Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Catalan independence and incompetent central government; Galician investment; Apt advice; Beach foto 3; Taps; & Requests for help.

If I were Artur Mas, the Cataluñan President, I'd be a tad concerned that almost 4,000 companies have recently moved to other parts of Spain. And that foreign investment fell 16% in 2104, against an increase of 9% in Spain as a whole. However, Sr. Mas seems blithely unconcerned about these early warning signs of adverse reaction to a unilateral declaration of independence. One observer (Don Quijones) comments astutely that these figures are already an irrelevance, as reason is absent from both sides in the "simmering war of words and gestures" which is taking place betweer Barcelona and Madrid. "The issue of Catalan independence" he writes "is no longer one based on pragmatic realities; as tensions have festered, it has become an almost purely emotionally driven issue. Instead of a reasoned national debate, all that now exists is one almighty shouting match between diametrically opposed nationalists who refuse to listen to one another. And now that the wrecking ball is in motion, stopping it will be a tough task, especially with neither side willing to give an inch. 

Spain's President Rajoy is more than happy to perpetuate this dynamic: by adopting a belligerent line against Spain’s internal enemy (Cataluña), he keeps his party’s core constituency of fervent Spanish nationalists on board while making other parties that favour dialogue appear weak. The twin blowbacks of rising regional tensions and economic instability are a price worth paying to bolster his embattled political party’s electoral prospects. 

This is a government that lied on just about every one of its election manifestos to get into power (including its infamous pledge that it would not give a cent to the banks before awarding them the biggest bailout in Spanish history). Imagine what it is willing to do to hold onto power? In the last few months alone it has passed a law that effectively criminalizes most forms of political protest; it has announced its budget for 2016 half a year before 2016 has even begun, just so that it can entice gullible voters with the promise of guaranteed tax cuts and spending rises, despite the fact that the IMF has already said that Spain will probably have to tighten the austerity screw after the elections; it has even created a new electoral law just months before the general elections to make it easier for the People’s Party to take control of hung parliaments in future local elections. 

Its latest move was to pass control of the party’s apparatus in Cataluña to a xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-separatist former mayor of a satellite city on the edge of Barcelona. The party believes that his populist appeal has the best chance of taking votes from the rising anti-independence party, Ciutadans. In putting its faith in this man, Rajoy’s government sends a clear message to the people of Cataluña: it is not interested in healing any wounds or bridging any gaps. All it wants is votes – and at any price. If that means throwing even more gasoline on the fire of Catalonian independence, so be it."

Back in Galicia, it's good to hear that our Xunta has launched "a pioneering project for developing and using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for civil purposes and in different areas of public services." Drones, in other words.

New reader Fer R has kindly provided this lovely example of how a picaresque attitude to life can be helpful in Spain:- Related to our argumentative tendencies and our obstinate individualism when we face authority. Plus our exquisite ability to apologise for our conduct. I remember I've always been able to get lowered a fine or not be fined by a traffic warden only using the Verb[talking?]. The latest, driving my scooter few yards in the wrong direction, I said to the wardens who faced me: "I didn't know you were there but, if I had known I had committed my offence despite all, because I was plenty conscious of the illegality and, hence, I didn't act with irresponsibility. Very on the contrary, I knew it was the time when children go to school [there was a school on the corner], and I drove extremely carefully because I know I was driving in the wrong direction". And It worked.

My friend Eamon has kindly improved on his revised beach scene. It needs no comment from me:

Finally . . . Thanks to a major leak - wonderful when you have 6 guests and 2 more about to arrive - I now know I have a new water meter. It's a snazzy, bright yellow thing that has only one defect when compared with the old one - it's installed upside-down. Making it hard to read the numbers. Intentional?


Every year, my garden is taken over by a new type of weed. This year it's this bloody menace. Anyone got any idea what it's called?

This, of course, is a set of taps. Almost. The bit on the right is really from a hose connection, put in place while I try to find a replacement for the real thing. Without success. Everyone tells me they can't do anything without the brand name, which is nowhere to be seen. Anyone got any ideas? Roca??

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Cataluña; The EU; C words; Wolves; Famous Gallegos; & A much improved foto.

The Catalans have been talking about seceding from Spain for at least of couple of centuries. They may get closer to actually doing so when their September regional elections are used by the current nationalist administration as a proxy for a Scottish-type referendum. Which Madrid will steadfastly oppose as illegal, resorting to court judgments and injunctions. But will the Rajoy government send in the troops if the Catalans ignore everyone and go their own sweet way? Time will tell. As it will on the issues of whether an independent Cataluña would be allowed to join the EU and the eurozone. Exciting times. My own prediction is it'll never happen.

As for said EU . . . In the UK, David Cameron is nipping and tucking, ducking and diving to get off the hook of a commitment to a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU. This was so even before plans to establish a 2-tier EU were recently resurrected by France, with German support. This, of course, would be one way to get rid of Greece and to solve the British problem with one stone. Give 'em Associate status, and keep 'em outside the eurozone. This show will run for at least 2 years. But probably 10. Or even my daughters' lifetimes.

To avoid confusion:-
Coño - C**t
Estar de coña - To be joking; piss taking; Esto es la coña - This is a f***ing joke
Coñazo - Pain in the arse
Coñero - Joker, jokester.

Not a lot of people know this but wolves were re-introduced into Galicia a while back. And now there's quite a lot of them. And they're getting closer and closer to Tiffintown. A couple of foals were attacked recently in Amil, only 20km away. As an admirer of these clever, social animals, I hope they soon replace the rapacious pigeons and seagulls in our main square.

Even fewer people know that, not only was Christopher Columbus born in my barrio across the river from Tiffintown, but Australia was also discovered by a Gallego, Luis Váez de Torres. Hence the Torres Strait. More on him here.

Finally . . . My friend Eamon in La Coruña has kindly doctored my foto of cove X to remove my local friend, Fran. Indubitably an improvement, as you'll surely agree. But I should have asked him to include droves of topless sunbathers as well. Maybe tomorrow.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Hypocrisy; Please & Thank-you; RC defection; Bloody cyclists; Bloody pedallists; Seen on the net x 3; & RIP

I listened to a discussion on hypocrisy on the BBC the other day. It made me laugh as the Spanish think all Brits are hypocrites. Essentially because they're over-polite and don't give straight answers to questions such as "Does my bum look big in this?". As if all Spaniards do.

Which reminds me . . . Do the locals look round when I order Un con leche, por favor because my accent is bad or because I say 'please'? I suspect (and hope) it's the latter. 

The Catholic Church is fond of of quoting a global membership of around 1.9m. As it well knows, this is false. A lie, even. For it includes everyone, like me, who was baptised a Catholic but has since left the faith. Up until 2010 you could officially defect from the Church by going through an apostasy process via a formal request to 'your' bishop. Even then you remained baptised as the Church regards baptism as a gift direct from God which can never be taken away from you. But, anyway, I mention this after being told that, under the Franco regime, if you'd been baptised, you could only have even a civil wedding with a non-Catholic by going through the apostasía process and getting a certificate at the end of it. During this, would you believe, you were compelled to undergo an interview with a psychologist. This reflected Franco's belief, incorporated in the law, that you'd have to be insane not to want to be a Catholic. It's a rum world. Though perhaps not as rum as it was only 70 years ago in Spain. 

Well, I've finally seen a maniac on a bike crash into a child in a pedestrianised area. Or just about. Screeching to a halt and swerving, he actually just brushed the poor 4 year old. As is customary in live-and-let-live Spain, no one expressed anger at the cyclist. But good news! The local council is going to ban cyclists from the bridge I use twice a day. The foto with yesterday's article was a gem: The cyclist (illegally) on the pavement had on a helmet while the legal cyclist on the road (illegally) didn't. The police, of course, aren't interested in implementing such trivial laws. Or won't be until someone is killed there. When they won't be prosecuted or sued for negligence. Rules are not always rules here. 

Which reminds me . . . The company which hires out 3 and 4-wheel vehicles to kids in Plaza España in Tiffintown has now added adult karts its range. One of these is essentially a beach buggy you can pedal. And they're everywhere, taking up entire lanes in the old quarter. So I've now asked a certain dentist if he'll sell (give?) me the rifle he probably no longer has any use for. Except for suicide, I guess.

Finally . . . Seen on the net:- 
 1: A cigarette - A fire at one end, and a fool at the other? 
 2: A maniac impregnated a roll of money with a strong poison and sent it to an orphanage. This led to the deaths of 12 deputies, 2 mayors and a minister. No child was harmed. 
 3: If you worry about the shooting of a lion or a giraffe, are you an animalist? And, if you worry more about the death of a battered child, are you a humanist? 

 RIP: So, Cilla's gone. Prematurely. But, if there really is a heaven, those lucky celestials are surely in for a lorra, lorra Scouse laffs. In perpetuity.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Spain's economy; Spain's political structure; Changing Spain; & A lovely day in a lovely spot.

As he's entitled to do, President Rajoy is doing his utmost to convince the electorate that this year's GDP growth of more than 3% is indicative of an about-to-boom economy. He may be right but, down at street level, it doesn't feel like it. The swarms of beggars in Pontevedra are bigger than ever and, once you get out of the very centre of the city, the retail scene is a veritable wasteland. Whether Sr Rajoy can generate any sort of a feel-good factor before regional and national elections at the end of the years is debatable. Let's hope not, as the party still does a good impression of being run by Opus Dei, a far-right Catholic organisation that should have been ostracised at the end of the Franco dictatorship.

There's not a sliver of a doubt that Spain's multi-layered political structure needs to be overhauled, as the 1978 model is no longer fit for purpose. Likewise, perhaps, its voting system. One party not only thinks this but has a plan to effect change. This is said PP governing party, which favours something akin to gerrymandering. This is possibly because the reform it intends to implement will bring it an extra 200 town halls. Naturally, not one of the other parties is persuaded that this would be a good thing. But this government is fond of ignoring all opposing views. On abortion, for example. So we can expect the new law to be brought in before the general and municipal elections at the end of the year. Here's Antonio Rovira on the subject, in Spanish.

At a local level, there are examples all over Spain of new left-wing councils taking measures that challenge Spain's traditional ideas of fun. And since there's nothing Spaniards are more serious about than having fun, this is potentially dangerous for their tenure of office. One example is the leader of the council of Villafranca de los Caballeros down in Toledo. He thinks bullfighting is cruel and has decided to spend the budget for this on materials for local schoolkids instead. Contrary to international perception, most Spaniards will support him.

Finally . . . I attended a wonderful family BBQ yesterday, at the invitation of my friend, Fran. Well, not exactly your standard BBQ; really the roasting of 2 lambs over a charcoal fire. Stupendous. And all only 100 metres from a magnificent little cove, where Fran's family have houses on land bought for a song by his far-seeing father 50 years ago. I won't tell you where it is, as you might want to go there, but here's a couple of fotos. Locals will probably recognise the peninsula on the horizon, but not the particular cove. So many are there along the Ría X.

Sadly, I forget to get Fran out of this foto before I took it.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Saints, virgins and sinners; Corruption coverage; Rapacious banking; Ref. Books; Ponters rebranded; & Hunting,

Every person and every organisation in Spain has a patron saint. In addition to hundreds of these to choose from, there are dozens of Virgins as well. The Guardia Civil went with La Virgen del Pilar, the Virgin of the Pillar. We all know this now because a court in Spain has ruled that the (military) police force must stop taking donations from a brothel (Eros) in Navarra towards its celebrations in honour of the lady. Brothels, prostitutes, holy virgins . . . Only in Spain?

It's impossible to keep up with the major corruption cases going through the Spanish courts. Or to remember all their names. I'm not even sure I've read about the Púnica case before, even though its said to involve a Who's Who of senior politicos in previous national and regional governments of the right-of-centre PP Party. Plus an "endless list of Town Hall" occupants. Strange to relate, the government TV channel opts not to mention the proceedings. We could be in Russia.

In the Bad Old Days of a few years ago, the Spanish banks charged you outrageously for everything except breathing on their premises. And they competed by offering you such things as crockery, pots and pans and cheap towels from Portugal. Then times got better. Charges and fees disappeared and the lure for new customers was a gift of 4-5% on moneys transferred to them. Things are now returning to normal, as the charges and fees reappear. Trying to withdraw €600 from an ATM yesterday, I was advised it would cost me €27, or 4.5%. So I tried another bank and was told it would be a mere €2. Knowing I'd be passing my own bank, I declined even this. What next? Something like the huge amounts the Spanish banks used to charge for transferring your money to them from overseas? Or for closing your account and moving your money elsewhere? Who knows? But they can get very creative when they decide customer loyalty isn't something they're interested in. As opposed to simple extortion.

Years ago, my elder daughter told me Spanish reference books didn't go in for indices. I didn't really believe it and I'm sure at least some books must provide one. But not the Mitos, Ritos y Leyendas de Galicia I just dipped into yesterday, prior to giving it to an ex-beggar-turned-entrepreneur who now wanders the old quarter of Pontevedra offering second-hand books. And looks a lot healthier for it. Anyway, there's no index in said book and I'll now have to go and check a host of others.

Talking about Pontevedra . . . Since the main reason I go down to it is to take a glass or two of wine and the accompanying tapas dishes, I've decided to call the place Tiffintown. Some readers may recall that I actually live across the river, in Chickentown. Or Poio, as it's known locally. In the parish of Pijolandia. All hate mail should be addressed accordingly. Which reminds me . . . I placed an order for una tortilla de Sr Colin yesterday but they'd run out of ginger. Impressive, no? 

Finally . . . There's been a lot of fuss about a lion killed by a dentist. Unless you reside in a cave, you'll be aware of this and of the, shall I just say, 'remarkable' reaction to this event. Personally, I'm ambivalent about hunting. I've done it all my life. More in some countries than in others. I've never been very successful but things may be about to change. For I've bought this week a weapon which I think will help me massacre large numbers of my usual quarry. I'm pleased to say it's British made and not as expensive as I feared it might be when I saw it in a shop. It's called The Buzz Clap-a-Fly swat and consists of a pistol grip and two arms which end in two large hands and which can be fixed open. You pull the trigger when a fly is between the hands. Most pleasingly of all, I've just determined that it works. Though I've had difficulty getting the head off the fly, so can't show you it. You'll just have to take my word. It costs €3.50 here and I'm thinking of buying a shipload to take to the UK in September, to sell at 5 quid a throw. The only drawback with this plan is that it's already sold there for 3 quid. Or 2 quid even. Back to the drawing board then.

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