Tuesday, November 03, 2009

There is no blog tonight because I have today enjoyed one of those Spanish lunches that start at 1.30 and finish at 9.30.

If you think this is reprehensible, you should have seen the first draft of this.

And many subsequent drafts.

Thank God, I wasn’t planning to practice the piano tonight . . .


Ferrolano said...

Colin, I trust that the food was great, the company wonderful and that your head is not too sore this morning! Enjoy as it is certainly one of the nicer Spanish experiences. As for the piano, we’ll leave that to your neighbor. Richard

Midnight Golfer said...

It's just how we roll, here in Spain. It's not lazy if you do it on purpose.
Back when I lived in the States, I used to seriously consider going 'entrepreneur' but I realized when I came to Spain, that my personality just isn't up for it.
The longer I'm here, the more I wonder if I'll ever go back.
The only drawback is that it leaves me really dependent on the people who do try. And sadly, although expectedly, Vodafone didn't come through on their DSL promise. As with Jazztel and Telefonica, they promised 10Megs service at my address, double checking my phone number, and assuring me that I could get it quickly - only to be let down a week or two later, when the technician (the same guy, in the Telefonica uniform, each time) tells me it just isn't possible, despite him remembering that my old apartment, upstairs in this same building, worked just fine.
When asked what can be done about it, this time there was no hemming or hawing, it was just, "nothing."

So now I get to take all the equipment back to the Vodafone store, and try to cancel the contract before they start charging me for a month's worth of service they can't provide me. So sad. Maybe I'll try to negotiate a reasonable price for just the 3G USB modem usage - probably not though: I'm too lazy.

moscow said...


Don't know if you know this index (Legatum). Spain punctuates badly on what they call social capital.

Ferrolano said...

Moscow, a good link with the ability to adjust the rankings by tweaking your own perspective as to how a country rates on one of the nine features listed. Downloading the full report is worthwhile for better understanding of the rankings. Bottom line is; where are a person’s own values??

moscow said...


Honestly, it must be my (lack) of English but I couldn't understand a word of what you wrote.

@Colin, I seem to be on a roll. I promise I will leave you in peace soon, but I saw this comment on the Times blog, quite liked it and just can't suppress posting it:

"Gillian Green wrote:

Since coming to live in France four years ago, I have changed my stance markedly on the EU. In Britain I was brainwashed, along with everyone else, by the constant media hype that we must get out of Europe. It's insidious. British life would be so much easier as part of the EU. No losing out on currency exchange; no need for stringent, annoying passport controls when travelling within Europe; tax, pensions and other vital issues across the EU could be streamlined to our benefit; and Britain would have a real voice in a larger democracy - rather than a timid, tiny voice that no-one recognises any longer."

I wonder then why you haven't changed your views (not one inch) after so many years. No offence, but to put it squarely I believe it must be an age issue. As we get older - and that counts for me as well obviously- we find it harder and harder to challenge old believes and hard-wired views. TGA (the chap who has made a career out of pleasing Europeans) says Britain is the only country in Europe that hasn't found its place in the world yet. I disagree. There is another one to which that applies too: Russia.

Colin said...


I don't have much of her problem with her argumentation. Of course, if you are an expat and live on the Continent life would be so much easier if the UK was in the ECU.As for her view that it would mean living in a larger democracy, this is where we part company.

As for why I disfavour the EU, I doubt it has much to do with either nasotalgia for the empire (your last view, I think) or age (your current view). I simply do no believe that it will prove an effective socio-political model and that it would have been better for Britain to remain outside the experiment, though possibly with even closer links to the USA. But, if I were Cameron,I would stay in and get on with it. There is no other choice. This is where I part company with the eurosceptic fanatics.

And possibly even with Daniel Hannan, who is really the person you should be arguing with, not me. For one thing, he's not someone you can accuse of being empire-minded and/or old . . .

He has his own blog, to which you can contribute, of course.



Colin said...

Moscow, Many thanks for the reference. Looks fascinating. I believe I understand what Ferrolano was saying and agree that you can materially change the rankings by providing you own subjective weightings. Well, I suspect you can, I haven't done it yet.

I did find some of the comments about Spain to be questionable (not just those based on 2007 data) but I'll probably find the same is true of the UK summaries. Must have a look.


moscow said...


Yes, I agree fully I should be arguing with DH, only he is most probably not by far as nice a person as you are. And even if he claims to speak French and Spanish I doubt he really understands the culture as much as you do.

moscow said...


Just one final comment. You haven't understood my comment about empire one bit. It's not quite as simple as you put it.

Colin said...

Moscow, Now you're just being nice.

So, what did you really mean about empire. Failure to find a replacement role?

Colin said...

Maybe it's my English.


Before Ferrolano says it!

moscow said...


Midnight Golfer said...

I played with the interactive part of that survey. Turns out I can widen the gap between the U.S. and Spain, and get the U.S. to come in third, just by adjusting for the things I personally felt were important/unimportant.

A very interesting link, for sure.

Colin said...


Here are the views of someone else you should be arguing with.

Now she is someone who does hate the EU.

BUT . . .

1. Is American, so has no hankering for empire

2. Almost certainly is not confused about the role of Britain in today's world. Or worried about it.

However, she is old.

Colin said...

Oops . . .


Colin said...

And another one . . . who is British.


Colin said...

As I think I have said, I have long beleived that the construct would collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions.

Meanwhile, one interesting aspect is how there's never a mention in Spain, as far as I can see, of how the country's current problems (just like its phoney boom) are a consequence of its membership of the ECU.

Colin said...

Presumably for much the same reasons as this

"Where Mr Cameron is entirely at one with his Labour and Lib Dem counterparts is that they must never admit or explain just how much of Britain's governance has already been given away, leaving Westminster with little more power than a rather grand local council."

As in London, so in Madrid.

Not good to remind the Spanish they fought a civil war to end up as part of an undemocratic institution.

But it will dawn on them one day.

I know you (sincerely) believe the EU is (sort of) already democratic and will get more democratice in due course but this is where we differ. I don't. It would be completely contrary to the nature of the beast. Circles don't square themselves. One reason being that they simply can't.

Of course, I accept that my pessimism might be misplaced but I do think that economics are not the key to this issue. Politics and human nature are.

moscow said...


I thought we were over and done with this. After all we agreed that we disagree, and you are anyway in the 'entertainment business' (your words not mine) not in the 'serious analysis business'.

I gave a passing glance to the articles. The lady is clearly bonkers. In essence, the French and the Germans know nothing about freedom and democracy - only she does, presumably. The other guy likes Klaus. Let me ask, where was Klaus during Communism? Well, he was clearly no dissident, was he?

All this idea that the EU is some authoritarian entity that will collapse under the weight of it's own contradictions is designed to please those who feel uncomfortable with the idea that Britain is just clear and simple another European country.
Which doesn't mean that people like me want a European super-state. I don't. That we like the antics of Sarkozy et al. That I am uncritical about the Euro-crats sitting in their plush offices in Moscow (yes they have representation here and in Beijing, and in,...) earning fat salaries, and doing exactly..... what??

Colin, you know perfectly well I have never written that you feel nostalgia for empire. Please, check my postings. Nowhere will you see that written. I don't think anybody does in Britain. Well, nobody below the age of 90. I understand that empire is more likely to bring forward feelings of disgust and/or mirth. Stephen Fry putting on a pompous Sandhurstian accent in Blackadder. But yes, you are right Britain has failed to find a proper replacement role (again your words). I put forward that the hostility toward Europe is imbued since early childhood. It has deep roots. I am not saying people hate Europe, or that hatred is taught at school. It is much more subtle than that. Just like racism is still rife and all pervasive in Britain, but you almost wouldn't notice unless you stayed long enough to interpret the cues hiding behind layers and layers of political correctness.

One can spread mistrust by omission. British school children get taught about Nazism and Communism but very little else about Europe. In an atmosphere where since childhood little positive ever comes across, it is not surprising Britons feel mistrust or indifference toward Europe. This is what TGA called the "Don't know, don't trust, don't care" syndrom.

Britons take their cues from the past in more than one way. Like the diplomat who - when asked why Britain wouldn't join the EEC - replied that Britain's interests stretch as far as the Himalayas and beyond, young Britons travel to Thailand, Vietnam and Australia during their gap years. But few come back with any relevant linguistic knowledge. Even fewer would trade the (undoubted) fun of spending a year on the beach in Phukhet and the mountains of Nepal for a year learning a European language. Too boring, no doubt.

I would say that Britain's present predicament is a result of it's own enormous past success. Compared to that past, everything else surely must seem like a steep downhill slope. But the idea that Britons don't want Europe because they love freedom too much is simply ludicrous. It is actually, to put it quite simply, astonishingly arrogant.

As for Spain, you couldn't be more wrong. Spain's problems do not stem from being in the EU. They do, of course, in the sense that lower interests and currency stability have prompted Spaniards to incur in what economists call Moral Hazard. But this is just a fraction of the picture. You are taking an extremely narrow view on things.

Your sentence about the civil war is simply totally out of place. I just can't comment on it.

Colin said...


OK, let's agree to disagree.

Except we agree that we don't want a European superstate.

I must confess to being impressed at your knowledge of the British education system. I can only comment from the perspective of two daughters whose education and attitudes don't remotely resemble the picture you paint.

I think it's a shame you say the woman is mad to think the way she does as this is so reminiscent of Spanish ad hominem ripostes. However, I'd have no problem is you said she was wrong, misguided, ignorant of European cultures, etc. etc. Even arrogant. But why on earth dismiss her as mad? Which effectively means it would be below you to debate with her.

I meant Spain's current economic mess, of course. We have previously agreed on the relevance of the structural problems and the need to do something about them. I think I did ask whether you now saw any evidence to suport your confidence of a year or two ago that the looming downturn would force Spain to do this. In fact, I think you said that entry into the EU had been done for exactly that reason. As far as I can see, the EC/ECB keeps letting Spain off the financical/economic hook so as to preserve political unity. In other words, Spain's needs are being subordinated to those of the EU. But you may disagree.

My point was that the Spanish fought for democracy. IF it's effectively lost - or even massively diluted - it will be ironic, at the least. Especially for a pluralist country in which peripehral demands for autonomy grow by the day.

Rhetorically . . Do Spanish kids get taught about Europe?

moscow said...

I am sorry, but what the lady has written here is simply so totally out of touch that bonkers is actually rather mild.

My commitment is not based just on a defence of British sovereignty or a dislike of overweening bureaucracy but on a fundamental belief that the entire project – the raison d'ĂȘtre of European political union – is anti-democratic. Not just undemocratic but positively, deliberately anti-democratic: that its architects, the post-war European elites, came to the explicit conclusion that the infamous national crimes of the 20th century could be traced directly to the democratic movements of the 18th century, and that the only hope for a peaceful, civilised future was a return to benign oligarchy.

Colin said...

Have you ever read Chrstopher Booker's book on the evolution of the EU and Britains' ascession? It's long and detailed but possibly easier than an economics textbook.

BTW - It highlights some fascinating ironies about early French and British attitudes.

moscow said...


No I haven't read the book, sorry.

About the gracious lady again: noticed the title of the article?
"Hate the EU?"

But what I find most worrying is the last sentence:

"On Europe, our hope can only be that the peoples of the EU will one day walk out from under their oppressors, just as the people of the Warsaw Pact walked out from under theirs. With the Conservatives continuing to stir dissent, there might be half a chance of that."

When you wonder why I am sometimes so upset about the EU-haters, this is the reason. I want the EU to succeed. I have many reasons. Amongst others because I believe it is good for Spain. I also live in Russia, remember? Therefore, if the EU were to fail because the EU-haters in Britain found a way to exploit fissures and cracks within the EU (they exist no doubt) in order to derail the whole thing, I would be inmensely upset. I find their attitudes and views highly irresponsible, ignorant and ultimately suicidal, because whatever bad winds spring up in Europe, they always end up on British shores.

Colin said...


Well, I can understand where you are coming from and appreciate you seeing the EU, on balance, as a force for good but, for the life of me, I can't see Britain being influential enough to bring the whole thing crashing down.

Perhaps if you rid yourself of this fear, you would be more relaxed (tolerant even) of the agnostics and heretics.