Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Responding to the demonstration against property abuses, the leading light in the Spanish association of constructors dismissed negative UK press reports as “a work of fiction”. In other words, like every politician and businessman in Spain, he’s telling the truth and everyone else is lying. Not content with this, he moved on to the sophistry of suggesting there can’t have been any skulduggery because no one has taken a case to the [infamously slow] Spanish courts. The problem is - as I think Oscar Wilde said - that this is worse than criminal; it’s stupid. Being both fuel for the media fire and prejudicial to the interests of Spain. It may play well in Almería but not where the money comes from. However, it takes a perspective wider than that of a Spanish constructor to understand this. No wonder one hears even Spaniards despair of this country at times.

On a lighter note – I was sipping a Rioja in a new bar last night when some familiar sound drew my eyes to the TV in the corner. There was a group of odd folk in strange black garb, prancing around and hitting each other’s sticks. The legend said it was a traditional British folk dance. So I'm guessing they were Satanic Morris dancers.

It must be good to be a civil servant anywhere in the world when times are tough. I say this because the Voz de Galicia tells us that some 30 Xunta members will be off to the Havana Book Fair shortly, at a cost of 51,000 euros for the flights alone. But at least the long stretches in the air will allow for plenty of reading.

Most drivers in Spain are, of course, as good and as sensible as those elsewhere but we do seem to have a higher percentage here – though perhaps only in Galicia – of the insanely reckless. Like the 18 year old just done for travelling at 216kph in an 80kph area. He excuse was that he’d just got the car of his dreams – a high-powered sports model, naturally – and wanted to show his friends what it could do. If you're asking how an 18 year old can afford such an expensive car – or even just the insurance – you should know this is something that’s often asked around here. As it happens, I took my morning coffee behind a mother who was underwriting a loan agreement for her teenage son and I’m pretty sure it was for a car. As the representative from the loan company was one of those Spanish women who thinks the entire café should hear every word she says, I suppose I could have listened in, to be sure. But I had better things to do.

Talking of driving – The head of the Traffic Department in Galicia has called for more respect for the rules and pointed out that a mere 10% of pedestrians mown down are on zebra crossings at the time. If I understand his logic, he'd like this to be 100%. I guess he'll move on to drivers when he's whipped the pedestrians into shape.

Galicia now has around 96,000 foreigners living here. Real ones, I mean. Not those from other regions of Spain. This is a whopping 76,000 more than 10 years ago. For those interested, here are the numbers. From which you can see there are even more Chinese here than Brits. But the really remarkable number is that for the Rumanians – which is 80% up on a year ago. And this is before they became entitled to live here as of 1 January. All numbers are in thousands:-
Portuguese – 17.1
Brazilians – 10.5
Colombians – 8.4
Argentineans – 6.4
Rumanians – 5.0
Uruguayans – 4.8
Moroccans – 4.3
Venezuelans – 4.2
Peruvians – 2.8
Dominicans – 2.7
Cubans – 2.1
France - 1.7
China - 1.6
UK - 1.5

Finally, I booked this evening for a future trip on the night train to Madrid. I would have done this this morning, when I first when to the station. But they told me they only sell advance tickets after 3pm - forcing me to ask whether customer service is actually going backwards in Spain.

In contrast to flying, I actually look forward to the train journey. Not that it’s ever proved as romantic as it’s made out to be. So far, at least.

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