Paying in a cheque in a Liverpool branch of my bank today, I found that the ground floor offered me little but machines, while the tellers were closeted away in a small room upstairs. This could hardly contrast more with Spanish banks, which still invest in people in order to give the personal and face-to-face element demanded by Spanish customers. The problem is that humans are not only more expensive than machines but also more prone to error. This is a double whammy but I doubt Spanish bank clients would want it any other way. It will be interesting to see whether Banco Santander re-introduce it into the Abbey National, though I’m not holding my breath.
The 22nd [or twenty-twoth] of December brings us Spain’s humungous national lottery. A survey published today suggests more than 60% of the population would prefer the prizes to be quoted in pesetas, rather than euros. Presumably it’s easier to get your head round billions than mere millions. The good news is this preference is shown by only 40% of young people, against 80% for senior citizens.
The recent rains about which I complained so much caused severe damage to several of the region’s best shellfish beds. Thanks to the gluttonous custom here of eating four huge meals of seafood within a singe week, it’s customary for the prices of these products to quadruple around now. But this year one variety of hard-to-get clam is said to be selling for a record 123 euros a kilo. Or 40 quid a pound.
One of the reasons prices soar into the stratosphere is that Galicians touchingly believe their local produce is vastly superior to anything that can be imported from, say, Thailand, Brazil or Cornwall. So they pay way over the odds for the stuff which isn’t shipped to Madrid. It’s hard to credit that only 50 years or so ago shellfish was disdained by everyone here but the poorest of the poor, in a very disadvantaged region. Especially the repulsive and now ruinously expensive percebes, or ‘goose barnacles’. But, of course, they are an aphrodisiac. Honest.