Monday, November 18, 2013

Hard Times; EU affection; Miss Gardner; and Life & Death

These are tough times here in deflationary Spain, as they are elsewhere of course. Unless you're a director, it seems. For, whereas salaries of middle managers and workers here have fallen 3% and 0.5% respectively in the last year, those of directors have risen 7%. So we're not all in it together, as Cameron's phrase goes.

Exports still rising, factory production up again, inflation down again - There are a number of things that the Spanish government can point to as proof that its medicine is working. And, believe me, it does. But no one seems to be listening or believing, especially when they read that the astronomic 27% unemployment rate won't be falling for several years yet. So, the positive indicators are far from being translated into a feelgood factor.

Talking of attitudes towards institutions . . .

Trust and Mistrust of the EU
The EU average - 30% and 60%
Cyprus - 13% and 83%
Greece - 19% and 80%
Spain - 17% and 75%
UK - 20% and 68%
So, perspectives are worse here in Spain than in the UK, which is quite a turnaround from, say, 5 years ago, when the money was still flowing in and there wasn't a team of bureaucrats in Brussels telling the Spanish government to rethink its latest budget and to impose even more austerity. In the name, one assumes, of 'convergence'. As for the bigger boys:-
France - 34% and 57%
Germany - 29% and 61%
Looking at these numbers, you do wonder how they got the average to what it is. I guess it's because the Eastern European states are more bullish about what the EU will do for them. Bulgaria's numbers, for example, are 54% and 28%. Possibly because they see an EU-inspired solution to their gypsy problems. Exportation.

It's just possible that mistrustful attitudes to the EU reflect knowledge that the auditors refused to sign off on the accounts for the 19th year in a row. Possibly because of the allegation that €7bn was lost on "fraudulent, illegal or ineligible spending projects". The bigger the bureaucracy and the bigger the budget, the greater the corruption, of course. And, with 28 countries to manage, the EU deals in some pretty large numbers and some pretty complex processes. So, what did anyone expect?

Listening to a podcast on the American actress, Ava Gardner, I was amused (and surprised) to hear she'd acquired - via a relationship with Hemingway - a taste for a drink called Sol y Sombra. This is a mixture of brandy and absinthe and is not for the faint-of-heart. Or, rather, this was the mix back then. Now the absinthe seems to have been replaced by anise. Unless I misheard. Incidentally, a few years ago I met a chap in London who claimed to have been the window cleaner to Miss Gardner when she lived (and died) in that city. He had some interesting tales to tell. As would anyone who came into contact with her, it seems. She even tried a spot of bullfighting once while tipsy and paid a heavy price for it in the form of a broken cheekbone.

Finally . . . As I was doing a spot of cooking last night, I dwelt for a moment on the fact that I was healthy and content with my life. A second later I trod on a wet patch in front of the fridge and my foot went from under me. Happily, I didn't fall and, say, break a hip or hit my head on the tiled wall. But the irony of the development hit me and I inevitably reflected on the oft-repeated sentiment that we're always just a second away from injury or death. Meaning, for me at least, that we owe it to ourselves to enjoy this life to the max, just in case there ain't a second one.

Postscript: I got up this morning to find that that my Humax digital recorder is again on the blink and that my internet speed is so low I can't even test it. So I'm a little less content than I was last night.


Perry said...


Did you read EU Referendum? Richard North points to a study by the University of Salford has estimated that around 200,000 Roma migrants are living in the UK – making it home to one of the largest Roma populations in Western Europe.

"The atmosphere is poisonous, a breeding ground for trouble. Roma youths and adults hang around in groups, dozens at a time throughout the day and night. Rumours swirl between them and the Pakistani and white community, with each blaming the other for fuelling drugs, prostitution, and the increase of rubbish. There have been numerous reported fights. One Pakistani shopkeeper’s wife had her hand broken in a recent altercation with Roma youths. “It is all over now,” her husband says.
After dark on Hinde Street, the centre of the area where the Roma live, a furious Pakistani man runs out of his house screaming at the children who have been pelting his walls with a blue Manchester City football. He grabs the ball, and leads me inside." Telegraph 16/11

Check out Hinde Street, Sheffield on Streetview. Anathema!

Anonymous said...

Colin, Reading your piece today, I fear I am about to be hooked and reeled in.

But GCHQ’s eyes and ears are everywhere - It would be very foolish to be lured into declaring personal views that could topple one from happily tiptoeing on that tightrope of life into whatever was beyond that wormhole of a damp patch in your kitchen. I will restrain myself.

No, British people need to be more realistic. Multicultural Britain has now to be seen as the inevitable outcome of its unfit for purpose political system. Turning the clock and the immigrants, back is an impracticable, nostalgic dream. Burqas and mosques, Roma, chopsticks and naan bread are here to stay. These islands of our birth have changed so much and are changing exponentially for the worse now, voting UKIP is not enough, the only reasonable course of action is to abandon them.

Since the great wars, British politicians have seen immigrants as their salvation. They do not complain and suppress wage rates by working cheaply. They donate taxes, which provide largess for getting elected and best of all will gratefully vote for you in elections. What politician would not want more plane/boat loads each day?

No, if your ancestors were born and brought up during the great wars, it is time to abandon ship – For New Zealand perhaps, or the Falklands, or if you are rich and there is any room left, maybe Gibraltar or Bermuda would accept you - And take with you every penny of wealth you may have with you.

The game is lost.

Hook's still hanging there, un-taken - Phew, that was a close shave.


Colin Davies said...


Not sure who put out the hook.

Just read this in the DT and thought of you -

Lenox said...

The point of a sol y sombra is that, poured properly, the brandy floats on top of the anis: a sol y sombra!

Azra said...

Maybe I'm naive but I do find it surprising that mistrust sentiment is so high. I was equally surprised to learn this morning that 81K people returned to the UK from Greece last year.

I had an eye opening day, when around 10am - an tremor of magnitude 4 (it was small), rippled through JHB. I've never ever experienced an earthquake before so it was quite disturbing and unsettling - especially since in those moments, one begins to realise just how little control one has - the ground could literally crumble and swallow us whole at any moment! Seize the day.

Anonymous said...

Colin, your hook was :-

"Looking at these numbers, you do wonder how they got the average to what it is. I guess it's because the Eastern European states are more bullish about what the EU will do for them. Bulgaria's numbers, for example, are 54% and 28%. Possibly because they see an EU-inspired solution to their gypsy problems. Exportation."


I suspect that word "exportation" was enough to set Perry talking of the Roma influx.

As for your Daily Telegraph "We're importing the equivalent of three new Waleses in one generation", I can feel the red mist rising afresh. So, eager not to attract a bunch of racist ranters to your lighthearted blog, with a heavy heart I will stop there.


Colin Davies said...

@Q1-10. Yes, image-provoking isn't it.

Colin Davies said...

@Azra: Maybe your media doesn't get across just how bad things are, especially in Greece. Of course, there aren't the levels of poverty that are probably observable in SA but people have suffered a significant fall in their quality of life (or most of them, at least) and for this they blame both their own government and the EU. But especially the latter as they're seen to be demanding more austerity than their own government want to impose.

I've only experienced a minor tremble and this was bad enough!