I was glad I wasn’t flying over Christmas, when Iberia’s pilots contributed to the general feeling of goodwill by going on some sort of unofficial work-to-rule strike. I’m even gladder I’m not flying this week as unusual levels of sick leave on the part of air traffic controllers have reduced Madrid airport to chaos. Perhaps they’ve all been hit by Spanish ‘flu. To be honest, I’m always glad when I’m not flying.
At the Chinese restaurant the other night, they were clearly expecting a large group of people. It turned out these were coming from Portugal, which is not far south of here. Strangely, though, the restaurant owner had no knowledge of the existence of the place. Nor, of course, of its clock. As we got closer to the booked time of 10, her question of “20 personas?” to each individual and couple who came in turned from plaintive to desperate. So, I put her out of her misery by telling her that 10 o’clock in Portugal is 11 in Spain and they’d appear soon enough. Which, thankfully, they did.
The reduction in Spain’s road fatalities in 2008 was a little more than 20% and it was the fifth consecutive year in which numbers were down. This is a tremendous development and worth the price of being fined twice under the tougher traffic laws. Even it the traps were decidedly dubious.
Sadly, this success in changing driving habits contrasts rather sharply with the ineffectiveness of the anti-smoking laws. Which, as I recall, I was foolish enough to describe as ‘draconian’ when they were introduced at the start of 2006. As a letter in today’s El País pointed out, there’s clearly no political will to stamp out smoking in the vast majority of Spain's cafés, bars and even restaurants.
Rather ironically, just as it’s become legal for Rumanians to work in Spain, a good 10% of the many already here are reported to be going home because job prospects have plummeted after the bursting of the property bubble.
I wonder whether Spain isn’t undergoing some awful, slow Anglicisation. Or at least the younger element of the population. There were a couple of examples of serious vandalism on the city centre streets after the New Year’s Eve boozing, which I’ve never seen before. And now a friend tells me he overheard a teenage girl telling her friend she’d have to get some chewing gum so as to hide the smell of vomit on her breath when she got home in the morning. So, if you’re Spanish and your daughter’s buying rather more gum than usual, I’m afraid the bad news is she’s turned into a ladette.
Which reminds me . . . One of the funniest things I heard this week was that photos of 19th century street gangs in Manchester showed them wearing plaid scarves which bore a remarkable resemblance to the Burberry items sported by today’s chavs and chavettes. Plus ça change.
Finally, the Galician coastguard this week rescued three men from a speedboat which had been adrift off the coast for a couple of days. As these craft are used only for the downloading and landing of cocaine, this seems to me to be an unfortunate use of resources. They could at least have left them to drift for a week or two. And then offered to sell them a kilo of, say, potatoes at the same price as a kilo of cocaine. Or even just hash.