Monday, January 02, 2006

Today’s Voz de Galicia reported they’d only been able to find one non-smoking bar in Vigo yesterday, the first day of the new anti-smoking law. This is one more than I could find in Pontevedra today. The truth is proprietors have 8 months grace before they must take measures to provide for non-smokers. So, in a country where everything is left to the last minute, it was hardly likely much would be done at this stage. Meanwhile, 70% of Spaniards are said to agree with the new law in principle, though a sizable proportion think it’s too severe. What really is surprising is only 20% of smokers say they’ll ignore it.

God knows I’ve criticised Spanish bureaucracy often enough but here’s a tale which shows that problems are not exclusive to Spain. My younger daughter had her car stolen in Leeds the night before she came here and was concerned she’d heard nothing from the police in 10 days. So she called them today and quoted her Crime Incident Number, only to be informed they could tell her nothing because of the provisions of the Data Protection Act. What she would have to do was call the Crime Recording Bureau, revise her phone number to mine in Spain and wait for the Leeds police to call her here. If nothing came through in 2 days, she would have to repeat the process so as to re-institute her UK number once she was back in the UK. The logic of all this is beyond me. Are we to imagine the police believe there’s a risk someone would steal the Crime Incident Number and then impersonate my daughter? It sounds to me like yet another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences at work.

An eminent British historian has suggested that, as Scotland freely relinquished its independence a couple of hundred years ago, it should now stop pretending to be a real country. Presumably, it would simply then be a region of the UK. If so, the comparisons regularly made here between Catalunia or Galicia and Scotland would carry more conviction than at present. Though this would not necessarily appeal to those who are in the habit of making these comparisons.

For those who worry about these things, I read that the way to ensure you’re not offending anyone by using the word ‘Christmas’ is to substitute either ‘The holidays’ or ‘The festive period’. You’ve now got about 357 days to practice these.


Anonymous said...

Hi Colin,

Here in the US it's gone in reverse - many people are offended to hear anything other than "Merry Christmas". It's the first time there's been a backlash against those that have tried not to offend the "non-Christmas crowd". This has caused all kinds of problems for retailers who at first banned the use of the term for employees and stopped using it in advertising - then scrambled to add it back in when large numbers of people said they wouldn't shop there if they tried to "sterilize" Christmas.

And - Happy New Year!

Portorosa said...

Colin, I haven't heard anything about that problem; am I wrong if I think we don't have it yet, here in Spain? Is it still one of your good examples about our society?