Wednesday, September 09, 2009

It isn’t just raining bad data on Spain’s economic plight; it’s deluging the stuff. The front-page headline of today’s El País is “Spain’s loss of competitiveness complicates her recovery”. Which may well be worth shouting from the rooftops but is not exactly news. At least not to those who’ve been warning of it for several years.

El Mundo also majors on the theme, highlighting (like El País) depressing elements from two recent reports on national competitiveness and the ease of doing business in 183 countries around the world. Spain doesn’t do well in either of these and, when it comes to contracting staff ranks at a lowly 157. Coincidentally, I was talking only yesterday to a Spanish entrepreneur who spelled out to me the costs of giving anyone a ‘permanent’ contract here. It was enough to leave me very content I no longer face such challenges

And then there’s education . . . and the fact that in Europe only Portugal has greater ‘scholastic failure’. Which I think is the drop-out rate. Altogether, exactly the sort of news one needs when coming back from a long summer vacation, during which you’ve tried to convince yourself things aren't as bad as they seemed in June and that it’s really very significant that consumer optimism is slowly rising.

No wonder there’s a widespread view that the country needs a leader more competent than Señor Zapatero. It may not deserve it, but it certainly needs it. It’s a shame, perhaps, that fascism is out of fashion.

But, anyway, to lighten our day, the Madrid correspondent of the Guardian has addressed the issue of public whoring in Barcelona. You can read his article here but I should add that Tom of The Bad Rash says it’s rubbish to suggest prostitution was once confined to the port area.

Referring to the debacle of the release of the Libyan man who was possibly behind the Lockerbie bombing, a British commentator writes “There is no surer mark of a government in meltdown than that it loses the ability to lie properly.” This is meant to apply to Mr Brown and his Labour government in the UK but I suspect it’s equally true of our Sr Zapatero and his Socialist administration here in Spain. Or, if it isn’t now, it soon will be. Though not for lack of practice.

I may, over the years, have given the impression I’m unimpressed with the fact that just about the only sauce you get with Galician food is one made of olive oil and paprika. Very aptly, this is denoted on menus by the phrase a la gallega. Well, I think the nadir was reached yesterday when I tried an item new to me - Lacón en fiambre. This turned out to be slices of tasteless – and possibly raw - cold bacon, swimming in a small pool of olive oil into which paprika had been so liberally sprinkled much of it had failed to dissolve. If this is an example of the sort of on-the-cheap creativity inspired by the economic crisis, I think I’ll stay home and eat spam until it’s over.

Finally . . . On one of the containers near my house, there’s an advert for beagle puppies. I had fun with two questions when I saw it this morning:- 1. How do most Spaniards pronounce ‘beagle’? and 2. What do they taste like a la gallega?


Anonymous said...

Olive oil, being grown in warmer latitudes, is not a main stay of the Galician diet, although it has been adopted in some dishes, such as "polvo à feira". You should know that by now, Mr Davies. How many olive trees have you seen in Galiza?

Midnight Golfer said...

That last line caught me off-guard. Truly funny.
My says she doesn't know 'beagle' and when I asked her about Darwin's boat... angry stare... "Bay-OGG-Ley."

I didn't ask her how she managed to learned that in Catholic School.

Anonymous said...

Cold bacon with olive oil?!?! Dear me, what kind of person could offer you such a thing?!

Anthea said...

On pronunciation,try washing your dishes with Mild green Fiery (oops, I mean Fairy) Liquid. Maybe you could use it when the bayaglay has licked your plate.

Valencia Property said...

You seem a bit depressed in your recent posts Colin. Crisis getting you down?

Xoán-Wahn said...

Colin - Cold (raw?) bacon in olive oil...eww! That's just not right.

Cade - There may not be many olive trees but there's a whole lot of eucalyptus! What's up with that? Pretty soon, there won't be any authentic fragas left!

Anthea - FIERY! I can't help but laugh every time I see a bottle of the stuff!

Colin said...

Thanks, VP. Well, the crisis does depress me a bit, if only because it means I can't sell the house in the hills which I bought a year or so ago and which is now surplus to requirements. But it was the flu which really got me down and which has left me very weak. One of my friends has just told me my recent posts have been shit. So perhaps I should have taken a break during the illness. Or perhaps I should just change friends.

Christina said...

Colin, I don't think your blogs have been shit! Have carried on reading them every day anyway. I think you have been really ill and wish you a speedy recovery.

Brendan said...

Vigo the 'Olive City'

Colin said...

Christina, That cheered me up. Many thanks.

Brendan. Am there right now, mate. In El Gran Cafe on Urzaiz. Exhausted and bathed in sweat from the short walk from the station. . . The flu went days ago but the body declines to recover quickly, it seems.

Anonymous said...

mr davies, i shouldn't do it, but I feeling so sorry for you, i'm going to give you a remedy: cut a bit from a garlic clove and crush it or cut it into tinier pieces. Leave it "oxidate" on the chopping board for 5 minutes. Then put the bits in your mouth and knock them down with a swirl of water or wine. (That way you won't have to chew it, which will save you some "peculiarity" in your breath, but you can chew it if you want). The powerful natural antibiothic in the garlic will give you a tremendous boost within hours!

Have a siesta or regular short naps throughut the day (they'll "top up" your inmunolgical system), and when lying down focus mentally (or espiritually) in your body: send the message "defense", "defense" (or something of the like) to your system, even if only for a minute or so, a few times a day. That way, taking active part in the process, you will recover fully and faster.

Also, have a thought for those Galicians very considerate with their ancestral culture (or with what is left of it) willing to go to great lenghts to make every galician have the right and the means to access it and treasure it, if only for a matter of respect for their elder and for themselves and for defense of the "biodiversity".

Anonymous said...

@ Xoan-Wahn

the northern limit of the olive tree natural environment goes as far up as the Galician-Portuguese border, check that in any school atlas. In southern Galiza there was some olive oil making in the past, but nowadays, probably because of the inferior quality / productivity to that of more "mediterranean" areas, like the "Terra quente" (or "Warm land") of Tras-os-Montes, it's derelict.

Galician cuisine differs from other peninsular ones in the olive oil department. Anyway, who brought olive trees to the country? I think it was the Romans.

ointe said...

Olives were not unusual in Galicia. Actually I´ve seen them at almost 100km north of Pontevedra

There was, however, much more production until the XV century.I don´t know the real history on that, but there is a believing that one of the consecuences of the II "Irmandiños" war, was that the Kings of Spain specifically forbid them in Galicia

The quality of this olive oil is said to be on par with the best of Portugal( that of the north, which by the way is said to be the best of the world ).

Things are changing:

With respect to the statistics on education, there are some things to say. As you can see, there is interested "propaganda" against the educative system on Spain. I think I had pointed that in:

But that´s not the whole history. Just in oposition with the believing of some spanish nationalists, the fault is not in the autonomic system or the multiple language educative system, but on the multiple variations on the main educative law. More than four on the last years. In fact the worst performers in Spain are monolingual autonomies, Galicia is more than 10 points over the average (PISA statistics).

With respect to the "Albariño chase" that you commented some days ago. There were imports from Australia of the Albariño variety plants, to make their own wine. Other regions of Spain are doing the same. The trouble is that some of them were not certified as true Albariño. Is that the information you had?. Anyway, this is a 5-6 year delay for Australia, not big taking account of benefits.

With respect to galician nationalists and your comments about the future of them..etc. I am nationalist, and think that never had taken the job of convince you of nothing. In fact I know that you´re MORE or less against nationalism ( if it´s not spanish). My comments were on facts, whenever possible. Anyway, so many times I´d seen your attacks to galician nationalism that, just for now, I say that neither galician nationalists need free enemies nor your unfare comments sometimes.

Finally, it was a pleasure to read that you had taken good note on my advice to read the "memoirs" of Mr Rocca. In fact you have done a very good job translating it to one of your web pages. As you´re the rewriter, I have to take care that you actually know its contents better than me from now.

I spect that you feel better from your cold.

ointe said...

Ejem...unfair, not unfare.

Valencia Property said...

Get well soon Colin. Ithink it was coming through in you posts certainly

Colin said...

Thanks. Yes, I agree. I wqasn't very happy myself. But my friend has now denied he said my posts were shit. Which is true but I was only speaking metaphorically.

Colin said...

Ointe, Can I just say that I have no pronblem with people being proud of their place of birth (whether it's called a nation or not). Nor do I have any problem with those who want to promote all aspects of Galician culture and the language. What I oppose - while Galicia is still part of Spain - is the imposition of the language on those who prefer to use Castellano. And I find the re-intergrationists like Cade ridiculuous. But I would never oppose their right to say what they like.

If the Galician majority chose to leave Spain, then (as with other regions/nations) I believe it should be free to go. But, as you know, this is very unlikley to happen. If it did, the local government could then do what it liked and I would have to take the decision as to whether or not to stay here, if this meant being compelled to become fluent in Gallego.

By the way - and I don't say this is true of you - the worst aspect of nationalists is that they seem to regard an unwillingness to share their views as hard evidence of Spanish nationalism. Personally, it's of no great concern to me whether Galicia is independent or not. So to go on accusing me - as Cade constantly does - of being a Spanish nationalist simply because I'm not a Galician nationalist is evidence of the poverty of imagination and thought on the part of such people. And that is essentially why I don't bother to dialogue with them. They are stupid and deaf. Which is obviously not so in your case. I can respect your nationalism (as I do with several other readers and commentators over the years) and you can respect its absence in me, without then accusing me of being a Spanish nationalist.

Anonymous said...

mr Davies, again bordering the ridicule, you are not learning, not even through suffering ... I will have to send you a bigger "pega" down your pipe ...

How can anyone impose Galician in Galiza? Can I impose Galician, to you? If you can't speak Galician, then no matter how hard I try: you won't speak it! The same happens with galicians: if they can't speak it, how can thay have it impose on them? Let them have it learn first, and then they will decide if they want to speak it.

The main Galician politicians now in power say they want the freedom to be able to choose to speak Spanish. Well, how can you have the freedom to choose the language you speak if it is the only one you can speak, the only one you were taught?!

How ridiculous is that argument?! How ridiculous are your arguments, mr davies!?

Remeber: ignorance, no matter how badly you want to remain an ignorant, mr davies, is not a right. It is a personal choice. It is not the prerogative or the function of a government to facilitate that personal choice. It is not a choice for children, anywhere in the world, to remain ignorant of maths, of science, of literacy. Not even of the language of their own country.

Anonymous said...

Who is going to force you to be fluent in Galician, mr davies?!

Just let me know, please, and I have a word with those nazis!

Poor mr davies! Won't they leave him alone and free to speak Spanish in Pontevedra!?

That's what happens when the "nationalists" (they are baaad) take the reins, all kind of abuse will be committed, they will lobotomise everyone to have a Galician language chip implanted!

ointe said...


A BIG yes , to almost all your statements of last post. I´ll make clear the exception later, but I agree on your way to see freedom of expresion, or what should be the normal process to be independent, even agree with you on some aspects of the linguistic question. Normally, we should not be discussing some of these obvious things in the present day. But I think we are in a place and time not normal at all. If there is something I don´t want to do is arise local politic issues on your blog, because we all know how sticky are most political believings, how irrational can be if taken to extremes and how pointless is to think that my view should be the "one". However I must say that you had taken position on a local politic question (I mean the linguistic one), without aparently knowing what really says the other side.

And now comes the part in that I disagree with you.The only language imposed in Galicia was castilian. There is in the Spanish constitution one article that clearly specify the duty of knowing it:

"Artículo 3
El castellano es la lengua española oficial del Estado. Todos los españoles tienen el DEBER de conocerla y el derecho a usarla."

This duty was effective in Galicia for about 70 years now.

Now the equivalent legislation in Galicia:

only from 1983.

Do you see why the middle age people were induced to speak castilian only? How can this be corrected? I give you another link:

In it you can see almost all the galician linguistic legislation that is now being discussed.

One last thing: You probably ignore it, but a big part of the supporters of the new linguistic policy are falangists, fascists...and the like. There are between them, serious believers on forbidding the autonomic languages, or anyother religion than catholic. You can see it on the GB forums, and if you see there any dissenter you are lucky.
Enough..Take care.

mike the trike said...

So when do the authorities start testing the Gallegos to see if they can speak and understand Gallego? What happens if someone fails the test? What is the next step after that compulsion? As a foreigner living here in Galicia it doesn't bother me at all because already in the local clinic and hospital everything is written in Gallego and I can understand it. However, it would be interesting to hear from a Gallego living here in Galicia what he/she thinks about it. The opinion of a Gallego who lives outside of the country might be a little biased because emigrants tend to become very patriotic when they leave their homeland.

Anonymous said...

mike the trike asks what happens if someone fails the Galician language tests. I think I can talk for all Galician nationalists, especially those stupid and deaf (according to Mr Davies) reintegracionists, without fear of expressing only my personal views:

I think they should be all put to death, preferably through a public execution event (at the Riazor stadium, for example). Why? Very simple, and I know I may be being too harsh again: because that way we'll make of Galician a really useful language: if you know it you will live!

ointe said...

Ok Mike, you deserve an answer, first check this:

Fourth paragraph: "FE de las JONS nunca se sumó como organizacion, auque muchos de sus miembros colaboran activamente en las actividades de "Galicia bilingüe" y coincide con sus justas reclamaciones. "

At least you know what kind of ideals deffends the falange?:

Now, on the test. I´m not to be so good boy as Cade. If we were here 35 years before, could see what happened to the young students that spoke castilian mixed with the galician, bask or catalonian words that they had listened to their parents. That were one of the things that usually could only be paid with pain (in fact there were some other "pains" as religion, and national spirit formation, usually teached by falangists). Today these -same- people are deffending the "liberty" of his children to _not_ be teached in galego, but forget the liberty to not be teached in spanish. And when I say the same people, I mean it.

ointe said...

Two things more. Music:

And a book. This lady was much more informed<->curious and clever than our GB (take note of the first part of the book):

Colin said...

Ointe, Thanks for the latest book reference. I've downloaded it and have started reading about Pontevedra in the early years of the 20th century. I'm not sure, though, that she is as interesting as GB. She doesn't have the adventures he had!

mike the trike said...

Luckily the good part of this blog is that written by the author. The comments section is just for the entertainment of the readers and certainly has to be taken with a pinch of salt. There is no point taking anything seriously here in the comments. Good for a laugh that's about it or perhaps to sit down and cry at how some people see life. I've booked my seat at Riazor and the show should be as good as the events in the story of the Tale of two cities. With religion and falangists I guess life was almost impossible for the Galegos. People in bars even frightened to think in Galego in case there was a spy who would report them. Imagine the fear as someone ordered polbo with the slip of the tongue instead of pulpo!

Anonymous said...

mike the trike, you shouldn't get anywhere near Riazor Stadium, as you may find yourself in the wrong end of it, which is not confortably seated.
I'd advise you to stay home, lock your doors, and keep studying Galician 24/7.

You know, just in case any zealot member of that wicked nationalistic corp, the "Garda Irmandinha" (the Galician revolutionary guard), spots any defect in your speech that gives you away as a defective Galician speaker ....