Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I’m off to the UK for 2 weeks or so tomorrow but will try to post blogs from there. Though I suspect it will be Moans from Merseyside, rather than Thoughts from Galicia. Perhaps I should write it in Scouse.

I leave you with a request - I need just another 300 or so readers in 3 days to take the cumulative total to 20,000 by the end of March, the 18 month point of my blog. So, I’d like you all to make a special effort. As yesterday’s total was over 100, you can certainly do it if you try. We’re no longer on course for 29 million readers within 5 years but it’s still worth going for.

Penultimately, here’s the first of many extracts from a book by an Englishman:- Galicia que agora semella tan pacifica e remota, non se pode rexeitar como un país que non tivo historia. Foi, en muitas ocasiones, o escenario de agres liortas e guerras. Nos primeiros tempos da era cristiá deu homes de grande sona: Prudencio, Priscilianio e os primitivos cronistas latinos Paulo Orioso e Idacio.

And, finally, here’s something received from a Spanish friend. It’s a list of Spanish words or phrases as interpreted by a Gaditano, or a native of Cadiz. Even if you speak Spanish, you’ll need to know something about the Andaluz accent to make sense of all of them. Good luck!

Here’s the latest example of the identification mania which will arrive in the UK along with identity cards – my gas company has sent me a letter saying I need to write to them within a month to stop them selling data about me. Leaving aside that this ‘inertia’ tactic is illegal in other countries, the bizarre aspect is that I have to quote my identity number in my letter. As if anyone else would be responding in my name from my address to a letter addressed to me. Especially when the objective is to avoid being deluged with junk mail. This, of course, is the Everest approach to things. Why are asking for my identity number? Because you’ve got one. The Spanish are, of course, so inured to quoting their number on innumerable occasions they don’t see anything odd in this. And it’s a lot less oppressive than under Franco. At least they no longer have to get Certificates of Good Conduct from the parish priest.

Yesterday’s headline was that France and Spain would combine to defend their national companies against the EU Commission’s demand for a free energy market. Today’s was that France and Spain would unite to defend the execrable Common Agricultural Policy that benefits them both so much. The odd thing about this is that the Spanish government is left-of-centre, whereas the French government is to the right. This may tell us a lot about the country’s problems.

Talking of which, it’s a source of wonder here in Spain that the youth of France [amongst others] are so up in arms against their government’s attempt to liberalise the employment market. In France only 48% of young people are on short-term contracts, whereas it’s 65% in Spain. But, then, Spanish kids tend to stay at home and leech off their parents until they get married in their 30s. So there’s less to get agitated about.

It’s a paperful business being a person in Spain. Aside from any need for a passport, you are obliged to have an identity card and a ‘family book’, containing details of all members. Worst of all, you must register with the town hall of the council in which you live. And then re-register if you move. You wouldn’t expect this to be done efficiently and, of course, it isn’t. So, this week’s scandal centres on the ease with which people can register with one council without de-registering from a previous one. Or ten. This, of course, can bring certain political and/or financial benefits in its wake. You’d have thought the existence of identity cards would be a barrier to this sort of thing but obviously not. Though this is not to say they won’t be as wonderful as Mr Blair says they will.

Incidentally, if you tell a Spaniard that no one in the UK is obliged to carry identification or to register with anyone, you can see they don’t really believe you. And, given what they live with, who can blame them?

There was great success for Spain in an international motorbike meeting in Jerez this week. Sadly, 9 of the spectators didn’t make it home alive, having presumably confused the nearby roads with a racing circuit. Or perhaps they were all unlucky enough to suffer tyre blow-outs.

Monday, March 27, 2006

It’s pot luck what I will find in the forest when I walk the dogs between 10 and 11 of a morning. Yesterday it was a gypsy doing some fly-tipping from his van. Today it was a semi-naked couple in the back of a 4x4 who seemed to be shooting up, either before or after a bout of horizontal jogging. From the bang on the window when I innocently squeezed past – the vehicle was blocking the path – I think they had the effrontery to object to my being in the forest. Or perhaps it was a friendly greeting.

I was nearly hit yet again on the zebra crossing down by the bridge into town. This time it was because a white van was parked across a quarter of the crossing. But it had its emergency lights on and, in Spain, this means the vehicle is now invisible and so can’t be causing an offence or a nuisance. Or that the driver knows he is but simply doesn’t care. Or both.

Over the last 5 years, I’ve noticed how each of the Sky TV announcers [I refuse to call them reporters] has come to use a pronunciation of words such as total, battle, little and hospital which involves what I call a semi-glottal stop. I’ve theorised this is an outcrop of the dreadful ‘estuary English’ which became fashionable among the young a few years back but I’ve not been able to find any support for this on the net. Ironically, a visitor from the UK recently commented to one of my friends here that I’d adopted the Spanish T. This, of course, is nonsense; I simply pronounce it the way it used to be said in English, whilst he has joined the mob.

Talking to a Spanish friend who works in local government, I said how impressed I’d been to read the Vigo authorities had announced they would pull down a massive block of flats which included 7[!] more floors than permitted by the licence. He looked at me with incredulity, laughed at my naivety and asked me whether I seriously thought anything would be done. Why not, I asked. I’ll leave you to guess at the answer.

Someone has calculated that the proposed tightening of the traffic rules would mean 5,000 Galicians a year going to jail for doing 60kph more than the speed limit and/or driving at double the permitted alcohol level. But not for flouting the building regulations, I guess.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I suppose it’s a price worth paying but the one big negative about the recent ETA ceasefire announcement is it provides the Spanish press with more opportunities to show the grinning face of Gerry Adams. He’ll be getting the Nobel Peace Prize next.

So the EU Commission is demanding that France and Spain stop being nationalistic about their energy companies and participate in the development of a Common Energy Policy. Well, far be it for me to take the side of France in this spat but, when you consider the consequences of the Common Agricultural and Common Fish Policies, you begin to feel a twinge of sympathy. Perhaps the best answer is just to stop the French buying British companies. What is French for ‘gander’?

Another noise story this weekend - The mayor of the nearby town of Tui is in the dock, facing the charge brought by a group of residents of allowing an excessive number of bars to be set up in the old quarter. What is happening to this country? Does it no longer want to be ‘different’?

Finally – and still on noise - a message for Acedre, who reads English but writes Gallego/Galego – Graciñas polo teu email. Home, no necesitas ir a Finlandia para atopar xente falando baixiño. So tes que cruzar o Minho para comer ou xantar en Portugal.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

At last some good news fron Catalunia . . . A bar owner in Barcelona has been sentenced to 4 years in prison for making the life of nearby residents a misery by ignoring not just the regulations but also the court orders imposed on him. His defence included the statement that lorries and ambulances make a lot of noise as well. A cartoon in one of the national papers showed a man with two thought-balloons on either side of his head. One referred to this development and the other to the ETA permanent ceasefire. A third bubble contained the comment ‘Some days are just unforgettable’. So it can’t be only foreigners who think Spain is a terribly noisy place.

Which reminds me . . . Tony is home from the sea and has resumed his practice of bawling and singing from the minute he wakes up until the time he retires to bed, often after 2am. I must find a way to deal with this, short of assassination. Or tongue-ripping.

Francisco Umbral Section

I’ve started recording the names [or at least those I know] which crop up in his obscure articles. Here’s a couple of samples…
‘Parents’ - Agatha Christie, Bono, Marilyn Monroe
‘Miss Catalan Nation’: Andy Warhol, Manuel Fraga, Princess Margaret, Earnest Hemingway

So, nothing if not eclectic.

Quotes of the Week

The grey squirrel was the first in a series of unpleasing [American] imports which have undermined the essential Britishness of our island. These include Mickey Mouse films, jazz, and the nauseating fast food that has turned our working classes from the whippet-thin, pale sex maniacs so lovingly drawn by D H Lawrence into obese, shell-suited monsters of solipsism, scarcely able to waddle through the empty pizza-boxes and discarded fried chicken wings that litter their over-heated flats.
Tongue-in-cheek[?] comment of a British columnist in the Sunday Telegraph, a once-serious newspaper which has contributed to the decline of British culture by turning itself into something of a comic. Pity we can’t blame the Americans for this. Only a single Australian. Albeit one with US citizenship.

It isn’t only cream that rises to the top.
Anonymous. But a propos

Friday, March 24, 2006

Now that the Catalan politicians have made huge steps in the direction of achieving ‘nation’ status, they’re consolidating this in a number of impressive ways. Firstly, they’ve inaugurated the Miss and Mr Catalan Nation beauty competitions and sought inclusion in worldwide events of this nature. Secondly, they’ve demanded recognition of Catalan’s status in the worldwide organisation for the sport of Pitch and Putt. Almost worth dying for.

And talking of pariahs, the local gypsies have figured twice in the news this week. Firstly, Galicia’s Supreme Court has confirmed the local council can knock down the 10 illegal shacks on land earmarked for an industrial park. Mind you, the council has said they lack the resources to do this so it may take several more years before we see anything happen. This might be because the council is only too aware that the second incident involving the gypsies was a shoot-out at one of the pay booths on the nearby autopista. This was between members of the same family. So imagine how they treat strangers.

In Pontevedra this week we had the re-opening of a bridge which had been under repair for some time. Ten minutes after the Mayor had finished the opening ceremony a truck and a bus crashed into its lowered roof. That’s the trouble here; everyone’s in too much of a hurry.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

In an article on university courses, I read feminists were demanding a full degree course in Gender Studies, rather than merely its inclusion as part of others. As far as I can recall, this is the first time I’ve come across a reference to feminists in over 5 years in Spain. I certainly haven’t seen any evidence of them protesting, as a group, on issues such as the stereotyping of women or the permissive attitude to prostitution. On the latter, my daughter tells me this is no longer confined to nocturnal hours in the infamous Casa de Campo park in Madrid. A family outing on Sunday, she assures me, can now take in the sight of semi and even totally naked women. I would have checked this out last Sunday but Ryan is easily embarrassed.

In a conversation with Spanish friends the other day, I was assured no Spaniard would either offer or demand petrol money where someone was acting as a chauffeur for a friend, even for a long journey. This was seen as very commercial and Anglo-Saxon. I pointed out that – as we tend to move away from our place of birth and from family and early friends – we don’t operate on the basis of a life-long ‘favour bank’. The Spanish, on the other hand, seem to do everything for free for their friends, including providing legal advice and medical/dental attention. Though I suspect things are different in Madrid and Barcelona, because of greater fluidity. No point doing huge favours for people you might never see again!

Here’s a coded message for those thinking of visiting Galicia in the spring - After the last week or so, I doubt we’ll be having water restrictions this summer. And it’s a good job we’re attached to the rest of Spain.

And here’s a provocative statement – One defining characteristic of the Spanish is that they haven’t the slightest concern about anyone overhearing every word of their conversation. That said, the level of ambient noise is so great this is usually impossible anyway. Strength in numbers. Or privacy, at least.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Two major political events in two days…

Firstly, a parliamentary commission yesterday approved the draft of Catalunia’s new constitution, in the preamble of which the region is referred to as a nation. A taste of things to come was the [rejected] demand that Spain’s co-official languages of Catalan, Basque and Galician be given this status not only in the relevant regions but throughout the whole of Spain.

Even more momentous [and a lot more positive] was today’s announcement by ETA of a permanent truce. In the past few weeks there's been a blizzard of accusations and denials about members of both the current and previous administration meeting with the Basque terrorist group. It will be interesting to see if tunes are now quickly changed to ensure credit is seized. My own take on this development is that it was inevitable after France finally decided to assist Spain in the fight against ETA, most specifically by extraditing members from France and denying them safe havens there. Quite why France had to wait until after the Twin Towers massacre before deciding to assist a fellow EU partner is anyone’s guess. If I were Spanish, it wouldn’t endear them to me.

I received in the mail today a questionnaire from a marketing company, asking me dozens of questions about my lifestyle. Do I have a burglar alarm, for example. And whether my income is below, above or much above the Spanish average. Astonishingly, they also ask for my full name and address and even my phone and email details, though they don’t actually demand my identification/tax number. You’d have to be mad to fill in the 3 pages but I guess enough people must be influenced by the accompanying gift of a cheap pen and the ‘chance to win a camera’ to make it all worthwhile. What a world.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I’ve often expressed admiration for the obituaries in the Spanish newspapers. Not so much for their content as for their international range. Today, though, El Pais excelled itself, with an obituary to Humphrey, the cat that lived at 10 Downing Street for many years. Perhaps it’s a prelude to the ever-imminent political demise of Mr Blair.

The Spanish government last year reformed matrimonial law so as to make it much easier and quicker to get a divorce. In the second half of 2005, these rose by around 80% compared with the previous year. My guess is the majority of these were initiated by women. Possibly the same ones who complain of an unsatisfactory sex life in the surveys we’re regularly treated to.

One of the problems of there being 17 Autonomous Communities is 17 different tax regimes, at least in respect of gift and inheritance taxes. It may not matter much to you but, as far as your heirs are concerned, the best place to shuffle off this mortal coil is Madrid, where rates are very low. And, sadly, one of the worst turns out to be Galicia. I must move.

Which reminds me, I’m regularly amused by the coyness of Liverpool Victoria’s TV ads for its life insurance policy. These assiduously skirt round the word ‘death’, preferring such phrases as ‘whatever may happen tomorrow’ and ‘when you are no longer around’. But who knows, perhaps even the Catholic Church these days prefers such pieties as ‘Pray for us now and at the hour of our no longer being around.’

A woman in Badajoz is very upset because she found a dead mouse in a packet of Doritos and hasn’t had a response to her letter of complaint in 3 months. I suspect this is because she failed to send a fax of the mouse’s identity card, so there’s no proof of its existence. Or the company’s Consumer Relations department is now run by an ex-director of a bank. Specifically the BBVA.

Monday, March 20, 2006

My drive back to Galicia yesterday was slower than it ought to have been, thanks to accidents which topped and tailed the trip - one on the edge of Madrid and one near Vigo. As it happened, both of these could have been passed far more quickly but for the drivers slowing to peer at the carnage, firstly through their side windows and then, for another 20 or 30 metres, through their rear-view mirrors. This sort of thing goes on all over the world, of course, but I’d be happy to nominate Spain for at least the European title.

The local council has come up with a very effective way to reduce the potential for accidents at the new roundabout where two lanes effectively funnel into one. A hundred metres before it, they’ve closed off one of the approach roads with bollards. Another brilliant example of Spanish pragmatism.

At 915 euros a month, the average Spanish pension is below the 1068 euros a month said to be needed for survival. When questioned, most people said this didn’t concern them much as they expected to reduce their outgoings in retirement. And then there’s the fact that, at 92%, Spanish home ownership is the highest in Europe. This does tend to provide a bit of comfort. Not to mention the highest second-home ownership in Europe as well. No wonder the Spanish seem more affluent that the bare statistics would suggest.

Insults Corner

President Chaves of Venezuela has demonstrated that there’s far more to political badmouthing that labelling one’s opponents ‘liars’. In case you missed them, here’s a few of the things he called George Bush [‘Mr Danger’] yesterday:- A donkey; a coward; a dickhead; an assassin; and a drunkard. Presumably Señor Chaves is not waiting on any largesse from Washington.

Finally, a new bit of Spanglish. Not in my dictionary.
Escrachar – To scratch, I guess.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sparked by Friday night’s events, the Sunday papers are inevitably full of commentaries on the botellón phenomenon. One writer even saw it as a fascistic affront to democracy. The majority opinion appears to be something must be done about it, though no one seems to have a solution.

I had another go at reading a Francisco Umbral article today. This one seemed to be a somewhat misogynistic rant about modern Spanish women but, given his penchant for allusions and metaphors, I can’t say I fully understood his viewpoint. However, I was impressed that, as with his earlier article on freedom-loving English men in bowler hats, he was able to mention both Virginia Woolf and lesbians. I’m beginning to suspect he may have something of an obsession and will keep my eyes out for the next allusion.

Looking at a map in the Archaeological Museum yesterday, I was struck by how large the Kingdom of León had been in the 10th century. Basically, it covered the NW corner of the Iberian peninsula, taking in León, Castile, Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia and a good chunk of North Portugal. So where on earth are the León nationalists? And why are they being left behind by the Catalans, Basques and even the Galicians? OK, they might have to give up on a claim on North Portugal but surely, in today’s pluralist Spain, everything else is up for grabs if they’re determined enough. After all, in Spain history counts. Above all else, it sometimes seems.

As one who regards the man in question as responsible for much of what is wrong with British society, I can’t say how thrilled I was to read this headline today in El Mundo – ‘Rupert Murdoch predicts his own extinction’. Apparently he feels vulnerable to the internet in general and to blogs in particular. All strength to us.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Last night’s national macrobotellón competitition was won by Granada, where 20,000 young people were permitted to gather in search of a macrohangover. Here in Madrid, the rain and a heavy police presence appear to have produced a washout.

Talking about Madrid - one truly impressive thing is the way the streets here are cleaned early every morning. Another is the discipline with which the vast majority of dog owners pick up the deposits of their canine friends. In this they’re helped by the plastic bags and special bins provided by the city council. Being forest walkers, Ryan and I are not used to this but have felt compelled to conform. Well, one of us has conformed. The other has merely performed.

I realise I err on the side of excess in banging on about inefficiency in Spain but I can’t resist recording that my Madrid-based daughter, Faye, is known to her gas supplier not just as ‘Faye Tavies’ but as Faye Tavies Tavies. Our guess is that, despite being told otherwise, the company has decided she really must have the Spanish norm of two surnames. So, in the absence of the second one, they’ve simply repeated the [misspelled] first one. Or the computer did. In my case, someone invariably decides that David Colin Davies comprises two surnames followed by a single forename. Hence, I am usually addressed – in writing and on the phone – as Davies David Colin. But a rose by any other name….

Friday, March 17, 2006

I wonder what on earth Spain’s Moslems make of the churches here. The recent cartoon controversy revealed that, in Islam, statues and pictures are rare. Even innocent ones. In contrast, the church opposite my daughter’s flat boasts the standard representational overkill which dismays even some Christians and which might well appear obscene to any Muslim who enters. Not that there’ll be a lot of these, I guess. That said, despite fears he’d be repelled by its baroque excesses, I once took a Jehovah Witness friend to see the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. In fact, he was thrilled by its rampant ‘theatricality’. But he, at least, has a sense of humour on matters religious and this is probably not something you could accuse many Moslems of.

I wrote yesterday about the Spanish not liking each other much. This, of course, was a reference to the regional/tribal rivalries that bedevil the country. Now it emerges that the various parties in the Catalan coalition are not even fond of each other. They have fallen out, it seems, over negotiations with the state over control of Barcelona airport, though one party had already distanced itself some time ago because it felt not enough concessions had been made by the state in the direction of autonomy. I wonder how these politicians would get on in a real job.

I mentioned a day or so ago the nationwide plans for a massive boozefest this evening. Or 'macrobotellón' in Spanish. By 6 this evening, the small square near my daughter’s flat had been cordoned off and more than 50 policemen were already guarding the 4 entrances, bolstered every now and then by a posse on motor-scooters. A TV crew was filming the scene, which may well have included me and my dog, Ryan. There aren’t many border collies in Madrid, so if you catch sight of one on Spanish TV tonight, that’s us!

On my drive from Galicia yesterday, I was hit by two birds. The first was a sparrow. I know this because I found three quarters of it inside the engine compartment. I don’t know for sure what the second bird was but - given the damage it did to the casing of my wing-mirror – possibly a bloody albatross!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Referring to one of the numerous 'nationalist´{i. e. tribalist] developments of modern Spain, a French friend asked me today - "How can Spaniards expect the rest of us to like them when they don't even like each other?" A rather good question, I thought.

I'm back in Madrid and took the opportunity this evening to take a second look at the Chema Madoz photography exhibition. Entry to this is free but, nonetheless, you are given a 4 x 3 inch piece of paper as you go in. This has a number on it but there are surely far easier and cheaper ways of counting the number of visitors than giving each of them a pointless pre-printed ticket. Especially when you ignore the stipulation on the ticket that visitors will only be allowed entry after presentation of their identity card. Only in Spain?

On a similar note - I see the Spanish government wants a reference to the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht written into the new constitution being negotiated by the UK government with Gibraltar. Is there any other county in Europe where reference is made so frequently to events of hundreds of years ago? And will Spain ever stop living in the divided past and dedicate itself to a united future? Please write on only one side of the paper.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

For several years now, illegal immigrants have been arriving on Spain’s coasts in their thousands each year. Many of them don’t make it alive. Recently the numbers have risen significantly, particularly in respect of Mauritanian refugees trying to land in the Canary Islands. In fact, things have got so bad Galicia has even agreed to take a share of those who make it. The poor souls may find the weather a bit of a shock, though it was 29 in one city in Galicia today, the highest temperature in Spain.

At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games this morning, I was intrigued to see separate teams from the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and Jersey. Food for thought. I wonder if the Basque and Catalan nationalists would support self-determination and nation status for these tiny places. And - closer to home - for Gibraltar, which also had its own team. My guess is Yes and No. But possibly No and No.

On this theme - A letter writer to El Pais today commented on how smoothly recent constitutional negotiations had gone between the German state and the Landers. Noting how all parties had made concessions both in the direction of greater centralisation and greater devolution of power, the writer said it was impossible to conceive this happening in Spain. Here, he said, jealous regions played an endless game of leapfrog in the direction of a proliferation of tax offices, health authorities, etc., etc. Naturally, he saw it all ending in tears. Or at least in the weakening of Spain as a European power.

I mentioned our local gypsies the other day. I read today the police are investigating the impregnation of an 11 year old by another member of the community. A girl being pregnant so young would not, of course, be very newsworthy in the UK but it still is here. Needless to say, the police are getting nowhere. Most people refuse to talk and those that do later retract their statements. It very much looks like they’re going to have to be content with the insistence that ‘things have been dealt with in line with our traditions’

There have been road and pavement works in Pontevedra for at least the 5 years I’ve been here. Many of them have done wonders for the place but they do cause immense disruption to the traffic. In response to a complaint this week about the latest mess, the council replied, in effect, that people should like it or lump it as works are scheduled until 2010 or 2012. Everyone here knows this margin of forecasting error is unlikely to be correct and that we’re really talking about something like 2015. It’s enough to make one wonder what lies behind all this expenditure.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

El Pais is dismissive of what it calls the ‘ludicrous’ claim in yesterday’s El Mundo about the evidence-laden backpack not initially recorded as being on one of the trains blown up in March 2004. ‘It’s only too easy’ it stressed ‘to imagine any number of simple errors which could have led to discrepancies in the recording of witness statements’. Unfortunately, this is only too true. But I guess the police are never going to say ‘We weren’t being criminal, just as inefficient as ever’.

In contrast to the snow and ice of the UK, we’re experiencing temperatures in the 20s. These have naturally allowed the women of Pontevedra to give us a hint of the likely fashion for the real summer. This turns out to be skimpy tops, plenty of bare midriff and tight jeans. So, much the same as last year/decade. Except the jeans are knee length and finished off with either stiletto-heeled boots or long socks with flat shoes. God knows what it would take to get a young Spanish woman into loose trousers. Certainly not the allegedly tyrannical fashion industry. As I always say at this point, this is not a criticism; just an observation.

I received an odd bit of spam today. It purported to be from a woman seeking an au pair job in Madrid but I have my suspicions. An extract from her CV:-
Mother tongue?
- Portugues
How good is your English
- Good
Do you speak any other language?
- Spain (Fair)

Quotes of the Day

There is no opinion, however absurd, which men will not readily embrace as soon as they can be brought to the conviction that it is generally adopted.
Schopenhauer, quoted by the writer of an article on the superstitious beliefs about climate change.

As France shrinks further into its protectionist shell and declines to address issues key to it long-term future, the question arises – Is the country actually governable?
Me, after reading about the student riots against measures aimed at increasing their employment prospects.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Another allegation today about irregularities in the investigation into the Madrid bombings of 2 years ago. This time the suggestion is that a backpack loaded with unexploded explosives was not, as the police claimed, found on one of the trains just after the explosions but was placed there later. Curiouser and curiouser.

After buying a small battery today – and chatting about Liverpool and London in the process - I was offered a free gift by the shopkeeper. As this was a cigarette lighter, I smiled and told him I didn’t smoke. As soon as I’d said it, I realised this was the wrong thing to have done. He was doing me the honour of establishing a ‘personal’ connection - something of paramount importance in Spain - and I had insulted him. He drove the point home with a terse comment that it didn’t matter I wasn’t a smoker; the offer was ‘symbolic’. And I’d thought it was simply because he’d charged me 50% more than last time.

Well, regular readers won’t be surprised to hear the superfluous indents in the verges at the accident-waiting-to-happen are already being used in exactly the way I expected – as illegal parking spaces. Needless to say, this does nothing to ease the flow of traffic through the roundabout but nobody seems to care, least of all the police. I suppose things will change when it becomes possible to easily sue someone here after an accident. But then we’ll have a far worse problem – a plague of lawyers.

I see Spain’s Fernando Alonso won the first F1 race of the season in Bahrain because he was one second faster than Schumacher getting out of the pits. When the drivers are defying death at such high speeds, can there be anything more ridiculous than reports that their mechanics are pumping iron so as to increase the speed at which they can then pump gas and fit tyres? If the cars and drivers are so equal, why not remove them from the equation and confine the event to activities in the pit lane? It couldn’t make it less exciting.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

After a long period of agreed silence, the Spanish are beginning to talk openly about the Civil War and its attendant atrocities. I guess it was inevitable someone would demand an apology from the German and Italian governments for the support given to Franco. What next, I wonder. An apology from God for creating the Devil?

Racism is still a feature of Spanish football but it’s encouraging to see the criticism its now getting in the media. Relatedly, Spain is reported to have around 650,000 of Europe’s 3 million gypsies. Generally speaking, they're not well regarded, though the truth is 80% of them are said to have been assimilated into the country’s middle class. Sadly for me and my neighbours, we have some of the other 20% living nearby in squalid shacks on land granted to them by a local marchioness. Given their tendency to disregard civic laws and norms, it’s a little hard to take a positive view of their life style. Especially, when they come begging at the door.

A radio station owned by the Catholic Church stands accused of providing fraudulent data to the organisation that monitors audience numbers. The initial response was it was just an investigative exercise, aimed at showing how the process was open to manipulation. I guess this would have been more plausible if the confession had been volunteered before exposure rather than after. This is how things were done when I was a Catholic.

I was going to write that the positive side of Spain’s obsession with paper was that the photocopy shops are not just vital but also extremely efficient and cheap. Plus the one I use features two of the loveliest young women in town. But, in one of God’s little cosmic jokes, only one of these was working yesterday and I had to wait almost 10 minutes for my single copy. Still, it had its compensations. Or half of them, at least.

The raves in Spain . . . Next Friday will see attempts by the young of several Spanish cities to congregate in the largest numbers for the purposes of downing the greatest number of bottles of something alcoholic. Given the noise and mess the normal Friday night botellón causes across the country, this should be quite an event. Though not one many of us over 25 are looking forward to. Probably a night to stay home and knit some socks.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I have two dogs – Ryan, my border collie from the UK; and Litteldog, a small terrier-like thing who was abandoned in the forest and, as a result, eats as if she’s on the point of being starved to death. I am not very sentimental about their feeding needs and so buy the cheapest dry food available. As I was doing so in the supermarket tonight, I was rather surprised to be approached by a young lady with a free bag of a new premium-priced product and a feeding bowl. I pondered briefly about telling her that, in view of the low-price product in my trolley, this didn’t seem like a bright marketing strategy. But then I just thanked her and took the freebies. Sometimes the lack of acute commercial instincts can play to one’s advantage in Spain. The dogs may get crap food but at least they now have a lovely bowl to lick dry.

Quotes of the week

Civil partnerships are intended for homosexuals but, of course, the tax authorities can’t insist the partners actually have sex. This means anyone can form a civil partnership with any unmarried person of the same sex, so long as he/she is not a close blood relation. So the smart thing to do if, for example, you are a widow and know you are dying, is to have a civil partnership with the woman who is engaged to marry your so and leave her everything tax-free.
An article on the workings of the UK inheritance tax

Is not the worthlessness of what we do the secret fear that unites all scribblers?
Some writer or other.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Valencia has an annual fiesta which involves the creation of numerous large ‘satirical’ mannequins which are paraded and then burned. Given Spain’s colourful history, it’s normally a racing certainty some of these will be irreligious and some will depict Moors and Arabs. But not this year, apparently. The participants are said to have to have imposed some discipline upon themselves so as to avoid upsetting Muslim sensitivities. Out of respect? Or fear?

If you’re flying with Iberia on a late night flight, you might like to know that, if it’s ‘delayed’ and you are put on the first flight the next morning, this doesn’t count as a cancellation. So you won’t be compensated in any way. There seem to have been rather a lot of such delays recently. Some cynics have gone so far as to suggest there’s a deliberate policy operating here, when flights are not full. Surely not. Would any company today really treat its customers in such a cavalier fashion?

Speaking of Telefonica - With my March bill came 1. Yet another [highly profitable] increase in the fixed charges, and 2. Loudly trumpeted advice that – compulsorily – they will henceforth be charging by the second for calls to mobiles. Hidden away in the Notes is the information that the fixed ‘set-up’ cost of each call will virtually double. This must mean that for short calls – e. g. to an answerphone – the cost will now go up. Very considerably so if you’re paying a low rate under a contract.

You wouldn’t have thought so from looking at them but Spain has the oldest fleet of cars in Europe. More than a third are said to be older than 10. The government of Madrid has decided to do something about the emission problems this entails and, from 2008, will ban cars more than 13 years old. By 2010, the limit will be 10 years. I wonder if this will impact on the surprisingly high price of second-hand cars here.

An interesting quote from an article in Prospect Magazine on the devolution of greater powers to Scotland and Wales under the changing UK constitution – Will Scotland support stronger powers for Wales? Or is the dynamic of devolution an envious one, a game of leapfrog in which the Scots seek permanently to keep one step ahead, as we have seen happen with the vanguard regions in the historic nationalities of Spain?

So the EU ban on importing beef from Britain has now been lifted in full. I wonder if the French will take any more notice of this than they did of the 1999 partial lifting. Or whether the EU Commission will, this time, fine them if they don’t. As if.

Another drunken ‘kamikaze’ driver was arrested on Tuesday, after driving 12km the wrong way down the A6 north of León in the small hours of the morning. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll surely know by now this is the time of day to stay well away from Spanish roads.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

An extra post today. Don't miss the first one, below the photo…..

The accident-waiting-to-happen is almost fully finished. Within minutes of it becoming operational, I took this shot of a truck and a bus doing exactly what I forecast weeks ago - Ignoring the lane that would take them into an inset in the verge they couldn’t hope to negotiate. What fun lies ahead. And to think that the rationale for the roundabout is to slow traffic on this road so as to reduce accidents!

Since the dreadful Madrid bombings of 11 March 2004, a whole series of bizarre allegations has come out of the government’s investigation into the tragedy. The latest is that a car found in June 2004 near the scene of the explosions had been planted there by the security forces to implicate someone already under arrest. At least, I think this is what’s claimed. But, as with an earlier allegation of police corruption around dynamite stolen from a mine in Asturias, the details are more complex than the plot of a John Le Carre novel. Someone will surely make a film of it all one day. Less likely, I fear, is that the truth will emerge.

Optiline is another of the easy credit companies that monopolise daytime TV here. Needless to say, all of these use premium phone lines, making it a no-lose situation for them. Either you get a loan and pay astronomical rates of interest or you don’t but run up a massive bill during the rejection process. Or both. Perhaps it’s all nothing but a phone scam and no one’s got any money to lend at all. So, before the bubble bursts, I’ve registered a new company – SukaCash.

My [Basque?] friend, Aleksu, tells me Navarra already is part of the Basque Country. Which might come as a surprise to the vast majority of the world’s cartographers. And if it were, I wonder how the Basques would feel about the bit that regards itself as Spanish bombing its way to partition and succession.

My Galician friend, Acedre, tells us the version of Gallego used in the placard shown yesterday is ‘Galego reintegrado’, the form closest to Portuguese. According to my third friend, Theremon the Cockroach Sexer/Killer*, this is the one most favoured by Galician nationalists. Of the following classes of the language I listed last November, I guess it belongs to the third:-
1. Literary Galician. Unintelligible to most
2. Academic Galician. Also largely indecipherable. May be very similar to 1. The preserve of the Royal Academy. Taught in schools. Changes annually, I’m told.
3. Popular Galician. Understood by virtually everyone in the region and spoken by a significant percentage, albeit with major differences between provinces. And between the coast and the mountains. Doesn’t change annually.
4. TV Galician. This is a mixture of all these and is spoken by ambitious young people who didn’t start to speak the language until their 20s and so have a vocabulary and a [‘Castillano’] accent that amuse the real speakers.

Unfortunately, none of this leaves us any the wiser as to the meaning of the slogan ‘Roads have a gender too’. Anyone?

For any Brits wondering whether they really need to slay the bureaucratic dragon to get a residence card – No, as Lenox says, you don’t. But - in a country where you must carry identification - a small, laminated card is a lot easier than a passport. Once you've got the bloody thing, of course.

There are not many headlines in the Arts section of a newspaper likely to strike fear into your heart. But how about this one: - ‘Kylie Minogue – The new JK Rowling?’

* See the link on the right of the page to ‘An Spaniard in UK’.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Today is the International Day of Women. In Spain it coincides with the introduction of a new statue entitled The Law of Equality. This is aimed at closing the considerable gap between men and women here. As the father of two daughters – one of whom works in Madrid – I can only say Not before time. For, against whatever parameter you care to chose [except longevity!], women come a poor second here. The headline-catching deficiency is in pay, where women take home 40% less than men. Scarcely credible as it seems, this is said to be for the same work and not just a national per capita average. It may well explain a statistic I read last year, viz. that most of new jobs in the previous 12 months had gone to women, usually on easy-to-terminate short contracts. Meaning, by the way, most of those jobs which hadn’t already gone to even-cheaper ‘foreigners’. Altogether, it doesn’t look as if it’s earnings growth which is pushing Spain’s inflation to levels way above the EU average.

I’ve previously posted a picture of an excellent bit of urban statuary in the centre of Pontevedra. This features the city’s eminent writers, musicians and artists. All of these are men but there are two empty chairs. Fittingly, today these were occupied by cut-outs of women contenders for the honour..

I have some difficulty with the placard. It seems to say ‘Roads have gender too’ in Galician but may not. ‘Ruas’ doesn’t feature in my Galician dictionary and the word for ‘too’ is ‘tamén’, compared with ‘tambén/também’ in Portuguese. I’m sticking my neck out here but it looks to me like a mixture of Spanish and Galician. ‘Castego?? One of my Galician readers might like to help me out on this. Perhaps whoever it is who posts comments in Gallego.

One wearisome similarity between the UK and Spain is that you can’t switch on daytime TV without being bombarded by ads for easy credit. My guess is these relentlessly represent about 90% of the total, featuring such companies as Credial, Cuentaexpres, Cuentahora, Creditagil and Imagine. Mind you, it’s not as irritating as watching the Sky News presenters going through their pathetic comedy routines. At the moment, the two main readers are Irish. Can one imagine French newscasters dominating a Spanish channel? Or – even more surreal – English newscasters fronting an Irish station? Sometimes one can have too much equality. But I suppose it’s fair revenge for centuries of Irish jokes.

Warning – If you were bored by my moans yesterday about Spanish bureaucracy, you should stop reading now for today…… Although I went on at length yesterday about my tribulations in getting my residence permit renewed, I didn’t actually give all the details. When I got to the 3rd bank with the papers retrieved from the police station, they told me one of the 3 copies of the form was missing and suggested I photocopy the one they gave back to me. I didn’t but raised the issue with the clerk at the police station. She thought for a second about sending me out to get this done but then kindly volunteered that, as it was all her fault, she’d do this herself on their copier. Taking the incident as a whole, it’s an excellent example of how complexity and inefficiency feed on themselves and each other to make a monster. The request for a residence permit which is my undeniable right as an EU citizen involves an application form, several photos, numerous photocopies, and two separate [but small] tax payments, each of which has 3 forms to support it. And on top of visiting the police station several times, one is compelled to go to the photographers, the bank and the photocopying shop at least twice. So there are numerous opportunities for errors and document losses. And then there’s the fact it’s in the interests of the clerks to extend the process so as to justify their jobs. All in all, it’s more a miracle when nothing goes wrong than a surprise that when it does. But here’s the Spanish rub, no one here seems to care about the time wasted or to be driven by any desire for simplicity and efficiency. Not even the ‘customers’.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

On today’s early TV news we were treated to the sight of umbilical cords being cut, frozen corpses being lifted into a helicopter and what was left of a car and its driver after it had crashed into a statue at high speed in the middle of Madrid at 4am this morning. Is it any wonder Spaniards leave their breakfast until mid morning?

Spain’s 17 Autonomous Communities comprise 14 regions and 3 ‘historical nationalities’, viz. Catalunia, the Basque Country and Galicia. Very soon there’ll be a further distinction. In the Preamble to its new constitution, Catalunia will be referred to as a ‘nation’. And on the horizon, currently no bigger than a man’s hand, there’s the possibility of another change. The political arm of the ETA terrorist organisation has hinted that the price of peace could be to allow the Basque Country to annex the adjacent region of Navarra. In any other European state this would be preposterous but who knows in today’s fissiparous Spain, where tribalism appears to be increasing, rather than declining. I blame the EU.

I was boasting yesterday of cleverly saving myself an extra trip to the photocopy shop and the police station as part of the long process of getting my residence card renewed. Today they called me to advise that the bank where I’d gone to pay the taxes hadn’t charged me the right amount. Since I’d already visited two banks in order to make this payment, it meant a third to rectify things. And all to pay the paltry sum of 14 euros. Plus two extra trips to the police station, first to retrieve the papers to take back to the bank and then to give them the receipt they should have had yesterday. This makes five trips there so far. And mine is the simplest of cases. When I lived in the Far East, I called this sort of thing The Random Equaliser. No matter how much you try to beat an inefficient bureaucratic process, it will always win. And Spain has a lot of inefficient bureaucratic processes. Needless to say, this incident has not served to improve my opinion of Spanish banks. Or of the clerk at the police station who went through my papers yesterday without noticing anything amiss. Coincidentally, I see the latest slogan of the Spanish Tourist Board in the UK is ‘Smile, you’re in Spain’. Yes, well. Tomorrow maybe. When this flea bite stops itching.

In Spain, every high street has at least one Gestoría. These are agents who act for people with more money than time who prefer not to get sucked into the Byzantine workings of the various bureaucracies. I guess, if I had a full time job, I’d have no choice but to pay one as well. It would be nice to think that Gestorías will eventually fade away as Spain continues to modernise. But I have my doubts. Against that, John Hooper points out in his book The New Spaniards things were a lot worse 20 years ago. So let’s be positive…..

Insults corner: The Secretary of the governing party has called the leader of the opposition a mere figurehead on the prow of a ship being piloted by the powerful duo of the ex-President of the party and its octogenarian founder, our Galician friend Mr Fraga. This is probably just a clever way of saying he’s a liar.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The leader of the opposition party has offered a return to bi-partisan politics around the ETA terrorist and Catalunian constitution challenges, provided only that the government admits its policies todate have been mistaken. It seems unlikely he expected this offer to be seized with both hands. Which is just as well. The President’s reply was that the opposition continued to be the party of old policies and old falsehoods. Which makes a change from calling them merely rogues and liars.

Well, it didn’t take long for us to get the full Monty from the cosmetic surgery company. Just 3 days, in fact. For now, it’s admittedly only a side view of a naked woman but I feel sure we can expect further developments. Very a propos, the government has asked the media to self-regulate itself and to stop publishing stereotypical images of women. I wonder what it will do if [and when] its polite request is completely ignored.

I resumed my search for a second bar/café in Pontevedra which bans smoking this evening. Eventually, I found one which said it had designated no-smoking areas but, as every table had an ashtray on it, I was a little incredulous. While reading the paper there, I came across an ad from a firm of Madrid lawyers which guarantees to find ways for a bar of any size to evade the law and avoid the cost of making the changes demanded by it. Which made encouraging reading. I am less and less confident that my regular café will become smoke-free by September, despite being above the trigger point of 100 square metres. Presumably the lawyers can make much of this disappear.

I took another step today in the not-unpleasant-but-time- consuming process of getting my residence card renewed. On a previous visit to the police station, I had surprised myself by having too many photocopies. But this time, when the clerk asked me for something not listed as a requirement, my strategy of copying everything imaginable allowed me to comply and thus saved me yet another trip. Not just a pretty face.

The latest early-hours-of-Sunday death on Galician roads didn’t quite fit the normal pattern, as it was of a 40 year old taxi driver. Mind you, he was hit by a young man in an Audi A3 coming round the corner on the wrong side of the road.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

In the university of Vigo, more than 50% of undergraduates don’t attend the classes. They give a wide range of reasons for this but the general drift is that things are just too hard for them. So the lecturers and professors have been told to make a huge effort to make things easier. I wonder if this is unconnected with earlier reports that the university has had lower numbers in each of the last few years. Perhaps the students could write – and even mark – their own exams.

Talking of Vigo, the port there is reported to handle more fish that all of Spain’s other 28 ports put together. So some of it must surely be of a legal size.

A visitor last week asked if the Spanish police always went round in twos, whether in the car or on foot. I hadn’t noticed this before but subsequent observation suggests they really do. Unless there are three of them. In the latter case, to quote the old communist- regime joke, this might be because one can read, one can write and the other one likes the company of intellectuals….

I visited La Guardia today, which at the estuary of the river Miño that divides Spain and Portugal. As this picture shows, this is a magnificent spot.

But this is not really why I mention the place. The real reason is to record my surprise [and consternation] at finding myself at a junction where there was a telegraph pole blocking the exit. There is a large STOP sign at the side of the road but one could be forgiven for regarding this as rather superfluous. GO BACK would be a lot more useful.

This email from my daughter in Madrid merits wider exposure:-

One of the British national daily newspapers is asking readers "What does it mean means to be British?" This is from a chap in Switzerland ...

Being British is about driving in a German car to an Irish pub for A Belgian beer, then travelling home - grabbing an Indian curry or a Turkish kebab on the way - to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV.

And the most British thing of all? Suspicion of anything foreign.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

There’s an expression in Spanish - Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa. Literally translated, it means Come the law, come the deceit. My Spanish friends are a little divided about its meaning. Some feel it suggests laws are never what they seem. While others think it refers to the inevitability of loopholes. El Mundo quoted the expression yesterday with rather more emphasis, I believe, on the first option. They advised us that the text of the new law giving the government power to stop the German takeover of Endesa was different in the version published in the Official Bulletin from that in the prior version placed before the Council of Ministers. Initially, the new powers were restricted to this particular takeover but, finally, they are unfettered. Is it any surprise that Spaniards are a cynical lot?

If you come to Galicia, you’ll eventually encounter percebes. ‘Goose barnacles’ in English. They look and taste – to me at least – as repulsive as they sound. But in Spain they are a delicacy. And expensive, costing over 120 euros a kilo in restaurants here and even more in Madrid. One reason for this must be their alleged aphrodisiacal powers. But another is that it’s hard to collect them, as they grow only on rocks constantly thrashed by Atlantic waves. There are regular fatalities and the latest were two youths, drowned this week along the north west coast. This sounds callous but it does make a change from reading about road fatalities amongst this benighted age group.

Here is positively the last picture of bloody Ravachol, taken shortly before his death last night. The contentious political slogan – A pure Lerez – is written around the diplomatically furled umbrella.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The newspaper ads for the country’s leading cosmetic surgery have never left much to the imagination. The latest features a long-legged beauty in her underwear, standing [incongruously] in front of a marble fireplace. Below her – in a gallery of smaller pictures – we are offered nude breasts and buttocks. It can’t be long now before we’re treated to the fully Monty. And possibly to photos which wouldn’t look out of place in a gynaecology text book.

In Spain it helps to have a thick skin if you enter public life. Even the judiciary. A member of one of the Catalan parties – unhappy with mere ‘liar’ – has labelled the President of the Supreme Court ‘A clown, a fascist, and an uneducated illiterate’.

Ravachol Section

Ahead of the effigy burning and internment tonight, here’s another picture of our favourite parrot, set against the backcloth of the Church of the Wandering Virgin.

Roundabouts/Circles Section

Just up from the accident-waiting-to-happen is a junction which used to comprise no less than 6 streets, none of which had a right of way. This dictated caution and I never saw an accident there in over 4 years. But the council decided [possibly under a EU law which it was in their interests to comply with] that a roundabout would improve things. Especially if combined with semi-pedestrianisation. This has been a long time coming but, as you can see, there is now light at the end of the road.

One thing, at least, is clear - the traffic will only be allowed to come one way down each of the component streets. But, as of now, no one is at all sure which way. Perhaps the council isn’t either. Against that, it certainly is clear that once they arrive at the roundabout – and regardless of whether they’re going where they really want to go – the granite blocks will act as a deterrent to anyone who thinks of changing direction. There is an awful lot of granite in Galicia so some use has to be found for it and I suppose this is as good as any. But, once again, I am confident of an increase in the accident rate.

A book about the paranormal called People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It, has been voted the oddest book title of 2005 by readers of The Bookseller magazine.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Spanish President has insisted Spain is open to foreign investment but that ‘in the energy sector there must be equality under the EU rules’. De-codified, this means ‘If France can break the rules with impunity, so can we.’

I’m reminded of an article I read a year or two ago in which a senior French politician said that, if France could no longer control the EU in its own interests as it had done for 50 years, she should really leave it, rather than be subjected to rule by perfidious, free-market Anglo-Saxons and their East European allies. As of now, it seems France has opted for the midway strategy of staying in but ignoring the rules when she finds them inconvenient. This will be readily understood in Spain since, as it happens, it’s much the same arrangement as the one every Spanish citizen has with the state.

A year ago, the government set up a ‘Committee of the Wise’ to review the state television set-up. Earlier this week, a journalist member commented that nothing in Spain could compete with it for corruption. But now he’s confessed to having put his foot in it, as all he meant to say was the TV companies were excessively extravagant. Which sounds plausible, doesn’t it?

A performance artist in, I think, Belgium is outraged he’s being prosecuted because some philistines didn’t recognise that his urinating against a wall was actually a work of art. One can sympathise with him, of course, but this is the trouble with so much modern art; it’s hard to tell whether the piss is being taken. And, if so, by whom.

Everyone knows you can’t please all the people all the time. But it is possible to displease all the people all the time. And so it is with Spain’s new anti-smoking law, now into its 3rd month. The aim, of course, was to effect a wholesale change in the smoking patterns of Spanish citizenry but here’s what a survey has just thrown up:-
- More than 90% of small bars still permit smoking
- 95% of people in discos ignore the law
- Only a very small minority of large bars have so far met the requirement of providing a no-smoking area
So, roll on September, which is the deadline for compliance by the large bars.

I’ve now discovered that the political spat around Ravachol stems from the fact his effigy is adorned with the slogan ‘A pure Lerez’. This is a reference to the mayor’s campaign to rid the mouth of the river Lerez of the paper mill which is the town’s biggest employer. The opposition party, understandably, feels the celebrations have been high-jacked for political purposes. And this is a crime in Spain, where it’s just not done to be serious when it’s fun time.

You won’t actually see this slogan on the photo of the effigy I posted yesterday as I cheated and used last year’s model. That one was dressed in the colours of the town’s football team and didn’t cause any controversy. Except when Chelsea offered 30 million pounds for him.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What an empty partnership the EU really is. While the Commission whinges but stands idly by, the French government announces a list of 12 strategic industries which it won’t even let its close politically ally, Germany, buy into. And the Spanish government continues to play its part in the protectionist leapfrog that makes a mockery of the ‘single market’ goal which was the fundamental basis of the whole enterprise more than 50 years ago.

If you read this blog regularly, you can’t say you haven’t been warned. In 2005, the worst regions for pedestrians killed by cars were:-
Andalucia [pop. 8m] – 60
Galicia [3m] – 45
Madrid [6m] – 32
So, adjusting for population, Galicia emerges as the clear winner. And Vigo is the city to avoid.

The good news is that, in the 12 months to mid February, Galicia had only 50% of the average annual rainfall of the last 30 years. You might like to be aware of this if you’re reading this because you fancy the idea of moving to what the British press seems to regard as an undiscovered paradise, where the weather is wonderful.

Below are the promised pictures of Ravachol. The first is the fine bronze representation just established in one of the town’s squares. And the second is the effigy which will be burned on Friday evening, after the funeral cortege has wound its wailing way around the town. Meanwhile, the opposition party has accused the local government of using poor Ravachol for party political purposes. I can’t say exactly how as I couldn’t bear to read beyond the headline.