Tuesday, December 02, 2008

According to an article on Madrid hotels I’ve just read, Spain is “renowned for its rich individuality”. I’ll go with that. In fact, I have done many times over the past four years. As attested by the number of citations under the Individualismo label on the right. Sometimes a thing of wonder and sometimes a thing of enormous irritation. If you’re not Spanish, of course.

I see that in Spain Bombay is still ‘Bombay’ and not ‘Mumbai’. As it is in Indian English, apparently. But the BBC knows best.

My quest for a decent, quiet place to take a morning coffee and read a book – as yet unsuccessful – has led me to a few of conclusions about the modern Spanish bar. Firstly, it’s de rigeur now for any self-respecting place to have 2 to 4 flat-screen TVs on the wall. Essentially, wherever there’s a space for one. Secondly, at least one of these will be blaring out loud music with a heavy bass at any and every time of the day. And, thirdly, this music is played for the pleasure of the young [and bored] bar staff and not for whoever the clientele might be. Certainly not the ones trying to read a book or even just a newspaper at 11 of a morning. Perhaps I will have to resort to ear-plugs during the day as well as the night.

I see that research shows that drivers with a hangover are more dangerous than those dosed up on alcohol or less legal drugs. Thanks to sleep deprivation, dehydration and distracting headaches, I suppose. I already stay off Spain’s roads during the early hours of Saturday and Sunday morning to avoid the drunks returning home after eight hours of partying. Now, it seems, I might have to leave things until at least the evening. Or possibly Monday.

I also read that the GPS alarm on the released prisoner who killed his girlfriend this week in Pontevedra was, in fact, working but “the alarm was not heard by the civil servants working at the Electronic Control Centre.” My is guess the guy was smart enough to wait until the morning coffee break, when no civil servant in Spain deigns to work.

Finally, more here on what might happen to the euro and the EU, as they are tested by the global crisis. As for Britain and these institutions, yesterday the President of the EU Commission, Mr Barroso, assured French TV viewers that its political leaders had told him the UK would have fared better if it’d had the euro. “ How, exactly, would we have been better off?” asks the author of the article – “Our current mess is caused by over-reliance on bankers, six years of incontinent spending by Gordon Brown and a housing/credit bubble that has pushed personal debt to 103 per cent of GDP. Joining the euro would not have prevented any of this. It would have made matters worse. The European Central Bank held rates at 2 per cent for part of this decade to help Germany out of the doldrums. Imagine what such rates would have done to Britain's property boom. You might as well have poured petrol on the fire, as Ireland and Spain can attest. . . Nothing is pre-ordained in the euro drama. The chief reason for launching the single currency – before economies had properly converged – was to force the pace of political union. It may have to deliver on this agenda. Either the EU creates the machinery needed to cushion the bust on Europe's fringes, or EMU will drift into crisis. The ball is in the court of very reluctant paymasters in Germany.” So, interesting times. Especially if your country, say Spain, needs different policies from, say, Germany and France.


Charles Butler said...

Not that I don't love Ambrose, but here's another take...


Colin said...

Charles, Good to hear you like Ambrose – assuming you mean it. My problem is that, between reader Moscow and Private Eye, I can never remember whether the idiot is him, Anatole Kaletsky or Daniel Finkelstein. Or all of them, for trying to predict the near-term future. Having failed to do so 12, 6 and 3 months ago.

Sierra said...

Given your keen interest in prices in Galicia, you may interested in the following Government website:


Salamanca 100
Pontevedra 103
Madrid 111
Bilbao 124

Charles Butler said...


Ayyy Ambrose. Possibly the most dangerously incompetent economics commentator ever to have disgraced the printed page.

Colin said...

So, Charles, Who can I rely on for sensible comment, apart from your good self, of course?

Charles Butler said...

Poke around FT Alphaville.


Colin said...

Ta, Chas.