Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 22.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • I saw the word ataraxia used in relation to President Rajoy the other day. It turns out to mean: calmness or peace of mind; emotional tranquillity. So, pretty apt. It goes with his apparent inability to do much. And also with his admantine refusal to do anything at all about the immense corruption in his PP party. Possibly because he's deeply implicated himself.
  • This was expected. By me, at least.
  • I've mentioned that Spanish law officers can be extraordinarily sensitive, having recourse to the infamous 'Gag Law' whenever they feel they've been insulted or traduced. Here's the latest example.
  • I'm increasingly confused by different messages re pensions in Spain. As I try to improve my understanding, here's a relevant cartoon, on the pathetic increase announced for this year:-

Life in Spain
  • A Pontevedra café that was once just El Pasaje has been refurbished and renamed Pasaje a Los Sueños de Alé y Patt. I assume these are diminutives and that Patt is short for Patricia. But by what logic? A botched attempt at anglicisation?
  • Last week, there was a flood in my regular watering-hole, leading to temporary closure. When I arrived at 13.00, the owners suggested we meet in another bar shortly. I agreed and went off towards it, meeting the waiter and waitress leaving as I got there.They declined to wait for the owners, so I went in and did so on my own. For one and a half hours - armed (as ever) with reading matter - before I gave up and went home. This no -show hasn't been mentioned by anyone in 5 days, even though I lunched with everyone 2 days ago. Relating this tale to a friend yesterday, she pointed out that no Spaniard would have been surprised at the non-appearance and would never have waited long. More relevantly, the bar owners would have known and expected this and would have been astonished that I had waited, and confused if I had mentioned it. Any irritation on my part would have been utterly incomprehensible to them. By Spanish standards, they'd done nothing wrong.
  • Which all reminds me of one of my favourite dicta: The Spanish don't have Plans; they have Intentions.
  • And that no one in Spain worries about wasting anyone else's time.
  • No wonder the waiter and waitress were disinclined to wait for the owners. I should have taken a leaf from their book. Except that, to be honest, my intention had always been to read for an hour or two over a copa.
  • Spain is not a great place for entrepreneurs. Once you get past the bureaucracy in the way of setting up a business, you're immediately hit by high obligatory social security taxes, even if your revenue is nil and you're operating at a loss. And now the government – under the rubric of data protection – has told autonomas that they risk a fine if they use whatsapp to communicate with their customers. Does this happen anywhere else? A regular question in Spain.
The EU
  • Here's Don Quijones again on Brussels banking shenanigans, designed for the benefit of banks and the disbenefit of taxpayers. No one in Brussels can be voted out of office, of course.
  • Can anyone really be surprised at this?
  • Interesting that the white-skinned Austin bomber hasn't been declared a 'terrorist' by Fart. Nor any mass shooter, of course.
  • I do hope what passes for Fart's brain is preserved for the benefit of society. Future genetic developments should ensure we can identity foetuses showing significant similarities. Or even unfertisiled cells.
Social Media
  • I said above that I was confused on the issue of pensions. One reason is that yesterday the local media reported that more than 50% of Galician workers earn less than those recently retired. But, of course, this reflects not only the size of pensions but also the reduction in wages over the decade of 'internal devaluation' forced on Spain by Brussels/Berlin. The average pension is said to be €1,160 a month or €13,920 a year. Possibly more if there are 13 or 14 payments. It's only taxable after €17,000, I understand.

Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 22.3.18

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 21.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • It wouldn't be spring without a list from The Local to tell you how to enjoy it.
  • But possibly not, if you suffer from alergic rhinitis . . .
  • Or if you live in Lavapies in Madrid.
  • If you've followed the (as ever) lengthy judicial investigation process into the business doings of the royal son-in-law – plentifully reported in the media – it's hard to believe he'd go in for anything but plea bargaining. To the contrary, Sr Urdangarin is reported to be insisting that he's totally innocent of the several corruption offences he's accused of. Vamos a ver.
Life in Spain
  • Walking through our communal garden yesterday and noting the dog dirt there, I decided to advise the Presidenta of our community that someone was ignoring the rule that dogs aren't allowed in it. And then I realised who the owner was of the dog that had just run past me. It reminded me of a question I first articulated many years ago: What's the point of power if you can't abuse it?
  • At this time of year, the mornings and evenings get lighter and evening activities are accompanied by the sound of distant bass drums. From the folk who are rehearsing for the Holy Week (Semana Santa) processions down in the city. At least a kilometre away from my house.
  • Slaking your thirst in a Spanish airport could soon be cheaper than it is now. But still ridiculously expensive.
  • Even better news. Or at least good news.
  • On the other hand.
  • By the way . . .Is it too much to ask that the police do something serious about the very many cars being driven around Spain without insurance, never mind an annual mechanical check?
The EU, Brexit and Spain
  • The joy and the self-congratulations were perhaps a tad premature. Madrid has been súper consistent and thrown a spanner into the works. Or perhaps a big rock.
  • Some expatriate Brits are not at all happy with this week's 'breakthrough'.
  • El play off. Or, if it's really only Galician, O play off.
Social Media
  • Facebook . . . It couldn't be happening to a nicer company.
  • And here's a good question, which I (piously) endorse.
  • Mexico and Venezuela can be dangerous places to do business. Especially some sorts of business. In the last 15 years, more than 30 Galicians have been murdered there. Many of them from a small, over-wealthy village in the hills between Pontevedra and Ourense which has its own airport and a hundred-year history in the Mexico's prostitution industry. An an annual Mexican fiesta. Not all our crooks are narcotraficantes!
  • Talking of killing . . . Someone has been shooting wild horses up in our hills. Forty in the last ten years, in fact. It takes all sorts.
  • And talking of deaths . . . My daughters' favourite beach.
  • So far this winter, Pontevedra city has had 20 more rainy days than usual. Almost as many as in La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela, in fact. And this is despite the fact October to December was unusually dry. I say 'so far this winter' as if it had some time to go. But it officially ended yesterday, whatever the mercury is saying. This gives the Spanish permission to start wearing springtime clothes. Whatever the mercury is saying . . .
  • The mayor of Ferrol (Franco's birthplace) has been indicted for corruption. He, too, says he's totally innocent and that his conscience is clear(tranquila). Which mental state isn't mutually incompatible with guilt, of course. I guess he's hoping that the judicial investigation and subsequent trial will peter out in a decision that the alleged crimes have been prescribed under the statute of limitations. It does happen here. Quite a lot.
  • Did you notice that yesterday was International Happiness Day? I made a special effort.
Today's Cartoon

Bears repeating . . .

Footnote: Could I just advise readers who arrive via Google + that I will be quitting that site later today. But . . . There's now a option to get posts automatically via your email. See the box on the top right.

Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 21.3.18

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 20.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • In the preliminary rounds of the Rugby World Cup, it was down to Spain and Rumania as to which team would have the last automatic place. Spain's final game was against Belgium, for which the referee and the 2 linesmen were . . .  Rumanian. Guess what happened. Click here to find out.
  • Talking of no-shows . . . . Spain, with its concerns re Catalan independence, has always refused to recognise Kosovo. So, Spanish representatives won't attend any summit meeting at which there'll be Kosovans. At least that's consistent. Madrid doesn't care much for self-determination on Gibraltar either. Its solution - Imposition of Spanish sovereignty. Just as in Cataluña, in fact. Though with perhaps more logic in the latter case.
Life in Spain
  • Yesterday, I went for a mid-morning coffee in a place close to a secondary school. As usual at this time, there were maybe 15 teachers there, male and female. And it was bedlam. An hour later, it was like a morgue. And I could finally get hold of the local papers to read.
  • This was just before I got a lawyer friend to sign – for nothing – a document similar to the one which – after 7 fruitless visits to 2 notaries – I finally got signed in Vigo, at a cost of almost €70. Plus the train fares . . .
  • Just as I was last night congratulating myself on completing a 6-point reversal into a tight, diagonal parking space, there was a tap on the passenger window, from a woman indicating I should open it. Her spiel was that she was from Ourense – 110km away – and needed petrol money. At least that's more inventive than any of this month's new crew of panhandlers in Pontevedra. Except perhaps the one with the big plaster of Paris boot and walking stick.
The EU
  • Financial engineering cannot stabilise a financial system that is fundamentally unstable. Click here if you're seriously interested in this issue. Italy and Greece aren't the only countries regretting that they fell for the politically driven madness of the euro.
  • The new coalition government. Another caustic view: Put simply, the agreement is chock-full of the policy waffling that has frustrated Washington and a number of Berlin’s other allies for years. And this is the government driving the EU forward. Though nowhere near as fast as M Macron says he'd like.
The UK and Brexit
  • Click here for Richard North's caustic view of yesterday's stage-managed 'breakthrough'. The sound of cans being kicked down the road. An EU speciality, of course.
Nutters Corner
  • Mike Shoesmith, the executive editor of conservative website PNN News: I believe Stephen Hawking was kept alive by demonic forces. I believe that it was the demonic realm that kept this man alive as a virtual vegetable his entire life just so he could spread this message that there is no God. Evidence? Hawking was born the year Billy Braham began his mission. . . .
  • Another excellent podcast from Adam Gopnik for you, on the Irrationality of Nations. Well, the USA, France and the UK.
Today's Video

Footnote: Could I just advise who arrive via Google + that I plan to quite that site very soon. But . . . There's now a option to get posts automatically via your email. See the box on the top right.

Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 20.3.18

Monday, March 19, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 19.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • There were profiles of 12 leading politicians in a newspaper yesterday. One of them (Rajoy) is a notary and 7 of the others are lawyers. So, almost 70% - as pointed out by Dutchman Vincent Werner in his book on Spain's major problems. Much, much higher than in other developed nations.
  • And you thought this sort of thing only happened in Spain . . . In Hong Kong a new law is about to be adopted making it illegal to mock the Chinese national anthem, with a sentence of 3 years in prison for offenders. Spain has fallen behind.
  • Pensioners here might well have done better than those either employed or unemployed in the last 10 years but the system is on very shaky foundations and, as reader María has pointed out, promises of future increases are parsimonious. People are increasingly worried about their old age, as noted here.
Life in Spain
  • Crossing the bridge into town yesterday midday, I was tempted to shout at a chap on a bike: “Amigo! If you're going to allow your kid to weave in and out of people on the pavement, it's bloody pointless to ride alongside him on the road constantly shouting at him to 'Mind the pedestrians'”. And: “Have you not noticed it's Sunday and there's bugger all traffic on the road?”.
  • Click here for the article from which these nice snippets come:-
- Donald Trump swept into the White House on a promise to run the government like a business and stock his administration with titans of industry. The partnership hasn’t worked out.
- Just over a year into Trump’s presidency, those titans are leaving, driven out by a chief executive who doesn’t want to hear no, doesn’t trust anyone but himself and can’t stand to share the spotlight, even with those he once hailed as “the best people” on earth for these jobs.
- Trump’s penchant for publicly and privately torturing powerful leaders in his administration extends to military brass.  But it is Trump’s break with his Masters of the Universe that undercuts most clearly a central premise of his appeal as a candidate: He knew what it took to be successful and he would hire people in his own image. The breakup, say White House officials, outside experts and even the president’s close friends, was inevitable.
- Trump is simply returning to who he’s always been, a one-man reality show who prefers to be surrounded by admirers who will praise and fawn over him and confirm that all his instincts are correct and brilliant and certain to succeed. The wonder is that anyone is surprised. [Is there anyone, as of March 2018] [Or even as of March 2017?]
- Trump’s pledge of running the nation like a business had totally gone off the rails. “No board of directors at any big company would ever permit this type of treatment or this level of chaos”.
For the future . . .
- Trump’s friends and defenders don’t really deny that Fart is moving into a new phase of his presidency where he will naturally be less inclined to rely on executives who have subject-matter expertise. Fart is growing in confidence, these people say, and increasingly believes he is best served following his own instincts rather than relying on the savvy guidance of former top executives.
- The USA. is now at greater risk of trade wars and the possible end of the North American Free Trade agreement, a development most economists believe would be catastrophic.
  • And , answering my question of yesterday about who would willingly work for Fart: I think all of these types of people will be gone soon and all for the exact same reason. Trump has gotten to where he is by basically being who he is and if you are a strong-minded person yourself and believe you have something substantial to contribute, you don’t want to stick around and keep getting run over by the boss.
  • So, is Fart about to go nuclear on Mueller? If so, there's said to be a likelihood that this would set off a firestorm in Washington, likely triggering a severe backlash against the president even among his Republican supporters in Congress. One can but hope.
  • Old Soviet joke: A man walks into a food shop in Moscow, looks around and says “Don’t you have any meat?” The shopkeeper replies: “No, we don’t have any fish. The shop that doesn’t have any meat is across the street.”
The UK
  • Brexit chaos looms, says Richard North here.
  • Meanwhile, this foto of young women in Birmingham yesterday makes me proud to be British:-

The English Language
  • According to the French president: The Anglo-Saxon language wants to consume other languages. M Macron is aiming at to have French take over from it as the number 1 foreign language, in Africa at the very least. Ironically, his novel approach is to use English to promote French, which has angered traditionalists. Especially Canadian French speakers, who've gone so far as to ban the English words and phrases which increasingly litter French in France. And Spanish, of course. El Pack Family, for example. Something from an insurance company, I think.
The Cultural Wars
  • Transgender etiquette has produced a new linguistic complication at leading British universities. Students and academics are being encouraged to sign their emails with their names, titles, telephone numbers and whether they prefer to be known as he or she — or another option.
  • It’s always a pleasure to bring you a new term from the social justice warrior’s cretinaurus. This week’s word is 'cishet'. Cishet means someone who is happy with their birth gender and heterosexual — ie, 98% of the world. And here’s another: 'wypipo'. That’s the new approved term for “white people”. Onwards, ever onwards!
Social Media
  • No one can pretend Facebook is just harmless fun any more. The revelation that Cambridge Analytica exploited the data of 50 million Facebook profiles to target American voters is indeed frightening. But Cambridge Analytica shouldn’t act as a diversion from the real bad guy in this story: Facebook. More here.
  • The relevant UK minister avers that: The 'Wild West' era for technology firms like Facebook and Google is over. Their use of people's data must be properly regulated. And they must accept increasing taxation by national governments. Why is it taking so long?
  • I'm often blessed with beautiful dawns, as I sit reading the papers and then writing my blog. Very occasionally, thanks to a river mist, the view looks rather more Japanese than Spanish. Or that's how it seems to me anyway. Judge for yourself:- 

  • I am a huge fan of writer and podcaster Adam Gopnik. Yesterday, I enjoyed this opening line to one of his offerings: Anyone who tells you their rules for a happy marriage doesn't have one. Just as the people who write about sex are never people you would want to sleep with. 
  • But what I really want to cite is this podcast on the Nazis. I'm a firm believer that everyone should be reminded annually of their appalling atrocities and crimes against humanity. I'm not one of those who believes it could never happen again. And this is as good a memory jogger as you could have. Along with videos of the camps.

Footnote: Could I just advise readers who arrive via Google + that I plan to quit that site soon. But . . . There's now a option to get posts automatically via your email. See the box on the top right.

Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 19.3.18

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 18.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain
  • I was asked this week why I have a dashcam. This is the reason:-

  • I know I keep banging on about the failure of (generally lovely) Spaniards to think about others but I can't resist posting this example:-

The baby thingy is blocking the way between 2 tables. I stepped over it 3 times within 10 minutes. The final time, the mother looked at me but said and did nothing. But I do know, of course, that if I'd smiled and said something – or even scowled and said something – she would have apologised profusely and quickly moved the buggy. But I didn't and she didn't. So . . . Me totally British and her totally Spanish.

The EU
  • Político yesterday: Reality bites Macron-Merkel romance: Gone are the days when the French and German leaders could confidently hope to build a new Europe together. The reality of national interests has not disappeared just because of the goodwill of two well-intentioned leaders. . . . Other countries have sought to remind Paris and Berlin that the eurozone is a game with 19 players. Furthermore, the Italian election earlier this month gave a new reason for concern to all those hoping for quick advances on the way to a closer monetary union.
  • Político today: After a meeting of their finance ministers a few hours earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeated almost word for word what they have been saying for the past six months on the need to work together and build a stronger Europe. But they didn’t provide any evidence of progress on the main issues at hand.
  • After reading of the latest example of Fart's managerial style, I have to admit that what I fail to get is how anyone with the experience, intelligence and wisdom to qualify him/her for a senior position under Fart would ever want it.
  • Brennan, who led the CIA under Barack Obama, addressed the president earlier on Saturday, writing: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history." Sums things up nicely. One is forced to conclude, though, that Fart sees himself as supremely competent. A deluded jackass, in other words.
Nutters Corner
  • Pastor Gene Kim of San Jose Bible Baptist Church thinks the earth is hollow and Hell is inside it.  He's posted a video that’s somehow even weirder than that. Short version: The Bible says all dogs go to Heaven but cats are the absolute worst.
  • It's good to see our biggest and most profitable industry taking advantage of the upturn in the economy of our nearby neighbour, Portugal:-
  • I think I've mentioned in the past the beaching of fully-loaded speedboats that are being pursued by the police. Here's one recently abandoned in Aveiro, down along the Portuguese coast:-
  • And here's a super-speedboat ditched on one of our local beaches a few years ago:-

  • Finally on this, here's an indication that some of my fellow-passengers on the ferry to the UK might not be up to any good. No wonder I get stopped regularly, as a single male who looks like a succesful narco:-

Social Media
  • There is a British firm called Retweets Pro that claims to be the 'world’s No. 1 Twitter and Instagram marketing agency'. It offers a service that lets customers pay for any message they want to be tweeted up to 50,000 times — with no questions asked. You might imagine this could be abused – e g by a malevolent stalker – and, of course, it is. What a world.
  • I know this will come as a shock to readers living here in Galicia . . . The relevant ministry is hinting that problems with completing difficult sections of the track might just mean we won't be getting the AVE high-speed train to Madrid by 'the end of 2019'. Or even during 2020. I seem to recall having forecast 2030. But now I'm beginning to doubt that. [Reminder: When I came here in 2000, the date was 2005/6. One of Spain's moveable feasts, then.]

Colin Davies: Pontevedra, 18.3.18

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