Talking of driving . . . Cost aside, there's never been a better time to travel on Spain's magnificent inter-city roads. Traffic on the (mostly) toll roads has fallen by a whopping 35% since the start of the recession. Plus they may well be about to increase the speed limit from 120kph(73mph) to 130kph(79mph).
And talking of the recession . . . As in the UK, the Spanish government is banging the drum of recovery, asserting that the economy will grow slightly in the 4th quarter and then continue to grow - by a total of 0.7% - next year. "The corner has been turned and the recession is over" insists President Rajoy, though more objective observers are not so sure. Near term, unemployment actually grew in September but "at the lowest rate for many years". Which won't be much of a comfort to those back on the dole after their summer employment ended. For next year, S&P see unemployment rising to a barely credible 27%. Meanwhile, the economy will have contracted by 1.5% in 2013.
What does this mean for property prices here? Well, everyone seems to agree that the bottom has not been reached and - saving those very expensive properties in very desirable places - prices will continue to fall during 2014. So you might want to keep your Spanish castle dream on ice for a bit longer. Unless you're one of those who've decided that property abuse scandals and the threat of rapacious new property taxes have put you off Spain for ever. In which case, why are you reading this?
The 2014 state budget is, naturally, one of cuts. Well, national debt is now approaching 100% of GDP. Education, Health, Benefits and Pensions have all been hit, contrary - of course - to earlier promises. In Health, the government has introduced a controversial law making hospital patients contribute 10% to the cost of their medicines - on the (pretty logical) grounds that they'd be doing so if they were at home. Somehow, though, it feels wrong and a number of regional governments have said they won't implement it. Not sure what happens then. In terms of compulsion, I mean. Yet another appeal to the Constitutional Court?
All political parties of any strength are broad churches and right-of-centre parties always have a right extreme with views distasteful to everyone else in the country. Spain's PP party is righter than, say, the UK's Conservative party, with a right wing which many see as very Catholic(Opus Dei) and pretty fascist. So maybe we shouldn't be too surprised to read that there's a memorabilia market in the outskirts of Madrid where you can buy everything from posters of Franco, to Nazi swastikas and SS Totenkopf skull emblems. The PP mayor who allowed this to take place gave the stock Spanish response-cum-apology - "There was never any intention to hurt anybody’s feelings." PP members left of its far-right wing have said they're shocked. And worried about the effect this will have on the party's image. As well they might be.
In another embarrassment to Spain - and a further knock to Brand Spain (La Marca España), the OECD has included the country in a black list of countries in which there's either nil or restricted freedom and has also said Spain is the only country in the world which blocks the entry of their observers. For example to the recent protest march against the King. The other countries in the black list are the usual suspects. So, these are strong charges and you can read more about them here, in Spanish, but I've failed to find any reference to them in mainstream media. Anyone else?
Finally . . . One of the more illustrious of my forbears - Christian Davies.