I mentioned that the two wi-fi cafés I use don’t mind if you use their electricity, even as one of five cybernauts plugged into an extension cable in one case. I also said that I doubted this would be looked on kindly in the UK. But, of course, we’re talking about two very different cultures. In one, they couldn’t care less if you stayed stooped over your laptop for five hours and only bought one small coffee. And in the other, they certainly would. The difference centres on views of time. Not to mention the purpose of life.
As it happens, I was at my morning café early today and this gave me the chance to observe some of the rigidities of Spanish life that one can very profitably – as with herd-like beach behaviour – use to one’s advantage. Crudely, then . . .
10-11: Pretty empty and quiet. The loudest distraction is likely to come from the 1-5 TVs on the wall, especially if it/they are tuned to MTV
11-12: Starting to get busy and noisy as families come in, talk simultaneously, and try to make themselves heard over the TV(s) which have been turned up over the customer racket.
12-1: Pandemonium as the families are joined by office workers on their hour-long 15 minute break, and the TVs are turned up to their max to compensate.
I exaggerate, of course. But not much.
What can you say about Mr Darling’s utterly depressing budget numbers, other than they might just kick-start the stagnant Spanish property market as Brits decide to flee the implications for themselves and their children over the decades ahead. If so, it might cause an early revision to the statement I read yesterday that “Given the current rate of demand, homes on the Costa del Sol will take between four and eight years to sell.” It’s an ill wind. Meanwhile, I think I’ll give up on my bet on the pound rising to 1.25 against the euro. Or staying there, at least.
The right-of-centre newspapers naturally go to town on Messrs Brown and Darling but even the left-of-centre Guardian mocks their ludicrous optimism – “From the bridge of HMS Fantasy Island everything looks fine. . . Gordon Brown still nurtures hope that Labour will win in 2010, but has left a poison pill for David Cameron, just in case.” How admirable.
Click here for a selection of commentaries from the UK press. As ever, Polly Toynbee of The Guardian has the capacity to bring a smile to one’s face. Though this is not exactly her intention, of course.
Here’s a photo I took the other day, as I drove down the hill past the entrance to the street where there’s a private school for the offspring of Pontevedra's pijos. It’s of recently installed Don’t-Park-Here chevrons.
I guess they’ve been put there to stop the mothers-in-waiting making it virtually impossible for the school buses to come out of the road and turn left. This afternoon I happened to drive up the hill shortly before this daily ritual and noticed – needless to say – that the space was occupied by three cars, driven by ladies who are either blind or couldn’t be bothered to park 50 metres away. But I guess this happens in, say, Chelsea, as well. And it strikes me it could be yet another revenue initiative by the local council. As they say – Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean no one is following you . . .
Despite the overhang of a million or more unsold properties, building work hasn’t stopped in Pontevedra. There are several new blocks of flats going up around the city and, in the centre, they’re barely past the stage of digging out the foundations on one large site. My guess is that – with a lead time of 5 years or more – the constructors are betting on an upturn in the cycle before they’re completed. Nearer to home, however, work appears to have been suspended on the terrace of houses across from my front gate. The huge crane was dismantled last week, when I was out. Which was disappointing as, not having seen it mantled in the first place, this was something I’d wanted to watch. Anyway, as you can see, the properties nearer ‘my’ end of the block have been left without window frames and glass. But my neighbour, Tony - who is not only noisy but an expert on everything - assures me the crane is not needed for these. Should work ever start again.
And talking of properties . . . Here’s a dossier on my house in the hills I’m renting out this summer. And for which there are still a couple of weeks left in July and August. Write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’re at all interested. Actually, I’m happy to rent it out for longer – eternity even – if anyone is tempted.