Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I noticed years ago that my daughters were not using 'taking the piss' in the way my generation did. To us, it meant taking the mickey. To them it means more like taking advantage of. I was going to talk about this tonight in the context of what's happened in Spain in the last 6 or 7 years when, purely by coincidence, I came across the word Coña, which turns out to mean 'a piss-take'. So, instead of saying the last 6 or 7 years have been one massive piss-take by Spain's politicians and bankers (or, indeed, anyone through whose sticky hands money has passed), I can now say it's been one humungous coña. Or coñazón??

Another thought on the revenue-raising capacity of the police – If they do as I suggest and station themselves down by the roundabout to catch all those drivers using a mobile phone, they can also collar all the imbeciles who – for no benefit to themselves - block my access to the roundabout and the bridge into town. By the end of the year, they'll have enough to pay off the entire national debt. By the way, during 40 years of driving in other countries before I came here, I garnered not a single fine. I was stopped for speeding once in both the UK and the US and given a gentle warning. Contrast the situation here, where I've picked up 7 fines in less than 10 years. I once wrote that the only way to avoid speeding fines here in Spain was to drive everywhere at 50kph. I would add now that the only way to make sure you don't end up paying 'road taxes' is to stay off the roads. I wonder when they'll start policing the ridiculous 30kph(19mph) limit on the road to and from the roundabout. Possibly never, as we have a judge living here.

Sticking with driving – I read somewhere an expert's view of the 5 biggest errors committed by Spanish drivers. The worst was said to be not driving through a roundabout correctly. As I've said a couple of times, the crazy Spanish law is that everyone who isn't making a U-turn has to funnel into the outer lane, even if they're leaving via, say, the 5th exit. This, I suspect, is another example of Spain being 'different'. And it's not only foreigners who are confused.

I had lunch today with my friend Fran, an Anglophile, a Liverpool-phile (in every sense) and the driving force behind Los Porcos Bravos, a football team who play against the Sheffield Stags twice a year for the Anglo-Galician Cup. We covered a lot of ground but were firmly in agreement on one item – someone needs to write at least a dissertation on the similarities (and differences) between Scouse and Galician humour. I fear it will have to be me.

I saw a bit of the Thatcher cortege. What impressed me most was the sight of policemen dressed as they used to be, without the swathes of protective clothing and the 20 bits of equipment they sport nowadays. They looked very slim. And vulnerable.

Telefonica called me this evening, ostensibly to ask how satisfied I was with their services but really to sell me their new Fusión package. I told the lady I wasn't satisfied with the low internet download speed and she said that there was nothing they could do as 1 mega was the max in my barrio. As if that were a proper answer, since the remedy's in their hands. Anyway, when I got off the phone and tried to test the speed, it was so low I couldn't get the relevant page. When I did, it (eventually) registered the ludicrous speed of 71kbps. I was tempted to try and get her back on the phone.

Finally . . .

Bon Mots

Governments have done far more to curb concealed movements of workers across borders than concealed movement of corporate money.

[On religion] Who expects a person to be reasoned out of something they were not reasoned into?

Who would have thought, in 1989, that the eastern half of Europe would survive a financial storm better than the western half?


Perry said...


Guess who wrote this. Answer at bottom.

Baroness Thatcher, Britain’s former Prime Minister died on April 8, 2013 at the age of 87. She was the UK Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 and the most influential Conservative politician since Winston Churchill. Her single-minded self-assured determination earned her the label of the Iron Lady, inspiring awe, reverence and revulsion from her supporters and detractors alike.

Thatcher grew up in a classical English petty-bourgeois family. Her father owned two grocery shops in Grantham. He preached the word of God, was staunchly patriotic, and became the town’s Mayor from 1945-6. His self-confidence derived from selecting food that commanded a good price and turned a good profit. His daughter, Margaret, also formed her intellectual outlook around the petty proprietor’s fetish for the magical qualities of prices.

The English aristocratic bourgeoisie suffered irreparable damage to their standing in society during the Second World War. They were tainted by the economic crisis before the war and by their common sympathies with Adolf Hitler, whose supporters had included the former King, Edward VIII. This led to a landslide electoral victory for the Labour Party in 1945, and socialist measures in healthcare, education, housing and welfare, were combined with a significant extension of public ownership.

Margaret studied chemistry at Oxford, but she lacked outstanding intellectual gifts or innovative entrepreneurial talent. The egalitarian spirit of the post war era provided the opportunity for this determined and forceful young woman to secure herself leadership over the University’s Conservative Association providing a plebian face within their circle. Margaret had to struggle within this ambient for recognition by hard work. This was greatly helped by her ability to go without sleep. She once said, “Marxists get up early to further their cause. We must get up even earlier to defend our freedom.” Of course by freedom she meant the freedom of the bossy proprietor.

Her marriage to Dennis Thatcher in 1951 elevated her into the ranks of the bourgeoisie. He had inherited his wealth and felt that business distracted him from dabbling in amateur military escapades. He was generally seen as a blithering incompetent buffoon to be shunted out of ears reach, in case some bigoted diatribe escaped his lips, but Margaret dearly loved him and treasured the life opportunities his wealth had opened up for her. Dennis funded her career change from studying the chemical composition of ice cream, to studying to become a barrister; the traditional pathway to acquire the rhetorical skills and mindset required for a career in Westminster politics. She won a parliamentary seat for the Conservative Party in 1958 and quickly made her mark by voting to reinstate beating people with sticks as a form of corporal punishment.

The increasing power of the working class within society was reflected in their ability to extract and win concessions through trade union activism. Workers were no longer willing to be pushed around, to bow down to “their betters,” or to work as servants and maids for the elite. The emasculation of the Conservative aristocracy made Margaret Thatcher appear to acquire the ideal characteristics of what a “real conservative man” would be like – obstinate, determined, bigoted, and proud of it. Lessons to deepen her voice followed – all the better to gobble up her wimpish male colleagues in the future.

The 1960s were characterized by an entrenched social-democratic consensus whereby social and economic development was widely seen as the product of an alliance between the classes. Employment was easy to come by and wages rose, and public housing, health care and education expanded rapidly. This all smacked of communism to Margaret Thatcher, who was allowed to bark vitriol against socialism to the gleeful cheers of her bourgeois-aristocratic colleagues in parliament.

Perry said...

The victory of the mineworkers against the Conservative government in two strikes in 1972 and 1974 led to an election, which the then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, claimed would answer the question “who runs Britain?” He lost the election to a minority Labour government and Margaret Thatcher became the Conservative Party leader in 1975.

A deep economic crisis in the 1970s led the new Labour Party government, under orders of the International Monetary Fund, to attack the wages and conditions of the working class. Once again class conflict dominated politics, as the dead were unburied and rubbish piled up on the streets during bitter strikes. The 1979 election saw the Conservatives, led by Margaret Thatcher, swept into power. The era of the shopkeeper had come! The government presided over a collapse in productive employment, and social unrest took the form of riots, protests and strikes. The economic collapse had both real and manufactured roots, and it produced bitter social divisions.

The shopkeeper insider her, meant she automatically gravitated toward economic theory based on price. Her ideology imagined a world of free and unrestricted competitive pressures where atomized individuals replace organized workers. The pathway to this free market utopia involved selling off state resources and public housing at prices that were absurdly low. This created a significant constituency within the working and middle classes who suddenly acquired money from nothing. In this way the shopkeeper’s delusion, that an economy is simply a nation of buyers and sellers, was materially anchored in the minds of those who suddenly had loads of money. In this way a significant minority acquired a material stake in Thatcher’s “property owning democracy.” Making goods and services was replaced by selling second hand bricks; producing coal, steel, ships, trains and cars was replaced by speculative instruments conjured up by a Thatcherite tribe of arrogant barrow boys who were encouraged to take over the trading floors of the City of London, elbowing aside the “toffs” in bowler hats, and revolutionizing financial markets in a cocaine fueled speculative orgy.

So severe was the economic dislocation and the scars of social conflict that the government was thrown into deep crisis. However, luck was on the side of Mrs. Thatcher, as President General Galtieri of Argentina used their nation’s historical conflict over British occupation of the Malvinas Islands to launch a war to take them by force. Thatcher dispatched the British fleet and reconquered the Islands, whipping up a wave of jingoistic flag-waving. Riding a new tide of popularity, the real war began. Its objective was to smash the central core of trade union strength, the National Union of Mineworkers. Huge reserves of coal were stockpiled, the police were militarized, and war was declared on millions of British workers. Thatcher proclaimed the miners’ union to be agents of the Soviet Union. When she described them as “the enemy within” she had the look of hysteria in her eyes. The strike lasted a year and was defeated. This was a result of Thatcher’s determination and an impotent response by the majority of Labour and Trade Union leaders. The defeat of the miners union led to greater control by capital over labour and a long period of passive industrial relations.

The greatest nonsense is spoken about Thatcher’s significance in the struggle against what she called “the Evil Empire” of the USSR. The role of the U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was insignificant and peripheral. Even though the Soviet press had given her the name, “the Iron Lady,” of which she was so proud. The collapse of the USSR was a result of internal disintegration and not external pressure.

Perry said...

What finally brought about Thatcher’s demise was a policy to redistribute the local government tax burden onto the poor, via a Poll Tax based on household numbers, rather than property value or size. This backfired, producing ferocious riots and civil disobedience. After so many years of fighting the poor, and generating ever more wrenching social divisions, the Conservative inner circle decided to ditch the shopkeeper. Her own cabinet colleagues hatched a secret plot to oust her. She had become so divorced from reality that she was completely unaware of the scale of intrigue against her within her closest entourage. On November 22, 1990, a tearful and resentful departure was announced from the steps of number 10 Downing Street. This is the last most people recall of her political life before she was driven off into political oblivion. Her inability to be able to distinguish between prices and real wealth is an appropriate analogy to the incapacity to distinguish between her legacy and reality. In recent years, she suffered from a mental decline into a hallucinatory state of mind. Unfortunately, the nation that she changed continues to suffer from ideological delusions that her policies helped to implant. Sadly, the present Conservative government is once again scapegoating the poor and the working class, and bitter social conflict is back on the agenda. As conservative England mourned her legacy, in some part of Britain celebrations spontaneously broke out on news of her death. No doubt her legacy will continue to provoke a sharply contested debate. May the Iron Lady rust in peace!

Colin said...

Wonderful stuff. Beautifully written by a champion of the poor and downtrodden!

Perry said...


I tried coña & coñazón in the Bing translator & got nowt.

OTOH, "piss take" is "toma de orina" & back translated is a very polite "taking of urine".

Lost in translation eh?

Try this:



Perry said...


Apropos of not an awful lot, Wikipedia main page today has a link to liver birds & this piece of modern myth made me cackle.

Legend says that if an honest man and a virgin women were to fall in love in front of the liver bird then the pair of statue liver birds would come to life, fly away and Liverpool would cease to exist.

King John's letters patent of 1207 announced the foundation of the borough of Liverpool, but by the middle of the 16th century the population was still only around 500. The original street plan of Liverpool is said to have been designed by King John near the same time it was granted a royal charter, making it a borough.

Which came first? The settlement or the Scouse accent? ;<) BTW, I am not mocking. Estuary English is far more of an assault on my ears.



Porco Bravo said...

El post que te dejo en el link
Es retranca, humor negro o simple mala hostia ?

sp said...

1) try "coñazó" without the n

2) Telefonica's non-apology reminds me of an email we received yesterday from the owner of a holiday home we may be renting this summer. The price quoted was colossal and much higher than that for the same property last year. She "explained" that she would not be able to reduce the price because "that is the price we charge."

Colin said...


Try coño rather than coña.

Taking the piss in Spanish is usually 'tomando el pelo'. Or 'pulling the hair'.

Will come back on the other stuff later.

Colin said...

@Porco Bravo.

Humor negro, lo creo.

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