Thursday, October 25, 2007

In his detailed response to my list of Positives about Spain, reader Xoan-Carlos criticised the Spanish working day, rightly stressing it plays havoc with the work-life balance. For those that don’t know, this is because the day is split into two chunks, separated by a long, main-meal break at what in most other countries is known as mid afternoon but here is ‘midday’ [1.30/2.00 until 4.30/5.00]. Just one of the problems with this is that the 4th traffic jam of the day can be at 9pm, with one or both parents not getting home until 10. I mention this because the Galicians have just been polled on what they’d prefer and a whacking 74% say they’d rather have the traditional civil servant [funcionario] timetable of 8 to 3. I guess one advantage of this is they’d still have their main meal at the normal-ish hour of 3.30. This conclusion is supported by the fact only a meagre 3% opted for the traditional European day of 9 to 5. Presumably, this is because, at best, they’d be forced to have a quick lunch or, at worst, a sandwich. And at a hour which they regard as mid-morning coffee time! If the majority preference came to pass, this would, of course, simply mean that Galicia/Spain would move from one unique timetable out of kilter with the rest of Europe to another one. But I wouldn’t rule this out. After all, Spain is different. And maybe this is compulsory. One thing’s for sure, an 8-3 timetable fits rather more with the priority of personal convenience than with that of international compatibility/productivity.

The leader of the Spanish PP opposition party recently remarked, in effect, that global warming is perhaps not the most important problem facing the world. The poor man made things worse by saying he’d learnt this from his scientist cousin. What he’d failed to realise was that, with multiculturalism now officially dead, the world has a new religion. And any degree of doubt or scepticism [or even common sense] is treated as heinous heresy, possibly worthy of being burned at the stake. Even in a country which is handsomely exceeding its Kyoto emission targets. And where per capita energy use is the highest in Europe.

Up in Catalunia, there is tremendous disruption on the local railways. Ironically, the cause seems to be much-delayed work on the AVE high-speed link from Madrid. Given the nature of Catalunian politics, this is a God-sent opportunity for the traditional blame-game. As my fellow blogger John Chappell puts it - It's Day 3 of Operation Traffic Disaster in Barcelona, with the commuter trains still down and huge traffic jams on the highways leading into the city. The Socialist Generalitat [local government] is blaming the Socialist central government, and the central government is blaming the allegedly pro-PP [opposition] contractors, while the Cataloonies as usual blame some kind of sinister Madrid conspiracy to keep Catalonia down.

Actually, there’s a Galician connection with all this. Somehow, the problems in getting the AVE line through a mine en route from Madrid to Santiago has impacted on the capability of the company which is failing to construct the line up in Catalunia. But I couldn’t begin to guess exactly how. I do know that the Galician president has dismissed this as unjust, diversionary scapegoating. Which it might well be.

Spanish newspapers yesterday headlined that Spain was near the bottom of the European list as regards healthy living. Needless to say, the UK was even lower and a Scandinavian country [Sweden] was top of the pile. What was astonishing is that Portugal came second, ahead of Italy. Even more surprising was the claim that only 28% of Spaniards smoke. If so, they certainly make up for the 72% who don’t.

It was also reported that the Spanish do well when it comes to eating vegetables. Not in the country's restaurants they don't

Galicia Facts

84% of Galicians between the ages of 18 and 24 live with their parents. This is one of the reasons given by Ben Curtis for the [alleged] absence of noisy all-night parties in Spain. Kids can only throw these when they live in their own place.

The Galician city of Ferrol hasn’t figured much in this blog over the last 3 or 4 years but here’s the second mention in less than a week - In Ferrol you can get traffic fines annulled by exercising your constitutional right to receive notifications in Spanish instead of the Galician preferred by the local council. This is because the council claims it’s incapable of making a translation. Odd but potentially useful.

Talking of Galician cities - I fancy I read recently that Ourense is the coffin capital of Europe. Can anyone confirm this?

Final question - Can anyone [Biopolitical?] explain why, over the last 10 years, the prices of clothes have fallen by 52% in Ireland and by 47% in the UK but by only 3, 6, 12 and 13% in Italy, Spain, France and Germany, respectively? My confusion is increased by the claim that restrictions on cheap Chinese imports were greatest in the UK. Can this really be true?


Anonymous said...

Competition and lack of bureaucracy is the answer to your question on clothes. Both Britain and Ireland have dynamic economies where it's quick and easy to set up businesses. This means more businesses and more competition. The result is falling prices. Another possible factor could be more effective cartel and punishment of corruption and price fixing.

Anonymous said...

quote -- It was also reported that the Spanish do well when it comes to eating vegetables. Not in the country's restaurants they don't

I don't know. There are a lot of dishes involving beans and pulses.

Maria said...

You are quite right Colin, we don't usually eat vegetables in restaurants. We eat them at home, as a first course, as espárragos con mahonesa, (in restaurants too), or as part of dishes like Potaje Gallego, (berza/grelos), Lacón con grelos (turnip tops), Cocido Madrileño, (cabbage, onions carrots turnips, leeks plus chickpeas), Escalivada in Cataluña,(worth trying)soups (puré de verduras, crema de calabacín, crema de espinacas, crema de espárragos,etc. Sopa de verduras Pisto Manchego (berenjenas, calabacin, cebolla,tomate (A brit friend of mine has that for breakfast over toasted bread), sauteed like guisantes con jamón, champiñones con jamón, sauteed with garlic and paprika plus jamón or chorizo,(acelgas, spinach, repollo, etc,)or as "pastel" (of something or other), chanfaina de verduras, etc.)Pickeld too, like aubergines (Aragon area).
Calçots is a specialty in the Catalan area. Each province has its varieties.

Menestra de verduras goes either as a first course or as the evening meal, with our without ham.

Vegetables are use also as part of a french omelette or scrambled eggs, asparagus and mushrooms mainly, sometimes onion. Also tortilla paisana.

Peppers go a bit everywhere.

Stuffed, as cabbage leaves, aubergines, zuchini or onions,peppers, even larger mushrooms.

And more I cannot remember now. A look at any recipe site will give you more ideas. With pulses, beans and chickpeas, salads and fruit, we get the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

Unfortunately the working schedule is often a problem, I suppose that's why the frozen vegetable counters are getting bigger and bigger.