Saturday, December 01, 2012


The Crisis: You know things are really serious when countries pull out of the Eurovision Song Contest, pleading not good taste but poverty.

The Spanish government has said that “all necessary safety measures are in place” ahead of implementation of its proposal to raise the maximum speed on the nation's autovias from 120 to 140kph(88mph). Since there aren't too many straight stretches on Galicia's motorways, I'm rather dubious about this. For one thing, there are numerous places where the limit is reduced to 90kph. Will these now go up to the (previously dangerous) 110 or will they stay at 90? The government's motivation is, of course, purely financial – more fast driving equals more tolls – and it's astonishing there's been no public resistance to a measure which can almost certainly be guaranteed to lead to more deaths.

Talking of driving . . . A recent international survey suggests Spanish motorists are more likely to fail their driving test than any other Europeans. A total of 43% fail, compared to 32% on average on the continent. Possibly answering a question I've had for years – viz. Why hasn't he/she switched their bloody lights on? – the survey also found that almost 50% of Spanish learners claimed they'd received no training for driving in the dark. I make no further comment

I mentioned to an Anglo friend of mine today that Spaniards seemed to take out a legal suit (una denuncia) at the drop of a hat. “To true”, he said, “I've been in business in several countries but have never once been taken to court. Here - ten times. After football, it's the nation's favourite sport.” I'm guessing there's no punishment here for what would be considered frivolous actions in an Anglo system. And I wonder if all these petty cases contribute to the infamous gluing up of the Spanish judicial system.

Another odd feature of Spanish life is that, according to a survey by the ESCP business school, only 20% of jobs are advertised. The rest are filled either from the company's CV-stuffed files or via contacts of an existing employee. Which does little to suggest that one is living in a meritocracy, I believe.

Galician bread is nationally famous. I know this because El Corte Inglés features it on their Madrid shelves. But now Pontevedra's bakers have gone one better and introduced pan de vila ('bread of the town'). I'm not yet clear exactly how this is superior but it must be as it's 15% more expensive.

Finally . . . My lovely neighbour, Ester, has now got the results of her radon test from her husband. The safe maximum is 600 units and their basement came out at 2,000. (I should mention that there are two systems: 1. The USA, and 2. The Rest of the World. These numbers are from the latter and need to be divided by 137 to get an equivalent US measure). Anyway, Ester is obviously less worried than she was several days ago and I can only think it's because her husband's now taking things seriously. As is my other lovely neighbour, Amparo, whose boys play a lot in their basement. I suppose I should now get a test kit for mine. As I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, it'd be ironic if I died of lung cancer.

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