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.