Wednesday, September 05, 2007

God knows how they do it but the Economist magazine has published a global Quality of Life survey which puts Spain - at 19th - one place behind the UK. Top of the charts is, once again, Norway - followed by Iceland, Australia, Ireland and Sweden. France manages only 16th - one ahead of the UK and Italy – and the USA ranks 8th. Germany doesn’t even figure in the top 20, possibly because conditions in the East drag down its overall rating. I guess we can now expect to see hundreds of thousands of Spaniards flooding north in search of a better life. Or at least a cheaper house.

Belgium is currently 12th but, by the time they do the next survey, it may well have split up into its constituent Flemish and Walloon bits. Which makes it a tad ironic that the country hosts the headquarters of the nascent EU superstate. Or does it? By the way, the Spanish for Flemish is Flamenco. Perhaps there are a lot of gypsies there.

Whenever I go on a [non-food] shopping expedition in town, it always pleases me if I achieve 50% success. It wasn’t always like this; I used to get very frustrated at whatever it is that actually makes things so unproductive. But it occurred to me today that, like the Spanish, I’ve become very phlegmatic about this. So there you have it – the British are phlegmatic about the weather and the Spanish are phlegmatic about the inefficient use of time. But, then, you don’t have to live here very long to realise the Spanish concept of time is rather different from that in northern European cultures. If this is news to you, click here and read the first page at least.

Up until the summer period – always the worst – the statistics for road deaths in Spain had shown an impressive above-20% reduction over last year. But something went very wrong in July and August and, as a result, this has slipped to 10%. The total is 1848, against 2048 in 2007, and it’s depressing to read that 300 of these arose because safety belts weren’t being worn.

Last Sunday’s El Mundo had a survey of that fantastic institution, the Spanish Menu of the Day. When I first visited Spain aeons ago, this was inevitably to the tourist spots and my experience was that waiters almost spat in contempt if you chose this option. In truth, though, it’s a high-value option for many Spaniards seeking a large meal in the middle of their working day. That said, the main courses pictured in El Mundo were largely of the fried-meat-and-chips- and-bugger-the-veg variety and, whilst I suspect most Brits would be quite happy with this, I can’t see many French being impressed with anything but the price. On this, the survey suggested the average cost around Spain ranged from around 9 to just over 14 euros. Galicia was near the top, at a little more 13. How on earth they arrived at this high figure, I can’t even begin to guess. Perhaps it was the Economist team which did the survey.

Here in Galicia, land is more precious – though not necessarily more expensive – than elsewhere. Multiple ownership of small plots is common and tales of family feuds – murders even - are legion. So I wasn’t surprised to hear this week that the reason why two cafés in prime positions in Pontevedra have been empty and in distressing decay for 3 years is that the owners can’t agree on the sale. Let’s hope they get their act together soon. Though it’s often a case of waiting for the recalcitrant member to die.

Finally, this post may coming to you courtesy of a cyber café. I lost my line for 8 hours last night and this morning it’s intermittent. I blame Telefonica. As do all my very angry neighbours, it seems. Not to mention global warming, of course.

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