Hot foot from the UK comes more evidence of the EU-required convergence of the British and Spanish economies. Fifty pound notes are being minted in ever larger quantities and then disappearing from view. The Bank of England fears the black economy is growing and the notes are being used for non-taxed wages and ending up in Poland. Who’s to say? In Spain, of course, it’s the 500 euro note which is associated with our ‘submerged economy’. Things like this are done on a larger scale here. Currently at least.
With the exception of Red Ken, the media-savvy mayor of London, it’s exceptionally rare for any regional politician to achieve national notoriety in Britain. I’d bet a lot of money no one there knows the name of, say, the mayor of Birmingham or the head of the Cheshire County Council. By contrast, in this country of a hundred presidents, many of the men and women who head the regional governments regularly appear in our news. Usually after they’ve picked a fight with Madrid - a depressingly frequent occurrence. And they dominate the pages of the numerous local papers. I guess all this reflects the greater devolution of power in Spain, not to mention stronger local identities.
Much as it pleases me Spain is less a victim of rampant commercialism than the UK, it always discomforts me to read the national or local government has made some new pronouncement about the days or hours at/on which shops can remain open. So I found myself in sympathy with a lady who wrote to El Pais last week saying things should be liberalised and the shops left to decide whether they wanted to open on Sundays or public holidays. Mind you, I couldn’t quite accept her rationale that, if this wasn’t done, the Chinese would end up dominating the commercial life of the country. Racist? Us?
And talking of Spanish customs, I also found myself agreeing with the letter-writer [perhaps the same one] who called last week for some sanity around the Spanish working day. He/she railed against the long hours, stressing that a 2 to 3 hour lunch was hardly essential. Nor four peak-hour traffic jams per day, I’d add. Just think of all that carbon.
I went to see the film Infamous in Madrid on Saturday night. Of course, it wasn’t called Infamous in Spanish but Story of a Crime. Why? Presumably because someone didn’t think a simple translation would be sufficiently job-justifying. But perhaps there’s another explanation that someone can let me in on.
And on Sunday, we went early to the Camden Market in La Latina. Just us and tout Madrid, even at 11 in the morning. Eventually we gave up on getting into the alleyway where the stalls were located and – after an excellent glass of white wine brought by the world’s most inefficient waiter – went for lunch at the Posada de La Villa in nearby Cava Baja. This place has a Michelin rating and one of the world’s most impressive head waiters. So your bill won’t be low. But the value for money will be high. Especially if you have their roast lamb.
Talking of food, I mentioned last Thursday I’d had an excellent Wednesday evening with Spanish friends. Later that day came the realisation [again] that eating shellfish isn’t always an unalloyed pleasure. And said realisation is still with me, as it was during three days in Madrid. Plus it started to rain not long after we re-entered Galicia last night. Thank-God the sun’s shining today. So I won’t get wet taking my tax declaration to the Hacienda’s offices.
Finally, does anyone understand what’s going on in Navarra around the formation of the new government? Or why the government of the Balearics will remain, I think, in the hands of a ‘luxury-loving’ woman whom all other parties have accused of corruption? The answer appears to be that, despite this, each of them is prepared to form a coalition with her. Strange bedfellows again, I guess. With a Spanish flavour.