Sunday, January 20, 2008

Yesterday’s Travel section in El País had a very sympathetic piece on Liverpool, the EU Capital of Culture, of course. Or one of them. A lovely chap called José Luis de Juan wrote of Liverpudlians that “They are so open and amusing, they don’t seem to be British”. For fun-loving Spaniards, this short sentence contains both the greatest compliment and the biggest insult one could possibly make about other people. He goes on to add that “The city’s elegance doesn’t obscure the working class character of the city and its hard-working and un-starchy people, who know how to enjoy themselves better than anyone else this side of the Channel”. Who am I to argue? Even if he does get his Scouse and Scousers mixed up.

I regularly say the attitude to risk in Spain marks it off from at least the UK, and possibly several other societies as well. This is not to say I endorse the British situation; I believe sanity lies somewhere unattainable in the middle. There’s been another story in the UK media this week about the excesses of the Health and Safety Executive [HSE] in respect of plastic swords in an amateur stage production. This has led one columnist to make this easy-to- agree-with comment - We hold the HSE in such low regard that we presume this story is probably true. The agency is a laughing stock, albeit a rather sinister one with despotic powers. And they only have themselves to blame. Through their bossiness - and their determination to justify their salaries to the taxpayer - they have created a climate of paranoia and excessive caution, one that has left people fretting about risks previous generations deemed acceptable. I suspect we’re at least a decade off this here in Spain. Possibly even two. Thank God.

Mr Brown has been at it again in the UK, acting as the president he isn’t. This time in respect of MPs’ salaries. As someone has written of these fine people - They should possibly be paid less but the subject has got nothing remotely to do with him. That this argument will sound rather old-fashioned to many Britons is more proof that in the New Labour years we have lost any collective understanding of constitutional propriety. It is simple: Parliament is sovereign. Its affairs are none of the Prime Minister's business. His presumptions about human behaviour are essentially statist. We know this, so we should be very wary when he blurs the line between himself, his Government, and Parliament's business. The Commons should not be the creature of Gordon Brown or David Cameron: it is ours. Too late to do much about this, I’m afraid. Especially as national parliaments in the EU have less and less relevance. Urinating against the wind is an image which springs to mind.

Quotes of the Week

In England we never mean entirely what we say. Do I mean that? Not entirely.
Alan Bennett.

Politics – show business for ugly people.

Galicia Facts

The excellent news of the weekend is that the Xunta is going to ensure we have a real commuter train service along the coast, between La Coruña and Vigo. This comes on top of the welcome assurance that the AVE high-speed train connection with Madrid really will be operating by 2012 and not, as some sceptics insist, by 2014 at the very earliest. But, hang on. Don’t we have an election coming up . . . . ?

In the UK, the best place for learning the Galician language seems to be Bangor University. For one thing, they have a Centre for Galician Studies in Wales and journal dedicated to ‘contemporary Galician studies’. This is called Galicia 21 and its first issue will appear in August this year. I fancy this is a little later than originally planned but no matter. The Contemporary Galician Studies course probably includes a module on something like Learning to Live with Delays and Waiting. Meanwhile, if you’ve been interested in this paragraph so far, here’s something really relevant - A escritora e investigadora María do Cebreiro Rábade Villar inaugurará entre o 23 de febreiro e o 22 de marzo unha iniciativa que procura a promoción da cultura e a lingua galegas no Reino Unido. Helena Miguélez, profesora galega na Universidade de Bangor, indicou que a María do Cebreiro lle van facilitar contactos coa cultura galesa, e actividades que supoñan visibilidade para a cultura galega naquel país.

Finally, lots of numbers . . .

Pontevedra may be the cheapest provincial capital in Spain when it comes to buying a flat but prices rose more, they say, in our province than in any other in Galicia last year. For the record:-
Pontevedra – 8%
La Coruña – 6%
Lugo - 5%
Ourense – 3%
These compare with a Galicia average of 7% and a national average of only 5%. All those Brits buying up in the hills don’t seem to be making much of an impact in Lugo and Ourense provinces, unless prices would have fallen without them. Which I guess is possible.

When it comes to euros per square metre for a new flat, here’s how the Galician cities rank:-
Vigo – 2241
Santiago – 2095
La Coruña – 2095
Pontevedra – 1951
Ourense – 1459
Lugo – 1383
Ferrol - 1119

And to complete this data-fest, here’s how the population figures were for the cities at the end of the year, in thousands of heads:-
Vigo – 295
La Coruña – 244
Ourense – 107 [Down]
Lugo – 95
Santiago – 94
Pontevedra – 80
Ferrol – 76 [Down by 2%]

So, for low prices and reducing demand on public services, Ferrol is your destination. Ignoring all other considerations. Which may or may not be wise. Lord Henry might like to comment . . .

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