Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Local councils around Spain are reported to be finding it difficult to pay their bills. Especially the smaller ones. Councils, I mean. Not the bills. This problem is particularly acute here in Galicia, where there’s the highest density of tiny councils in the country. So, as with the troubled cajas/caixas (local savings banks) there's talk of amalgamation in the air.

Speaking of councils . . . I guess it all depends on where you are on the safety-obession v. pragmatism spectrum how you will respond to the news that few of these in Galicia seek any evidence of the safety of the fairground attractions which move around from town to town during the fiesta months. This, of course, has become a hot issue after the recent death of a child on one of these. Personally, I’m such a coward that I’ve never gone on any of them – even as a child. So it’s all academic to me. But I’ll be trying to keep my daughters off them in the future. And my grandchildren. Should I ever get any.

An article in El Pais yesterday was headlined “Why are we so bad at learning English?”. The usual suspects were arraigned and, thank God, the ridiculous theory that Spaniards are genetically disadvantaged was rejected out of hand. The writer stressed that the huge Franco-inspired dubbing industry has done Spanish kids no favours at all, in contrast with their peers in neighbouring Portugal. True, but does anyone see anything changing in the foreseeable future? Just a few tears now and another bout of soul-searching in a few years time.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times over the years that Spanish cartoonists always portray capitalists in 19th century US garb, complete with stovepipe hat. I was reminded of this today by this comment in a British newspaper . . “Just as in cartoons burglars still wear striped jerseys, so only in our imaginations do ironmongers wear brown warehouse coats and milkmen white coats and peaked caps.”

I doubt there’s a greengrocer's shop in Spain these days which doesn’t ask you to use plastic gloves when handling the produce. I have to confess I never have. But this is because I select by sight, not feel, and thus always buy the item I pick up. Until today, that is. When I used a glove to break off a piece of ginger from a large hand of the stuff. Only to have the checkout girl take it from me with coin-besmirched fingers and put it on the bare weighing machine. Perhaps she realised that ginger has a protective skin. And perhaps she didn’t.

Finally . . . From a notice on the gates of the town cemetery I learned today that even the dead in Spain have summer hours for visits. Presumably to allow them a clear run through to a night on the slabs.


moscow said...

I would assume if you had worked and "really lived" in Spain - as opposed to being no more than a tiny physical blot on the landscape - you would also have known an awful lot more about Spain than you actually do.

You might have had to adjust a little bit but I guess you would have been fine. After all, there are tens of thousands of Northern European and American execs working in Madrid and Barcelona, and they seem to be doing ok. There are also Spanish companies owning whole factories in places like Germany, Switzerland and the USA. According to you this should be an impossible and unworkable situation.

Does your comment mean you didn't adapt to the working ways of Iranians? After all Iran is the stone age compared to Spain (sorry for the unPCness). But then again I suspect it was the Iranian and Indonesian underlings who had to make sure they adapted to the ways of the ferenghi nawob (on a return ticket home), and not the other way round. I can imagine what it was like to work for a (then) giant and powerful British multinational in the Iran of the Shah.

Generally, I find Spaniards are harder working than Britons, and when it comes to efficiency I agree with cafee-mark. During my 10years in Britain I saw enough of British shoddiness and inefficiency, including the almost asian-like pacience that Britons put on in the face of
adversity. Perhaps things have
changed, but the trains used to be simply awful and third-worldish.

Having said all that, I realise it could be inmensely frustrating to work in a small company in a small provincial town in Spain, which is probably I assume what you had in mind in the first place. It is here were you are more likely to meet the utterly lazy son-in-law or the lacklustre daughter of the business owner going about their business, not forgetting about the owner himself who in many cases has barely finished school. Yes, that I can see could be infinitely frustrating.

Colin said...

Well, maybe I am not as lacking in work experience as you think. Albeit in this provincial backwater.

As it happens, when adressing this subject in the past, I've usually said that I imagine things are different in Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid.

But, then, my daughter works in Madrid and I have lots of friends there. So I'm aware of their frustrations.

Hmm. Asians adapting to the foreigner. I think not. Have you ever worked in the Middle or Far East?

I'm not sure why you keep telling us about your awful exoperiences in Britain. I'm not going to contradict you. I had enough complaints about the place to want to leave there for ever.

I comment on Spain - accurately or inaccurately - because I live here. Not because I think Britain is better. And I must have said at least a dozen times that, on balance, I enjoy it more than any of the previous cultures I've lived in.

moscow said...

I guess you are right about Asians. I stand corrected. No I have real no experience, although I worked in China for a few months.
But my point was that you never had an Iranian or Indonesian boss. Now that would have been a really testing experience.

On me making comments about Britain, I would have thought that it is perfectly logical since you are a Briton living in Spain and as you always say your blog is called Thoughts from....and my comments are also.... thoughts....without boundaries.

Furthermore, you make a comment about efficency in Spain and I would assume that it remains pretty much within topic to make a comment about efficiency in Britain. But maybe there is something I am missing. Finally, I have to admit that I am never less than surprised when I read/hear Britons making comments about efficiency in Spain. It seems to me that they have a heightened, rose-tinted, and unrealistic view on the efficiency of things in their own country. And I feel compelled to respond in kind.

Colin said...

Moscow, OK but you risk coming across as someone with a fundamentally anti-British attitude who is simply indulging in defensive tit-for-tat. Which does you a disservice.

And, No, I don't think it's logical to comment on/criticise Britain simply because I'm a Brit living in and commenting on Spain. By all means differ with me and tell me I'm wrong about Spain. I welcome. But not from a standpoint ratehr close to those Spaniards whose basic argument is that I have no right to comment on Spain because 1. I'm a foreigner, and 2. Britain is a crap place.

Anyway, I will be posting something on this issue within the next hour. So won't steal my own thunder now.

moscow said...

I understand where you are coming from but I don't think you are being fair. What you are saying is don't write what I don't like to read. Not fair. But hey, it's your blog not mine.

Colin said...

Not remotely true. I invite you to tell me (with evidence, of course) where/why I am wrong. I'm very aware Pontevedra/Galicia are not Spain. If there is such a single entity.

Anyway, I'm about to post the item I referred to earlier.