Well, yes the German Lander do have Representative Offices in Brussels. So it’s the UK which is the odd man out in this case. Of course, the British government did recently try to introduce regional government but this was roundly rejected by the voters in the would-be ‘North East Region’ test case. Strangely, they saw it leading to more politicians and higher taxes. Both of which they felt they could do without.
The first week of January brings a reminder of how bureaucratic and at least quasi-monopolistic Spain can be. For we’re overwhelmed by price increases for all sorts of products and services, including stamps, road tolls, gas, electricity and phone calls. But at least they’re all in line with what’s said to be the inflation rate. Over in the UK, the train companies have announced hikes well in excess of this. According to one consumer watchdog, this makes UK train travel three times what it is in France, Germany and Spain. Remarkably, a single-station trip on the London underground now costs 6 euros, compared with little more than just €1 in Madrid. Where the service is vastly superior.
A year after the introduction of Spain’s anti-smoking law, El Pais has surveyed those bars [the vast majority] which still allow it. I doubt anyone will be surprised at the finding that very few of them have the obligatory ventilation. Nor at the observation that hardly any bars operate the ‘remote control’ system which stops under-age adolescents accessing the cigarette machines in the corner. Rules are made to be ignored here, whether they come from the quasi-federal state of Spain or the quasi-superstate of the EU.
And still on health – I see overweight people now have a new excuse to go along with genetic disposition for their predicament. It all depends, we’re told, on whether you have the right kind of bacteria in your stomach. I assume they’ll be able to buy this soon, possibly in a yoghurt containing the equivalent of 4 spoonfuls of sugar.
The most popular names for kids in the UK in 2006 were Jack and Olivia. Here in the city of Pontevedra they were Hugo and Sara. I thought these were both clothing companies but, anyway, they were followed by Pablo, David and Miguel and by Candela, Carla, Marta and Uxía. Not a single little girl was named after Princess Leonor. But this may be because her mother is the Princess of Asturias and this, to Galicians, is on another planet.