I’ve stressed over the years just how much Spain – or Galicia, at least – is a personal, face-to-face, here-and-now sort of place, where there’s a high premium on verbal skills and charm. This has serious consequences for, say, anyone who’s waiting for a reply to a letter sent to any company in Spain. Except Línea Directa, which is, of course, a subsidiary of a British company and knows what service expats expect. Anyway, I had an excellent example of this today when I went to book a service for my car. A problem arose when the boss told me they didn’t service Rovers but this evaporated when I assured him I’d previously talked to one of his colleagues about booking it in. OK, he replied, but I couldn’t leave it today. When I said I hadn’t expected to and wanted to book it in not even for tomorrow but for next week, he said OK but Tuesday would be better than Monday. So we agreed on this. But here’s the really funny bit – when he brought out the work sheet, there was absolutely nothing written on it for any day next week. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this and my guess is that Monday is kept free for the customers who’ll arrive at 9 demanding their cars be done that day. For my Spanish readers, all of the above is inconceivable in the UK. And in many other countries, I imagine. That’s why we still think Spain is different.
Actually, today brings an even better example of the face-to-face nature of life here. I have to replace a wing mirror hit by a flying rubbish container in a recent storm and I’m not disposed to paying the 245 euros demanded by the Rover garage, especially as they’re available on the net for 80. But a second-hand one should be even cheaper and God knows there are enough accidents to suggest I should be able to find one. So I’m checking out the local car knackers. From the two near Pontevedra I’ve been to, I know the person at the front desk will have no knowledge whatsoever of available parts and will simply tell me to talk to a grease-monkey working somewhere in the pile of junk at the back of the office. Fair enough but this does persuade me it’d be a waste of time calling the numbers of the five companies between here and Vigo cited in the Yellow Pages. As luck would have it, I’m off to Vigo this afternoon so will dedicate a couple of hours to an odyssey which takes in all these yards, if necessary. Thank God I have the time. I don’t know how employed folk manage it. Perhaps they just cough up 245 euros. Or send the spouse.
News of a political party that’s new to me at least . . . The indefatigable British Euro MP, Daniel Hannan, offers this advice to all Brits in Spain able to vote in the June European elections. Along the way, like all of us, he confesses to not really knowing whether the PP is more corrupt than the PSOE, or vice versa. Of the ‘new’ party –Alternativa Española – he says it is “A Eurosceptic, anti-corruption party that has broken away from the PP. Having no dodgy mayors to defend, it is keen to address the concerns that Spanish as well as expatriate residents have about land security. It was the only party to campaign for a "No" vote on the European Constitution (apart from a small anarchist bloc and a Catalan party whose sole concern was about the status of the Catalan language in EU institutions).” Hannan adds that he doesn’t like the fact they are “Catholic and traditionalist” before finishing with the comment that the party campaigns on the issues most frequently raised by Spanish residents with him. Incidentally, he’s wrong about the EU referendum; the Galician Nationalist Party also supported a No vote, on the grounds the treaty wasn’t socialist enough. Of course, that was before they recently lost a lot of support. So maybe they think otherwise now.
Talking about nationalist regions . . . I see the Catalan President has said that the solution to the economic crisis is to work more, not to be paid more. And that sacrifices have to be made. No wonder the Catalans are unpopular. If he keeps this up, the region will be thrown out of Spain, whether it wants to go or not.
Here’s a bit more on the corrupt corporatism than led Lloyds TSB to make the catastrophic takeover of HBOS last year. As the writer puts it, “This is the ultimate New Labour scandal. It has the lot: cronyism, back-scratching, destructive micromanaging by Gordon Brown and an unimaginably large loss of public money. Corporatism is what happens when big government does sweetheart deals with big business. It results in a conspiracy of powerful elites against the interests of consumers, shareholders and voters.” Knowing a thing or two about how acquisitions are done and, in particular, how vital proper ‘due diligence’ is considered to be, I have to wonder what secret personal guarantees were demanded by and given to the CEOs who were steamrollered into this by a Gordon Brown desperate to save both the British union and his own arse. But especially the latter. We will never know, of course.
Because I will be dedicated to Vigo matters for the rest of the day and evening, this post is early. While yesterday’s fell foul of the Barca match and was late. You might want to make sure you see them both.
I leave you with a question from a commentator who is, I think, notorious for getting his forecasts wrong. Which doesn’t mean, of course, he can’t pose a good question. Even the dumbest fool . . . “How can global co-operation be achieved when governments around the world seem to have completely divergent economic philosophies and agendas for this coming weekend?”. Anyone got an answer as good as the question?