Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I regularly say the Spanish don't have good antennae or radar to warn them you're coming towards them. At its worst this means that a chatty group of three will block your way until the very last moment, when the one directly opposite you will turn sideways and almost make enough room for you. My observation was that this wasn't rudeness or lack of consideration for others; it was just a natural consequence of the lack of good radar. You don't appear on their screen until you're right in front of them. But now I wonder. For yesterday I conducted an experiment which throws all this up in the air. I didn't mean to. Things just fell out that way . . . . Against the backcloth of a pile of partially-read magazines, I decided to read one as I walked into town. So, I crossed the bridge with my head down. But not so far down that I couldn't notice that people were starting to move out of my path a good 5 to 10 metres ahead of me. As I say, this has thrown me somewhat. And I guess the obvious thing to do is repeat the experiment, firstly while reading a book and secondly while wearing dark glasses and carrying a white stick. In the latter case, will the gap extend beyond 10 metres? Stay tuned.

Today I went slipper shopping on behalf of my sister. She bought a particular pair when last here and wanted another one. But the shop had closed and I had to do an (unsuccessful) tour of the shoe shops in the old quarter. All seven of them. Tomorrow I will try those in the new quarter. God knows how the town can sustain so many shoe shops. Not to mention the women's clothes and accessory shops that are still opening up. Just how many wives, girlfriends, sisters and daughters of money-laundering drug traffickers can there be?

Talking of clothes . . . Today I made my annual trip to a seamstress shop – of which there are also quite a few – to get the moth-holes in my pullovers repaired. They buggers weren't put off by the bunches of lavender in the wardrobe. And not for them the cotton, wool or even the lambswool sweaters. Only the pure lambswool and cashmere items will do for their bloody eggs.

For a couple of weeks or so, I've been on the verge of retracting any negative comments I've made about the repeat prescription service here. For I've discovered that, armed with your health card, you simply go to the pharmacy, where they insert your card, look on the screen and give you want you want. Or they did until today, when I was told I couldn't have any more until 26 of December, even though I'll run out in two days. The pharmacist suggested the doctor had made an error or that something had been erased but, whatever the reason, I needed to go back to the surgery. So I'm leaving my negative comments on the record for now.

Opus Dei is a Catholic organisation which is considered pretty far to the right by everyone who isn't a member of it. Some would even say proto-fascist. Anyway, it's said to be powerful in Spain (where it originated), so I guess we shouldn't be surprised to read that around a third of Spain's judges belong to it. But it's discomforting.

Finally and still on Church matters . . . Not many of us will ever forget Cecilia Gímenez, the 80-year-old Spanish woman who restored a picture of Christ in her parish church, turning him into an attractive orang-utang in the process. Well, it seems she's come out of her self-imposed purdah and is selling one of her works on eBay. As I write, the going price is 630 euros but who knows how high it'll rise. If interested in bidding, you've got just over 5 days left to get someone – possibly yourself – an unusual Xmas present.


Anonymous said...


Your radar theory was always sort of flawed.

Spaniards are far less worried about physical contact than Britons, who are allergic to any form of bodily encroachement. This explains why britons plan the steps ahead of them to avoid not just bumping into but ever so slightly brushing passers-by.

Now Colin. The Euro is still there. No signs it will go any time soon. The truth is, there is now a greater chance of the UK leaving the EU for good than that of the Euro disappearing.

I have always been in favour of the UK being an active part of the EU.
I have always thought both sides stood to benefit from the UK's involvement in the EU.

However, I have come to realise some time ago that something has to give. Britons will only wake up to the advantages once they are out in the cold (and out there, believe me, the temperatures are freezing).

Only one small example, according to the Economist: in 2001 Britain was the 3rd largest exporter to India. In 2011 it fell back to 21st. I would mull over that for quite a while.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

Dear Moscow,

One theory of the ultra Euroscaptics like Daniel Hannan for that loss of trade, is that Britain can no longer negotiate its own bilateral trade agreements. The EU is doing that for them. And not always in Britain's interest. It is, I fell, a point worth considering.

All that aside, I wonder if this is the right time to speak of the advantages of belonging to the EU and - more particularly - the Eurozone, as over a third of the countries belonging are plunged into 19th C misery due to their membership. Places like Norway and Switzerland are not doing too badly, are they?

Yours, Sincerely, ABM

Anonymous said...

@Colin aka ABM,

No, no and no. Nothing obstructs Germany, Italy or Holland or Sweden or Poland from exporting their goods to the rest of the world. No EU law. No bilateral anything of any kind. And note: these countries are not complaining. They just export. By the truck load.

Hanna, if he still had any decency left in him, should just join the UKIP, which is where he truly belongs.

Switzerland? Hardly comparable.
8 million people. Yes, they make money from dirty-laundering cash from all the cesspits around the world. But to the contrary of the UK they have a thriving manufacturing industry making medical equipment, machine tools and pharmaceuticals and have full order books. Nestle, ABB, Roche, Novartis, Oerlikon and on top of that the luxury industry: Swarovski, Rolex, Breguet, Victorinox, and all that cheese and chocolate and if that is not enough nice proceedings from tourism (summer and winter alike). Would Switzerland have 64 million people like the UK it would be a superpower.

Norway?.....Oil...and gas....and fish. More than enough for 4 million people.

Colin said...

I'm flattered by a belief that ABM is a pen name of mine. It isn't. Why on earth would I want one?

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Dear Moscow,

Colin speaks the truth. Much as he is an excellent fellow, he is not Alfred B. Mittington.

I will not fight you over economics. It would be like discussing theology with a well-educated Jesuit. One only stands to lose such an unfair contest between expert and ignoramus. (You are of course the former).

My point is, however, merely practical, and empirical. Norway and Switzerland, both outside the Union and outside the Eurozone, are doing very well (as you yourself argued convincingly). Quite a number of countries inside the Eurozone, and inside the EU, are not. On the contrary. In fact, all Eurozone countries are even doing a wee bit worse than all non-Eurozone EU members, according to the statistics of Eurostat itself. And that’s not even mentioning that most of the rest of the world seems to be growing, where Europe is shrinking (in more ways than one).

Now surely there are many and complicated reasons for all this. But it does raise that one uncomfortable question: What precisely are those tremendous advantages of belonging to the EU and having the Euro? It would be nice if somebody could define them for once.

As for Hannan: I agree with you. I get the feeling, however, that he is aiming for a merger of both parties, permanent or merely tactical for a few years, and therefore stays within the Tory ranks.

Yours, ABM

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Mittington,

To write about the advantages of belonging to the EU would require not a few lines but a Phd dissertation for which I lack the time and the energy.

What I will do, nonetheless, is give you a true life example of what happens when you are out (of the EU).

I live in Russia. As it happens I have a residence permit (obtained early last year).
I have my usual passport with a stamp on it and a special Russian passport (the actual permit). For the last 2 years I have been flying in and out of Russia without this permit not realising that I was getting through pass control thanks to an old valid visa in my passport. This visa run out a couple of weeks ago. The truth is, however, this visa should have been annulated 2 years ago when I got my permit. But since nobody noticed I continued travelling on a visa which I assumed was not valid and about which I had forgotten long ago.

Well, then, last week I was about to take a plane to Germany to go for a very important meeeting and I was stopped at the passport control. The visa had run out and I did not have the permit with me (as had been the case for the last 2 years).

I lost my flight, missed out on the meeting, and on top of that (this is Russia) I had to pay a 50 euro penalty.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

Dear Moscow,

Oh, tell me about Russian 'securocracy'! If I tell you that I was once almost arrested by the Militia for taking a snapshot inside a Petrograd post office, and once had to bribe my way out of the country by giving the customs officer three Asterix comic books in Flemish (!), you surely understand that I know the kind of trouble!

However: my question was not about individual advantages to EU citizenship, but about the advantages to nation states. Does it need a PhD dissertation to explain that? Surely something THAT obvious is easier to explain?

Yours Alfred BM

Anonymous said...


Ok. What I am going to write about is not actually an advantage, more the consequences of leaving.

According to a City chap I saw speaking on telly a while ago the size of the City as a proportion of the overall economy is 6 times the size of Wall Street relative to US GDP.

Wall Street has real economy behind it. And what is the City's hinterland? Manchester? Bradford? Wolverhampton? Clearly not.
Would Britain step out, it would not be like Switzerland. More like Russia I would think. Shut out in the cold. The city carved up in half and carted off to Frankfurt, Zuerich or wherever.

I will add this. If you are out of the EU expect to face the likes of Russia on your own - and try to imagine what that would be like with a weakening US. I have the feeling nobody in Britain is really aware of what it would be like. But if the Russians are now pissing all over Britain - think Litvinenko, BP et al - I dread to think what it will be like when Britain is on its own.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

Dear Moscow,

Thanks for your views on this. Since the discussion is now going into visions of geopolitical future and global economic powerplay, I'd love to continue; but I fear we are burdening Colin's blog with a discussion somewhat misplaced there.

Perhaps some day in the future we will have the chance to 'chat' (as I believe it is called) on a more appropriate forum.

Yours, ABM

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