In pictures: Two Spanish crises in one - anti-austerity protests and separatist strife

As protestors surround Madrid, Catalonia ponders independence.

Austerity in Spain has led to political strife which shows no sign of slowing down.

In Madrid, protests on Tuesday night turned violent, as police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators and charged crowds. 32 people, including some police officers, were injured by the clashes, and many were arrested.

The protest had been planning to physically surround the parliament, but when it overran its 9:30pm deadline, police moved in. The demonstrators are demanding the resignation of the government and the king – who has historically stayed less clear of Spanish politics than our monarchy has of British – and want the constitution to be rewritten.

The actions of the police came under fire, with protesters complaining that police officers hid their badges, as well as using excessive force. But the protesters weren't exactly non-violent themselves, as this widely shared video of a police-officer getting a rather savage beating shows (from 1:10):

The anti-austerity protests are unlikely to go away any time soon. Rajoy shortly has to present his budget to the legislature, and while the protesters have a strong idea of what they want to see, the international community demands a different sort of "credibility" – and Rajoy can't please both at once.

Mariano Rajoy

At the same time, a second crisis is erupting in Catalonia, the independently-minded region in the North-East of Spain. The regional government has announced snap elections on 25 November, two weeks earlier than expected, and is also planning on holding a referendum on independence.

Catalonia's regional president Artur Mas

The Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports on the very concerning comments made by the Spanish army in response to the Catalonian nationalism:

First we have the robust comments of Colonel Francisco Alaman comparing the crisis to 1936 and vowing to crush Catalan nationalists, described as "vultures".

"Independence for Catalonia? Over my dead body. Spain is not Yugoslavia or Belgium. Even if the lion is sleeping, don’t provoke the lion, because he will show the ferocity proven over centuries," he said. . .

Is case you think he is an isolated case, former army chief Lt-Gen Pedro Pitarch said his views reflect "deeply-rooted thinking in large parts of the armed forces".

Gen Pitarch said Catalan independence is out of the question, though he also said Madrid had bungled the crisis of the regions disastrously. "Are we looking at a failed state?" he asked.

Now we have an explicit threat from the Asociación de Militares Españoles (AME), an organisation of retired army officers, warning that anybody promoting the break-up of Spain ("fractura de España") will face treason trials in military courts.

El Pais reports that the anti-independence movement is also being pursued through more conventional political routes. Like scaremongering about the business implications:

"Uncertainty has an adverse effect on money and the business world; and that is what we have at the moment," said one businessman, who, despite his support for independence, admitted the current process has veered off a path of cogency.

Spain shows no sign of settling down any time soon.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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I can’t follow Marie Kondo's advice – even an empty Wotsits packet “sparks joy” in me

I thought I’d give her loopy, OCD theories a go, but when I held up an empty Wotsits bag I was suffused with so many happy memories of the time we’d spent together that I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

I have been brooding lately on the Japanese tidying freak Marie Kondo. (I forgot her name so I typed “Japanese tidying freak” into Google, and it was a great help.) The “Japanese” bit is excusable in this context, and explains a bit, as I gather Japan is more on the case with the whole “being tidy” thing than Britain, but still.

Apart from telling us that we need to take an enormous amount of care, to the point where we perform origami when we fold our underpants, which is pretty much where she lost me, she advises us to throw away anything that does not, when you hold it, “spark joy”. Perhaps I have too much joy in my life. I thought I’d give her loopy, OCD theories a go, but when I held up an empty Wotsits bag I was suffused with so many happy memories of the time we’d spent together that I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

After a while I gave up on this because I was getting a bit too happy with all the memories, so then I thought to myself, about her: “This is someone who isn’t getting laid enough,” and then I decided that was a crude and ungallant thought, and besides, who am I to wag the finger? At least if she invites someone to her bedroom no one is going to run screaming from it, as they would if I invited anyone to my boudoir. (Etym: from the French “bouder”, to sulk. How very apt in my case.) Marie Kondo – should bizarre circumstance ever conspire to bring her to the threshold – would run screaming from the Hovel before she’d even alighted the stairs from the front door.

I contemplate my bedroom. As I write, the cleaning lady is in it. To say that I have to spend half an hour cleaning out empty Wotsits packets, and indeed wotnot, before I let her in there should give you some idea of how shameful it has got. And even then I have to pay her to do so.

A girlfriend who used to be referred to often in these pages, though I think the term should be a rather less flippant one than “girlfriend”, managed to get round my natural messiness problem by inventing a game called “keep or chuck”.

She even made up a theme song for it, to the tune from the old Spiderman TV show. She would show me some object, which was not really rubbish, but usually a book (it may not surprise you to learn that it is the piles of books that cause most of the clutter here), and say, “Keep or chuck?” in the manner of a high-speed game show host. At one point I vacillated and so she then pointed at herself and said, “Keep or chuck?” I got the message.

These days the chances of a woman getting into the bedroom are remote. For one thing, you can’t just walk down the street and whistle for one much as one would hail a cab, although my daughter is often baffled by my ability to attract females, and suspects I have some kind of “mind ray”. Well, if I ever did it’s on the blink now, and not only that – right now, I’m not even particularly bothered that it’s on the blink. Because, for another thing, I would frankly not care to inflict myself upon anyone else at the moment.

It was all a bit of a giggle eight years ago, when I was wheeled out of the family home and left to my own devices. Of course, when I say “a bit of a giggle”, I mean “terrifying and miserable”, but I had rather fewer miles on the clock than I do now, and a man can, I think, get away with a little bit more scampish behaviour, and entertain a few more illusions about the future and his own plausibility as a character, when he is squarely in his mid-forties than when he is approaching, at speed, his middle fifties.

Death has rather a lot to do with it, I suppose. I had not actually seen, or touched, a dead body until I saw, and touched, my own father’s a few weeks ago. That’s what turns an abstract into a concrete reality. You finally put that to one side and gird up your loins – and then bloody David Bowie snuffs it, and you find yourself watching the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” over and over again, and reach the inescapable conclusion that death is not only incredibly unpleasant, it is also remorseless and very much nearer than you think.

And would you, dear reader, want to be involved with anyone who kept thinking along those lines? I mean, even if he learned how to fold his undercrackers into an upright cylinder, like a napkin at a fancy restaurant, before putting them in his drawer? When he doesn’t even have a drawer?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war