Wednesday, August 06, 2008

El Mundo tells us today that a survey reveals 87% of Spaniards recognise that corruption is a problem in the public sector. And that a sizeable percentage [27] think it's worse than ever. It's no great surprise that large percentages of folk believe that town halls and the construction industry are heavily implicated. So, with the property bubble now burst, perhaps it's all behind us. How long Spain's international reputation will take to recover is a tougher question.

El Mundo has also told us this week - as part of its campaign in favour of the Spanish language - that there's a grassy spot in the old quarter of Pontevedra which used to be the Jewish cemetery and which is regularly defiled by children running on it. The paper suggests this might be because the inscription on the commemorative slab is only in Gallego. I have to say I find this unconvincing as the inference is that, if the text were in Spanish, parents would exercise some control over their kids.

Woody Allen's latest movie is reported here to be su filme más español - his most Spanish film. Ironic, then, that filme is used instead of pelicula. or even peli. Must be more arty.

It's increasingly clear how hard times currently are. Walking past a bike shop this morning, I saw that a carbon frame had been reduced by 33% - from 3,000 euros to a mere 1,999. As I was trying to comprehend a bike frame costing this much, my eyes rested on an even better bargain. There was an entire bike reduced from 6,999 euros to a must-have 4,199. Boy, are these people serious. And I thought they were all clowns in their Day-Glo Lycra.

Galicia Facts

I had wondered why the Galician Nationalist Party was so up in arms against its PSOE coalition partner's proposal to make it easy for Galician emigrés to vote via the internet. Turns out that they are the only party with no agents overseas and no budget to spend on, say, a Galician Social Centre in Buenos Aires. Can the PSOE really be trying to reduce the leverage gained in the last election by the nationalist parties around Spain?

Regular readers will be as relieved as I am to know that the eyesore café featured a lot recently [The Savoy] is said to be close to getting planning permission for restoration. Though I don't know whether this is a private or public project. One local politician has said it's important enough to justify the relevant municipal committee having an extraordinary meeting to give it the green light. But the Pontevedra council has said that - like everything else in Spain unconnected to a fiesta - this will have to wait until September. Illness and death, in the worst case.

There's a driver in Vigo for whom the word reckless hardly does justice. He goes by the nickname 'Makalele' and his latest arrest came after he drove through the city at 135kph [84mph]. On a quad bike. People ask why he's not in gaol but I have no answer to this question.

Finally, is there an expert out there who knows something about the grass known here [I think] as gramón and in the USA as Florida grass, St Augustine's grass or Charleston grass? More importantly, does anyone know how to get rid of the bloody stuff? It has invaded my lawn, producing a hard, vertical seed pod which is painful to walk on in bare feet. Here's what this looks like . . .

By the way, perhaps I don't need to say this but I'd like to get shut of this grass without killing the finer grasses. So a flame-thrower, for example, would not be appropriate.


Tom Watkinson said...

Your remark about cyclists as 'clowns in their day-glo lycra' is offensive. I'm a Brit living in Galicia and am one of the 'clowns' you might see occasionally on the roads between Vigo and Pontevedra. Yes, I wear lycra bike-wear, simply because it's the most comfortable material to wear while cycling. And yes, it's colourful too, this ensures I'm visible to drivers, who as you remark elsewhere, don't always drive with care and attention to other road-users.

Colin said...


If you think further about it, you might agree that my remark was not offensive, even if you were offended. Firstly, I did not say they were all clowns. I said this had been my thought. And implied that it had been wrong.

I'm reminded of when my elder daughter, aged 3, asked my father why he wore clown [bright check] trousers to play golf in, something which, in her childish innocence, she was merely perceiving without any attention to offend.He didn't speak to her for years, perhaps because we all laughed.

And, ultimately, I might accept that your reasons for Day Glo Lycra are 100% valid, while still thinking it was a shame that the price for safety was you looked like a clown.

You, of course, are totally free to disagree and to say so. I doubt that my opinion is going to influence anyone else's. Nor is it going to stop you or anyone else wearing what you like. Now, if I started a campaign against Lycra becasue the sight of it offended me, THAT would be offensive.


Tom Watkinson said...

I'm afraid your attempt to justify your original comment doesn't convince me, Colin. At heart you still want to put all of us who take cycling seriously enough to wear the appropriate clothing in the same bag. Does the sight of us on the road really get up your nose so much? I'd be much more upset about the behaviour of certain drivers who casually put our lives at risk in town, whatever they're wearing.

While we're on the subject, I actually find Spanish drivers, despite their often unpredictable behaviour, more considerate to me as a cyclist than drivers in Britain. In France, where I lived before, it was the same story. Put it down to continental cycling culture. The only times I've ever been verbally abused and even physically attacked on a bike occurred in England many years ago. I suspect that things haven't improved so much since then. Back there we really are regarded and treated as clowns by a sizeable number of motorists.

It's a shame you had to spoil this blog with this misplaced remark, as your other observations on politics/economy/culture and so on are generally on target.

Colin said...

The sight of cyclists doesn't get up my nose at all. I really can't imagine why you think it does. Being amused and being annoyed are at opposite ends of the spectrum. As I say, I can easily accept your reason for wearing bright clothes whilst finding the sight of them funny. Is that really so awful? But I guess I'd find reflecting bands less amusing. And I suppose less effective during daylight.

Strange but your remarks about Spanish and English drivers are the exact opposite of those of a neighbour's son who stayed with me in the UK. Perhaps it all depends on where exactly one does one's cycling. I'm lucky enough to do mine up in the hills, on tracks where there are no motorists. He was a very serious cyclist who was often on the roads here and told me it wasn't uncommon for him to be abused. Or even forced off the road.

All that said, I'd sure you're right about there being different cycling cultures.

Tom Watkinson said...

Well, Colin I guess I'll just have to put up with the smile on your face the next time you pass me by. Good to here you do some biking yourself anyway (lycra-free I imagine?).

To end on a positive note, a Spaniard and an British woman picked up the first gold medals for their countries in the Olympic men's and women's cycling road-races this weekend. So at least we do have something in common to celebrate.

Midnight Golfer said...

We always called that type of grass 'centipede grass' or sometimes 'gator-grass' and it sure does hurt to walk on barefoot. It seemed to really overtake the other types of grass we had in our yard in Southern California.
The part of our lawn that it did best (i.e. choked out all other forms of life...) in was the part that got the most sun, and that also got the 'grey-water' that we siphoned off our washing machine, to try to conserve and re-use.
Perhaps shade and more even watering (and less soap and lint) is what allowed the rest of our lawn to be able to withstand the encroaching centipede grass.
When we were looking for a way to combat it, Zoysia grass was becoming popular, and expensive, and was being sold as 'indestructible' although, we never purchased any. I have no idea if you really want to buy this exotic turf, (often sold as plugs, or seed grass,) or if it can even be imported into Spain.
Also, it goes dormant (and yellow) for cold weather, and it takes a few weeks of warmth for it to come back to green in the springtime.

I also am a biker (cyclists are the guys in the day-glo lycra, like Tom W.) I try to avoid the special clothing, and I stay off-road as much as possible, especially here in Spain, due to the (yes, I'm going to say it) INFERIOR quality of the road systems, that nearly never allows for an enjoyable cycling experience. Narrow lanes, lack of shoulders, illegal (and just plain annoying) parking, unfettered use of the klaxon, and poorly maintained road surfaces are all problems exacerbated by the fact that the destinations are all so much closer together here, and the drivers all seem so much angrier, and more short-tempered.
That, and the fact that there is much more vehicle traffic, even on back roads, makes me seek out the dirt trails. However, I still am afraid to venture as far off-road as I would in the States, as I have no confidence in myself, now that I am a foreigner, to be able to convince any property owners I might happen to cross paths with, that I am just 'one of their friendly neighborhood bikers' and just passing through, and please don't 'let loose the dogs...'

Note: I am embarrassed to admit that I also have become an 'angrier' driver since moving to Spain. First, they made me get a Spanish Drivers License, and did not even recognise my D.L. from the U.S. which meant that I had to pay for an entire Driver's Ed. course, to pass all the tests, and waste a crap-load of my hard-earned, devalued dollars. Second, I foolishly chose to not bring any car with me from the States. Soon after getting a job here, I bought a VW Golf with a V6, and I can't imagine how grumpy I'd be with a french compact 4-banger, that everyone else seems to have chosen. I used to drive a Dodge Durango, with a 5.9L V8, which I actually needed for work. Although, I will admit that there is a large percentage of people in the U.S. who drive vehicles that are MUCH, MUCH more than they ever make use of (let alone need), except the one time a year that it's snowing, and they also just happen to be carpooling with their entire church youth group.

Spaniards rarely 'over-buy' when it comes to vehicles. They also are more intelligent when it comes to vehicle 'turn-over.' They generally don't seem as eager as the typical American to get a brand new car every couple of years. They ask too much for second-hand cars, and they pay too much for the new ones, but they sure get their money's worth out of them while they own them.

Tom Watkinson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Watkinson said...

To midnight golfer: your comments about the dangers of cycling on roads in Spain leave me a little perplexed. 'Lack of shoulders', for example. One striking feature on a lot of roads I've noticed here is in fact the wide shoulder separated from the main carriageway by a continuous white line, which means as a cyclist I can keep a respectable distance from cars going past. (You just have to avoid running over the cats-eyes situated at regular intervals).

While it's true that vehicle traffic can be heavy on the main roads, once you get onto the minor roads into the hills the traffic drops off considerably. I've ridden over the mountainous massif south of Baiona and counted less than ten cars in both directions.

I agree that the road surfaces often leave a lot to be desired, but these seem to be improving little by little. As for the dangers created by the Spanish habit of 'flexible' parking, well you just have to be aware of them and proceed cautiously, these problems only occur in built-up areas in any case.

Colin said...

Many thanks, MG, for taking so much trouble on the grass issue. Perhaps I should just put a blanket over the stuff for year and then start again. Or just spray it.

Yes, driving here does tend to bring out the worst in one. Whenever I am approached by a car driving up my exhaust and flashing its lights when I am already overtaking a truck, I slow down, signal right, wait for the truck to get ahead of me again and then pull it behind it. Very childish but I get great pleasure from slowing down idiots for 30 to 60 seconds and making their arrogant tactics counter-productive. I also hope it helps to change their driving practices but my [Spanish] partner tells me I'm wasting my time as regards this aspect. And it's true, only one driver has ever seemed to realise what I was doing and showed his annoyance accordingly.

On biking - I have to leave this to you and Tom. I don't think I'll be venturing onto the asphalt and will stick to the mountain tracks.

I guess, Tom, you went over the Gondomar road and not via the A57[?] to Bayona . . . .

Tom Watkinson said...

No, Colin, I'm referring to the road that climbs up steeply from Baiona, going past la Virgen de la Roca on the right. After about 12 km you arrive at the top of a mountain pass at about 650m altitude. It then descends right down to A Guardia. It's one of my favourite routes and incidentally has a lot of great off-road tracks for mountain biking near the summit, but you probably know that already.

I don't think I'd venture on to the A57 as it's a motorway (although it's true there's a nice wide shoulder and traffic's pretty light as hardly anyone uses it!).

Colin said...

Tom, I've been up and around the roads between Bayona and La Guardia a few times and up and down the O rosal area but I don't think I've taken a minor road up from Bayona itself. Must give it a try.

BTW, if you haven't already done so and you find yourself in La Guardia again, bike along to Camposancos beach and eat at the Italian restaurant opposite Los Molinos hotel. It belongs to friends of mine [Francesco and Sheila Cordeschi] and is excellent. Their son, Luca, is the chef.

Tom Watkinson said...

Take the turning on the left signposted Virgen de la Roca, off the main road in Baiona after going through the centre. The road eventually goes down through O Rosal and on my map it's marked as PO-354 from the village of Loureza down to A Guardia. Incidentally, near Loureza, there are some fabulous old water mills well worth a visit, although they're not easy to find.

Thanks for the restaurant address. The idea of refuelling in A Guardia before turning back towards Vigo is certainly tempting. I'll drop in there one day. But... will they let me in wearing my day-glo lycra??

Colin said...

Yes, I've warned them . . . .

Many thanks for the directions.