Saturday, March 01, 2008

Spanish politics continues to impress with its robustness. Yesterday, the last Socialist president entered the fray and dismissed the Leader of the Opposition as ‘lazy and imbecilic’. Naturally, right-of-centre commentators see this as evidence of dirty work at the crossroads. In this case, inciting the tension which the current Socialist president admitted – into a still-live microphone – was what they needed to get their voters into the booths on voting day.

The said Leader of the Opposition countered with the claim we’d lived through “four years of theatre of the absurd” and this got me wondering how this willingness to regularly and directly insult one’s political foes fits with my theory that the Spanish don’t appreciate aggression in the form of Scouse humour. But that’s the fascination of different cultures; like people, they’re inexplicably inconsistent to those of us who aren’t social scientists. And I guess to a few of them as well.

Politics in Spain can be very local and mayors here seem to have a lot more power than their oppos in the UK. So it’s interesting to note that disenchantment with national politicians in Britain is leading to demands for more local autonomy and power. Relatedly – I’ve never seen Gordon Brown as much of a jokester but I laughed out loud at his response to the incident of the anti-Heathrow runway protesters on the roof of Parliament. “I’m pleased to note,” he said in the Commons, “that decisions in this country are taken inside this building and not on its roof.” But he, of all people, must be aware that the vast majority of the political decisions affecting Britons are taken in Brussels. And that these are ‘gold-plated’ by his civil servants much more than in, say, Greece, Italy and Spain. And, further, that there’s far more of a culture of obedience to these laws in Britain than in, say, Greece, Italy and Spain. So, is there any wonder that Brits are disenchanted with their [largely redundant] representatives in Westminster and are seeking more of a say in their lives? And who can blame them? I predict independence for at least Cornwall. Or Liverpool.

Many of the hits to this blog are men in search of brothel-related information. But not far behind are those seeking pictures of Karren Mulder. I had thought this was the specious lady doctor who appeared in the ads for dangerous products so regularly featured in El Mundo but I’ve just discovered the name also belongs to un top model. So I guess ‘naked’ also appears in the search term.

I received my bill from the huge gas company, Repsol, yesterday. Included was a slip thanking me for being a client on their 50th anniversary. Which made me laugh as I don’t actually have a choice. Which is why, I guess, the bill could incorporate a 28% price increase without any sort of explanation. Of course, I’m aware of rising oil prices but, nonetheless, it’d be good to know the company feels it has some sort of duty towards its customers. Even those with nowhere else to go. Even bloody Telefonica tells us when one of its remarkably regular price increases is in the offing. And this hasn’t stopped them – the provision of information, I mean – from becoming the most-profitable phone operator in the world. As for the price increases themselves – well, these may have helped a bit with the profits.

Galicia Facts

There was a book festival in Cuba recently and 20 people from the Galician publishing world attended it. But these were somewhat outnumbered by the retinue of 130 Xunta politicos who also felt the need to go. At a cost – according to the local press – of €1.3m. Money well spent, I’ve no doubt. Possibly on wining and dining those of the Galician diaspora who can vote in the imminent elections. And possibly not.

Given that they’re something of an invitation to those caught without one, I’ve been wondering why anyone in Pontevedra would deposit their umbrella in the stand at the entrance to each café, bar and shop. And then it dawned on me – This is a snobby town and folk are letting go of their umbrellas – just when they might need them - for the same reason ladies wear mink under the winter rain here. They’re shouting ‘Hey look at me! I’m so rich I can afford to buy a new umbrella every day.” I must put a label on mine advising that I’m not.

Finally, a plea for help. My last printer [a Canon] lasted 7 years. My new one [an Epson] didn’t even make it to 7 weeks. Or 4, for that matter. It keeps telling me there’s a paper jam, when there clearly isn’t. As I’ve already spent more than 2 hours trying to get it to work again, I’d appreciate any advice other than chucking it at Tony when he next appears in the garden below. This final option has already occurred to me. At least I’d get something for my 80 euros.


Mark said...

Epson usually offers very good customer service. Call them and I'm sure they'll change it. In fact, they make so much money from charging more per ml for their ink than vintage Champagne, they''ll be begging you to take a new one just to keep the ink sales flowing.

Colin said...

Thanks, Mark. I'm sure you're right. I'd already worked out the ink was costing me 10-20 times more than the Canon machine. I have contacted the Epson service dept in the UK but am awaiting a reply. I'd rather not have to take it back to Carrefour and have the inevitable hassle of getting them to change it. Can't wait for someone to bootleg the ink cartridge. If anyone from Epson is reading this, i don't really mean it.

Mark said...

Don't use dodgy, third-party ink cartridges with Epson. They have fixed, cold piezo printheads that can easily clog up if you use cheap ink. HP may be a better bet.

Colin said...

Thanks, Mark.

Mar said...

Dear Colin

I'm a Galician woman in Colchester, Essex, UK.

I'm afraid you ought to stand corrected. The reason why Spanish people deposit their umbrella in the stand, at the entrance of a coffee shop, bar or shop, has nothing to do with being able to afford a new umbrella everyday. We do that because we don't expect anybody will take it. Because we are able to trust on each other.

Myself, I place my umbrella in the stands of public places, and that has never meant losing it and having to buy a new one.

Why are you so biased and unfriendly to Galician people? Your comment appears to be ill-motivated.

Regards, Mar

Mar said...

And, by the way, I do regret there are no stands for umbrellas in UK shops and cafes... And I don't get it: it's not like it doesn't rain in the UK!

Mar said...

Finally, umbrellas are carried because it rains, and in turn they are quite likely to be wet... shop-owners might want to avoid the floor getting wet and customers might want to avoid making a mess... it's not so hard to understand!

Colin said...

Hola, Mar

Firstly, congratulations on not losing any umbrellas. I have lost 4. So what am I to make of this? Should I be paranoid because [you say] it never happens to anyone else?

Secondly, I am not biased/ unfriendly towards Galicians. I have numerous Gallego friends. I report what happens to me. With humour, I hope.

It was Galician friends who told me that umbrellas were always being taken from the stands. I didn't make it up.

Yes, it rains in the UK but I've never needed an umbrella the way one does here, especially in the winter. It annoys me when they are taken. And nothing you say is going to convince me they just evaporated.


PS My theory was, of course, a joke.

Mar said...

Dear Colin

I'm glad it was a joke.

I suppose umbrella-theft may happen.

Again, I must be lucky, because it has never happened to me.

Living in a society where people feel they can trust each other, is a good thing, even if not everyone is trust-worthy.

Regarding the mink-wearing-ladies: you are absolutely right, that's just showing off one's status, it's not that cold in Galicia!

Regards, Mar