Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Well, thanks to the general strike, there wasn’t much going on down in Pontevedra today. Virtually all the shops - and even many bars and caf├ęs - were closed and shuttered. As this included my regular lunch-time place, I took myself down into Vegetables Square to relax in the September sun with a glass of wine and a good book. Only to find myself joined at the next table by a group of Gallegos which included two large women with foghorn voices which they used to dominate the conversation - indeed the entire old quarter – without stopping to take breath. My guess was these were mother and daughter but I couldn’t make out which of the four wordless men was the husband and father. It could have been any of the poor, cowed sods.

One noticeable effect of the strike was the impact on the normally pristine streets of the non-collection of last night’s rubbish. This was augmented by the stickers and graffiti everywhere in support of the strike (Pechada por Folga Xeral usually). And the net result was that Pontevedra suddenly looked rather more neglected and down-at-heel than it usually does. 

Anyway, the Spanish labour market is something on which I am less than expert, so it was good to see this article  (by Charles Butler of IBEX salad) in Qorreo this morning. Essentially, the up-in-arms unions seem to represent the cosseted, well-paid workers on permanent contracts, not the young and the immigrants on low-salary, temporary contracts. The government has said it’s going to do something about this basic division but we will see. Meanwhile, there are some fascinating statistics in the article on how the downturn has affected the constituent elements of the labour market over the last couple of years.

On a wider front, a columnist in The Times today spoke of the confusion arising as a result of the “inability of professional economists in Britain and America to agree on something as important as whether reductions in government deficits will accelerate or slow growth.” As he rather neatly put it . . . “What is the use of economics if it cannot answer even such a basic question?” Anyone got a good answer?,

Back to the issue of life in Britain, particularly to the charge I regularly lay against it after my trips there, viz. that there’s far too much regulation and surveillance. It’s reported today that a British think-tank has warned that, within five years, every parent will have to pass a paedophile check under the proposed vetting and barring scheme, which expects adults to have a licence to spend time with other people’s children. Including those who visit to play with their own kids. As someone has written, “David Cameron must discover a way to make people feel better, and giving personal responsibility back to people is a way to do it that won’t cost much. Freedom is what they want: liberation from petty restrictions and repressive rules.” Perhaps the British should simply adopt the Spanish approach and just ignore them all.

Finally . . .  Much as I love Iran and the Iranians (having lived there for three years in the early 70s), I feel rather encouraged that the Israelis (it’s presumed) can damage their computer capability via ultra-clever viruses. But something tells me I shouldn’t really feel like this.

Tailnote for new readers: My elder daughter is net-publishing her second novel which is “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. If this entices you, click here. And, if you enjoy it, please tell her. It’s tough being an aspirant novelist.


Nieves said...

In Madrid, on the contrary, most places were open and daily life today has been very quite, the underground was perfect and most people went to work, there were few bars closed, more newsagent closed and 99% Chinese shops closed! Best regards Colin,

Colin said...

Hi, Nieves. Yes, I'll touch on this difference in tonight's blog. All rather confusing. Cheers. C