Thursday, September 20, 2007

Walking into town at 1 o’clock yesterday, I passed five estate agent offices. Only one of them had a client and I guess she may have been a friend popping in for a chat. Maybe everyone is using the internet these days, even in this verbal society. Or perhaps – like the static cranes on many of the building sites – this is a sign of the changing times. As is the fact that shops that close are no longer converted overnight into bank branches or yet another inmobiliaria.


In the mid 60s – after thirty years of stultification under Franco – Spain was considerably less developed than most of the rest of Europe. Now it’s the world’s 8th economy and a modern, vibrant country with the highest rate of growth in the EU. But development this rapid can never be even and the result is one sometimes feels one’s in the 22nd century and sometimes in the 19th. Occasionally at one and the same time. As an example, the Voz de Galicia has been running articles on the difficulties faced in getting your super-duper, most-modern-in-the-world identity card. For this it’s necessary to go to your local police station and get in the queue well before the 9 o’clock opening time, sometimes, the paper says, as early as 5am. The Voz labelled this a ‘Third World system’ and described the appointment system as ‘archaic’. One disenchanted observer – not me – felt it was paradoxical that the application and production processes for such a technological advance belonged to another era. OK, it was a Nationalist deputy who said this, asking - quite rightly - why things couldn’t be decentralised. Which is something I’ve asked many times about the Post Office.


If you want to know the price of the Kia Picanto in the UK, you go to the company’s web site and, after a couple of clicks and about 3 seconds, your get ‘From ₤5,995’. Try to do the same thing on Kia’s Spanish site and this proves both time-consuming and impossible. Unless I’m doing something wrong, the best you can achieve is to register your details and apply for information or get the location of your nearest dealer. So, the question arises – It is actually illegal in Spain for price data to be supplied on the internet or over the phone? Or is it a refection of a different approach to customer service? I ask this because of the experience related above and also because of the August 16 post to this blog. Perhaps some of my anonymous commentators could do something useful and answer this question for me. Preferably without the personal abuse. If that’s possible.


In a recent podcast, Ben Curtis of Notes from Spain reviewed changes in Madrid since his arrival 9 years ago. One point he makes is that the Spanish equivalent of youthful binge drinking – el botellón – has been effectively suppressed there. In contrast, here in Pontevedra it gets bigger by the week. And the participants younger. The authorities seem to lack the will to take harsh measures but are said to be considering trying to persuade the kids to take their Friday and Saturday raucous all-night revels somewhere else. The football stadium perhaps. Meanwhile, though, in one of the strangest municipal initiatives I can recall, they’re going to conduct a survey among the participants themselves on where they’d like to be moved on to. Let’s hope it’s distributed before they’re too drunk – or ill – to read and complete it.


Checking – as you do – links to my blog, I saw that a Spanish reader had suggested* my pedantic and controversial comments are aimed at maximising what he suspects is an already sizeable income via Google ads. I nearly wet myself laughing. In almost 5 months, my earnings have totalled 50 dollars, or 35 euros. This wouldn’t even get me one menú del día per month down in town. And Google don’t fork out until you get to 100 dollars. So, not exactly the big time and I could probably survive without it.


There may be room for discussion on this but the writer feels my obsessions are nationalism, corruption, bureaucracy, Spanish society and neighbours whom I regard as ignorant and bad mannered. I take objection only to the last cited. What I complain about is their inconsiderate noise and I go out of my way to stress that Tony is certainly loud but also ‘nice’ and that Amparo is not even noisy. Anyway, the Labels I use may give a semi-objective indication of my obsessions and the top 10 turn out to be:-

Galicia Facts + Galician weather 157

Spanish Culture 114

Nationalism + Galician Nationalism 73

Politics 55

British Society 46

The Spanish Economy 33

Driving 32

Noise 32

The EU 32

Corruption 27

Language and Galician Language 27


So, my greatest obsession appears to be . . . . Galicia. Followed by Spanish Culture and its Economy. And my rather negative views of British society/culture rank pretty high too. OK, possibly not totally balanced but perhaps not quite as bad as some readers think. Of course, the problem is you don’t get a fair perspective just by reading a few posts. Especially if you don’t have a sense of humour and/or have to use Google to translate them.


So, please keep reading everyone. I’ve got a fortune to make.



*Para los que leen inglés, os presento a Colin Davies, un inglés jubilado de Liverpool que ha montado un blog bastante polemico. Sospecho que el tio esta sacando pasta con los anuncios google, que dependen, creo, de la cantidad de 'trafico' que pasa por el blog.
Es un pedante, aunque escribe muy bien. Lanza dardos en todas las direcciones. Sus obsesiones son el nacionalismo, la corrupcion, la burocracia, la cultura española y unos vecinos a los que el considera ignorantes y mal educados. Todo dios entra allí cada dia a darle caña, tanto en inglés, español y galego. Debe de estar sacando una pasta increible, el mamón.


19 comments:

timf said...

Some Spanish car sites give prices. I've just been checking Skoda prices in Spain and after waiting for the movie to download I eventually found the prices.

Colin said...

Many thanks.

Colin said...

Yes, very clear prices for their new small car. But 2 minutes for the opening download. God help anyone with only DUP.

Pedro J. said...

Hi Colin,

Some car makers don´t show the prices in it´s websites because there is competition between sellers and the final price you get may vary a lot.

If you can to check car prices use www.racc.es fi

Moskva11 said...

Colin,
Spain, despite all its faults, has made a remarkable leap forward in the last 30-40 years - the good times will surely come to halt pretty soon, though. I would be the first one to point out what is lacking, and what still needs to be done. But there is a strange confusion going on there about when exactly Spain's economy started to change and modernise. Allow me to be fastidiously pedantic about this (please do not try to supress a yawn or two). Fact is that Spain was devastetingly poor in the 1950's, and the gap with the rest of Western Europe was simply gigantic (despite rationing and the sort in post-war Europe). Stultifying poverty, widespread illiteracy, social backwardness of a kind last seen in Northern Europe in the 19th century, were, probably, what stuck out for any foreign visitor. However, from the late 1950' until the mid-seventies the country's economy grew at a staggering Japanese-like rate of
8-10% a year. A number of regions went literally through an industrial revolution. If in 1960, 40% of the population worked in the primary sector (hence, they lived mostly in the country side), by 1970 this figure has dropped to 23%. By 1972, if I remember correctly, Spain was already the world's 8th largest economy(or 9th or 10th, something of the like). China was then going through it's own version of Jurassic hell, and it's economy was tiny. To someone coming from northern Europe in the mid-seventies this would not have as evident as it is now, perhaps because wealth was probably very uneavenly spread, and many of the southern and mediterranean regions (and Galice) were still living in stark poverty. In the early seventies Civil engineering infrastructure was noticeably primitive, social customs had not yet been allowed to relax (as they would shortly afterwards, after Franco's death), and much of the countryside had been left behind in the sixties boom. Having said all that, (and assuming you have survived this far without falling asleep), the above does not mean I am a Franco supporter or that I see the regime in any positive light.
Moskva4

Colin said...

Pedro,

Thanks for this. Yes, I'm sure you're right but car makers have 'List Prices' everywhere in the world and it is the agents who cut them, I believe. Perhaps with some help from the manufacturer.

Moskva11,

Many thanks. Extremely interesting. I will write again later. I had thought things didn't take off until the 70's, though still under Franco. Must have another look at Hooper's 'The New Spaniards'. Not that he will necessarily be right . . .

Anonymous said...

So por esta vez e sen que sirva de precedente e "without the personal abuse" dado que entendo que pola tu idade costeche entedelo funcionamento de google.

Nuevo Kia Picanto
www.kia.es El coche que mejor te sienta, desde sólo 7.486€. ¡Pruébalo!

Anonymous said...

If you want to know the price of the Kia Picanto in the UK, you go to the company’s web site and, after a couple of clicks and about 3 seconds, your get ‘From ₤5,995’. Try to do the same thing on Kia’s Spanish site and this proves both time-consuming and impossible. Unless I’m doing something wrong, the best you can achieve is to register your details and apply for information or get the location of your nearest dealer. So, the question arises – It is actually illegal in Spain for price data to be supplied on the internet or over the phone?

I DID wet myself. I imagine this proves how reliable is all the information in this crappy blog.

Of course you did something wrong. Actually, you've done many things wrong.

Sorry for the abuse. I can't help it.

I wonder if you will be able to find the keys once you buy the car. If you don't, it will be a lot safer for the Galician population.

Alberto said...

"If you want to know the price of the Kia Picanto in the UK, you go to the company’s web site and, after a couple of clicks and about 3 seconds, your get ‘From ₤5,995’. Try to do the same thing on Kia’s Spanish site and this proves both time-consuming and impossible."

Which leads to the question: why would anyone want to buy a Kia Picanto?

And where do Korean makers find the inspiration to come up with such names for their models?

Ben said...

Love the quote on your likely fortunes from google ads... I'm also on my way to becoming a millionaire from my google ads of course... who new joining the uber-rich was so easy?!

Pedro J. said...

Moskva11 is totally right

Colin said...

Moskva11,

As I don’t have internet, I can’t respond exactly as I would like to your message but I did go back to Hooper’s excellent book [The New Spaniards] and here’s some of the things he notes in his early chapter on Spain’s economic growth:-

The late 40s were known as Los años de hambre, The years of hunger.

National income didn’t regain its pre-Civil War level until 1951

It took until 1954 to reach its 1936 level

Trade restrictions were eased in the early 50s. This succeeded in boosting industry but created a huge trade gap which depleted gold reserves, while ‘bungling’ elsewhere led to rampant inflation.

Massive [unwanted] migration to the cities ensued

By the mid 50s, Franco’s regime was virtually bankrupt.

In 1957, strategy finally changed when the [Opus Dei?] ‘technocrats’ were given control of the economy

In 1959, the Stabilisation Plan improved the economy but at the expense of considerable human misery. Emigration soared.

Dramatic growth followed, the years 1961-73 being known as the Los años de desarrollo, The years of development. The economy grew at 7% a year, per capita income quadrupled and Spain was removed from the UN’s list of ‘developing nations’.

By the time Spain’s economic miracle ended, she was the world’s 9th economic power and living standards had improved substantially.

However, all the impressive growth had been from a low base and in 1973 Spain’s per capita income was still lower than Ireland’s, less than half the EEC average and less than a third of the US average. And widespread pluriempleo [holding several jobs] meant that the Spanish had to work harder than others for their new-found wealth.

Although imports outstripped exports in the years 1961 to 1973, this was offset by earnings from tourism and by receipts from those who had emigrated, plus rising foreign investment. As a result, reserves grew.

Between 1961 and 1973, well over a million Spaniards received assistance to go and work abroad.

Spain’s Mediterranean coastline was transformed out of all recognition.

“Tourism, emigration and the arrival in Spain of multinational firms all served to bring Spaniards into contact with foreigners, thereby whittling away the xenophobia which had always been a characteristic of the Spanish”.


Back to me . . . As an aside, I wonder:- 1. how many of today’s young people here are aware of just how bad things were in the 50s and 60s, and 2. Has xenophobia disappeared?

Anonymous said...

yo no veo el post de este spanish reader por ningun lado. mamón es un poco fuerte. bribón mejor :-)

Anonymous said...

“Tourism, emigration and the arrival in Spain of multinational firms all served to bring Spaniards into contact with foreigners, thereby whittling away the xenophobia which had always been a characteristic of the Spanish”.

I can't see how xenophobia had been a characteristic of the Spanish more than any other nationality. "No Irish, blacks or dogs" anyone?

Anonymous said...

This man is amazing. He knows everything.

Now he teaches us some History. He is a living-wikipedia.

Duardón de Albaredo said...

And I was under the impression that there was some sort of Industrial Revolution in Catalonia, Basque Country, Asturias on er... XIX century, ergo 19th century ;)

Not to mention that the beginning of glorified Capitalism (the Anglo-Saxon fetish par excellence) has to be found NOT in England or Holland but in Italian towns first (Genoa, Venice) AND in Spain in the 1500s => the discovery of a New World, the trade, the first authentic (but primitive) "capitalism" = new markets, raw materials, manufactured products... At least that's Karl Marx's analysis ;)

Anonymous said...

a true sweeping statement meister.
you're all reacting to his tocapelotas stance, can't you see that? xenophobia? what's that fear of a black planet? parrochial attitudes?
pray tell us. god, I'm falling into his parlour.

Colin said...

Here´s an idea . . . . If you have problems with bits of what John Hooper wrote in is book "The New Spaniards" why not first read it and then write to him.

Here´s another . . . If it bothers you what I write, don´t read it.

And yet another . . . If you want to redress what you think is a distorted view from me, counter it with your own blog. I will happily place a link to it from my page.

Colin said...

Hmmm. On balance, I think I prefer bribón [rescal]to mamón [wanker]. But it was a close call.