Friday, May 19, 2006

Firstly – and briefly – very many thanks to all those who were kind enough to write to me. Happily, no one told me stopping my blog was the right thing to do. So I will plough on, refreshed by my break. Though I still plan to start another blog, portraying the highs, the lows and the very lows of doing a little bit of business here.

Secondly, snapshots of the last week. . .

The Canary Islands were engulfed by the largest wave yet of illegal immigrants from down the west coast of Africa. Or at least by the lucky ones who survived the journey. The opposition party naturally alleges this is all a result of the government giving resident status to hundreds of thousands of ‘sinpapeles’ [paperless people] last year. And whose to say they’re wrong? The said government has, naturally, insisted this is a European and not just a Spanish problem and demanded assistance. On this, they are surely right; if you give the illegal immigrants residence and they immediately head north across the Pyrenees, you have certainly made this a Europe problem. But you may not command much sympathy in London, Paris and Berlin.

My Italian friend, Francesco, told me he was having great difficulty getting staff for his new restaurant. When, against the backcloth of high unemployment among the young, I checked with Spanish friends as to why this should be so, there was a consensus on the main reason – young people simply don’t want to work. And don’t need to work so long as they can pretend to study and live free at home until they marry in their 30s. The next day there were reports in the media about Spain’s young people demanding that the government do something about high property prices so they could have a proper home. To add weight to this, they’d called a street protest for the next day. Naturally this was a complete failure as the lazy buggers couldn’t be bothered to turn up. Even this was too much like hard work, I guess. Still, at least they’re not as yobbish as their British counterparts. Though someone has written this is primarily because they can’t afford to alienate their parents.

In a country not exactly unfamiliar with large-scale consumer frauds, there came news this week of perhaps the biggest yet. This was the pyramid selling of shares in over-valued stamps. Many hundreds of thousands of punters appear to have been cheated out of their savings by the usual combination of lies, on the one hand, and na├»ve greed, on the other. These schemes will always flourish where lots of ‘black cash’ is swilling around looking for a white home but one interesting aspect of this scam is that it had long been declared dubious not just in one or two more regulated Anglo Saxon economies but also in next-door Portugal. The Spanish media indulged in a tsunami of complaint, criticism and accusation of all and sundry but seemed to miss the point that they’d previously not noticed this.

The other bit of really bad news was that ETA finally came out of the long grass and said, in effect, that territorial expansion of the Basque Country certainly was a precondition of their ‘permanent’ ceasefire. A familiar fraud, this one.

To lighten our hearts, there was another of those surveys about the sex life of the Spanish. This one reported that 81% of them plan their sexual activity, with 61% even setting aside a particular day of the week. I regard this as being more inaccurate than any of the previous surveys; I’ve never met a Spaniard who even knew how to spell ‘plan’, never mind do it. And all this sexual pre-thinking hardly fits well with the Spanish view of themselves as the world’s most spontaneous people. Obviously rubbish.

15km from Pontevedra, a wolf was found to have torn out the throats of 5 sheep, making 17 in total. Possibly a director of the stamp investment business, on the run and living off the land. After all, in a bout of stable-door-bolting, four of his colleagues had been summarily jailed as soon as news of the scam broke.

Petrol here in Galicia reached €1.12 a litre, against the Spanish average of around one euro. In a poor part of Spain where there is plenty of apparent competition, the word that springs to mind is cartel. But, characteristically, no one feels anything can be done about it. There are frauds and frauds, apparently. Which reminds me, I was surprised that my latest Telefonica bill didn’t contain yet another increase in the fixed cost of a line. Things are looking up. Maybe this is because the EU Commission recently came out with the not-very-astonishing news that ‘there is no effective competition in Spain’s telecoms industry’. They went on to suggest French and Italian-style government measures to remedy the situation. Dream on, chaps. Don’t suppose we’ll be seeing any Telefonica directors jailed in the foreseeable future.

Finally – and on a positive note - Spain’s current sporting pre-eminence was confirmed by victories in Formula 1 motor racing, tennis, motor cycling and then – with Barca’s victory over Arse – football. Happy times. Unless you’ve invested in some ‘high value’ stamps, of course.

Quotes of the Week

Pedestrians are guilty of the sin of over-optimism
Some police officer responsible for traffic. Good to know it’s our fault and not the drivers’

It is said that many Spanish citizens, perfectly entitled to official ID cards, prefer to buy forgeries because they are just as good as the real thing - and much cheaper.
UK commentator on the planned ID cards. Well, maybe. But as the cost is very low, I suspect the real reason is to give yourself a false tax identity so that your transactions will be misreported.


Prince Kazarelth said...

Is the wine in your hand a Gran Reserva? I have never drunk it, but they say its of exceptional vintage!

Portorosa said...

I'm really glad you've decided to go on, Colin! Welcome back.

As for the inmigrants problem, I disagree with your point of view. I think putting the blame in what Goverment did about 'sin papeles' last year is just seeing the very last branch of a huge tree... a tree that, of couse, is an European (and Northamerican) problem.


Aleksu said...

Territorial expantion of the Basque Country?

Are they asking for Gascony or La Rioja to be added to Euskal Herria?

I don't think so.

It is amazing how Americans understand so little about freedom, democracy and self determination.

And before you get on your high horse on how ETA finally came out of the long grass remember, the USA is a terrorist state currently murdering dozens of thousands of people over oil profits.

Lenox said...

Hey, welcome back.
You a 'mercan?
Hey Aleksu - Whether Navarra was part of the Basque Country or not, it ain't now.

Anonymous said...

zazpiat bat - - the seven are one. The seven seperate provinces are one , the Basque Country. Yes, Navarra is part of the equation, as are Lapurdi, Behe Nafaroa and Zuberoa, or what is known in French as Labourd, Basse Navarre and the Soule. Add these to Alaba, Guipuzkua and Biskaia, the seven are one. Because of their history, Navarricos are fiercely independent and say they are not Basque nor Spanish, but Navarrans, yet the many many people I know from Navarre go to all the Basque festivals, Basque cultural centers, and, what do you know...they speak Basque and display both the Navarrese and Basque flags on their car bumper!
If it looks like a cat and sounds like a cat and acts like a cat, well then, it must be.....a dog???

acedre said...

O do italiano que non topa xente para o traballo podo explicalo cuncaso real. Sei dunha familiar que estaba asegurada por catro horas diarias e traballaba doce e cobraba...50000 pesetas ao mes.
No sector servicios os salarios son mui, mui malos.
Un saudo.

Aleksu said...


Navarre is not part of the Basque Country, it is THE Basque Country.

Pili said...

Aha, there was me thinking you were a Scouser when it transpires that you´re really from Liverpool, New York ... or perhaps Pennysylvania?

Aleksu, lazy generalisations about Americans don´t help either. The Basques are not the only people concerned with freedom, democracy and self-determination. We need to look at the bigger picture.

Fab to see you back Colin. I´ll keep my coffee cup on the table whilst I´m reading from now on.