Sunday, October 31, 2010

This week, I’ve twice being asked to quote my ID number. The first time was when the postman brought a packet from the UK and the second was when I took a visitor to Pontevedra’s excellent  - if eclectic - museum. Now, I can almost understand why the Post Office would want me to prove who I am, but the museum? Incidentally, on neither occasion was I asked to show my ID card in order to prove the number correct. And, as I always make a point of misquoting it, this rather highlighted the pointlessness of the exercise. Still, it helps to keep someone occupied and so employed, I guess. Or is it just a simple case of mindless bureaucracy? Or the Everest Syndrome.

But on to larger matters . . . In case you weren’t aware of this from reading this blog, El País confirmed today that “Spain is the EU country where’s there’s the greatest incidence of paying for sex and where this is least hidden from view.”  Tolerance, the paper said, had normalised the social perception of commerce in sex. Interestingly, El País described the attitude of the Catholic Church here in terms I’ve long suspected were true as regards Spanish wives . . . “It believes that the use of prostitutes is less of a threat to the family than the taking of a lover”. Or the lesser of two evils, in effect. The paper rightly dismissed this as double morality. Incidentally, there are, naturally enough, many word for prostitute in Spanish but the article provided a new one to me – una ramera.

I read today that David Cameron's Big Society “is the devolution of power, or it is nothing”. In contrast, the New Labour state was “unitary, uniform, controlled and homogeneous”. The Big Society, the writer insisted, “should, by definition, be untidy, disaggregated and joyously cacophonous.” Well, off the top of my head, I can’t think of a better description of the Spanish system of government. And I’m not sure it would be everyone’s model of choice.

But, anyway, there was a good example of devolved power in today’s El País – Down in Andalucia, the regional government is considering alleviating its healthcare funding challenge by introducing patient co-payments in hospital - for better food, hairdressing and laundry and the like. As far as I’m aware, Andalucia is the first region to contemplate this. The other thought that struck me is that this approach would be impossible in the UK’s NHS, whether under Old Labour, New Labour or the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. Some things are going to remain centralised and unitary, come Hell or high water.

A conversation between me and my younger daughter before she left yesterday:-
Dad, do you have a pair of tweezers I can borrow?
Yes. They’re in my wash-bag . . . Hmmm. It seems they’re not. I must have lost them.
Well, I’ve got a confession to make. Last time I was here, I borrowed them and took them back to the UK.
So, what you’re really asking me is whether I’ve replaced the tweezers you misappropriated?
I guess so.
Well, no. Though I might have done, if I’d ever been told they’d been filched. You can use the pair I keep in the garage to take ticks off the dog . . .

Flight options into and out of Galicia now being what they are(n’t), said daughter flew back to England from Valladolid, where she met up with her sister who’d travelled up from Madrid. The latter had chosen a superior hotel specifically because it was said to be in a quiet area of the city. So you can imaginer her surprise and annoyance when she was woken in the middle of the night by a religious procession which featured perorations via a megaphone. Presumably related to All Saints or All Souls. So little wonder that Faye said it was enough to raise the dead.

Finally . . . There is a certain ‘people’ odour which I associate with Galicia. This emanates from clothes on some of the people I bump into and I initially attributed it to (relative) poverty. Now, however, I suspect it comes from storing clothes over the winter or the summer in damp conditions. I mention this because I was surprised to detect in on myself when wearing a new pullover recently given to me. Does anyone else living in Galicia know what I mean and have any info to impart on this smell?

12 comments:

Traction Man said...

Ah... the smell of damp granite suffused into the fibres of one's clothes. That mixed with the smell of bottled gas is the unmistakable odour of north-western Iberia.

moscow said...

smell of poverty? Colin, you really take the biscuit sometimes...

Colin said...

Well, I debated with myself whether to use the word or instead use some other phrase such as 'low income' or 'socially deprived' but, in the end decided to be honest/blunt and o go with 'poverty'. So, what would you have used? Given that the smell seemed back then to hang on the less-well-off members of society.

BTW - I aim to come back on your interesting comments on welfare reductions in other EU states.

Colin said...

@TM

That's sounds spot on. You've obviously smelled it in Portugal too.

Colin said...

@ Moscow,

The other thing is that, as poverty is officiall defined as having an income below 60% of the national average, it doesn't these days mean 'dirt poor', in rags, unshod, etc. etc. And I didn't want to use 'working class', as I knew you would be unhappy about that. Seems there's no pleasing some folk . . . . . .

sally said...

There is also another smell peculiar to Galicia and that is the deep fried oil smell, as some of my daughters friend mums seem to fry everything they eat. When she comes home there is an aura of grease about her!

Maria said...

Colin, I stumbled across your blog and website whilst researching notable places to visit whilst in Galicia. I have to say, your blog entries do not do this region justice. Every entry I've looked at so far is pessimistic and disapproving, with no real attempt made to embrace the culture. It's all about as joyful and uplifting as a spoilt 14 year old girl's livejournal.

Mike the Traditionalist said...

Well María you won't know if this blog does justice to the region till you visit it then you will be able to make a judgement. One resident's view as opposed to a travel brochure?

Maria said...

Actually Mike, I have been living in Pontevedra for a while, and before that I studied in Santiago de Compostela. Do not assume that because I said I am looking for sight-seeing places that I am nothing more than tourist, thank you.

Mike the Traditionalist said...

OK María nice to know you are residing here in Galicia. But, your comment did give me the impression you were outside of Spain and intending to visit so made my assumption on that.

Colin said...

Hola, Maria

Why not take a look at my Galicia guide at www.colindavies.net if youw ant the travel brochure approach.

I'd be surprised if you hadn't stumbled across it in your search so perhaps you already know that I also write different stuff.

Enjoy your stay in Pontevedra.

Cheers.

Colin said...

Maria,

By the way, my blog is entertainment. It doesn't even attempt to 'do justice to Galicia'. Or Spain. That's what my guide is for.

Do me a favour . . . Write again when you've read the guide.

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