Friday, August 29, 2008

Three months ago, the President of the Galician Xunta - also the President of the Galician Socialist Party - set up the rabbit of earlier-than-necessary regional elections. After widespread conjecture and a universal conclusion that he 'd confirm this yesterday, he summarily shot the rabbit dead. The right-of-centre El Mundo says this surprised everyone, as it was felt the central Socialist government would want these elections out of the way before the economy deteriorated further and ahead of a possible clash with Basque developments. So what went awry? Well, despite the Xunta President spinning the development to underline the courage of both the central and regional governments in facing increased difficulties, the most plausible rationale is that the nationalist BNG tail has again wagged the Socialist dog. This, of course, is the price one pays when kept in power by a troublesome minority partner with wind in its sails. If it is down to the BNG and if the local Socialist party defied Madrid in acceding to the BNG's demand that there be no acceleration, then we have yet another example of how much power is devolved here in Spain.

Which reminds me - the Finance Minister has said bluntly that Madrid will not accede to Catalan demands on a new system of finance for the regions and that, if the stand-off continues, the central government will arbitrarily decide the criteria. I'm not sure how this fits with President Zapatero's recent assurance to one Catalan party that there will be more money for the region but I suppose that's still possible. If not quite as much as demanded. It's interesting to speculate on what the Catalans will then do next? UDI?

The newspaper, El Público, addressing the Russian recognition of 'independent' Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia, says the EU will never accept this. It then adds that the 27 members will try to reach a common position at a meeting in Brussels on Monday. So, who or what is this EU that won't accept the situation, even if a large chunk of its membership does? A group of bureaucrats in Brussels playing at being the government of superstate without any legal basis? Quite possibly. The Conservative MP, Daniel Hannan, writes today that The EU dislikes and distrusts the principle of national self-determination, understanding that if this principle were accepted for, say, Kosovan Serbs, South Ossetians or Macedonian Albanians, the intellectual basis of European integration would be pulverised. If this is true, it raises the question about how 'Brussels' would react to the a claim for membership from, say, Scotland or Spain's Basque Country or Cataluña, even if these were democratically negotiated with London or Madrid. On the other hand, it must look favourably on the break up of Belgium, even though that's where the Commission is based. Evelyn Waugh would surely have made something of all these strands and contradictions.

These days, I fly as little as possible, so far have things moved from the experience of when I first started - on Singapore Airlines! - in 1971. British columnist Roger Boyes, explains why . . . Over the past fortnight I have flown ten times - a Turkish airline, a Ukrainian carrier, easyJet - and I cannot escape the feeling that I have been moving around Europe in a slum tenement. The gasping drunks, the body odour, the arguments, a slapped child, the shuffling queue for the blocked lavatory, the queue for the queue. I don't want to be snobbish about the bargain airlines; we have all benefited a little from cheap fares. Mainly though we fell in love with an idea - that one could slip away to Prague for the weekend for the price of a trip to a Leicester Square cinema. That idea has soured. The sheer filth of airports, the Stalinist impounding of liquids, the hanging around, the crick-necked monitoring of the departures board, the stampede for the distant gate that leaves behind the old, the lame and the short-sighted. The dream of bargain basement travel - that you can live in a pleasant city, work in another and find happiness in both - is fool's gold. At the end of his piece, Boyes says airports are now akin to the First Circle of Hell. I like to think that it's this that keeps me away from them, rather than my irrational fear of flying. Something that, notwithstanding this, I spent 30 years doing!

I fancy Boyes' article was prompted by the news he cites that Central Europeans who once quaintly thought of the English as a pale diffident race are now mobilising to stop the onslaught of naked stag party revellers with shoe-polished genitals invading their ancient market squares. Perhaps it would be a good idea to stop offering them cheap accommodation and almost-free alcohol. The British underclass is not known for its ability to decline the latter in particular.

Finally, here's the latest plant/bush. Apologies for the poor quality of the picture but I hope it's clear enough for the experts:-


jOoLz said...

um, that's agapanthus. they're all over the place here in southern california. not a bad plant, actually. very easy to tend to and fairly drought-tolerant.

Colin said...

Yep, that certainly looks right. Many thanks.

Tom Watkinson said...

Hmm... after watching last night's news, something told me you'd be blogging on this today! Like the rabbit analogy, Colin, very apt. All political parties have a tendency to scurry around their warrens in a rabbity way when faced with a crisis. These are no exception! I had no idea of how much power the Galician nationalists wield here and if it's that much, then your theory definitely holds water.

On the subject of regionalism, I remember that the night Spain won the Euro cup, the world and his wife here in Vigo were suddenly Spanish and not Galician. I brought this curious point up with some of my English-learning students and they explained that the one was not incompatible with the other, it simply depended on the circumstances. So now I know. Galicia is Spanish when Spain wins international football trophies and Galician when Madrid is dishing out the readies.

Low-cost flying: I'd certainly agree with the view that it's anything but a bed of roses, but I'm not so sure the idea has soured. The continued queues, crowds and stampeding are surely evidence to the contrary. By the way, Colin, is it only the 'underclass' in Britain which is prone to cheap alcohol? Various surveys have suggested recently that recreational alcohol consumption amongst the British middle-classes, particularly women, is rising to dangerously high levels. Let's face it: we're basically a nation of boozers whatever our class status.

Midnight Golfer said...

At first I thought Society Garlic aka Tulbaghia, but then I saw that someone else had already said Agapanthus, and I realized that I was wrong. The leaves aren't narrow enough for garlic.