Un observador inglés (28) – Boris, how can you ease lockdown restrictions when it wasn’t a lockdown?

This isn’t really a proper blog this week, it is a rant:

I’ve just watched the televised announcement from Boris Johnson twice and still don’t understand it. I think he’s lost the plot. I can’t see how you can have a plan to ease restrictions when the restrictions weren’t put in place early enough or strictly enforced in the first place. His whole ‘plan’ from the outset has been totally half-hearted, at best. I know that many people don’t like me comparing Spain’s handling of this crisis to the UK’s – but it is black and white. This isn’t a ‘political’ criticism of Boris. It’s a question of common sense. Spain had a lockdown. A real lockdown. You could have been fined a minimum of €600 just for going out for a walk for the wrong reasons – during a period of over 43 days for kids, and 48 days for adults. Spain is actually currently STILL in lockdown until 24 May but it is being ‘phased’ out of it in four phases over the next 8 weeks. It all depends on the region and province – and on the progress of all the same criteria that Boris says the UK has to monitor, including the ‘R’ rate. [Please read how the ‘phases’ are structured in the report below, to really understand it]. But you know what? Most importantly, Spain is now able to try and ‘phase itself’ out of the lockdown because it HAD a proper lockdown in the first place. In the UK, it has been a farce. I’m not saying Spain is out of the woods yet, but I really fear for the UK. Just ‘staying alert’ is not going to work. Telling people to go back to work but not use public transport does NOT work. It is absurd. The government of Boris is failing terribly on this issue. To all my UK friends and family, please be careful. Be very careful.

And if you are interested, click here to see how Spain is handling it

Un observador inglés (27) – It’s common sense … isn’t it?

Judging by some of the emoji-style charts and potato-head graphics that I’ve seen in the media over the past 48 hours, if you are a white adult in Spain, or a white marathon runner or a Tour de France cyclist, then you’re now allowed out for a walk and physical exercise between 6-10am or 8-11pm every day.

If you are white and also have white hair, or if you are white, bald, have a white moustache and wear little round spectacles, or if you are white with white hair, bent double or you normally hobble along with a walking stick, then you’re allowed out for a stroll between 10am and 12 noon, or between 7-8pm – but you should ideally have someone with dark hair escorting you.

If you are a white adult and have a white son wearing blue and a white daughter wearing pink – and if you’re all smiling – then you can go out between 12 noon and 7pm, but only for an hour.

The reason I’m forcing the white emoji-stuff here is not only because I feel that perhaps some of us aren’t being treated as adults, but that we should also all know what we should be doing right now, no? I mean, what you’re allowed to do whilst out and about is common sense … isn’t it? Isn’t it?

If you live in Spain, and unless (1) you’ve had your head in the sand for the past 48 hours and you didn’t realise you were allowed to go out; or (2) you’re still recovering from a hangover after another Friday-night-in Netflix-Zoom lockdown-binge; or (3) you’re afraid to go out in case someone sneezes over you (which is perfectly understandable) – then you might have taken advantage of the new ‘freedom for adults’ after seven weeks of confinement.

I went out just before 8am yesterday and today. It was glorious. I intend to do so every day. To be honest, I’ve been very lucky to have been able to go out every day during the lockdown, anyway, thanks to having a dog (although we’ve rarely ventured more than a 200-metre radius from home) – and also thanks to drinking a lot of wine. On many days I’ve forced myself to walk briefly into the village with a shopping bag to buy more wine, simply because I deliberately forgot to buy enough wine the day before – and because I don’t yet have a wine cellar. I’ve always maintained social distancing, stuck to the rules in shops, and also timed most of these journeys to clap the health workers at 8pm, standing around outside a pharmacy and enjoying the ripples of applause coming from all the balconies and windows. One day, oddly enough, I think I might miss those walks.

Because my own potato-head has white-enough hair, I could probably bend the rules to venture out up to four times a day. As an adult, I could go out from 6-10am. With my mad Einstein-like grey hair right now – and because I could easily shuffle along and possibly persuade Juliane to assist and guide me (more than usually, I mean) – I could probably venture out again from 10am to 12 noon. I could then take the dog for a walk at lunchtime to see all the happy, smiling, screaming children going beserk on their bikes and scooters. And then I could venture out to buy wine again …

But you know something? I don’t want to. I’ll walk the dog during my ‘exercise time’ and I’ll still buy some wine (silly not to), but I don’t want to … well, take the piss. And to be honest with you, I don’t think any of us should.

Yesterday, when I ventured out at 8am, I took the dog with me – instead of taking her out later on. I ‘fast walked’ for around an hour – completing half the 10,000 steps I normally like to do, and will hopefully get back to in due course. As I say, it was glorious, but not only just being able to be out and about. What struck me was the pure joy and relief on the faces of others – people who have clearly been in stricter confinement than me. I waved and called out to people I know or recognised. You might have had the same experiences yesterday or today – but for me, it literally felt like being alive again. And I don’t want that to end.

We were all walking, jogging, cycling or skating along the promenade, or on the vehicle-free road alongside. Some people wore face masks – everyone maintained social distancing – at least those who weren’t couples or probably weren’t living together. There was one woman, however, jogging on the beach, along the sand, despite there being police tape to seal it off. At first, I thought ‘good for her’ and that it was none of my business if she didn’t know the rules. But people were shouting at her to get off the beach. People were angry. Very. She ignored them and even waved them away. She clearly did know the rules but had decided to flout them. I quickly thought ‘good for them’ for shouting at her – it is our business that we don’t mess this up, and that we don’t abuse it, and that we don’t go back to square one. There have been 25,264 Coronavirus-related deaths in Spain to date. People have and are seriously suffering. Many have lost their loved ones, family members and friends. Health workers on the frontline have literally begged us to stay at home. But there was someone who had decided it was time she was allowed to run on the beach in a town where it is not currently allowed – and when no-one else was doing so. Get real.

Whilst giving us the instructions on the lifting of restrictions, the Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa appealed to the ‘common sense’ of people – and that overcoming this pandemic and returning to some kind of ‘normality’ would depend on us. How we behave from now on – and how people must take individual responsibility for observing the rules. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I personally feel that ‘party politics’ should be put to one side until we get through this crisis. I’m not praising or criticising the government minister’s words or actions; there will be plenty of time to analyse things later on.

But what I do feel strongly about right now is that someone out there has to set the rules and guidelines of what we can and can’t do, and when, especially over the next two months. After that, it’s up to us as individuals. For me, it is common sense. Let’s not mess it up.

Un observador inglés (26) – Children, disinfectant, bookshelves, tattoos

Today in Spain around six million children aged under 14 were finally allowed to leave their homes after 43 days, officially for an hour every day. Earlier in the week, however, it wasn’t totally clear what they’d actually be allowed to do during that hour. Ask your average toddler what he or she would prefer: a trip to see the bank manager to beg for a loan or overdraft, perhaps? A trip to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription? Sit squashed and sweaty in a supermarket trolley for an hour, whilst licking the trolley’s grubby handlebar during this pandemic? Or, wait … what about taking your bicycle or scooter to the park and then kicking a ball around or throwing a frisbee?

It’s not rocket science, is it? Apparently it is, though, for the Spanish government’s spokeswoman, María Jesús Montero – or at least it was. On Tuesday she said that kids would only be allowed to accompany an adult to a supermarket, pharmacy or bank during their daily hour of freedom. But then because everyone in Spain suddenly went on social media to say that was a bit silly (to put it politely), the Spanish Health Minister, Salvador Illa, then had to announce a rapid U-turn and reverse the decision.

So kids were allowed to do things other than go to a bank, supermarket or pharmacy today – and I went out to take some pictures of them for an article. It’s not something I normally do, of course – approach total strangers and ask if I can take pictures of their kids, or ask friends to send me photos of their own – but after 43 days of lockdown, it seemed perfectly acceptable. And you know what? It was great to see kids out and about again. Our dog seems happier, too. She’d assumed that every small person – all those little people who like to stroke her – had left the planet.

This week, too, I picked up a free surgical face mask from a local pharmacy by simply showing my ‘Cat Salut’ health card. I hadn’t expected it to be so simple. I thought they’d require two copies of my birth certificate stamped by a notary in Barcelona and a copy of my passport plus a registered burofax letter signed by Spain’s immigration ministry or something … but, no! I asked the girl in the pharmacy if she at least wanted to know my mother’s maiden name but she looked at me as if I was nuts. It might have been my hair, of course. It’s got even worse since last week. I’ve gone from Einstein, to Brian May from Queen, to one of the Gypsy Kings, to being told that my hair also now looks like Fernando Simón’s – the director of the Spanish Health Ministry’s Coordination Centre for Health Alerts and Emergencies. Google him.

Talking of hair (again), Denmark opened its hair salons and barber shops this week and their Internet crashed from people trying to make appointments. I can sympathise with that. I even tried booking a flight to Copenhagen … anything to avoid being mistaken for Fernando Simón. In the state of Georgia in the USA, not only hairdressers, spas and beauty salons have reopened, but tattoo parlours, too. So that’s something else Zoom will never be able to replace: haircuts and tattoos.

Talking of tattoos, we watched the Tiger King on Netflix last week. Joe Exotic! It was ‘okay’ – I guess it was ‘entertainment’ – but to be honest, I spent most of the time just shaking my head at the TV screen, mumbling ‘only in America’ to myself.

Talking about America and Donald Trump and disinfectant … no, let’s not.

I’ve written here before about April normally being the perfect month to spend time out and about in Barcelona, especially during the magical day of Sant Jordi on 23rd April, or with the Godó tennis tournament or Barça playing a big Champions League fixture. This week I have really missed all that … that feeling. In fact I’ve missed simply being able to go to a tapas bar. I’ve missed roaring with laughter with friends, face to face. I’ve missed hanging out with people in real life and not just on video – but I also know that I can’t complain.

We also completed the third season of Ozark. I spent most of it shouting at Wendy Byrde’s brother to piss off back to wherever he came from. I’ve actually started to enjoy watching people being interviewed on TV from their homes during news bulletins. I find it fascinating to see their surroundings, the bookshelves behind them, the decoration, or a strategically placed award or photo. It’s weird.

One thing I highly recommend: Unorthodox, also on Netflix. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. But not only is the production quality and overall casting first class, but the main actress, Shira Haas, is quite simply the best actress I have seen for years. I was transfixed by her. I still am. Watch it – and then watch the ‘making of’, if you can.

Stay safe. We’re nearly there.

Un observador inglés (25) – My hair is not in lockdown

The last time I blogged here was in July 2018. That year I’d been blogging every week, nearly every Sunday over six months. I’ve missed doing it. I think I’ve also missed the self-discipline that was involved in doing it. So here I am again. I’m back.

I had actually intended to start blogging again on the first Sunday of this year – Sunday 5 January, to be exact. It was one of my many New Year resolutions: to write more regularly (on many projects), to lose weight, to drink less, to read more, to get fit, walk more (at least 10,000 steps a day with the ‘MyFitnessPal’ app), learn the piano, learn to draw or paint, improve my Spanish, learn Catalan, try and perform comedy again (or maybe not), sort out all the old family videos for my kids, spend more ‘quality time’ with them and with Juliane, relax more and ‘de-stress’, try yoga and mindfulness, enjoy life, smile more, enjoy ‘the moment’, enjoy all moments, actually – and to generally be nicer to everyone (seriously) and try to help people who need help (somehow).

I often write some of these aims on yellow post-it notes, especially around midnight before I pass out, just to remind myself what I should be trying to achieve the next day. I often wake up to see a post-it telling me to, ‘Seize the day! Run!’ – and I normally grunt, ‘Fuck off’. The next post-it I usually write is, ‘Go to bed earlier! Do NOT open the second bottle!’ My post-it notes are a bit like Donald Trump tweets, full of exclamation marks!!!! I should just write a post-it that says ‘Do NOT write post-its!’

My hair has begun to scare me. It’s begun to scare Juliane, too. Like everyone else, we’ve just completed the fifth week of lockdown here in Spain and my hair now has a life of its own. My hair is not in lockdown, or at least it’s trying to break free. I have bushy hair that grows upwards and outwards quite quickly, sometimes overnight. I first learned how to plaster it down with Spanish glue or gomina when I was living in Madrid in the late eighties, when for some reason I thought I should try to look like a pijo banker (I think I’m spelling banker correctly).

I was due for my monthly (more or less) haircut on Saturday 14 March, the same day that the Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez announced the start of the ‘state of alarm’ Coronavirus lockdown. My barber normally refers to my mop of hair as the ‘Lion King’ even after not seeing me for just a month. I cancelled the 14 March appointment, thinking it could wait a couple of weeks. It clearly couldn’t. My hair has been in a state of alarm ever since. Two weeks has become five, and it looks likely to become eight.

Because we don’t see anyone, apart from on video calls and brilliant Zoom parties, I’ve mostly given up on the gomina. I asked Juliane to cut my hair but instead she wants it to become a sort of lockdown ‘experiment’, to see how long it can get. Sometimes I look like Einstein or Brian May from Queen, but normally I just look deranged. Even our dog has started to give me funny looks.

I had some of these brilliant Zoom parties last weekend, for my birthday. I’ve already posted about it on social media. It’s a birthday I’ll never forget. With so much sadness in the world right now, I felt very lucky to have had a wonderful day, thanks to amazing friends and family. Many glasses were raised – not just to me at all – but to all the health workers out there and to those whose families have been personally affected by this pandemic.

I didn’t want to start this blog again writing about politics or even current affairs – that can all wait. I personally feel that we all need to help one another to get through this crisis first – and that in the meantime, party politics should certainly be put to one side. For me, the birthday helped to underline the most important things in life: family, friends, love, personal contact, laughter and health.

It was a ‘big number’ birthday, too. I’d never expected to be celebrating it in lockdown and it made me reflect where I’d been for my 50th birthday (Ibiza), 40th (Suffolk), 30th (Seville, via Madrid), 20th (Norfolk), 10th (Hertfordshire) – I was clearly a jet-setter. It also made me reflect where I’ll be for my 70th, 80th, 90th and 100th plus. For the 100th, I’d like to think I’ll be doing 100 laps of my garden like Captain Tom Moore, because that is simply the best thing ever.

When the lockdown was announced mid-March, I thought that I’d be able to finally get round to more of those New Year resolutions above – at least the ones that didn’t involve walking, getting fit or losing weight. I have actually started more of them, mindfulness included – and this blog again, too, now! – but I’m still writing post-it notes to remind me about the rest.

When we come out of all this, how are we going to start conversations again? ‘Hi! I haven’t seen you for two months – what have you been doing?’

I’ll be able to say that I’ve been a guinea pig in a hair experiment.




8 songs that have had an impact on me …

I recently took part in the ‘Carrie on Talking‘ radio show hosted by Carrie Frais in Barcelona – a sort of Desert Island Discs. I had to choose 8 songs that have had an impact on my life. I didn’t know what to expect, but I actually found it quite an emotional thing to do. Have a listen, if you’re interested …

‘Mucho Toro’ now available on Amazon Kindle

If you read in Spanish and enjoy a laugh, then ‘Mucho Toro – Las tribulaciones de un inglés en la movida‘ is finally available to download here on Amazon Kindle.

Mucho ToroOriginally published in English by Pan Macmillan as A Load of Bull: An Englishman’s Adventures in Madrid, the Spanish edition was published by Almuzara in 2008, translated by Antonio Rivero Taravillo. Don’t ask me why the publishers chose ‘Mucho Toro’ as the title – which I also question in the introduction.

The book covers the ten years I spent in Madrid in the late 80s and early 90s, working for (and eventually running) Ediciones Condé Nast, and launching the Spanish editions of Vogue and GQ magazines. A sequel about the 12 years I have since been working and living in Catalonia will eventually follow – although a forthcoming crime novel will be published beforehand.

My weekly blog will also return this September. More soon …




The Weekly Noticias – Show No.17

Belated post … this is The Weekly Noticias show No.17, broadcast on 25 July 2018 on MetroFM in Barcelona. We return this evening (Weds 19 Sept) for Show No.18, which will also be broadcast on Madrid City Council‘s public radio station, M21 on 20 Sept. More news on all this to follow. Watch this space …

Video & Podcast for Show No.17 (25 July 2018)

The Weekly Noticias – Shows 14-16

The Weekly Noticias returned at the start of July, and we’ve already broadcast 3 more shows on MetroFM in Barcelona on 4 July, 11 July & 18 July. Videos and podcasts are below for each of these latest shows. We’re doing one more show on 25 July before returning mid-September. Before then, we will also be announcing some very exciting news. Watch this space …

Video & Podcast for Show No.16 (18 July 2018)

Video & Podcast for Show No.15 (11 July 2018)

Video & Podcast for Show No.14 (4 July 2018)

Un observador inglés (24) – Is this what Spanish politics has become?

The rapper, ‘Valtonyc’, convicted by Spain to three and a half years in prison over the lyrics of his songs (in which he ‘glorified terrorism’ and criticised the monarchy), gave a press conference on Thursday in Brussels, where he’d fled to in May to avoid jail. The artist criticised the Spanish state for using the fight against terrorism as an excuse to prosecute political or social dissidents that have nothing to do with it. Whilst Spain’s justice system is seeking to extradite him (alongside a few others who have fled Spain for other reasons), Valtonyc said that his only crime was to ‘sing’ and ‘being left-wing, communist and pro-independence’. He said: ‘Apparently in Spain this is illegal, they persecute you and put you in prison.’ Well … I’m not quite sure about all that, Valtonyc. You can sing in Spain and you won’t go to jail (if you don’t ‘glorify terrorism’). You can also be left-wing, communist and in favour of independence, and that won’t necessarily land you in jail, either … although I admit it could stand against you.

I’m certainly more left-wing than right-wing, but I’m definitely not a communist, or, for that matter (and despite what many people think) necessarily ‘pro-independent’. I have only ever said that I believe people should have the right to vote. And I’ll always say it. Indeed, for simply having written (several times) that I believe Catalonia should have been allowed the right to vote in an agreed referendum (similar to the Scottish referendum), I have received abuse and threats via email and social media, including regular taunts from someone obsessed with wanting to shit on my mother. I recently found an email in my junk box from someone who wants to see me hanging from the cross at Franco’s tomb, the ‘Valley of the Fallen’. Why? Because I dared to write that I thought it was good news that Spain’s new Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, together with his PSOE-led socialist government (or ‘communist’ government, as some people describe it) announced that they intend to exhume Franco and move him to a more modest burial place.

What is it with you, Spain? Why does everything have to be only black or white, (or red or blue), or left or right? Why are there only two extremes? Why is anyone who isn’t a PP, C’s or (God forbid) a Vox supporter, a ‘communist’? And vice versa, why is anyone who is a PP or C’s supporter a ‘fascist’? It goes on and on and on … and at some point it needs to stop. Why is it that anyone who defends the right for the Catalans to have an agreed referendum labelled a ‘separatist’ – or someone intent on breaking the ‘unity of Spain’? It is illogical, if you think about it. Is it a fear, a knowing, that the Catalans would have voted (or did vote) to leave Spain? A decade ago, if they’d been granted a referendum, they probably wouldn’t have voted to do so … and so the ‘politics’ of the last PP government on this front simply failed, and failed spectacularly. But all last week we’ve seen the candidates to lead the ‘new PP’ (especially ‘SuperPablo’ Casado) competing with one another to see who can promise to be the harshest against the Catalans and the Basques! Is this what Spanish politics has become? Whoever promises to be the harshest against the Catalans and Basques will get the most votes? The longer this goes on, any ‘unity of Spain’ is simply doomed.

I clearly have so much more to learn about Spain, even having lived and worked here, on and off, in both Barcelona and Madrid for over 20 years. Right now, however, Spain looks like a country that is more divided than ever (and, most worryingly, even about Franco’s tomb), and it is also pretty clear that Felipe VI (thanks mainly to his own 3rd October speech) is the king of only half (if that) of it. Even though the ‘fascists’ (ie, the ‘non-separatists’ and ‘non-communists’) disagreed with it, I think it is good news that the Catalan political prisoners have been moved to jails in Catalonia; but I repeat: they shouldn’t be in any jails. And even though the ‘fascists’ (ie, the ‘non-separatists’ and ‘non-communists’) also disagree with it, I think it is very good that Pedro Sánchez is finally having a meeting with the Catalan President, Quim Torra, tomorrow. Pedro Sánchez needs to be given a chance. And so does Quim Torra. And so does Spain, and Catalonia, and the Basque Country. Sort it out …

Un observador inglés (23) – Midsummer madness

I haven’t updated this blog since 17th June – 14 days ago. That’s about the same number of days that Iñaki Urdangarin, brother-in-law to the king of Spain, has been locked up in a women’s prison … supposedly in Brieva, in the Avila region. That’s assuming he is locked up in a prison. I mean, as far as I know, no-one has actually seen a photo of him arriving or entering the prison, any prison (although someone managed to film Oriol Junqueras teaching philosophy in his prison, where he’s been locked up for over 7 or 8 months without trial). I think we’ll just have to assume Urdangarin is in prison and not, perhaps, sailing or body-surfing in Mallorca, or in a VIP box at the World Cup, or sunning himself on a gin-palace yacht in the Bahamas, or hiding in the vault of a Swiss bank … but you never know. Stranger things have happened.

Indeed, several strange things have happened in the past 14 days. Talking of prisons, all of a sudden (at least it seemed all of a sudden), the group known as the ‘wolf pack’, the 5 thugs who gang raped (yes, gang raped) an 18 year old woman at the bull running festival in Pamplona back in July 2016, were all granted bail of €6,000 by the Navarra regional court, whilst their appeal is being considered. They’d been found guilty of ‘sexual abuse’ (and not rape, unbelievably – which caused a national outcry) and sentenced to 9 years in prison. On granting them bail, the Navarra court concluded that there was no ‘significant risk of flight’. But then one of them was found trying to get a new passport …

Whilst Urdangarin was (we assume) entering a prison, his brother-in-law was at the White House with Letizia, meeting Donald Trump and Melania. Donald had been busy ordering children to be put in cages on the Mexican border. Melania, bless her, tweeted that “Letizia and I enjoyed tea and time together, focusing on the ways we can positively impact children”. I’m still trying to recover from that.

Talking of the Spanish royals, they were forced to move the Princess of Girona Awards out of Girona last week. Instead, the ceremony was held in Vilablareix. The Girona City Council had announced back in January that they wouldn’t give the awards’ foundation permission to hold this year’s ceremony in the city’s auditorium. In Vilablareix, the Mossos had cut the access road due to protests by local pro-independence CDR groups. No-one from the Catalan government welcomed Felipe VI and Letizia on their arrival – only the Spanish government’s new delegate in Catalonia, Teresa Cunillera. In his speech, Felipe VI ignored the political crisis, and appealed for a ‘Catalonia of everyone and for everyone’.

I’m not sure a ‘Catalonia of everyone and for everyone’ was really reflected during the opening ceremony of the Mediterranean Games in Tarragona, however, which Felipe VI had inaugurated a few days earlier. The Catalan President, Quim Torra, finally decided to attend the ceremony, but also announced that his government would be cutting off all future relations with the Spanish monarchy. Just before the opening of the Games, he was photographed handing the king two reports from the Catalan Ombudsman about the police violence against Catalan voters on 1st October, as well as a book of photographs from that day, by photo-journalist, Jordi Borras.

As you might realise, I’ve been missing writing about M.Rajoy (remember him?). However, with luck, the new leader of the PP might be Pablo Casado, aka ‘Super Pablo’. I’ve always thought that if he can complete 5 or 6 Harvard masters degrees (or however many it was) during a 4 day course in Aravaca (or wherever it was), then he’d be absolutely bloody perfect to lead the PP, even if it was during his lunch break, blindfold and standing on one foot. Super Pablo announced he was going to run for the leadership on the same morning that a judge considered (and I believe still is considering) sending the investigation about his masters degree(s) to the Supreme court. But Super Pablo didn’t care! Super Pablo doesn’t care about anything! Instead, he dashed off on a whirlwind tour of Spain, saying he didn’t care or feel sympathy for the families of anyone in jail, either (not even the king’s sister or nephews, Super Pablo?). He was too busy getting his photograph taken with anyone who’d shake hands with him, as well as standing on a car holding a Spanish flag. He did manage to crop a photo to avoid being seen alongside a poor guy asking for help on the street, however. In the meantime, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and María Dolores de Cospedal also announced they would run for the leadership … although it now seems that only about 7% of the PP’s affiliates are up to date with their subscriptions and/or can be arsed to vote for a new leader.

It became headline news in some media that Spain’s new Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, spoke good English during his visit and meetings with other EU leaders in Brussels. As if to underline this new, ‘dynamic and modern’ image of a handsome Justin Trudeau-style leader, Moncloa issued photos of Sánchez jogging and playing with his dog, and he was also photographed wearing sunglasses on the government’s jet. Sunglasses! On a jet! I don’t remember M.Rajoy ever wearing sunglasses on a jet, let alone cuddling a dog … so things have definitely improved. M.Rajoy never spoke English, either, of course (‘no, hombre, no vamos hacerlo’), and his ‘jog’ was a little bit like his dancing … it was a sort of mincing fast walk. Yes, things have definitely improved.

The PSOE government led by Sánchez is also preparing for the remains of Franco to be removed from the grotesque mausoleum known as the ‘Valley of the Fallen’, stating that it should be turned into a centre for ‘reconciliation’. His pledge to remove the remains follows a non-binding parliamentary vote last year backing the exhumation from the basilica. It was reported that Franco’s family intend to try and get Pope Francis to stop the exhumation. Meanwhile, Albert Rivera, the leader of Ciudadanos (what’s the point of Ciudadanos?) says he will only support the PSOE plans if they turn it into a national cemetery, like the one at Arlington, Virginia, in the USA.

Quim Torra met with Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias. He is also due to meet with Pedro Sánchez on 9th July, in Madrid. It seems the Catalan political prisoners can be moved to Catalan jails, but that still doesn’t resolve anything and it won’t resolve anything. I’ve said it before and I repeat: they shouldn’t be in any jails, anywhere.

What else? Oh, yeah. Spain drew 3-3 with Portugal in their opening game of the World Cup. They then beat Iran 1-0 and drew 2-2 with Morocco to make it through to the last 16. I think Spain’s coach, Fernando Hierro, has a really odd way of celebrating a goal. He looks like a kid banging his fists on the table, excitedly waiting for his ice cream dessert. Also … the rumours that some Spanish supporters whistled during the Portuguese national anthem simply can’t be true at all. It must be fake news. I mean, it’s totally disrespectful to whistle during the Spanish national anthem (it’s almost a crime, I believe) so I’m absolutely sure that no-one from Spain would whistle during anyone else’s anthem … it’s just impossible. Anyway, Spain are just about to play Russia, so I’m going to log off. I hope Spain win …