Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Second post of the day . . .

I think it was John Denver who once sang “Some days are diamonds; some days are stones. Sometimes the hard times won’t leave you alone.” Which is up there with Shakespeare, as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, I thought of these lines this morning when I woke to another Atlantic Blanket, a hot-water boiler that wouldn’t start and a car which had adopted the same strategy. As if all this weren’t enough, there were molehills on the lawn and the kitten I’d rescued from the engine compartment of my neighbours’ car yesterday was camped outside my back door, mewing for food. I am not a cat lover but this was impossible to ignore. So I put out some milk and fish for it. But the kitten was too nervous to come out of hiding to take this. Which was not true of the bloody semi-wild adult cats that prowl the communal gardens. So, all in all a great start to the day. It’d be something of a compensation if the felines caught and ate the moles. But, of course, the lazy, fussy buggers don’t.

Writing of his recent drive from Santander to Madrid, Ben of Notes from Madrid commented on several things observed from the car. This inevitably included crazy Spanish driving. For what it’s worth - after many thousands of kilometres of driving on Spanish roads of all sorts - my version of the truth is that the majority of people here drive as well as anywhere else in the world. The real problem is that the quotient of macho cretins is higher than in most, if not all, other European countries. So, even though laws have been tightened and penalties massively increased, you will surely see things here which will both amaze and frighten you. Though I don’t mean the confused and confusing things that happen at roundabouts, which reflect the fact that Spain seems to have a law about negotiating these which is both bizarre and unique. Backing off from the detail, the rather large positive is that it can often be a great pleasure to drive on Spain’s excellent and lightly occupied new motorways.

Back to the bad times, though at a more macro level . . . This is the view of one knowledgeable observer of the Spanish banking and economic scenes – “It’s undeniable that the implosion of Spain’s formerly-hot construction sector is going to blow holes in a lot of balance sheets; the only question is where and when. The gist of the Variant Perception report is simple: the problems of Spain’s construction industry and homeowners have become the problem’s of Spain’s lenders. And, going forwards, the problems of Spain’s lenders are going to be a major problem for all of Europe. Meanwhile, Spain will become Ireland-but-worse, as real interest rates soar thanks to deflation and extreme levels of unemployment, combined with low wages, depress the entire economy for the foreseeable future. . . My feeling is that the pessimists are right - the situation in the country is going to get much worse, and spill over into the rest of Europe, long before it gets better. We haven’t hit bottom yet.” Hmm. I take no comfort in being of this pessimistic view both well before and throughout this recession. The EU economic regime was so obviously inappropriate for Spain that you had to be an idiot not to see this coming. In which group one is compelled to include the Spanish President, Señor Zapatero. Perhaps the most worrying thing is that supporters of the EU have argued that all this was, indeed, predictable but the bad times which would follow the inevitable good times would allow the EU and Spanish governments to force some much-needed reforms on the country. In this, they seem to have under-estimated both the stupidity and obstinacy of said Señor Z. Which, I guess, is why it’s now easy to predict that things will get worse before they get better. Perhaps things will change if, as some have predicted, the IMF effectively takes over the economic management of Spain, once the government has found it impossible to raise the loans it needs to keep the country running. Interesting times. For those who are rich or on a secure income, I mean. Rather worrying for everyone else. No wonder even more Spaniards than usual are keen to get a job as a civil servant. And, God knows, this was already a high enough percentage.

Car Footnote: I've just been told that it will cost me more than 500 euros to replace the ignition barrel in my steering wheel, on top of the 2,000 I paid a couple of months ago when the head gasket blew. And in addition to what it will cost me to replace a broken track rod end on one of the front wheels. Whenever I contemplate what I have had to lay out on this heap of junk, I recall with affection that the four guys who bought Rover for a peppercorn from BMW and then sold it to a Chinese company each walked away with millions of pounds of easy profit. Enough to make anyone question the capitalist system. If not for long.

Finally, and curmudgeonly . . . Does anyone in Europe really care that that old rogue, Ted Kennedy, has died? Was it really justifiable that this was the lead item on the BBC, Sky and France 24 news programs this morning?


Midnight Golfer said...

Cats sometimes remind me of those construction workers that, whether they are union members or not, still refuse to do certain tasks unless there are twice as many as necessary already doing the task, but when they do, it's scary how efficiently they actually are at completely and thoroughly get it done, if given enough time.
Our cats, in California, appeared to be uninterested in our gopher problem, until one week, when all of a sudden they seemed to all be in competition to see who could leave the largest, freshest gopher livers on our front porch.

I hope you have many, many more starts to your days, great or not.

Sundogs barking at the break of dawn;
lightning pushes the edges of a thunderstorm,
and these streets,
quiet as a sleeping army,
send their battered dreams to heaven
for the mother's restless son.
Who is a witness to; who is a warrior,
who denies his urge to break and run.

Who says, "Hard times?
I'm used to them.
The speeding planet burns?
I'm used to that.
My life's so common it disappears."
And sometimes even music
Cannot substitute for tears.

-Paul Simon, The Cool, Cool River

Midnight Golfer said...

Colin said...

Thanks, MG, for your kind thoughts and the video.