya (to spell it correctly) extends into France, and many activists want the whole area separate and unified.  That flag won’t fly; but it is possible that, as in Scotland, there is an increasing appetite for independence from Madrid: and the sensible thing to do would be to open negotiations.

Now, I have blogged before about the UK government’s unedifying and shabby response to Indyref 1:


but the Madrid administration makes Cameron’s response look positively statesmanlike.  From sending in troops to beat up demonstrators, to declaring the referendum an act of rebellion (can you hear the word ‘traicion’ in the air?) they have basically acted like latterday Francos and have justly earned opprobrium around the world.

OK, it’s a problem.  I get that.  Clearly there is an appetite for independence in Catalunya; if it came to pass this would probably open a greater can of worms than Scotland leaving the UK.  It is understandable that the government might feel panicky, but clamping down is not the way to go.  Denying that violence took place when people have seen the videos; refusing to say what might happen if Catalunya declares independence: these are unwise and overly authoritarian reactions which have escalated a crisis into a near-disaster.  They need to negotiate, not escalate; these actions can only incite more unrest and a greater desire for independence.   What’s next – sending in tanks?   Spain is not the Soviet Union.  This is not the 1950’s.  Grow up, guys.  Start talking – because hablar es mejor que la guerra.*

Kirk out

*(a rough translation of ‘jaw-jaw is better than war-war’)





That She Might Her Quietus Make…

Aaaand! we’re back to a previous theme.  Some people had problems with the other one, and I couldn’t find where to log in, so we’re back to the books.

I woke up this morning wondering whatever happened to 7/11.  It was today’s date that triggered the thought – and then I realised that in recalling the prevalence of 7/11 shops I was mostly thinking about Spain.  (In Madrid there were lots of 7/11 stores – which were known generally as ‘Sevain-eelevain’ and not ‘siete-once’ as I tried to call them.)

Back in Britain, I slept much better thanks to some ear-plugs I managed finally to purchase.  It wasn’t easy: the chemist across the road concluded after a long search that they’d sold out, so I went down to Patel’s.  They had a hunt for me but said they didn’t have any wax ones, only foam (I don’t like the foam ones).  So I was about to go home empty-handed when I saw a box of silicone ones.  They were called ‘Quies’ and in spite of that reminding me disturbingly of ‘quietus’, I took them up to the counter where in a separate interaction a woman with a badge and clipboard was interviewing a member of staff.  Was the chemist’s being Ofsteded or something?  Anyway, I got out my wallet and they scanned the bar-code with the scanner and… nothing.

‘I’m terribly sorry, Madam,’ the woman said.

Madam?  No-one in Patel’s has ever called me Madam.  She went off in search of a price list and found it, but that yielded nothing.

‘I’m terribly sorry, Madam,’ she said again.

I said not to mention it.

She disappeared again and returned looking very worried.

‘I’m terribly sorry Madam,’ she said for a third time, ‘but I can’t find the price.’

In the end, and with several more ‘I’m terribly sorry Madam’s, she gave me the box for £1, which was probably about 1/3 of the retail price.  Was the chemist really being Ofsteded after all?

And so to bed, where (I kid you not) as soon as my head hit the pillow the thump, thump, thump of the neighbour’s stereo started up.  it was as if I’d hit the switch with my head when I lay down… so out came the ear-plugs and soon I was pushing out the zzz’s.

Just like I used to in Spain…

Hasta luego


Beware the Ice of March

Need I say more?  I shall not trouble you, gentle reader, with a description of my lungs and what they are currently bringing up; suffice it to say that the noxious cocktail of steroids and antibiotics has knocked the infection on its head and I am now recovering.  I am not, however, venturing far this weekend: sadly side-stepping the beer festival, I shall be merely hopping as far as Tomatoes, after which I shall stay In The Warm.  I am expecting a dull weekend, as I was looking forward to the beer festival and other things happening: however it does not make sense to go out in the sort of blizzard which I see whirling outside my window.

There is a deep sense of injustice in most of us, about this weather: a seething resentment and a boiling anger which will not go away.  It’s Not Fair!  It’s Not Right!  We’ve had our winter and now it should be getting warmer.  Coupled with an overriding sense of impotence, this does not make for happiness.  I am a hot-weather person: I would have preferred in many ways, to go back and live in Spain after marriage – but it wasn’t practical; and now I have to put up with this.  It sucks.

If I had the money I’d be on the next plane to Tenerife.  Just try and stop me.

Today is the anniversary of Sarah’s death.  I’ll leave you with a reminder of her – and a reminder to me also, not to Whinge.  Sarah was one of the most cheerful people I knew, and she remained so right up until she lost consciousness and died.

RIP Sarah, we miss you.


Kirk out

(But mostly in)

Went to Craig’s wake

–  at the Black Boy.  Well-attended with some food and wine.  Craig’s sister very pleasant, his brother-in-law possibly less so although he was a Leonard Cohen fan, so thank goodness we had that in common.  (Thanks Peter for stirring it by introducing me as a socialist).  Another friend had family in Spain so we talked about that until she said:

“When I go into town early in the morning you’d be amazed how many different languages I hear that aren’t English.”  (pause)  “Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it’s just that there are too many of them.”  I immediately discovered that I needed to fetch a coat from the other bar.

It never ceases to amaze me how those who complain about immigrants never learning the language think it perfectly acceptable to emigrate to Spain and not learn a word of Spanish.

Watched “Kind Hearts and Coronets”.  Freecycled lots of stuff.  So that was today.

Kirk out.

A Friend of the People

Finally!  Got a reply from the BBC about where to send my story, so one’s going off today.  Also, while I’m going to the Post Office – which, incidentally, is a bloody performance, since I have to weigh the thing to find out how much it costs but I also need stamps for the SAE which has to go inside, so I can’t seal it – which means I have to take tape with me as well – I am going to take Holly’s application form for Regent College.  I know I could have a supply of those self-sealing envelopes: perhaps when I sell a story I’ll buy some.  In Spain the Post Office have supplies of all kinds of things – for a very small fee, they will expertly wrap your parcel and send it on its way.  The Spanish are good at these practical things.  They’re artistic, good sculptors and painters, expert at design.  Bureaucratically efficient they are not – but they sure do wrap a good parcel.

I also, for research purposes, bought a copy of the People’s Friend, just to see whether one of my stories might fit there – and I have to say, it is the most utter tosh.  It’s not that the stories are sentimental, unchallenging, cosy, wishy and washy (reminds me of Charlie Brown whose New Year’s resolution was to be wishy one day and washy the next) – it’s that they are simply badly written. And that I cannot live with.


So we’ll see.

Getting a car today.  Daniel’s party tomorrow.

Kirk out.