As in many (most?) Spanish cities, Pontevedra's bus and train stations are close to each other, not in the centre, but on the edge of town. During the building boom – now receding from the memory of most – several huge blocks of flats were erected close to the stations. And, because they're a uniform dull grey, I took to referring to the barrio as 'East Europe'. The rationale hasn't diminished with their completion, as the majority of both the flats and the shops below them are unoccupied. OK, it's not as depressing as the flats I saw when entering East Berlin in the 90s, but it's at least dispiriting. Walking past them today, I noted that only 5 of the 16 shops below one block were in business – a bank, an estate agent(realtor), a furniture shop, a florists and a café. And I can't help feeling this says something about Spanish society. Anyway, I fully expect the furniture shop to have closed the next time I pass this way. Who on earth is buying their stuff these days? No wonder they're advertising huge discounts in their window. I will report!
Talking of estate agents – The one I sold my campo house through has closed. Probably because it wasn't ideally situated, in the train station complex. In contrast there's at least one new estate agent in town. But quite possibly three or more. Perhaps they're occupying properties on their books, in an arrangement that helps both parties. It's very hard to believe that the property market justifies the opening of any new offices but maybe the industry is full of folk who are not only liars but also optimists, taking the long view. Or perhaps they're taken in by their own hype. I guess we'll never know.
If you're thinking of travelling in Ethiopia, you should be aware that using Skype there carries a 15 year jail sentence. On the other hand, if you end up in a Brazilian jail, you will be glad to know that the government there is planning to reduce prisoners' sentences by 4 days for every book they read
On a wider scale, around the world it's reckoned that black markets account for 22.7% of GDP. This is well within the range normally cited for Spain of 20 to 30%. Whatever it really is, I guess we can expect it to rise once the VAT(IVA) sales tax rises – in some cases hugely – in early September.
Up to Pontecaldelas today, to see a re-enactment of a famous 1809 battle, when Galician forces, with a little British naval help, inflicted a humiliating defeat on the French forces under Marshal Ney. I was a little confused, as my understanding was that the battle took place, not in the hills near said Pontecaldelas, but down along the coast, near Pontesampaio. My doubts increased when I saw that the re-enactment would feature a wooden canon - a well-known aspect of the mythology around the Pontesampaio battle. The conclusion was pretty obvious – Pontecaldelas had hijacked the memory as an excuse for a fiesta. But, anyway, it was a very enjoyable event. Well, once we'd got past the six (yes, six!) 'national' anthems. The noise of rifle and canon fire was truly deafening and I was amused to hear Spanish parents telling their frightened and weeping infants that this was Spain and they'd better get used to these levels of noise. Assuming they didn't lose their hearing on this occasion. What impressed me most was that both armies were equal opportunity slayers, with women making up a significant proportion of both forces.
Finally . . . It's not too hard finding an unflattering foto of Cristina Kirchner, the Presidenta of Argentina. And, because she's taken to being nasty to Britain in as many ways as she can, here's the latest.