Down to Oxford yesterday, to see an old Anglo-German friend from my distant Jakarta days. Well, that was Plan A but my friend failed to read my text messages to his (switched-off) phone, meaning that - unaware of Plan B - he'd not met me at Reading station and so had to get a train back there from Oxford. Whereupon, we had to implement Plan C - Find a place to stay the night in Reading. Which is sort-of why we ended up with Plan D - Staying the night at The Red Lion Hotel in Basingstoke. It being another warm night, the youth of the town were out in force in minimal attire. Affording themselves ample opportunities to show off their fashionable tattoos. And leaving me with the question - Why are so many of the young women of Basingstoke overweight? Poor diet? Little exercise? Excess booze? Inescapable genes? The Essex factor? I certainly don't know but, interestingly, my semi-Teutonic friend was of the opinion that English women were getting prettier. Well, not if you live in Spain they aren't. Which should lose me a few readers.
Another friend of mine has built up a decent net-based business over the last five years or so, starting with the truly comprehensive Galicia Guide. But now he's had the rug pulled from under his feet by a change in policy on the part of Google. In an apparent attempt to do something about the appalling plagiarism that takes place on the net, they've penalised the sites which are being plagiarised! In other words, the more attractive your site is to the crooks, the more likely it is to be removed from Google's search engine. Which is a serious miscarriage of justice. Let's hope that this gets sorted soon, for my friend's sake. Incidentally, I understand from him that you can now buy software that allows you to duplicate a popular site in its entirety and then collect the advertising revenue by substituting your name for that of the site's creator. It's a wonderful thing the net, but not always just.
I mentioned the Falklands a couple of days ago and just want to add that the original French name for the place was an echo of St Malo back in the home country. This was simply distorted by the Spanish into the Iberian-sounding Malvinas, before the Brits did away with all that Latin nonsense and named them after someone we've never heard of.
As you drive down towards London, you're assailed by notices in lights advising you to plan ahead (i. e. leave early) for the Olympic Games. The inference is that the M1 and the M25 will be chock-a-block, meaning you should set out at least two weeks before the event you've been lucky enough to get tickets for.
The Economist this week asks: What will become of the European Union? One road leads to the full break-up of the euro, with all its economic and political repercussions. The other involves an unprecedented transfer of wealth across Europe’s borders and, in return, a corresponding surrender of sovereignty. Separate or superstate: those seem to be the alternatives now. After wandering around the considerata for a while, the journal plumps for the answer that:- The nations in the euro zone must share their burdens. The logic is straightforward. The euro zone’s problem is not the debt’s size, but its fragmented structure. Taken as a whole, the stock of euro-zone public debt is 87% of GDP, compared with over 100% in America. Similarly, the banks are not too big for the continent as a whole, just for individual governments. To survive, Europe has to become more federal: the debate is how much more. So, another step on the way to the Superstate. But one, suggests the journal, which seeks to limit both the burden-sharing and the concession of sovereignty. Rather than building a federal system, it fills in two holes in the single currency’s original design. The first is financial: the euro zone needs a region-wide system of bank supervision, recapitalisation, deposit insurance and regulation. The second is fiscal: euro-zone governments will be able to manage—and reduce—their fiscal burdens only with a limited mutualisation of debt. But in both cases the answer is not to transfer everything to the EU level. The Economist's concluding peroration is:- It is a long agenda; but it is more manageable than trying to redesign Brussels from the top down, and it is less costly than a break-up. Saving the euro is desirable and it is doable. One question remains: will Germans, Austrians and the Dutch feel enough solidarity with Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese and Irish to pay up? We believe that to do so is in their own interests. The time has come for Europe’s leaders, and Mrs Merkel in particular, to make that case. If interested, you can read the details of this argument here.
Talking of Germany . . . I read a paean of praise to the nightingale yesterday and went to YouTube to get an example of this bird's glorious song. And here it is. What's this got to do with Germany? Well, the recording was made one evening in 1942, and a minute or two after it begins, the drone of bomber planes is heard, first slowly rising to a crescendo and then diminishing. Which is an ironic backcloth and one which someone more poetic than I has described as a contrast between life and death.