Following on from day one, perhaps the best inducement to thinking “it doesnt have to be like this” is to visit other countries. For who can criticize their nations mores without studying the mores of others.
Being in Bilbao, I feel transported to a completely different world, a better world, maybe. A world where urban living doesnt mean anomie, where sociality isnt restricted to a drink-fuelled search for oblivion, where idleness and flaneurism are mass participatory activities rather than the indulgence of a few. There is no litter here, hardly any graffitti, it is quieter, healthier and more relaxed.
Walking along the Nervion and through the DoÃ±a Casilda, I pondered these difference, concluding that the Spanish dont aspire towards separation as the British do. In other words, there is a Spanish culture whereas Im not sure if there is a British culture. Even Scottish culture (consisting of hard drinking and eating badly) seems a paltry force beside the rhythms and activities of Spain.
Day two was spent trudging around the Bilbao Museum (far superior to the strangely discoloured Guggenheim), enjoying an exhibition of art from Bacon to Hyperrealism, a massive Malevich retrospective and a collection of John Martin prints and drawings. The latter is the 19th Century equivalent of James Cameron or Cecil B. DeMille, creating huge apocalyptic set-pieces containing lots of ham actors writhing.