Thursday, April 29, 2010

The only surprise in reading that Spain is still the second noisiest country in the world is that Spain is the second noisiest country in the world. The first is said to be Japan. Which is not how it was the three times I visited the country.

So, it’s come to this … The heads of the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – who are both French – went cap-in-hand to Berlin yesterday to beg for support for a Greek bailout that might just prevent a chain-reaction spreading to Portugal, Spain and beyond. There can be little doubt now that Germany, is the “undisputed master of Europe”. Third time lucky, I guess. I suppose there always was a certain historical inevitability about this. More importantly, I like all the Germans I know. At least if they say they’re coming to dinner, they do turn up.

Back in the world of funny money, the latest betting seems to be on ‘debt restructuring’. Which appears to mean the write-off of a proportion of the debt and heavy losses for the banks. To think, none of this would be happening if the EU had remained a customs union until the economies had really converged and until the members (including the big ones) had learned to play by their own rules. In other words, until they’d all learned to live in the real world and not in some political fantasy of their own dreaming. And yet, if the Germans can finally be persuaded to fund the more leisurely lifestyle of other members – not just that of Greece – everything could be alright on the night. And the EU galleon will sail on until the next storm. With battered sails but with the strong wind of a lower currency. If so, someone will inevitably emerge to tell us this is exactly what was planned. Just as membership of the eurozone was intended to ensure the economies of Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, etc. were transformed into something resembling that of Germany, France and Holland, etc. That, of course, was Plan A. But we’re now on Plan B, C, D or E. One thing’s for sure – there ain’t going to be any retrenchment in Brussels. Or even Strasbourg. Where salary and pension entitlements probably exceed those in Greece and Spain.

In the UK, a well-regarded teacher who’d succumbed to stress attacked a disruptive pupil and was prosecuted for attempted murder and grievous bodily harm. Today he was found not guilty of both charges, though there seems little doubt he, to say the least, lost his cool. Here in Galicia, the local government has announced it’s bringing in a law restoring the authority of the region’s teachers. Teachers as a class are, of course, rather prone to complaining and the many Galician profesores I know are no exception. But I’d hazard a guess that the awful life they routinely moan about is nowhere near as bad as the lot of British teachers. Of whom my younger daughter is one.

Don’t take my word for it 1: I asked recently why on earth the Lib Debs would want to form part of the next UK administration, given what a poisoned chalice it will be. Well, the governor of the Bank of England is now reported to have said the next government will be so unpopular that the party who forms it will be out of power for a generation after the election that follows the one coming up.

Don’t take my word for it 2: I asked yesterday whether the Spanish weren’t still in a bit of a dream. A columnist in the Voz de Galicia today opined that – “In Spain we’re immersed in a serious but complacent lethargy. It’s as if were expecting some invisible hand to give us back the wealth we used to know.”

The Spanish government has announced it will soon be possible to conduct debates in the Senate in any of the state’s five official languages (or four, if you think Valenciano is the same as Catal├ín) and that investment will be made in simultaneous translation facilities. Which some might see as a bit of a luxury in these straitened times. But Sr Zapatero needs the support of the minority parties.

Talking of questionable expenditure – Reader David has sent me an article from down South, in which the minimum cost of a First Holy Communion is 3,500 euros and the maximum somewhere in the stratosphere.

Finally . . . . By pure coincidence, one of the authors of the book I cited yesterday wrote to me today to advise of a press release in which it was reported that the Spanish media had introduced it to a bemused Spanish public. Following which their web site crashed under the weight of hits. Click here for more info.

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