There is a bizarre belief amongst Spaniards – even those who speak fluent English – that as a people they’re poor - indeed, genetically programmed to be so - at learning other languages. When you probe this, you’re told one main reason is that Spanish only has 5 vowel sounds, making the learning of a ‘richer’ language difficult. I regard this as pure self-serving baloney and an excuse for laziness but I’m prepared to be shot down in flames by anyone who can adduce hard evidence to the contrary. The challenge is to demonstrate why Spanish adults can’t master sounds at the disposal of every 3 year child born in Britain, the USA, Australia, etc., etc.
Earlier this year the government announced it was going to subsidise the rent of ‘young people’ by around €200 a month. A good pre-election move but the trouble is the regional governments are being more meticulous than Madrid wants in checking on entitlement. So the Minister of Housing has now written to the banks suggesting they ignore the niceties and just pay out anyway, on the government’s say-so. Feathers all over the dovecot, with the banks describing the development as ‘outrageous’. Which is understandable. God help us if Spanish banks ever get involved in illegal or even improper transactions.
The Spanish Tax Office [the Hacienda] says the black economy in Spain now amounts to 23% of GDP. After much thought, it’s concluded that most of the deals involving €500 notes – with which Spain is particularly blessed – are very probably fraudulent. So it’s now investigating 120,000 operations carried out with these between 2003 and 20005. It will be interesting to see what transpires.
I have to admit I’m mystified by judicial penalties in Spain. Gaol sentences can range up to 80,000 years or more for multiple murders but, on the other hand, an awful lot of fraudsters seem to get off with a slap on the wrist. The latest national case is that of the ‘Alberto’ cousins who diddled others of €24 million way back in 1988. After 20 years, the case has finally wound its way to the highest court and a gaol sentence of around 3 years has been annulled. Doubtless the legal logic is impeccable and the two guys can now get on with their service-in-the-community or whatever. And spending what’s left of the loot.
Meanwhile – up near Ourense, here in Galicia – a few families have been convicted of buying ‘protected’ properties at a discount merely as investments, having no intention of moving into them. They didn’t even purchase them for buy-to-rent purposes, as this would have involved a bit of hassle. I say ‘a few families’ but, of the houses in the development in question, a total of 33 were bought dishonestly. And probably sold dishonestly as well but that’s mere speculation on my part. Anyway, the official fine imposable for this offence ranges from 3,000 to 60,000 and they were hit with 3,014. Which they probably made in the first six months of illegitimate ownership. So that should act as a real disincentive for future potential transgressors. No?
A little postscript to my comment on the parking of cars on hills of the other day, in the form of a brief and statistically insignificant chat with a Spanish friend:-
What advice are you given as a learner here about parking on hills?
Really? So, what do you do when you park on a slope?
Are you sure? What about the hand-brake?
Oh, yes. I put that on.
And the gears?
Oh, yes. I put the car in first gear.
Well, that might be appropriate, depending on which way you’re facing. And what about the steering wheel.
Well, you’re supposed to turn it but I never do.
Blogging is best suited to instant reaction; thus it has an edge [over journalism] when it comes to disseminating gossip and news.
William Skidelsky in the Feb. edition of Prospect magazine
Finally – and speechlessly – I leave you with this report from post-Franco-just-about-anything-goes Spain . . . . El Mundo has revealed that a female prison officer working at the jail in Palma had a bit of a shock last Friday. She bumped into a prisoner leaving the women’s toilets and doing up his fly. She suspected something untoward had occurred and, on entry, found another prison officer inside. On questioning the prisoner, he confessed the officer had just practiced oral sex on him and claimed she had persuaded him to enter the toilets. If this is proved true, the prison officer will have committed the crime of sexual aggression and abuse of authority. This has a 15 year prison sentence in Spain. Which, of course, is infinity times greater than that for the peccadillo of defrauding others of €24m.
A rum country. But nice to live in. With lovely people. Except those who nick umbrellas.