I tackled the infernal stamp machine in the entrance of the Post Office this morning and, as usual, lost. At the end of the eight-stage process, it advised me it had no change and disgorged my coins. Since I'd only overpaid by 5c, I'd rather it had kept it and given me a stamp. But this wasn't offered as an option. So, I had to take a number and wait ten minutes to buy one. With the following conversation:-
[Handing over the letter]Normal stamp for the UK please.
That'll be 1.30.
That's odd. The stamp machine said it was 0.65
Which stamp machine?
The one in the entrance.
Did you chose the Stamp or the Envelope option?
The stamp option, of course. Is it because the envelope is not the standard size?
No. It's because your letter weighs 28 milligrams[?] and over 20 it's 1.30
OK, I accept that. But it's odd that the machine quoted 0.65.
What weight did it give you?
No bloody idea. But one of your machines is clearly wrong.
We'll have to check the one in the entrance.
A survey reveals that the Spanish are the Europeans most worried about driving in other countries. This is hardly surprising; if they negotiate roundabouts(circles) the way the law here obliges them to, the chances of a crash must be close to 100%.
I always keep my eye out for escaped-ferret stories and here's the latest one.
And here's more on Spain's vanishing property market. Which one informed observer thinks will see a further 20-30% fall in prices
So, Rebekah Wade has finally resigned. One wonders if it was her decision or that of the increasingly desperate Murdoch family. Peter Oborne has another good article on this subject in today's Daily Telegraph. As he rightly concludes:- “The system of collaboration between an over-mighty press and timorous politicians is being exposed. There is hope that we can return to a more decent system of government; that Parliament can reassert its rights, and that ministers will make their decisions for the right reasons and not simply to ingratiate themselves with Murdoch and his newspaper editors. Perhaps the sickness that has demeaned and distorted British politics for the last two decades is at last being challenged and confronted.”. Let's hope so.
Some Bits and Bobs
o There are said to be 40,000 empty properties in Galicia. Many of them near me.
o Here's Time magazine on the theft of the Codex from Santiago cathedral.
o It seems more Brits than previously thought fought on the government side during Spain's civil war. 4,000 against 2,500. The names are on a web page somewhere and can be downloaded for free for a few weeks.
o EasyJet have announced a new flight between Manchester and Bilbao. Not terribly convenient for Galicia, I guess
o The birth rate in Spain is now as low as 1.4 and the average age for the first child has risen to 31.2. Galicia has a death rate higher that its birth rate and loses 8,000 souls a year, the worst in Spain.
o The Catholic Church has been accused of secretly registering title to properties thought by people to belong to the local community. The Church has said they had a right to do this under a 1998 law.
o At least once priest is implicated in the illegal sale of religious artifacts here in Galicia.
o 75% of town councils in Andalucia are said to be bankrupt.
o The advice to drink lots of water every day is based on a myth.
o Despite being a fusion of a tech college and a teachers' training college, based on the fees just announced, Middlesex University is the most expensive in the UK. Hubris?
Here's a list of the top chargers. Not many big names:-
1 Middlesex University £8,600
2 University of East London
3 Harper Adams University College
4 University College Falmouth
5 Keele University
6.University of the West of England
7 University of Newcastle
8 University of Hull
9 University of Bradford
10 Brunel University £8,450
Finally . . . Politics and Economics
The Spanish Finance Minister has said the nation might need to endure even deeper spending cuts next year than those approved by Parliament. But, of course, she can say what she likes as she knows there's not the slightest chance the current government will have to deal with anything beyond the next election, whether it's held in November or May.
Here's a decent review of the week from The Economist.
And here's a terrific Prospect article on the EU crisis from Wolfgang Munchau, of which these are the opening paragraph:-
“The eurozone is based on three pillars: loopholes, fudges and lies. They made this crisis inevitable. The propensity to fudge now makes any real resolution all but impossible, even if it contains the problem.
The fudges and loopholes stretch back to the deals that created the euro in the early 1990s. The Maastricht Treaty, in force from 1st November 1993, committed signatories to the new currency, which came into existence on January 1999. The eurozone’s advocates made promises that were inconsistent, but irresistible. The Germans were promised that monetary union would not oblige them to pay their tax revenues to other countries, and that it would create a currency at least as strong as the Deutschmark. The French perceived the euro to be a tool to strengthen Europe’s global reach. For the Italians and the Spanish, the new currency offered permanently low interest rates. Given their deregulated banking systems it also brought sudden wealth by way of a housing bubble.
These inconsistent promises were reflected in the governance of the currency bloc. There was no attempt to co-ordinate countries’ tax and spending policies other than through broad budget rules (soon broken). The most important was the famous 3 per cent ceiling: the maximum budget deficit that a country would be allowed compared to its gross domestic product (GDP). The philosophy was that monetary and fiscal discipline should be sufficient for the euro’s long-term sustainability. The independent European Central Bank (ECB) would adjust interest rates to contain inflation. The “stability and growth pact,” which aimed to co-ordinate national policies within the euro area would enforce fiscal discipline. And that was it.”
Herr Munchau is a man of some knowledge and eminence, as well as being a supporter of the EU. Funnily enough, his article doesn't even mention the UK, never mind accuse it of being responsible for the imbroglio. And he's brave enough to talk of the probabilities in the rest of the article.
As for the current German viewpoint on things, here's the FT on this these. Essentially . . . “Germany in no rush on further Greek rescue. Germany is firmly resisting attempts by some of its eurozone partners to accelerate negotiations on a new Greek rescue package in a bid to calm financial markets and to reverse contagion spreading to countries such as Italy and Spain. . . A report issued on Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund backing the German position on private bondholders is likely to bolster Berlin’s hand in European debates, but it could exacerbate contagion in the EU’s peripheral bond markets. . . Despite the market pressures, Berlin is anxious that an over-hasty reaction to the threat of contagion in eurozone bond markets might lack credibility and only make matters worse.”
Interesting times. Is the EU finally beyond fudge and deceit?