Sunday, November 30, 2003

It is strange how beliefs about other societies can take so long to change. Despite the fact that it has long since ceased to be either the heaviest or the highest circulation serious newspaper in the UK, The Times is still seen in Spain as the most influential of the British broadsheets. So there is much wringing of hands in the Spanish press about its decision to bring out a tabloid size edition. Needless to say, the Independent’s initiative in doing this a few months ago was never reported on at the time. Or even now. It seems pretty clear that none of the Spanish commentators have ever read Mr Murdoch’s dumbed down and increasingly sensationalist Times. At least not for several years. The decision seems totally appropriate to me.

One of the more arresting sights of modern Spain – where Archbishops’ opinions are still sought by TV interviewers - is the number of roadside brothels just outside each major town. These days they are not called American Bars but Clubs and they nearly always have their name emblazoned in garish pink neon lights. I have sought opinions on this from Spanish friends but have never gained a clear view of whether they are legal or not. My guess is that they are but that the employment of foreign workers without papers certainly isn’t. I base this judgment on the fact that every now and then the police raid a local establishment or two and arrest the owners for employing illegal workers. The usual excuse given is that the owner of the ‘hotel’ was simply renting rooms to the 20 or more foreign ladies and had no idea what they were using them for. Or that they lacked the right papers.

One strange thing about brothels in Spain is how openly Spanish males talk about them. And about visiting them. This contrasts with my experience of never hearing a single Anglo Saxon friend mention even a massage parlour. Perhaps I have led a sheltered life. Or perhaps it is a reflection of British hypocrisy. Or perhaps there is an absence of shame about the activity in ‘Catholic’ Spain. Quite rum, really.

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