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Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Chuntering on

I forget where we were but they offered Contessa as afters. The Vienetta of my youth, fancy, if industrial, ice cream cake. There was tiramisu as well. Not many years ago all the puddings on offer in an everyday Spanish restaurant would be crème caramel, ice cream and seasonal fruit. Now you can get chemically flavoured cheesecake and deep frozen profiteroles and suchlike almost everywhere. An example of reasonably recent change.

Last Saturday evening I wasn't sure whether to go and see some flamenco in Villena or go to Jumilla for the Night of the Museums. I like Jumilla but we've done their museums a few times. I was drawn towards the flamenco. It's ages since we've seen a couple of old fat blokes wailing or listened to anyone turn clapping into a fine instrument. The trouble was the information I could garner from the web about Villena wasn't complete. I had a time, a place and a title. No description; Art and Flamenco could have been a learned discourse as easily as a night of sweat and guitars. A few years ago not being able to find any information on the Internet would have been dead usual. I'd have risked it but, as I got to the decisive junction, I turned the car towards the certainty of Jumilla. Until very recently Spaniards were not big on sharing information. The working hypothesis, born as so many things still are in Spain, of forty years of life under a dictatorship, was that what you knew may be to your advantage - so best to keep it quiet. But, nowadays, lots of information is reasonably accessible and that's a big change.

I'm not sure how much of the Catalonia news gets outside of Spain. I would guess that there are sporadic bursts as someone goes to a Belgian, German or Swiss court or when some President is nearly sworn in. The gang of politicians who have the upper hand in Cataluña at the moment are a bunch of pig headed, short sighted, single track thinking fools. The President of Spain, who represents the opposing side for those Catalan politicians, is also a fool, a plodding, vindictive, uninspired fool. There is only one way out of this, the two sides have to talk to each other. The trouble is that both sides only understand playground type rules - "I'll take my bat home" or "I'll get my big brother on to you". It's going to take ages for their feeble minds to come up with anything workable. Mind you I think Spanish history is peppered with examples of Spaniards being unwilling or unable to talk to each other. Co-operation is, in my opinion, not a big thing in Spain.

On a much lighter note, well away from the politics of a repressive regime or two, I don't care for the run up to Christmas. This is because Maggie watches a series of TV shows that shape our weekends. There is the X Factor, the one with the audience reduced to a baying pack of hyenas, which I heartily dislike, and there's also the dancing one which I don't find offensive but which isn't my idea of fun. I'm not sure when MasterChef is on but she likes that too. It's not a programme I particularly care for but I have nothing against it either except that it cuts across the start time for prime time telly which means we miss the first thirty minutes of any film on Spanish TV. Nowadays of course the format for TV programmes is a saleable item. There are Spanish versions of Come Dine With Me, First Dates, Britain's Got Talent, The Voice, Kitchen Nightmares, Big Brother, The X factor, MasterChef and Strictly amongst others. Now if Maggie likes MasterChef and if I want to watch Spanish telly you'd think that we'd have a televisual winner with the Spanish versions. The problem is that the programmes are presented differently. Strictly or Bailando con las estrellas as it's called here, only started last week. We gave it a go. We watched for a while. Maggie complained that the format wasn't as good as the British version but she'd probably have put up with that if the programme hadn't started at 10.30pm and gone on till 12.45am - two and a quarter hours. MasterChef does something similar on Sunday evenings - hours and hours long.

I could go on but it's probably best that I don't as I'm over 700 words. Way past the attention span of most people. A bit like Spanish TV!


Anonymous said...

Hi Chris.

Well, here we go again and I promised myself that I would not spend minutes of my life doing this again. I would start by saying that I have just put your article to a British local and her reaction made me chuckle – “The lady does protest too much!” was her immediate comment and I have to agree that you do seem to be on the defensive.
As a disclaimer, I wouldn't reply to your entry in the way I am doing if I thought that you were commenting with equanimity – as a sort of ... citizen of the world perspective – but it seems to me that you do it from a British point of view with the implication being that everything is so much better in the UK.
I can agree with you on your assessment about Rajoy but I will take offence and question your critical thinking when you, yet again, proceed on to a, frankly, gross and offensive generalisation about a whole country that, in my opinion, you don't seem to know that well, historically, socially or politically and I acknowledge that achieving this is no small feat.
In any case, I would only say this - have an honest long and deep look at your own country's current political situation, actors involved, and level of division and then come back with the same attitude. If you still do, I will honestly give up.

Regarding the situation in Catalonia, well, I guess we need to wait for a politician that, not at all out of purely partisan tactical motivation, puts forward a solution along the lines of, let’s say, a couple of referendums! That would allow us to be admitted in the club of the pure breed of democratic societies of the world and we can then proceed on to criticizing the lesser ones.

Not much to say about Spanish television - aside from 'la 2' it’s mainly utter shit. But is British television that good? In my opinion, hugely overrated. The BBC has a reputation and as you probably know, reputations live long despite reality. The amount of rubbish sitcoms, reality shows (ah, is that where they come from?), non-funny self-congratulating comedians, tv hosts of the narcissistic 'Paxman school of journalism', tendentious news reports etc. do not make up for a bunch of signature productions that still emanate pretentiousness. Besides, the level of crap on Spanish TV gets dwarfed by what goes on in the British press.

One of the things that I find most tiring about your comments is the constant reference to the dictatorship, a painful historical period that you keep using, whether inadvertently or not, to cast a certain feeling of superiority upon us. If you think your nation is so morally superior, perhaps you should research the role of that great personality of yours, Churchill, in facilitating Franco's victory. Or in the repression of the Greeks after World Ward 2. Of course, you shouldn’t be surprised there since, at the end of the day, 'red' or 'socialist' is an accusation, obviously in a jokey way, that comes up around here far too often the moment you question things like business ethics, defend the need for unions or, shock, criticize the monarchy. At least, that is the experience of this dago in the shires.

Let me finish by saying that I am profoundly critical of many current aspects of society in general, irrespective of country, but I find some of your posts about Spain too often biased and one sided. I know you will defend your position saying that you are entitled to your opinion so here is mine – all in all, you do sound very resentful which makes me think that perhaps, the only reason why you remain in Spain is so that you can criticise the natives from your moral high horse. Not such a rare occurrence amongst English people (and yes, I am using the term "English" deliberately) and, yes, I am generalising. Oh, delicious irony!

Or maybe, you are just being grumpy!

Un saludo y tomatelo con calma!

Chris Thompson said...

Hiya: I wasn't going to bother to reply. A complete waste of time. In fact I can't even keep the reply short. because of character limits I've had to cut the reply in two. So here we go.

I always enjoy your comments on my Britishness. Accident of birth and all that. Something I had no control over. My parents chose to have sex there and they decided that I should be born in Huddersfield. I have no problem with being British though. I suppose that's why it says, at the top of my blog, that Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

I don't think that I made a comparison in the whole piece between Britain and Spain except in the comparison of the length of the TV programmes. You constantly do that in all of your comments. In fact you seem to have a strong distaste for the people you live amongst; their attitudes as well as their institutions. It must make your day to day life very uncomfortable. I have absolutely no problem with the essence of the country I live in but I do think it reasonable, as a tax payer and resident, to comment on what I see as problems with institutions and actions as well as on the commonplace of everyday existence. I wouldn't be in a position to do the same about the UK. I haven't been there, except for a few weeks, over the past thirteen or fourteen years. If I were to move to, say, Worksop or Filey or Gateshead then I suspect the blog would be called something like Life in Worksop ... or Filey or Gateshead. And it would still be written by a Briton with a British perspective.

I understand that we Britons have a reputation for irony. A generalisation I know but not one I began. Is there, maybe, a hint of irony in your comments on the Catalan referendums? I get the feeling that there may be a slight dig at British democracy though, as you are not specific in your criticism, I don't quite know what. Back with the referendum though I'm sure that you would agree that for any sort of vote to be legitimate, you have to know who has the right to vote, keep a list of those voters, then ensure that those people only get to voice their opinion once through the ballot and to ensure that they can voice that opinion freely without coercion or fear. For a variety of reasons that didn't actually happen in Catalonia did it?

Chris Thompson said...

Now to the bit that made me bother to respond. Where the hell do you get off on this nonsense about "whether inadvertently or not, to cast a certain feeling of superiority upon us." Specifically, in the blog, I was talking about information. For years access to information in Spain has been difficult and bear in mind that I only have 21st century experioence here. The Transparency Law has improved things but there is still an institutional unwillingness to share information. If you don't acknowledge that then you are simply avoiding reality. I took that further by specifically saying that the shadow of the dictatorship still hangs heavy over Spain. So, if the Ley Orgánica de Protección de la Seguridad Ciudadana, police making people remove yellow T shirts before the Copa del Rey game, the number of legal challenges to requests for information under the Ley de Transparencia, the huge number of corruption cases involving politicians and illegal party funding - from dodgy masters degrees to stealing millions - the everyday corruption of cash in hand wages, funcionarios who can get away with not going to work for six years, regional politicians getting locked up for months in "preventative custody", non implementation of the Ley de la Memoria Histórica and plenty more, aren't signs of a continuing legacy of Francoism then what are they? I choose to think that the reason for so many of these uncomfortable things which affect Spanish democracy and society are because those habits linger on. If you don't think that is the reason then it may be you who is suggesting that the Spanish character is deeply flawed and Spanish society for ever tainted.

Oh, and if you think I just made those things up here is what the Amnesty report said about Spain: The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of Catalan independence supporters were disproportionally restricted. Dozens of people were prosecuted for “glorification of terrorism” and “humiliation of victims” on social media. Law enforcement officials used excessive force against demonstrators peacefully resisting the enforcement of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia's ruling stopping the Catalan independence referendum. Spain relocated fewer asylum-seekers than it had pledged to under the EU relocation scheme, and resettled fewer refugees than it had committed to. Thousands of people continued to face forced evictions. The authorities continued to close investigations into crimes under international law committed during the Civil War and the Franco regime. Just to forestall your comparative urge I looked at what Amnesty has to say about the UK - the comments there were on restrictions on abortions, overuse of counter terrorism laws and failure to investigate torture claims. Hardly criticisms of the same nature.

Finally, I see that you have caught a very British habit of referring to the Second World War. Your suggestion that there is some sort of shared bond between my views and those of the murderous, misogynistic, alcoholic, racist and imperialist Churchill is deeply offensive. I don't choose to believe that you have any admiration for your last but one Head of State despite your rather mild description of thirty plus years of murderous repression.

Toodle pip! Off for afternoon tea and all that if only I can find the bowler.

Anonymous said...

I think, as Javi, that you talk about Spain and Spaniards as if everything British is better. Most British expats I've known sound like you, even if some of them, I know because they told me, dislike also the UK.
I also think that you mention Franco too often. And it's painful. Spanish families were divided in two sides, for whatever reason, and they killed each other, and still hurts because many of them are still alive and it's a story hard to swallow for everyone of us. In every Spanish family there is someone who still keeps sad stories of war to tell, of death, famine, lack of education, treason, threat, etc. It is sad to hear anyone talking about it. So nobody does it.
But you keep talking about Franco and about that sort of tacky-Culebron-Spain you always describe, and, for some reason, you make me angry, even if it's not so important what you think. But you are as sour as vinegar sometimes.

Chris Thompson said...

El ministro de Interior, Juan Ignacio Zoido, ha explicado en el Congreso de los Diputados que mantendrá la condecoración al torturador franquista Antonio González Pacheco, más conocido como Billy el Niño.

Chris Thompson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Thompson said...

M - sorry it took a while to publish your comment. Google normally tells me that there isa comment but I found yours by chance.

On the forgetting or speaking it seems that most countries TOOK a different route to Spain in dealing with an unpleasant past.

Anonymous said...

That is true.