Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday morning musings

One thing that V discourages me from doing is wandering around outside the front gate with a mug of hot coffee in my hand, as this is exactly the kind of behaviour she has come to expect from her brothers. We don't so much live in a neighbourhood as a gene pool.

R, the low-flyer of the family, has taken to dressing as if he's retired early to Biarritz. One would almost expect him to shout out "hang ten" one morning when we pass on the banqueta...except that he hasn't spoken to either of us for nearly a decade.

It was worth getting up early — not for Aston Villa v Wolves — but for the diaphanous start to the morning, which has since tended towards the hazy. No free copy of the Prensa Libre though today. (One of the week's great mysteries were the newspapers shoved under our garage door for three days in succession. Our anonymous donor could not have been the usual delivery man as he passes by later on.)

Now that it's the weekend I'm finding the spare moments to peruse the Readers' Opinions pages, and have noted the sudden upsurge in complaints about the PNC. That Mixco mordida hotspot is certainly heating up in the familiar fashion in the lead up to Semana Santa. It must be a little off-putting for the brave contributors to this part of the Prensa to have to include along with their stories, a full set of personal info, details of their private email address, a current signature and a photocopy of their cédula!

I made the mistake of watching a bit of Fantasy Homes By the Sea on BBC Entertainment. If not actually the worst channel in SKY's selection, it must be close to it. Only the very stinkiest of Beeb's programmes seem to make the cut. The Graham Norton Show, with special guest....Patsy Kensit. I'm not sure that many Brits now know or care who she is ...or was. When you compare the fine quality stuff available via iPlayer (or even EZTV.IT) its frankly embarrassing that license payers are shovelling this parochial shit at the Central Americans.

Fantasy Homes...leaves an agridulce aftertaste. On the one hand there's the pleasing knowledge that these smug 50-something couples have seen a third of the value knocked off these sodden seaside pads since the series was made. On the other hand they belong to the very generation which takes greatest responsibility for the mess, having re-engineered Britain's economy (and society) to fit their fantasy lifestyles, thereby throwing almost every other demographic into the deepest of debt. No wonder they suspect that they might need all the extra bedrooms, because those children who previously left home will all soon be returning for good.

Another depressing statistic surged out of the Prensa this morning as I browsed it. (Maybe Wednesday's copy.) The total death toll from the Haiti earthquake now stands at 222,570. This is very close to half of the UK's total death toll, military and civilian, from WWII: 449,800. (The USA lost 418,500.)

Comparing casualty stats can be (perhaps deceptively) insightful. For example, 600,000 died during the American Civil War, 300-500,000 in the Spanish Civil War. It comes as a surprise (for me at least) to discover that upwards of 800,000 perished as a result of the supposedly less modern conflicts we refer to as The English Civil War. By far the greatest number of these fatalities occured however in Ireland, which experienced a Black Death-equivalent population loss of 41%, thanks largely to the activities of Cromwell's 'Godly' hosts.

The 'English Civil War' was undoubtedly very violent however, taking proportionately more British lives than the First World War. (In England there was a 3.7% loss of population, while Scotland suffered a loss of 6%.) 1 in 4 Englishmen served in the armies of either side, which essentially means that more or less every able-bodied man of the time took up arms. Soft-tipped lead bullets were widely used, resulting in horrific wounds. It's a wonder that little more than a century later Edmund Burke could point the finger at the French and describe their way of going about regime change as distinctly un-British!

Anyway, I have resolved to make a proper study of this period and the ideas that set off this conflict across the British Isles as it has always fascinated me. Burke's ideas seem to reflect the collective amnesia that my compatriots suffer from when it comes to the day we decapitated our King. We got our revolution in early, when political and religious radicalism were still rather confusingly intertwined, and so we tend to dismiss it. But those later upheavals in America and then France might never have happened in the same way without it. And what if Charles had won? An empire helmed by an absolutist might have made the modern world a rather different place.

From a young age most English boys know which side they would have picked, and I have always been a Cavalier rather than a Roundhead. Even with a mature appreciation of just how provocative and idiotic Charles's policies were (there are few other revolutions so clearly the work of a single man), the monarchy as an institution represents a large part of the continuity of England's contribution to consensual government. And the Puritans have likeability issues.

And there's always something so gloriously, tenaciously wrongheaded about the losing side in these civil wars, which is why I can also briefly set aside the prickly political-economic issues, and state my sneaking admiration for the Confederate forces of the Old South and the anarchist factory-workers of Catalunya.

Back to Guatemala. I suppose the local highlight this weekend will be the San Barcholo procession. The whole area has been filling up with fustilarians since mid-afternoon yesterday. The carpets are worth getting up early for, especially those in the narrow streets of San Luquitas.

Elsewhere the main event will be the mega-concert tomorrow evening at the Mateo Flores, featuring J-Lo, her Skeletor-lookalike bloke Marc Anthony, Tito el Bambino, Carlos Baute & Marta Sanchez, Pitbull, Paulina Rubio, Viento en Contra, Hombres G, and local favourites Malacates Trebol Shop. Cheapest tickets are Q500 for a space on the not-so-hallowed turf.

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