Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Spanish government has produced plausible evidence that the American ship, The Odyssey, was treasure hunting in the Med and not in the Atlantic, off south west Britain. At the same time, the British Embassy in Madrid has said the wreck being emptied/looted was not a British galleon which went down near Gibraltar in 1694. Not surprisingly, Spain has asked for data about a flight which left Gibraltar at the weekend, allegedly full of bullion. Anti-Americanism in Spain was already the highest in Europe before this incident so can hardly be expected to fall now.

As Spanish TV is pretty dire, it would be unwise to expect its devotees to number amongst the country’s intelligentsia. I say this because viewers of one of the main channels yesterday gave us a list of the Greatest Spaniards in History which suggested, to say the least, a short memory span. Top of the list was the current king but also included, at no. 4, was his wife, who is actually Greek. And, at no. 7, his son. For what it’s worth, here’s the Top Ten:-

1. King Juan Carlos
2. Miguel de Cervantes
3. Christopher Columbus [thought by most to have been Italian]
4. Queen Sofia
5. Centrist ex President [1976-81], Adolfo Suarez
6. Nobel Prize winner, Ramón y Cajal
7. Crown Prince Felipe
8. Pablo Picasso
9. Saint Teresa [!]
10. Socialist ex President [1982-96], Felipe González

I was surprised to read this morning that Britain is the only major European country not to have separate charges for refuse collection. But I wasn’t exactly astonished to read that microchips in wheelie bins presage a change. Here, I’m billed on my water bills both for the collection and for the treatment of rubbish. As is the way here, the latter charge was introduced a few years back without any explanation. As are the annual price increases which hit us early every year. But what is really noticeable about my water/rubbish bills is that 93% of the charges are fixed. Which is a great way to maximise your profits and to force low users to subsidise the profligate. There is, of course, no competition.

Talking about lack of surprise – It came as something less than a shock to read that, 18 months after the introduction of a ‘draconian’ anti-smoking law, 85% of Spain’s bars and hotels are not fully complying with it. And that sanctions have been low to nil throughout the country.

Even more depressing to read was the report that the government is considering increasing penalties for driving offences because the points-based licence system introduced last year hasn’t had the effect it first looked like having. Actually, we were spared even this false dawn up here in Galicia, in line with the majority prediction that it wouldn’t change things much on our roads.

And to round off this bad news day – Spain is now said to have the highest divorce rate in Europe - 3.16 for every thousand inhabitants. 2006’s total of 141,817 was 51% up on 2005. But, as the top 3 regions are the Canaries, the Balearics and Catalunia, this could well be down to fractious Brits falling out with each other!

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