Saturday, December 03, 2005

Along with all other 24 hour providers, Sky News is not averse to a little tautology in order to fill the endless hours during which they have to entertain – sorry, inform – us. So, for example, we learnt this morning that George Best’s funeral would be attended by God, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, John Lennon and ‘something like 35,000 people, or thereabouts’.

My favourite company, Telefonica, is currently running an ad for which the strapline is “The first time is always easier when you have someone to help you”. It shows a father in formal dress helping his adult son with his tie. The father is wearing a bow tie and so one’s immediate assumption is that the son is too. But he isn’t; he’s wearing a normal tie and it’s this which his father is knotting for him. My first thought was this was a stupid mistake on the part of Telefonica, quite in keeping with its approach to its customers. But then it dawned on me that, such is the informality of Spanish life, it would be perfectly possible for a male to reach 25 without ever having worn a tie. Plus, of course, Spanish adult children think nothing of living with their parents until well into their 20s or even 30s and so wouldn’t feel any embarrassment about having one of them help with their clothes. All of which was readily confirmed by Spanish friends at the English Speaking Society dinner last night. Indeed one of them – in his 40s – proudly boasted he’d never worn a tie in his life, even for his wedding.

And talking of Spanish culture, one thing you might feel you’d be sure of is that its senior citizens would be well cared for by their ‘much closer’ families. So it was a bit of a shock to read today that more than a third of women over 65 live alone and on a pension of less than 400 euros [275 pounds] a month. Or 69 pounds a week. Mind you, I fear the UK basic pension is around this and the cost of living there is 40% higher.

The Galician Xunta says it wants to make Vigo the ‘motor of the Galician economy’. This will do nothing for the long-standing rivalry between this upstart city-without-a-cathedral and Pontevedra, whose burghers tend to believe nothing much has changed since the Middle Ages as regards urban supremacy.

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