Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Year´s End

Well, there goes 2008. Bowing out miserably, not quite as sordidly as Bush in a hail of metaphorical shoes, but slouching none the less.
Una and I are slouching ourselves these days, limping, in fact. We possess a total of four good legs out of a possible six. Her left hind and my left are currently not up to speed. Tim jumped out of the car onto her and hurt her, and I damaged mine running after a donkey in bare feet (my feet, that is, not the donkey´s, she had shoes on).
All this was over two months ago, and we are still not OK. May never be. It´s the vet for her next week. I must be patient.
Still and all, things have not all been lame round here this year. We have a nice house to live in now, and we are starting on planting stuff like beans and peas, so we can eat when all money vanishes or becomes worthless - some time next week, I imagine. And we have our eggs. More chickens to come soon.
Bob the canary and Murph the cat are fine, though Murph is getting rather fat.

Resolutions? No, but I will give my liver a rest from alcohol during January, as I sometimes do. That´s enough for one year.

Regrets? That I did not get a chance to throw my shoes at George.

Happy New Year to all. You never know.

One year in 40 seconds from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Best foot forward

An Iraqi man has thrown his shoes at Bush during a press conference yesterday.
A good idea, but it would have made more sense if he had not taken them off first.

Friday, 12 September 2008


It´s been a busy six weeks since the last entry.
A dog has been and gone, two more chickens have arrived and a small cat has moved in.
And Tim has a mild case of fleas.
The dog was a puppy that we named Nobby, but turned out - a couple of days later - to be called Pancho. We found him running out of Sahagun one Friday evening. He was a terrier, and looked as if he could be a pedigree Jack Russell. There is a pic of him in Reb´s blog. We reported finding him to the Guardia, and his owner came on the Monday and collected him. Nobby/Pancho was a very smart little chap, with a wise, serious, old-looking face. It was a small sadness to see him go, but his owners were very happy to have him back.
Reb came home the other day with two more chickens, the same breed as before. The original three set about them and gave them a kicking. It seems that the pecking order is not only a figure of speech. An uneasy peace now prevails.
The cat -kitten really - is called Murphy. His pic is also on Reb´s blog. I must learn how to put pix on mine. Worth a thousand words, we used to say. Worth several thousand words like this, I am afraid.
But Murph is a another wonderful addition to the household. He is as handsome as a mog can be, and very friendly, which is surprising for a barn cat. He will not be allowed in the house as Reb is allergic to cats. But he is cozy upstairs in the bottle room, where he has his own personal loft and two squares a day.
Lucky for him, and us.
I´m working on Tim´s fleas. Reb thinks he might have got them from Murphy, but we can´t find any on the little fellow.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

What´s new?

A meaningless title for today´s offering.

My tireless and industrious wife points out that I have not extruded one for too long (a blog, that is).

Trouble is, there is so much to do each day here, what with making chicken runs, finding the hen´s eggs (latest place an old wine box) reading books - Moby Dick (the whale, not the man, it turns out), a biog of Evelyn Waugh, Stone Roses by Llamazares: newspapers, (El Pais) magazines, Nat Geographic, New Yorker, Casa y Campo (Design the Lavatory of your Dreams´); filling up the bird bath (an old frying pan), watering the plants including the new fig tree; making up my own recipes for cold soups that have mint in them; walking the dogs, as well as washing, brushing, scratching, de-ticking, de-fleaing, stroking and shouting angrily at them.
Scant time left for bloggish reflection.

And, on top of all that, I find that we can now get uninterrupted live video stream from the world´s race tracks such as Saratoga and Newmarket. This could be ruinous as well as time-consuming, although I seem to have lost the urge to bet.

Another major consumer of time in rural Spain is shopping.
As house cook, I am often dispatched with the granny-style shopping trolley and a fistful of euros, ´ get what looks good.´
It is, for me, a step back in time to the nineteen forties, when, as a lad of eight or so, I would go ´down to the shops,´ for my old Gran. Here, now - like then, it involves going into several different shops - butcher, fishmonger, grocer, baker - and probably standing in line in each.
In the butchers and the fishmongers, there are benches so you can sit in line and wait your turn. This is a good idea, as every order can be a lengthy affair. For one thing, if , for example, you want minced meat - carne picada - you will be shown the unminced pieces for approval first, before they are put through the mincer. Then if, say, a kilo is ordered, it is usual to ask the butcher to divide it into maybe four portions. No problem. If you want liver, come back Friday, as the animals are killed Thursday.
In the fish boutique, the chosen trout or bream will be gutted and cleaned in front of you. All this takes time, especially when the lady in front, who is ordering several very odd looking fishes in very small quantities, is also telling the fish lady - and everyone else in earshot -about her brother and his problems with his teenage son in Burgos.
The ironmonger can be the limit, even for me. Waiting in line, while there is an endless and lively discussion involving four men, about the wisdom of purchasing two washers, which cost 10 cents apiece, may be an authentic part of life as she is lived in Sahagun, but it´s a bit too authentic for me.

So, if I am going to blog more regularly, I will have to get up earlier.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

The last refuge of a scoundrel

John McCain, in an Independence day outpouring of gibberish intended to get him elected President, lays it on the line:

¨Patriotism is deeper than its symbolic expressions, than sentiments about place and kinship that move us to hold our hands over our hearts during the national anthem. It is putting the country first, before party or personal ambition, before anything.¨

For Patriotism, read Fascism.

It is, as Shaw said, many years ago, ¨Saying ´My country, right or wrong, is like saying
My mother, drunk, or sober.¨

I have lived in more than one country for more than a few years at a time during my life, and I am of the opinion that, as Hemingway once remarked, ¨There are pros and cons to every fucking country.¨

Are we to suppose that McCain approves of the Afgans, the Iranians, the Iraqis, the Israelis, the Pakistanis or the Palestinians, for example,
- to say nothing of the Russians or Chinese,
- holding the same opinions as himself?

Surely, he must. How can he logically not?

And where has that got us so far? And where is it going to get us?

In the unlikely event of any Americans still reading this blog, think about the implications of this a bit before you vote.

(Not that you should expect much more from Obama, his remarks for the Fourth of July were a little less crass, but not all that much)

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

And another thing..

Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.
Said Charles Darwin.

I think I have written this bit below before, somewhere, but no matter.

Centuries ago, a Christian priest was trying to convert a Mongol leader.
´If you become a Christian before you die, you will go to live in Heaven forever,´ the priest said.
´How many horses will I have?´said the Mongol.
´None,´ the priest said, ´There are no horses in Heaven.¨
¨Then I don´t want to go,´said the Mongol.
And he was right. A Heaven without animals, with only people, would be Hell.





Sad blog today.
Mimi just left town to live in Belgium with a charming young couple who already have a dog called Che, whom they practically carried from Burgos to Santiago.
I would like to put a pic of Mimi in this blog, but I am too stupid to know how. However, there is one in the entry for May 23rd.
But, rather than repine, I am consoling myself with the extraordinary fact that we have been so lucky with our animals.
We had three dogs, (we still have two) all strays, and all - without question - the finest dogs anyone ever had. We have three chickens, unquestionably the best in the world, equable and gregarious, and a canary who is the greatest warbler since Jussi Bjorling ( I have no doubt spelled that wrongly, and have certainly left off the two little dots over the ´o´) And in Pennsylvania, we had the world´s two nicest ferrets.
So, it is blessings counting time.
But, still. I did nearly cry when I handed Mimi over.
Tomorrow, I will take the furries over to Terradillos de Los Templarios to see my donkey friend there and give him, or her, a carrot and an ear-scratch.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Bullshit, brooding and bullfights

This just in:

¨Mugabe must not be allowed to steal the election,¨ said George Bush yesterday. Yes, that´s right, he actually said that, without blushing and with a straight face. If you can do the same, you should consider a lucrative career in politics. In a funny way, I shall miss George. He transforms words like, ´brazen,´´ shameless,´ and ´squalid,´ into some sort of compliment.

On to other things..

We have had quite a handful of pilgrims around in the last few weeks. One couple arrived, had a cup of tea and a rest and a chat, then set off again about half an hour later. The lady thanked us and said it had been a ´privilege,´ to visit us. I said I wouldn´t quite put it that way myself, but thanks.
I am still brooding on what she meant. But other pilgs, and friends on the web, have remarked on how wonderful life here seems to be. Perhaps it is. I am too close to tell.

.. and more things..

It is certainly an easier life than Jose Tomas, now accepted without question as the greatest torero since Manolete, is having these days. He does get about 400,000 euros (bullfighters´pay should really still be reckoned in pesetas, but I can´t do the math) for each corrida, but he earns every centavo.
If you go to the El Pais website for today, Monday, (under Culture, of course) you can see a clip of Sunday where he was awarded three ears and was gored three times, ´gravely,´ according to the surgeon. The week before, he collected four ears. I don´t really approve of bullfighting nowadays, but, if you are going to do it at all, do it right. And this is what Tomas does. He ends up every time with more blood on him than Peter O´Toole´s Macbeth. It is frightening to watch, even on video, when you know what is going to happen.
He is unlikely to finish the season at this rate.
In fact, he will be fortunate to survive the season.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

A Day in the Life

It ought to be easy to write a blog each day. Only takes a minute or two ( it says here)
But I see it has been a week since the last dose. So.
In case anyone still wonders what we do here, I will describe yesterday, a fairly typical day, though no two are the same.
Woke rather late, as last evening we had driven a couple of pilgs, who have a dog, to Burgos - where they will start walking to Santiago. They drove here from Belgium, where, conveniently, being Belgians, they live. They are young, 30-ish and the dog is a wacky Jack Russell. Una tried to kill it as soon as she saw it, which does not bode well for us as a house of welcome for pilgrims with animals in tow. We have yet to receive a horse or donkey. We shall see. The Belgian´s backpacks are too heavy as they have to lug a tent along because many pilgrim hostels will not take dogs. They will have problems.
But I am getting off track. I made coffee about eight, fed the hens, collected the customary three eggs, took the cover off Bob, and fed and watered him, and hung his cage on the well head, and he warbled his greetings.
Checked the Yahoo and Guardian and El Pais websites for the latest world lunacies- yesterday including the trainer of Big Brown blaming the jockey after the Belmont fiasco -and read my email. Sent off 30,000 pounds to a nice man in Nigeria (no, that is a joke).
Took the three dogs over to the Hare Field - an area of uncultivated land about a mile away. They go in a gang, hunting rabbits and whatever they can find. Luckily, this day, no lifeless local fauna were brought back for my admiration. One day the furry fools killed what looked like a small weasel, which made me unhappy, but they are dogs, after all.
Back home about an hour and a half later.
Then Reb and I into our monos (see pic) for a spot of labouring. We mixed up some concrete and patched a couple of holes on the outside wall of the house. This went well and was pleasing.
I am also in the process of ruining a perfectly good piece of board trying to do a painting. I want it to be everything, controlled, free, detailed, ambiguous, vague, precise, dramatic, tranquil, meaningful, meaningless. Naturally, is is none of these, except possibly the last. This is not pleasing.
I have more luck with the new cooker, which works by induction. These must be the greatest cookers ever, although I don´t really understand how they work. Something to to with magnetism, it seems. The response is instant. I made a nice paella dish. The rice was just right, but the squid in the seafood was a bit too chewy. Do not know how to deal with that yet.
The weather continues unstable. One or two thunderstorms either arrived or threatend during the day. At just after five, we went to Sahagun to shop and watch the Spain- Russia game. In fact, I headed straight to the bar while Reb shopped. This is unusually sexist for me these days, but I wanted to see the whole game.
Spain won handily, but their defence is suspect and they may not get as far as the fans here hope and expect.
Came back about eight, listened to more in a series of lectures from Berkeley University on Dante´s Divine Comedy, via the net.
Very interesting and thought-making, but for a comedy, there are not many laughs. One or two chuckles about Hell, though.
Cleaned up in one of our two splendid new bathrooms, and hopped into our big, comfy new bed.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Life is Unfair

Now we are living like normal folks in our shiny new house, the rules for dogs have changed, radically and dramatically.
Tim and Mimi are banned from entering . Una is allowed in the living room/kitchen, but can no longer sit on chairs or the new sofa. This has caused dog consternation. Una swans smugly about the room as the other two huddle on the threshold watching in disbelief and envy. They can put their heads in, but must keep their paws outside. No, it´s not fair. The main reason Una is privileged is because Reb and I feel a bit guilty about introducing Mimi into the family. She is making a powerful attempt to become top dog and has youth and ambition on her side. She will soon have the weight and muscle as well. Una exploits her situation by waiting until we are not looking, then jumping onto a forbidden bit of furniture.
But we had to lay the line down somewhere. All three go out hunting and rooting around in the fields every day for hours and come back coated in mud, and sometimes with ticks. This kind of carry-on was, and is, tolerated in the old kitchen, but it has to stay there. It is hard most of all for Tim, who is not happy unless he has his head on my knee, but the weather is finally clearing up, according to the forecast, so I will be in the yard with him most of the day. I don´t know what we will do with the furry fools in the winter, but that is months away.

Also at home in the yard are the swallows who have made a nest in the barn, and are learning that they have nothing to fear from us. They sit on the clothes line communing with Bob the Canary whose cage hangs from the well-head during the day.

Tomas, the Dutch Croatian will be finished today and will leave for France tomorrow. He has been a great help and a good guest as well, always finding something nice to say about my cooking, which is often more than I can. Today, I will cook a rabbit.

Friday, 30 May 2008

In House

Yes, we are in our new/old house after a year of waiting. We spent last night in our new bed. It was comfortable. I showered in the new bathroom upstairs. The taps, like all Spanish taps, defy logic. I suppose in time I will work out which is hot and which is not. It also seems that you have to turn the left-hand one to the right to turn it off, but the right-hand one to the left. Or vice versa. I think But, eventually, hot water flows and the day´s dust is washed down the drain.
The internet is still connected up in the old kitchen where we spent most of the past year, so we are not fully installed yet, but things are looking up.
The weather is unseasonal. Chilly and wet for weeks now, it seems, with June due in a day or so. The dogs are even dirtier than usual from hunting forays in the Hare Field.
Now I am going to start cleaning up the American´style kitchen/living room while Reb gets the dogs dirty for the day. The prospect excites them.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Vote, or else..

No, it´s not about Obama!

Rebekah, my wife, has been short-listed for a Best of Blogs award.

The website involved is, for some odd reason, called:

Once you´re in there, scroll down to "Best of Travel and Leisure" blogs and check the box next to "Moratinos Life." Vote early, vote often. And if you want to know what you are voting for, Reb´s blog is to be found at

Most of you know this already. Anyway, if you don´t, you should go and read it and then go to the best of blogs site and vote for it. Or else, see below...



Thursday, 22 May 2008

Animal Farm, eventually

Having three dogs can be hard going. They are everywhere, under your feet, on every chair, shouting at callers and workmen, squabbling with each other. Yesterday, Tim, normally the mildest of dogs, set about another local dog, a puppy called Luna who seemed to have done nothing to deserve it. A worrying sign. Maybe it had something to do with him managing to catch a full sized rabbit earlier in the day, but I doubt it. And I am not sure if he actually caught the rabbit, as the first I saw was him racing along with it hanging out of his mouth with Mimi alongside trying to wrest it from him. Maybe he just found the body rather than caught it. Then both dogs vanished for over half an hour, but I could hear them barking way off somewhere among the pines.
All this took place in what we call the Hare Field, an area of uncultivated scrubland full of gullies and ravines and crittur holes. It is the dogs´ favourite place. When the two returned I was relieved to see they had disposed of the corpse and were not covered in blood, so they had not apparently torn their victim to bits.
Una all the while was close by me, unusual for her, but she has been a little subdued recently. We think Mimi´s relentless attention is getting to her.
Anybody need a dog?

Also yesterday, two pilgs turned up with a donkey looking for Reb (the pilgs, that is, not the donkey.) Unfortunately, she had gone off to Sahagun. Anyway, when I opened the front door, the dogs all ran out and began barking at the poor beast, who had earlier been attacked by other dogs, and bitten, so we were told.
We would like to put up pilgrim animals such as donkeys and horses and dogs, but this was not a promising start. The two pilgs quickly assured me they were on their way to Sahagun and did not need to stop.
One of our neighbours told me on Sunday that there was a small donkey for sale in Sahagun right now, with very few miles on it.
We would like one of our own eventually, but maybe eventually never comes.

We have also thought about getting a goat, and went as far as buying a book on the subject. This, for 10 euros, or so, was a good investment, because I keep the book in the bathroom and read it when I am at stool. Every time I look at the impressive and illustrated list of horrible aliments that can befall a goat, the idea of owning one goes straight back onto the eventually list.
Last night we went to Sahagun to watch the Manchester United - Chelsea game.
When we arrived at the bar, the TV was showing bullfights from Madrid. One minute a noble bull vomiting blood from its nose, then a quick channel flip to Sir Alex Ferguson in a spectacularly horrible shiny suit.
There was something quintessentially Spanish about it all.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

A couple of swells

Two people I admire enormously these days are Montaigne and Wittgenstein. Two people as different as one could imagine. I have no idea what they would have thought of one another, but have no doubt that they each have realised each other´s genius.

People have often asked me what it is about Wittgenstein that I find so compelling. The following little story will not help or give more than a vague clue, but it´s better than nothing.

One of his students, a remarkable woman in her own right, named Anscombe, once remarked to him that it was easy to see why people in the past had thought the sun went round the earth.
´Oh, yes, Why?´asked Wittgenstein. ´Because that´s how it looks,´ said Anscombe.
´But how would it look if the earth went round the sun?´asked Wittgenstein.

It is not easy to extract nuggets like this from either Wittgenstein or Montaigne, as it is from Wilde, or Voltaire or Mencken or Shakespeare.

But these words from his Essay on Experience might, I would like to hope, send people heading to the bookshop to grab Montaigne´s complete works.

´We are great fools. ¨He has spent his life in idleness,¨ we say, and ¨Ï have done nothing today.¨
What! Have you not lived? That is not only the fundamental, but the most noble of your occupations.´

Must get back to earth and the dogs, tomorrow.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Back to the beasts

I have never followed the subject of politics as closely as I do now.
It started when Bush won eight years ago, then 9-11 happened. Ever since, monitoring the progress of American democracy has been like watching a gang of baboons let loose in a room full of priceless Sung porcelain. I watch transfixed with fascinated horror - can´t look away.

So onto dogs.
After Mass today, Estebanito was amused when I said that if we landed ourselves with any more dogs - we now have three - Reb and I were considering getting a couple of horses and starting to hunt foxes. The Moratinos Quorn.

It is extraordinary what a difference one dog makes. Two is a pair. Three is not so much a trio as a whole bleeding pack. Particularly as the new one, Mimi is an assertive little bitch and is involved in an intense but bloodless power struggle with Una for control over Tim and me. They roll and wrestle and snarl bloodcurdlingly, but, so far, it is only posturing.
Tim and I can only watch and wait apprehensively from the sidelines. Like with American politics.

On the Camino with them this morning, a pilgrim lady asked me, ´Do the dogs belong to you?´ ´No,´I said, ´Í belong to the

Still on dogs, I told my friend Anselmo this joke in Spanish the other day and he understood it, so I must be improving a bit.

A man walks into a pub. At the bar a man is sitting with a dog beside him. ´Does your dog bite?´asks the first man. ´No,´says the man at the bar. So the newcomer reaches down to pet the dog, which bites him. ´You said your dog didn´t bite,´ he complains. ´That´s not my dog,´ says the man at the bar.

Friday, 9 May 2008

No thanks

In fact, so angry am I at the Bush administration´s fiasco in Iraq, that when the invitation to Jenna´s wedding finally arrives, (they are leaving it awfully late) I have decided not to attend.

Things I now realise

It has taken me 67 years to realise (I insist on spelling the word in the English way) the full truth of certain sayings.

The first is when Keats describes how the Nightingale...´ Singest of Summer with full-throated ease.´ We have no Nightingale here, but we do have Bob, the Canary, who warbles in exactly that effortless way. I am indebted to him for reminding me to read the poem again, which is magnificent.
How about these for lines.. ´charm´d magic casements opening on the foam of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn.´

And after eight years of Bush, I now fully realise what Doctor Johnson had in mind when he said...´Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.´

And I am more than persuaded these days that Shaw´s assertion... ´An asylum for the sane would be empty in America,´ is no more than sober reality.

And, although I think I may have published the Mencken quote below before, I can´t resist another airing. Mind you, he did say it over eighty years ago, and no fair-minded person could agree nowadays, could they?

´The American people, taken one with another,constitute the most timorous, snivelling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages.´

Thursday, 8 May 2008

I Could Be Wrong, Of Course

It is clear now that Hillary must shut up, give up, sign up and stand up and be counted on behalf of Obama. But she won´t.
A word of warning, though, among all the adulation. Barak may be young, he may be intelligent, he may be personable, he may be charismatic (whatever that means) and he may be black - or at least not particularly white - but he is still a politician.
So, in the unlikely event of his being elected, he will proceed - briskly and efficiently and swiftly - to let everyone down.
He probably won´t beat McCain, anyway. This will not be despite the excellent qualities listed above, but because of them.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Funny old world

Nothing but bad news around today.

In what I still obstinately think of as Burma, the latest count from the cyclone indicates 100,000 may be dead. When God gets down to a bit of serious work, he does not fuck about.

And it seems that within the last few days, a Moroccan naval vessel intercepted an inflatable raft with about 90 sub-saharans on board in mid ocean, on their way probably to the Canaries, so one of the crew members took a knife and punctured the boat, sinking it and killing over thirty, including four children. For some reason, I find this exceptionally depressing - probably because it is hard enough for these poor buggers anyway, without murdering them wholesale.

But, in case we think that nothing similarly awful ever happens to Americans, I submit, without comment, the following from a news report yesterday on the ongroaning and apparently interminable Hillary - Barak saga:

Jessica Jett, 18, from the town of Monrovia, was sceptical about Clinton's gas plan, but then noted that her parents were obliged to share cars to their jobs in Indianapolis because of the high fuel prices. "I can't even afford to have my own car, gas prices being the way they are," she said.

Your prayers are asked for all above - particularly for the stricken Jett family - that they may soon be able to travel each in their own personal vehicle -without punctures.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Moving day

We spent last night - our first - in our rebuilt house. It was Ok, though the place is not yet finished as we are still waiting for the doors and some plumbing. Still, with a sheet pinned up over where the bedroom door should be, we made it through the night. About three a.m., one of the dogs, Una I think, got in and roamed about looking for us muttering to herself, but the sheet fooled her, and she went back to bed. At seven though, in daylight, the whole dog gang burst in licking and wagging and I had to get up, which I was going to do anyway.
Our luck is holding good. Spring is really here, and although we may get more rain, it will stay warm from now on.
The dog tally now stands at three. The latest is another stray, a bitch about six months old, half Alsatian and half something else, possibly terrier. She is clever and self-confident and is currently trying to assert herself as boss over Una. Tim watches the power struggle warily from a distance. We will, I think, let Mimi - for that is her name - go, if we can find a suitable taker, but that will not be easy. I am fond of her and would keep her, but it is a bit much for Reb.

Maybe the new lifestyle, without morning and evening journeys to Sahagun, will allow me to blog more. Be warned.

So, on an entirely different topic, a piece in a recent New Yorker, made a point that Orwell would have savoured. There is a brand new weasel word: Misspeak.
Hillary Clinton trotted it out some days ago when she was revealed to have lied about being under fire in Bosnia or Kosovo, or somewhere, a few years back. It means just that, ´I lied, but since, as a politician, I am supposed to be truthful, I will call it something else.´ Orwellian doubletalk.
Of course, they all lie as much as can get away with - Obama and McCain as well as her. I suppose the idea of ´misspeaking´may indicate at least some vestige of decency - some notion of admitting, albeit obliquely, a trace of guilt. ´My brain wanted to be honest, but my mouth, unaccountably and regrettably, spewed out these untruths and let me down,´ is what we are asked to accept.
So we are not likely to hear Bush and Co bothering to admit to ´misspeaking.´ When revealed as liars, about twice a day on average, they simply don´t answer, or else, if cornered, tell another lie about the first lie. If all that fails, they accuse the questioner of being unpatriotic for bring the subject up.
Whoever gets elected, all we can hope for is a change of degree in lying. But it will, at least, be a little less awful than now.

Sports news

Is Big Brown a super horse? Will he go on to win the triple crown and restore the fortunes of The Sport Of Kings (Sheiks, at least) ? I say he will. So he probably won´t.
Is Real Madrid a great team now. I say no. But they are better than any of the others (which only means Barca) right now.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Theologian needed

This is a very dull blog, I fear.

But if there are any theological experts out there who understand this kind of thing, I really would like an answer, or at least an opinion.

Yesterday, when George W. was schmoozing with Pope Ratzinger, he said he agreed with the old Pontiff that relativism was a Bad Thing.

Scarce 50 years ago, when I was at a Catholic school in London, the priest who taught us Religious Knowledge (surely an oxymoron?) told us, among other things, that Limbo existed and that eating meat on Fridays was a sin. Later in life, in the States, friends told me they were taught that the meat rap was, in fact, a mortal sin. I seem to remember it being venial, but that´s not the issue here.

Now, I gather, Limbo either never did exist, or else they have shut it down, and meat eating on Fridays is off the sin list. Am I right?

Because if I am, it appears to be an open-and-shut case of relativism. If believing in Limbo was relatively right then, how can it be relatively wrong today? And what happened to the sinful meat eaters up to when they re-wrote the score?
Are they still doing time in Purgatory? At least until that goes to hell the way Limbo has?

Can a sin stop being a sin without relativism getting involved? Not as far as I can see.

I suppose Galileo was relatively wrong in his day. Maybe, for Ratzinger, he still is.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Birds, Women, Guns, Bibles and Dogfights.

Four topics today.

1: The Peaceable Kingdom, as my wife calls our set-up here, has a new member, a canary. He is grey-ish and looks more like a sparrow, but he sings like nothing on earth. Provisionally, he is called Bob (for Dylan), but that might change. Camaron (for De la Isla), Jussi (for Bjorling), and Sidney (for Bechet) are contenders. Placido (for Domingo) would be the obvious choice, but we have already given that name to a wild bird who likes to warble in our garden.

2: A couple of days ago now, President Zapatero presented his new cabinet. Out of 17 ministers, nine are women. Just in case George Bush is reading this, that is more than half.
One, a 37 year old, clearly about six months pregnant, is now the Minister of Defence. Another, at 31, is the youngest Minister ever in Spain and possibly the world, for all I know. Apparently, the snide comment in Madrid, is along the lines of, ¨Plenty of women, but no fat ones.¨ Nor, as a columnist for El Pais pointed out, no elderly, disabled, homosexuals, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, or extraterrestrials, either. Call that inclusive?
For readers from the Midwest, (more on there later) I must point out that the writer was being ironic.

All this is excellent, particularly when today´s news featured a couple of elderly men jointly responsible for a good percentage of the planet´s current woes - George Bush and Pope Ratzinger - were no doubt mutually congratulating one another on the mess they are making of things. Bin Laden was absent - more pressing things to do, no doubt. I wonder how much coverage the Spain women story got in the U.S. Must have a look later. Less than the old Pope, I expect.

3: It looks as if Barack has shot himself in the foot with one of the millions of guns the embittered old men in the Midwest own and rejoice in. Not that he was wrong, pointing out that America´s post-industrial towns are populated with embittered gunslingers. The trouble is he was exactly right. And telling the truth is political suicide in the States.
I speak from experience. I lived in Toledo, Ohio, then in Jeanette, Pa., and have known, and drunk - and even worked, with many such folk for nearly twenty years. They are often eaten up with anger and frustration over life. The world beyond means nothing to them. Hillary - or at least her team - almost certainly know Barack is correct. But they can now get all huffy about him insulting the poor ex-working man whose job is now in China, partly thanks to Bill Clinton.
Rifle in one hand, Bible in the other. Salt of the earth, don´t you know (the embittered old men, that is, not Clinton).
It has also been said that Obama´s remarks will give these voters in Pennsylvania the excuse they were looking for not to vote for him. This is balls. They don´t need an excuse. These kind of guys would never have voted for him anyway. They will not be too keen on voting for Hillary, come to that. McCain is their man, if Bush and Cheney are not an option. Rifle in one hand, Bible in the other.

4: Back to sanity.
Rebekah has just come back from walking the dogs. Tim got in a real knife and fork session with one of our neighbor´s dogs, a noted canine thug. Tim sent him scuttling with a bloody face and a torn ear.
Happy days in the Peaceable Kingdom.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Gut Reaction

It has been an exciting ten days, or so.
On good Friday I noticed that, to put it crudely, my shit was amiss. There was blood in it. This can be a bad sign. The same thing happened for the next four days, over the Easter weekend. I did not want to spoil the weekend for Reb, who was enjoying the parades of bleeding Jesuses and weeping Virgins, so I waited ´til Monday to tell her, as we were enjoying a tinto in the bullfight bar, in Palencia, surrounded by pictures of men in embroidered outfits being gored.
She took it well, and Tuesday we went to the local health centre in Villada and told the doc. He filled out a form and said to get over to the nearest hospital, which is also in Palencia, ahora mismo, which means right now. We were admitted promptly and I was told to get undressed and put on a dopey robe that was open all down the back. Some hours, and tests later, I was told I would be staying overnight at least, issued with pyjamas, a toothbrush and toiletries and put into a ward with a nice man called Cristi who worked for Renault and was having trouble with his groin.
After a not too uncomfortable night, and more, pre-dawn, tests, I was told that things were ´stable,´and I could go home and come back next week (today) for some big-time probing.
Which I did. They knocked me out and rummaged around inside. I didn´t feel a thing not even after I came round. Quite enjoyable, in a way.
While I was getting dressed again, the doctor told Reb, ¨He is all right, but he shan´t drink more Whisky, Orujo or Brandy.¨ I think he meant ¨shouldn´t.¨ Not a mention of my favourites, Gin and Vodka, but I suspect it is just that my vocabulary of booze is bigger than his.
Orujo, by the way is the local liquor. A couple of friends make their own in their barn. It seems that calling the hard stuff ¨Rotgut´can be literally true.
Anyway, I shan´t fail to do what the doc demands.
And I will drink a toast to the local health service.
In wine though; not Orujo, or Vodka, or even Gin.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Thought For The Day

Flaubert wrote,
"To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost."

But what did he know?

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Mixing Politics and Sport

In yesterday´s blog I went off the rails a bit. you can do that with blogs.

I had intended to make the point, regarding the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, that the Bush Republicans and John McCain too now, keep talking about ´´winning the war. For about four years now, I have been asking this question and have not had even a vestige of an answer.


This is not the sort of war where the losers end up signing a document of surrender and handing over their swords (or scimitars, maybe) to the victor. All I can suppose is that the President at the time will announce that all members of Al Queda have been killed. Official. Peace in our time from now on. And, when another deadly attack takes place, we can say with confidence that it was not Al Queda but some other bunch of bastards - either not so bad, or even worse, depending on what side the coin comes down.

However, this line of thinking will get us nowhere, so let us go back to brooding on yesterday´s other topic, The Olympic Games.
My ideas generated some debate, mostly in favor although it is perhaps not extraordinary that syncopated swimming elicits scant support among my readers.
I was persuaded to look up the official list of Sports´ currently on offer in Pekin. One that stands out as a candidate for immediate dumping is Shooting. Worse even than Ping-Pong, (which is on the Olympic list) or Golf, (which unaccountably, is not), the criteria are not even consistent. Handguns, rifles and shotguns are listed as OK, but not machine guns. Why not? And not a whisper about Bazookas. But why stop there? If Shooting is considered a reasonable way of winning glory and a gold medal for one´s country, why not Bombing?
No, Shooting must go.
Along with Boxing, Wrestling, Tae Quan Do (whatever the hell that is), and Sword Fighting, better known as Fencing. All too violent and silly. I had to think a bit before dropping Archery, but although it is fun at first, SOMEONE COULD END UP LOSING AN EYE, and we don´t want that, do we now?
Doubtless the Chinese have flirted with the possibility of suggesting Baton Charging as a likely addition. Many nations would fancy their medal chances in that event.

If all the nasty activities currently on offer continue to be approved Olympic material, it can only be a question of time before Mugging makes the list. Which, considering how the Bush gang won the last two elections, and treated John Kerry, brings us back to politics. And out.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Unsporting comments

The Invasion of Iraq was, ´Just, noble, and necessary,´says Bush, which means, of course, exactly the opposite. It´s easy to know where you are with George. If he says there is no recession, you know that there is a recession. If he says we are winning in Iraq, we must be losing. When he says things are getting better there, as does McCain, we know that best best we can hope for is that they are getting less worse. Which they ain´t.

Anyway, here are a few predictions.

The Olympic Games will not be held in China this year. Too much pollution and persecution.

McCain will win the Presidency over either Clinton or Obama, probably Clinton. Race and religion will do Obama in.

Sarkozy will overcome his crippling inferiority complex.

I must say, however, that all of these will no doubt turn out to be erroneous. My record of picking election winners is totally consistent. I am always wrong. This is because I can´t imagine anybody thinking or voting differently to myself. I was confident Thatcher would not be elected. Who in their right minds would vote for her? The same happened both times with Bush, of course. Come to that, I wouldn´t have given a rat´s ass for Ratzinger´s chances in the Vatican Stakes. Wrong stable.

While I am on a tear, we might as well tackle the Olympics. I used to look forward to them with great anticipation, particularly the 5k, 10, 1,500m and the marathon. I still like these. I even like the swimming races. But the whole package is now way out of hand and silly and the majority of events should be dumped.
Not just the obviously dopey stuff like synchronised swimming, but also walking races (if you are in a hurry, just bleeding run), the triple jump (hop, step and jump; meaningless. Why not the jump, step and hop?) Then all events that require a panel of judges, all soccer matches (no point - enough soccer competitions already) The pole vault, (too much reliance on technicality), and last , but least, those bike races where the two riders go as slowly as possible for about nine tenths of the race then pedal like crazy at the end (too philosophical).

If the was a Waterboarding event, I would ban that too. The Americans would be denied a certain gold there.
All flags and national anthems should be banned, and all athletes should wear the same white vest and shorts.

When people say that sport and politics should not mix, I remember years back when the British Rugby teams were prevented from playing the South Africans. That was what the dolts who wanted the Springboks (as the lily-white South African team was called) to compete used to bleat. The fact that the Springboks refused to have black players in their team aparently did not count as politics.

So let´s eviscerate The Games. Cut out all the all the Dressage and Three Day Eventing and Show-jumping - if we allow animals in, we might as well include fox hunting and bullfighting (certain golds for Spain and England, though not necessarily in that order), and move the handful of remaining events to Finland or somewhere else decent and leave the Chinese to kicking the Tibetans around and wondering what to do with the five thousand tons of Egg Fu Yong they have ordered in advance to feed the serried ranks of synchronised slow cyclists, to name but many.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Stepping back in time

The weather is behaving as if it believed all that climate change talk: a succession of warm, sunny days in late February. The locals are worried. The plants are budding, and daffodils are blooming. But they need rain (the plants that is, not the locals), and if we get a big frost later, all of them could be ruined (the locals and the plants).

Still, we took advantage on Saturday. The dogs and us piled into the Kangoo and set off. We decided to stop about 15 miles further on at Cisneros. This is a village with a fair bit of history, as usual around here.
It is reputed to be the birthplace of the eponymous cardinal, around 1430 or so, and there is a statue of him in the main square. He looks like a nasty bit of work, like most cardinals, but it may just be flattering. I am not sure what he is famous - or notorious for, but a rather lively part of Madrid is named after him.

We walked from the town a mile or so along a quiet road which had a series of stone Calvary crosses spaced out along it, until we came to an interesting church, deserted and locked of course. Then we walked on another mile to a village called Pozo de Urama. Outside there, we met an elderly and friendly gent, who commented on Tim, a hunting dog. Didi I have a rifle? No. Did I hunt ? No.

I told him the story of how Tim found us. The geezer, whose name was Ruffino, then told us a lot of things about the area. As usual, the villages have been depopulated hugely. He told us the name of the church we had passed was Christ of the Lamp and that every September 8th there is a procession out from Cisneros and back. Romerias, they are called.

We walked with him to Pozo, his village, where he had been mayor for 25 years. He showed us an alternative way back across the fields , which meant we could let the dogs run loose.

About a half mile outside Cisneros, we saw two stones like tombstones in the ditch by the side of the path. One read.´ Here died Eugenio Herron, aged 36.´ The date was obliterated, but I suspect it was 1936, and that he was a victim of the Civil War. The other stone was a sort of imitation of a Roman tombstone (at least I suspect it was an imitation) with a latin inscription very hard to read. But I think it was a marker of another victim of that war.
We agreed we will try to find out more soon.

These small towns often have a big history, some of which they would often prefer to stay buried..

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Ranting about politics, unfortunately.

I try to keep off politics here, but sometimes the urge to kick a few arses gets the better of me.

Today, as Fidel Castro tells Americans he´s going to move aside and give his brother his chance to thumb his nose at them for a few years, George W. seizes the opportunity for some carefully ill-chosen words.
Release your political prisoners, he urges the Cubans. This is sound advice if you don´t have any political prisoners yourself. And, as we read within the last few days, not only does America have Gitmo, but a couple of black holes in Afghanistan in which at least three times as many unknown, uncharged, unconsidered Threats To Democracy are rotting. Some of them may well be double-dyed bastards, but since they will probably never even be named, let alone charged, we will be hard-pressed to know.

I know that by now I shouldn´t be surprised at anything that emerges from the lips of Democracy´s Posterboy, but blimey.

As we are on the subject of politics, I doubt anyone will have the patience to stick with reading this. Still, we slog on, glumly.

There was an article in El Pais a week or so back which made an excellent point on the upcoming elections in America. There is one question that is never raised. This is by mutual consent.
Obama and Hillary both tacitly agree not to mention it because neither of them has a clue, and John McCain doesn´t have to bother, because the Republicans are all in agreement on this if nothing else.

The question is this: If you are elected, what are you going to do about Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians?

All together now, Democrats and Republicans, with one voice: ¨Nothing!¨

And it is probably, in the long term, the most important question of all.

I remember, on the day of 9-11, thinking this is all about Israel.
Within days, of course, George Bush went on TV saying that this was nothing to do with Israel.
A short while later, Bin Laden released a video saying that, yes indeed, it was all about Israel.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Tackling matters

Last Friday, we went on a biggish hike from Calzadilla de los Hermanillos ( which may mean Path of the Little Brothers) to Mansilla de las Mulas (which may mean Hand on the Saddle of Mules, or it may not) A walk of some 12 miles or so. Reb drove the whole way, parked the car and walked back, with Una, to meet me about half way, then turned round and we walked the rest together.
Had a bad moment with Tim before we all met up. At one spot the Camino meets a level crossing and at that point, I was confused about the route. There were some men fixing the track to accommodate the famous high-speed train promised soon. They had a bulldozer working and Tim was frightened to go near it. As he backed away from it, his head came out of his collar. Right then the men pointed out a train coming on at about eighty miles an hour. Tim began to panic, and I had to rugby tackle him and hold him down as the train passed about 15 feet away.
He would probably have run away from the train, but who knows with dogs?

We were all pretty tired when we got to Mansilla, but it was a nice walk, bleak - no trees, no shade, no water - but over a good deal of Roman road, which is standing up pretty well after a couple of thousand years. Reb saw two foxes. Tim and I saw nothing but the train, and we could have done without it.

My one contribution to the house project has caused some problems. I noticed we had what seemed like a lot of floorboards left over and suggested they be used instead of plasterboard for a ceiling in the kitchen. Turns out that there were not enough planks, so we then had to go scouring North West Palencia for more. Still, it does look better so far.
Reb has gone all Zen about the whole thing. Que sera, sera, she says, submitting utterly to the inexorability of ineffable fate. I am reminded of a scene in a Truffault movie called Day for Night, in which the director, playing the role of himself more or less, explains how he works.
¨I always start off intending to make the greatest film ever. By the time I am half way through, all I am trying to do is get some sort of plausible ending on it.¨( I paraphrase his words)

I feel like that about practically everything, these days, the house particularly. Just make it warm and dry, please.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Psycho Path

Well, it was a relief to see Rudy Giuliani handed his hat this morning. One less loony to worry about. That leaves about 300 million, not including New Jersey. Two of them yesterday, McCain and Romney, were busy frothing and snarling and accusing one another of being Liberals.

While on the subject of loonies, I was interested, though unsurprised, to read that The Camino de Santiago - on which we live - has more than its fair share of that commodity. A newspaper ran a story a while back, (you can find it at ), the gist of which was that a significant number of pilgrims, mostly male and about 40 years old, are already practically barking before they pull on a boot. As a result, by time they get to Burgos, which is a bit less than half-way, what with tiredness, blisters, other loonies and assorted stressing circumstances, they have to be boxed up, packed in ice, and shipped home. The trouble is, they set out with the intention of solving -or at least confronting - the accumulated problems of a lifetime - lost jobs, broken marriages, mortgage defaults, nervous breakdowns and God knows what all else, by popping on a rucksack and taking a 500-mile stroll.
On top of all that, they often run out of whatever prescription medicine that had been providing a tenuous link to reality. We have seen a few such cases around here.

Maybe, when we come to furnish the house, a sturdy green leather couch (The Freud: 15,000 Euros, a traditional favourite, highly recommended by our medical clientele) should head the shopping list.

On a more serious note, the dogs keep rolling around in some kind of fertiliser that make them stink of rotten fish. Pretty much the same smell Liberals have, if you believe the Republican contenders.

I shall take a bath, but it will do no good.