Thursday, November 05, 2009

If I were asked about the basic rules for being happy in Spain, I’d say one of them was to take on board how important the personal factor is here. If you don’t like this and can’t be personable, live somewhere else. I was reminded of this when I called a vet last night because his brother had told me that, although he’d closed his kennels, he might still be willing to take my dog for a few days. Things didn’t go too well at first but he eventually put me on to his wife. And she said “Hola, Mr Colin. Yes, we’re happy to do it because we remember your dog.” So, there you have it. Proof positive that Ryan is more personable than me. Which possibly wasn’t a big secret.

The planned fusion between the two Galician savings banks has hit a rock. The bigger one has declined the hand of the other. This has thrown everybody into confusion, with the Bank of Spain calling for a merger between the smaller caja and one from another Community. This is, of course, anathema to the Galician Xunta as fusion with ‘foreigners’ would diminish its Galician-ness. Not to mention their influence in the new entity. So they’re pushing something called ‘virtual fusion’ (SIP, apparently). But the Bank of Spain, being (very) much more commercially oriented, wants nothing to do with this. Interesting times.

Three Galician hermanos (brothers or possibly siblings) recently scored the highest marks in not just one but two of the government’s tough civil service exams. This means they are either very, very clever or – because the questions were leaked to them – very, very stupid. An investigation has been initiated and we await the outcome with interest. I’ve opened a book on it but I have to admit the odds on the trio being brilliant are rather low.

My mother called me today to say that the government had told her they were reducing her pension as she had savings of more than 12,500 pounds. When she said she didn’t as she’d bought a new flat, the conversation led on to the service charge in her community and her entitlement to a payment to cover it. At 84. my mother is more financially secure than she’s been in her life, essentially because of benefits arising from her age, her lack of mobility and her solitary living. The last thing she actually needs is more money to put in her deposit account. But the benefit system in the UK appears to be black and white; either you don’t make the list and get nothing, or you do and they deluge you in cash. I should add that the service charge is 100 pounds a month and my mother is entitled to claim the back-payments of 2,400 pounds for the last two years. Hence the following conversation:-
Well. I’m not worried about that.
But you were told it was your right?
And you can be sure that, when it comes to their turn, the government will take every last penny from your estate [i. e. me and my siblings] it thinks it’s entitled to?
Yes . . .
Well, then.

In this way does welfare distort the morality of every country, no matter how fundamentally ethical (or rich) its people are. No wonder folk are prepared to lie and cheat to get onto one of the lists for government largesse. And no wonder the numbers of welfare claimants are what they are in the UK. And the national debt is what that is too.

Here in Spain, the government announced a year or so ago higher benefits for those looking after the disabled. But it seems to be remarkably difficult to get hold of these. Firstly, because Spanish bureaucrats operate as an obstacle and not, as in the UK, as facilitators; and, secondly, because the government doesn’t now have the money it thought it would have when it introduced the law.

But, if you really want to see a bit of welfare madness, hie yourself to page 12 of edition no.1247 of Private Eye and learn how 40,000 people in England have been claiming an EU subsidy since 2005 simply because they can afford a field in which to put their expensive pony. Or, as the magazine puts it, “Farm subsidies remain of as much interest to readers of Horse and Hound as they are to Farmers’ Weekly.”

But to end on a lighter note, a Spanish joke . . .

Why is President Obama like a Latino? Because he doesn’t live in his own house; he lives with his mother-in-law; and he makes lots of promises he’s never going to keep.

1 comment:

Xoán-Wahn said...

I've been struggling with the personal factor a bit myself. This is not because I'm not personable but because people here are personable in a totally different way. It takes some gettig used to. It doesn't help that this varies a bit from region to region.