It’s now almost ten years since I took up residence in Pontevedra. During all this time there’ve been public works projects complicating movement in several parts of the city. In addition, of course, there’s been the construction of numerous blocks of new flats. Indeed, on the northern edge of the city, the ground is being cleared and foundations laid for even more of these. This is despite the fact that, with the property bubble well and truly burst, occupancy of most of the new blocks is very low. Possibly even nil in some cases. The questions that spring to my mind are Why? And How? By which I mean who financed all this? The question is placed in stark relief by a short trip down into North Portugal, specifically into Pontevedra’s twin town there, Barcelos. Which boasts very few of the new buildings, roads and roundabouts that make parts of Pontevedra unrecognisable from only ten years ago. So, how come Spain got the bunce for all this and Portugal didn’t? Is it just a question of hot money flowing into Spain and being put to profitable use on the back of inappropriate interest rates? Or did Spain grab a disproportionate percentage of EU grants and subsidies? Encouraging banks and all those with sticky fingers to promote a construction boom that, despite reports of its death, seems to be continuing here in Pontevedra. All theories and comments welcome. Whatever the aetiology of it all, there’s no doubting that Pontevedra looks an even better place than it did ten years. Provided we discount the aesthetic value of all the old two-storey houses flattened to allow the construction of yet more anodyne flat blocks. Certainly you’d find it hard to find a single road either in or near the city which hasn’t been ‘improved’ in recent years. If only by the addition of 15cm speed bumps and the reduction of the speed limit to 40 or even 30kph.
Another question I have is – Are France and Britain (unlike Spain) really not paying for hostages to be released by Al Qaeda? If not, we can surely expect a lot more kidnapping of Spanish citizens.
Talking of what the Spanish government does with its citizens’ money . . . As I understand it, any young person in Spain who earns below 22,000 euros a year is entitled to 200 euros per month rent subsidy. In Spain ‘young’ usually encompasses all those below 35. But I assume this isn’t merely thrown at anyone below this age who might or might not be living with his/her parents but only at those who can prove they’re actually renting. And that they earn below 22,000 a year. This question has arisen because it’s been announced today that the scheme has been suspended as the payments have been going “in error” to young people earning more than 22,000 a year. I’m sure it’ll all be sorted out soon. Meanwhile, tough on those who really need it.
And still on the issue of revenue creation . . . One or two readers may recall I was fined a couple of years ago for doing more than 50 on the four-lane highway that comes into the north of Santiago. I noticed yesterday that there’s still only one (easily miss-able) sign and that the limit (surprise, surprise!) has been reduced to 40. As the man said the other day, “low hanging fruit”.
We’ve had terrific weather here in recent weeks but his morning dawned very cloudy. I read in the local paper that the skies would be clear by midday. Which seemed unlikely when I looked at them at 11.45. But then I recalled that ‘midday’ in Spain is when you have you main meal. So I wasn’t too surprised that things were a lot better by 3pm.
Finally . . . I touched recently on the summer spat between Spain and Morocco over the Spanish colony (sorry, “enclave”) of Melilla in north Africa. Click here for a better understanding of the backcloth to this.
Finally, finally . . . A plug for my elder daughter’s new novel., which is “A fast-paced political thriller but, above all, a personal tale of pride and paranoia.” – Ángel Valdés has it all: women, peace – and absolute power. But when an overheard remark ignites his jealousy of a long-dead comrade, Ángel finds himself gambling everything to become the undisputed hero of his country. My daughter adds . . . "I'll be publishing a chapter of the novel here every week while I submit it to various UK and US agents. Please feel free to leave constructive comments!" So, go on.