El curioso caso de María Agustina

¿Sabíais que en España existió una rotonda que giraba como las de Londres?

Cuentan que desde hace muchos, muchos años, una glorieta de Castellón de la Plana acogía a los coches que la rodeaban de izquierda a derecha, al más puro estilo inglés. Esta singularidad la diferenciaba del resto de las plazas de circulación giratoria de España, que se mueven llevándole la contraria a las agujas del reloj.

Pero hace cinco años, a traición y sin previo aviso, la enderezaron por la fuerza. Desde entonces, la plataforma ciudadana ‘María Agustina no rode aixina’ reclama la vuelta al estilo londinense de la plaza con diferentes campañas y manifestaciones.

Este año convocaron un concurso de relatos en el que el primer y el segundo premio fueron a parar a un castellonero y a una residente en Londres, respectivamente.


November 26, 2009 Posted by | Curiosidades | Leave a comment

Spies like Dad

EVER wondered why Spain remained neutral in the Second World War? After all, Hitler and Mussolini had given Franco ample support during the Spanish Civil War, and might have expected the Caudillo to return the favour by joining with the Axis powers.

But Franco declined to get involved, despite the Nazis’ best efforts to persuade him otherwise – and it’s just as well that he did.

“God knows what would have happened if the Axis powers had taken control of Spain,” the journalist and author Jimmy Burns told an audience at the Instituto Cervantes last month. “It would probably have changed the entire course of World War II.”

There were undoubtedly many factors behind the decision, or perhaps indecision, of Franco, his ministers and military. As Burns and his old friend, the historian Paul Preston, explained, Spain’s military had little appetite or capability for further fighting so soon after the Civil War.

Equally significant was the British diplomatic and propaganda effort, in which Burns’ father Tom played a major role.

“What did you do in the war, Dad?” is a question that was asked by more than one generation of British children in the 20th century. But not many of them managed to get a book out of their fathers’ answers like Jimmy Burns has.

Launching his book, Papa Spy, Burns’ discussion with Preston resembled a roll call of the good, the bad and the treacherous of the mid-20th century – Churchill, the Queen Mum, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Hitler, and the notorious spies Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt to name but a few, all of them connected in some way to Tom Burns.

They say that truth is stranger than fiction (if it wasn’t journalists like Burns might struggle to find work), and the true story of his father’s work as a spy-cum-propagandist would make a more than decent novel.

Papa Spy tells how Tom foiled a Nazi plot to kidnap the Duke of Windsor, how he manipulated his numerous contacts into doing his bidding or providing him with crucial information, and how he ultimately succeeded in his crucial mission to keep Spain neutral despite being undermined by his opponents within the British government and secret services, Philby included.

As one might expect from a journalist who enjoyed a distinguished career at the Financial Times before embarking on his book, Burns carried out painstakingly thorough research, even gaining access to the Franco family’s private archives.

The result is a masterpiece of historical journalism that untangles a complex web of intrigue and explains in clear terms a hugely important but largely ignored chapter from World War II.

But Burns’ greatest achievement in writing this book is perhaps the way he managed to set aside all emotion and sentimentality, describing with brutal honesty his father’s blunders and failings. As the author explained, “I loved my father dearly, but this book was all about seeking the truth.”

Papa Spy is published by Bloomsbury, priced £18.99.  Click to order from Amazon.

Papa Spy se publicará en español este Febrero del 2010, por Random House/DEBATE.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Books, poetry and theatre, Instituto Cervantes en Londres | 1 Comment

Para llenar el ojo… y la calabaza

Recién llegada de la Feria de Abril en Sevilla, me invadía la melancolía patria y la añoranza de lunares de gazpacho y rebujito en camisas limpias… Ya era mayo, pero aún resonaban en mi cabeza los ‘Mírala cara a cara’ de cuatro en cuatro. Y de pronto, mientras paseaba por las calles de Londres poniendo todo mi empeño en volver a acostumbrarme a mirar al lado correcto al cruzar, noté que los ecos de la neurona que aún habita por aquí parecían venir de fuera. “Ya me he vuelto loca”, pensé.

Pero no. Dentro de un local acristalado se veían farolillos y una flamenca  movía su bata de cola ese arte ‘que quita el sentío’. Allá que me fui, naturalmente. Y pasé una de las noches más divertidas de todo mi año aquí. O al menos eso me contaron luego…

El caso del restaurante Ibérica me llama la atención en especial por su ecléctica filosofía empresarial. Igual puedes acudir a comer un buen plato de fabada asturiana que a contemplar una exposición fotográfica salida de lentes hispanas. ‘Food and Culture’, es su lema y es una gran combinación. Platos de diseño pero abundantes, cocinados con materias primas de la mejor calidad, espacios amplios, venta directa de productos españoles (desde pimentón de La Vera a  jamón serrano), una biblioteca abierta al público, exposiciones, fiestas temáticas, prensa española… No se le puede pedir más a un restaurante. Bueno, quizá que fuera algo más asequible, pero esto es Londres, y los precios son los que son everywhere, que dicen aquí.

Bueno, esta es mi primera recomendación cultural-culinaria para aquellos que paséis por La Pérfida Albión de visita o para los que ya estéis instalados. Que una vez de vez en cuando, también se debe uno permitir un caprichito.

Seguiremos informando…

November 11, 2009 Posted by | Bars, restaurants and clubs | Leave a comment

Sidonie comes to London

El grupo barcelonés Sidonie actuará en la capital británica el próximo 13 de noviembre para presentar su nuevo álbum de estudio “El Incendio”. Estos poperos me cautivaron hace ya un par de años cuando descubrí “Costa Azul”, al que pertenece el vídeo de arriba. Llegué tarde, pues ya era éste su quinto disco, pero bueno, nunca es tarde si la dicha es buena, que dicen. Y estos chicos (Marc Ros, Axel Pi y Jesús Senra) son buenos, sí señor. Voces dulces, letras que encandilan y música cristalina. Una delicia.

Que vengan a Londres, no es casualidad. Aseguran tener a Los Beatles como máximo referente y “El Incendio” se ha masterizado en los estudios Abbey Road de Londres por Adam Nunn. Lo querían y lo han conseguido. El viernes que viene, en el O2 Islington Academy de Londres, a las 19.00h. Las entradas las puedes adquirir aquí por 12 libras.

Pues nada, queda dicho. Nos vemos por allí!

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Music and flamenco | Leave a comment

Poetry made real

The Instituto Cervantes likes to cover all areas of culture, but it’s rare that we get to enjoy art, music and poetry all at the same time.

That’s exactly what’s happening in the Spanish Rooms at the National Gallery at 6.30pm on Friday November 6, when composer Amancio Prada gives a guitar concert inspired by Spanish poetry. The concert – entitled The Voice of Poets – draws on poetry ranging from the 12th Century troubadours of Galicia right up to contemporary verse.

The concert is part of a series of events associated with the Sacred Made Real exhibition of Spanish religious art, currently on show at the National Gallery.

This exhibition has been winning rave reviews from all the critics, and we reckon Prada’s concert will be just as good. Admission is free so get there early!

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Art, Books, poetry and theatre, Instituto Cervantes en Londres, Music and flamenco | Leave a comment

Hola London!

London Spanish is the new blog by the staff and friends of the Instituto Cervantes in London. Our aim is to bring you all the news, views and reviews on everything Spanish that’s going on in London.

We want you to contribute as well – so if you’ve heard about a great new Spanish restaurant that’s opened in London, know of a cool band that’s coming here to play a gig, or just want to give us your opinion on things, please send us your comments. The only rule is: it’s got to be about Spanish stuff here in the UK.

If you’re looking for Spanish lessons, check out – the Instituto Cervantes offers a huge range of courses for all levels, as well as business Spanish, conversation and other special courses, plus the brilliant online learning programme, AVE.

While you’re there, have a look at the Instituto’s diary of FREE cultural events. We have regular Friday night film screenings, exhibitions, debates and talks by leading authors, film-makers, historians, scientists and other experts from both Spain and Latin America.

Our library staff also have their own blogs:

and for all you need to know about Spanish and Latin American film:

Or follow them on Twitter:

If you’re Spanish and looking for information on London in general, we recommend you visit our friends at – an online magazine written by Spanish journalists who know and love this fantastic city.

Disclaimer: The opinions in this blog are expressed by the individual authors of the posts, and do not necessarily reflect the policy or views of the Instituto Cervantes.

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment