Archive for March, 2018

Hora zulú

March 30, 2018

Volume 4 in my nascent Galician library (kindly provided by the author):

Hora zulú
by Santiago Lopo
Editorial Galaxia 2016 (in Galician)
Mar Maior 2016 (Spanish)

In January 2000, a man is washed up on the coast of Galicia and is referred to a psychiatric hospital, as he appears to have lost his memory. Known as “the professor”, he is going to spend the rest of his life there although we are increasingly suspecting that he isn’t quite as mad as we thought, and maybe he hasn’t lost his memory either.

After his death, Ana, who was one of the psychiatrists at the hospital at the time of his referral, pieces together the mysteries of the professor’s previous life from a set of five stories that he had written and hidden in different places. Ana reports the progress of her quest in emails to a former colleague and love interest, but we don’t know whether he ever reads her emails – she never refers to anything he might have said in reply, so it’s a strong possibility that the ex, now living in New York and married to somebody else, deletes her messages unread.

The novel intersperses these emails with the professor’s writings and the psychiatrists’ case notes to create a jigsaw puzzle that remains mysterious to the last. We begin to suspect that the mad professor may have been a sane man in a mad world, as becomes clear from the questionnaire he designs to test the sanity of his doctors. He is thinking about the mysteries of time in a quest to stop the man-made destruction of the environment. (Hora Zulú (Zulu Time), by the way, which occurs at the end of each of his texts, is just a navy / aviation code for Greenwich Mean Time.)

Meanwhile, Ana has her own problem with time. She wants to wind back the clock to be back with her ex (or was he just an almost lover?). As the personality of the patient is gradually beginning to make more sense, that of the psychiatrist is becoming a shade crazier, although her voice, emailing into the void with the mixture of exciting discoveries and the mourning for lost love, (to me) really was the main attraction of the book. I’d happily read more of her emails any time.

The whole tackles some big questions, including:
* what is the nature of time, and can it be stopped or reversed? and:
* am I crazy or is the world around me going crazy? speaking of which:
* can dogs read our minds?
The answers, however, remain a mystery.




PS: while I was writing this review, I came across two time-twisting news items in Express News, a Spanish weekly published in London – spooky stuff:


March session

March 19, 2018

The March edition of our Galician session / foliada is coming up next week, on Wed, 28.3., starting from 8:30pm, at the James Street Tavern as usual.

In the ninth session in the new sequence, we’ll again play lots of lovely tunes from our vast collection of Galician traditionals. The Oxford Pandeireteiras will play their tambourines and sing some of the songs they practice in their weekly classes. Sheet music will be provided for anybody who brings an instrument and wants to join in. Feel free to dance if you find space to move. A bag of miscellaneous percussion instruments is also on hand if you would like to rattle along with the rhythms.

Note that the Tavern has a 11:30 curfew for music activities, so the  session will close before that time with the traditional anthem of “Fisterra”. If you don’t have to leave earlier, it would be nice if you could stay for that.

For further info about the sessions and sharing audio and video recordings of the tunes we play, subscribe to this blog or join the Facebook group. There is also a mailing list for email reminders sent a week before the sessions.


Other events coming up:

David will also host another Galician session in London  on Wed 21.3. at La Bodega Restaurant, off Portobello Road, see details here.



Illustration from the Cantigas de Santa Maria. Note the lovely eye contact between musicians playing together.

Estrañandote tanto

March 18, 2018

In the lyrics of Latin American songs like Shakira’s Moscas en la casa you’ll find the word extrañar in the sense of to miss (somebody), which is only used in Latin American Spanish, not in the Iberian version. In Spain you can only say “echar de menos” which can be a bit awkward in the tight space of a poem or song lyric. (In Iberian Spanish the word extrañar only exists to describe the action of things that surprise you, as you find them strange, which makes sense as the word is obviously related to strange.)

I often wondered how this came to be and how Spaniards survive (and reproduce) without the romantic “extrañandote tanto”. Only now I discovered (in the reliably educational podcast of Un pais mundial) that Galician has the equivalent word estrañar. So I’m guessing Latin American Spanish must have adopted the usage from Galician, as a vast number of Galician migrants came to Latin America in the 19th century. Does anybody know any other interesting words that crossed over from Galician to Latin American Spanish?


PS For the origins of the Spanish “echar de menos”, which also has a Galician equivalent in “botar de menos”, see the link provided in Ana’s comment, below.





This has been the second instalment of my series Galician word of the day, I think I’ll reproduce the accumulating dictionary at the bottom of each entry, see how far I get:


estrañar – echar de menos – to miss

maruxiña – mariquita –  ladybird



How it all began

March 17, 2018

In the depths of the Galician Studies Centre’s Facebook page, I discovered a poster for the first ever Galician session in Oxford, so this is how it all began, back in May 2012 (already on the last Wednesday of the month!):

galician session 2012


two years later, it looked like this:

galician session 2014


and another two years later:

galician session poster


… and today:



Short films

March 9, 2018

The fourth Galician film night in Oxford is coming up next Thursday with a selection of short films:

Curricán, Álvaro Gago

Xan Curricán guides us through the streets of Vilanova de Arousa, a village full of picturesque portraits and endless epiphanies.

Rueda Cabeza, Borja Santomé

A walk along those rain-streaked streets that surround us, those streets that speak to us of fun, of death, of sex and of tears.

Galicia, Portobello Road, Adriana Páramo

When Celtia finds out that her mother is going to close the restaurant she runs in London to go back to Galicia after 30 years, she tries to convince her to stay.

Día 13 de Julio y 12 de Agosto, Xisela Franco

Two days filmed by the artist in July 2014. With two Super8 rolls, she tells us how she celebrated her birthday with her partner and friends.

Pettring, Eloy D. Serén

A young Galician director takes a diary of his first months as an immigrant in Sweden where he works in construction. The construction of his work as a director is a metaphor that reflects the identity he is building as an emigrant.

Screening: Galician with English subtitles

15th March, 5.30 pm. Main Hall, Taylor Institution (OX1 3NA), Oxford

free entry, but please register at EventBrite.


short films

Verdegaio lilá

March 8, 2018

For International Women’s Day, here’s a reworked version of our old favourite O Verdegaio:


PS 10.3.: By now I’ve discovered many more versions / recordings, most under the title Verdegaio Lila and with a longer text, like eg this one, which includes lyrics on the youtube page:


Incidentally, we had a go at that during the Pandeireteiras meeting on the very day (which happened to coincide with International Womens Day).  It was a bit of a challenge to fit all the extra words but I think it worked very well in the end.


4th Galician session London

March 4, 2018
coming up on Wed in two weeks: the fourth Galician session at London. Hosted by gaitero David Carril Castiñeira.
Wed 21.3.2018., from 19:00 h
La Bodega Restaurant
78 Tavistock Road
London W11 1AN
A few of us will be going there from Oxford, car sharing opportunities may be available. (I can put you in touch with drivers or passengers as necessary.) Alternatively, you can take the Oxford Tube to Notting Hill Gate and walk down Portobello Road to get there.
Here’s a photo from the 3rd session in November (for a video of the fantastic dancing that happened there, click here):

Compare and contrast

March 3, 2018

David Carril playing the gaita at our latest session, and with Luar na Lubre on stage at the Brixton Jamm, London.






In my slightly biased view, the Oxford session is more fun, of course, but the London stage has better lighting, so it may be more photogenic.

PS click through to flickr to see a few more pics of Luar na Lubre and one more of our session.


Anda Maruxiña

March 2, 2018

In quite a few Galician songs (eg Barciademera, Pasodobre de Sisamo) we find the name Maruxiña, which is, quite obviously, a second derivative of Maria: Maria – Maruxa – Maruxiña. However, I spotted the same word in a novel, where it was written in lower case, so I had to look up its other meaning. Turns out that maruxiña (lower case) is the ladybird (taxonomically, any beetle from the family Coccinellidae), which makes perfect sense if you think about it, as the English word ladybird also refers to the virgin Mary, as does the German Marienkäfer, and the Spanish mariquita.

Wikipedia in English says:” The name “ladybird” originated in Britain where the insects became known as “Our Lady’s bird” or the Lady beetle. Mary (Our Lady) was often depicted wearing a red cloak in early paintings, and the spots of the seven-spot ladybird (the most common in Europe) were said to symbolise her seven joys and seven sorrows”.

The German version has a slightly different story, it claims that medieval peasants thought the ladybirds, which were helpful to them, to be a magical present from the virgin Mary, thus named them after her. Oh, and the Dutch wikipedia traces it back to Germanic roots, apparently it was associated with the goddess Freya, which would explain that upon Christianisation some languages transferred it to Mary, and some to God, as in Dutch Lieveheersbeestjes and French bête à bon Dieu. The more widely used French word coccinelle, however, as well as the systematic name, derives from the conspicuous colour. Latin coccinus is crimson.

PSA: This has been the first instalment in a new series on Galician words. Watch this space.


Photo: wikipedia


Fisterra (signed version)

March 1, 2018

We had a lovely little session yesterday, in spite of the wintry weather conditions, thanks to all who braved the snow and came out.

I have struggled for a while to get a good video of our traditional closing anthem, Fisterra, the rendition of which tends to suffer from people packing up and leaving (if not physically then perhaps mentally). Here at least is a funny clip of last night’s closing ceremony, with explanatory signing added by Maria and Bea, maybe it helps the uninitiated to appreciate the beauty of the lyrics …


PS clip is short and sweet, as my camera also decided it had heard enough …