Thursday, April 15, 2004

In yesterday’s El Mundo it was reported that the Madrid authorities had decided to compel dog owners to register their dog’s DNA so that the said owners could be traced in respect of abandoned faeces. Sad to say, today’s edition reports that the Mayor has insisted that the plans have been cancelled, on grounds of cost. So, we will see none of the promised motocacas on the Madrid streets. Or shitmobiles to you and me. And I was so looking forward to reading the various job ads associated with the challenge.

It continues to amaze me how Spanish drivers will quietly tolerate the most flagrantly stupid and obstructive driving of others, whilst getting very irate if you delay a micro-second at the traffic lights. I’m not so much talking here about blocking the road with inconsiderate parking or coming the wrong way down a one-way street. My impression with these [relatively] minor misdemeanours is that other drivers don’t complain because they know very well they would do the same thing if they had to. What I mean is imbeciles who drive down the hard shoulder when there are long delays on the motorway and then signal that they intend to rejoin the traffic when they get to the head of the queue. Without fail they are immediately let in, even by someone who has resisted the temptation to do the same thing.

I’m off to the UK again tomorrow for a week or so and will leave you with the following lean pickings on the Wordwatch front:

Escáner – Scanner
Búnker – Bunker. Probably German in origin.

Monday, April 12, 2004

The serious press here today finally gave in to the pressure and printed a summary of the reports in the British tabloids of David Beckham’s alleged love life. Up to this point they had studiously ignored this subject, in contrast with the UK media where the stories had featured high in the priorities of even the ‘quality’ press.

Down at the other end of the Spanish morality scale, I bumped yesterday into my friend who had had the police car drive up his backside. He told me that, after he had presented himself at the local town hall to complain of both the incident and the no-show of the miscreant, he had been driven into Pontevedra by a policewoman in mufti. Driving along with no seat belt whilst having a mobile phone conversation with her husband, she had been pulled over by the traffic police. On showing her badge she had been waved on her way to the city’s main police station. Here he gained the distinct impression that what had happened was not exactly a rare event and that no one was going to take it very seriously. So it was no great surprise to him that, in a bar later that evening, he was greeted with a big smile by the perpetrator. It was rather more of a shock to him the following evening when the same chap came up behind him, shook the collar he was wearing for the sore neck he had developed and suggested, with a laugh, that he was going to be making a pile out of the events. And still no reports in the local press.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

A recent survey of 85 Spanish media notables produced this list of the 10 favourite dishes from Spanish cuisine:-
1. Paella
2. Gazpacho
3.Tortilla con patatas - potato omelette
4. Madrid stew
5. Fabada – a stew of beans, pork and ‘etc.’
6. Marmitako – Fish stew, I think
7. Octopus Galician style [i. e. with paprika]
8. Roast lamb
9. Pisto manchego – Fried vegetable hash. Or ratatouille
10. Migas – Fried breadcrumbs

There is something reassuringly simple about this list. More British than French in its approach, I guess.

Last week a friend of mine was waiting at a junction when a car crashed into him from behind. It turned out to be a police car and the driver - at 3.30 in the afternoon - was clearly drunk. He suggested that he and my friend drive separately to the local police station but apparently got lost on the way and never made it. Although he subsequently turned out to be the head of the local police, I haven’t yet noticed any coverage of this incident in the local papers. Perhaps when it all gets to court….

Talking about driving – there was one of those all-too-common reports in yesterday’s paper about a car leaving its side of the road ‘for reasons as yet unknown’ and killing all its occupants when it crashes into a wall, tree or - most frighteningly -an oncoming vehicle. Most often – as in this case – this happens between 2 and 6 in the morning. And on a bend. I think one can make a fairly educated guess as to why this type of accident occurs so frequently, especially when the car is large and powerful and/or the driver very young.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Among the back-of-the-paper ads in our local rags there is always an eye-catching box for La C. de E. in Vigo. This grows in size and detail by the week. So business must either be very good or very bad. This week I happened to notice that the latest addition is ‘Massage and Masturbation €30 only’. No beating about the bush there, if you will forgive the expression. Last week’s innovation was along the lines of ‘Our Special – €60 for 45 minutes. Make love twice’. But what I really like about this box ad is that it always includes a line stressing that the place is only a few metres from Vigo’s big department store, Corte Inglés. This presumably means that you can drop off the wife, park the car and repair to La C. de E. for a lie-down in the round bed next to a fire and large mirror, possibly for around 45 minutes.

There is a great deal of incredulity in Spain at the banning of smoking in public places in Ireland. What I find incredible is the reported statistic that only 34% of Spaniards smoke. If so, they certainly make up for the 66% who don’t.

The state phone company – Telefonica – has been fined the record amount of €57m for abusing its dominant position. This does not come as a great shock, or not to me at least. The company has just announced its 7th or 8th increase within three years of its fixed monthly costs. Although there is supposed to be competition in the telecommunications field, this is conspicuous by its absence and these regular increases are the classic strategy of a monopoly company forced by government to reduce its variable prices in the face of even token competition.