Thursday, November 26th: Just another day for most Europeans, but it’s a special day for me. It’s my birthday and it’s also the day the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving – that splendid festival which must be celebrated before any talk of Christmas comes along.
My late wife was from California, and like me, she moved to Spain early in her life to live. We had wonderful times together – our wedding-day, carefully chosen to coincide with her birthday so that I would be more likely to remember the anniversary – was a day that falls on the far side of the calendar, coincidentally with the Pamplona San Fermín fiesta. My own special day, a gloomy enough affair at boarding-school, a quiet cold late November day elsewhere, hovered during my married life in a mysterious way over Thanksgiving (a festival which moves around the latter days of November), and fell inevitably on the same date. Chocolates, a new book to read, and a giant luncheon.
Not that there is much to celebrate today. No turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings, surrounded by family and friends. No trip in the car to some Parador Hotel in Extremadura or a weekend in Paris.
We can thank Covid for that.
But I can count my blessings nonetheless. I live outside Almería on a horse-ranch with my Spanish partner and, if she’s never heard of cranberry jelly or pumpkin pie, she certainly knows how to prepare great meals. For this special day, we shall have fish.
Today, even if we are in lock-down, we have the pasture and the animals to play with.
And for that, I Give Thanks.
The Tourism Innovation Summit (here) – ‘the platform to transform the tourism sector through innovation, technology, and sustainability’ runs in Seville through Thursday November 27th. The Diario de Sevilla reports of at least some optimism in the industry.
An eccentric idea that patrons to the Balearic hospitality sector, including bars, cafés and restaurants, should be registered in the event of a corona-infection has now been dropped.
Asset management – a system where property can be exchanged for some kind of an income for life – has a justifiably poor reputation (and not just from the disenfranchised inheritors). 65yMás reports here that ‘Seniors are turning their backs on annuities due to the coronavirus crisis’. There’s a rather clever photograph to go with the article.
Together with Spain’s front-line medical profession, seniors living in residencias and their carers will be the first to receive the Covid-19 vaccine – apparently as early as January says Público here.
From The Corner here: ‘The social distancing measures and lockdowns imposed to combat the spread of Covid-19 have resulted in a multitude of changes in consumption habits. Among them, there is one that is particularly significant: the rise of e-commerce. This way of consuming, based on the purchase and sale of products over the Internet, has provided a lifeline for many businesses that saw their face-to-face sales fall due to the social distancing measures, as well as serving as an alternative means for many consumers to continue to make their usual purchases in complete safety…’.
Are we pining for the old two-party state? It was certainly much easier then. El Español reports that ‘Pablo Casado rules out that PP and Cs stand together in elections: "We are past that moment" he says. The conservative leader is no longer seduced by going under the same banner as Cs and Vox because the PP – he claims – is the only alternative to Pedro Sánchez’. Thus, the España Suma rightist coalition idea has been mothballed. Well, not entirely. The name has now been registered for a new far-right party made up of disaffected Andalusian Voxers.
While some of the barones (regional heavyweights) have been criticising Pedro Sánchez, another group within the PSOE has reacted against them. A group called Izquierda Socialista-PSOE expresses its "deep disagreement" with the "extemporaneous, dogmatic and populist" demonstrations of leaders and former leaders of the PSOE critical of the Government. The story is at Nueva Tribuna here.
The political party that received most private donations during 2019 (more than all the other parties combined) was Vox says elDiario.es here. Something in the region of 1.5 million euros was donated by supporters.
Are there political parties to the right of Vox? Unfortunately, says La Marea here, there are.
The (other) big story this week, as indignation at EH Bildu’s support for the 2021 national budget seems to have been sidelined, was against the new education bill popularly known as the Ley Celáa (after the Minister of Education Isabel Celáa). Thousands of vehicles festooned with orange balloons and Spanish flags took to the streets last weekend complaining about the new rules. The Church and Pablo Casado being much in evidence. Much is made of ‘la libertad’ (or ‘los privilegios’ depending on one’s place in society). The case against the law comes from El Mundo as elDiario.es defends the new system here.
Susana Díaz is the current (long-time) leader of the PSOE-A, the Andalusian socialists. She follows from Chaves and Griñán and was, in her hey-day, a rival to Pedro Sánchez for national leadership. She is now facing a rival in Andalucía itself – an ‘untried’ PSOE councillor and ex-cop from Jaén called Felipe Sicilia, who, says El Español waspishly, has mistimed his challenge.
Nicolás Sartorius (Wiki), a retired trade-unionist and Communist politician, recalls the early days of Spain’s post-Franco democracy: "I don't know if there is a pact with EH Bildu, but in the Transition we made pacts with political groups who previously had been shooting at us". El Español here.
An editorial from the right-wing La Razón here: ‘With this Government and, especially, with this Minister of Foreign Affairs, it is evident that the "battle" of Gibraltar is lost before it begins. Therefore, it must be assumed that the heads of this "republic of lawyers" will get away with it and do whatever they want. It must be taken into account that they start with the advantage of having about 10,000 Spanish prisoners who work in the colony and who use our weakness in the negotiations…’ The trenchant editorial from Francisco Marhuenda concludes with ‘…There are those who may think that the dignity of Spain does not matter and that we must humble ourselves so that 10,000 fellow citizens may continue to work in the service of First Minister Fabian Picardo and his pals, but I think it is a serious mistake’.
From The New European here: ‘A leading figure in the European Parliament has predicted that the UK will rejoin the EU, claiming it will return "where it belongs". Guy Verhofstadt made the claim after polling showed that support for the European Union within the UK had reached a record-high - days before the end of the transition period. Verhofstadt lead the parliament's Brexit negotiations until 2020 and sits on the working group for the Conference on the Future of Europe. The Belgian MEP tweeted: "As I have always said, one day a politician will bring Britain back home to where it belongs - at the centre of our common European destiny!"’.
Politics – as a Biden presidency will switch from the erstwhile US support of Brexit.
‘ Due to 'Brexit', the British driving license will cease to be valid in Spain from next December 31’ adding: ‘…afterwards, British licences will only be valid in Spain for six months from the entry of their holder in the country or from the date of obtaining legal residence’. says El Español here (Thanks to Charles).
‘Coronavirus: Europe faces 'six tough months' of pandemic, WHO says’. BBC News here.
NIUS says that death from Covid-19 is the third highest way to go in Spain at the present time following heart failure and cancer. It also notes the comparison with deaths from the flu: Flu (2019):6,300 and Covid (so far in 2020, official figures as of 24 Nov): 43,668.
From Sur in English here: ‘Restrictions in Andalucía to continue until 10 December. Municipal boundaries remain closed and the curfew stays at 10pm to 7am; commercial hours also remain as now, although bars and restaurants can serve food to take away until 9.30pm’.
El País (partial paywall) contrasts the three vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford. A fourth vaccine is the Sputnik V, which El Independiente seems to like here. Maldita checks them out here. El País in English says that ‘The Spanish PM announces ‘unique’ vaccination strategy via the country’s primary healthcare system. Pedro Sánchez stated on Sunday that the campaign could begin as early as January, and that the government will “guarantee fair access to the vaccine or vaccines”’.
Rafael Tejido, director of the Hospital Universitario Marqués de Valdecilla, in Santander: "We have to prepare ourselves to spending a Christmas while wearing a face-mask and practicing social distance inside the home". The head of the flagship of the Cantabrian health foresees until March a "very complicated" situation in the hospital management of the pandemic, but believes that the proximity of the vaccine allows us to see "light at the end of the tunnel"’. The disturbing item comes from elDiario.es here. Echoing the medical experts, ‘Pedro Sánchez hints for the first time that Christmas will be "at a distance" to "avoid a third wave" of the coronavirus’ says VoxPópuli here. ‘Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve dinners should be a maximum of six persons, with a 1.00am curfew’ according to El Mundo revealing the government strategy here.
Between the excitement of new vaccines and worry over the Christmas get-togethers, here's the Consejo Interterritorial de Salud warning us that we shall have to wear face-masks throughout 2021.
‘Forbes' annual guide to best doctors in Spanish hospitals released’ at Think Spain here.
On fake news, from ECD here: “Propaganda is gaining ground. You have to stick to journalism based on facts, facts and more facts”. María Eizaguirre, a candidate for the board of the RTVE has just published a book (‘100 days in a state of alarm: Democracy confined’) where she argues that the truth is the best antidote to lies and that journalists have “an obligation to democracy”.
The Government is preparing a tax on waste with which it hopes to collect 861 million in 2021. It will be included in the future Ley de residuos y suelos contaminados (law on waste and contaminated ground), and will tax landfill disposal and incineration with a maximum of 40 euros per ton, which will be reduced by up to 50% if the garbage is collected separately. It is yet to be defined how it will be combined with the regional taxes on rubbish, but it should serve to avoid sanctions from Brussels for breaching European legislation…’. El Economista has the item here.
Each Spaniard throws out 179k of wasted food each year says elDiario.es here. This works out at 3,000 million euros worth of discarded groceries every year. ‘Spain is the seventh most wasteful country in the EU. Between 30% and 50% of the food produced worldwide is discarded at some point in the agri-food chain’.
The Education Bill, known as the Ley Celaá, is explained at Bebés y Más here. Briefly, it is a law that, in 29 points, defines the future of education in Spain. Colin Davies notes in his interesting daily blog here that ‘Of course, it doesn't help if you're up against the interests of the powerful and entrenched Catholic Church, as well having to satisfy - or at least not alienate - nationalists in Cataluña, the Basque Country and Galicia…’.
VozPópuli says that ‘A six million euro radar-system to detect boats off the Canary Islands has been languishing in a warehouse for five years. Ongoing bureaucratic problems in the purchase of a plot of land so far have prohibited the activation of surveillance from the north of Lanzarote, the area closest to the coast of Morocco, a crossing which is used by the mafias to reach other islands in the archipelago’.
The answer by The Chief of the Navy General Staff Admiral Teodoro López Calderón to a suggestion from Reyes Romero from Vox of a naval blockade against the immigrants from North Africa crossing into Spanish waters is "If any warship in Spain encounters a dinghy in a situation where the lives of those in it are in danger, its obligation of all kinds, legal, moral, etcetera, is to rescue them, and that is what it would be done".
Another polite letter to the European Commission regarding the ‘disintegration of the Spanish democracy’ comes from a group of senior military folk and is reproduced in Okdiario, a far-right publication. Nueva Tribuna, commenting on this state of affairs, makes the point that ‘…The letter is signed by a general, a large group of colonels, lieutenant colonels and captains. That is to say, military members of the command scale: the holders of the institution's sacred values. They are all retired from active duty. Non-commissioned officers and regular professional soldiers do not count. They have never counted. Only the elite count, the one in the sky, or even further, in the stars…’.
The police seem pleased with their figures for Operación Verde, which is the anti-drug process in Spain. Between August 2019 and October this year, 800 marijuana plantations were discovered and almost 3,700 people arrested for drug-related offences.
El Periódico, through Cyber Monday (November 30th). The promotion with reasons to shop at the corner store, which suffers from a lack of custom thanks to the market giants, goes back as far as 2012 here.
‘This type of duplication is artificial and unnecessary from a linguistic point of view’ says the official Spanish language academy in reference to using both gender forms of a collective word (to not offend anybody…? To score a political point…?). The peculiar solution for those who speciously worry that (the redundant) ciudadanos and ciudadanas in written form should be written as ciudadanxs (etc) to save space, there’s the useful solution already considered by the Spanish RAE (here) , which is, ah, ‘ciudadanos’.
Spanish Shilling’s Might as well get it out of my system here.
Business over Tapas is on Facebook here.
From España Fascinante (in English), ‘The Oldest Preserved Castle in Spain’. The article takes us to the castle of Burgalimar, in Baños de la Encina (Jaén). ‘It is considered the oldest in Spain and the second oldest in Europe, a true medieval fossil with spectacular conservation…’. The article can be found here.
‘Las Vías Verdes is a network of Greenways that spreads all across the Iberian Peninsula. Since 1993 more than 3000 km of Spain’s abandoned train lines have been converted into these bicycle and pedestrian routes, as part of the European Greenway system. They can be used free of charge by cyclists, walkers, wheelchair users and horseback riders…’. An interesting article on this comes from Eye on Spain here.
The blog Crónicas de una Cosmopolilla writes here of O Sel Ling, the ‘Little Tibet’ in Granada. It’s not easy to get to, understandably perhaps, but take a two-hour walk uphill from the Alpujarra village of Soportújar and, well, wear something red.
Lonely Planet has chosen Cadaqués (Gerona) as Spain’s most beautiful coastal town. The Top Four are at Think Spain here.