Monday, October 31, 2005

In the early hours of this morning the lovely Letitia gave birth to a daughter, Princess Leonor. Right now she is next in line to the throne after her father but, if a brother comes along, she will be relegated. Spain is rather obsessed with its monarchy so there was little, if anything, else on the TV news this morning. Sanity had returned by evening.

Like most people in Spain, I guess, I’m getting to the point where I give no credence whatsoever to forecasts of availability of such things as the high speed train between Madrid and Galicia. Or even between cities in Galicia. Or between Galicia and Portugal. The stretch between Vigo and Oporto in north Portugal has moved from 2007, to 2009, and most recently to 2013. But now the Portuguese government has said it’s postponing it indefinitely, because of national economic problems. However, it’s an ill wind that blows no good and this unhappy development has allowed all the town mayors in the cross-border ‘Atlantic Axis’ Euro-Region to justify its existence by demanding a crisis meeting.

The British government says there’s a ‘growing consensus’ in the EU about how to tackle globalisation. I’d like to know how this is possible. Either you have unanimity or you don’t. A consensus – like a pregnancy – is entire or it is inexistent. This wouldn’t be so bad if Mr Blair hadn’t actually followed up with ‘"I don't think we are pretending there is total agreement.’ What is he pretending, then? Next, they’ll be ‘neither ruling out nor ruling in’ something. Would you let these people teach your kids?

Catalunia has achieved its first recognition as a country by an international sports body. But, as the latter is the International Federation of Korfball, this may not amount to much of a precedent. Especially as, on their website [], the federations wimps out and opts for the term ‘Catalonia (Spain)’.

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Monday, 31 Oct. First blog

Just a few words to apologise to those readers who had to read yesterday's blog with the missing reference to the last mention of the Rumanian fraudsters. Keyboard problems over the weekend. It was 15 October 2004, if anyone was keen to check.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

I wonder what the Spanish Highway Code says about not pulling out into oncoming traffic when there’s a car parked on your side of the road. In truth, I often wonder whether there even is a Spanish Highway Code.

The President of Barcelona Football Club has not only permitted but encouraged displays of Catalunian nationalism at their ground. My friend Andrew has suggested the national football authority takes this to its logical conclusion and expels them from the Spanish league. They could then play against . . . well, their reserve team.

On this issue du jour, there now comes a demand for recognition of Greater Catalunia, which would encompass Valencia, at least some of the Balearic islands and even part of Aragón. This seems more like a way to forfeit sympathy than to gain it.

The Ministry of Labour has announced two thirds of all new jobs created in the EU last year were in Spain. On the face of it, this is superb news. But I recall reading recently that almost half of all new jobs had gone to ‘foreigners’ and I don’t suppose this means British financial analysts in Madrid. Likewise, it must be disturbing that the already-high proportion of temporary jobs is increasing rapidly. To use the latest buzz word, one wonders just how sustainable all this is.

October 31st is increasingly celebrated American-style here in Spain but at least the old All Souls custom survives of visiting the graves of one’s departed relatives on the first day of November. This is when tombs are cleaned and adorned with flowers. The traffic is so dense near the cemeteries they must all be at risk from new entrants. Anyway, one of the local papers had a special supplement last week. This contained articles on services provided by local undertakers and insurance companies, which struck me as practical, if a tad macabre.

A couple of Rumanians were arrested in Vigo this week for soliciting contributions to a non-existent society for the deaf and dumb. I wonder if these were the same people mentioned in my blog of 15 October last year. As I said then, what a great way to get over the fact you don’t speak Spanish, pretending to be deaf and dumb and just pointing to a list of previous generous donations. And I also wonder if these were the parents of the Rumanian kids recently caught stealing handbags and merely returned to their homes because Spanish law doesn’t recognise criminality below a certain age. Instead, the police adopt the quaint practice of asking the parents to give their offspring a lecture on the need for honesty. Then perhaps they go and make a votive offering at the nearest chapel. Or sacrifice a goat.

A couple of quotes from Michael Cook’s engaging book ‘A Brief History of the Human Race’:-

Overreaction is a common human failing. Many of the problems that bother us end up going away.

Humans can be very adaptive but they don’t feel very good about abandoning their ancestral cultures in favour of the ways of foreigners. In these circumstances, the natural impulse is to compromise and nationalism is the name of this compromise.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Well, Mr Zapatero came away from the EU summit with a commitment to double the budget for immigration measures. More likely ‘anti-immigration’ measures, I suspect. Mr Blair, meanwhile, came away with less than nothing. Or, to put it how the UK Daily Telegraph did this morning in a headline which probably didn’t appear in French papers - ‘Chirac wrecks summit’. In fact, not content with this, the French president promised to do the same at the November budget meeting, if anyone threatens the sacred cow of the ruinously expensive Common Agricultural Policy. On this, he can surely rely on the support of Spain, the second largest beneficiary after France. I wonder how long it will be before Mr Blair accepts there’s no Third Way in
Europe, just naked national interest.

The question arises – Is Spain turning into France? After recent national strikes by lorry drivers and fishermen unhappy about the price of fuels, the farmers have now promised to block the country’s roads next month, if they don’t get any relief from the government. My guess is, as in France, they will get what they want.

A group of people along the coast are trying to de-Americanise Halloween and return it to its Celtic, pagan roots. They claim its proper name is Samaín and it was an end-of-summer festival appropriated by the Christians. If this keeps the TrickorTreaters away from my front door, I’m all for it.

‘Spain is the brothel of Europe’ according to a women’s group which doesn’t appear to be as ‘immensely tolerant’ as others of the country’s booming prostitution business. If they are to be believed, 900,000 men a day avail themselves of the services on offer, generating a turnover of over 40m Euros a day from the 300,000 women on the game here. Can the Spanish government really continue to turn a Nelsonian eye to all this?

My daughter is buying a flat in Madrid. Although 28, she’s still considered young in Spain and, as is often the case here, is having to get a parent [me] to underwrite her mortgage. This meant a trip to a new bank today. I won’t bore you with the saga. Suffice to say I ended up behind the counter doing my own 30 copies. But not in the first bank. In another where the photocopier was actually working.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Today Mr Zapatero tried to persuade his EU colleagues that the borders between its African enclaves and Morocco are really those of Europe and not just Spain. I suspect he had a hard time. The argument that these aren’t really colonies but an integral part of Spain possibly played less well at the summit than it does in Spain. But you can’t blame him for trying; the number of illegal immigrants coming into Spain exceeds those entering Germany, France and the UK put together. Only Italy comes close.

A second demand, this time at the Budget-fest in November, will be that Spain continues to receive EU funds for another 8 years. This is despite [because of?] the fact the Spanish economy is growing at almost 3 times that of Germany and France.

The opposition party has been accused of stirring up ‘Catalan-phobia’. But it possibly doesn’t need to. One of the main producers of Spain’s version of champagne, which all comes from Catalunia, has been insisting for some time that it’s ‘as much Spanish as any other product’. Christmas is on the horizon and last year the rest of the country boycotted it.

According to yet another survey in today’s papers, an astonishing 43% of Spanish drivers regard themselves as menace on the road. And around 80% claim they’d be happy to have their car fitted with a speed regulator. What we really need, perhaps, is a dishonesty regulator.

And on another regular theme – the Spanish government has declined either to make prostitution illegal or to regularise it. To quote the relevant minister – ‘In a country like Spain where there is enormous tolerance of prostitution, abolition is not an option. We believe it would worsen the plight of the women who are brought illegally into the country and who make up 85% of the prostitutes in Spain. Our preferred priority is to break up the networks which bring them in.’ I can’t help wondering how many wives and girlfriends are to be found among all these enormously tolerant bystanders. Or perhaps the minister just meant among customers.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Needless to say, the idle digger I featured yesterday started working this morning. That’s Spain for you.

The Catalan constitution issue seems to have morphed into an Alice in Wonderland scenario which is certainly beyond my comprehension. My impression is the Spanish President – Mr Zapatero – gave his blessing to the contentious document, stressing it would just need to be tweaked a bit when it got to the Spanish parliament. You may recall his 8 bizarre alternatives to the Catalan demand for their region be called a ‘nation’. But now the relevant court [there seem to be a lot of these in Spain] has struck down the whole exercise as being unconstitutional and Mr Zapatero has ended up with egg all over his face. Needless to say, the Opposition is having a field day.

Brussels has proposed speed limits be harmonised throughout Europe. The maximum would be 110kph [70mph], compared with the current 120 in Spain, 130 in France and God-knows-what in Germany. This, of course, is aimed at saving lives but the initial consequence in Spain would surely be even more drivers regularly breaking the law. The relevant minister - on TV this morning - naturally declined to be drawn into the question of whether Spanish drivers were worse than elsewhere. As he talked, though, the screen was showing a sequence of police chopper shots of astonishingly stupid driving.

Erudition Section

Prompted by my reference to the Galician beliefs that they’re Celts and that Ireland was settled by Galician colonists, an Irish reader has sent me a fascinating treatise which suggests that even the Irish are not Celts. Instead, they’re descendents of various Near East peoples who, around 3,000 years ago, sailed out of the Med and up the west coast of Africa. The theory goes that they used the Iberian peninsula as a stopping off point, long before any land-bound Celts got there. On reading this, my first thought was I’d write to the local papers exploding the Celtic myths. My second thought was that my residence permit comes up for renewal quite soon. Anyway, it so happened I was today finishing A Brief History of the Human Race by Michael Cook. Looking up ‘Ireland’, I did find a reference to Ogham, a ‘folk script that the early Irish somehow derived from the writing systems of the Mediterranean world’. But a Google search suggests this really is a Celtic relic, from around 1500BC.

Own Trumpet Blowing Section

I can’t resist mentioning the total of hits to my blog passed 10,000 today, in a little over 12 months. I’ve been writing it for longer but only added the counter last year. So, progress is steadily being made towards the 2.8m target set in June. I had expected to reach the 10k milestone next week but, during the last 2 or 3 days, at least one kind soul has been trawling through the archives, taking the daily total to over 100. The truth is I live in fear someone will one day invite me to make money from my blog. Of course, the bigger fear I have is someone won’t.

For the nth time, I was nearly hit on a zebra crossing today. The novelty was the driver was a learner. And she apologised. Though they will surely soon beat that out of her.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A welcome step in the direction of consumer protection today. The Catalan government is obliging all phone companies to open an office in every town of more than 10,000 souls. This is to give long-suffering customers a fighting chance of getting their complaints/queries dealt with in a country where you tend to be ignored once you’ve been locked in to a contract. Let’s hope it catches on in the rest of Spain.

In another positive step - this time much closer to home - the town council has said it’ll be building a municipal tip. This will accommodate such things as the old mattresses regularly left propped up against the street rubbish bins. A few days ago, there were two of these alongside the track in the forest behind my house. But today only one. Someone must have been pretty desperate.

Construction projects take a long time in Spain, one reason being things regularly enter a state of suspension. The photo below shows a digger which did a few minutes work on a nearby plot over a month ago but which hasn’t moved since. If and when the weeds grow up the side of it, I’ll take another. But at least it hasn’t been stolen, as it surely would have been in the UK by now.

You’ll be keen to know the winning bullfighter for the recent season was El Fandi. He was way out on top, with 110 Ovations, 210 Ears and 11 Tails. He was also the unanimous favourite of the surviving bulls, though there weren’t enough of these to manage an ovation.

If you’re bored with my complaints about the high costs and low efficiency of Spanish banks, skip this paragraph. It’s only Tuesday but so far this week I’ve … 1. finally received a reply to an email sent 6 weeks ago; 2. been charged 5% commission for depositing a cheque, plus 28 cents postage ‘because the issuing bank is in another town’; 3. spent 20 minutes on the phone [premium rate no doubt] trying to get a new bank card activated; and 4. been asked on the phone not only to give all the personal details I provided during a special trip to the bank last week to get a credit card but also to fax [not mail, note] a copy of my identity card. If you’re thinking of living here, you can’t say you haven’t been warned about this wearisome, time-consuming and irritating aspect of Spanish life. Thank God there are so many compensations.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

In the 11th century, a Muslim scholar reviewed all the peoples of the known world. He concluded everyone in temperate zones was pretty clever but those in northern climes were blond and dumb, whereas everyone to the south was black and thick. He detected two [inexplicable] exceptions to what he saw as a Divine law – the Berbers of North Africa and the Galicians of north West Spain. The former were Muslim but fractious and the latter were stubbornly Christian and outside the Muslim state of El Andalus. Despite being in the correct latitudes, both were, therefore, stupid. Funnily enough, notwithstanding latter day religious conformity, the rest of Spain still has much the same view of the poor Galicians. And of the North Africans. I suspect. Part of the Arab heritage?

At 35% of the population, internet usage in Spain is relatively low. And a mere 3.5% use the internet for shopping. I can’t say I blame them. Starting with slow, over-complex, user-unfriendly sites, the barriers to quick success are high. My own worst experience was trying to buy a ticket from the national rail company, RENFE. Having filled in all the details, I was told I’d now have to present myself, with photographic identity, at the local railway station in order to prove who I was. Whereupon they’d consider sending me a ticket. It occurred to me at the time they hadn’t quite got the hang of things.

A very modern tale – The wife of the President of Nigeria has died under the surgeon’s knife in a Spanish hospital called ‘The Molding Clinic’. As you’ll have guessed, this wasn’t a life-saving operation but an ‘aesthetic intervention’. Or plastic surgery. It appears she was undergoing liposuction. So, ‘under the surgeon’s vacuum hose’ might be a more correct way of putting things.

I see David Beckham has got himself sent off again, this time for sarcastically applauding [a la Wayne Rooney] the referee’s decision to give him a yellow card. And these are the captain and star player of the English team, respectively. Strangely, I was going to write yesterday that the reason why football coaches are so stupid must be because they used to be professional footballers. So we can surely look forward to one or both of these idiots managing the English team in about 10 years’ time. Or at least a major Premiership team. I wonder how the Muslim scholar would have explained these two exceptions to his theory.

It seems the ‘greengrocers’ apostrophe’ is not confined to Sky News. There’s a Spanish shop [tienda] called TIENDA BED’S. English marches on, for better or worse.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

There was much talk of solidarity at the Trafalgar commemoration on Thursday. But, as one of the national papers stressed, the Minister of Defence’s speech looked rather more towards future battles – with the Catalans and Basques – than towards those of the past. And I couldn’t help noticing that, despite all the talk of European fraternal friendship, the Spanish government felt obliged to demand that the British ships involved didn’t stop over in Gibraltar after the event. I guess that would have been too much like the real thing.

Sky News today reported that rioters in Birmingham [UK] had ‘high-jacked’ the community’s good race relations. Which must come quite close to meaning the opposite of what was probably intended. Mind you, what can you expect from a station which has taken to using the ‘greengrocers’ apostrophe’ in its rolling headlines? O tempus, O mores.

Talking of the media, it’s impressive to see the Spanish press covering the Conservative party leadership election. But a bit disquieting to see that party activists are referred to as ‘militantes’ in Spanish.

Spain’s leading department store, the Corte Inglés, is advertising the latest female fashion for this autumn and winter. This turns out to be short, velvet jackets and – for the 40th consecutive year - denim jeans. Albeit embroidered, rather than bleached.

At the other end of the trading scale, a small businessman near Malaga has lost all 23 of his employees after they won 25 million euros in a lottery. I wonder if they paid him redundancy money. Probably not.

Quotes of the Day

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary
James D Nicholl

Spain will only exist if all the countries and regions which form it consent to its existence.
The President of the Basque government

A Basque noun is inflected in 17 different ways for case, multiplied by 4 ways for its definiteness and number. These first 68 forms are further modified based on other parts of the sentence, which in turn are inflected for the noun again. It's been estimated that a Basque noun may have 458,683 inflected forms
Wikepedia article. Showing why we should at least be glad that the Basque Country is only trying to secede and not take over the rest of Spain

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

In the UK, the first choices of those who want their own business are mobile hairdressing and window-cleaning. Strangely, neither of these seem to exist in Spain. This surely says something significant about the different cultures, though I’ve no idea what. Perhaps it’s just a reflection of the fact most Spaniards live in flats in cities and have at least a cleaner, if not a full-time maid. They can walk to the nearby hairdresser and don’t need to have their windows ‘professionally’ cleaned. Likewise, there’s no place for newspaper delivery. Except up here on the hillside, where there are no shops. But still no newspaper delivery.

Even after 5 years, the Spanish timetable continues to cause wonder at times. One of the members of the English Speaking Society of Pontevedra is a lawyer, with her own office in the centre of town. Having acquired an English boyfriend, she’s decided to get some formal lessons and was last night complaining that this would mean she’d have to get up at 8.30. ‘What time do you normally get up?’ I asked. ‘About 9.30’ she replied. I assume she walks to her office for a 10 o’clock start. More or less. At the other end of the day, it’s not at all uncommon for people to still be working at 9pm, before going home for supper at 10 or even later. No wonder TV viewing peaks at 1am.

I see that the even-lovelier young sister of the lovely Letitia is walking out with that idiot Prince Albert of Monaco. Damn. Another one off the list. Letitia’s sister, I mean.

The latest wonderful bit of Spanglish I’ve stumbled on – Liftar – to loft or lob a ball.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

A news item this morning advised horseracing was about to make a return to the Spanish sporting agenda. Until I heard this, I hadn’t realised it was missing. What a contrast with the UK.

Today was the 200th anniversary of the history-changing battle of Trafalgar, which took place off the south west coast of Spain, near Cadiz. At a touching remembrance ceremony, Spanish, French and British sailors threw laurel wreaths into the sea at the site of the death of almost 5,000 of their predecessors. Nelson gets almost as much credit in Spain as in Britain for his strategic genius but culpability for the disaster suffered by the Spanish is laid firmly at the door of the French admiral who decided to cut and run from the protection of Cadiz harbour. Descendants of the leading players were at today’s ceremony but possibly not his. Especially as he conveniently committed suicide before Napoleon could court-martial and execute him. Perhaps.

Another classic shopping experience today. Two weeks ago I ordered a basic blues book for piano. After a call telling me it was in, I trekked right through town to pick it up. It turned out to be for the guitar. When I told them it was useless, the reply was simply ‘No problem. We’ll just order another one’. No apology, of course, for wasting my time; this is what time is for in Spain. The fact Spaniards tolerate this sort of thing with equanimity might explain why a young Dutchman recently wrote to me from Ourense saying he’d had to quit his job in a vineyard as he couldn’t persuade the owner that his concept of time and efficiency simply wasn’t shared by potential customers in northern Europe.

The latest scam email from Africa is from a chap who’s been ‘diagnosed with Esophageal cancer which has defiled all forms of medical treatment’. Poor bugger.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

For some reason, yesterday’s blog didn’t get posted. If you’ve missed it, it’s now there…

In the first six months of this year, road deaths here in Spain averaged 263 a month. In the last three, they’ve averaged 315. This may be because fatalities rise during the summer months, when millions are on the road, or it may be evidence of the ‘Alonso factor’ I’ve feared. I guess time will tell.

There was a picture in yesterday’s press of French and Spanish politicians smiling broadly after agreeing they’ll seek a change in EU laws on illegal immigration. Below the surface things are not so chummy. France is furious that many of the French-speaking African illegals recently given the right to stay in Spain have already crossed the Pyrenees. I suspect the real purpose of the meeting was to stop Mr ‘Bambi’ Zapatero continuing with his nice-guy, soft-touch policies.

I’ve recently mentioned some of the local beliefs. Another is that Pontevedra [like the nearby city of Tui] was founded by Greeks. A book I’m reading about early civilisations suggests the latter got to the north east of Spain but says nothing about them reaching the north west. But I don’t suppose this will kill the belief. Not that this would make much difference; the emphasis here is on continuity with the [earlier] Celts than with those effete Johnny-come-latelies from the Eastern Med.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The children of Spanish football referees are being taunted in schools after questionable [or at least questioned] decisions by their fathers. Probably not what the Bible meant when it spoke of sins of the parents being visited on the children.

The effort required to get approval for their new Constitution appears to have been too much for the several coalition parties in Catalunia. Even before their proposal has been considered by the Spanish parliament, they’ve taken to ferocious squabbling about the plans of the president of the local government to change his cabinet. Even his own party has disowned him and he now faces calls for at least a vote of censure and, at worst, his resignation. Difficult people, these Catalans. Probably comes from being close to France.

The ferocious rains of the last week, especially in the north east, have brought a modicum of relief to at least part of a country suffering from a severe draught. But at a price. Floods in Catalunia have caused severe damage and at least four deaths.

Average inflation in the EU reached 2.6%pa at the end of September. The most you can get on your money in Euroland is 1.6% which is OK if you live in Finland or Sweden [1.1%] but less than enticing in Spain [close to 4%] and a bad joke of you live in Latvia [7.4%]. ‘Structural irregularities’ – e.g. an overheated property market – are the inevitable result of this attempt to make one size fit all.

You just can’t keep the Catalans out of the news at the moment. They’re about to bring in a law making it illegal to be involved in prostitution in public places. This will penalise both service providers and customers, it seems. Which seems very fair.

Quote of the Day

The difference between a rat and a hamster is PR.

Roman Abramovich, The Russian oligarch who owns Chelsea FC

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Down on the south coast, a British man is being tried for murder of a young Spanish girl. The prosecution is seeking 34 years in jail but her family is demanding 44. I assume, if he's found guilty, it’ll be up to the judge to decide. Meanwhile, the man’s unhappy mother is appearing on Spanish TV expressing sorrow for the death of the girl and total conviction in the innocence of her son. This, plus discussion on TV of his life and criminal history, leaves me with the conclusion there’s no concept of sub judice in Spain. Perhaps because there’s no jury involved.

Spain has a monarchy, of course. And, just as in Britain, no world or domestic event can outrank certain developments in the life of the royals. Today the headline item on the morning TV news was a 3am pregnancy-check visit by the lovely Princess Letitia to a Madrid clinic. I had hoped it wouldn’t be the lead topic on the 9am serious discussion programmes but was, naturally, disappointed.

Galicia has a number of claims to fame. My favourites are that Ireland was colonised from this part of Spain and that Christopher Columbus was born right here in Pontevedra. Some have rejected these as myths but who’s to know? Anyway, I pass a statue of the great navigator en route to my morning coffee and you can see this below. When I show it to my visitors, I tell them it’s clear evidence that Columbus was the first person to sail single-handedly across the Atlantic. Some of them have the decency to smile.

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Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

Monday, October 17, 2005

More strange developments from Catalunia. Within days of securing the local parliament’s approval of the new Constitution to be sent for [non]ratification by the Spanish parliament, the President has ruffled all the feathers in a crowded dovecot by announcing changes to the cabinet which hadn’t even been seen – never mind approved – by his two coalition partners. I guess the earlier success had gone to his head.

The weekend saw Fernando Alonso confirm his pre-eminence in Formula 1 racing. And a young Spaniard also won the world 250cc motor bike championship. Back home on Spanish roads, it was one of the bloodiest of the year, with a total of 41 deaths. Today, the Ministry of Traffic announced a timely new campaign to persuade people to wear safety belts, claiming that a thousand deaths a year could be prevented, if they did. That’s a lot of grief saved.

The forecast for Spain’s economic growth this year has recently been upped to something close to twice the EU average, and 3 times that of France. Little of the resulting profits seems to be seeping into investment in R&D, where Spain is at the bottom of the league table. Another reason to worry about long-term performance.

Meanwhile, in sharp contrast to the UK where High Street banks seem to have disappeared, the major banks here are falling over themselves to open new branches. Each of the top 3 has added around 200 so far this year. Can they really all be as inefficient as mine? I fear so.

Quote of the Day

In addition to being Europe’s smallest state, the Vatican also boasts the highest proportion of [celibate] homosexuals per square foot.

Damian Thompson, editor of the Catholic Herald newspaper, in an article entitled ‘Is the Pope a homophobe?’

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

I see that frog-headed, Italian referee who denied Everton a perfectly legitimate goal in a recent European match is now appearing in ads for Opel Vectras in Spain. That’s one car off the list, then.

Only 7% of people rent property in Spain, the lowest level in Europe. It compares with 40% in Denmark and Finland, and 50% in Germany. Of course, the number would be higher if young Spaniards didn’t stay with their parents into well into their 30’s but it’s still impressively low. And it must mean a lot of people have got significantly richer during the property boom of the last decade. But this is surely about to end as my daughter is on the verge of buying a flat in Madrid.

Spanish is a more flowery, verbose language than English. For example, rain is never referred to as just ‘heavy’ or ‘light’ but as being of a 'strong/weak character’. In the latter case, I have this image of clouds which are easily led, prone to drinking or gambling and generally quite unreliable. You wouldn't want your daughter bringing one home.

A Frenchman is quoted in one of the national papers today as saying his fellow countrymen admire the dynamism of the Spanish. This foxed me for a while but then I concluded it was a reference to either the growth of the economy, the nightlife, or the driving of Renault cars by Fernando Alonso. I wonder if he could be persuaded to drive one into the back of an Opel Vectra driven by an Italian ex-referee.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

English language film titles are regularly savaged in Spain. The latest is Wallace and Gromit’s ‘The Curse of the Were-rabbit’. Here, this is being shown as ‘The Curse of the Vegetables’. Not so far away in Portugal, though, it’s entitled ‘The Curse of the Coelhomem’. You won’t find this word in a Portuguese dictionary; it’s a clever overlapping of ‘coelho’ [rabbit] and ‘homem’ [man]. This trick isn’t possible in Spanish but ‘Conejo- hombre’ [Rabbit Man] surely is. Or should have been.

Watching Frank Skinner tonight, it dawned on me that chat shows are not big on Spanish TV. But then a format in which just one person talks and everyone listens in silence is never going to catch on here. They much prefer panels of ‘celebrities’ who talk/shout/
fight all at the same time.

I spoke a little too soon about Spain not being quite as commercial as, say, the UK. Going into a couple of shops this afternoon, I could find little that was unconnected with this great religious feast. It’s the start of the rot. I must check out North Portugal. Which reminds me - I mentioned a brochure from an organisation called Eixo Atlántico. ‘Eixo’ means ‘axis’ in both Galician and Portuguese. I always feel this is a bit of a dangerous label to give yourself. But perhaps memories are shorter these days and it no longer matters.

A summit was held in Salamanca this week for head honchos of all the world’s Hispanic states. As ever, President Castro failed to show up, claiming [at the last moment] that he was needed in Havana to personally supervise arrangements for helping victims of the recent floods in South America. This didn’t stop the final communiqué containing a ‘unanimous‘ demand that the USA end its embargo on Cuba. Fair enough but what it didn’t contain, of course, was any reference at all to Castro’s repressive regime.

For new readers – If you’ve arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

Friday, October 14, 2005

With a view to revising my Galicia web page, I’ve been organising the dozens of brochures I recently picked up at the tourism exhibition in Pontevedra. The high spot of this was discovering just how daft people can be in trying to be creative. All the numerous leaflets for the Pontevedra province carry a banner claim written in 3 different type sizes and spreading the key adjective across 3 lines. For example:-

Una Provincia NANTE

As ever at times like this, my conclusion is that Spain’s infamous nepotism/cronyism is at work here. Surely no professional could recommend this mess.

The other thing I noticed was just how many national, regional, provincial and municipal organisations were producing brochures for places in Galicia. And then, to cap it all, I stumbled on a new one. An organisation called Eixo Atlantico has produced a 62 page brochure on the delights of North Portugal and Galicia. So, why have they entered an already-crowded fray? Well, because the EU designates North Portugal and Galicia as one of its Euro-Regions. Clearly, this not merely justifies but demands another layer of bureaucracy.

And talking of nonsense…..For those with a high boredom threshold, here are more of Mr Zapatero’s formulas for meeting Catalunia’s demand that it be called a ‘nation’ in its new constitution:-
- Catalunia is a national community
- Catalunia is a community with national ‘entity-ness’
- Catalunia is a community with a national identity
- Catalunia is a national reality
- Catalunia is a singular national entity
And the very best…
- Catalunia is a nation within the nation of nations which is Spain

I’m reminded of something in my early religious education about the number of angels which can fit on a pin head. The equivalent in Spanish, I’m told, is arguing about which sex angels are. And then there's the scene in The life of Brian where the Monty Python team argue about whether they’re members of the Palestine National Front or one of several variants. If it wasn’t so important, it would be hilarious.

For new readers – If you’ve arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Lawyers are not as prominent in Spain as they are in Anglo-Saxon societies. And it seems they don’t suffer from the same reputation. Driving home tonight, I heard a radio ad for a firm of lawyers which ended with the line ‘Trust me. I’m a partner.” The last time I heard the expression ‘Trust me. I’m a lawyer’ was by the Best Man at a wedding [mine, as it happens], where it got the sceptical laugh it was aimed at.

The Spanish President – Mr Zapatero – insists Catalunia’s demand to be called a ‘nation’ is not as problematic as some think. Indeed, he says he has at least 8 formulas for meeting the apparently opposing wishes of both the Catalans and the rest of the Spanish people. I heard one inelegant option being discussed on the radio tonight – ‘Catalunia is a nation constituted as an autonomous community’. If this is the best they can do, it strikes me they need a lot more lawyers here. Meanwhile, Mr Zapatero was booed by sections of the crowd at yesterday’s National Day celebrations in Madrid. Maybe they’d had advance notice of the 8 formulas.

The EU Justice Commissioner has warned there are 40,000 people in Algeria and Morocco waiting to launch themselves at the fences around Ceuta and Melilla. Perhaps they’ve heard today’s report that half of the 900,000 jobs created in Spain last year went to ‘foreigners’. Or that Mr Zapatero last year gave residence rights to over 700,000 illegal immigrants, a step that was immediately criticised by the German government as an open invitation for more of the same.

Talking of the North Africa enclaves, there’s been a couple of comments about these and Gibraltar. For what it’s worth, my own view is that history is irrelevant; that there’s no sustainable argument that differentiates between these three places; that all of them should belong to the lands with which they are contiguous; but that, in this day and age, this can’t be done until a majority of the local citizens agree. Likewise Northern Ireland.

Spain likes to think of itself as a non-racist country, albeit on the basis that whatever you say can’t be racist if you really don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. I was reminded of this attitude today when I saw a cartoon about the Ceuta/Melilla problem in El Mundo. The caricature of a black African could have been commissioned by Josef Goebbels.

For new readers – If you’ve arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Today was a holiday in Spain. From a religious standpoint, it was the feast of the Virgin of the Pillar, whatever this means. But, as this celestial lady is also Spain’s patron saint [patron virgin?], the lay celebration was of National Day. As ever on holidays, few people were to be seen on the streets at 10 in the morning and the traffic was very light. Nonetheless, I’d only been driving 3 minutes before the other car on the roads failed to stop at a junction and almost drove into the front of me. Fortunately, one of us had a St Christopher medal on our dashboard. I guess.

It’s been a favourite theme of mine for a few years that, thanks to the unholy alliance between an unprincipled, populist Prime Minister and an amoral, tabloid media baron, government of the UK has increasingly come to resemble mob rule. So imagine my pleasure to see this theme developed this month in, of all things, the left-of-centre Prospect magazine. Or, to put it in the words of the author, Michael Lind, “The decline of mandarinism [i.e. an impartial civil service] in modern democracy has profound implications for political power and cultural authority. If I am right, the informed ‘mixed constitution’ of mandarin democracy averted the formation of the mass society that liberal thinkers dreaded. But even though it failed to materialise in the liberal democracies of the 20th century, the nightmare of mobocracy may come to be in the 21st”

This afternoon I drove up from Ponte de Lima in Portugal on the old road that was the main thoroughfare north before the nearby autopista was built a few years ago. Just outside town I encountered a series of solitary stonemasons who appear to make a living carving statues [or whatever takes your fancy] on little plots at the side of the road. A craft industry, in other words. Apart from their tools, all there was to each site was a pile of granite planks and the odd example of the particular mason’s skills. I rather felt I’d been transported back at least a couple of centuries.

I finally took up with my cleaner her habit of leaving the shower head [or ‘telephone’ in Spanish] cradled on top of the taps, rather than in the socket on the wall. After a good laugh, she promised to change her ways. This lasted less than a week so I’m now wondering whether to go to Stage 2 and ask her to leave the shower curtain inside the bath. Probably not.

For new readers – If you’ve arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Moroccan government continues to earn brickbats for its treatment of the illegal immigrants who launched themselves – unsuccessfully – at the Spanish fences around Melilla and Ceuta in North Africa. Having dumped more than a thousand of them in the middle of the desert near Algeria, they've now responded to the storm of protests by driving them in a convoy to the other end of the country, near the Western Sahara.

Talking of enclaves – sorry, ‘anachronistic colony’ in this case – I read today the following comment from a British MP about Gibraltar. “For many in this government, jettisoning Gibraltar is an end in itself. If Madrid happens to put something on the table in return, fine. But one feels Labour would still seek to withdraw from the Rock, even if they had to pay Madrid to take it.” Only local resolve and the British tabloids stand in the way, it seems. These, of course, grow in direct response to noises from any Spanish government which courts domestic favour by playing the Gib card.

The President – Mr Zapatero – could probably do with some domestic favour right now. For recent surveys suggest the Spanish public is increasingly critical of him for perceived weakness in the face of illegal immigrants, an unfriendly Moroccan government and the Catalans who are trying to weaken their relationship with the state. Calls are naturally being made for a change in the law so as to allow illegal immigrants to be sent straight back. Given that the Spanish government is almost certainly barred from taking unilateral action, it may not be long now before the Spanish find there’s more to being in the EU than an endless flow of grants and subsidies from north to south.

You might think it bad enough for Wayne Rooney to indulge in fights with opposing players during competitive football matches. But today’s papers carried pictures of fisticuffs between two members of the Spanish squad training for tomorrow’s World Cup game. Mind you, one of them was a Catalan. Probably got into an argument about constitutional reform.

For new readers – If you’ve arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Moroccan government continues to find simple solutions to the problem of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans using its territory as a launching pad into Spain’s enclaves. Three days ago they started cutting down the forests near the fences and two days ago they took twelve hundred poor souls into the desert near the Algerian border and dumped them there. Following international protests, they’ve retrieved them, pending further strokes of genius.

Today we finally had some much-needed rain. More accurately, the Atlantic decided to rise up and drop on us. My elder daughter has always maintained that increases in humidity affect her both mentally and physically. This is one reason she’s happier in Madrid than Galicia. I’ve always tended to pooh-pooh this but have to confess it tends to be on cloudy days like today that I miss out one of the 5 stages involved in making my morning coffee. This morning it was neglecting to move the coffee from the grinder to the coffee pot before putting it on to boil. This is daft enough but doesn’t compare with taking the top off the grinder before the blades have stopped.

Stimulated by the rain, I decided to analyse my water bills in search of an explanation for higher totals over the last twelve months. I found that the unit cost of water consumed was increased by 300% last year. At that time the bills were issued by the local council, who not only failed to advise anyone of this huge hike but also neglected to cite the unit cost on the bills so we could see it for ourselves. As I’ve said before, consumer protection has some way to go in Spain.

For new readers – If you’ve arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

Sunday, October 09, 2005

During my drive into the mountains yesterday, I encountered 24 temporary speed bumps. These were all near road-works dedicated to straightening out the bends which so many young men find fatally impossible to negotiate in the small hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings. These bumps are constructed from sections of hard black rubber, striped in yellow. Each section is about 20 inches or 50cm wide and is screwed into the tarmac. You might think that, in a speed-mad, risk-loving, rule-avoiding culture such as Spain’s there would be a certainty someone would tamper with all of these so as to make them less obstructive. But you’d be wrong. For 2 of the 24 had not been got at in any way. The other 22, it has to be said, had all had a section removed so at leave a gap two thirds along the ridge. This then becomes a vital companion to the gutter channel, allowing cars to be driven as if the bumps were simply not there. Which, in effect, they aren’t.

Alfonso has asked whether, in talking about local origins and loyalties, Wales wouldn’t be a more accurate equivalent for Galicia than, say, Cheshire. This is an excellent point but I’m not convinced the analogy is exact. Having weighed the considerations in each direction, I’ve decided Wales is a real country but Galicia is somewhere between a county and a country. Any Galician readers puzzled and/or infuriated by this need to send me their email address so we can debate it outside this blog. Meanwhile, I read by coincidence this week that British loyalties have, in the past 50 years, gravitated from the counties to the cities, as reflected by the fact cricket teams are named after the former but football teams after the latter.

Back in the realm of Spanish politics, the President this week rejected the notion that Catalunia can be a ‘nation’, as this is reserved to the Spanish state. Interestingly, the Spanish word ‘nación’ doesn’t merit a capital letter, whereas ‘Estado’ [state] does. I’d be interested in the explanation for this.

Quotes of the Week

He’s a compulsive talker and a candidate for the self-help association of compulsive talkers’ - On Anon Anon.
Jeremy Clarke

The secret to being boring? Tell everything.

For new readers – If you’ve arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I had a round trip of 300km today, up into the mountains of Lugo and Ourense provinces. The rolling green acres up there look a lot like Cheshire. And, with cows and slurry trucks all over the place, they smell like it as well.

Two things spoiled an otherwise very pleasant, traffic-free drive. Firstly, a clearly illegal motor-bike race was coming in the opposite direction, involving some truly horrific sights on the bends. And, secondly, virtually every ridge is now covered with modern windmills, slowly churning. I have finally come down on the side of those who believe these mar the aesthetics of the view. They are, in fact, even worse than the occasional lines of electricity pylons. Not only are they haphazardly placed but their movement constantly distracts the eye. We need a modern Quixote to take them on.

Gratifyingly, 62% of Galicians say they feel equally Spanish and Galician. But this, of course, means 38% feel more local than national. Within these, a significant percentage say they don’t regard themselves as Spanish at all. This got me thinking of the UK again; it’s hard to imagine anyone there answering the question ‘Where are you from?’ with ‘Cheshire’ or the like. Though I guess things are different in the USA, where you might answer with the name of your state.

In town today, I came up against a young man trailing a Rottweiler on a lead with his left hand and carrying a miniature Yorkie in his right hand. I resisted the temptation to ask whether the latter was the former’s lunch.

These days far more people hit this blog than my web page on Galicia. So I’ve decided to fight back against Google’s downgrading of my site by printing the following at the end of each blog, albeit in smaller typeface. My apologies to my regular reader[s], who can, of course, simply ignore it …..

For new readers – If you’ve arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, you might find my non-commercial guides interesting – at

Friday, October 07, 2005

Spain has decided to build a third fence around its 2 African enclaves. Possibly incentivised by this, around a thousand men rushed the existing barriers last night. But only one of them managed to get onto Spanish soil. This may be because the Moroccan government has now found a Third World solution to this Fourth World problem; their police officers fired into the mob, killing 6 of them. Self defence, of course.

I went to an exhibition on tourism in Galicia this morning. I wasn’t too surprised to see I was almost the only visitor at 12.30 but it was a bit of a shock to find only two of the twenty or so stands manned. Since the Spanish abhor silence [or anything resembling it] and are easily bored, my guess is they were all off somewhere having a commiserating ‘discussion’. But it at least gave me the opportunity to wander at will and to take photos such as those below. And there was another plus. Spanish society is informal but bureaucratic. And, as anyone who’s worked with a UK Enterprise Agency knows, a bureaucrat’s idea of a marketing strategy is an expensive, full-colour brochure. So the place was awash with them and I could take what I wanted at my leisure. I came out with 4 kilos [nearly 9 pounds] of them. And a pen.

Walking through town, I realised the council had reached a decision of genius. I wrote many months ago that Spanish roads – whatever the number of lanes – are all reduced to but a single lane by the double, triple, quadruple, etc., parking that takes place. Worse, there is no consistency to this so this single lane usually resembles a slalom course. The options open to the council were:- 1. Ignore things, 2. Double or even triple the number of trucks that take cars off to the pound, or 3. Bring in traffic wardens. Having courageously decided they should do something, the problem with Option no. 2 was that the calculation of the risk of being impounded would still be in the drivers’ favour. This, of course, is the only calculation made as inconvenience to others counts, at best, for nought. And the problem with Option 3 is the Spanish would regard wardens as at least ‘unfair’ and quite possibly ‘ignoble’, which [as I keep saying] is the worse thing you can be in Spain. Like being ‘pencil-shy’ in Singapore during the days of the British Empire. Now, most of the roads in the town are wide enough to take 4 cars side-by-side so what the council has done is to widen the pavements, install brick-delineated parking bays on either side and leave just a singe lane going down the middle of the road. In other words, they've gone with the flow. Or rather, they've straightened it up and, in the process, made life easier for both drivers and pedestrians, and provided opportunities for more pavement cafés. Even possibly reduced the accident rate. As I say, Spanish pragmatism of the highest order. The only time the flow stops now is when someone is trying to park in one of the bays. But I've never seen a vacant bay during the day so this is a rare occurrence. My suspicion is that the local residents have all been trained by German early-morning towel grabbers.

And so to the pictures. These are of costumes worn during local fiestas, though one looks rather more 20th century than the other….

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Well, there was no car on the pavement outside the new Irish bar today. Possibly just a coincidence.

Several hundred more Africans stormed the fences around one of Spain’s enclaves last night, prompting the EU to release funds designed to help Morocco implement preventative measures. These had apparently been held up by ‘bureaucratic delays’. Hard as it is to believe, things have now reached the farcical point where the successful entrants, once on Spanish soil, race to the nearest police station to seek the appropriate form. Once this is done, they are part of a long process and can’t be sent back before they’ve had a chance to disappear in mainland Spain. Anxious to prevent this, the forces of order are now in the bizarre position of trying to stop people getting to the police station.

When I went to change my newspaper in the café this morning, I left my pen, a notepad, a plastic bag and my half-finished glass of wine on the bar counter. Enough, you'd have thought, to secure possession of the stool. But when I came back, a man was sitting on it. What made this even more extraordinary was there were 5 other empty stools he could have chosen. As I approached, he looked at me, glanced at the things on the counter, switched on his brain and got off the stool. Naturally, he apologised profusely. Naturally, I said it didn’t matter.

I see that Mick Jagger’s latest squeeze is called L’Wren. I suppose this is a would-be witty version of Lauren. As in L’Wren B’Call. I guess it’s better than Frou Frou. I am reminded of that famous jockey – L’Ster Piggot.

And here’s a picture of the Opus Dei house down the hill, with the miracle palm trees.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

By my reckoning, we have at least 12 weeks to go before Christmas, or just under a quarter of a year. Nonetheless, Sky News had its first mention of Christmas shopping today. Things being much more sane in Spain, I guess it’ll be a while before this happens here.

The unseasonably hot weather continues and common sense has finally broken out amongst the young ladies of the town. Many of them are now compromising by wearing a summer top above the waist [or ribs, really] and mid-calf jeans and stiletto boots below.

I see there’s a long scratch down the side of the car parked on the pavement outside the new Irish bar at the entrance to the shopping centre. A frustrated shopper, perhaps. Or the same pillock who did most of the cars in our street a month ago. Either way, I have some sympathy with the gesture.

A friend of mine recently had to take someone to court for alleged indecent behaviour towards her 13 year old daughter. When they got to the courtroom, she asked whether there were screens. The official asked, rather irritably, whether these had been requested in advance and, on being told not, said ‘Well, it’s not as if they don’t know each other already’. Happily, she was overruled by someone with rather more sensitivity.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Yesterday’s eclipse was the first in Galicia since the one in 1772, which I missed. And, if I’d known the next one wasn’t coming round until 2082, I would have taken more interest in it.

Another 600 Africans rushed the fences around one of the Spanish enclaves last night and 300 of them managed to get onto Spanish soil. My understanding is Spain can’t now send them back directly but must either absorb them or go through due process, hampered by the fact the illegal immigrants never have any papers revealing their country of origin. Spain has again appealed to the EU to throw money at the problem. And, right on cue, a Moroccan politician has said what Africa needs is a ‘real Marshall Plan’.

The Spanish for werewolf is hombre lobo, or wolf man. So were-rabbit would be conejo lobo. But presumably this doesn’t quite work in Spanish as the title here of Wallace and Gromit’s new film is not La Maldición del Conejo Lobo but La Maldición de Las Verduras. Or The Curse of the Vegetables. Honest.

And still on the subject of language, someone recently had one of my blogs translated into Spanish by Google’s computer. I had written about the two Spanish helicopters that crashed in Afghanistan, querying why the Spanish press had used the expression “feet above the ground”, instead of metres. I’d quoted the Spanish word for feet – pies – and the computer had taken this, assumed it was English and come up with empanadas in Spanish. So, according to Google, the 2 helicopters had been flying at 10 Cornish pasties above the ground. Think about it.

And still on Google - a friend and I have non-commercial sites about different parts of Galicia. Both of these used to appear on the first page of a search for ‘Galicia Spain’. Now they are nowhere to be seen and have been replaced by a host of commercial, much less relevant pages. He has discovered we’re falling foul of some secret filters of Google that penalise our pages for reasons unknown. This doesn’t happen with other search engines. So you might want to bear this in mind when making any future searches.

The reader who sent a query re his/her family name in a no-reply comment needs to write to my email [] for a reply.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Today I attended a brief lecture on the origins of one of my favourite buildings in Pontevedra. Almost inevitably, my enjoyment was rather marred by a woman in front of me who – isolated in a cocoon of her own self-importance – took several mobile phone calls and chatted to the man beside her. Interestingly, the audience of about ten was outnumbered by the photographers and cameramen from the local newspapers and TV channels. I guess they’ve never heard of syndication.

Later, passing the town’s main police station, I saw four senior officers get into a car and drive off without a safety belt between them. I was momentarily tempted to mention this to the motor-cycle cop who arrived a few seconds later but thought better of it. Perhaps there’s a provision in the law which allows policemen to go through windscreens, even though we aren’t.

So far at least, October’s weather has been even better than September’s. So confusion is still rife on the fashion front. Some young ladies are still in their summer uniform of very little above the hip bone and jeans below, whereas – at the other extreme - there are those determined to show off their new tweeds and boots. The former seem decidedly more comfortable at this stage.

We have a new Irish bar at the entrance to the shopping centre on our side of the bridge into town. Apart from a couple of tables outside, the main innovation is the parking of the owner’s huge Cherokee Jeep on the pavement, blocking half of the entrance to the centre. To do this, he has to negotiate several bollards designed to, well, stop cars being driven onto the pavement. Quite impressive, in its own way. Except that it’s in our way.

Finally, a few choice sentences from the Dear Beloved in Christ letter from Kenya I mentioned a couple of days ago:-

It is by the grace of God that I received Christ. Having known the truth, I had no choice than to do what is lawful and right in the sight of God for eternal life.

Presently, I'm in a hospital in Kenya where I have been undergoing treatment for oesophageal cancer. I have since lost my ability to talk and my doctors have told me that I have only a few weeks to live. It is my last wish to see this money distributed to charity organizations anywhere in the World

I want a person that is God fearing that will use this money to fund churches, orphanages and widows. I don't want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly manner.

I don't need any telephone communication in this regard because of my soundless voice.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The house down the hill that’s taken almost 5 years to build must be nearing completion; a host of mature palm trees has appeared in the garden. The owner is said to be the head honcho in Opus Dei in the town so perhaps they arrived, like St James of Santiago, by magic boat from the Middle East. Just as likely, I believe.

I asked my piano teacher whether pupils in his native Argentina regularly failed to turn up for classes, as they do here. On reflection, he rather ducked the issue, answering that he’d found the Galicians to have an attitude summed up by the phrase ‘Búscate la vida’. As this literally means ‘Find yourself a life’, I thought it was yet another way of saying fun came first. But I’ve since been told it really means something like ‘You’re own your own, mate’. Or, in the vernacular, ‘Tough shit’. So it’s a riposte to make to someone who finds your behaviour unacceptable.

Localism again. One of the region's papers today complained the history of Galicia only merits 5 to 10% of the content of school text books. They should be so lucky; the complaint in the UK is that the history of Britain is no longer taught much, never mind the history of England or one of its regions/counties.

I wish I’d said that

Considering the obsession of our young men with fast cars and motor bikes, awarding the Prince of Asturias Prize to Fernando Alonso for winning the Formula 1 Championship is like giving the Nobel Prize for Medicine to the Marlborough cowboy.

Letter to one of the local papers.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Our weather in September was spectacular, with a great deal of sun and very little rain. The dark side of this, of course, is that Spain’s drought situation has worsened and water restrictions are now in place throughout much of the country. Perhaps not up in the north east, where [as in neighbouring France] the weather has become rather more unstable and stormy than it used to be. God’s punishment for secessionist endeavours?

And speaking of the north east, Catalunian politicians have said they know their new Statute will be rejected by the government but don’t care. They are hell bent on being the first state in a truly federal Spain. In this battle labels are, of course, important and government ministers and judges have said Catalunia can’t be a state as this is reserved to Spain under the 1979 Constitution. I have the perfect solution to this. In Spanish, ‘state’ is one of a bizarre group of words [such as ‘Army’] which merit a capital letter. So, why not have Spain as the ‘Estado’ and Catalunia as an ‘estado’? Or, if you don’t like this, why not take advantage of the wonderful diminutive suffixes of Spanish? So, Spain could be the ‘Estado’ and Catalunia an ‘Estadito’. Of course, Galicia [already parroting federalist aspirations] would have to use the Gallego form and be an ‘Estadíño´. Or maybe just an '‘Estadín". Sorted!

In an editorial yesterday, El Pais referred to the underlying problems of the rapidly growing Spanish economy and fingered, as one factor, the lack of competition in the supply of basic services and commodities. Bang on cue, I received my latest bill from the water company I’m compelled to use, in which I saw both the fixed and variable prices had risen way above the [high enough] level of inflation. What an easy way to make money. I suppose we could call it ‘the Telefonica strategy’.

In Spain Old English Sheepdogs are called ‘Bobtails’, pronounced ‘bob-tie-eels’. When I saw one in a shop yesterday, I commented to the owner she had a nice Old English Sheepdog. “Yes’ she replied rather indignantly, “But he’s not old!”