Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Spanish property boom and bust; Philosophers; Historians; and 1950s Britain.

Si monumentum requiris, circumspice is the wonderful exhortation on the tombstone of Sir Christopher Wren, London's magnificent 17th century architect. It means - If you want a testament, look around you. It came to mind when I was looking out of my bedroom window yesterday, when I was reminded of the madness that was the property boom in Spain between 2000 and 2008. And here's why:-

The terraced houses in this foto are the oldest of the new houses near me, built and sold before the collapse began in 2008. One of them belongs to the judge who has it in for his media-prone colleague, Báltasar Garzón. They're said to be illegal. As are some of the others in the picture.

These 17-20 terraced houses, behind mine, were started well before the end of the boom, in 2004, but they took 6 years to build. At least 4 of them are illegal, along with the access road. That said, 2 or 3 of them have recently been occupied - suggesting the illegality problem has somehow been solved - but the rest remain empty and quite possibly unsold. Given the poor spec of the houses - including a 'garden' the size of a tea towel which backs onto a sheer granite escarpment - they may remain unsold until the next property boom. They weren't really built to be lived in, just bought and sold. Off plan.

These (even uglier) houses had a price tag of 90m pesetas, or €540,000, when they were put on the market. When the developer went bust the builder, in desperation, dropped the price to 70m pesetas, or a mere €420,000. Despite this, only 3 of the 12 have been sold. And the original feature of being able to control everything in the house via clever electronics has been dropped. They are probably worthless right now.

Finally, these houses are the most recently built and I'm not aware that any of them are illegal. Built on an incline, they have a magnificent view over the river and the city. Almost as good as mine, in fact. Despite this, only 2 of the 6 are occupied and, again, the others could remain empty for another 10 to 20 years. And nothing rots as quickly as a house in a wet climate.

So, Si monumentum requiris circumspice. Welcome to our local version of the Castellón and Ciudad Real (non)airports.

And now for something completely different . . . Walking into and out of town, I very much enjoy the BBC's In Our Time podcasts, with their discussions on history, literature, science and religion. But there's a question which regularly recurs - Would the world be any worse off if all philosophers had arrived stillborn? I mean, what bloody use are they? Other than for amusing me on my pedestrian travels.

But anyway, listening to a podcast on the History of History yesterday, I learnt that in the 6th century, Bishop Gregory of Tours wrote "A History of the World" which began with the wonderful sentence: "A great many things keep happening: some of them good, some of them bad". True as this is, I'm not sure he'd get away with it these days. Too damn honest.

And talking of historians, here - for those who remember them - are a few more extracts from David Kynaston's Family Britain, which centres on the UK of the 1950s.

Deference, respectability, conformity, restraint, trust - these were probably all more important than piety in underpinning 'the 1950s'. Despite the egalitarian effects of the war, deference still ran deep in British society, whether towards traditional institutions, or senior people in hierarchical institutions or prominent local figures (the teacher, the bank manager, the JP, the GP), or older people generally, or the better educated, or that increasingly influential phenomenon, the somewhat stern but more or less benign expert, for example in childcare.

1950s Britain was also an authoritarian, illiberal, puritanical society.

An intrinsic part of respectability was what the film critic Penelope Houston called "that celebrated English custom of ignoring a disagreeable fact, on the assumption that if left alone it may quietly go away".

Recalled the novelist Barry Unsworth: "To carry an umbrella or ask for wine in a pub was to put your virility in question. Suede shoes were for 'lounge lizards'. Beards were out of the question"


Anonymous said...

no blog on prestige?

Or has your perception of the Spanish judicial system sunk so low that you cannot bring yourself to write about it :)

Perry said...

I was born in November 1942. All the attributes of the 50s did not apply to me as a teenager. I wore suede brothel creepers, drainpipe trousers & an enormous quiff to grammar school & the daily 4 strokes of the cane, were part & parcel of rebellion.

At 19, I carried a brolly to work as a Clerk grade ll in the National Coal Board, but it was the Anello & David hand tooled, cuban heeled, cowboy boots that set me apart. No one accused me of ac/dc behaviour. The beard arrive in my 30s.

Colin Davies said...

Thanks, Perry. Wonderful stuff. LOL, as they say these days. Will be publishing a 2nd list from the replies of friends to the first.

Which day in Nov. Me 9th, Daughter 1 23rd, Daughter 2 27th.

Perry said...

26th November 1942, the planet was rewarded with my debouchment.

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