Thursday, April 16, 2009

Regular readers will know I occasionally say the British are too polite and the Spanish not polite enough. This, of course, is a personal view. Of someone who – as with Catholicism – may not agree with all he’s had to take on board but is still a victim of it.

Essentially, the Spanish are less fussed and more pragmatic than the British and, so, much less annoyed – if at all – by what would be considered unacceptable in some other societies. Whether this makes them rude or merely makes them seem rude, is for each individual to decide. There was a case in point this morning, when I was taking a coffee in the wi-fi café I use. Not once but twice, a couple came in and moved their chosen table – to accommodate their respective be-prammed babies – in such a way that it blocked an exit. The first exit was to the terrace and the second was to the changing room of the staff. In the UK, this would be considered bad manners and both customers and the staff would probably show irritation when (politely) asking the people to move so they could go through the door. Not so here. What happens is that the (unannoyed) customers and staff make some non-committal remark or just smile, the blockers apologise as only the Spanish can and then move out of the way. Much the same happens when people feel they need to park in front of a garage door while taking a coffee.

On balance, I suspect this is a better way of doing things, though this may be because I am assimilating. And because I know that the ‘offenders’ are not consciously ignoring one of the norms of polite society. Because there is no norm. The rule is give and take. As to why it happens, I suspect it has a lot to do with the Spanish concept of time. Which is that it’s simply not important, unless you’re waiting at traffic lights. Or there’s someone in front of you on the motorway piddling along at a mere 119kph. More normally, when you feel you have as much time as anything takes – or, to put it another way – you lack any sense of urgency, what does it matter that someone is preventing you from going through a door for a few seconds? As long as they apologise profusely. This,in essence, is the Spanish deal.

Later in the morning, I was taking my wine and tapa in my favourite café-bar. Sadly, it’s also the preferred midday meeting place of the ageing Ponters Pijas. And, if there’s one thing nosier in Spain that a table of teenagers, it’s a table of grandmothers. But today was particularly bad and I asked my favourite waitress, Teresa, whether they were perhaps all deaf. “Possibly.” she said. “But they also all operate the basic Spanish rule – If you shout and talk over me, I will shout louder to talk over you.” You can imagine the outcome. Or, as Teresa said, “They’re like a cage of hyenas”. Which she probably wouldn’t say to their faces. But, then, they do summon her – and her colleagues – by hissing. Now, that does seem rude.

If you follow British politics, you’ll be aware that a new low has been reached in what is, anyway, a dirty business by the revelation of email correspondence between two Labour heavyweights who were planning a campaign of atrocious smears against members of the Opposition and their families. Regular readers will know I’ve long seen the New Labour administration of Blair and Brown and one to which history will be very unkind. So, you’ll understand why I see this development as a fitting epitaph for it. The British media comes out of it badly too. Click here for a comment from the blogger who blew the gaffe on it all. The article he quotes by Alice Miles will explain how the media was implicated. And click here for an honest view from a woman who is sympathetic to Brown but who can clearly see that the core problem is the long-standing, to-the-death enmity between the Blair and Brown factions of the New Labour artefact. It's an odd feature of politicals (and life?) that such things occur more frequently on the Left than on the Right. I suspect it stems from the feeling of moral superiority that always drives ideologues to the conclusion that the stupid people don’t deserve them and that the end, therefore, justifies any means. Which reminds me . . . . but, no, I’ll leave the EU for another day.

And I’ll leave you with this follow-up to the comment yesterday about gay male marriages in Spain being between two husbands . . . . Following the first case of fatal domestic violence between two married men in Spain this week, the President of the court has pronounced it could only be called a gay ‘domestic violence’ incident if it had happened between two lesbians. He ruled out the case being considered as one of 'domestic violence' if two men are involved. So the case must be considered as ‘an ordinary crime against life’. Under Spain’s current domestic violence law, the victim is described as 'female', while the sex of the aggressor is left blank.

Oh, brave new world. Bloody lawyers!

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