Thursday, July 22, 2004

When I was in the UK last week, there was a two-day festival in my parents’ home town. It is a big annual event in the town but, by Spanish standards, it ranks as a poor affair. It didn’t help that a ‘kink in the jet stream’ had blessed the UK with weather more like October’s than July’s. But what really depressed me was the state of many of the people attending it – overweight, badly dressed and with an air of aggression. And that was just the women. Given the mood of menace and the inebriated state [at 5pm] of many of the young men and women, I don’t suppose I should have been surprised to see a large, steel, mobile gaol next to the police tent but I was. Just across the way from this was another tent with a sign outside saying Lost Children. I was so intrigued by the [air-conditioned] mobile prison that, to get a good look at the inside, I considered wandering into this tent, declaring that I was a passing paedophile and asking if they had any lost kids to spare. But even on Merseyside – famous for its humour – this would almost certainly not have been the end of things, such is the tabloid-inspired hysteria around this subject. Why, even paediatricians’ offices have been attacked by some of the less literate of the tabloid press’s readers. And, boy, is that a description you would want to avoid. 

I don’t remember there being a mobile prison when I attended this event in my youth. In fact, I don’t recall there being even a police tent. And I’m certain that, back then, police officers didn’t stride purposefully around festooned in bullet-proof vests, gas canisters, American-length batons, walkie-talkies and prominent handcuffs. As if they were all members of a SWAT team on a walking holiday. I don’t suppose it’s unconnected that Sky TV today announced that over 70 per cent of Brits are afraid to walk the streets. My Spanish friends say that things are deteriorating here but, if so, there are hundreds of years of ‘progress’ to make up. On the streets of Pontevedra, the only thing that worries me is that the young women are not so much dressed to kill as to slaughter and I’m not sure my heart can take another summer. 


It’s official – the main causes of road accidents in Spain are 1. ‘Inappropriate speed’ and 2. ‘Driver distraction’. The latter could be almost anything, of course, but my 3 choices would one or more of:- a. using a mobile phone with your left hand; b. smoking with your right hand; and c. turning round to talk to someone in the back seat. Then again, it could be juggling 3 to 5 tennis balls and/or making love. I feel we should be better informed.


Second official statistic of the day – 70 per cent of 13 year olds in Spain have a mobile phone and the Spanish now spend more on mobile phones than on land lines. This is despite the best efforts of that quasi-monopoly, Telefonica, who have just upped their land line fixed charges [by an inflation-busting amount] for the 7th or 8th time in three years or so. Needless to say, they don’t advertise this. If you went by their press releases, you could be forgiven for thinking they were a charitable organisation bent on reducing their call charges to zero.

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