Just when you thought the doom and gloom around the Spanish economy couldn’t darken further, along comes this. You have to laugh at the thought that the man who’s presiding over the mess, Sr Zapatero, has assured us he’ll be driving an upturn in the EU economy during Spain’s just-started six-month presidency of the union. The quickest way to do this, of course, would be to take his own country out of the EU, improving the averages overnight. Or at least drive Greece off into the wastelands beyond. Meanwhile, Edward Hugh’s nutshellian comment is that “Spain isn't just being left behind, it is actually travelling backwards.” But to where?, I hear you all ask. Well, don’t look at me. I’m just the messenger.
As for said Sr Zapatero, he probably wasn’t too amused by this commentary on his woeful performance to date. I read elsewhere that 11m euros had been spent on making the site secure. Which must be wrong, whichever way you look at it. Especially as after the site had been ‘corrected’ it crashed again.
As Marie Antoinette might have said, “Let them eat ham”. Here’s one nice example of how the economic downturn is affecting local producers. Looks like it’s finally time for me to buy one of those huge legs. Plus a cradle for it and a knife sharp enough to amputate a finger every time I try to use it. I wonder if there are any arbitrage possibilities. I’ve often dreamed of a kitchen festooned with the things. Hams, I mean. Not my fingers.
I’ve been in Bilbao with my elder daughter and her partner for the past two nights. It’s an elegant city which has enchanted all three of us. And the quality of the tapas on offer has reminded me of what we lack in Galicia. Aesthetically, Bilbao has that quintessential feature of any truly great city, a river running right through the middle of it. Madrid lacks this, of course, but still manages to be a great city. Possibly because of the Madrileños.
Astonishingly, we’ve heard almost no Basque spoken here. In fact, my daughter and her partner have heard none. This is because they went to the Guggenheim when I repaired to the museum of Basque culture in the old quarter. If I were going to hear any Basque spoken, I guess it would be among the staff here. And so it was. Then, a little later, I heard a tour guide speaking in Basque outside the cathedral. At least, I assume it was Basque.
Talking of cathedrals . . . There was a plaque outside the one in Bayonne’s old quarter. In English it said that its history was a reflection of all the phases of the city’s development, starting with the 12th century period of "English dominance". This appears to be an alternative translation of the French for "time of the English presence".
Finally . . . Coming quickly from Bayonne to Bilbao, we’ve moved abruptly from French civility to Spanish brusqueness. But we're all familiar with the latter and take it in our stride, as it goes with the vitality of the people. What has confused me is that, in this great commercial city, I’ve twice been undercharged within 24 hours. Like most foreigners resident in Spain, I'm a great admirer of the honesty system which operates in bars here. But, believe me, this is stretching my integrity to breaking point.