Friday, October 24, 2014

Pointless; Secure purchases; Gibraltar; Tourism; & A strange sight?

Today I made my regular attempt to find out from the Traffic Dept. web page how many points I've lost in the last 5 years. As usual, I was told - after giving my ID and licence dates - I wasn't a registered driver. So I spent 10-15m trawling the site and elsewhere for info on how to do get registered. Then I gave up and decided to do it face-to-face, in time-honoured Spanish fashion. Down at the Trafico offices, there were notices everywhere saying no one should think of proceeding without an appointment. But I ignored these and eventually found myself in front of one of the clerks:
Hola. I can't find out how to register on the DGT page, so I can't get details of my points.
You just need to go to the page and the Points section and then give your details.
I've done that. Several times. But I'm repeatedly told my car isn't registered.
Give me your details.
[Takes my licence and spends 10 minutes going through the same iterations as me. Is joined by a colleague, who proffers advice.]
Listen, leave it; it's not so important.
[Another 5 minutes of futile effort on their part]
Look, there's lots of people behind me now. Forget it. I don't really need it.
Don't worry about them.
[Another 5 minutes]
Look, please give me my licence back and forget it. I appreciate your help.
Alright then.

And all of this without getting a prior appointment.

I see that fingerprint technology is now being used to prove identity in the UK. I guess we'll have it here soon as well. But I predict I'll still be asked to provide my ID. Even for a €5 purchase.

No sooner was it in power than the current Spanish government scrapped the tripartite discussions set up by the previous administration in respect of Gibraltar. After 4 years of counter-productive confrontation, a new body has been set up, comprising Spain, Britain, Gibraltar, Brussels and 2 other members I can't remember. Which doesn't really sound like progress but is better than nothing.

During the summer, Spain had a record number of tourists and record tourism income. A great deal of this came from Brits, all 12.3m of them. Presumably they didn't all jump off hotel balconies, binge to unimaginable levels and commit sex acts in public. Though you might get that impression from the Spanish media.

Finally . . . An odd experience this evening. A blind young man passed my table and, with his stick, negotiated his way around a chair at the next table. But he then caught his trailing foot on a second chair. Then, as he walked on, he did what you and I would do and looked back at the offending chair leg. Sightlessly.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spain's courts; Driving offences; Sparring partners; Bad bugs; More whores; & Dismaying sex.

Well, we all knew Spain's justice system was unfit for purpose but who predicted that the country's top judge would not only state this publicly but also admit it was fit only for dealing with chicken thieves and not politicians (apparently all of them) and businessmen who commit complex crimes that Spain's investigational system is ill-equipped to handle. To rub it in, the judge stressed what we all know - There can't be a true democracy without a fully functioning judicial system. It's either that, an effective dictatorship of the rich or a revolution. The odds on the latter may have just lengthened a tiny bit. The government, of course, will now make nice noises, before retiring the judge. It's hard to imagine them tackling the massive task of changing the investigational system to an accusatorial one. Especially if they lose the power to influence judicial decisions and to grant pardons at will. So maybe we'll have a revolution after all.

Spanish law imposes fines for driving offences which 'border the surreal'. I've mentioned the one for turning your head more than 45 degrees. Another is hanging a tiny catapult ('Chinese thrower' - tirachinos - by the way) or a rosary from the rear-view mirror. I'd cite others but the Diario de Pontevedra article appears to have disappeared from the net.

Talking of Ponters . . . The Local tells us Pontevedra Province (Cap. Pontevedra City) is, like Bath, promoting its Roman spas. Which is a good idea. Ironically, though, their foto is of the thermal pool in a very un-Roman modern (and illegal) hotel. Which may or may not be there next summer.

Did you know that in 1499, many feared the world would end the following year. In the event, the 1500 Bug was as effective as the Millennial Bug of 2000. Obviously.

Yet another of those nice Spanish verbal distinctions:-
Un ramero - A young hawk hopping from branch to branch.
Una ramera - A whore.

Finally . . . I've been here 14 years and, until yesterday, I was the only person who didn't know that the society beauty Isabel Preysler was famous not only for her 3 husbands but also for falling unconscious after orgasm. Someone - not me - has suggested this makes her a perfect horizontal partner. No post-coital chat.

PS: Beware of Wazzaroo on Facebook. It seems that, if you open one of their videos sent by a friend and accept their conditions, they'll send all sorts of videos over your name to your FB friends without your knowledge. And they'll end up wondering about your tastes. And possibly avoiding you. Here's one Spanish complaint about this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That old time religion; First Class achievements; Pharmacists on the take; Spanish favours; & A Farsi farce.

Some people start a religion for money - L Ron Hubbard with Scientology for example. And some do so for sex - Various US Bible bashers, for example. More recently and more locally, we have the case of the founder of the Catholic association of St. Michael the Archangel, near Vigo who's been accused of, inter alia, separating wives from husbands and taking them to his suite of premises for 'purification'. He also solicited large financial donations, of course. The local archbishop has dissociated himself from the association. As well he might. The Catholic Church - the gift which goes on giving.

Forty years ago, fewer than 5% of UK undergraduates achieved a First Class degree. By 1995, this had risen to 12% and by 2011 it was 15%. Last year it reached 17%, more than 3 times the 1975 number. The same creep has occurred with 2:1 degrees. Presumably, British undergrads are getting cleverer and cleverer, as are CSE and A Level students. My research on this was stimulated by reading of a British couple who apparently died of an overdose of prescription drugs in India. He got a First in English at a Manchester Uni and she'd got one at Stockport College. I thought 2 Firsts would be a rare occurrence but it's probably not these days. By the way, the fewest Firsts are given to Law students and the most to students of mathematical sciences.

Talking of prescription drugs . . . There are criminals in all professions, of course, but I'd have thought pharmacists were towards the more honest end. However, Spanish police have just arrested more than a hundred of them for buying products to sell on at a higher price, though not to the public.

I wouldn't want to give the impression I haven't benefitted from the Spanish help-for-friends culture. I've had work done by accountants, lawyers and notaries for which no payment has been sought and all attempts to pay rebutted - simply because I was introduced by a friend. The most common of these non-exchanges is a waiter/barman friend who simply refuses to take both payment or tips from me or my daughters. Unless the bill is large, in which case he simply fails to include some items. I'm not at all sure his boss doesn't know what's going on as this practice is widespread in bars. I've still got enough Anglo-Saxonism left in me to find this embarrassing but, with each passing year, this diminishes. If you're born into the system, though, I imagine you'll never have any problem with it. Like my teacher pupils who thought their friend wasn't cheating when she asked for their help an hour or two before her exam. Horses for courses. What I've called it over the years is a favour-bank system. One which can only really function if the people you deal with don't move away from your home town. Which is much less likely in Anglo-Saxon countries, of course. Where money is, therefore, a more reliable medium of exchange. "How much do I owe you for petrol?" is a question you're unlikely to hear in Spain.

Helping you with your Spanish:-
1. The plural of virus is virus.
2. Sacar de mi cosecha means (says my friend Dwight) 'To use my own work".
4. Lobi is an Anglicism for grupo de presión. Little wonder.
3. The plural of lobi is not lobis but lobbies. It seems.

Finally . . . Filleting a box of memories in my basement yesterday, I found my old Iranian AA card. The one that names me Devil Colin Davies. In English at least.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Little Fran; Rubber stamping; Frauds; Flying from Ponters; The EU; & Spanish Romans.

If you saw a 20 year old sitting next to David Cameron on the dais at a press conference, or shaking the queen's hand, you'd surely want to know who the hell he was. Especially if he looked 15. Apparently not here in Spain, where a young tyro called Little Fran managed to, first, fool the establishment and, then, con it out of tens of thousands of euros. Inevitably he grew too ambitious and tripped himself up. Details of his escapades here. I hear Penelope Cruz will play his mother in the film.

In a stationery store today, I caught sight of rubber stamps labelled URGENTE, COBRADO, PAGADO, etc. The thought struck me that, given the endless stream of corruption cases, courts throughout the land could usefully be furnished with stamps reading; IMPLICADO, IMPUTADO, INCULPADO and ARESTADO. Not to mention INDULTADO for all the politicians processed through to early release.

Which reminds me . . . The latest twist in the Undeclared Black Cards case is that 8 chauffeurs were also give credit cards with which to buy whatever they were ordered to buy by senior execs in Caja Madrid. The range of purchases was every bit as exotic (and erotic) as that of their superiors.

Another thought I had today is that, so widespread now is the phoney training company scam, there must surely be scope for a Fraud Consultancy business, to show budding cheats exactly how to do it. False invoices, etc. Actually, I believe you can already buy lists of ghost students and all their personal details. Small fleas on bigger fleas.And so on ad infinitum.

As I've said, there are 4 international airports available to Pontevedrans, within a range of 35 to 170km. When I came here 14 years ago, none of these had a direct public transport link from the city. Not even the nearest, near Vigo. Now, just one of them does. And this is the furthest away, in Oporto, North Portugal. Go figure, as our cousins say.

Proving yet again that there's one rule for the big and another for the not-so-big, France is again defying Brussels over her deficit levels. In France's case, this is always a win-win situation as either there's no price or Paris refuses to pay it. Well, why not, if you can get away with it? There are some, though, who think it's indicative of the imminent collapse of the dysfunctional EU. One can but dream.

Seneca, Quintillian, Lucian and Martial are famous Romans born in Spain. Click here for details from The Olive Press

Finally . . . Has anyone else noticed how rotund all the clerics were who attended the recent Vatican synod on the family? And I used to think I led a good life. Without the rotundness, I should stress.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The UK NHS; Corrupt countries; Local house.building; Honesty; & That Cinking feeling.

There's an election in the UK next year. As ever, one of the key issues will be the (overstretched) national health service (NHS). And, as usual, the main parties will posture and outright lie on what they've done and will do in respect of this paste jewel in Britain's crown. The key element will be one which hardly enters political discourse in other western European countries - how much involvement will be there be of private healthcare companies? Here in Spain, as in Germany, France, etc,. this is simply taken for granted and isn't seen as contentious. Back in the UK, the Labour Party regards itself as having sole proprietary rights to the world's first national health service and, with a weak leader, sees allegations of imminent Tory privatisation of the NHS as its trump electoral card. Truth, of course, is the first casualty of this quinquennial war of nonsense. In which the most laughable claim is that the NHS is still ´the envy of the world'. If they only knew. But, of course, they do. And they realise it would be political death to say otherwise. What a farce. In which the most amusing line is always - "When we get in, we'll completely reform the NHS and throw even more money at it than the other lot." I say 'amusing' but I mean 'depressing'.

A minute after writing that, I came across this article on the NHS by Janet Daley on the NHS monster. For only those with a keen interest in it.

Corruption: Reader Las Revenants has answered my question about other corrupt developed countries. Japan, it seems, may be even worse. Which I didn't know.

The new house below me has now been under construction for two and a half years. But nothing has happened there for at least 6 months. Yesterday I saw someone taking stuff from the site and naturally suspected theft. But I checked the name on his van and found it to be an engineering consultancy in town. So I guess they're trying to recoup their losses. The owners may or may not be worried by the Galician government's recent introduction of a fine of up to €25,000 for those who leave their houses unfinished. Of which there are an awful lot in the region, helping to account for the national reputation of feismo, or 'ugliness', I mentioned the other say.

A conversation with my cleaning lady tonight:
How much do I owe you, Teresa?
Nothing. You gave me 2 weeks' money last week and I owe you 2 euros.
Very honest of you, Teresa.
Well, we're not taking about thousands, are we? It's hardly worth being dishonest for 2 euros.
Just a question of degree, then. 

Finally . . . Walking home today, I saw this Hyundai ad at the start of the bridge.

I don't know whether it's brilliant or daft. As Pensando en 5 means 'Thinking of 5', I guess it's a play on cinco, or 'five'. So, Cinking becomes 'Thinking', as the C is pronounced Th. Except it isn't in parts of Spain and all of South America, where it's an S. So Cinking is 'Sinking' there. But I'm sure it makes sense to some ad agency.

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