Pontevedra, 20 Feb. 2004

I stand accused of being condescending towards Spain. Of implying that the country is less well-developed than Britain.

I can hardly do anything other than plead guilty to this charge, as it is exactly why I chose to spend the last third of my life in Spain.

To put things in context a little – I also regard Spain [as well as Britain] as less well-developed than Japan, Switzerland and the USA. But, then I wouldn’t want to live in any of these countries. Simply put, Spanish society may not have ‘progressed’ as much as any of these and other places but it is, by my lights, a vastly superior society.

Everything depends, of course, on how comfortable one is with the nature and pace of development in any particular society. This is surely a function of upbringing, age, work status and financial security. My daughters, for example, insist that British society is nowhere near as insane as I [and Dr Dalyrmple of The Spectator] think it is. Strangely enough, this hasn’t stopped them warming to Spanish society. My elder daughter [27] has returned to live at ‘home’ and my younger daughter [22] could well arrive before the year is out. Putting their money where my mouth is. Or rather, putting more of my money where my share already was. Not so much ‘warming’ as ‘boiling over’, on reflection.

In contemplating my defence, I have actually drawn up side-to-side lists of where Spain scores and where it doesn’t. And if anyone takes the trouble to ask me for a copy [], I shall be happy to send it. Essentially, though, it is a question of values and quality of life. This is, I suspect, something that really has to be experienced to value it to the full. But, as I have lived in five other cultures, I regard myself as being reasonably qualified to judge. At least as regards my own standards. And it is these which inform [as they say] my various scribblings.

I would hope that, amidst all the [mostly] tongue-in-cheek stuff I write about my life in Spain, my admiration for Spain and things Spanish shines through. Especially my affection for the people. If not, I will certainly have to do more to redress the balance.

That said, if you are writing essentially about what interests, irritates or amuses you, there is an innate bias in favour of negativity. Things that impress are rarely as interesting as things that don’t. And you certainly can’t wring as many laughs out of them.

So, my plea is Guilty and there is my brief defence. If you strongly disagree, feel free to tell me so.

Unless you are one of my ex-wives.