I’ve always rather envied people who can take up unequivocal positions at one end of the spectrum of attitudes around an important issue. Whether this is bullfighting or the state of the global economy. On the former, a couple of close friends are about to start a dialogue which I will observe as an ambivalent bystander. On the latter, I was pleased – well, relieved really – to read today that “One of Britain’s most successful industrialists” had admitted to a columnist that he had “no idea what’s really going on.” The writer went on to add that “The message from financial markets is horribly ambivalent.” Which was music to my ears, as I reeled from Charles Butler’s latest post over at IBEX Salad. I mean, I’m sure Charles is right but – not for the first time - I wish I could understand why. Or even the point he’s making.
Talking of both conviction and the Spanish economy, the Vice President responsible for the latter says she’s sure Spain won’t return to recession. So, does she know something we don’t? If so, I think we should be told. Perhaps she's been reading IBEX Salad and understands it. If not, God help us.
The Spanish I contend – are rather un-ruley, giving the impression they don’t have much truck with regulations they find personally inconvenient. Or as Angel Ganivet once put it “Every Spaniard’s ideal is to carry a statutory letter with a single provision, brief but imperious: ‘This Spaniard is entitled to do whatever he feels like doing.’” The other explanation, of course, is that they do comply with laws, but only those they think there’s a fair chance they’ll be penalised for breaking. I think of this whenever I see one of the (countless) drivers with a mobile phone to his or her ear. My suspicion is most of these simply don’t accept this is dangerous. But here we come up against an attitude towards and an assessment of risk which are rather more pragmatic than in Anglo cultures. Rightly or wrongly.
Another thing I’m confused about is the number of police forces in Spain and what they do. There seem to be at least four, possibly five, ranging from the very local to the very national. With the Traffic Corps on top of all these. I pondered this again when I read today that one police officer had fined another (possibly from a regional, provincial or local force) for not having his seat belt on when chasing some alleged gangster along a road near Sevilla. A propos – the Galician Nationalist party (the BNG) has just suffered another reverse in its campaign to establish that Galicia/Galiza is a real (de facto, at least) nation by virtue of the delegation from Madrid of responsibility for traffic control. I believe this is already the case in the Basque Country. And possibly in Cataluña as well. If not, it soon will be.
I’ve just checked and the officer stopped and fined was with a/the national police force and his nemesis was with the Civíl Guard. Tráfico Department, I guess. Not the most popular of folk.
Finally . . . As my blog-friend Anthea and I regularly say, the airport at Oporto down in North Portugal continues to thrive while Galicia’s three international minnows continue to struggle. Taking sensible (but irritating) advantage of this, the (bankrupt) Portuguese government is now putting tolls on all the fast roads to both Oporto and its airport. Worse, these won’t have pay booths. You’ll have to buy a ‘box’ and charge it with pre-payments before you make your journey. If not, you’ll be hit with a massive 600 euro fine. Understandably, the Galician Xunta sees this as an unfriendly act. So do I but I’m rather more worried about where/if I can get the box here in Spain and how to pre-charge it. Or, alternatively, how long it would take me to get to Oporto via the country roads. Which may now be rather more crowded than previously. Could be the bus or train to Vigo for all my future visitors.
Tailnote for new readers: My elder daughter has now net-published four chapters of a novel she describes as “A fast-paced political thriller but, above all, a personal tale of pride and paranoia.” Set in a fictionalised Cuba, it’s being e-published at the rate of at least a couple of chapters a week. Click here, if this entices you. If you do go and you enjoy it, please comment. It’s tough being a novelist. And the father of a novelist.
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