No sooner has Pontevedra garnered some fame by leading the region in insurance fraud than we are dismissed as being only of the second rank when it comes to noise. It seems that Vigo, Lugo, Ourense and La Coruña are all cities in which the EU noise maxima are exceeded but not in ours. Some mistake, surely.
Talking of noise inevitably leads to my neighbour, Nice-but-Noisy Toni. You may recall that I was shocked to hear, on my return from the UK in May, that he didn't envisage going back to sea until at least July. Well, July has come and virtually gone and he's still here. Today – during the siesta hour! - he was singing at the very top of his voice. But then he never does anything which isn't at the top of his voice - to the astonishment of a visitor I had last night. I'll have to ask him if and when he's going back to sea for his customary six weeks but my fear is he's now one of Spain's many, many unemployed.
I keep meaning to put together a piece and how and how not Spain has changed in the ten years I've been here. So I thought I'd start with me!
How I've changed for the worse.
- Driving style. Now somewhere between that of Iran and the UK, but tending towards the former. Especially at roundabouts (circles).
- Don't wait for pedestrians who are more than a metre from the crossing (My excuse is that they don't expect me to).
- Don't open doors or hold the open for anyone (fed up of not being thanked).
- Don't take the papers back. Two reasons:- 1. It's the staff's job, and 2. I tip a lot better than the locals
- Lie a lot more – just little ones, though.
- Am a lot noisier – 1. have to be, and 2. for revenge on Toni next door
- Walk in front of people without taking account of their existence.
- Would be prepared to 'borrow' an umbrella if caught in the rain
- Think a lot worse of gyspies
- Read the papers when I'm in a cafe with someone
- Take a phone call when I'm with someone, without apologies
- Write text messages when I'm with someone
- Don't say 'Please' every time I ask for something
- Say “Que?” (What?) instead of some version of Pardon?
- Park without too much thought for anyone else.
How I've changed for the better.
Err . .
- Perhaps a bit more 'Live and let live'.
All this said, there are:-
Things I still don't do
- Smoke when someone's eating. But only because I've never smoked
- Park on the pavement, etc.
- Not turn up for something I've said I'll attend
- Turn up an hour late for things I do attend
- Make so much noise my neighbour can't hear himself think.
- Put things in the wrong collection bin
- Park with total lack of consideration for others and put my hazard lights on to show I'm innocent of everything.
- Use my neighbours' unsecured wi-fi. Oh, sorry, I do do that.
But give me another ten years. Yes, God, please give me another ten years.
Reading the above, one's forced to ask why I say Spanish society is superior to any of the other five I've lived in. The answer, I guess, is that there are bigger things to worry about.
So, a last minute deal has been struck in the USA, as it was always going to be, But, as Paul Krugman says, what a deal! “Make no mistake about it, what we’re witnessing here is a catastrophe on multiple levels." His reasons here.
Norway again. A superb article by the ever-excellent Simon Jenkins In The Guardian. Sampler: “Norway needs no patronising from more 'mature' democracies, least of all ones that react to every threat with another turn of the illiberal screw. If the world is to put Norway in the spotlight, the lesson it should draw is that advocated at the weekend by its prime minister, for more openness and pluralism. Vigorous argument, not witch-hunts and repression, is the way to entrench democracy, rather than overreacting to a terrible but random act of insanity.”
Finally . . . Here's our friend AEP [why do I always type 'fiend'?] on the US and European crises, written before the US deal was struck last night. Sampler: “Yet if disaster is an outside risk in America, it is an odds-on likelihood in Europe. It is already clear that the latest EU summit deal is too little to stop a spiralling crisis in confidence, let alone acknowledge that North and South have diverged too far to share a currency union. . . . EU ineptitude - or rather, German, Dutch and Finnish unwillingness to face up to the implications of EMU - have raised the risk of a traumatic August crisis in Italy and Spain. EU leaders are bringing about exactly what they pledged to avoid."