Monday, July 28, 2008

So, Spain's golden run of sports' victories continues with this year's Tour de France. The winner's name is Sastre, which evoked the first words of the first Spaniard I met and talked to, 44 years ago. Mis sastre es rico, he told me. My tailor is rich. This was then - and possibly still is - the first sentence in the standard text used for students of English in Spanish schools. Presumably written in the 19th century, when cultured people advised each other of such things on meeting.

What a shame that - given recent developments - few will believe Sr. Sastre's assertion that he achieved his victory without the aid of anyone or any thing. But, then, is there anyone outside France and Spain who doesn't think the Tour de France is even more boring than Formula 1 motor racing, which at least has the virtue of being over in less than two hours? Not a couple of weeks. Which feel more like a couple of years.

My impression is that even the left-of-centre El País is getting impatient at the failure of the government to announce measures to deal with the economic crisis which don't come under the heading of 'social developments'. At the weekend, the paper dismissed the plans to sell public land to developers as of September as 'especially inopportune'. And who could disagree with them?

Galicia Facts

Well, Google Alerts for 'Galicia' fails to mention my blog yet again this week. However, I did learn this from someone else's:- The reason for Galicia's seafood reputation, particularly in respect of shellfish, is the unique flavour that results from the fresh water from the rivers that create the rías and it is claimed that the cockles, mussels, octopus and squid have a taste that is unrivalled anywhere else in the world and, because of this, the price of shellfish harvested in Galicia is almost double that of the rest of Spain. Hmm. Perhaps twice the price of shellfish imported from elsewhere but possibly not that of Galician produce served up in, say, Madrid.

Hotel occupation in July is reported to be well down on last year, with visitors spending less per day than they did in 2007. Which probably explains why you can rent places by the weekend or even by the day this summer. So, this year at least, the locals will not be making their August in August. Or, at least, not quite.

The local papers report today - possibly at the instigation of the Xunta - that Galicia spends 300m euros a year on healthcare on old folk, compared with a piddling 34m in Cataluña. Translated, this means we deserve more hand-outs from the centre.

In similar vein, Galicia is near the top - an unaccustomed position - in the national rankings of payments for disability benefit. For some reason, we rank 3rd - with 45,000 beneficiaries out of a population of 3 million. Or 1.5%, against a national average of 1.25%. I imagine we'll see more and more of this statistical special pleading over the coming months.

My other [easy] prediction is that the Nationalists will be using the data to whip up a storm of dissatisfaction ahead of next year's elections. I guess I'd do the same in their position. Which doesn't make it any more appealing.

The proprietor of my favourite café/bar in Plaza Verdura tells me it will cost me 2 euros for every pigeon I kill. And looked genuinely shocked when I offered him 50 euros for the lot. Perhaps he thinks they add charm to his place. As ground-bound rats would, for example.

It's common for English names to be hispanicised when it comes to pronunciation but less frequent for brand names to be have their spelling modified. Especially mega brands. So we don't have Huver for Hoover. Which is actually a bad example as it would be pronounced 'Hooba'. However, yesterday I came across MacDonals for McDonalds but I need someone more knowledgeable to tell me whether this is Gallego or Castellano. Or just a mistake.


Sierra said...

TdF = 3 weeks + 2 days, as is 'la Vuelta' (Tour of Spain) starting
30th Aug. Nearest start/finish to Galicia this year is Ponferrada on 15/16th Sep. Obviously the Xunta tourism budget wasn't up to sponsoring a stage this year.

Graeme said...

Colin, I'm not sure whether El País is really getting impatient with the government or whether it forms part of their continuing battle for political influence. They have published some funny stuff recently and seem to be increasingly upset about Mediapro (who own Publico and La Sexta) having the kind of closeness to the government that El País and Prisa used to enjoy. It's hard to disentangle their complaints about the government from their own commercial interests.

Alberto said...

The McDonald's is sure to be a Mistake, the last "d" is difficult to pronounce to Spaniards, so most o the times is omitted. Looks like a literal transcription.

moscow said...


I am sure El Pais has it's commercial interests, but this particular spin of yours is taking things a bit too far. I mean, you make Spain look like Russia.

To the contrary, I think El Pais's disquiet is genuine, as is that of an increasing number of Spaniards.

El Pais's editorial line has always been much more orthodox (liberal) on the economy than the PSOE's programmatic discourse. And if you have followed El Pais over the years you can't have failed to notice that criticism of the government on economic issues is nothing new. It predates Zapatero. The El Pais's (now deceased) owner had a run-in with Gonzalez. Their spat led to the El Pais withdrawing it's support for the PSOE in the 1996 election. Obviously, corruption and the GAL played a role, but as Gonzalez admitted at the old man's funeral,
he was a good friend but on economic matters they often did not meet eye-to-eye.

You are right when you say that the crisis has exogenous causes, and that there is not much the government can do to sort out the situation on it's own. And the PP has perhaps contributed with some of it's policies. But Spain needs structural reforms - urgently.

Colin said...

Illuminating. Thank-you, gentlemen.

Now, if you could just be even more useful and tell me how to stop Blogger and Google using American spelling . . .

PS I've done all the Settings stuff, to no avail.

Graeme said...

Moscow, the reason I say this is not just because of this single article. I'll give another example which I almost posted on, there was an editorial a couple of weeks ago in El País which was basically about the rights to football and which was written as if Prisa was not the owner of the rights in question - in this case for the Champions League. They were complaining because of Mediapro and RTVE combining to win the rights and made very pointed remarks about the closeness between Mediapro and Moncloa - something which of course they never complained about when it was them enjoying the close relationship. What is now clear is that this relationship is no longer so cosy.

In their South American coverage they are very frequently accused of mixing commercial interest into their coverage of the continent. I like El País, its still easily the most informative Spanish paper but you do have to bear in mind with some of their reporting that it is affected by the attitude and aspirations of the parent company. Hardly a unique case, or even particularly Russian, as readers of any of Rupert Murdoch's papers could probably confirm.

Colin, I'll check whether I can see a way of solving the spelling issue.

Graeme said...

Just a thought on Colin's question - I get blogger in Spanish because my Google account has me registered as based in Spain. Check what country your account is set to. Your word verification seems to be in Serbo-Croat!

Matthew said...

Sorry I have missed this development about Carlos and drugs?

However I'm Australian and I love the Tour as of last year and this year.

The first time I watched it was in the middle of the tour last year. And it was an incredible battle through the mountains.. after that I was hooked.

I think the mountain stages of the Tour are one of the most incredible things one can watch in world sport. To watch the riders contest wills against each other is just amazing, their endurance, their desire.. Also the strategy of each stage against the whole race.. I just love it

And the flat stages are enough to send me to sleep. And they do, at 1am...

Colin said...

No, it was a reference to earlier drug cases, especially Spanish ones. Sastre insists he's clean. Sadly, I suspect the percentage of people believing him is lower in Spain even than elsewhere. But it's a suspicious society.

Matthew said...

Also don't mean to spam your blog or anything but I did my first blog post in Spanish about Sastre's win

Havent been able to attract many Spanish speakers to my blog as of yet. Possibly because my Spanish blogging is at the level of a 10 year old, but I do the best I can.