It seems the critics were precipitate in suggesting President Zapatero had no ideas on how to tackle the country’s economic crisis. The big news today is that his ministers have been relieved of their obligation to wear ties when attending to their duties. I can’t help wondering whether this is another initiative on the part of the hapless Ministress for Equality – giving her male colleagues the same sartorial rights as herself.
It’s not all bad news in the media – it’s reported today that Starbucks have had to close 600 of their outlets around Spain. It’s doubly enjoyable citing this on the Fourth of July.
There’s a Charlie Chaplin exhibition of some sort in Madrid this week. I have admit I’ve never found any of his stuff remotely funny but am prepared to accept I’m marching to the beat of a different drum from everyone else on this. Yes?
Shopping for light fittings with my daughter in Madrid, we happened upon a standard lamp in the shape of a Kalashnikov rifle. And gold plated to boot. According to the leaflet, they also came in Bedside Gun and Table Gun sizes. The brochure is, of course, fatuous but never more so than when quoting the designer . . . ‘My intent was to create objects to remind us that our state of well-being is the result of somebody dying.’ Which is exactly why I write this blog, as it happens.
Talking of shops . . . I may just have spoken too soon in praise of customer orientation in El Corte Ingles. I returned there today to get their stamp on the camera guarantee card. The woman at the Customer Service desk frowned and sent me in the direction of another desk 5 metres away on the same floor. The woman there told me I needed to go to the desk round the corner. And the woman there told me to walk another 5 metres to the desk in the camera section. Where I finally got the card stamped by the same pleasant lady who’d sold me the camera two days ago. Well - you’ll be saying – it was a special Camera Department stamp. If only, I’d reply. In fact, it was a generic stamp any of them could have applied, given that I had the receipt. So, why didn’t they? God only knows. One gives up asking. Perhaps the camera department people are the only ones who can expertly scan a receipt with their X-ray eyes to check whether it’s a forgery or not. Something as simple as that.
My lovely ladyfriend has just called to tell me – in a somewhat sceptical tone – that London is gauged to be the nosiest city in Europe. While the quietest is . . . . Madrid. Having been woken up several times last night – despite my customary earplugs – by sundry street revellers, my only reaction can be laughter. I guess it’s possible they measured Madrid levels during the dead hours of 2 to 4 of the afternoon. Or that someone had the list upside down.
Greenpeace has published a map of 10 blackspots around Spain where ‘savage urban development’ has led to coastal despoliation. As you’d expect, most of these are along the eastern and southern seaboards. Sadly, though, one of them is around Vigo. It’s still a truly magnificent harbour, though. If not quite as spectacularly natural as it used to be.
Finally, I you’re not from the north of England, you might want to log off now as this is another plug for Stuart Maconie’s book, Pies and Prejudice. A blurb on the cover says Maconie is witty and wise. I agree, while finding his obsession with the evilness of Maggie Thatcher a tad tiresome. His book is about the north of England and he starts it with the telling observation that the BBC has a North of England Correspondent but no South of England equivalent. Officially, then, the North is different as far as the British Establishment is concerned. Be that as it may, for those still with me, here are a few snippets that appealed to me. Hopefully, they’ll help to convince Spanish readers that northern folk are not like the very un-Spanish ones they’ve met in the south. Especially us wonderful Scousers:-
The creation – in the 70s – of the metropolitan authority of Merseyside confirmed what the locals had always believed; that they are different, separate, sovereign.
Just like those hoary old clichés have it – Scousers are warm and hugely entertaining, as well as, yes, devious, truculent and arrogant.
Liverpool is the easternmost city of the United States. Whereas London looks to Europe and wants to be more stylish than Milan, Paris or Rome, Liverpool emulates the brash, wise-cracking melting-pot mentality of the Big Apple.
The accent in Liverpool is not on untouchable cool but on irrepressible fun.
As I travelled round the North, I saw hundreds of everyday acts of kindness [towards strangers] and they never failed to cheer the spirit and make me quietly proud. Some of the clichés about us are true. We are friendlier and more helpful. . . . In [some] northern cities, even brawny men will address you as ‘love’ (cariño)
The idea of the North as poor and primitive is rooted deep in the national psyche. . . . There are more private swimming pools in the North than in the South.
And, finally, a shock for any Irish readers:-
The Gaelic for black is ‘dubh’ and for pool ‘linh’. Hence, Dublin is Blackpool.