Monday, May 26, 2008

More gloomy news from a report on the housing market - House prices falling as buyers go on strike; The number of housing transactions has started to fall dramatically; home owners should brace themselves for a protracted slowdown in house prices; property values have now fallen eight months in a row; end of a decade-long boom; the mood in the market at its darkest since records began; house prices "are likely to fall further"; the housing minister warns "We can't know how bad it will get"; increasing signs that the fall in house prices is starting to have a profound effect on the economy. As you will have guessed, though, this is in the UK. But there may some similarities with Spain.

Readers Richard and Duardón have both confirmed what I’ve long suspected but never checked out – the Spanish use Buenas or Muy buenas instead of the grammatically correct Buenos/Muy Buenos when responding to the greeting Buenos días. I’m grateful to them for even more of an insight into life here . . .

The British Post Office – with its vast network of urban and rural outlets – is one of those things which used to be, as they say, the envy of the world. But not now. The best bits were long ago cherry-picked by TNT and DHL and the British government is hell bent on closing down much of what is left. On the grounds – surprise, surprise – that it’s no longer profitable. Its rationale/excuse is the EU Bolkenstein Directive which calls for a free market in postal services in member states. The irony is that the home countries of TNT and DHL – Holland and Germany – have postponed implementation of this until 2013. And I suspect that in Spain only one person has read the Directive. And then promptly binned it. Which would be about as far from the UK’s gold plating as you could get.

Echoing Plato, Shakespeare [in King Lear] dismisses man as the plaything of the gods. When I’m feeling low, my preference is for Omar Khayam’s fuller take on life:-
‘Tis all a chequer-board of nights and days,
Wherein Destiny, with men for pieces, plays
Hither and thither moves and mates and slays
And one by one back in the closet lays.

Of course, old Omar didn’t really say this exactly in his original Persian but you’re tempted to forgive Fitzgerald for his rather free translation of OK’s fatalistic hymn to hedonism. Especially when he comes up with things like:-
Myself, when young, did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint and heard great argument
about this and that but ever more
came out of the same door as in I went.

Hedonism apart, this has got bugger all to do with life in Spain. But it’s raining yet again this morning and the mind wanders.

Galicia Facts

From what is said to them, foreigners living here can be forgiven for occasionally concluding that just about everyone in Spain aspires to the comfort, income and security of a civil servant position. But to get one of these you have to go through the infamous state exam system called the oposiciones. The Galician Xunta has just kicked off the process for the 39 lower-rank jobs it’s offering this year. The total number of applicants for these was 4,155 - or 107 for each position. However, this was quickly reduced to a more manageable 53, when half of the aspirants failed to turn up for the exam.

Stories about the manipulation of the oposiciones are commonplace, allegedly arising from the fact they’re locally held and locally adjudicated. But, as I have no personal experience, I pay these no heed. However, while I'm on this subject . . .

An American scholar – Kerry Ann McKevitt – is something of an authority on Gallego and has even translated Ulysses into this fine language. She would apparently like to teach/lecture here so needs to go through the oposiciones mill. Ahead of this, she’s written to the President of the Xunta to ask why she’s only accorded a job-blocking ‘Average’ grade for her language skills on the grounds she didn’t get her qualification at a Galician university. An excellent question but I wonder how accurate the answer will be.

I semi-jocularly suggested yesterday our local banks might be awash with the proceeds of drug sales. Appropriately enough, I read last night that Pontevedra province heads the national rankings for drug-related hospital admissions.

On a happier note – Our football team is once again in the play-offs for promotion to the real Second Division. They’ve achieved this in most of the 8 years I’ve been here but have always fallen at the first fence. But they drew their first match in Ceuta yesterday – despite having had to get there by camel train, apparently – and now have a good chance of proceeding further. Their most ardent supporters must be the region’s hoteliers, as they claim success would bring them an extra 2 million euros a year. On the other hand, there’s the prospect of playing a British team supported by the sort of ooliganes who’ve previously descended on Vigo to play Celta.

‘Tis all a chequer-board of nights and days . . .


Sierra said...

But the EU Bolkenstein Directive means I get letters from the UK Pensions Service via the Philipines, Malta, Cyprus, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, etc., so they always seem more exotic; and think how much "greener" they are for having clocked up all those air-miles.

Of course due to this round-tripping there is such a delay that you think your original letter has gone missing, so you send another one, and they send another reply, and that must be more economical.

Colin said...

Or at least more profitable . . .

Colin said...

Or at least more profitable . . .