There are two markets in Spain which I freely confess to not understanding. Firstly, there’s the property rental market. Despite there fact the country – now more than ever – is awash with empty flats, it can be the devil’s own job finding a decent choice. Or, if you want a short let, nigh on impossible. I believe the root causes – not addressed when times were good – are a universal lack of trust in other people and the knowledge there are no effective legal recourses if tenants default. Of course, these elements are linked but only the latter is susceptible to government action. Some day.
The other market which floors me is that for books. I’ve bought two Spanish books recently, both of which seemed expensive for what they were. Especially now that the pound is so low against the euro. The only place where you can get books in Spain is in bookshops which seem to me to be run on early 20th century lines (at least in Pontevedra) and which are said to survive on school book sales. Assisted by stringent resale price maintenance on everything they sell. But here’s the really strange thing . . . Although the Spanish don’t seem to be a nation of book readers – you rarely see anyone reading one in public – a knowledgeable friend assures me Spain ranks very high when it comes to the number of titles published each year. And, naturally, very low in unit sales and, therefore, royalties per author. So, who’s making money? And how? Subventions again?
Talking of books . . . I’ve just published a couple of more chapters of Aubrey Bell’s 1912 collection of essays entitled Magic Spain. Scroll down to the bottom of this page for these. One of them is on travelling in Spain in the early years of the 20th century. Mr Bell is a great admirer of the Spanish but doesn’t pull his punches on the negatives. Rather like one of his heroes, George Borrow. Here’s his overview on the importance of patience. Some might stay it still holds more true than false . . . . And still the golden rule for the traveller in Spain is never to be in a hurry or never to show that he is in a hurry, for by doing so he will increase delays and defeat his object. He must learn the Spanish proverb thoroughly - Paciencia y barajar - “Patience, and shuffle the cards.” Patience and courtesy he will find to be above rubies. The Spaniard, so sensitive and excitable, remains unmoved by delays and petty official tyrannies which drive an Englishman into a kind of despair and fury of impatience.
Finally, I read a lot today about the upcoming AGW conference in Copenhagen. But I will leave this until tomorrow, confining myself to the comment that Spain is one of the countries which has not met its Kyoto obligations. And the prediction that this won’t prevent our newspapers from pontificating about the big bad Americans over the next few weeks.