Spain is not, of course, the first country in the world to find that fining motorists for petty or even non-existent offences is an easy source of revenue. Things have gone so far in the UK that magistrates are reported to be reluctant to give police the power to hand out 60 pound on-the-spot fines and penalty points for careless driving because they “can’t be trusted not to abuse the system”. Local councils, though, don’t need the approval of the judiciary and have become evermore creative. And devious. In Portsmouth, for example, motorists who park more than 19.7 inches from the kerb are set to be fined £70. Presumably, what someone has called the Traffic Taliban will all be carrying tape measures as part of their uniform. Or perhaps just a stick measuring 19.7 inches. Or 41.75cm. Creating the risk that some of them may duly find this up their fundament.
There's been something of a controversy raging in the UK about a Conservative MP who criticised the British National Health Service on US TV. British politicians have finally moved away from the egregious boast that the NHS is the "envy of the rest of the world." But – regardless of what they really believe - they still can’t say anything in public other than it’s wonderful and in need only of a bit more tinkering. Of course, everyone in the country with half a brain knows this isn’t true and some of them may be aware of how much better things work in France, Germany and even Spain, for example. But such is politics. So it was ironic to read today that employees in the NHS - the largest single employer in Europe – have levels of obesity, smoking, absenteeism and illness-related absences which are way above the national averages. Needless to say, these impact on the quality of patient care. But it’s not terribly wise for any politician to even hint at this, as it will lead to accusations of the anathema of “secret privatisation plans”.*
Finally . . . A plug for a band which “plays Celtic music for those who hate Celtic music but love rock”. This is a group of my younger daughter’s US friends called Scythian, whose Immigrant Road Show can be heard here. The Washington Post rightly called them “One of Washington's most energetic and eclectic bands”. For an indication of their virtuosity, click here and, if you can’t wait, go to minute 4.26 of Gypsy Fiddle. Or take a dip into this YouTube search, where you can hear Danny Boy like it's never been done before. It’d be good if someone reading this can help me get them an invitation to next year’s festival of Celtic music in Ortigueira. Failing that, to at least one Fiesta or another in Galicia.
* Postscript: I've since read this interesting article on this subject.