Saturday, March 07, 2009

There is, it seems, someone who accurately predicted – back in 2005 - the financial mess the world is now in – an economic historian called Edward Chancellor. This is when he wrote a report entitled “Crunch time for Credit”. What a shame he wasn’t in charge of anything.

The political wrangling that’s currently taking place in the Basque Country may or may not be a example of good democracy in action. Over at The Spanish Shilling, Lennox sheds some interesting light on one or two aspects. But, as I say, I bow to almost anyone when it comes to understanding what’s going on there. My general view remains that, if a big slug of an existing nation wants to sail off on its own, then is should be allowed to do so if that’s what the majority want. Whether it’s Scotland, Wales, the Basque Country, Cataluña or Galicia.

If you’re a foreigner who sold a Spanish property between 2004 and 2006, it’s very likely that you were charged excessive tax and can now reclaim it, with interest. If you’re patient - and lucky - you may get it back before you kick the bucket.

On the other hand, if you’re Spanish and plan to drive in the UK, you should know that the law will shortly allow the British police to copy their Continental cousins and impose huge roadside fines on people who don’t live there. Or even on Brits who can’t prove that they do. Given my luck of the last year, I fully expect to be hit during my next visit. On a point of detail:- “The standard fine for a careless driving offence — including driving too close to the vehicle in front of you – will be 300 pounds.” This really will be problematical for Spanish drivers, as few of them consider tailgating at high speed anything other than obligatory. Incidentally, the report on this said the average length of the driving test is 19 minutes in France, 20 in Spain and 36 in the UK. Not that this necessarily means anything. Perhaps they take a break for tea.

In the last ten days, I’ve signed up for three UK-provided services via the internet. Now, I wouldn’t want to suggest British companies have any less interest in profit than Spanish companies. But it certainly does seem they have a different view on how to maximise it. In each case, the process was easy and quick and the customer-orientated follow-up was amazing. Or maybe I’m easily astonished these days. That said, the British approach of enticing customers and then persuading them, via excellent service, to stay does rather contrast with what I’ve called the standard Spanish process of trapping your customers, screwing them and then making it difficult to impossible for them to escape. Cue comments from Spanish readers about examples of appalling service in the UK. Which surely does exist but I’m making a general point, based on recent personal experience. It's one of the things that make me worry about Spain's ability to compete internationally now that the good times are over.

Finally, three fotos . . .

This is A Casa da Luz, in Plaza Verdura in Pontevedra's lovely old quarter. It hasn't been occupied for at least 8 years but used to be the HQ of the local police. Now it's being converted into the offices of the Rias Baixas tourist organisation. It gets its name - Electricity House - from the fact it was the first place in Spain to have power, generated from a local stream. Anyway, this is what I'm told and it's a nice story.

In contrast, here's the front of some flats recently completed in the nearby port of Combarro.

If you think this is bad, here's what they look like from the back . . .

I think I've mentioned before that this is what I call the 'toilet' style of architecture. Sadly, it's become quite common along the coast here. Or should I say 'very common'?


Ferolano said...

“Common” is about right and if your first photo didn’t have a For Sale sign in the window, I say that are similar to block of assisted living properties built in Ferrol. Twice the cost of anything a private developer would have the gall to charge and now, 5 years later, looking somewhat the worse for wear. And, the architect will be very proud of him / herself. Oh well!

Colin said...

Yes, I blame it all on the fashionable Galician architect, Cesar Portela. He should be shot.

Alberto said...

Colin: Lenox at "Spanish Shilling" says "...last Sunday's elections (where all the abertzale choices had finally been removed)...". This is not true. ARALAR got four seats and is abertzale, leftist, radical and independentist. Asked to mention one IDEOLOGICAL difference between ARALAR and the removed abertzales, a PNV leader answered:
The only thing is that ARALAR does not help to physically exterminate their political rivals. So Lenox article is ignorant or malicious. He does not deserve your link.

Colin said...

Thanks, Alberto. I'm sure Lenox is not malicious. It's a complicated subject.

Alberto said...

You are right, Colin. Basque politics are tricky. That's why you should be very well informed to write about them. I'm sure Lenox is not malicious, if you say so. But to say that "all abertzale choices were removed" is a crucial mistake that invalidates his article.