Friday, February 28, 2014

Nasty bills; Judicial reservations; Political 'discussions'; New Spanish words; & Honda Russia.

The most controversial bill going through the Spanish parliament as the moment is one that will return the abortion law to that of the 80s. You might have expected the President to say something about this when addressing the nation on Tuesday but, in fact, he said zilch. Just as with corruption. But, then, it was a transparent Good News exercise, ahead of elections.

I can't pretend to know the law-making process here in Spain but it does seem as if the top judicial body has a part to play. Perhaps this is because the members are charged with deciding whether the proposed law fits with the country's constitution. It seems, though, that individual members of the body (the Judicial Council) can express their views prior to any communal judgement. So it is that one member has pronounced that the abortion Bill is 'out of date' and shows that the compilers are 'totally out of touch with Spanish society as it now is.' We wait to see whether these, and similar, comments result in the Bill being modified or even dropped. I expect the former.

The Judicial Council has also heavily criticised the draconian 'Public Security' Bill which provides for swingeing fines for demonstrators or people snapping the police on their phones. It would also give the police powers which the body says are unacceptable. So, another Bill that may be softened. Vamos a ver.

I was watching a politics program on the TV last night in which Sr Rajoy's performance was being dissected. There were 6 to 8 participants, in the usual horseshoe. As ever, they were trying to talk/shout over each other. At the peak, they were all bawling at the same time, like a pack of demented chimps. I turned to my Spanish companion to ask what she thought of this. But she was too busy shouting at the TV to hear me.

Some days you know you're fated to learn a new phrase. Yesterday, while getting a lift from my neighbour, the lovely Ester, I heard her telling her young son that he was sacandome de mi casillas. I didn't know what this meant (though I could guess) as I understood casillas to mean a box, as on a tax return. But then I heard the same expression on the TV last night and had to look it up. Sacar a uno de sus casillas turns out to mean 'To molest, tease or harass someone'. As with mentira, there seem to be shades of meaning, from soft to hard, so perhaps it's the tone of voice which tells you which is relevant. Or its loudness.

Talking of Spanish words . . . A friend wrote to me from the UK yesterday to say her AS Spanish exercise was all about drugs. Among the vocab she had to learn was the verb esnifar. Whose meaning is pretty clear, I guess. In a cocaine context.

Finally . . . I'm in dialogue with Honda over a faulty sensor in my newish-car. Said car was taken to Vigo as there's no longer a dealer here in Pontevedra. Honda paid for a truck to take it to Vigo but seem unwilling - illogically - to arrange for a truck to bring it back. But, anyway, the gentleman with whom I'm dealing in the Customer Service department of Honda Europe goes by the wonderful Spanish name of Borislav Borisov. Fortunately, he's not using Google or Babel for his Russian into Spanish.

The Environment: Well, it did rain every day in February. Whether this was as unprecedented as in the UK ('Wettest winter since 1710' or something) I guess we'll soon learn.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ministerial madness; Funny interview; Rajoy on Corruption; Brits in Spain; Spectacular skeletons; Flamenco; & Paella.

Earlier this year we has a Spanish Minister saying he was sure St Teresa of Ávila was important up in Heaven and that she was doing her bit to persuade God to help Spain through her recession. As if this wasn't daft enough, now comes the Interior Ministry's decision to award the Gold Medal of Police Merit to an image of the Virgin Mary. I suppose there's no point in looking for logic. Or not rational logic anyway. Suffice to say the police are not amused at being passed over in favour of a painting.

What they will be amused by - as you will be if your Spanish is up to it - is this interview with a rare creature these days - a man who's been employed on a permanent contract. HT to Richard in Ferrol, I think.

Corruption is a major concern for Spaniards these days. 95% of them believe their lives are affected by it. Here, word for word, is what President Rajoy said about it in his rapturously received State of the Union address the other day:- "                                                  
                                             ".  From which I guess we can conclude that earlier promises/threats to do something about it are as valid as an estate agent's blurb.

Which reminds me . . . Las oposiciones are the exams you need to do well in to get the lifelong comfort of a civil service job from which you can never be displaced, come what may. The list of exam successes tend to be headed by the offspring of local politicians. And the subsequent appointments are known as regalitos. 'Little presents'. Of course, this could all be due to a superior education but one does wonder. The Spanish call it 'edogamy', another of those words I never heard before I came here.

The British Embassy tells us that Brits bought 5,200 properties in Spain last year – up 26% on 2012. Unsurprisingly, virtually all of these were along the southern and eastern coasts. Despite all the scandals of the last 10 years, I wouldn't mind betting most of them believed the assurance that, apart from the estate agent being honest, the notary was sufficient protection. When will they learn?

Here's an interesting list of the the major abandoned properties in Spain. I particularly like the station. Which may or may not be converted into a luxury hotel, if they can convince themselves there'll be some customers. Which used to be easy in the good times but is a tad harder now that we again deal in reality.

Sadly, Spain's leading Flamenco guitarist, Paco de Lucía, died suddenly of a heart attack yesterday. I have to admit I'm not really into this art form and didn't know of him but the clips on the TV have been very impressive. Here he is playing: Entre dos Aguas. Clearly a genius. I may join the rush to buy some of his stuff.

Finally . . . . Courtesy of Lenox's Business over Tapas, here's something to warm the cockles of Alfie Mittington's heart: An online 'paella police' group known as Wikipaella has stepped up its campaign to stop the culinary 'prostitution' and 'crimes against rice' they claim are perpetuated against Valencia's most famous dish. More here.

The Environment

January: 31 days. On which it rained: 28 - 93% 

February: 27 days. On which it has rained: 27 - 100%.
So, 55 out of 58 - 95%.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kim-Sum-Rajoy; Names!; Words and more words; & Gypsy wrath.

The Spanish President, Sr Rajoy, gave a state-of-the-nation address to Parliament yesterday. At the end of it, the serried ranks of his PP party stood up en masse and applauded him to the rafters. Except for the smiles on everyone's face, it rather reminded me of similar events in North Korea.

Rajoy has endorsed his stance that a referendum on Catalan independence will not take place as it would be illegal. He'll be telling us next that corruption doesn't exist in Spain because it's illegal. Meanwhile, I guess he'll be slapping an injunction on President Mas of Cataluña. Though, the good news is he's also said he's open to dialogue. Not before time.

The old expat name game: Anyone who lives here knows it's hard for the Spanish to get their heads around the combination of two forenames and one surname. It being the opposite case here. And you'll also know this leads to endless problems. The latest for me is the Honda concessionary in Vigo calling to tell me I didn't exist on the Honda computer, though my car did. I said this was OK as it was the car that needed repairing, not me. Nonetheless, I had to give him my ID number. This time I felt it best not to do what I routinely do with the postman and give something totally fictitious.

Words 1: I see from the TV reports that Independence Square in Kiev is call 'Meidan' in Ukrainian. I assume this is related to the Arabic/Persian word for square, also meidan. From which Spanish gets Alameda. Small world.

Words 2: I see the internet has thrown up the new word/phrase - clickbait/click bait. Which seems to mean something in an on-line paper or mag which is designed to attract the maximum number of clicks. Usually with breasts.

Words 3: Musing on the major corruption case labelled Gurtel, I was wondering how it got its un-Spanish name. Turns out this is the German for Correa (belt), which is the name of one of the 'protagonists', as they're called here. A bit more musing led me to the conclusion that the English equivalent is Girdle. Problem solved. Details of this case here.

Words 4: Reading through something from the 18th century the other day, I came across a couple of words which have fallen out of use but which I feel should be brought back. One such is whim-wham. No idea what it means.

Finally . . . A gypsy man from Lugo has been arrested for the abduction and murder of his pregnant wife. The latter was from one of the gypsy encampments near my home and I was intrigued to read that the police had intervened to stop members of her family travelling to Lugo to 'settle accounts' with the man's family. As the report had it, the police had stopped the Pontevedra gang because they were showing signs of planning to approach the Lugo gang con intenciones poco amistosas. I'll bet!

The Environment

January: 31 days. On which it rained: 28 - 93% 

February: 26 days. On which it has rained: 26 - 100%.
So, 54 out of 57 - 95%.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Biz-women; Cataluña; Rajoy's English; Spanish time; The baugan from which . . ; & I said what!?

Here's a fascinating bit of good news:- A record 800,000 businesses have been set up by women in the past five years. Women now account for 40% of all new business owners in Spain, double the proportion seen before the onset of the economic crisis. The new businesses have been set up despite the notoriously bureaucratic start-up process in Spain. I wonder what accounts for this.

Talking about prominent women . . . The EU's VP for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, has stepped into the Madrid-Barcelona stand-off and characterised the former's approach as 'autocratic'. And as establishing a 'red line' which she feels should be replaced by 'open, adult discussion'. This is patently true - and one hopes it's taking place in secret - but Ms Reding isn't going to be thanked by anyone for poking her nose in.

One could be forgiven for thinking it can't be true, but it's emerged that the Spanish President, Sr Rajoy, fits in 3 hours of English lessons per week. I must offer him some conversation when he comes to Pontevedra, his home town, for the bullfights in early August. He admits that he struggles, which is hardly surprising. I doubt he has time for homework and 3 hours a week won't get you anywhere, if you're serious about it.

Time, time, Spanish time. I went to see an endocrinologist last night, to see whether I have the hypothyroidism that bedevils all the females in my family. The appointment was for 7.20 and I got there at 7.10. I was called at 9.10 and came out at 9.55. Understandably, the receptionist had gone home while I was with the doctor. But there were 2 more patients waiting to be seen. At 45 minutes each, the second will have gone home around 11.30.

Which reminds me . . . The doctor last night inevitably said she'd studied in English years ago but had lost it all. She then referred to something called 'baugan'. I was going to let it go - as I wanted to go home and eat - but I caved in and asked what this was. She referred to an English program offered by a company under this name, whereupon I realised she was referring to the 'Vaughan Method'. Not good with foreign names, the Spanish. Especially the un-phonetic English ones.

I left someone a voice-mail message yesterday and immediately received a text of what I'd said. Which was this: Soc el Josep tejedo-perque-ara(?) la reunio amb la mama no-sa'n(?) recorda enviar me un mensajito cuando puedas. This is my first experience with this new technology and my conclusion is that either it needs a lot more work on it or my Spanish accent is far worse than I thought. But, anyway, there's a huge prize for anyone who can figure out what I actually said. I'm at a complete loss myself.

Finally . . . Isaac Newton is one of the giants of science. Here's how he saw himself, not long before he died:- I don't know what I may seem to the world but, as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

The Environment

January: 31 days. On which it rained: 28 - 93% 

February: 25 days. On which it has rained: 25 - 100%.
So, 53 out of 56 - 95%.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Franco remains; Equal opportunities; Infanta-ing; The Spanish; Toni & Sons; & Genetic progress.

A couple of people enjoyed yesterday's raft of Good News. It has to be said, though, that it'll probably be quite some time before they translate into a reduction in Spain's 26% unemployment rate. Or whatever it really is once all the fiddling has been taken into consideration.

From a TV news item on Saturday, I noticed there's still at least one street in Spain called Calle del Generalisimo. Which is odd as they've had almost 40 years to exorcise this homage to Franco. Maybe they've got a right wing mayor.

Spain really is an 'equal opportunities' sort of country. It's not just businessmen and politicians of both stamps who are processing through the courts accused of corruption but trade union leaders as well. I wonder if there's a gene for sticky fingers which has spread through the Spanish genome since the heady days of the Conquistadors. If so, is it related to the Italian or Greek genes?

Which reminds me . . . The ever-witty Spanish have invented a name for the condition which strikes the wives of men facing corruption charges, as a result of which most of their answers to the judge consist of !'don't know' or 'I don't recall'. It's called The Infanta Syndrome.

Talking of the Spanish . . . I spend most of my time thinking they're wonderful people (at least to me) and then I get hit in the thigh by the bike of a kid whose mother looks as me, silently, as if I had threatened to belt him. But, then, it happened in the crowd down by the flea market and this probably isn't the best context - anywhere in the world - from which to draw conclusions about people.

Talking about local people . . . Nice-but-Noisy Toni and his 2 sons had a yodelling contest next door yesterday. I say 'yodelling' as this comes closest to what it really was. Which was merely a yelling competition. I know it sounds impossible to believe but Toni likes to yell for no apparent purpose. He also likes to sing at the top of his voice but this, at least, could be said to have a purpose. Sadly, he's taught his 2 sons to emulate him, so that even when Toni's away at sea things stay much the same. As I've said, my only real solution is to raise the music or the TV to 11 and drown them out. Occasionally, this seems to shame them into silence.

But some good news . . . Scientists have completed the genome of a primitive horse which lived 750,000 years ago. This beat the previous record of 80,000 years by quite some way. Ironically, as Global Warming causes the permafrost to melt, more and more of these specimens are coming to light. Presumably, it won't be long before the skeletons of Adam and Eve can be analysed. Not to mention the dastardly snake.

The Environment

January: 31 days. On which it rained: 28 - 93% 

February: 24 days. On which it has rained: 24 - 100%.

So, 52 out of 55 - 95%.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A lot of Good News.

One of my Spanish readers has commented that the content of my post is 'bleak' for Spanish readers. So, in honour of this gentleman, this will be a Nothing But Good News post.

- Spain's exports hit a new record in 2013.

- As a result, Spain's trade deficit fell by almost half in 201.

- Moody's have raised Spain's credit rating, citing progress in reforms to put the economy on a more sustainable track. They also gave Spain a "positive outlook", suggesting potential for a further upgrade.

- Seven Spanish cities are named in the list of the 10 most attractive in southern Europe for investors in a recent article in The Financial Times.

- Spain's wine output increased by 41% in 2013, making her the world’s leading producer. The surge has been attributed to good weather conditions and an improvement in winery infrastructure.

- A record number of tourists travelled to Spain last month. This comes after last year's record visits of 60.7 million visitors. Most of these were French. [Sorry. That's a bit of bad news]

- A new ruling in the Spanish Parliament will force all political parties to make their accounts public, to upload them in full onto their websites and to submit them to the Accounts Tribunal. Is this the beginning of the end for corruption? Maybe.

- The Italian Renaissance painter Raphael has emerged as the genius behind a painting in a private collection in Cordoba. The work depicts a scene identical to his ‘Madonna of Foligno’ in the Vatican gallery.

- A Chinese airline has expressed an interest in buying the so-far-useless Ciudad Real airport which has lain dormant for years.

- The Pope has appointed a new Spanish Cardinal [Albeit in a sumptuous ceremony which I doubt Jesus would have been seen dead at]

- As usual, the Spanish government is offering bribes ahead of next year's elections - in the form of a massive tax break. As usual, the public is likely to fall for it.

- Spain will be sending her X Factor winner to the Eurovision song 'contest'. With high hopes of a record high position.

- Today might be the first day in February when it doesn't rain here in Pontevedra.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fascists by any other name; Decent English; Bad poetry; Good art; & Me and my WiFi.

I've said more that once over the years that, through overuse, the word 'fascist' has lost all its pejorative weight here in Spain, and now merely means "I disagree with you". I discovered last night that Orwell got there well before me, writing in 1946 that:- The word 'Fascism' has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable'.

In the same article - on the degeneration of English - Orwell gave the following rules for Anglo writers. Personally, I would add a 7th - Never enumerate your points with Roman numerals. And an 8th - Never put brackets around your numbers. Anyone got any more?
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
And, finally, his wonderful 6th rule: (vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Of course, one man's 'barbarous' isn't necessarily that of the next man . . . For example, someone I don't know of, Kristen Stewart, has been lambasted for this piece of poetry - the sort of stuff to which the word 'execrable' is usually attached for the benefit of the majority. Though there will be some - apart from Miss Stewart - who will like it. Or say they do:-

My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole

I reared digital moonlight 

You read its clock, scrawled neon 

across that black 

Kismetly … ubiquitously crest fallen 

Thrown down to strafe your foothills...

I'll suck the bones pretty.

Your nature perforated the abrasive 

organ pumps 

Spray painted everything known to man, 

Stream rushed through and all out into 


Whilst the crackling stare down sun snuck 

Through our windows boarded up 

He hit your flint face and it sparked.

And I bellowed and you parked 

We reached Marfa. 

One honest day up on this freedom pole 

Devils not done digging 

He's speaking in tongues all along the 
pan handle 
And this pining erosion is getting dust in My eyes

I know about this because a columnist has produced examples of famous names turning out stuff she thinks is easily as bad as poor Kristen's attempt. Here's one, from Wordsworth:-

And to the left, three yards beyond,

You see a little muddy pond

Of water--never dry 

I measured it from side to side:
Twas four feet long, and three feet wide.

Talking of art . . .You'll have heard of the guy who picked up and then dropped an antique jar decorated/desecrated by the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei. This has raised the question of whether this was a million dollar act of vandalism or an example of uproariously funny Performance Art. Especially as the guy dropped said jar against the background of a large foto of Ai doing exactly that. I don't know the answer to this very modern quandary but it beats trying to quantify angels on a pinhead.

The Environment

January: 31 days. On which it rained: 28 - 93% 

February: 22 days. On which it has rained: 22 - 100%. 
So, 50 out of 53 - 94%.

WiFi note: On my way to bed last night, I tripped over the modem cable and brought it crashing to the ground. This morning, I discovered that the WiFi wasn't working. So switched it on and off, to find that I now had a speed of 1.4megas. The highest I've ever had and more than 4 times that of one night this week. So, there's one solution to my problem; throw the modem onto the floor. Maybe.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cataluña blocking; The lying Princess; The weird Duquesa; A Belgian conundrum; Weird TV; & Galician politics

The Spanish Parliament on Thursday voted overwhelming in favour of a motion designed to block Catalonia's 'right to decide' on self-rule by holding an independence referendum. So that's that. It'll all go away now. Not. Roll on September.

We now have the transcript of Princess Cristina's court appearance last week. In summary, she gave the judge 550 "evasive answers", in her attempt to show she was just the little woman in her marriage, signing whatever business papers her husband put before her and asking ne'er a single question about them. Understandably, at one point the judge told her she was insulting his intelligence. Asked whether she thought the Tax Office had gone easy on her because of her position, she replied that she thought that, as the daughter of the king, they'd treated her with greater than normal scrutiny. The problem with this answer is that it's blatantly at odds with the facts. But, by the time she gave it, it was already clear that truth was the last thing she was concerned with.

Talking of royalty . . . Spain's richest (and possibly oddest-looking) woman - the Duquesa de Alba - may one day reign as the Queen of Scotland, should they ditch the British queen Elizabeth after gaining independence. For one of the numerous titles of the Duquesa includes the word 'Stuart'. Whether the Scots would take to her 24-years-younger, Cuban, gold-digging husband, is another matter. More here.

In a list of black economies I saw the other day, Spain naturally ranked pretty high at 25% of the white, official economy. But what was really intriguing was Belgium's position close behind Spain's. Has it always been thus there? Or did things begin to deteriorate once the EU started to operate from Brussels? If not, what's the reason for this performance?

I watched a political discussion on Spanish TV last night, among a panel of 8 commentators. At the minimum, there were 2 people talking at the same time. And sometimes there were 6. Or even 8. In the latter cases, of course, most of them were shouting to be heard. 'Twas ever thus here. It passes for discussion. Second only to participating in one, the Spanish love to watch a good argument. Even if they have the devil's own job of making out what's being said

Galicia has a population of around 3m. So, how many political parties do you think we have? The answer is 259, of whom I recognise the names/acronyms of 3. 107 parties have been formed since the start of La Crisis alone, which looks to me like democracy gone mad. The Galician nationalist party - the BNG - has 25 parties under its umbrella. Which is why it's called a 'Block', I guess.

Begging is wet work in constant rain. It's hard not to look bedraggled. And so it was with 2 beggars who approached me and the 3 Spanish ladies I was taking a drink with on Wednesday. The first - a well-known woman - was treated benevolently and given a euro by each of the ladies. The second - a well-known and ill-looking man 'selling' books - was given short shrift and sent away with nothing. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why he was deserving of so much less sympathy. But will ask.

Finally . . . It's official - In the UK, this winter is already the wettest since records began in 1911. As for Pontevedra . . .

The Environment

January: 31 days. On which it rained: 28 - 93% 

February: 21 days. On which it has rained: 21 - 100%.

So, 49 out of 52 - 94%, and rising.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Police overkill; Police absenteeism; Pontevedra Corruption; Morisco moans; & Priestly prejudice.

Earlier this week, a car thief was chased from the nearby port of Marín and finally caught near the market in Pontevedra, down by the river. There were 3 police forces involved - the National, the Local and the Guardia Civil, so I guess there'll be 3 sets of paperwork to complete. Which doesn't smack of efficiency. Anyway, despite the fact he was driving an old Fiat Panda, they took several kilometres to catch him. Perhaps they got in each other's way.

Which reminds me . . . The Pontevedra Marine Civil Guard force has been hit by something which has forced 35 out of 45 officers to take sick leave. Perhaps there was something in the water, though some attribute the phenomenon to the arrival of a tough new boss. Either way, it has to be a good time to indulge in the traditional local practice of bringing drugs into our coves in speedboats.

It had to happen . . . After the implication of Lugo, La Coruña and Ourense provinces in the Pokemón case, Pontevedra province now has a case all of its own - Patos. Yesterday, the offices of the provincial and regional governments were searched in Pontevedra city and Vigo, and lots of paper taken away. We await developments with interest. Perhaps we'll learn how certain officials have become very rich. Including one who started his working career as a hospital porter but is now an allegedly millionaire politician.

Something else that had to happen . . . North African descendants of the Moriscos who were booted out of Spain in the 17th century have accused the Spanish government of racism for granting citizenship to the country's former Jewish population but not to them. It seems the Mariscos' problem is they don't now speak any form of Spanish, unlike the Sefardi Jews who still speak Ladino. So the crime being committed is really Arabicism. Linguistically speaking.

Spanish banks now have a bad debt ratio of 13.6% of all credit extended. At the height of the boom in 2007, this was a mere 0.4% but it's since climbed inexorably to its current dizzy peak and it looks as if it will continue to do so. Whether we should be worried about this, I don't know. No one seems to be telling us to be.

Finally . . . A Catholic priest in León has pronounced on TV that a local councillor's cancer is divine retribution for his homosexuality. Understandably, more than 50,000 people have petitioned for the curate's resignation. It'll be interesting to see how this plays with the new homo-friendly Vatican. It's not as if the Catholic Church has a reservoir of new priests waiting for a parish. So they must be tempted to keep him and not send him back to the 19th century.

The Environment:

January 31 days: On which it rained: 28 - 93% 

February: 20 days. On which it has rained: 20 - 100%. 

So, 48 out of 51 - 94%, and rising.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Big lies; Ceuta quandary; Galician corruption; The mad Spanish timetable; & Bloody Telefónica

A coincidence? I wonder. The day after I cite Hitler's preference for the big lie, it appears in this article by a British eurosceptic. On the other hand, as he regularly writes about the EU, he'll know a thing or two about big lies.

The Spanish government has responded aggressively to the EU request for information about the incident in Ceuta in which 15 people died after rubber bullets were fired at them. "Stop criticising us and help us to solve the problem of illegal immigrants", it demanded. To which one possible response is - "Help yourselves: Get out of Africa". (Before any Spanish reader takes offence . . . I think Gibraltar should be returned to Spain as well. And yes, I know Ceuta and Gibraltar are 'different'. At least in Spanish eyes, if not to the rest of the world. And certainly not to the Moroccans.)

The Pokemón corruption caseI read a dew days ago that the Galician President, Sr Feijoo, had said something like he was sorry this had happened but he wasn't going to take any action. Yesterday the Voz de Galicia cartoonist put it this way.

Dimisóns is Gallego for 'Resignations'.

Another big corruption case going through the Galician courts - what on earth will these do when all the dirty linen has been washed? - is that of the Board of the NovaGalicia Bank, as it's now called. These gentlemen allegedly defrauded the owners by a mere €19m via some fraudulent manoeuvre, enriching themselves at the same time. Which represented 10% of the bank's net worth. You almost have to admire their chutzpah

You may be crazy but you're all mine! The Spanish daily timetable (horario) is at least 2 hours behind that of the rest of the world. It doubtless makes for inefficiency as it involves a 2-3 hour break in the middle of the day. I say 'middle' but this break usually begins at 2pm. And it means trips to or from the office to home 4 times a day. Which is hard to justify. A campaign has been started to bring Spain's horario into line with that of others and - equally radical - move the clock back one hour to where it was before Franco decided to align it with Germany and not Spain's natural partners - Portugal and Britain. The government made positive noises about all this last September, and promised action. But nothing has yet been done. A small indication of what it's up against is these comments from one office worker:- “Reduce lunchtime? No, I’m completely against that. It's one thing to eat. It's another thing to nourish oneself. Our culture and customs are our way of living. But a shorter nap might be acceptable." This chap is only 26 but firmly already set in his (Spanish) ways. More here

Finally . . . Telefónica has announced plans to invest some €200 million in creating high-speed fibre and 4G networks in Andalucia. As I sit here struggling with a download speed of 0.4-0.7megas you can appreciate how thrilled I am to hear that.

The Environment
January: 31 days. On which it rained: 28 - 93% 
February: 19 days. On which it has rained: 19 - 100%. 
So, 47 out of 50 - 94%, and rising.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Religious woes; Modern English; Scots Nats' woes; Crash guilt; Intrusive ads; & The Plumber.

Religious adherents come in many different guises, even within the same faith. I, for one, had no idea how many sects there are in Islam. I mention this because I read yesterday of extreme - not to say ludicrous - beliefs in both Christianity and Islam. A pastor in the USA died of a snake bite while obeying the Biblical "instruction" to handle poisonous snakes. He even refused medical help, on the grounds that God would protect him. But God had his mind on other things. And then I read that a young mother had been stoned to death in Pakistan because she was found to have a mobile phone. The mob was led by her uncle, who found alleged Hadith instructions to be of greater importance than his blood links to his niece. Or even than her life. I wonder when an omniscient God looks into the future, he sees a time when all this lunacy has disappeared from the earth. And I mean before its final destruction. Let's hope so. If he can't, it'll mean it isn't going to happen. Millions of years from now, people will still be stoning each other to death because their beliefs don't conform. But rest assured, when I get to Heaven I'll be taking this up with Big G. So all is not lost. Unless . . .

But, anyway, . . . With the Winter Olympics on the TV, it's been easy to prove that everyone younger than 35 in the UK now pronounces medal with the same semi-glottal stop used for model. Which is at least consistent. I hoped to be able to give you the modern pronunciation here and here. But, in fact, it's the traditional way favoured by us ancients. And here the accent is American.

Well, the Scot Nats' response to the broadsides from London and Brussels was as expected - a mixture of bluster, insults and pointless threats. The President of the EU was dismissed as "a preposterous man", which should go down well with him. It was, as someone labelled it "The chippy politics of grievance". It may play well in some Braveheart parts of Scotland but elsewhere it's seen as non-productive. Even counter-productive. There'll be smiles in both London and Madrid today. But consternation in Barcelona, where they may also have seen Cataluña as a shoo-in to EU and euro membership - presupposing they get past the huge barrier of Spanish resistance to their departure. Talking of Spain, perhaps the most disingenuous Scot Nats response to the events of the weekend was to twist the comments of the Spanish Foreign Minister on the independence process ("We're relaxed about it") to mean that Spain wouldn't veto the entry of Scotland into the EU and the euro. I doubt they even believe this themselves, but politics is politics. If you're going to tell a lie, tell a big one. As Hitler is reputed to have said.

When the train crash occurred outside Santiago last year, there was a witch hunt of the driver and the media and the mob convicted him of sole responsibility within days. Some of us felt that there must be shared responsibility and the enquiring judge - on the basis of some pretty shocking evidence of the dismissal of safety concerns - has now pronounced that the track management company - ADIF - consciously endangered lives. It's difficult to imagine him coming to any other conclusion.

I mentioned intrusive advertising last week . . . Watching a football match on Sunday night, I was reading down the list of the players when a bloody plane obliterated it and a voiceover said something about Air Europe or Air Berlin. I remain certain this wouldn't be tolerate elsewhere but it's still a joy to see how far Spanish companies will go in interrupting viewing with their ads. Outside the real commercials, I mean.

Finally . . . Tom Finney died recently. He was an outstanding player for Preston North End and for England. He only ever played for Preston, despite lucrative offers from Italy. By trade he was a plumber and - because he was so superior to his team mates - Preston was once dismissed as The plumber and his 10 drips. This sounds funny in English but I have to tell you it doesn't in Spanish. So don't waste your time.

The Environment

January: 31 days. On which it rained: 28 - 93%

February: 18 days. On which it has rained: 18 - 100%. 
So, 46 out of 49 - 94%, and rising.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Docile Politicians; Scot Nat Woes; Misplaced humour; Fun abroad; Galician corruption; & Toilet signs

In the Spanish parliament the country's representatives regularly do a good impression of sheep - for example in respect of the recent secret vote on the Abortion Bill. Over in Turkey though, their oppos recently came to blows over the issue of government control over the judges. That's how to do it! Even Russell Brand might approve

Not a good week for the Scottish Nationalists. First, the British government told them they couldn't have either the pound or a currency union, if they go independent. Then, yesterday, the EU President confirmed they'd have to formally apply to join the EU, for which they'd have to get unanimous acceptance from 26 other members, plus an antipathetic Spain. This, he felt, would be very difficult, if not impossible. The reaction of the Scottish Nats was fourfold: 1. Accusing the British government of bullying; 2. Insulting the EU President by saying he was speaking rubbish; 3. Distorting the comments of the Spanish Foreign Minister about the November referendum; and 4. Insisting they could join the EU immediately as all its rules were observed in Scotland - a justification which falls within the category of True But Irrelevant. All in all, the signs are their dream is coming apart at the seams. So it'll be interesting to see how they fight back. As the pugnacious Mr Salmond surely will. One thing is certain - there'll be more accusations of bullying and possibly UK-EU collusion. Nationalists are always defined by victimisation. But vamos a ver. No doubt they'll be watching in Cataluña.

I had another excellent wild boar lunch on Saturday, courtesy of my good friend Fran and his Porcos Bravos colleagues. At one point a well-known female beggar came in and I told Fran I didn't know he'd invited his sister. He looked at me askance and in an aggrieved tone said this was rather insulting. I answered that it was a good thing, then, I hadn't uttered my first thought, viz. that his mother had arrived. Fran now looked decidedly hurt and unamused and I was reminded that Scouse humour doesn't always go down well in Galicia. Or possibly elsewhere.

Candidates for cost savings in Spain: Spain's 17 regions ("Autonomous Communities") have 149 pseudo-embassies in major cities around the world. I wonder how many the British counties have. A quick look at the Wiki entry for Merseyside suggests none there. But they must have at least one, in Brussells. Where the gravy train sets out from.

Galicia's big corruption case (Pokemón) has thrown up that politicians, civil servants and police officers had 'dozens' of friends and relatives given jobs in companies appointed to carry out contracts for public authorities. Which will surprise no one, as nepotism and croneyism are Spain's gift to the world. Or South America at least. That said, Spanish friends assure me it's not as bad as 30 years ago, when no one could get a job without a personal connection (enchufe).

I sometimes have a problem distinguishing between the male and female figures on toilet doors. Most noticeably - and embarrassingly - on our recent visit to Sevilla. I mention this because in the bar where we enjoyed our wild boar (The Cheshire Cat) the doors are signed - OS and - AS. What I don't know - but Fran will tell me - is whether these are the Spanish male and female plural suffixes or the Galician male and female definite articles. Or, cleverly, both. Either way, it's hard to go through the female door in error. Or harder than in one café in Sevilla, at least.

Finally . . .  My daughter sent me this cartoon yesterday and I felt it worth sharing. It's an example of Irritable Owl Syndrome . . . .

The Environment

Well, it duly rained last night. And it's raining now. So . . .

January: 31 days. On which it rained: 28 - 93%

February: 17 days. On which it has rained: 17 - 100%. 
So, 45 out of 48 - 94%, and rising. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Religious rights; God's wants; Bad bankers; Bureaucrat benefits; & Legal niceties.

There's a BBC Radio 4 program called Beyond Belief. It regularly lives up to its billing as it usually centres on folk of different (or the same) religions arguing about whose interpretation of an ancient book is correct. Last week I enjoyed a discussion between a mainstream Muslim and an Ahmadi Muslim as to whether the latter were heretics or not. One fascinating aspect of the Ahmadi version of Islam is their belief that Jesus survived the crucifixion, left the Holy Land for Kashmir in search of the Lost Tribes of Israel, married, had lots of kids and lived to a ripe old age. He lies buried there, under the name of Yuz Asaf and one can visit his tomb. You couldn't make it up. Perhaps. More here, for those interested.

As I type this, Boy George is singing the line: "My God is bigger than yours. My God is better than yours". Quite.

And now someone's saying that God loves us all so much he wants us to follow the traditional family model he 'ordained'. In Kashmir, if not in the Holy Land, where, like most Spaniards, and an increasing number of Brits, he was still living with his mother at 33.

You might think that paying out huge bonuses or rigging the LIBOR rate so as to increase your bonus would be the worst thing that bankers could get up to. But here in Spain several senior executives are in the dock for providing illegal loans, inflating expense claims and enriching themselves, in one case of one Board, to the tune of €19m. There's no doubt some of these will end in jail, if only briefly.

A recent survey concluded that public sector workers aged 55 and over are the best paid in Spain. Which is going to surprise no one. Little wonder, then, that so many young people here in Pontevedra aspire to be a funcionario.

Talking of this . . . Here in the centre of the city there's almost an entire barrio dedicated to the offices of the bureaucrats who form the income base of this provincial capital. It was finished not so long ago. And yet, last week's winds blew panels of some of the buildings. Yet another architect to be sued?

For those who remain confused about the difference between a witness, an imputado and an acusado, here's something which should set you straight. With a HT to the eccentric but erudite Welshman of Kalebeul.

Finally . . . Where was this when I needed it?

The Environment

We woke up today to blue skies and sun. It will take a while to digest this phenomenon and to see whether we nonetheless get rain before midnight.