Sunday, October 03, 2010

John Carlin is a Brit who writes an excellent football column in Sunday’s El País. His theme today was that - regardless of results - the manager of Real Madrid can do no right and his opposite number at Barcelona can do no wrong. I mention this here because of Carlin’s nice comment that “Spain defines itself by its antagonisms, its fractures and its tensions.” This he puts this down to 500 years of Catholicism, which have left Spaniards, he claims, believing only in black or white. Leaving grey for foreigners. I don’t suppose 700 prior years of Islam helped much in this regard. As I regularly say, whatever the causes, it’s a fissiparous place. Only united, says Carlin, in its dislike of the Real Madrid manager - the 'special one', Sr. Mourinho.

I guess it had to happen 1: Someone has been killed when following the instructions of his GPS, by driving into a reservoir where the road had once been. It happened down near Badjoz and you can read more here.

I guess it had to happen 2: A visitor from Madrid has been fined 200 euros for parking his car where there was a weekend restriction in the space across the river allotted to the kids for their weekend binge drinking (El botellódromo). His defence was that the sign was in Gallego and that he didn’t understand what Agás meant. Which is ‘Only’. Hardly surprising, as it bears no resemblance to the Spanish word.

Talking of rules . . . You might be as surprised as I was to hear that France never incorporated the relevant EU directive on expulsion of EU citizens into its national law. But this isn’t that unusual in France. Nor, indeed, throughout the EU. As someone wrote today, “There seems to be only one country which rigorously enforces EU law to the letter: the UK.” For this reason, what happened in France could never have happened in Britain. The courts there would have intervened and stopped it immediately. It’s still possible that the EU will take action against France later but “even if it does, the French government will probably just ignore it. They have done so in the past: witness the failed attempts by the European Court to force the French government to stop handing out 'illegal' subsidies to French companies.” Here, of course, we have two of the reasons why the EU is so unpopular in the UK. This sort of self-interested game-playing by other members offends two mainstays of British society – respect for the Rule of Law and the belief in fair play. To prosper in Europe Britain should, of course, forego its principles and play the game as well as everyone else. But this never going to happen, I fear.

And talking of fair play . . . There’s been a lot of comment here recently on how few Spanish taxpayers declare an income above 120,000 euros a year. And about the arrangement (El SICAV) which gives exceptionally beneficial tax treatment to the ultra wealthy in respect of their investments. During the boom years, the (socialist) government of President Zapatero had better things to do than tackle this huge-scale tax evasion/avoidance, when things were arguably more propitious than they are now. But at least something (retrospective!) has now been announced about the SICAV schemes. Almost certainly too little and too late. Meanwhile, the regional governments have taken it upon themselves to increases those taxes they control, leading to the sort of tax ‘postcode lottery’ (as it’s called in the UK) that already exists in respect of healthcare.

Finally . . . It looks like the solution of one or more members defaulting on its debt and/or leaving the EU is once again considered to be back in the realms of possibility. As a columnist on Britain’s (left wing) Guardian put it yesterday:- “The eurozone has become a trap for peripheral countries. They are crushed by debt, unable to compete against the core, saddled with austerity and facing long-term stagnation. Defaulting and reconsidering membership of the euro are no longer unthinkable. But for this to work the political power of the alliance of bankers and lenders has to be broken. There must be social change in favour of the working people who protested this week and who are the source of future prosperity. Then economic policy might be designed to deliver growth and jobs.” For us, of course, the question is - If Greece, Portugal or Ireland do indeed go, will Spain be dragged along with them? Interesting times.

Footnote: As I write this, Real Madrid are racing to an overwhelming victory, against the Galician team Deportivo de La Coruña, as it happens. So, will Sr Mourinho still be the Devil tomorrow, I wonder?

Tailnote for new readers: My elder daughter has now net-published six chapters of a 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.


moscow said...

Rule of law? Fair play? Have you read last week's SoW? Masters of hypocrisy I would add. A couple of weeks ago I read a book (written by an Oxbridge don) about the British empire. Makes interesting reading. I wonder how come the British have such a wonderful self-image. Are they naive? Illiterate? Or just hypocrites?

Colin said...

What is SoW??

There's a vast difference between a people and its ruling class. And waht happened under the Empire is irrelevant to modern Britain.

Mike the Traditionalist said...

Britain (the ruling class) was only successful with its empire because it gained all the experience it needed by treating its own people (bottom of the pile) in Britain how they were to treat the rest of the empire.

Colin said...


By Jove, it doesn’t take much to get you to launch an anti-British comment, does it?.

I finally figured out it was South of Watford and I guess you mean the Alphaville farce. Yes, I'd read it. What does it prove?

So, are you saying that there’s no respect for the rule of law in Britain? And/or that there’s no widespread belief in fair play?

As for why the British might or might not be self-delusional, I leave this question to you. When you’ve decided why this is so, let us know.

By the way, I don’t (and didn’t) claim these attitudes are unique to Britain.

Rudy Vinyl said...

I  agree with You .
After living in England for more than 40years, ( I live? in Spain know)  it's the respect for the Rule of the Law and the belife in fair play in general that makes England  with its ups and downs such a diserable and respect country by (guiris) from all over the World.  
I should know I have experience It. 
Your fear is my fear.


Colin said...

Thanks, Rudy.

Mike the Traditionalist said...

I was born when Britain had its empire. The world map was mostly in red (the empire). We had an outside toilet at the bottom of the garden and we used the local paper to wipe our bottoms. We had no hot water from the tap only cold. We boiled a kettle and washed ourselves from a basin in the bedroom. We had no bathtub. We heated out house with a coal fire and the only room in the house that was warm was the living room the rest of the house was freezing and damp. We were lucky though because we not only had gas lighting in the house we rented but also electric lighting. We paid for both by stuffing coins into a meter. No one had a bank account and did everything through the Post Office. If you were called staff at work then you had a bank account. Most people didn't have the faintest idea how to fill in a cheque should they be presented with one. We bought money orders from the Post Office. In 1946 after surviving the Nazi blitz I went to Canada shown on the map all in red as part of the empire. I returned to England in 1959 and lived in London where I rented a room and had the privilage of an outside toilet and used the News of the World to wipe my backside. There was no hot water in the house and only one sink. No bathtub so I queued up with everyone else at the local baths where for sixpence you received a towel made of sandpaper and a bar of the soap the size and thickness of a razor blade. You waited your turn to be called and the bathtub was cleaned and filled for your use while you watched the scum and pubic hairs from the person who used it before floating on the surface of the fresh drawn water. If you were lucky you could get bathed and not have a pervert looking over the top of the wall from the bath next door. There was no heating in the house but the landlady downstairs had an oil fire which sat glowing in the front room and she always bought Esso Blue because it was the best kerosine as advertised on the tele. I am really glad I was born at the time of the empire because it must have really been bad for those who didn't have the fortune to live in the mother country. I would love to tell you how well we were treated in the mother country and how well we were treated at school even though we were regularly beaten on the back of the legs with a cane but it would be too boring and take up space which could be better used. Oh yes and before I finish I must say when the king died we found it very difficult to replace the word king with queen when we sang the national anthem and stood at attention in the cinema when the film finished before we exited the building.

moscow said...

yeahh..but I get your blog going..and a chance for MtT to spread his wisdom.....

Mike the Traditionalist said...

My wisdom doesn't come from reading books written by people who don't know what a gas mantle is and who would trip over a scuttle and wonder what the heck it was used for. I read in the paper the other day that people who have an open fire in their front room can't buy firelighters anymore. I also read in the same paper that some mad scientist was waiting for the Pope to arrive and was trying to convince him that the world was round. But the Pope had just spent two hours flying first class return via Alitlia at the UK's expense because he could get booked on the internet for Ryanair. He had a window seat and had spent his time looking out the window and the world was flat. I think it was DaVinci who invented the first helicopter and took the Pope up in the sky and showed him the earth and told him the earth was round. The Pope said are you nuts I've just been up there and it is flat.

Anthea said...

Colin, I hate to be a picky pedant but I think you might find that "agas" means "except" rather than "only". It doesn't resemble at all the Spanish word for "except" either and is just as confusing to a non-gallego speaker.

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