Monday, May 14, 2012


It's taken me a while but I've finally realised why Brits start thinking about not bumping into each other about 12 to 15 yards before Spaniards do. It's because we Brits are not at all tactile and hate being touched. We will, literally, shrink from it. Whereas, for the Spanish, touching comes only after talking as one of life's great prescriptive pleasures. One aspect of this is that it's not uncommon in Spain for beautiful young women to look you in the eye and place a hand on your arm. Worse (better?), on your thigh. And it's not unknown for a degree of stroking to take place. But, if you're new to Spain, I'm here to tell you it signifies absolutely nothing at all. I rather suspect the ladies don't even know they're doing it.

I took my daughter, Hannah, to the bus station this morning. It being Sunday, this took only 15 minutes. Getting back home on the other hand took 75 minutes, and numerous U-turns. This was because the police had blocked off all access to the route of today's half-marathon in Leeds. In the end, I gave up, parked my car on the grass verge and walked a mile to the house. Once the race was over, I returned to the car, expecting to see another parking fine for me to ignore. But the police had been sensible and there was no ticket. I have to say some of the runners (crawlers) looked unfit for the challenge and I wasn't too surprised to see an ambulance taking some poor sod(s) to hospital. There'd have been more if I hadn't resisted the temptation to mow down swathes of them when my frustration was at its height.

But, anyway, the rest of this post is about the eurozone. So, if you've no interest in that, you can log off now.

Selected quotes from a Dominic Lawson article in today's Times:-

It was thought impossible. Then it became merely unsayable. Now it is openly promoted. Such has been the evolving position of the eurocracy — and, more importantly, the German government — on Greece being jettisoned from the eurozone.

Those of us who argued against the single currency at the start have grown tired of pointing out that the motivation of its originators was never economic efficiency; it was part of a visionary, almost mystical plan designed to make the peoples of the countries involved more “European” than national in their thinking, and therefore more receptive to the idea of a European polity to replace the allegedly superannuated nation states.

In the case of Germany and France, there was something noble in this aspiration, born of the experience of three wars and the determination that such conflict could be prevented from happening again only if there were a single European political entity. Yet as men such as Nicholas Ridley in this country and Professor Martin Feldstein of Harvard pointed out back in the 1990s, such a policy was actually more likely to create violent disturbances in Europe if it stripped economic policy from proper electoral accountability.
The former German chancellor Helmut Kohl recently admitted about his giving up the deutschmark: “I knew I could never win a vote in Germany. We would have lost a referendum on creating the euro.” In fact, the only reason the German people went along with it was that they were given absolute undertakings by their leaders that they would never have to be on the hook as taxpayers: that is, the euro would not be a single fiscal zone like the pound or the dollar. Yet the eurocrats have known this to be unfeasible at least since 1977, when Sir Donald McDougall, pointed out that currency union without fiscal union could never work.
Germany has already sunk about €200 billion into shoring up the single currency; but it will need to pay the same every year from here to eternity to keep the weaker nations solvent within the eurozone. German taxpayers’ patience is already close to exhausted, which explains the remark in the wake of François Hollande’s victory by the leader of the DU in the Bundestag: “Germany is not here to finance French election pledges.”
The German political class has invested its all in the idea of being “good Europeans”; and its exporters have gained mightily from the creation of the euro. So it will fight ferociously to stop the eurozone dissolving. But will it be prepared to bankrupt itself to keep alive a currency that will not last without unfathomably vast transfers from German taxpayers?

Remember, what is unsayable can still happen. It is happening already.

In an echo of Pontevedra, someone else has written:- What is striking about Athens' beggars is how clean and well-groomed so many are: not stereotypical street-dwellers, but working and professional people deep down on their luck.

Finally . . . More words of wisdom from Dr William Osler:-

Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.

2 comments:

moscow said...

Colin,

Actually, one of the pleasures of living in Britain was precisely that people are not tactile, but that is because I am not tactile myself- at all. I have always disliked all that touching and kissing - all my life. But then again my Mum is German and I am sure it has got something to do with that. But still, being in Britan, what
struck me was the eye contact avoidance policy. One soon realises that while in Britain you almost never meet someone elses glance on the street, be it male or (even less so) female. And you learn to act in accordance with the environment. When I came to live in Russia, I had to learn to relax a bit about certain things again. It took me a couple of years.

Colin said...

All too true. But it does depend on the size of the place. If you live in a small village, there's a great deal more eye contact and greeting.

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