El Mundo this weekend published a list of the 100 richest people in Spain. Most of them, it stresses, have become wealthy only in the last 25 years. Coincidentally since Spain joined the EU. The list is headed by the founder of the Zara clothing empire but the next nine places are taken by property constructors. Given the infamous dishonesty of this sector, one is forced to ask [as, to its credit, El Mundo does] what on earth this says about Spain. Not just about the country’s morals but also about the underlying strength of its productive economy. Or, to quote, El Mundo, “It is all a reflection of a vigorous Spanish economy which has not yet moved on from crisis to find a place where its foundations are solid.”
According to my Spanish friends, one or two of the people on the list are reputed to be illiterate. But maybe this is just one of those myths that do the rounds. Or perhaps they’re extrapolating from local circumstances.
There was a letter to one of the national papers the other day, complaining that the Chinese don’t stick to the shop-opening laws. I don’t know why but it always amuses me to hear Spaniards criticising other people for not obeying rules. And my biggest thrill comes at road junctions or roundabouts when someone blows their horn at my bad driving, acquired in quick-or-dead Teheran.
We are blessed with many fiestas in this region. Most of these merit the label ‘gastronomic’. But the range is wide and some might not regard tripe, pigs’ ears, bean stew or even black bread as a delicacy. I’m reminded of someone who wrote to the Spectator magazine a couple of years ago, bemoaning the fact you couldn’t get offal and lights any more in the UK, except in one or two expensive restaurants. I suggested he came here for his dinners.