Chapecoense, Manchester United and Grande Torino

chapecoenseLast November 28th the LaMia flight 2933 crashed in Colombia killing 71 of the 77 people on board. Many of those victims (19) were players of the Brazilian club Associação Chapecoense de Futebol which headed towards Medellin to play the first leg of the final of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana against the Colombian team  Atlético Nacional.

Shortly after the crash Atlético Nacional expressed their wish that the South American football association, CONMEBOL, declared the club Chapecoense as winner of the competition. That was a very honorable request, fully deserving the “premio del Centenario Conmebol al Fair Play” (Conmebol Centenary prize for Fair Play) as announced in a press release of Conmebol on December 5th.

In that same press release, Conmebol announced that they were declaring Chapecoense as winners of the Copa Sudamericana as had been requested.

A few days before I had written a series of tweets expressing my opinion on the subject, which is: I think that decision is a mistake, it is the wrong homage to pay to Chapecoense. But then I am not the one deciding on the matter.

Manchester United. Munich disaster.

The example I used support my view is that of Manchester United, which suffered a similar tragedy in 1958 in Munich, when it was coming from Belgrade from having qualified to the semifinals of the 3rd edition of the European Cup. That accident took place in February 1958 and it cost the lives of 8 players (one of them at the hospital days later due to the injuries suffered in the crash) and many members of the staff. The other half of the team onboard (9 players plus staff) survived the crash (23 fatal victims out of 44 onboard).

The crash caught Manchester in the middle of the season and they managed to rebuild the club with the youth team plus some players signed at the last months of the competition. Manchester had won the First Division in 1957 and in 1958 they were trying to win the 3rd consecutive title. At the time of the accident they were qualified second to Wolverhampton, 6 points behind with 14 games to go. After the crash the only won 1 match, finishing 9th in a league of 22.

Three months after the accident they played the FA Cup final against Bolton Wanderers, which they lost 2-0. A few days later they played the semi finals of the European Cup against Milan. They won the first leg but were defeated after losing 4-0 in San Siro.

UEFA invited the club Manchester United to play the following edition of the European Cup. A similar recognition to that of Conmebol, though of a lesser degree (1). The English Football Association, the FA, however, denied Manchester United to accept that invitation on the basis that they had not qualified for the competition. It is in this line of thought that my opinion on the subject goes. 82On the one hand we have the recognition, the homage, tribute and compassion for the victims, on the other is the sport itself, the competition and the rules of the game.

Life found its way to pay homage to those players years later. A rebuilt Manchester, around the figures of Bobby Charlton and Mutt Busby (both survivors of the accident) would go to win the European Cup in 1968, ten years after the crash.

Il Grande Torino.

Unfortunately we have yet another similar case in that of the Torino of the 40s. That club was known as the Grande Torino due to the superb game they played and the successes they collected. They won the league in the ’43, ’46, ’47 and ’48. In that last season they won the league reaching 65 points with a lead of 16 over the second, with goal difference of plus 92 (125 goals scored in 40 games).

grande_torino_1949Before the crash, on May 4th 1949, Torino led the league with a difference of 4 points over the second, Internazionale, against whom they had just played for a 0-0 in Milan. They were on the way of winning its 4th consecutive title. All those 31 aboard the aircraft which crashed against the Basilica of Superga died.

A couple of days after the crash, Torino were declared champions of the 1948-49 league, with still 4 games to go. The league did not stop. The last 4 games were played, with Torino putting up the reserve team. At the end they had a lead of 5 points over the second, Internazionale. I haven’t found the chronology of those last 4 games of Torino and Inter, but I guess that once the league result had already been decided, those matches may have not been truly competitive.

Conclusion.

In all these three cases, the federation organizing the championship, Conmebol, UEFA and the Italian Federation, had a recognition action in the sense of interfering in the competition, in two cases deciding the champion of the competition (2).

Only the English FA decided against the accepting of one such decision in the sense of preserving results has having occurred in the fields.

(1) The accident of the Chapecoense took place just prior to the final. The accident of Manchester United after the semifinal, with three other teams in the competition and two months until the next match was to be played.

(2) In the case of Conmebol, they could have declared winners Atletico Nacional but invite Chapecoense to play next year edition of the competition, as did UEFA with Manchester United.

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European aerospace sector and regions

A few years ago due to a previous job position, I got used to look at materials of the different aerospace industry associations or agencies, from the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD), the European Defence Agency (EDA), or focusing on Spain, the TEDAE, on France, GIFAS, etc. I would do that to seek relevant figures about the business, employment, trends… Nowadays, I do that from time to time out of curiosity to see the evolution in the recent years.

The documents, yearly reports or facts and figures brochures that those institutions publish provide a good snapshot of the aerospace sector, its main players, locations, trends, civil / military split, resources invested in R&D, orders of magnitude, etc. Let’s take first a brief look at the sources and see what we can learn from them.

Europe – ASD.

The ASD releases every year a “Key Facts & Figures” brochure (2015 issue here, PDF, 1 MB) which provides consolidated European figures of revenue, employment, investment in R&D, the split per sector (aeronautics (civil vs. military), space, land & navel)). Let me share some figures and graphic as teaser. In the year 2015 :

  • The turnover of the industry was 222 bn€ (54% civil / 46% military). Up 11% from 2014.
  • Direct employment: 847,700, out of which 552 k in aeronautics (2/3 in civil).
  • R&D expenditure: 20 bn€ (that is a 9% of revenues), out of which 16 bn€ in aeronautics.

as_2015_synoptic_chart

It is a pity but ASD, in the past, used to provide a more complete view of the business, as it, for example, provided figures of employment per country, compared revenues of the major players in the industry, etc. (see the 2010 brochure as an example). At some point the information provided has turned to be less detailed.

2010 ASD employment figures.

2010 ASD employment figures.

Europe – EDA.

Similarly, the European Defence Agency (EDA), produces a yearly “Defence Data 201x” report with the main figures and trends for the defence: member countries defence expenditures, investment on R&T, equipment, military personnel, etc. The latest one, released in 2016, aggregated defence figures of EDA members states from 2014 (PDF, 300 KB) and previous years. In a few snapshots it can be seen the effect of the crisis and austerity in defence expenditures.

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Continued decrease of EDA members defence expenditure as a share of GDP and overall government expenditure.

eda_2014_real-defence-expenditure-breakdown

 

Spain – TEDAE.

At the national level, yours truly being Spanish, I will focus first on TEDAE, which does a similar exercise for Spain as ASD at the European level. TEDAE makes two different kinds of reports, an annual report of activities (“Informe Anual 201x”) and a brochure with the main figures which contains very insightful infographics (“Cifras TEDAE 201x”). You may retrieve them here. Some figures for the year 2015 (find the report here, PDF, 31 MB):

  • Revenues: 9.7 bn€ (5 bn€ defence). Up from 9.4 bn€ in 2014.
  • 10% of revenues are invested in R&D.
  • Employment: 54,448.
  • 83% of revenues are exports.

cifras_tedae_2015

It is a pity but TEDAE, in the past, used to provide a more complete view of the business, as it, for example, provided figures of employment per region within Spain, compared revenues of the major players in the industry, etc. (see the 2013 brochure as an example). At some point the information provided has turned to be less detailed.

cifras_tedae_2013_empleo-regiones

Source: “Cifras TEDAE 2013”.

In the map you can see that almost half of the aerospace activity in terms of revenues (49.3%) takes place in the Madrid region, mainly in Getafe, where Airbus and Airbus Defence and Space have one of the largest factories in Spain. Nevertheless, you can see that in the region there are up to 172 production centres. In terms of employment, Madrid region accounts for a 43.9%, followed by Andalusia with 29.1%, which has seen a continuous growth in the last decade.

France – GIFAS.

Continuing at the national level, yours truly working and living in France, I will focus secondly on GIFAS (Groupement des industries françaises aéronautiques et spatiales) which does a similar exercise for France as TEDAE does for Spain and ASD at the European level. I must say that nowadays, the report from GIFAS is the most complete of the ones I have been reviewing, showing figures of revenues, new orders, employment (per region, gender, profession), recruitment, investment, exports, revenues per region, etc. Find here the annual report from 2015-2016 (PDF, 7 MB). Some key figures of the French aerospace and defence sector:

  • Revenues (unconsolidated): 58.3 bn€ (77% civil; 68% export). Up 14.8% from 2014.
    • That is a 26% of the European aerospace industry, or 6 times the size of Spanish aerospace and defence industry.
  • 15.9% of the revenues are invested in R&D. (7.1 bn€)
  • Employment: 185,000
    • Up 1.7% from 2014.
    • 42% engineers and managerial staff, 21% women, 92% working in aeronautics (8% in space).
    • Those ~170,000 working in aeronautics represent a 31% of the 552,000 employees working in Europe in aeronautics (refer to ASD figures above).
Source: GIFAS 2015-2016 annual report.

Source: GIFAS 2015-2016 annual report.

The annual report from GIFAS includes a map with the distribution of employment per region (what I mentioned that ASD for Europe and TEDAE for Spain used to do but they do not anymore) and in it, the weight of Toulouse and its region (Languedoc-Rousillon-Midi-Pyrenees) can be appreciated.

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Source: GIFAS 2015-2016 annual report.

Up to 28% of the 185,000 employees of the aerospace and defence sector are based in the area (1). That is about 52,000 employees in the region around Toulouse. If we compare with Europe figures from ASD (though those figures date from 2015), they represent around a 9% of the European aeronautics sector, or about the same size of the whole industry in Spain.  Thus, as expected, truly Toulouse is the centre of gravity of the sector in Europe.

Other European Countries.

I then thought it would be good if there was a thorough database or report with key figures and data for the complete of Europe, its countries and regions and wondered whether there was any such source. A kind of report with the breadth of information provided by GIFAS but compiling data from each an every European country. At first sight that compilation could be done by ASD but they do not. And it is not easy to do. For instance, not all bodies representing each national industry provide the same level of detail nor are as diligent in releasing yearly figures, or the figures correspond squarely to the same sectors:

  • The British Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space Group (ADS) publishes  a yearly “Facts & Figures” (find here the latest from 2016, PDF, 0.4 MB): 65 bn£ in revenues, thereof 31 bn£ in aerospace, of which 81% export, 13% invested in aerospace R&D (3.9 bn£),  128,000 aerospace employees (out of the global 340,000 employees between the 4 sectors).
  • The German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI) releases a yearly brochure with the key figures of the industry (see here the latest one with 2015 key figures, PDF, 0.9 MB): 34.7 bn€ in revenues (up 8% from 2014), 73% in civil aviation, 70% export, 12.1% invested in R&D (4.2 bn€), 106,800 employees.
  • The Italian Industries Federation for Aerospace Defence & Security (AIAD) releases an annual report with figures (find here the 2015 annual report, PDF, 0.4 MB): 15.3 bn€ in revenues, 80% corresponding to the group Leonardo-Finmeccanica, 50,000 employees.
  • The Swedish Security and Defence Industry Association (SOFF) releases a “Facts” brochure with some of those figures (see here the figures from 2013/2014, PDF, 1 MB) a yearly report with some global figures (sales of 30 bn SEK in 2013, about 3 bn€), with some detail: 60% export, 65% military, 18% invested in R&D, about 52,000 employees.
  • The Netherlands Aerospace Group (NAG) releases a “Factsheet” with a good snapshot of the industry (see here the latest one with 2014 figures, PDF, 0.6 MB): 3.9 bn€ in revenues (up 5.4% from 2013), 69% export, 50% MRO, 16,500 employees.

No wonder that ASD does not undertake the exercise to provide a global picture.

Nevertheless, with a quick review of these sources and their figures we have covered the 7 leading European countries in the aerospace and defence industry, which together combine above 85% of the activity and employment.

Clusters – EACP.

Therefore, unfortunately I have not been able to find in the reports of the existing industry association that global, consistent and detailed view. However, in searching for that information I found out about the European Aerospace Cluster Partnership (EACP), that

provides a permanent platform for mutual exchange, policy learning, and cooperation to achieve high-level performance among European aerospace clusters.

[…]

The EACP aims at initiating an active exchange of information and knowledge between all partners and at developing and realizing concrete steps for long-term trans-national cooperation between clusters and companies for a stronger and more competitive European position in the world aerospace markets.

From what I read, the role of the partnership would be similar to that of ASD, but rather than gathering national industry associations (and companies), their members are regional clusters (34 of them from 13 different countries). The partnership started in 2009, and honestly, it had escaped my radar up to now.

Location of EACP clusters (source: EACP brochure).

Location of EACP clusters (source: EACP brochure).

The good news: they release a brochure (PDF, 22 MB) which provides an overview of the clusters in Europe members of EACP. That report provides some figures of 20 of the 34 clusters and taken together it is the closest exercise to the global approach I was looking for. I have compiled in the table below part of the available data of those 20 clusters.

Ranking of EACP clusters by employment. (Source of the data: EACP brochure 2015).

Ranking of EACP clusters by employment. (Source of the data: EACP brochure 2015).

Some comments and caveats to it:

  • The biggest cluster or region is Aerospace Valley which encompasses the French regions of Midi-Pyrenees and Aquitaine, and thus companies such as Airbus, Airbus Defense and Space, Air France Industries (MRO), ATR, Continental, Dassault Aviation, Latécoère, Liebherr Aerospace, Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, Turbomeca (Safran Group), Alstom Transport, Honeywell Aerospace, Thales Alenia Space, Thales Avionics, Rockwell Collins and several research centres (2).
  • The report informs that the cluster employs 130,000 workers. Recall the figures included at the GIFAS (industry-only) report, where the combined workforce of the regions Midi-Pyrenees (28%) and Aquitaine (10%) is about 70,000 employees (I have taken the percentages from the GIFAS 2014 report, previous to the re-organization of French regions).
  • The largest region in Spain, as we saw before, is Madrid. Madrid Aerospace Cluster would be placed 4th in the ranking above (however the ranking has some caveats that I discuss below). The figure of employment of the Madrid cluster (35,000) is not the same as that provided by TEDAE (industry only) in its 2013 report for the region of Madrid (the 43.9% shown in the map referred to the aeronautics sector only (~41,000 employees of the ~51,000 working in aerospace and defence) and yields a figure of 18,000 employees).
  • In the ranking the main other two Spanish clusters, HEGAN and HELICE (from the Basque country and Andalusia) are reported as very close to each other in terms of employment, however, as seen in the map from TEDAE, the Andalusian aeronautics industry represents a 29% of the national one, whereas the basque one a lower 10%. I guess that the reported figures in EACP from HELICE refer mainly to industry figures (or that the research centres mentioned do not employ many workers) and that HEGAN ones include a considerable figure of researchers.
  • The main caveats:
    • there are several clusters of which employment figures are not provided in the EACP report, in particular, the clusters from the UK (which as seen above is the second largest aerospace industry in Europe with over 128,000 employees; one or several regions from the UK would be placed high up in a regional ranking), the cluster from Paris region (recall that it represents 28% of the French aerospace employment as per GIFAS), other Italian clusters apart from Torino.
    • there are no Swedish or Dutch clusters among the members of EACP, and therefore no info is included either in the report or the table above, and we saw that those 2 countries are among the leading 7 European aerospace industries. Certainly a Swedish and or Dutch cluster would rank high in the list.
    • As reported above, the reported figures of the different clusters seem not to be consistent with each others, some reporting mainly industry employment whereas others include high numbers of researchers from other institutions than industry.

This post was intended mainly to share some sources above, make a review of some of the main figures of European aerospace industry and its regions. Hopefully the next time that I take a look into it I may find a European-wide report as consistent and detailed as that of GIFAS.

(1) Recall that Airbus plant in Toulouse is the biggest factory in France as I commented in this other post, where I included a map with the largest 100 factories from the French industrial weekly “L’Usine nouvelle”.

(2) As an example, on top of industry, the EACP report includes the following research institutes within the French “Aerospace Valley” cluster: Bordeaux University, CEA/CESTA, CEA TECH, CERFACS, CNES, CNRS, Ecoles des Mines d’Albi-Carmaux, INP Toulouse, INRIA, ONERA, Toulouse University… up to 80 research institutions.

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Terre des hommes (Wind, Sand and Stars)

terreTerre des hommes (of which English version was titled “Wind, Sand and Stars”, and apparently differs greatly from the French version which I read) is a compilation book of some memories of the aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, of his time at the airmail carrier l’Aéropostale.The book was published in 1939, two years later he received the US National Book Award for this book. His most known book, “Le Petit Prince“, was published a few years later, in 1943.

Saint-Exupery failed to enter to Naval Academy and started studies of Fine Arts, which he did not finish. While doing his military service, he took flying lessons and there he discovered his passion. He flew first for the French Air Force, then he was a pioneer in the international postal flight, flying for the Aéropostale between Toulouse and Dakar, and later other lines. Those were years in which aviation differed very much to what it is today, and that is reflected in “Terre des Hommes“, where he pays tribute to some of his colleagues, mainly Henri Guillaumet and Jean Mermoz, and he shares some experiences which seem today unbelievable.Those years at Latécoère (which airline later became L’Aeropostale) must have been truly remarkable.

Henri Guillaumet was another pioneer of French aviation who contributed to the opening of airmail routes through the South Atlantic and the Andes. He was said to be one of the best pilots of his time, “Je n’en ai pas connu de plus grand” (I’ve never known a greater one), said Didier Daurat, director of l’Aéropostale.

Guillaumet taught Saint-Exupéry how to see the land they flew over, noticing every minor detail, every tree, corner of a river, and getting to know the locals, their farms, etc., as that was the ground he would have to land on given the case:

“Mais quelle étrange leçon de géographie je reçus la! Guillaumet ne m’enseignait pas l’Espagne ; il me faisait de l’Espagne une amie. Il ne me parlait ni d’hydrographie, ni de populations, ni de cheptel. Il ne me parlait pas de Guadix, mais des trois orangers qui, près de Guadix, bordent un champ : «Méfie-toi d’eux, marque-les sur ta carte… ».”

Jean Mermoz, another French aviation pioneer, first flew for the Air Force and then for Latécoère. It is famous the quote from Daurat who, after Mermoz performed his entry flying exam, he told Mermoz “We don’t need acrobats here, we need bus drivers.” Of Mermoz, Saint-Exupéry describes when he was captured in Africa or how he opened routes through the Andes.

“Quelques camarades, dont Mermoz, fondèrent la ligne française de Casablanca à Dakar, à travers le Sahara insoumis. Les moteurs d’alors ne résistant guère, une panne livra Mermoz aux Maures ; ils hésitèrent à le massacrer, le gardèrent quinze jours prisonnier, puis le revendirent. Et Mermoz reprit ses courriers au-dessus des mêmes territoires.

Lorsque s’ouvrit la ligne d’Amérique, Mermoz toujours avant-garde, fut chargé d’étudier le tronçon Buenos Aires à Santiago, et après un pont sur le Sahara, de bâtir un pont au-dessus des Andes. On lui confia un avion qui plafonnait à cinq mille deux cents mètres. Les crêtes de la Cordillère s’élèvent a sept mille mètres. Et Mermoz décolla pour chercher des trouées.”

There are two stories in the book which are breathtaking. The first one describes a crash Guillaumet suffered in the middle of the snow-covered Andes. He crashed in the middle of a storm and once on ground, he covered himself with the postal bags for 48 hours. As there would be no one coming to pick him, he then walked for 5 days and 4 nights (without ropes, axes, food supplies, or any other equipment for the hike). In those moments, he only wanted to get some sleep but he kept telling to himself that his wife and his friends, all hoped for him to continue walking and he could not let them down. To keep himself awake he thought of movies or books and tried to mentally review them in his mind from end to end. However at some point he fell down and was not capable to stand up again.

“[…] semblable au boxer qui, vide d’un coup de toute passion, entend les secondes tomber une à une dans un univers étranger, jusqu’à la dixième qui est sans appel.”

But then, he suddenly thought that in the case of a disappearance the legal death would be established four years later and this would impede his wife to immediately receive the compensation from the insurance policy. This gave him the will to continue walking just for 50 more meters until there was a great rock where his body would be clearly visible the following summer.

“«Si je me relève, je pourrai peut-être l’atteindre. Et si je me cale mon corps contre la pierre, l’été venu on le retrouvera.»

Une fois debout, tu marcha deux nuits et trois jours.”

He stood up and continued walking, not only for 50 metres but for 2 days and 3 nights more and he saved his life.

“«Ce qui sauve, c’est de faire un pas. Encore un pas. C’est toujours le même pas que l’on recommence…»”

f-anry-2The second story is from Saint-Exupéry himself, when, together with his mechanic, departed from Senegal to Egypt. The last lap would take them from Benghazi (Libya) to Cairo. During that flight they suffered some engine issue which started with heavy vibrations and finally ended in a crash. This time was not in the snow-covered Andes, but in the middle of the desert (close to Simoun). Again, nobody would come immediately after them. Saint-Exupéry started to make some estimates of whether they would find them in 8 days if they had flown straight or in 6 months if they had suffered some drift (derive), and where to walk to try to be closer to civilization.

In that situation he remembered the words and the example from Guillaumet and he pushed himself one step at a time. It is daunting to read how in the night he buried himself in the sand to keep the warmth of his body.

«Je creuse une fosse dans le sable, je m’y couche, et je me recouvre de sable. Mon visage seul émerge

Four days later, four days of thirst, hunger and lack of sleep, they were found by two Bedouins with camels in the desert in Libya.

The figure of Saint-Exupéry is today of worldly fame and I believe that one has to read this book (1) to really know who he was.

***

(1) Apart from “Le Petit Prince“, which I commented here, I have also read his “Vol de nuit” and “Pilote de guerre“, which are short novels based on experiences very close to what he lived and described in “Terre des Hommes“.

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The most (and least) read of the first 600 posts

And with this entry the blog reaches 600 posts, a good number to make a recap to see which were the most and least read of the first 600 posts. (1)

Since I started the blog in February 2010, the blog has received over 280,000 visits and hundreds of comments.

Find below the list of the top 10 and bottom 10 posts:

1. Impuestos en Francia vs. España

2. Mi adiós a Ibercaja

3. Will Boeing 787 ever break-even?

4. Monaco GP Walking Tour

5. 787 Break Even for Dummies

6. Impuestos en Francia vs. España (actualización 2012)

7. Beluga vs. Dreamlifter

8. Airbus vs. Boeing, comparison of market forecasts (2012)

9. Airbus vs. Boeing, comparison of market forecasts (2013)

10. Patek Philippe Caliber 89

490. Ailes Anciennes Toulouse, Visites Cockpit (April 2016)

491. Special assistance vs. free ride

492. Kronborg castle and Hamlet

493. Musee Mecanique (San Francisco)

494. Flight excursion to Najac

495. Lincoln and U. S. Grant on the preservation of the Union

496. “Caimaneando”

497. The Spirit of St. Louis (book review)

498. Aerospace, a high-tech sector in Spain

499. Museu do Futebol (São Paulo)

As a curiosity, see below the evolution of the visits to the top 10 blog posts per year:

views-per-post-per-year-600

Let’s see what I’ll write about in the next 100 posts…

(1) I wrote four such posts when I reached the first 100200300, 400 and 500 posts in the blog.

NOTE: the box in the right showing “Current Top Posts” shows the most read ones in the last two days, not the all-time most read ones (the ones above).

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Kilkenny

Kilkenny is a small town of about 24,000 inhabitants by the river Nore in the province of Leinster. The city is best known by its Castle, built by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (Wales), at the turn of the XII to XIII centuries on the location of a previous fortification built by his father-in-law Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (of the 1st earldom creation), better known as Strongbow, one of the leaders of the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170.

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The castle was later purchased by James Butler (3rd Earl of Ormond) in 1391 and would be the Butler’s family main residence for the following 6 centuries, until they left it in 1935 and in 1967 was sold to the municipality for 50 pounds.

The castle went under a strong restoration which sought to re-build most of the rooms to what they would have looked like at some points in their history. Today, the castle is open for visits. At the basement, the foundations from the XIII are still visible; other than that, the castle resembles more a XIX century palace, with dining rooms, halls, a library, a “Chinese” room and the large picture gallery with its wooden ceiling, fire place with marble from Carrara, etc.

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Picture gallery.

From the visit, I took the following takeaways more or less linked to Spain:

  • The “Moorish” staircase, created by the architects Deane and Woodward, which resembles very much to the style seen at constructions in Cordoba, Sevilla or Granada.

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  • The tapestries. Several tapestries, located at the tapestry room and at the picture gallery, show the story of Decius Mus, a Roman consul in 340 BC who sacrificed himself through the ritual of devotio to allow for the victory of his army at the battle of Vesuvius. After 300 years in display, the tapestries needed to go through some conservation work, which was entrusted to the Real Fabrica de Tapices in Madrid.dsc02336
  • The Butler gallery at the basement of the castle offers space to contemporary art. In it there is a collection of the posters of some prominent artists for whom an exhibition was organized, one of them the Spanish Antoni Tapies, in 1992.

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Other than the castle, another highlight of Kilkenny is St. Canice’s Cathedral, the second largest in Ireland, after St. Patrick’s in Dublin. It was built in the XIII century at the location where St. Canice had built a small monastery back in the VI century. The cathedral has a typically Irish round tower, with the uniqueness that this is one of the only two in the country that can be climbed to the top.

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Some of the main attractions that can be found inside the cathedral are several tombs of the Butler family, an archive with the names of all the Irish who lost their lives in the World War I, or the stone throne of St. Kieran.

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Kilkenny was as well for a decade, 1642-1652, the seat of the Irish Catholic Confederation, or the “Confederation of Kilkenny”, which following the Rebellion of 1641, established itself as a self-government, until the conquest of Ireland by Oliver Cromwell (1649-1653).

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Stone marking the place were the Confederation Hall stood.

During the visit, after having walked through the lively High, Parliament and St. Kieran streets, I went to look for Tynan’s Bridge House, a pub established in 1703 where I wanted to have taken a beer. I found the pub, but closed.

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… and talking about beer, it is in Kilkenny that the beer Smithwick’s is brewed and the brewery can be visited, though I didn’t. Smithwick’s was acquired by Guinness in 1965. We visited Guinness brewery in Dublin some days later (I may write about it one day), which is a giant museum but lacks the artisanal touch that I experienced when visiting Bowmore whisky distillery in Sctoland. I wonder whether at Smithwick’s that would have also been the case.

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Nore river.

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Black Gate.

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Crónica de una muerte anunciada

cronicaEl día en que lo iban a matar, Santiago Nasar se levantó a las 5.30 de la mañana…”; quizá sea este uno de los comienzos de una novela en lengua española que más se ha quedado grabado en la memoria colectiva (1).  Gabriel García Márquez publicó “Crónica de una muerte anunciada” en 1981; en 1982 obtuvo el premio Nobel de literatura, unos quince años después de haber escrito “Cien años de soledad”.

Crónica de una muerte anunciada” es una novela corta (unas 50 páginas incluyendo el prólogo en la versión digital que leí), parece que basada en un hecho real, en la que García Márquez mezcla un estilo periodístico con la novela policíaca. Con un principio como el descrito arriba es claro que la intriga de la historia no es el final, conocido, sino en cómo se llega a esa final. La tensión va creciendo y el lector termina sintiéndola dentro de sí, frustrándose viendo que unos y otros no terminan de conseguir avisar a Santiago Nasar para evitar su muerte, albergando siempre un hilo de esperanza.

Esta es la quinta (2) obra de García Márquez que he leído y, sin duda, es ésta, junto con “El amor en los tiempos del cólera“, una de las dos que más me han gustado y por tanto la recomiendo.

Leí esta novela a principios de 2016 y, como hago siempre, anoté varios pasajes que quiero dejar aquí para compartirlos y como nota mental para futuras referencias.

“- […] No es justo que todo el mundo sepa que le van a matar al hijo, y que ella sea la única que no lo sabe.

– Tenemos tantos vínculos con ella como con los Vicario – dijo mi padre.

Hay que estar siempre del lado del muerto – dijo ella.”

“Su contrariedad fue mayor cuando cantó la rifa de la ortofónica, en medio de la ansiedad de todos, y en efecto se la ganó Bayardo San Román. No podía imaginarse que él, solo por impresionarla, había comprado todos los números de la rifa.

Esa noche, cuando volvió a su casa, Ángela Vicario encontró allí la ortofónica envuelta en papel de regalo y adornada con un lazo de organza. “Nunca pude saber cómo supo que era mi cumpleaños” […]”

“- Cuando despierte, recuérdame que me voy a casar con ella.”

“[…] y mi madre decía que había nacido como las grandes reinas de la historia con el cordón umbilical enrollado en el cuello.”

“Se casó con esa ilusión. Bayardo San Román, por su parte, debió casarse con la ilusión de comprar la felicidad con el peso descomunal de su poder y su fortuna, pues cuanto más aumentaban los planes de la fiesta, más ideas de delirio se le ocurrían para hacerla más grande.”

“Santiago Nasar era un hombre de fiestas, y su gozo mayor lo tuvo la víspera de su muerte, calculando los costos de la boda. En la iglesia estimó que habían puesto adornos florales por un valor igual al de catorce entierros de primera clase. Esa precisión había de perseguirme durante muchos años, pues Santiago Nasar me había dicho a menudo que el olor de las flores encerradas tenia para él una relación inmediata con la muerte, y aquel día me lo repitió al entrar en el templo. “No quiero flores en mi entierro”, me dijo, sin pensar que yo debía ocuparme al día siguiente de que no las hubiera.”

“[…] la realidad parecía ser que los hermanos Vicario no hicieron nada de lo que convenía para matar a Santiago Nasar de inmediato y sin espectáculo público, sino que hicieron mucho más de lo que era imaginable para que alguien les impidiera matarlo, y no lo consiguieron.”

“Clotilde Armenta sufrió una desilusión más con la ligereza del alcalde, pues pensaba que debía arrestar a los gemelos hasta esclarecer la verdad. El coronel Aponte le mostró los cuchillos como un argumento final.

– Ya no tienen con qué matar –dijo.

– No es por eso –dijo Clotilde Armenta-. Es para librar a esos pobres muchachos del horrible compromiso que les ha caído encima.”

Comer sin medida fue su único modo de llorar […]”

“La versión más corriente, tal vez por ser la más perversa, era que Ángela Vicario estaba protegiendo a alguien a quien de veras amaba, y había escogido el nombre de Santiago Nasar porque nunca pensó que sus hermanos se atreverían contra él.”

“[…] La fatalidad nos hace invisibles. El hecho es que Santiago Nasar entró por la puerta principal, a la vista de todos, y sin hacer nada para no ser visto. […]”

***

(1) “En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme…” seguramente ocupe un primer lugar dentro de una hipotética lista de comienzos memorables de libros.

(2) Las otras cuatro: “Relato de un náufrago”, “Cien años de soledad”, “El amor en los tiempos del cólera” y “El general en su laberinto”.

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Rock of Cashel

Cashel is a small town of about 4,000 inhabitants, in the county of Tipperary, on the way from Kilkenny to Limerick, which is dominated by the Rock of Cashel, a eclesiastical site on the top of a hill which was once the seat of the over kings of Munster, ever since the Eóganacht, the descendants of Eógan Mor came to prominence around the 4-5th centuries AD.

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Conall Corc, a descendant of Eógan Mor, is said to be the founder of the Cashel kingship and according to the tradition St. Patrick baptised the grandsons of Conall Corc at Cashel in the 5th century AD.

Replica of St. Patrick's Cross.

Replica of St. Patrick’s Cross.

Today, the Rock of Cashel is a historical site that can be visited in about an hour. The entrance is 7 euros (free if your B&B happens to have a voucher, ask for it).

The main historical constructions remaining are the round tower (from c. 1100), Cormac’s chapel (consecrated in 1134, though at the time of my visit it was under restoration and not open for visit), the Cathedral (from 1270), St. Patrick’s Cross (from 12th century) and a replica of it in the garden, and the Hall of the Vicars Choral (from the 15th century).

Original St. Patrick's Cross.

Original St. Patrick’s Cross.

Round Tower.

Round Tower.

Cathedral.

Cathedral.

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The views of the surroundings from the Rock are impressive, as impressive is the view of the Rock as one approaches it from the bottom of the village, especially from the “Path of the Dead” connecting the Rock with the R505 road at the south-west of the hill. I discovered this path during my early morning run before sunrise, this allowed me to enjoy the view of the Rock with the first rays of light of the morning sun. A nice experience.

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Finally, another highlight that I wanted to have visited in Cashel was the Bolton Library collected by the archbishop Theophilus Bolton from 1730 to 1744. The library was recommended in the guide and according to a local brochure was the finest outside of Dublin, including works by Swift,  Dante, Calvin, Erasmus, or Machiavelli. The pity is that since a couple of years ago the library is not anymore housed in Cashel, as the building didn’t meet the best conditions for the preservation of the books. Today the books are conserved at the University of Limerick.

Bolton Library.

Bolton Library.

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