Monday, October 31, 2011

The EU: Late post yesterday, if anyone's interested.


From today's Times:- "The Mayor of Tehran is going to court in an attempt to reclaim a large compound in the affluent north of the capital used by the British Embassy since a Persian king gave it to the UK in the mid-19th century." Why on earth do I cite this? Because it takes me back to a Tehran summer in which I part-wrote and solely produced A Summer Entertainment in the grounds of this place, which was so successful we had to double the performances. Albeit from only one to two. I'm getting too old for modesty.

Less heartwarming is the bad news from Spain:- Unemployment - already a disastrous 21% - is still rising; growth in the economy in the last quarter was zero; the forecasts of growth for this year continue to fall; the property market is almost as dead as a dodo; the rich-poor gap continues to grow and is now almost the worst in the EU; the construction sector (once the engine of growth) is in intensive care and close to death; mortgage costs are about to rise again; repossessions are still increasing; local governments are laying off (probably the wrong) staff; and another new (vanity project) airport - Reus in Cataluña - finds itself without any flights at all and thus a reason for existing. As I said so often during them, what a truly mad period the euro-fuelled noughties were in Spain.

Despite all this, and notwithstanding demands from people as prominent as the owner of Santander bank, there's no sign of the country moving away from its ludicrous - and tellingly unique - working day. Which involves a very long "midday" break for 'dinner' (at 2 or even 3pm in Spain), a return to work at 4.30/5.00 and a clocking-off as late as 9.30pm. What's really amusing is that you occasionally hear the comment it's the rest of the world marching to the beat off a different drum. Implying Spain's got it right and everyone else should change. The truth is that, if any government were serious about increasing efficiency, they'd find some way to knock this horario on the head. Fatally. So, it'll be interesting to see whether the new PP government even mentions it once it's regained power this month.

The blue on the horizon? Despite the reports of a quarry opening up behind my house in the hills, a couple is very keen to see it tomorrow. Let's hope they like it and don't make a farcical offer.

I called my daughter's energy supplier this morning, to stop them taking her to court over the issue of a safety inspection. The computer at the other end of the line eventually told me I'd get a callback in 8 to 13 minutes. Enough time to achieve a new record for shaving, showering and dressing, I figured. You can guess the rest. As I rapidly soaped up for the shave, the phone rang; I rushed to answer it; and covered the handset with foam. Sometimes this country is too bloody efficient.

Finally . . . A conversation on the station as I and a couple of young women waited for the train to York:-
Announcement: Ladies and Gentlemen, we regret to announce that the 10.39 train to York will be three minutes late, due to people on the line.
1st. young woman: Three minutes! As if that's worth telling us!
2nd. young woman: Yeah.
1st. young woman: Yeah but we might just miss the shuttle bus and be late for our lecture.
2nd. woman: Fuck . . . me . . . sideways.
Me, unvoiced: Do you mind if I pass on that? 

I was going to say one doesn't hear this coarseness so much in Spain but then I recalled that virtually everyone there (both adults and kids) uses the Spanish equivalent - joder! - as if it was as innocuous as cripes! Which, in fact, it is in Spain. Unlike 'billy goat' - cabrón. Which you should only risk in company you know well.

Finally, finally . . . I've just read there's actually an organisation in Spain - The National Commission for the Rationalisation of Working Hours - which champions the cause of a more sensible, efficient and family-friendly working day. Joder! Good luck to them.

4 comments:

Azra said...

A quick question: do immigrants find it difficult to adjust to the siesta-lifestyle or do they prefer it? I find it very interesting...

Colin said...

Hi, Azra. Quick clarification. Although the Spanish take a long "midday" (2-5) break, very few of the these days take a nap/siesta.

And yes, it's quite hard adjusting to the Spanish timetable. And getting used to what such expressions as "first thing", "early" , "soon" and "midday" mean.

Anthea said...

You have to remember that "joder" is a general expletive while "cabron" is very personal and casts aspersions on the the male to whome it's adressed. You know how important manhood is!!!
It's interesting that the French don't get terribly agitated about "foutre" either. It's just the Brits and increasingly only those of our generation who find that "f" word so dreadful.
Just yesterday a friend of mine commented on a very smart young beautician outside Debenhams in Manchester. Said pretty young girl was smoking and then was heard to say to her friend, "And I'm not f***ing doing it anyway." My friend said it rather put her off gong to the beauty counter in that store.

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