Thursday, December 29, 2005

My nice-but-noisy neighbour, Tony, cut his lawn this morning, dressed in pyjamas, a dressing gown and a Santa Claus cap. This is something he’s done very regularly since he bought the lawn mower last month, though not always attired so eccentrically. The problem is that, since there’s little grass on oil tankers, he has no idea of blade height and so is scalping the lawn each time. Consequently, it’s a dull brown - against the lush green of those on either side. It’s actually all my fault; when I saw him last month cutting his metre-long grass with what looked like a pair of scissors and offered to lend him my mower, he replied he could easily afford to buy one. Obviously true; but reading the instructions was clearly beyond him.

The German Chancellor, Mrs Merkel, says she wants to increase the powers of the central government at the expense of those of the regions. Spain, of course, is trending in the opposite direction. I guess the aim of both governments is to make their countries stronger and more efficient. The difference, perhaps, is that Germany is a net contributor to the EU and has a sluggish economy that needs to be revitalised. Spain, on the other hand, has a booming economy, benefits from a bank rate which is inappropriately low relative to its economic fundamentals and [for reasons beyond me] will be a net beneficiary of EU funds until 2014. So I guess there’s a stronger case [or, at least, opportunity] here for playing constitutional games that could well render Spain even less able to compete with, say, China and India. Time will surely tell and it will be interesting to see where the two countries are – especially their economic rankings – in 10 and 20 years’ time. Meanwhile, the great irony is it’s largely unhappy German taxpayers who are funding the grants to happy Spain. Not to mention the Dutch and those dastardly British who won’t give up their rebate.

In yet another of those right-on-cue surveys, Spain has been identified as having the longest working hours but the lowest productivity in Europe. This, I’m sure, will eventually change, in both directions. But not, I suspect, until life gets a lot harder here and Spain is making its own way in the world, without handouts from Brussels.

Post Office Tale no. 37: In two parts, involving first my friend, Andrew, and then his wife, Angela:-

Part 1
I’d like to send this parcel to Venezuela
OK. It’s 2 kilos so the cost will be 35 euros.
No. According to your tariff, for Zone D it should be around 15 euros.
What tariff?
The yellow booklet published by the Post Office.
I don’t know anything about that. [Turning to colleague] Do you know about it?
No.
So it’s 35 euros
Well, I’m not paying that [Or words to that effect]. Give me back the parcel.

Part 2
I’d like to send this parcel to Venezuela
OK. It’s 2 kilos so it’s 35 euros.
No. According to your tariff, for Zone D it should be around 15 euros.
What tariff?
This one here in my hand.
Let me have a look. Yes, but that’s only for companies.
Show me where it says that.
OK, but that’s the rate for parcels, not letters.
What the hell do you think this object wrapped in brown paper is?
OK. 15 euros.

Spanish pragmatism. The Pontevedra council last year landscaped an area in the centre of town. This involved several grassy areas alongside the paths. A fair percentage of pedestrians found it too inconvenient to use the latter and so wore out the grass taking short cuts across the lawns. This week the council admitted defeat, cemented over the bare earth and labelled them new paths. Of course, the aesthetics of the place have been destroyed but, in this practical country, everyone is now happy enough.

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