I have just flown back to Alicante after spending three days with my daughter in North Wales. On Sunday night, I stepped off the plane at Liverpool airport, having had two and a half hours on the Easyjet flight to read copies of all the main Spanish newspapers. It took some time to explain the complexities to my daughter, as the BBC and other coverage has frequently fallen into the trap of portraying the attempted Catalan coup d’etat as if it was a legitimate democratic movement! Far from it.
I do not want to waste a lovely sunny day (or space on my blog) detailing the whole history of this fiasco. All I will say is that in 1992 I taught English to Jordi Pujol, the godfather of this recent resurgence of Catalan nationalism, and he and his ilk are the most corrupt people in the whole of Spain. The danger has been that the separatists could have led the country down the path of Slovenia, and the Balkanisation of Spain could have damaged all the efforts made over 40 years to make it a leading democracy with a healthy economy.
It has been a very tense showdown, but the government in Madrid has won, with a very skilled intervention by King Felipe VI, and a climb-down by the idiot “president” of Cataluña, Puigdemont, described in the newspaper ABC today as the leader of the “Groucho Coup”. (After the famous Marx brother comedy line: “I have principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”) Hence, the ABC’ s comedy paraphrase of the ambiguous announcement made by Puigdemont in Barcelona on Tuesday evening, and broadcast to a confused world: “I’m declaring independence. If you don’t like it, I’ll postpone it.”
Today is the Dia de la Hispanidad, Spain’s national day. The military parade in Madrid has coincided with the end of the severest challenge to democracy in this country since the failed military coup in 1982. The enormous outpouring of patriotic pride and flag waving is quite distinct from the narrow nationalism of the Catalans: it is pride in an inclusive and constitutional democracy which has achieved so much in a short space of time. As one who aspires to Spanish citizenship, now that another bunch of narrow-minded xenophobes has given us “Brexit”, I join all democrats in this country who are applauding the dedication of the Guardia Civil and the Policia National in protecting the democratic mechanisms of this constitutional democracy. I am also greatly impressed by the role played by the king, in a measured intervention which never overstepped his role under the constitution.
So it is with great relief that I flew back from the UK last night, bearing a nice red apple to give to the donkeys: a treat from my daughter Alys. An apple brought from Wales to this delightful field in the Costa Blanca and presented to them this morning, quartered so they could have a segment each. Aitana often refuses carrots and has always rejected apples. She was first to eat her portion, so Alys will be pleased the present was gratefully received!
As I was preparing to upload this blog post, I heard the sad news that one of the pilots involved in the Spanish Air Force fly-past in Madrid earlier today was killed when his Eurofighter plane crashed at Albacete airbase when returning. The Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy and Minister of Defence Cospedal have gone straight from the parade in Madrid to Albacete. The pilot was flying one of the planes which trailed the colours of the Spanish flag in the skies over the parade. There is much tragic symbolism in that, and maybe after today the flags can all be given a bit of a rest for a while.
Resquiat In Pace, Capitán Borja Aybar.