Saturday, September 20, 2014

Scotland; Spanish surprises; Corruption; Noise again; & A call from Windows


Scotland: If the Spanish press is anything to go by, the sigh of relief here and in the EU at large has been even greater than in the UK. There seems to be a belief that the result has holed all secessionist aspirations below the water line. And here in Spain there's great admiration for a truly democratic process executed without tribalism and rancour. Above all, though, there's slack-jawed astonishment - and envy - that a politician could resign in the wake of failure. This is unheard of in this self-professed young democracy. Which now waits to see whether the Spanish Cabinet will this week announce something that resembles a real strategy in respect of Catalan plans for independence, starting with their "illegal" referendum in November.

UKIP's Nigel Farage is a man of contentious statements. During the referendum run-up, he claimed that 54% of Scots were on benefits. Astonishingly, this turns out to be true. But, as this figure includes state pensions, it's 53% in England and much the same in Wales. As my old Contract Law professor used to say: 'There's nothing as deceptive as a half-truth'.

Spain is a country of regular surprises. The Godfather of Catalan politics was recently found - courtesy of an angry daughter-in-law - to have many millions in secret accounts around the world. This week the country's Anti-Corruption body announced that it didn't believe his claim he'd acquired this via an inheritance from his father. Meanwhile, his son has pleaded not guilty to obtaining his own fortune via corrupt practices. How embarrassing would it be to be an honest member of this family?

Which reminds me . . . If I said I doubted there was a single honest politician in, say, India, I guess you wouldn't be terribly surprised. But Spain? Perhaps the Podemos new kids on the block. But we will see.

Noise again: There was a heartfelt letter in today's El País from a woman who'd suffered nights of poor sleep from happy folk out in the street all night. If they'd just been playing ludo or chess, she might have been able to get the police to do something. But, as it was, it was one of her town's annual fiestas, when the keynote is fun and so anything goes. Except the law. Or especially the law.

Finally . . . I had another call from the "Windows Service Department" today. It went like this:
[Chinese accent, female] Hello. This is the Windows Service Department.
Yes.
We've had a lot of reports of problems with your computer.
Yes?
Is your computer switched on?
No.
Could you switch it on.
OK.
Is it on?
Yes.
Do you see a CNTRL key in the bottom left corner?
Yes.
Do you see a Windows key next to it?
Yes.
OK. Please press this together with the R key.
OK.
What do you see on your screen?
Nothing.
OK. Please try again.
OK.
What do you see now?
Nothing. . . . Perhaps it's because I don't have Windows.
[Unfazed by the fact she's told me she's calling from Windows]. Do you have a Mac?
Yes.
Please wait a moment.
At which point I feel I can't string her along any further and hang up. The phone rings a minute or two later but I ignore it. I feel disappointed I haven't been able to get more of her criminal spiel. Perhaps next time. Meanwhile, I'll try and get details of the Windows expert who managed to keep them on the line for a lot longer than I did.

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