El Punt-Avui TV (11) – Yellow and political prisoners.

On Thursday 30th November, I was invited back on ‘The English Hour’ again on El Punt-Avui TV, a local Barcelona TV channel, hosted by Matthew Tree, alongside two other guests, Toni Strubell and Mútur Hernández Mor. We talked a lot about yellow and political prisoners. Here’s the link to the full programme: El Punt-Avui TV (11).

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

El Punt-Avui TV (10)

El Punt-Avui TV (9)

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)

Letter from Barcelona (13): the king, the EU, and the foreign minister

The worst moments have been from the king of Spain, the EU, and the Spanish foreign minister. The moments are all linked – and they all stink, if you ask me. The king’s speech on 3rd October was shocking, to say the least. I don’t need to relate all the details here – we all heard the speech or read about it afterwards. It didn’t even look or sound like a monarch’s speech – it felt dictatorial, with an almost dangerous thumping of fists. He didn’t say one word, not one, to condemn the police violence against the Catalan citizens innocently trying to vote on 1st October. King Felipe could have been the hero; he could have defused the entire situation and become the monarch for all (more or less). He could have made a short and sweet speech, simply to say that he didn’t like what he’d seen on both sides, and that he’d expressed that to Rajoy and Puigdemont, and told them both to get a grip – but he didn’t, and he failed. He failed miserably. I think it is quite telling that he has not made any further long speeches on the matter – not even about the Catalan Parliament declaring independence on Friday 27th October, nor on the Senate voting to apply Article 155, just hours later. A week before, however, on 20th October, he did make a brief reference to the “unacceptable secession attempt” in Catalonia – on the night he gave an award to the EU – and another moment that stinks, in my opinion.

Because the EU has also failed miserably – Juncker and Tusk, specifically. Just to clarify: I didn’t vote for Brexit. I’ve always defended the concept of the European Union – but I’m seriously beginning to doubt all that now. As Alex Salmond brilliantly expressed it on LBC radio this weekend, the EU should be ashamed of its “guilty silence”. The former First Minister of Scotland said, “I don’t think the Catalan government should be in the dock, they’re pursuing the will of the Catalan people. I think the EU are in the dock on this … for their unwillingness to condemn outright the violence that we saw from the Spanish state on the people of Catalonia who were merely trying to exercise their right to vote.” He went on to say that the “guilty silence” applies to the UK government, too – yes, of course it does – and it’s because the UK is in a weak position in the Brexit negotiations.

On 20th October, the night Felipe VI made his reference to Catalonia’s “unacceptable secession attempt”, he was presenting the EU with the ‘coveted’ Princess of Asturias Award for Concord. Oh, sure. It was just hours after the European Council meeting in Brussels, where Catalonia wasn’t even on the agenda – and where Rajoy managed to avoid even speaking about the ‘issue’, despite Tusk and Merkel reportedly asking him if he’d like to.

It stinks. It stinks that the EU accepted an award from the king of Spain, just hours after still refusing to officially condemn the police brutality against innocent Catalan citizens, nor push for further explanations on the matter. It stinks that the Belgian Embassy in Madrid came under threats and “tomamos nota” pressure from Rajoy’s government, merely because the Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, had condemned the Spanish police violence, calling instead for dialogue and a ‘de-escalation’. And ditto, according to some reports, for Slovenia, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland and Holland. It stinks that Spain’s foreign minister has been on CNN and BBC, blatantly denying the police repression, calling the images ‘fake news’ and an ‘alternative reality’. It stinks that even today, that same foreign minister of a European state, can as good as pre-empt a non-existent and so far theoretical trial that Carles Puigdemont might have to face, and then even suggest the verdict, saying that “he might be in prison” at the time of the 21st December elections in Catalonia. It stinks that Donald Tusk can only say that the situation in Catalonia is “concerning”, and that “there’s no space for any kind of mediation or international action in Spain”. It stinks that Juncker can only moan about there being more work and administrative headaches if there are any other “fractures” in Europe. It stinks that Spanish diplomats are blatantly dictating to other EU states “the lines we ask you to include” in their condemnation of Catalonia’s declaration of independence. It stinks. It all totally stinks.

The Weekly Noticias (13): Show No.13 – 25th Oct 2017

Here’s a link below to the podcast of The Weekly Noticias Show No.13, hosted by me and broadcast on Weds 25th October 2017 on Radio Kanal Barcelona, with guests Xavier Castells, Chris Groves, Sue Flack, Paul Owen, Jon GrovesViveka Nilsson.

Topics and questions come up about: Andrew Marr & Alfonso Dastis, Spain’s Foreign Minister, Article 155, Halloween outfits, Ronaldo & Zidane, Donald Trump, Justin Timberlake, the Boy Scouts of America, toxic bracelets, condoms, Theresa May, Juncker, 1984, turkeys, the Charge of the Light Brigade, fighting elephants, the best way to pronounce ‘barba’ in Spanish, Mike Crapo & Butch Otter from Idaho (and the best way to pronounce Idaho). All wrapped up with a beautiful song from Xavi Castells and his ukulele.

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 13th show’s podcast via Soundcloud right here, and enjoy:

The Weekly Noticias (11): Show No.11 – 11th Oct 2017

It’s back … The Weekly Noticias! It was a bit of shaky start to Season 2 (the sound technician is apparently still on the beach), but we’re definitely back. Here’s a link below to the podcast of Show No.11, hosted by me and broadcast on Weds 11th October 2017 on Radio Kanal Barcelona, with guests Xavier Castells, Jon Groves, Viveka Nilsson & Myriam Harrag.

We decided to avoid the Spain-Catalonia crisis this week, and discuss the “other news” that we know everyone wants to hear about: Harvey Weinstein’s dressing gown, Donald Trump’s IQ, Google’s tax bill, Napoleon’s penis, Boris Johnson’s middle names, Rajoy’s marathon, Gwyneth & Brad (& Angelina), Xavi’s ukulele, and the first woman to walk in space. …

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 11th show’s podcast via Soundcloud right here, and enjoy:

El Punt-Avui TV (10) – Rajoy, Trump, the international media & Catalan referendum …

I was invited back on ‘The English Hour’ again on El Punt-Avui TV yesterday, a local Barcelona TV channel, hosted by Matthew Tree, alongside two other guests, Roger Evans and Marc Reklau. As it was the last show before Sunday’s 1st October referendum in Catalonia, Matthew started the programme with a personal appeal to the EU, very clearly explaining the repressive measures being taken by the Spanish state to try and stop the vote. It is worth watching just for that – as well as the T-shirt he was wearing, printed with the Catalan polling card. Luckily the Civil Guard didn’t storm the TV studio and arrest us all. But I guess there’s still time for all that …

We also chatted about Rajoy’s expensive trip to see Trump at the White House, which seems to have backfired spectacularly, and the international press coverage of the Catalan referendum. Here’s the link: El Punt-Avui TV (10).

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

El Punt-Avui TV (9)

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)

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: