Monday, June 17, 2013

Folk who drive the wrong way down Spain's autovías are called kamikazes. The latest is a 69 year-old Brit who managed 26km before he was stopped. I can't help wondering whether his offence is considered more grave than wearing earphones while listening to a BBC4 podcast. And whether he gets fined more than 200 euros. Vamos a ver. Meanwhile, the most celebrated kamikake is still the quadriplegic who took a wrong turn off a roundabout and went 10 kilometres against the traffic en route to a brothel. In a motorised wheelchair.

Talking of driving, this is a car I snapped yesterday.

Hard as it may be to believe, here in Spain you're allowed to take it on the roads without any training whatsoever and without the need for a driving licence. That said, I don't think I've ever seen one on an autovía.

And talking of roads, it's reported that, thanks to the imminent bankruptcy of the toll operators, many of the excellent highways built in the boom years now face closure. Traffic, it's said, has reduced by two thirds. The prospect of everyone being forced to take the old two-lane N roads is truly dispiriting.

And as for driving . . . I thought I was faring badly but how about this. And how about the excuse from the traffic wardens! Defies belief.

At dinner with my neighbours and friends on Friday night, I did my party trick of astounding them with the news that we don't have IDs or 'Family Books' in the UK. And that we don't have to provide ID when we use our credit cards and then sign a chit. Most disturbing of all for them was the fact we could journey from birth to death and never have need to use a notary. For notaries, thanks to the French and their Civil Code, are demi-Gods in Spain.
But do you have passports?
Yes. But it's not obligatory.
So, you carry them with you to prove who you are?
Well, no.
So, you could give a false name to the police?
So, how does that work?
Well, very differently from here. And effectively. And perhaps you can understand why we get a tad annoyed at the irritations of life here, like having to prove who you are to get a couple of bottles of wine on your credit card. And to use a bloody notary for just about everything important you want to do.

Which reminds me . . . There is a very decent Rioja on the shelves here at the moment. It's called Coto de Imaz and I've seen wines from this bodega in the UK. In particular, try and get the Reserva 2008. This costs 8 euros here (which I used to think of as 5 quid) but by my rule of thumb this will work out at 8 pounds x 2 = 16 pounds. A bit pricey but a lot better than the 10 quid Riojas on the shelves.

I mentioned rationalisation of administrative levels the other day, as something the government wasn't pursuing via an electoral pact. Well, the plans to eliminate many of the 8,116 municipal councils have come to nought, the only reform being the transfer of some powers upwards to the provincial governments (las diptutaciones). So, a chance well and truly missed.

Reading even half of this will give you a better understanding of why the Greeks haven't responded well to German-inspired austerity. And who can blame them?

The EU: As the Economist puts it:- One euro crisis may be over, but another has begun. The single currency is no longer under siege in financial markets, but it will not prove politically viable unless growth returns. Output has now contracted for six consecutive quarters in a recession stretching back to late 2011. The downturn is still steepest in southern Europe. Output fell by 0.5% in both Italy and Spain, the third- and fourth-biggest economies in the euro zone. But GDP is now declining in most euro-zone countries, including France, the area’s second-largest economy, which is back in recession following a second quarter of declining output, of 0.2%. The main exception remains Germany, the biggest economy, though it barely grew in the first three months of this year. I'd thought that a recession of this length qualified as a depression but apparently not. So there is some good news. More here.

Finally . . . I thought Spanish TV was bad. Brazil has a program called Miss Bumbum. Naturally enough, its purpose is to find the country's best arse. Female, of course.

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