Letter from Barcelona (12): Zoido’s lunch (or why controlling Catalonia from Madrid is impractical)

With a chance to finally reflect on the tragic events of the past 12 days, the image that sticks in my mind, believe it or not, is of ‘Zoido’. Juan Ignacio Zoido, Spain’s Interior Minister, aged 59, originally from Seville, now based in Madrid. He’s a former judge, previously Mayor of Seville, and his father owned a bakery.

Zoido has that permanently full, heavy, stuffed appearance of a man who has just indulged in a long lunch. In fact he looks like he’s indulged in many long lunches, every day, over many years. On Monday 21st August, just after 2pm, he appeared on TV to give a press conference from the Ministry of Interior in Madrid, to give an update on the on-going investigation of the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils of 17th & 18th August. He didn’t look very happy. He looked as if he’d just been interrupted from the start of a long lunch (in Madrid, as I have experienced, those lunches start after 2pm and can sometimes run until 5pm). Zoido was missing out on the start of a nice one, I was sure. In the press conference, which was totally unnecessary, Zoido didn’t really speak, he sort of wheezed unhealthily.

I say the press conference was totally unnecessary, because it was. It overlapped with the end of a full and detailed press conference that had just been held in Barcelona, by the Catalan Interior Minister, Joaquim Forn, alongside the Justice Minister, Carles Mundó, and the head of the Mossos police, Josep Lluís Trapero. It was that eventful press conference that might be remembered more than anything for a Dutch journalist walking out, and Trapero’s soon-to-be-hashtag-immortalised response of ‘Bueno pues molt bé pues adiós’ (‘Good, well, great, so bye’). But in that press conference in Barcelona there had also been a thorough explanation of the on-going investigation of the terrorist attacks, with questions, too (asked and answered multi-lingually), and – more importantly – the issuing of the ‘wanted’ photos of the fugitive terrorist still at large at the time, Younes Abouyaaqoub, confirmed as the van driver in the attack on La Rambla.

At the end of Zoido’s short and unnecessary press conference in Madrid, however, in which he repeated some of the things already explained in detail in Barcelona, no questions were allowed. He held up a photo of the fugitive Abouyaaqoub – a totally different photo to the one issued in Barcelona – and then left the room. As if in a rush, or perhaps to be chauffeured to a restaurant where an apéritif was awaiting him. Just three hours later, the Mossos had tracked down Abouyaaqoub near the Catalan town of Subirats, and where they shot him dead in a vineyard, after he revealed he was wearing an explosive suicide belt (that later turned out to be fake).

My point here is … what was the point of Zoido in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils? Well, there was no point. There was no point in Zoido giving a press conference in Madrid on Monday 21st August other than to deny the Mossos all the spotlight. There was no point in Zoido actually coming to Barcelona on the night of Thursday 17th August, to sit in on anti-terrorist meetings, duplicating the work, nor wait 48 hours to make any comment about the attacks – and which initially was to simply announce that the terror alert across Spain would be kept at level 4 and not level 5. Worse, at noon on Saturday 19th August, Zoido announced that the terrorist cell had already been ‘totally dismantled’ (two days before his lunchtime press conference in Madrid, in which he held up the fugitive’s photo!). The Catalan Interior Minister, Joaquim Forn, then had to ‘caution’ against calling the cell ‘completely dismantled’, explaining that it was an on-going investigation by the Mossos.

Over the past week, there have been many reports in prestigious international media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Economist, all praising the work of the Catalan authorities, citizens and the Mossos police force (despite the Madrid media trying to discredit them all). The Guardian even headlined its article: ‘Catalonia’s response to terror shows it is ready for independence.’ But Catalonia didn’t need a terrorist attack to show it can run its own country, let alone have the right to hold a referendum.

Put all the politics, laws, appeals, rules of the Spanish Constitution, the banning of Catalan politicians from office, all the threats of ‘intervention in Catalonia’ or applying Article 155, or the Law of National Security, or turning Catalonia into a State of Exception or even a State of Emergency … put all that and more to one side, because none of it is working and the only people cashing in are the greedy lawyers.

No, the facts are these: Catalonia doesn’t need governing or controlling from Madrid – and Madrid can’t control or govern Catalonia from Madrid, because it is unnecessary and totally and utterly impractical (I don’t even know how they did it in the bad old days … by force and terror, I guess). I’ve said it before: it’s also a geographical (and time) issue. Spain and Catalonia are two different countries. Barcelona and Madrid are two different ‘countries’. It is an hour’s flight between the two cities; three hours at least on the train. I’ve lived and worked in Madrid for ten years (and I loved the city and still do), and I’ve lived and worked in Barcelona for ten years (ditto). Whilst in both cities, I have had the task of setting up (and trying to run) an office in the other city. I spent many, many years going backwards and forwards on the AVE train or the Puente Aereo air shuttle – and whatever route you choose, there’s no escaping: it is about four hours door to door, home to home, office to office. And believe me, when you arrive back in Madrid after “working at the Barcelona office” for a day or two … nobody wants to know … nobody cares … it’s as if you’ve just arrived back from London or Paris … and it is the same both ways. Why? Because it is a different country.

I’m not a great fan of Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy (nor Zoido, I suppose), but there’s something that I feel he was over-criticised for in the past 12 days: the fact that it took him 7 hours to arrive in Barcelona after the attacks on 17th August. Perhaps he was on holiday in Galicia (where he’s from), I don’t know – and, yes, he would have had the use of the Spanish Air Force to get him to the Catalan capital – but it is still a long way. Too long and too far away to govern and control from Madrid. Simply put: there’s no need to control Catalonia from Madrid. And especially when the Catalans are more than capable of running their own country.

The Weekly Noticias (10): Show No.10 – 26th July 2017

Here’s a link below to the podcast of Show No.10 of The Weekly Noticias, hosted by me and broadcast on Weds 26th July 2017 on Radio Kanal Barcelona, with guests Jon Groves, Marcela Topor, Susie Duguid, David Sanmiguel and Viveka Nilsson.

In the show, questions come up (among many others) about: Freddie Mercury, Anthony Scaramucci (and the fandango), Sean Spicer, Barcelona’s 1992 Olympics, Dunkirk, the Tour de France, Beyoncé, Linkin Park, Castro, Dalí’s moustache, colluding with Russians, long lunches, body clocks, scraping the barrel, Mick Jagger, Columbo & Clouseau …

Show No.10 was the last show of ‘Season 1‘ – and ‘Season 2‘ will kick off in mid-September. A fly-on-the-wall documentary (or maybe it’s a mockumentary) is in development. You can also follow The Weekly Noticias on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeMixcloud, Soundcloud, iTunes and iVoox … and soon on TV. In the meantime, sit back, have a glass of wine, listen to the 10th show’s podcast via Soundcloud right here, and enjoy:

The Weekly Noticias (9): Show No.9 – 19th July 2017

Here’s a link below to the podcast of Show No.9 of The Weekly Noticias, hosted by me and broadcast on Weds 19th July 2017 on Radio Kanal Barcelona, with guests Chris Groves, Stephanie Figueira, Neil Stokes, Jon Groves and Mario Pedrol Echternkamp.

In the show, questions come up (among many others) about: Pedro Sanchez, Mariano Rajoy, Carles Puigdemont, Dr.Who, Roger Federer, olive ‘ebola’, Game of Thrones, Ed Sheeran, Donald Trump, Brigitte Macron, Daft Punk, Barcelona’s foreign population, Don Quixote, Winnie the Pooh & Xi Jinping, Jeremy ‘Jezza’ Corbyn, Clint Eastwood, Brexit, ‘Liz & Phil’, au pairs, low-cost flights, Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada, Benedict Cumberbatch, Garibaldi, speedos and Quasimodo …

Follow The Weekly Noticias on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeMixcloud, Soundcloud, iTunes and iVoox … and soon on TV. In the meantime, sit back, have a glass of wine, listen to the 9th show’s podcast via Soundcloud right here, and enjoy:

El Punt-Avui TV (9) – Felipe VI, Luton airport, and an ‘undemocratic comment’ about Gibraltar …

I was invited back on ‘The English Hour’ again on El Punt-Avui TV this afternoon, a local Barcelona TV channel, hosted by Matthew Tree, alongside two other guests, Jordi Vilanova and Patricia Gabancho. We chatted about Felipe VI, the King of Spain, and his 3-day ‘state visit’ to London, via the very glamorous Luton airport, (innit). I tried to make sense of why it was announced beforehand that he would be making a comment about Gibraltar during his speech at the Houses of Parliament – why he felt the need to make any comment about Gibraltar at all – and, most importantly, how he managed to ‘ignore the existence’ of the most important people and voice of all: the people of Gibraltar. We also spoke about the former Spanish Minister of Interior, Mayor Oreja, who has recently compared the Catalan independence process to ETA. And we spoke about ballot boxes, too … and the possibility of buying some from Gibraltar. Here’s the link: El Punt-Avui TV (9).

Here are some links to previous appearances on the same programme:

El Punt-Avui TV (8)

El Punt-Avui TV (7)

El Punt-Avui TV (6)

El Punt-Avui TV (5)

El Punt-Avui TV (4)

El Punt-Avui TV (3)

El Punt-Avui TV (2)

El Punt-Avui TV (1)

The Weekly Noticias (8): Show No.8 – 12th July 2017

Here’s a link below to the podcast of Show No.8 of The Weekly Noticias, hosted by me and broadcast on Weds 12th July 2017 on Radio Kanal Barcelona, with guests Chris Groves, Xavier Castells, Jess Klingspor, Viveka Nilsson, Jon Groves, and Swedish musician & singer Andreas Lundstedt from Alcazar’.

In the show, questions come up (among many others) about: Felipe VI & Letizia, Ivanka Trump, Swedish meatballs, ‘crying in the discotheque’, Julio Iglesias, paternity suits, Sting, the fruity Spanish Foreign Legion, Wayne Rooney’s pyjamas, the number of Swedish Miss Universes (3), reindeer, Pamplona, Iberia Airlines, Messi’s salary, Orangemen, the Rolling Stones, frog’s legs, the Eurovision Song Contest, Gibraltar, Brexit, and why The Queen is replacing the Duke of Edinburgh with Major Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah. And our resident Spanish comedian makes a logical sentence out of the words ‘sex appeal (sexapil), downtown, bromance, staycation, equerry, pancake (panqueque) and orange’.

Follow The Weekly Noticias on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeMixcloud, Soundcloud, iTunes and iVoox … and soon on TV. In the meantime, sit back, have a glass of wine, listen to the 8th show’s podcast via Soundcloud right here, and enjoy:

The Weekly Noticias (7): Show No.7 – 5th July 2017

Here’s a link below to the podcast of Show No.7 of The Weekly Noticias, hosted by me and broadcast on Weds 5th July 2017 on Radio Kanal Barcelona, with guests Chris Groves, Charlie Pee, Jaume Pamies, Francis Wardley & Frank Blunt (aka Rick Broadbent).

In the show, questions come up (among many others) about: Wimbledon, strawberries, Jeremy ‘Jezza’ Corbyn, WrestleMania (CNN & Trump), cannabis in Catalonia, Cristiano Ronaldo’s twins,  Messi’s wedding dance, Annie Lennox, text-walking lanes in Antwerp, Deep Purple and ‘Els Segadors’, bleeding badly from face-lifts (thanks to Trump’s Tweets), Estonia’s ‘eResidency’ permits, monkeys in silk dresses (and wearing ties in the Houses of Parliament), Arthur Ashe, Venezuela, colonies, the length of a giraffe’s tongue, and Clint Eastwood’s Adam’s apple.

Follow The Weekly Noticias on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeMixcloud, Soundcloud, iTunes and iVoox … and soon on TV. In the meantime, sit back, have a glass of wine, listen to the seventh show’s podcast via Soundcloud right here, and enjoy:

The Weekly Noticias (6): Show No.6 – 28th June 2017

Here’s a link below to the podcast of Show No.6 of The Weekly Noticias, hosted by me and broadcast on Weds 28th June 2017 on Radio Kanal Barcelona, with guests Xavier Castells, Chris Groves, Tori Sparks, Andrea Moreno, Jon Groves, Viveka Nilsson, Henk Cortier Victor Palomo.

In the show, questions come up about: San Juan, Thomas Jefferson & 4th July, The New York Times (Mariano Rajoy & the Catalan Referendum), the Spanish Women’s Basketball Team, Feliciano Lopez, Salvador Dali, the water in Majorca, Belgian beer, Jeremy ‘Jezza’ Corbyn, Glastonbury, wrinklies, moustaches, sharks, Theresa May & the DUP, Justin Trudeau, rainbow flags & socks, a fool and his money, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Mel Brooks, sewers and breweries, as well as the world’s ugliest dog – which happens to be a Neapolitan Mastiff called Martha, weighing 57Kg.

Follow The Weekly Noticias on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeMixcloud, Soundcloud, iTunes and iVoox … and soon on TV. In the meantime, sit back, have a glass of wine, listen to the sixth show’s podcast via Soundcloud right here, and enjoy:

The Weekly Noticias (5): Show No.5 – 21st June 2017

Here’s a link below to the podcast of Show No.5 of The Weekly Noticias, hosted by me and broadcast on Weds 21st June 2017 on Radio Kanal Barcelona, with guests Xavier Castells, Chris Groves, Frida Palsson, Fred Fairbrass from Right Said FredJon Groves Viveka Nilsson.

In between alot of I’m-Too-Sexy banter between our Swedish Bond-girl and pop-icon guests, questions also come up about Emmanuel Macron, Mariano Rajoy, Helmut Kohl, David Davis, Michael Barnier, Brexit, Leonardo DiCaprio, Prince Philip, Donald Trump, Cuba, Cristiano Ronaldo, Deeply Dippy lyrics, heatwaves, James Bond, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, how speaking French can cure a blinking disease, and how you say ‘a near miss doesn’t kill a hare’ in Swedish. Believe it or not, Xavi Castells also comes up with a sentence using all terms from the week’s new ‘Word Wheel’: heatwave, blink, delinquent, grotesque, tantrum, hare & tomorrow.

Follow The Weekly Noticias on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeMixcloud, Soundcloud, iTunes and iVoox … and soon on TV. In the meantime, sit back, have a glass of wine, listen to the fifth show’s podcast via Soundcloud right here, and enjoy:

El Punt-Avui TV (8) – Pro-indy flags & ballot boxes are ‘illicit material’ … but not Lord Buckethead.

I was invited back on ‘The English Hour’ again on El Punt-Avui TV this afternoon, a local Barcelona TV channel, hosted by Matthew Tree, alongside two other guests, Daniel Kahl and Louis Lemkow. Poor Daniel explained how he’d been banned from a Madrid football stadium simply for carrying a pro-independence Catalan flag. We then discussed how Catalan officials are being charged with ‘disobedience’ for buying ballot boxes … deemed as ‘illicit material’. And if all that isn’t ‘Monty Pythonesque’ enough, we then turned our attention to the UK elections, Lord Buckethead, Theresa May, and her shaky alliance with the anti-gay, anti-abortion, non-dinosaur-believing Democratic Unionist Party. Here’s the link: El Punt-Avui TV (8).

Here are some links to previous appearances on the same programme:

El Punt-Avui TV (7)

El Punt-Avui TV (6)

El Punt-Avui TV (5)

El Punt-Avui TV (4)

El Punt-Avui TV (3)

El Punt-Avui TV (2)

El Punt-Avui TV (1)

The Weekly Noticias (4): Show No.4 – 14th June 2017

Here’s a link below to the podcast of Show No.4 of The Weekly Noticias, hosted by me and broadcast on Weds 14th June 2017 on Radio Kanal Barcelona, with guests Xavier Castells, Chris Groves, Adam Fields, Lara Selva, Jon Groves Viveka Nilsson.

In the show, questions come up about: Pep Guardiola, Carles Puigdemont, Mariano Rajoy, Theresa May, the Monster Raving Loony Party, Lionel Messi, Rafael Nadal, Banco Popular, Adnan Khashoggi, manspreading, Batman, Marbella Council, the Interior Ministry of Spain, Melania & Barron Trump, Jerome K Jerome, Captain Bligh, why hedgehogs cross the road, how fast hippos can run, and what the girl oyster said to the boy oyster … among many other topics. Believe it or not, the guests also try to make a coherent sentence using all of the following words & phrases: hung parliament, manspreading, camp, queue, Tweet storm, yield & mutiny.

Follow The Weekly Noticias on FacebookTwitter, InstagramYouTubeMixcloud, Soundcloud and iVoox … and soon on TV. In the meantime, sit back, have a glass of wine, listen to the fourth show’s podcast via Mixcloud right here, and enjoy: