After my summer holiday was ruined because of the great donkey panic (Aitana’s awful decline in health after the vet innoculated her with ‘flu vaccine while she was weak with laminitis), this half term has been a time to relax and catch up with some of the summer jobs around the house and field that did not get finished in August.
Concerning Catalonia, I have commented extensively (and ironically) on this blog, and it is time to provide some sort of summary of where we are now. There is no need to give readers an update in English, for you now have the mad news about Puigdemont’s flight to Belgium on news headlines in every language. I am even more inclined now to provide an opinion on it all, a point of view based on my own love of this country which I have known for fifty years.
Sometimes, when I have commented on Spanish news websites, I have been met by angry responses: “Who are you to comment on our political problems, English?” Fair comment, if you are a xenophobe. We have them in the UK too, don’t we? “Who are you to comment on Brexit? Go back to Poland where you came from…” (etc. etc.)
The Spanish press is filled with opinion articles, by both journalists and pundits of various backgrounds: academics, businessmen, politicians, musicians… I read a wonderful article this morning in La Vanguardia by John Carlin, From London with love (1) He says everything I would want to say about this entire sad business of the failed Catalan coup d’etat (for that is what the Spanish are calling it.) He starts by saying he is half Spanish, by birth. I already feel half Spanish by chosen identity, and I agree with his opening introductory remarks that Spain (and Catalonia in particular, where he lives) has been for him the best place, the most welcoming place, the most free, the more tolerant and stimulating place to live, than anywhere he has lived before.
I returned to Spain in 2010 after some very negative experiences with agencies of the British state of my birth, and I never want to return to the UK to live. After Brexit I cannot wait to dump my UK passport and gain the privilege of Spanish citizenship. The whole Catalan debacle has been a great worry for all of us here, particularly for the British who have seen our country made to look stupid after Brexit. For Spain to have been divided by the trickery of the Catalan nationalists would have been tragic. But happily, the whole situation has been resolved. The relief here is palpable. An illegal bunch of Catalan separatist pirates has fled to Belgium and taken under the wing of an outright Belgian group of neo-nazi extremists: it has all descended into comic opera.
The winners will be the leaders of democratic parties in the young democracy of Spain, particularly Ciudadanos, but also the parties who have ruled Spain since the 1970s, the Partido Popular and the PSOE socialists. At the end of this I am more persuaded by the party of Inés Arrimadas than the ruling PP or PSOE. Arrimadas (2) has shown that a new generation of young leadership is shining through and pushing aside the corrupt grey men of the transición (the years since Franco), and there is a new sense of patriotism and Spanish identity.
Patriotism does not have to be nationalism. In Spain – after a terrible history of political conflict in the 20th century – people are proud to be patriots of democracy. A Constitution and all the separate powers of state that guarantee our rights here. I love Spain. I stopped loving Britain a long time ago, and Brexit simply confirmed my experience. Here in Spain, we have something to celebrate today. Europe has something to celebrate too: for Europe held the line against the extremists in Catalonia and it showed why being an EU member is better than being alone.
(1) John Carlin’s article is not available in English, however he wrote about the Catalan situation earlier in The Times
(2) Inés Arrimadas confronting Carles Puigdemont was one of the best things to come out of Spanish democracy in recent times. Here she is on the day of the declaration of independence, which she demolished with quiet assertiveness, addressing her words to a visibly cringing Carles Puigdemont.