A commentator in El Pais yesterday expressed satisfaction that, although immigration is an increasing concern here, the country is fortunate in not having an extremist, xenophobic party generating hatred. Very true but I was a bit shocked recently to happen upon a web site where Galicians, Basques, Catalans and ‘Castilians’ poured the most awful bile on each other. Who needs foreigners, I thought - recalling Trevor’s citation the other day of Franco’s alleged remark that “Spain is like a sack of rats. Kick them and they bite each other”.
A British politician wrote last week there’d be the usual phoney dance ahead of the signing of the new EU treaty/constitution. This, he forecast, would involve claims tough negotiations were taking place in respective national interests. Even though the political elite had already reached consensus on everything, regardless of the views of their electorates. Sure enough, the UK press is now reporting Tony Blair has already signed up to everything, whereas the Spanish media has it that he and his Polish oppo are blocking agreement. My guess is everything will be aright on the night. And Tony Blair’s last act as Prime Minister will be to leave his successor with the huge challenge of explaining things to the sceptical British public. This will surely be a real test for his claim there’ll be no spin on his watch.
Whenever I’m compelled to defend myself against the accusation I’m too harsh on Spain, I always stress my regular comment that Spanish society is far more sane than Britain’s. So here’s an example of why I take this view:- “When I let my eldest son go to the toilet on his own on a train, less than 20 ft from where I was seated, the guard lectured me on my irresponsibility. When we go to the park there are signs in the playground saying that parents may be prosecuted if they leave their children unsupervised. And at the swimming pool (where as children we spent half our holidays dive-bombing each other, without a grown-up in sight) there must now be an adult for every two children. It is insane”. As regular readers will know, I attribute this to the baleful influence of Britain’s egregious, sensationalist tabloid press.
And for a positive view of Spain, here’s Victor responding to an article in today’s Telegraph about the appalling delivery service of the Comet chain in the UK – “Come and live in Spain where the customer is still king. When they make a delivery promise here, it happens. Remember the days when we used to laugh at 'Johnny foreigner'? Now they laugh at us and nobody in the UK has yet realised the way things have changed”. I must find out where he lives.
Car parks in Spain were recently obliged to start charging by the minute. Santiago airport is now conforming with this law but has found a clever way to mitigate the impact on its profits. The machines tell you what your change is but don’t give it to you. Probably just a temporary blip. But you might not want to put in a 5 euro note for a 50 centimo charge.