Friday, July 29, 2016

Ponters Pensés: 29.7.16

Spanish Government: The farce continues, with the king trying to issue ultimatums to the various actors. The latest development seem to be that acting-president Rajoy will agree to have a vote in Congress on the candidacy of his PP party but, expecting failure, might well not attend it. As  someone has commented: Spain's prospects of avoiding a third general election appear slimmer than ever, after King Felipe finished his round of consultations this week. 

Doing Spain Properly:
1. Dealing with the sun.
2. Your Spanish bucket list entries.

Gibraltar: Nothing could have been more predictable than the reaction of the Spanish Foreign Minister - Motormouth Margallo - to the Brexit vote . . . The Spanish Government will veto the terms of any Brexit negotiation between the UK and the EU that seeks to include Gibraltar. Sr Margallo never misses an opportunity to play to Spain's far right gallery. Of course, he might not be in the job at the relevant moment. With luck.

The ECB and Greece: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard tells us that the IMF admits a disastrous love affair with the euro and apologises for the immolation of Greece. More on an astonishing report here. As ever, the EU political project was seen as more relevant that the rights and the wellbeing of its citizens. Or some of them at least. The poorest and least powerful.

RT TV: 
1. As regards doping in sport, the channel sees everything as a politically-biased Western attack on Russia. It seems to be beyond their capabilities to recognise that attitudes and actions stem from the fact it is/was state-sponsored. I mean . . . how political can you get??
2. It was good to see the analyst Bernadetti Beri wipe the floor with RT's stock harridan yesterday in respect of Syria. On this subject, RT's main objectives are to prove that:- Assad is not that bad; that the 'moderate' opposition isn't really moderate (probably accurate here); that everything the USA does is merely political theatre; that Russia has got everything entirely right; and that the stupid West has got everything wrong. It's surely hard to be objective on Syria but RT - with a total lack of subtlety - doesn't even bother to try.

Driving in Spain: Yet another warning about roundabouts/circles. Or, rather, yet another repeat of the same warning . . . Be very careful about cars on your right. Yesterday, I twice had the challenge of someone doing a U-turn while in the outside(right) lane. In the case of a learner driver, this was entirely without signals. If you try to exit from the inner lane and hit a driver on your right, the law says this is entirely your fault, regardless of how stupidly the other driver was behaving. Never exit without looking into your mirror and/or over your shoulder. Always remembering that, here in Poio, you might be booked for turning your head more than 28 degrees.

Finally . . . Spanish processes: Why do these always take longer than elsewhere? I've just had to securitise my bank bank card in order to buy a car seat for my granddaughter, due in August. For one reason and another, I had to enter my account number at least 10 times. Midst a good deal if frustration and irritation. Incidentally, as with bikes, news laws and new techology have conspired to take the price of cars seats to levels many times higher than when we bought one for my granddaughter's mother! The one I've been instructed to get comes in at a mere €500. A car-seat, that it, not a bloody bike.

GALLERY

In 16 years, we've had a variety of contenadores near my house. And they've been positioned in at least 50 different permutations over the years. One of these directly opposite my front gate.

But now they've all been put together in one place, on their own little concrete base. So, it looks like there won't be any more changes for a while. Which is good news, even though I now have to walk 100m to get to them . . .  The question is - How long it will it be before they're covered in the brambles (called silvas locally but zarzas in Spanish) growing profusely behind them . . . ?



Updates:
1. Tourism: Here's what at least some folk in Palma, Mallorca think about it.
2. Post Brexit Nationality: Here's something of interest to those who want to be both British and Spanish.
3. Filtering my hits: Not working. 1,300 yesterday, many from Moscow.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ponter Pensées: 28.7.16

Spanish Government: We still don't have one of these, despite 2 rounds of elections since last December. And no one seems at all clear whether we'll have to have a 3rd round in November. Here's a Private Eye cartoon I've modified to turn it into a comment of the approach of Spanish politicians to the challenge of forming an administration:-

The Spanish Economy: Here's how tourism has progressed since Franco finally allowed the country to be opened up - after a fashion - in the 1960s. Annual visitors:-
1951: 1m
1961: 7m
1973: 35m
2002: 52m
2015: 68m
2016: 25m until end May. 11% up on 2015. Brits up 16%. Say 75m for the whole year.
An extra 2.2m are reckoned to be coming here this year because of problems in other places. Tourism now represents 11.5% of Spain's GDP, not much below the construction sector at its (phony) height in 2007/8, as I recall. So, let's hope volcanic activity in, say, Iceland, doesn't block out the sun for a year or more. Or that AGW doesn't turn Spain into the Northern Sahara Desert.

Good Books:

  1. As a sufferer - every 20 years or so - from major depressions, I naturally bought the well-reviewed Reasons to Stay Alive, by Matt Haig. If you're a fellow victim, this won't really tell you very much. But, if not, you'll certainly get a great insight into how cruel the condition is. One day I'll write a book about my own experiences. The problem being it'll be hard to make it funny . . .
  2. Travellers in Spain by David Mitchell is a delightful run-through of comments made by visitors from the 16th century until today, almost. Originally written in 1988, the last edition was published in 2004. I'll be quoting from it soon.

Appoyo?: Imagine my pleasure to see David Mitchell - on his last page - citing Galicia as a region he loved because it still felt like the Spain that had long disappeared from other large tracts of the country, even on its coast:- I remember Galicia with particularly vivid delight. . . . the rías[estuaries] near Pontevedra, where - emerging into mild sunshine from the monastery in Appoyo, I watched a line of brawny, bent-over women in a field, hacking up weeds with short-handled mattocks, singing, chatting ribaldries, hawking and spitting, just as Jardine had seen them 2 centuries ago; a sunken, ferny, fox-gloved lane leading to a warm shallow sea. In the distance 2 bare-footed nuns with dazzlingly white coifs digging for clams. Moored fishing boats set in a delicate cage of canes, as in a Chinese watercolour. Granite horreos at the beach's edge, interspersed with tiny circular ticks[?] topped by a decorative twist of hay and a twig of apples.  In fact, the sea - which is never warm - is some way away from the monastery. As is Combarro, where I believe he saw the horreos.  I can easily forgive Mitchell for some poetic licence but where on earth is Appoyo? I don't think I know a word in either Spanish or Galician with a double P. Did he mean A Poyo? Or - most likely - Poio, which is my barrio and which  has a large monastery? Surely the latter. A strange mistake to make for a writer on Spain. Or even just Galicia, for that matter.

Jewish Spain: The Faro de Vigo recently highlighted this fabulous Jewish Bible written in the late 15th century and, allegedly, finished in the Galician city of A/La Coruña.


Try here for a bit more on this. The Jewish community of Galicia - such as it has been since 1492 - is demanding that Oxford University return this treasure to Spain. Some hope, I'd guess.

Pontevedra Fashions: There was a show on Monday in a local institute. It's good to see that our local kids are up there with the international doyens of this crazy industry.


Finally . . .  Pokemon Go: I saw this new, strange sign on a wall yesterday. Can it be associated with this craze?


Updates:

  1. No, my car remote control isn't amplified at low tide. BUT: At high tide, the distance is even greater than 200 metres.
  2. I'm trying to exclude Russian hits from my numbers but am finding it hard to follow the instructions on how to do this on the incredibly complicated, for me, Google Analytics site. Not at all sure I've succeeded.
  3. My weight loss campaign: I'm now heavier than I've ever been here in Spain.
  4. The European Commission has announced it won't be levying fines against Spain or Portugal for its failure to meet deficit target for 9-11 years in a row. There may be a freezing of some grants/subventions. What a surprise!

A nice place to stay in Galicia: Belonging to the parents of some friends of mine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ponters Pensées: 27.7.16

Spanish Myths: A French Dominican priest, visiting Andalucia in 1705, recorded his astonishment that people here believed that the ship in which the prophet Jonah fled God's presence was from Cadiz; that the Three Wise Men were Spanish kings who sailed from Cadiz to the Holy Land; and that St James, the alleged apostle of Spain, travelled from Tyre in a Cadizian vessel and disembarked at Cadiz. No one believes any of these now, of course. Everyone knows, for example, that St James landed here in Galicia, at Padrón, in a crewless stone boat that had brought him 'back' to a place no one knew he'd ever been to. And that his corpse played hide-and-seek with the locals for about 900 years, before finally being put into a silver casket in Santiago cathedral. We've moved on a lot in 300 years.

Well, I'll Go to the Bottom of Our Stairs!: Or, putting it another way: Blow me down with a feather!

  1. The EU will give Spain another 2 years - on top of 9 already - to get its deficit down to the 'sacrosanct' 3%. Of course, no one with a brain thinks they'll do this.
  2. In the UK this week a horse with odds of 200-1 romped home to victory - the longest winning odds in the centuries-old history of racing there.
  3. RT TV has been reporting on manipulation in the US media in favour of Mrs Clinton. They might well be right to do so, of course, but they are the blackest of pots. You have to admire the chutzpah.
  4. Galicia is second only to Aragón when it comes to 'irregularities' in the description of properties in municipal Catastros. I'd have assumed it was top of the class.
Pontevedra Corridas: As part of our annual big fiesta during the first 2 weeks of August, we normally have 4 bullfights over the 2 weekends. This year there's only 3. Reduced interest or a question of finance and 'austerity? Dunno.

I Guess it Seemed a Good Idea to Someone: They're re-surfacing the roads on the northern approaches to and exits from Pontevedra city. But they've left undisturbed the large white sign you see on the road as you approach from Villagarcia:-
VEDRA
PONTE

Finally . . . A shattered illusion: For a while now, Google have been recording the hits to this blog at  800-2,000 a day. But I had my suspicions and yesterday I researched the issue of bots, especially those originating in Russia. And I've now done something to stop the recording of hits from these infernal, eternal machines and expect a big drop in numbers. I imagine I'm of interest to Russian bot-managers because I occasionally cite nonsense from Moscow's outrageous propaganda channel RT TV. I do hope I'm on some file as a subversive.

GALLERY

Everyone knows that Spanish women use fans, sometimes to very erotic effect. Against that, I can't recall seeing a fan here in Pontevedra since I arrived in 2000. But, yesterday. when the temperature had hit 35 degrees, one of the city's guapas allowed me to take this foto. And then gave me permission to post it here:-




Postscript 1: An Anglican bishop commenting the Islamic terrorists thereat to priests: - The only weapon we have is prayer. God help them, then.

Postscript 2: As I write, RT TV is majoring on Mrs Clinton's income. I guess we can expect to hear about President Putin's some day soon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ponters Pensées: 26.7.16

Spain and the EU: Given the tsunami of cash in this direction in the last 40 years, you can easily understand why the Spanish regard the institution with affection. And then there's the fact that Brussels condemns their corrupt Establishment for things such as the ludicrously inadequate investigation into the Santiago rail crash of 2013. Not that this changes much, of course.

Richard Ford on Spain: Anyone with a real interest in Spain must read the wonderfully-written commentaries of this English author of the early 19th century. He's astonishingly caustic at times but clearly a great lover of the Spanish people. Despite sometimes (always?) having the blackest of hearts, he writes like an angel. Try his Gatherings From Spain (free ebook), if you can't afford his Handbook for Travellers in Spain. His publishers originally declined to release the first draft of this, so nasty was it in parts. Having read bits of a later edition, one can only imagine what this must have been like!

The EU and BrexitThis is a podcast which perfectly encapsulates both my view of the last 25 years and of now. I'm a tad biased but I think everyone who supports the EU and opposes Brexit should be forced to listen to it. Daily.

Galician Highways: Well, they've waited a mere 13 years for it - almost as long as the rest of us in the region have waited for the overdue AVE high-speed train - but the residents of the charmingly-named Coast of Death now have their 26km bit of the A552, between Baio and Carballo. Eventually, this will be connected with other bits of this highway. But no one believes the official forecasts of when this will be, of course. Cosas de España.

Talking of Galician highways . . .

The Infamous AP9: I knew this Audasa-owned road was one of the most expensive in Spain - it doubles your fuel cost from, say, Pontevedra to La Coruña - but I hadn't realised Vigo is the only large city in Spain which doesn't have a free ring-road. Truly a licence to print money. Which Audasa is now aiming to get a lump sum for. There's no shortage of prospective buyers, of course.

Finally . . . . Keeping Secrets from Your Partner: Would you hide details of your finances from your partner? Here's the percentage who said Yes to this question in a few countries:-
Spain: 26%
The EU average: 31%
The USA: 32%
France: 50%. The highest by some way.

As for me, the percentage was 0% when I was a young man. Now that I've been through an expensive divorce, this might just be at the other pole, if I were ever to live with another woman . . .

GALLERY

A cartoon I recently enjoyed  . . . and shared with visitors from Norway:-

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ponters Pensées: 25.7.16

BlaBlaCar: Spain is reported to be the only country in which this company has had difficulties setting up. I wonder why. Could it be the usual problem of (effective) opposition from vested interests such as the bus companies? Probably.

'Involuntary' Temporary Seasonal Jobs: I'm not quite sure what these are but here are the worst (and the 'best') countries in their respect:-
Greece: 69% of all temporary, part-time jobs
Slovakia: 65%
Spain: 63%
OCED average: 19%
UK: 16%
USA: 8%
Switzerland: 8%
Norway: 6%

Why Do They Keep on Doing it?: The Director of the Traffic Department has been forced to resign - a rare event in Spain - for giving her husband's company €50k's worth of research projects without putting the work out to tender. A dedo - by the finger - as it's called here. To answer my own question, I guess it's a question of the logic used by the serial illegal parkers - Yes, there's an (increasing) risk of being done for it but the maths suggest the chances are still low.

Knowledge of Spain: Arising early this morning, I was told by my brain I'd failed to give the answers to the quiz of the other day. Though no one complained and so no one may be interested, here they are:-
1. The Catholic Church begin to distance itself from Franco's repressive dictatorship in the late 50s
2. The 1971 attempt by certain Spanish Catholic clerics to get the Church to apologise for its role in the Civil War was a failure
3. After Franco's heir apparent was blown sky high by ETA in 1973, he was nicknamed Spain's first astronaut
4. Spain's middle class was only 14% of the population in 1950. It grew by 1975 to c. 33%
5. Women were 15% of the working population in 1950. This grew by 1974 to c. 30%
6. Charlie Chaplin's 1937 film The Great Dictator was first shown in Spain in 1972

Pontevedra Dogs: During their visit 2 weeks ago, my sister and my niece insisted they kept seeing 3-legged canines. Indeed, they claimed to have seen 4 of them during one morning alone. I replied that I didn't recall seeing any in 16 years. And I still haven't. I can only conclude that having visions is a side effect of relentless shopping. Or that they saw the same (visiting) dog 4 times.

My 'Secret' Car Park: The 2 cars in front of mine yesterday had Portuguese plates. How the hell did they know about the place? Is some bugger disseminating info on the web?

Finally . . .  Unlocking Your Car: Some readers may know you can increase the distance at which the remote will do this by holding it next to your head. Honestly. Something to do with the water in your brain. Crossing a bridge last night, I wondered if I could bounce the signal over the river at a distance of 200 metres or so. Indeed I could. I suspect this won't work at low tide but will report.

GALLERY

This is yet another jewellers in Pontevedra, right next to the market, in a not-very-wealthy part of town. A genuine shop?:-


And this is 2 of our numerous beggars, arguing right in front of me last night. The skinny one - a regular - was unhappy at the other - a well-fed newcomer - plying his trade on his patch. 


The intruder asked me, rather aggressively, if I'd really taken a foto of them. Which I denied, of course. So, I hope he doesn't read this blog.

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