Tuesday, February 03, 2004

There are a number of important things about Spain that are not well known in the UK. One reason for this relative ignorance is that, whereas there is good media coverage here of major events in Britain [e. g. Blair & Hutton v. the BBC], things don’t work so well in reverse. I wonder, for example, how many Brits are aware of the extent of the Spanish government’s problem with the Basque terrorist group, ETA. Or of the fact that this has been around for 40 years or so. In today’s papers we learn that ETA has been sending two different round-robins to local companies in pursuit of funds. The first of these has gone to firms considered ‘enemies of the revolution’ and has simply demanded moneys with menace. Plus, would you believe, a 5 per cent surcharge if there is a delay in despatch. A quite different letter has gone to a thousand companies identified as ‘friends’, asking them to show solidarity with the cause by making a voluntary donation. Personally, I’m not sure I would be any less frightened by the latter than by the former, even if there were no penalty for late payments from ‘friends’.

Outside the Basque country, one of the leading lights in the new socialist consortium in Catalunia has just been driven out of office for meeting with representatives of ETA there. The inference drawn is that a deal was being negotiated to avoid atrocities in Catalunia, though the politician in question insists that he was only [and legitimately] negotiating peace. The rest of Spain is less than impressed with this explanation, though Socialist voters harbour suspicions that news of the illegal meeting was leaked to the media by the government in the run-up to the next general election. This would be more convincing if there were any evidence that the Socialist party [PSOE] stood much of a chance in said election. But the truth is that, rather like the Tories in the UK until very recently, they have long seemed incapable of laying a glove on a government that has survived, for example, the Prestige oil tanker disaster and involvement in a war disfavoured by a mere 94 per cent of the population.

A Galician gentleman has taken me to task for implying that the English culture is superior to that of Spain. I have long been conscious that, even though this is far from what I believe, I do run the risk of creating this impression by concentrating on those things in Spain that are different and which, by and large, amuse me. Anyway, for those with any interest, I will [any day now] be addressing this question in a bit more detail in a Spain v. Britain article on my web page - colindavies.net

Meanwhile, a good example of what he means, I guess – Making a hotel booking last week, I asked the proprietor about the value-added tax. ‘It all depends,’ he said. ‘If they pay in cash and don’t want a receipt, then there won’t be any’. This goes on all over the world, of course, but what makes it so endearing here is the honest dishonesty of it all. No nods and winks or coded sentences. Just a straight, matter-of-fact answer. Naturally, I said the guests would rather pay the tax.

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