For the Spanish, the British say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you to excess. And not only for the Spanish, of course. Anyway, the Spanish for “Please” is por favor, literally “as a favour”. And sometimes when I use it the response is “No. It’s not a favour”. I suspect this is because the word is almost another false friend, in that it has heavier connotations in Spain than in the UK. Here, where people tend to stay in their birthplace and so know a lot of people locally, favours operate as a form of currency. Those done for others are effectively banked and a return on them is expected at some future date. So it’s important to ensure some small deeds are not seen as favours. Well, that’s my theory anyway. It'll do until another comes along.
Spanish TV is not, it has to be said, a beacon of excellence but it’s pleasing to see things are heading in the right direction. A headline in one of yesterday’s papers ran “TVE will have less gossip and more films”. If true, this will destroy the careers of many women famous merely for once having dated bullfighters. Or even for having dated one bullfighter once.
Talking of gossiping . . . I read this week that the Spanish parliament is considering easing the penalty for driving while talking on a mobile phone. Instead of a large fine and the loss of several points off your licence, the proposal is you’d be compelled to buy a hands-free set for your car. This, of course, would not be the case if you’d distracted yourself to death, possibly taking a few others with you along the way. As of now, I can’t make up my mind whether this is madness or an excellent example of Spanish pragmatism. The latter being based on the assumption there’s actually nothing you can do to deter drivers here from chatting on their phones. So you might as well try to reform the survivors. And sympathise with the victims of those you didn't get to.
But the really good news of this week is that ‘sometime next year’ the government will press ahead with banning smoking in all public places. The Ministress of Health claims that 70% of Spaniards support this measure but I smiled at the comment of a Pontevedra bar owner that she can only have talked to antisocial bastards who never went into bars and cafés. Despite being a non-smoker, I do feel a twinge of sympathy for those bar owners now complaining that only a couple of years ago they had to invest significantly in separate, well-ventilated facilities for smokers. Not that it’s easy to find many of these places. Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see the extent to which the law is both obeyed and policed.
Finally . . . Reader Ferrolano has kindly sent me this photo of the delegates at the GW conference this week in cold Copenhagen.
But seriously, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to sympathise with their ironic plight. Many African delegates, it’s reported, brought insufficient layers even for a normal Danish winter. Well-briefed, obviously. Winter draws on. Not.