Sunday, July 31, 2005

Metrosexual Man, it would seem, was with us but a short time and has now been replaced by Technomacho Man. Although narcissistic, the latter is slightly less obsessive about his appearance but very keen on the latest technology, especially when it comes to mobile phones. He is sporty and concerned about what he eats. He dedicates a lot of time to his laptop and invests in high quality sound systems. His feminine equivalent is the Technodiva. And they are welcome to each other.

Down in Andalucia a famous flamenco singer who killed a pedestrian in a hit-and-run incident has escaped with a very light sentence. A senior official commented that his treatment was certainly favourable but ‘not exceptional’. Perhaps more pertinent was a newspaper cartoon today which put him in the same box as O J Simpson.

Another weekend, another car driven into the sea in the early hours of the morning, this time in nearby O Grove. No one was lucky this time; both the young driver and his girlfriend perished.

Up in the Galician hills, the lonely job of shepherd is now being taken on by Poles, Chileans and Senegalese. And it’s not often you can get these three adjectives in the same sentence. I suppose it’ll be Polish plumbers next, on the rebound from unwelcoming France.

Rumour has it that Miguel Fraga has finally left power, a mere 6 weeks after the elections in which his party lost their overall majority. Perhaps, if he ever does retire, we’ll see him up in the mountains with a crook in his hand. A lifetime in politics should have equipped him well for this.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Interesting to see the profits of Telefonica rose 25% in the last 6 months. I wonder if this has anything to do with the 34% increase in their fixed charges over the last 2 to 3 years.

The group of American teenagers that was here a couple of weeks ago comprised 3 quite distinct elements:- 1. the boys, who were boisterous but relatively well behaved, 2. a few girls who were impressively positive about everything, including all the food that was new to them, and 3. a larger group of girls whose attitudes and behaviour would disgrace a Prima Donna. I was going to suggest that, if you’re a parent of one of the girls, you might like to know which subset she formed part of. But, of course, it’s far too late for this to be useful information.

My thanks to Marco for the kind comments he recently posted. It’s always good to get a positive response from a Galician native. Certainly better than having a contract taken out on your life.

Quote of the Day

Mick Jagger told me that the lines on his face were laughter lines but nothing is that funny.
The jazz singer George Melly

Friday, July 29, 2005

In Spain, coffee comes in two forms – 1. basic strong, Columbian, and 2. even stronger torrefacto. The latter is double-roasted and fine ground until it is what John Hooper has called ‘the gastronomic equivalent of ‘Semtex’ [The New Spaniards]. As he says, the Spaniards’ addiction to this brew is ‘all of a piece with a nation in which there is very little that is bland, gentle or reassuringly soft’. Including the women, I might add.

In June, the national traffic police clocked more than 200,000 drivers exceeding the speed limit. Most of these were ‘only’ doing 140kph [88mph] but 240 were timed at more than 200kph [125mph]. One young man was photographed doing 165 [103] with his left foot out of the window, resting on the rear-view mirror.

An interesting statistic on the UK’s NHS - 31% of practising doctors in the UK were trained abroad, compared with 5% in Germany and France. I’d guess it’s between 5 and 10% in Spain.

Quote of the Day

The Koran is like a pick-and-mix selection. If you want peace, you can find peaceable verses. If you want war, you can find bellicose verses. You can find verses which permit only defensive jihad. Or you can find verses to justify offensive jihad. You can even find texts which specifically command terrorism
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, Director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, writing in the latest issue of The Spectator.

If anyone wants to see extracts of the Koran which endorse this comment, they can be found in the Scribblings section of my web page at colindavies.net Personally, I have long felt that the Koran could be used to justify a religion at either extreme of the peace/violence spectrum. Or anything in between. And therein lies the problem for those arguing that it’s an intrinsically peaceful religion. It certainly can be. And in most of the Muslim world it is. But it can be something quite different. And in some parts of the world it is. That’s why I believe only Muslims can effectively deal with the problem of what they tell us is false interpretation of the Koran.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

One of the local papers claimed today there are 4,000 things to do when there’s no sun in Galicia. Which is just as well as we’ve hardly seen it for a week.

The same paper also advised that the car driver most likely to be involved in a serious accident in Spain is male, under 22, recently qualified and sitting behind the wheel of a powerful car. Rather more surprising was the rider that there are more of these in Galicia than elsewhere. Not males under 22, that is, but young men driving powerful cars. As the region is relatively poor, my guess would be this is not unconnected with the importation of high-value powders along the cove-rich coast.

Domestic violence gets a lot of attention in the Spanish media, though I seem to recall the incidence is below that of the UK, for example. But history was made this week when we had the first recorded case of violence between cohabiting lesbians. I suppose it had to happen.

Just a quick comment on the recent post from a Boston Yankee on the subject of healthcare [or the lack of it] in the USA. It is, of course, a good tactic to compare the US system with the UK’s NHS, as no one in their right mind would want to copy the latter. Although it’s commonplace for British politicians to claim the NHS is the envy of the world, the truth is it’s a laughing stock. Far more credible models are provided by the [ironically more socialist] governments of Germany, France and Spain. In these countries, there’s a judicious mix of public and private provision which does a far better job than either of the poles-apart Anglo extremes.

My Faithful Ferrol Friend, Fernando, has pointed out that one of the meanings of the Spanish verb, sentir, is to be sorry, though it usually means ‘to feel’. So no adjective is required and there’s no truncation in Spanish. But, undaunted, I’ve asked him to scour Spanish literature to prove the negative contention that this verb has never been accompanied by something like ‘regretful’. A tall order but I think he’s up to it. Vamos a ver.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

More curiouser and curiouser, said Sky News. The police in Galicia have arrested 4 fire-fighters for starting forest fires. A private job creation/retention scheme, presumably.

Yet another early morning road tragedy. This time the driver left the nightlife district of Foz at 6.15am, missed a bend and drove straight into the sea. He managed to escape through an open window but his passenger wasn’t so lucky. The really scandalous thing about these deaths is that many could be avoided by a police presence. My friend Andrew drives to his bodega around 7.30 in the summer months and regularly sees drunken youths getting into their cars outside the local discos. Our suspicion is that, in an area now dependent on tourism, commercial considerations prevail.

Down the hill, the 3rd phase of the installation of road bumps has seen the sole remaining single bump being given a partner. You may recall the other single bump was removed a couple of weeks ago, during phase 2. So, in terms of safety, we’re back where we started, albeit moving more slowly.

In both English and Spanish, the standard expression of regret is normally truncated. With English, the briefest form is just ‘Sorry’. Whereas, in Spanish, the equivalent is ‘Lo siento’, or ‘I feel’. So, in English we have just the adjective and in Spanish just the verb. I wonder what this tells us about the respective cultures. Almost certainly, absolutely nothing at all. But what’s the point of asking questions if you can answer them all?

Talking of words, I’ve decided – for this week, at least - that the defining adjective for Spaniards is ‘casual’. It’s a small word but it bristles with meanings and nuances. All of them apposite.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

BBC TV’s successful celebrity ballroom dancing program has naturally been copied around the world. I caught a bit of the Spanish version last night. There were two immediately obvious local touches. Firstly, the celebrity performing was one of Spain’s large army of more-than-middle-aged, still-long-haired, overweight female singers. These do not make for sexy disco dancers. At least not for me. And they don’t like to give up the microphone for anyone, which does little for continuity. The second local aspect possibly reflects the fact that, although the Spanish love a good argument, they’re not comfortable with direct criticism. So, instead of a single panel of ballroom experts who might be expected to get a little insulting, there were effectively two panels. One was composed of fellow celebrities who could be relied on to tell the Diva how stupendous she was and to give her ridiculously high marks. And the other comprised 3 experts who said very little but brought some reality into the marking. All in all, it was wildly OTT. Just as you’d expect.

I‘ve read that people in the UK are taking exception to British nationals resident in Spain receiving the 200 quid winter fuel allowance, even if they have paid their taxes before retiring. I suspect this is founded on ignorance of just how cold it gets in winter in Spain, especially along the south coast. Or up any mountain.

Spanish international companies are finding it difficult to get employees to work overseas. 94% of them say that they’re reluctant to go ‘for family reasons’. So, no great surprise there.

Back in the domestic economy, Spain now has more bank branches that both The UK and France. In fact, it even has more than Germany, where the population is double Spain’s. I wonder what percentage of these are as inefficient as the one I used this morning, where it took me 25 minutes to complete the 30 second transaction of paying some money into my daughter’s account. “Be fair!” you will say. ‘It’s the holiday season and there was only one girl there to act as both teller and personal adviser. And to answer all the phone calls. She had to deal with a chap who wanted to open an account and then a couple of tourists who’d lost their bank book. No wonder it took her 24 minutes to get to you, even though you were only third in the queue.” “Quite right”, I would riposte, “But then it’s exactly the same every other day of the year, whether she’s alone or whether there are 3, 4 or even 5 employees working at other desks. God knows what they’re doing, apart from studiously ignoring the customers.” In truth, I felt rather sorry for the young lady. Apart from the fact she was hassled, she could probably sense – not for the first time – the frustration seeping out of my pores. It’s a good job I follow my own advice and take a book with me everywhere. I just wish I could concentrate on it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Spanish company which calls itself ‘The most advanced medico-aesthetic company in Europe’ is advertising a new product. This is the ‘intra-gastric balloon’, which is inserted in your stomach and inflated to make you feel full. A graphic-cum- photo was required for their full-page ads and this, naturally, turned out to be not of an obese matron but of a slim young lady, naked from neck to groin. This must be the aesthetic bit.

All of which reminds me - I still don’t have a taker for my slimming guide, How to Lose Weight by Eating Less and Exercising More. I fear this is because it only has one chapter. Well, line really. And this is the same as the title. But there’s a long Preface. Perhaps I should put a picture of a nude young woman on the front. And the back.

Galicians are said to have an even greater affinity with their land than other Spaniards. In fact, I’m not sure the Spanish for homesickness – morriña – isn’t a Galician word. This may explain why they’re the second largest group of returning émigrés after the Madridleños. Today, in fact, was Galicia’s national day, coinciding with the feast day of the region’s patron saint, St. James. Or Santiago. I caught a few minutes of the celebrations on the local channel this evening and was interested to note that Galicia’s ‘national’ anthem is so mournful it makes God Save the Queen sound like a Scott Joplin rag. Especially when accompanied by massed bagpipes. Miguel Fraga appeared to be as familiar with the words as John Redwood famously was with those of the Welsh anthem.

Reading about Lance Armstrong yesterday, I was confused by a reference to the Elysian Fields [Los Campos Eliseos]. And then it dawned on me this was the Champs Elysée. This left me wondering whether it’s customary to translate foreign landmarks into Spanish. Plaza de Trafalgar? Gran Ben? If so, I wonder what they make of The Mall. El Centro Comercial, perhaps. Probably not.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Who’d have thought the Prince of Wales could succinctly encapsulate the basic difference between Anglo and Spanish cultures? This is what he said - Sometimes, nowadays, you get this awful feeling that everything has to be so efficient and relevant that there's no room in life for the things that make it all worthwhile

I wrote a few days ago that prostitution is a prominent aspect of Spanish life. Increasingly so, it seems. In only 5 years, the number of women employed in roadside brothels has grown from 9,590 to 19,154. As less than 100 of these are Spanish, it means an awful lot of woman from poor countries in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe are being exploited in this booming but unregulated industry.

And talking of exploitation, ‘Don Miguel’ Fraga has soldiered on until the very end of his 4th term as President of the Galician government. Even on the eve of handing over power he’s been dishing out TV franchises, despite a threat on the part of the incoming administration to revoke them. Most recently Don Miguel has taken to confirming that, although he’s approaching 83, he won’t relinquish his position as leader of the opposition at any time during the next term. Unless, I suppose, he gets a visit from the Grim Reaper.

Britain and Spain are converging in at least one way. More and more university graduates in the UK are having to live at home after completing their studies. Which naturally brings their active sex life to a sudden halt. So, as in Spain, there’s a need for discreet places where they can be nice to each other. This has apparently led to nocturnal competition for Wendy houses in neighbourhood gardens. Where there’s a will ……

Quotes of the Week

Hungary and Slovakia have no coastline. You might think these landlocked countries would be excused from implementing European Union legislation on safety at sea. But that would be to underestimate Brussels bureaucracy. The two countries are being threatened with expensive legal action in the European Court of Justice for failing to bring in Europe's maritime laws.

We have 19th-century legal responses to 21st-century terrorist behaviour.
John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister

Londoners are belatedly taking to cycling because it feels safer - which it is not. Mile for mile, you are 84 times more likely to get killed travelling by bike than by Tube. Cycling is also about 14 times riskier than going by car.

Or, as Sky TV would say, more riskier.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Sky TV today asked its viewers whether the war on terror had ‘made the world a less safer place’. Less surprising than the response was the fact that none of the well-educated, highly-paid Sky journalists seemed to realise this is bad English. What will it be next - more safest?

11 of the 13 email messages I got last night warned me that my email account was about to be suspended and urged me to read the attached file. Is anyone still being taken in by this stuff? I guess they are.

Just in case you don’t know, the letters ‘b’ and ‘v’ are both pronounced in Spanish like an English ‘b’. Armed with this knowledge, you can now read this account of a short conversation at the English Speaking Society last night:-
Manolo: You should try some Gondeval wine. It’s the best of those from the Valdeorras area.
Me: How do you spell it?
Manolo: Hmm. I don’t know whether it’s a ‘b’ or a ‘v’.
Bernard: It’s a ‘b’.
Me: ‘b’?
Bernard: Yes, ‘b’, as in Valencia.
Me: Thanks, Bernie.

Here’s thought-provoking comment which might throw some light on those high US road casualty numbers that were mentioned a week or so ago - For anyone who doubts that fear of terrorism is much more destructive than terrorism itself, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development has provided a telling postscript to the September 11 attacks. In the three months after that day, Americans were so terrified of getting on planes that domestic air travel fell by 16 per cent as they took to their cars instead to drive long distances. As a consequence of all the extra passenger miles driven, there were eight per cent more fatal road accidents than would have occurred had those people stayed loyal to the airlines. Thus, 353 extra people were killed in those three months on American roads than would have been if they had flown as normal, against the 266 passengers and crew who died aboard the four planes hijacked on September 11.

I learn from an article in one of the national papers that the opposing models for the Spanish state are centripetal and centrifugal. Now I’ll have to find out what these mean. But I suspect in one the power gravitates to the centre and, in the other, to the periphery. Too bloody elitist, the Spanish press. Unlike Sky TV, of course.

Friday, July 22, 2005

310 people [‘mostly Nigerians’] have been arrested in Malaga for fraudulent emails seeking bank details. You’d have thought everyone would be completely aware of this scam by now but they’re said to have made 100m euros from 20,000 victims. Astonishing.

I’ve said before how impressive it is to see international obituaries in the Spanish press. One of today’s in El Pais was for Frank Rogers, VP of the Daily Telegraph in the UK. I doubt he got this treatment even in the UK itself.

Which reminds me, if anyone wants to see the pernicious effect of the egregious British tabloid press, they should take a look at the history of the said Daily Telegraph over the last 10 to 20 years, as it has moved relentlessly downmarket. The UK satirical magazine, Private Eye, regards it as now so indistinguishable from the tabloid Daily Mail that it refers to it as the Maily Telegraph. And to its celebrity-obsessed Sunday sister paper as the Sunday Hellograph.

Well, the members of the English Speaking Society of Pontevedra were rather reluctant to come out of the long grass on the issue of poor quality Spanish but did seem to concur that speakers of other Latin languages had a slight advantage. They were rather more willing to agree that Spanish men had transformed themselves into the most sensitive sexual partners in the world. Or, rather, the male members [sorry] were. The female members kept their opinions to themselves.

Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice. The forest ranger on duty at the time of the dreadful Guadalajara fire says he warned the group about the risks of starting a bar-b-q. However, the man arrested for starting the conflagration claims not only did the forest ranger not warn them of anything but even sold them the firewood. Not terribly reconcilable stories. Pending clarification, some members of the central government have done the honourable thing and resigned. This contrasts with the aftermath of the Prestige oil leak disaster of 2002 but,then, this didn’t result in 15 deaths. Only widespread economic devastation at which taxpayers’ money could be thrown.
So, since that worked, belatedly here's the dog toilet in Tui [blog of 3 July]...

'Perros' is the Spanish for 'Dogs'

And 'WC' is International for 'toilet'

As I've said, I've no idea how it's supposed to work.

Here's another attempt at a picture, using Blogger's newish facility.....

A recent sunrise from my bedroom window, not featuring Ryan.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Spanish love paper. I can’t decide whether paper represents the chicken and bureaucracy the egg, or vice versa, but I can tell you there’s a word for excess paper in Spanish - papeleo. A good example is the loose slip I get with my library books, giving the ultimate return date. OK, it’s one thing to do without a barcode system but I would’ve thought there was a better manual system than a stack of pieces of paper for each item which every morning have to be cut out with scissors, stamped with the seal of the library and finally date-stamped. Actually, there are 2 piles of these on the counter, one for books and one for audiovisual items. Since there was, indeed, a more efficient system operating at least 40 years ago in my home town, one’s forced to ask why no one here recommends something less consumptive of paper and labour. My suspicion is it reflects an age-old fear of unemployment. To top everything, if my experience is anything to go by, it’s all quite pointless as nothing happens if you’re late returning the item. But this can be said of much of Spain’s papeleo.

My Faithful Ferrol Friend, Fernando, has suggested Anglos make the worst speakers of Spanish, even though the vowels sounds are [theoretically at least] easy for them. While I’ve certainly heard some atrocious Spanish spoken, I can’t say whether or not this is true. One obvious question is whether American Anglos are worse than British Anglos. If it is true, my theory would be that it’s because, like the Portuguese, we ‘eat’ and elide our words, whereas Spanish sounds are always well articulated. And perhaps we’re less good than other Latin-language speakers at getting the ‘music’ of Spanish. Views very welcome.

More reports about mini motor-bikes being impounded. And lots of reasons being given as to why they need to be removed from the market. None of these comes anywhere near ‘because they’re very fast and intrinsically dangerous for the kids they’re aimed at’. Just as road accidents are never attributed to ‘bad driving’.

Thank God for another of those sex surveys the Spanish love so much! The major finding of this one is that a staggering 96% of Spanish males believe it’s ‘important’ or ‘essential’ to give pleasure to one’s partner. The researchers have coined the term hombre vitasexual for such paragons. The odd thing is that every other survey I’ve seen reports a significant percentage of Spanish women have never had an orgasm. Three possible explanations for this dichotomy are:- 1. Los hombres vitasexuales are not getting round to everyone, 2. They have a different definition of ‘giving pleasure’ than the women, or 3. The greatest skill developed by hombre vitasexual is giving the right answer to questions about his sexual performance.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

By and large, it’s harder for Spanish speakers to master English vowels than vice versa. This is because several English vowel sounds don’t exist in Spanish. Spaniards also have difficulty with ‘H’. This they usually either pronounce as ‘kh’ or, as in Spanish, they completely ignore it. At least in the latter case they’re doing what a good percentage of Brits do but, if they use the ‘kh’ sound, it can be very harsh on the ear. This comment is prompted by a radio ad for an English course which starts “Hello. How are you?” Or, rather, “Khello. Khow are you?”. A little surprising really as I’d have thought it was a prime requirement for the actress to be able to pronounce her few English words properly. Possibly the director’s daughter.

You think you’ve seen everything on a motorway but then, as you’re driving along the only open lane at a reduced speed of 80kph, the driver in front decides to overtake the car ahead of him by weaving in and out of the cones marking off the closed lane. Five minutes after this, I was passed by one of those tiny Smart cars doing at least 140kph. Made my day.

The man accused of starting the fatal forest fire in Guadalajara was a member of an environmental association aimed at protecting the area. He’s now facing the possibility of 20 years in jail. Meanwhile, a cartoon in one of today’s local papers shows the leader of the opposition running in front of a forest fire with a bar-b-q griddle in his hands. From his head is coming a dream bubble showing the president - ‘Bambi’ Zapatero – being roasted as a deer. Quite questionable taste, it seems to me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I read yesterday that oil reserves will start running down within 10 years, ultimately forcing us to return to local [and seasonal] self-reliance. If true, this will leave Spain in a far better position than, say, the UK where foodstuffs are transported thousands of miles so that supermarkets can offer everything to everyone, every day of the year. Here most produce is still locally grown and the seasons still mean something.

As I was musing on Spanish efficiency yesterday [I’m been waiting 2 months for an estimate], I asked myself what the standard reaction would be to the statement that time is money. Outside Catalunia, the Basque country and, possibly Madrid, I would guess a blank stare of total incomprehension. Or perhaps a dismissal of this attitude as ‘ultraliberal nonsense’.

It seems everyone on British TV younger than 40 now pronounces words containing the letter ‘T’ in a way that really grates for me. Especially if the word ends in ‘tal’, such as ‘hospital,’ ‘capital’ and worst of all, ‘total’. Is this a permanent consequence of Estuary English, I wonder. And am I the only person in the world to have noticed it? The widespread habit of using ‘amount’ instead of ‘number’ [‘amount of people’] pales into insignificance besides this trend.

Spain is passing through its worst draught since records began more than 60 years ago and the fire risk in enormous, even without the help of the those who deliberately start conflagrations. Against this backdrop, we’ve just re-learned that it’s not only on the road where individualismo has a price. A huge forest fire in Guadalajara was triggered at the weekend by some day trippers who decided to ignore the warning signs and start a bar-b-q. The fire has now taken 15 lives, including 11 volunteer fire-fighters who were ‘reduced to ashes’ [as they say here] when their cars were surrounded by flames. It’s hard to imagine a more horrific death but I wonder whether they’ll get the 2 minutes of international silence accorded to the UK terrorist victims. As they certainly won’t, it makes you realise the world was really mourning something more than the human deaths last week.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I’m in shock today – one of my daughters has confessed to not only reading but even enjoying this blog. I may need to go and lie down.

I discovered a month ago the town library has two BBC wildlife series on DVD. Today I took back my first borrowing and found I should‘ve returned it at least a week ago. But, this being Spain, no one remonstrated with me and there was no fine. I can’t even recall things being this relaxed when I was a kid in England. I’d probably be arrested today.

Just over 2 years ago, the English Speaking Society of Pontevedra moved out of its old premises. We were the last tenants to leave, under great pressure from the landlord as demolition of the building was ‘about to begin’. I walked past the building yesterday and saw they’d finally started to knock it down. This probably gives as good idea as anything of the concept of urgency in Spain, especially as regards construction.

Generally speaking, levels of efficiency are not very high in Spain and levels of customer service [as distinct from friendliness] are low. However, a couple of organisations have recently raised their efficiency levels to new heights. Sadly, they’ve traded off levels of customer service. In the case of Telefonica, I’m now having money taken from my account several days before the bill is received for review. But the biscuit is taken by the company which now supplies my water and which doesn’t even bother with the nicety of a bill. If I had an ounce of confidence I’d ever get a response, I’d write letters of complaint. Instead, the traditional time-wasting trip to the local office and a face-to-face chat is clearly called for.

I think we’re getting near to the transfer of power in Galicia. Today the local parliament was presided over by its first woman president. This never would have happened on Don Miguel’s watch, I fancy. He must be turning in his truss.


Un test de dummie - This appears to mean a [sanctionless] dry run, e. g. for alcohol amongst drivers. ‘Test’ now appears in a number of combinations in modern Spanish but ‘dummie’ doesn’t even exist in English. Strangest of all, written like this it gives a false pronunciation in Spanish, whereas the original wouldn’t.
Un listening – Your guess is as good as mine but I think it’s a dictation exercise
Un price-cap – As it says
Un streptease – As it almost says
Un crack – A star player
Una chaqueta – A jacket
Un jersei – A jersey

Quote of the Day

As the recent UN Arab Human Development Report concluded, the widespread lack of peaceful avenues for religious opposition in the Arab and Muslim world has become the underlying cause of religious extremism in the region.
Reza Aslan, writing before the London bombings in support of greater democracy in the Muslim world

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Galicia’s ‘national’ tree is the oak but around here these days you’re far more likely to find yourself in a forest of eucalyptus trees, which are faster growing and so far more profitable. How fitting, then, that the eucalyptus also goes by the name of Tasmanian oak.

On 30 June, I mentioned some dangerously-sited new speed bumps and forecast an increase in the accident rate. So I was pleased to see today that one of them has now been removed. Talking of risk, I read this evening that the mini motor-bikes I wrote about a couple of days ago can achieve a speed of 90 kph, or 56mph. But I don’t know how long you have to maintain this speed before the fuel line burns through and the bike explodes. Not long, I imagine.

Well, the photo in my Profile hasn’t yet brought me a proposal of marriage. Or of any sort. But a number of people have asked me who makes the beautiful white wine featured in it. Well, it’s an Albariño wine, produced locally by my friend Andrew and his wife, Angela. It sells in the UK and the USA under the name Castro Martín and is well worth the price. If you’ve read my web page on Galicia and checked out the photos there, you’ll already know Andrew was in the original photo but I cut him out as he’s younger and better looking than me. Besides, as a married man, he has no need of a rich Spanish widow or divorcee.

Quote of the Week

Do you Charles take Camilla to be your lawful wedded wife?
Slip up by the vicar at the wedding of Charles Hart to Lady Sybilla Rufus Isaacs

Saturday, July 16, 2005

In the summer months, most shops and offices in Spain work shorter hours. In some cases, this means not opening at all on a Saturday. This can make a trip into town a very frustrating experience, as happened today, when I found both the library and my bank closed and shuttered. Happily, I’m learning to shrug and accept this. Honest.

Yet another request for directions in town today. I’ve now concluded this buttonholing of an obvious foreigner is another example of Spanish spontaneity. Or ‘thoughtlessness’ in the sense of speaking/acting before engaging the brain. It’s quite charming really, especially as my interrogators are always effusive with their thanks when they realise what they’ve done. Of course, at this point they don’t know I’ve sent them the wrong way.

I discovered today that the spelling of programme in British English only took on this form in the 19th century. Hitherto, it had been program and, indeed, both forms are acceptable in British English, whereas American English only has program. Up to now, I’ve resisted what I thought was an Americanism but the fact I now know the usurper came, pointlessly, from French has cast a rather different light on things. Henceforth, program it shall be.

Another thing I read is that the armoured Mercedes of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe weighs 5 tons and does about 2 kilometres per litre of fuel. As he moves around the country waving to his grateful but starving masses, the car is followed by its own petrol tanker. No wonder he needs Zimbabwe’s foreign debts forgiven!

Everyone in Spain has 2 surnames, one from their father and one from their mother. This can complicate matters. And not just for foreigners. Looking for a CD in a department store this week, I finally worked out they weren’t displayed under the surname of the singer but under the forename. I guess this makes sense where there are two surnames to chose from but, of course, consistency would be too much to hope for. Back to Amazon.

By what thought process do middle-aged men arrive at the conclusion they look good in multi-pocketed trousers that stop mid-calf? Or anyone, for that matter.

Friday, July 15, 2005

It struck me today that the key to a happy life in Spain might well be your SF rating, or sociability factor. For a start, the Spanish must be amongst the most sociable people on earth, meaning it’s much easier to fit in if you’re similar. Secondly, and even more importantly, in this very local and personal society much is achieved through friends and their contacts. The more you have, the more you can get done. Or, to put it another way, the less frustrated you’ll be. Finally, people prefer to do things for people they like. All in all, then, if you’re a bit of a recluse, you’re better off staying at home. Or confining yourself to a foreign ghetto on the south coast.

To my not-very-great surprise, I read tonight that the local police have impounded more than a hundred of the mini-motorbikes for sale alongside the main highways. Not, though, because it’s intrinsically dangerous to put a small kid on a powerful machine but because the [plastic] fuel pipe runs along the exhaust. So, you’re allowed to risk your child dying from a broken skull but not from spontaneous combustion.

A week or so ago, the local papers were full of the news that the beachfront apartments in nearby Sanjenjo/Sanxenxo [‘the Marbella of Galicia’] were the second most expensive in Spain to rent during July and August. Tonight comes the rose-deblooming news that discounts of as much as 50% are being offered for the second half of July. Not great news if you’ve already booked, of course.

One of the perils of writing with irony is that you run the risk of being misunderstood. So, responding to the comment posted to yesterday’s blog, I just wanted to clarify that I am no admirer of the macho Spanish attitude towards prostitution. My comment yesterday was intended to convey that, whereas I [like my anonymous reader] would regard all that happened as despicable, some at least of my Spanish male friends probably wouldn’t. For what it’s worth, my own view is that prostitution should be legalised and regulated so as to at least reduce, if not eradicate, the widespread abuse of women ensured by the current situation of collusion between the brothel owners and the authorities. As for returning to the subject regularly … well, whatever one thinks about it, it’s a pretty prominent aspect of Spanish society. And that’s what I comment on.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A young Frenchman has been jailed for 5 months this week for ‘offending moral integrity’. He drove a prostitute to a park in Pontevedra, availed himself of her services and then made off with her possessions, leaving her there naked. I’m looking forward to my Spanish friends explaining which part of this saga constitutes the criminal offence. And why the very public nature of brothels in Spain doesn’t appear to ‘offend moral integrity’.

I’ve touched a few times of the different attitude to risk here in Spain. This is most noticeable when it relates to children. But I don’t mean letting your children talk to middle-aged males such as me, or play in the street. The fact that the Spanish are less concerned about these is one of the things that makes their society superior. Rather, I’m talking about having your kids on your lap or between the front seats as you drive. And I’ve returned to this theme because mini-motor bikes suddenly appear to have become popular and tonight I saw a couple of proud parents beaming as their 12 year old disappeared up the road as fast as the bike would go. Without a helmet, of course.

I see it’s official – the numbers of foreign tourists are up 300%. Time to close down my web page.

The shocking identification of the London bombers has brought to the surface the concern that doctrinaire multiculturalism and moral relativity have not been an unalloyed blessing for British society. Or, as the Conservative MP, Boris Johnson, puts it:- We have created a multi-cultural society that has many beauties and attractions but in which too many Britons have absolutely no sense of allegiance to this country or its institutions. It is a cultural calamity that will take decades to reverse. We must begin now with the re-Britannification of Britain. That means insisting on certain values that we identify as British. If that means the end of spouting hate in mosques and treating women as second-class citizens, then so be it. We need to acculturate the second-generation Muslim communities to our way of life and end the obvious alienation that they feel. That means the imams will have to change their tune and it is no use the Muslim Council of Great Britain endlessly saying that "the problem is not Islam", when it is blindingly obvious that in far too many mosques you can find sermons of hate, and literature glorifying 9/11 and vilifying Jews. We have reached a turning-point in the relations between the Muslim community and the rest of us and it is time for the moderates to show real leadership.

And, encouragingly, there are signs of the Muslim community recognising that it needs to do more:- The challenge is straightforward - that those voices that we have tolerated will no longer be tolerated, whether they be on the streets, in the schools, in the youth clubs, in the mosque, in a corner, in a house. We need to go beyond condemning. We need to confront.
Shahid Malik, Labour MP

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It was the penultimate bull-run in Pamplona today. The commentator always refers to the bulls as the ‘protagonistas’. The only English translation for this is ‘stars’ or ‘lead players’, which doesn’t seem quite right really. In truth, the real ‘stars’ are the kids who get gored, since this is what we're all waiting for. Watching 6 bulls follow 6 cows straight down a hill into the ring is decidedly boring. Especially 7 days in a row.

Here in Galicia, Don Miguel Fraga has yet to hand over the reins of power, even though it’s 3 weeks since the election. I don’t now whether the delay reflects the fact that the new government is a coalition and has to sort itself out; perhaps a Galician reader can explain. Meanwhile, the outgoing PP administration is still taking financial decisions and this has been stigmatised as ‘unethical but not illegal’ by the incoming parties. This is a ‘nice’ distinction anywhere in the world but most interesting in a Spanish context.

Which reminds me, the French have just been heavily fined by the EU for continuing to catch small fish despite a ban dating back 13 years. It was the biggest fine in the history of the EU. So God only knows what the Spanish are in for when the EU gets round to them.

Intriguing comparison in the papers yesterday. On the same day the Vatican proposed that the clients of whores be penalised, the head of the Spanish Prostitutes’ Union again called for the legalising of their profession, presumably so that they can avail themselves of social security benefits. I guess it’s theoretically true that these aren’t mutually exclusive aims.

Finally, here’s part of the text of the latest Nigerian bank account email scam - There is absolutely going to be a great doubt and distrust in your heart in respect of this email, coupled with the fact that, so many miscreants have taken possession of the Internet to facilitate their nefarious deeds. Wonderful. And so reassuring. I’ve sent off my details, naturally.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Pleasing to see an article in El Pais this morning stressing the points I’ve made in the last couple of blogs – that the British public prefers no data to speculation and has no interest in seeing gruesome pictures. So it’s misplaced to blame the British government for malpractice. Less warming to see reports that the Spanish police regarded their British counterparts as both literally and metaphorically clueless. Interestingly, this was hitting the newsstands in Spain just as the TV stations were announcing the early morning police raids and arrests in Leeds. I suppose they’ll be blaming the British authorities for a smokescreen next.

In the El Pais article a comparison was drawn between British reserve and the high emotion which Latins regard as essential proof of their affection for the deceased. The writer denied this reserve was coldness and preferred to see it as pragmatism. This is somewhat ironic, given that I’ve frequently said pragmatism is a defining characteristic of the Spanish. Different types, perhaps.

On this theme of national traits, I’ve written more than once the Spanish seem to lack social antennae. A good example is when I leave my bar stool to change my newspaper and come back to find someone sitting on it, even though I’ve left my glasses, my pen and my notepad on the counter. Invariably, I’m given profuse apologies and am still convinced this is done without thinking, which is not quite the same as ‘thoughtlessly’. Mind you, I do see examples of the latter. Like this morning when a driver consciously blocked my exit on a roundabout simply to pointlessly gain 3 metres en route to the beach. It was a large 4x4, with Swiss number plates, driven by a well-coiffured woman who is probably an émigrée back for her holidays. As she compounded her lack of consideration by waving dismissively at me when I registered my annoyance, I think we can conclude she has acquired some Swiss wealth but little by way of Swiss manners.

Back to Pamplona – yesterday one of the bulls which had slipped and fallen over at the first corner, got back up, set off the wrong way and gored four people before he could be turned round. As I said, a resounding failure. It reminded me of the old Basque saying ‘There’s many a slip between pen and ring’. Of course, it rhymes in Basque.

My photo has been a great success. Hits to this blog immediately halved.

Monday, July 11, 2005

It was a local feast day today so, as usual, the firecrackers started going off in earnest at 8.30. This wasn’t so bad but some keen souls had lit the first ones in the hills at 4.30. Probably just before the bastards retired to bed.

Graduates from the same school of diplomacy as the Prince of Monaco are now ripping up their diplomas with alacrity. Last week he ‘torpedoed Spain’s chances’ of the 2012 Olympics by raising the contentious issue of ETA bombs at the final meeting of the IOC. But, not content with this, he’s now declared his support for Gibraltar’s attempt to get a seat on the committee. Needless to say, this has provoked fury in Spain, where he’s now being portrayed as the biggest congenital idiot in a family of clowns. So imagine what would’ve happened if Spain had a real tabloid press!

We’re now coming towards the end of the bull-running in Pamplona. It’s a common feature of these that many of the huge beasts fall over and crash into the barriers on the first sharp corner. So this year the organisers have covered the cobbles with an anti-slip liquid. It’s been a resounding failure. On Saturday, one of the bulls slid so rapidly across the street on its side that it impaled itself on a hoarding and broke a horn. A very expensive occurrence, given the 5 years it takes to get the bulls to their pugnacious peak. Shaving the horns, yes. Sending them into the ring with a broken horn, no.

Teresa The Clumsy Cleaner has a new strategy. Previously, she used to break things, leave them for me to discover and then, when taxed, claim she knew nothing about them. Today she broke a pair of decorative plates then brought them straight to me and said she’d just happened upon the pieces. This might have been more persuasive if I hadn’t heard the crash from upstairs and commented to my sister about it on the phone.

There’s been an awful lot written in the past few days about the qualities of the British people. How ironic, then, to note that a 14 year old boy was today arrested for raping two eight year-old girls and indecently assaulting another, compelling one to ask in how many other societies does this sort of thing occur.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

There’ve been more articles today lauding various aspects of the British response to Thursday’s atrocities. But these sometimes give off a tang of ground axes, as if the main purpose is really to criticise Spanish society [and one’s political enemies] rather than to praise British society.

And I have read this evening a long article from a journalist who insists the media has not just a right but an obligation to show gruesome pictures and report correct casualty numbers. I’m surprised he doesn’t recommend that huge TV screens be erected alongside the scene of horrific car crashes. Once again there’s a failure to understand that there’s no reason for the British government to suppress morbid pictures; they’re proscribed by British mores, not by the state. If the papers chose to print them, there’d be absolutely nothing the government could do about it.

If you live in Spain, you have to learn to do more thinking for yourself than you would in a more commercially driven society. This is hardly surprising; if people aren’t going to think about you, they certainly aren’t going to think for you. Here’s a good example from this morning:-
Do you have a room for the night of 9th August?
How about the 8th, 10th or 11th?
No. Completely full all those nights.
Two hours later…
Just checking about the previous week. Do you have a room on the night of 3rd August?
Yes, we’re OK most of that week. And the week after the one you asked about earlier.
Why the difference?
Well, during the week 8th to the 13th there’s a big cycle race near here.

I was very surprised when I went down for my traditional Sunday squid today to find the old quarter virtually deserted. My conclusion was that most of the inhabitants had either gone to the beach or left for their month’s holidays. In fact, the ratio of foreign tourists to locals was higher than I’d ever seen it. I wondered whether this was partly my fault. Which reminds me – Sometimes I’m aware that a couple of obvious foreigners are looking at me and exchanging whispered thoughts. I’d like to think they’re saying, ‘Look, there’s the chap who wrote that wonderful web site on Galicia which brought us here”. But the sad truth is they’re more likely to be saying “Look, with his pink face, he can’t possibly be Spanish”. And this is after daily application of sunscreen factor 90. My only consolation is that my rosy-hued appearance doesn’t stop Spaniards regularly asking me for directions. Perhaps they think I’m a descendant of some rapacious British pirate. Francis Drake, even. I’ll go with that.

For anyone who wants to check the veracity of this paragraph, I’ve just added a photo to my Profile in this blog. Helpfully, I’m wearing a white shirt for added contrast. But please note that my eyes are blue and not red. Especially if you’re a rich Spanish widow or divorcee who finds blue eyes irresistibly exotic. I’m told they do exist.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

More Quotes

It is only when you start thinking about what we are not getting from Muslim leaders that you start to see how much needs doing. The moderates are not pressed hard for anything more than a general condemnation of the extremists … I understand and accept that there are many moderates among British Muslims but I want to know why Britain gets so pitifully little to show for their moderation … When a nation, a race, a political movement, a group of workers, the followers of a religion have legitimate grievances, there generally arises amongst them a champion who can command respect for his advocacy of peace, his willingness to fight without weapons and to win by moral authority. There may be many such grievances for Muslims in Britain, and in the West, but we are still waiting for the Gandhi or the Martin Luther King to give them the right voice. We all love it when the British people shrug their shoulders and move stoically on in the face of attack. It is a powerful national myth, and a true one. But it contains within it a great danger - a self-fulfilling belief that there is nothing to be done to avert future disaster.

Charles Moore in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, echoing my comment that Muslims throughout the world are not active enough in condemning terrorism committed in their name. But…

This time, the disgust of the Islamic organisations has been palpable and uncomplicated. In the past, Muslim spokesmen have sometimes felt the need to tack political observations on to their statements of condemnation. On Thursday, however, no one tried to make clever points about foreign policy. "This criminal act is condemned in the strongest possible terms", said the Muslim Council of Britain. The Muslim Association of Britain called the bombs "a callous crime which Islam and all human values disown". None of the Islamic organisations was so tasteless as to try to add a "but".

Leader comment in the same newspaper.

Here is Spain, there’s naturally huge empathy, as well as sympathy, for Britain. And there is widespread admiration for the lack of panic or hysteria and the absence of a slanging match between politicians. But it’s interesting to see how amazed commentators are that the British media refrained from showing pictures of blood, gore and body parts. There has been rather less restraint here. Indeed, one furious gentleman wrote to El Mundo to say Tony Blair had overnight lost the status of world statesman by censoring the media in preventing the publication of such pictures and issuing false casualty numbers for several hours. Well it’s a point of view but one, I imagine, which would find few supporters in the UK, where it would be seen as a legitimate part of crisis management. But, of course, the censorship of pictures didn’t happen; what the correspondent fails to understand is that the restraint is self-imposed via different cultural norms.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Quotes of the Day After

The choice for Britons now is whether they wish to be Australians post-Bali or Spaniards post-Madrid. .. This is the beginning of a long existential struggle, for Britain and the West. It's hard not to be moved by the sight of Londoners calmly going about their business as usual in the face of terrorism. But, if the governing class goes about business as usual, that's not a stiff upper lip but a death wish.

Mark Steyn, in the UK’s Daily Telegraph

What I hope most of all is that Mr Blair will not use the London bombings as an excuse to clamp down even further on our ancient liberties. It would be utter nonsense to suggest that ID cards would have prevented yesterday's atrocities, any more than they prevented the bombings in Madrid, where they had been compulsory for decades. The only sensible reactions to yesterday's bombings are to pray for the dead and the bereaved, express our heartfelt admiration for the emergency services, keep a vigilant eye out for suspicious people and packages - and carry on with business as usual, as far as we possibly can. We are just going to have to accept the depressing fact that the terrorist threat will be with us for a great many years to come, and that there is very little that we can do about it apart from staying on our guard.

Tom Utley, also in the Daily Telegraph

There is, of course, a widespread view that the election of the Socialist government immediately after the Madrid bombings was, at best, an act of appeasement or, at worst, of cowardice. And that it sent out entirely the wrong message to the terrorists. Well, I agree with the latter but reject the former. It seems to be overlooked that Spain was at the very end of a general election campaign and that the atmosphere was febrile. There was deep anger with the ruling PP party for its immediate and obvious manipulation of the atrocities and this, in my view, fed back into previous anger about how they’d mishandled the Prestige oil disaster. There was no time for reasoned debate about what sort of message should be sent to terrorists and how ‘mature’ the Spanish voters should be in considering both the short and long term implications of turfing out the offending PP party. And I very much doubt whether things would have gone differently in the UK.

To end on a positive note – Yes, Noah Feldman does have some constructive ideas about how to deal with nihilistic terrorism. His thesis [in ‘After Jihad’] is that Islam and democracy are not intrinsically incompatible and that Western governments must abandon their policy of seeking to maintain stability by supporting repressive autocrats and take the risk of promoting democratic government throughout the Islamic world. The good news is that he appears to know what he’s talking about and is not just a crank idealist screaming from the sidelines. Since there’s no other practical option but to live with permanent terrorism, one can only hope that his thesis gains favour where it counts.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tonight this blog can only be about bombs. Not a high smile quotient, then.

I was called mid morning by my daughter, Hannah, in London to tell me she was OK. Not having seen any news, I was nonplussed until she explained what had happened in the capital.

No one knows yet whether the bombs were intended for whichever city won the Olympics or were timed to coincide with the G8 summit in Britain but the probabilities must favour the latter.

Ironically, analysis in Spain’s media of the IOC’s voting patterns provided some evidence that Spain would have won if the spectre of ETA bombs hadn’t been raised by the Prince of Monaco. In doing so, he was seen to be doing a favour for France.

Having lived in Iran in the early 70s and Indonesia in the mid 80s, I know it’s possible to have a tolerant Muslim society. But we’ve moved on and today’s Islamic terrorists will never be defeated by the West; this has to be done by their co-religionists. Sadly, though, these show little sign of wanting to take on the task. Perhaps the world’s richest countries should do more to alleviate poverty and despotism in the Islamic world before moving on to Africa.

I guess it’s a good time to start reading my copy of Noah Feldman’s ‘After Jihad’. Perhaps he’s got some answers. But, even if he does, they’ll be no comfort to the bereaved. Either in New York, Madrid or now London.

En passant, there's a summary of the Koran on the Scribblings page of my web site - colindavies.net

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I mentioned a few days ago that shellfish used to be the food of the poor in Galicia. According to Roy Adkins’ fine book on Trafalgar, this was also true of oysters in the UK in the early 19th century, so plentiful were they then.

A final titbit from this book – at the time of Trafalgar no woman of any class wore knickers, these being considered unhealthy and the preserve of prostitutes. One wonders why.

An American reader has pointed out that, despite many years of campaigning, the road casualty rate in the USA is higher in than in Spain. This is intriguing as the opposite is true of the UK and this is usually attributed to similar investment in safety campaigns. In fact, I recall reading only last week that UK rates are now at their lowest ever level, less than half of those of Spain. I wonder, then, how US figures compare if expressed as accidents per mile/kilometre driven.

I caught the end of Madrid’s 2012 presentation on TV this morning. Indeed, I could hardly avoid it as it was live on 4 of the 5 channels. Anyway, I was impressed by it and disappointed that they didn’t win. And I felt a tinge of compassion for France. Honest.

Ryan has clearly taken offence at my posting of his nude picture in this blog. I saw yesterday he’d chewed up a piece of black plastic in the garden but thought nothing of it. But, when I came down this morning, I saw he’d deposited the contents of his stomach on the lounge floor. The proof that all this was intentional lay in the fact that he’d carefully avoided the wooden floor and treated each of my 3 rugs to its own pile of vomit.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Flicking today through the small ads of a local paper to get to the sports news, my eye was caught by a picture of a scantily-dressed lady who was inviting men [I suppose] to call and ‘Show me something new’. Quite a challenge, I’d imagine.

The same paper carried a report that the police were interviewing an employee of a brothel near Barcelona who’d had not just one but two men die of a heart attack while she’d been easing their tension. Albeit at different times. I should imagine that, if she stays out of prison, she’ll be able to raise her prices.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the battle of Trafalgar was the rewards dished out afterwards by a grateful but cynical government. Much of the ‘prize money’ was lost when a horrendous hurricane shortly after the battle sank most of the captured French and Spanish ships but, nonetheless, the officers did pretty well. The ordinary sailors, however, fared abominably, even those who’d been badly injured. In sharp contrast, Nelson’s brother was given a title, a capital sum equivalent to 8 million dollars and a massive annual pension. His sisters didn’t do too badly either. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Worst of all, despite Nelson’s final wishes, Lady Hamilton and their daughter got zilch and Lady H later died in poverty.

An even more fascinating detail – to me at least – is that Nelson’s body was placed in a stone sarcophagus that had originally been meant for Cardinal Wolsey. It ‘d been hanging around St Paul’s for a few hundred years after the Cardinal had fallen out of favour with Henry VIII and been denied his due.

Finally on this theme, it’s interesting to note that Nelson’s French opponent later committed suicide by stabbing himself 7 times in the chest. Apparently, there was a Europe-wide joke during the early years of the 19th century about how lucky Napoleon was that his failed officers kept killing themselves and saving him the trouble of court-marshalling them.

Back to the here and now, the cacophonous Catalan kids have arrived next door for their July holiday. So it’s a very good job that nice-but-noisy Tony is back at sea. At least I don’t have it in stereo.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Of course, I realise that, after giving the Saturday’s picture a description, I’m going to get hit by a lot of women [and perhaps a few men] looking for NUDE PICTURES OF RYAN GIGGS’. But not so far, strangely enough.

Today’s Oxymoron - Spanish Planning: This covers both ‘A Spaniard doing some planning’ and ‘You doing some planning that involves Spaniards’. The former is, in fact, very rare. But the latter is hazardous. Albeit inescapable when you live in Spain. Neither are very productive.

I’ve mentioned before there’s a different attitude towards risk here in Spain. In essence, it can be viewed as at least pragmatic or quite possibly fatalist. And it may stem from an admix of Islamic and Catholic sentiments. For example, if something falls over and nearly injures you [as I saw in a restaurant today], the general response is that you were lucky: nothing happened; so let’s forget about it. Not, ‘You were lucky but we certainly need to do something about that before someone does get injured or killed’. If pressed for remedial action, the next recourse of the proprietor is likely to be, as it was today, ‘There’s no need; I’ve got insurance’.

Meteorological note: A correspondent, Jesus, has kindly pointed out that ‘moderado’ normally does mean light/moderate and only ‘heavy’ in the context of the weather. This is the fault of the old Beaufort Scale, he tells me.

Quote of the Day

People think politicians will only do things if they are pushed into it by celebrities. That's not healthy but we're resigned to it.
A Downing St. official, endorsing my view that the UK is now an insane place, dominated by the false values of the tabloidised media

Sunday, July 03, 2005

After an exhausting day up in the mountains with 29 American teenagers – don’t ask – I’m too whacked to write tonight. So, instead, here’s a picture of something quite unique. A dog toilet in the lovely Miño-side town of Tui, in southern Galicia. I have absolutely no idea how it’s supposed to work. Suggestions would be welcome, even from canine readers.

Or, rather, there would be a picture if the new technology were working like it did yesterday. Perhaps later. Meanwhile, here's the result of an attempt to publish again the picture that went OK yesterday...

Another failure. Seems conclusive.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

There’s no shortage of commentators these days to bemoan the decline of British society and to point the finger at the self-centredness of the Me, Me generation. In particular today’s lack of consideration for others. I’m rather unconvinced about this perceived connection. After all, you’d have to go a long way to find people more individualistic and less considerate towards others than the Spaniards and yet Spanish society is undoubtedly superior. Perhaps this is because Spanish selfishness is a more passive variety, born of being doted on as kids, in contrast to the actively aggressive greed of Britain’s materialistic youth.

Talking of conundrums, I see that Madonna was performing at the Live Aid concert in London today. I find it richly comic that someone who charges 160 quid for a ticket to her shows should be so publicly concerned about world poverty. Asked if she’d ever been to Africa, Madge admitted she hadn’t but added she’d like to go when the time was right. Presumably this will be when poverty has been abolished and the punters can afford to pay through the nose to see her.

The Turkish police yesterday killed a would-be suicide bomber. Naturally, we had his bleeding corpse on the front page of the newspapers. It was reported he’d been shot and then left in the middle of the street for several hours, until the police were sure there was no risk of an explosion. The odd thing is that his hands are clearly tied behind his back.

My local Champion-supermarket-masquerading-as-a-Carrefour
-hypermarket appears to have a new strategy aimed directly at me. This is to be out of a different one of my staples each time I shop. If it wasn’t so damn convenient, I wouldn’t go near the infuriating place.

Here's a test photo, using Blogger's new service..... It's a nude picture of Ryan, of course

Friday, July 01, 2005

After The War of the EU Trough and The War of the Vigo Whores, we now have The Water Wars. The regions of Castile-La Mancha and Murcia are shaping up to each other over water flows from the river Tajo. And – at a time of severe draught down there – things are getting serious. The government of Castile-La Mancha has produced aerial photos which allegedly show Murcia is storing more water than they’ve admitted to. What next – a Cruise missile into the illegal reservoirs?

Spain is again complaining to Brussels about activities in Gibraltar; this time because people there are allowed to vote in EU elections even though [unlike, of course, people in Ceuta and Melilla] they are mere ‘colonists’. As someone has noted, Spain may well have a good case on this but it would be nice if they could come to court with ‘clean hands’. As it is, they have a long record of completely ignoring Brussels’ rulings about their practice of arbitrarily closing the border and banning cruise ships from Spanish ports. But, of course, in Spain all rules are for other people.

That famous British yachtswoman – Elizabeth Hurley – will be attending the Volvo Ocean Race in Vigo later this year. Now that I’ve mentioned her name, I suppose this blog will be hit in eternity by low life looking for NUDE PICTURES OF LIZ HURLEY. Ah well, it takes all sorts.

Believe it or believe it not, there are actually some wonderful Spanish people who enjoy reading this blog, hopefully because my love of Spain shines through. For their sake, I’ve been asked by Fernando to explain what a ‘fly-tipper’ is. Well, it’s someone who throws rubbish where they shouldn’t, usually places of natural beauty. Or, as my dictionary puts it ‘descarga (ilegal) de basura, etc.’. I have no idea what ‘etc.’ means in this context. Perhaps your adulterous wife’s body, for example. Or Don Manuel Fraga, now that there’s no use for him.

Must go now as I have to look after 20 female American teenagers tonight. It’s a tough job but, as they say, someone has to do it.