Well, nothing did go wrong in Extremadura. Apart from me taking a wrong turn out of Guadalupe. Which I naturally blamed on my co-pilot. And which is why we’re returning to Madrid via Ávila instead of Toledo. Which we’ve both seen before anyway.
Earlier today I spent a jaw-slackening half-hour moving between rooms of increasing baroque splendour in the museum of the monastery and basilica of Guadalupe. There’s a couple of Goyas, a few El Grecos, an ivory statue by Michaelangelo and a whole raft of portraits by Zurbarán. And tons of gold and silver. Two observations were inescapable. Firstly, man has an immense talent for creativity in stone, metal, wood, and paint. And, secondly, the Catholic Church has a preposterous amount of wealth. Lying very idle.
Given everything I’ve written over the years, I was never going to be very surprised to read that bank charges in Spain are second only to those in Italy. Or so the EU Commission says. The spokesperson for the banking industry here has given the standard Spanish response to criticism – “It’s a filthy lie. And your mother’s a whore.” Well , almost.
The other bit of news that didn’t astonish me this week was that the black economy here – said to be more than 20% of the total – has grown by 30% since the start of the recession. And, of course, I’m not the only one to think it will grow even faster once VAT is increased by 2 percentage points. This is another field in which Spain is second only to Italy, I believe.
But the incredibly good news – at the start of the judicial year – is that the courts are going to root out corruption here in Spain. Once, I guess, the appalling backlog in the system has been eliminated.