Sunday, October 12, 2014

Black/white cards; Portuguese driving; Satnav fun; Health services; N Korea; & Fish.


I'm conscious you may, like me, be suffering from a degree of scandal fatigue but the latest case of high-level corruption in Spain really is a humdinger. Between 2003 and 2013, a large number of businessmen, politicians, ex tax inspectors and trades union officials were given 'black' cards by the failing Caja Madrid bank. With these they were given - ironically - carte blanche to do what they liked with them. So they ran up expenses of €15m, continuing to do so even after Caja Madrid had finally failed and had been taken into the bailed-out monstrosity, Bankía. Of course, all this was hidden from the tax authorities, both by the banks and the individuals. One of whom was an ex-head of the IMF. It beggars belief - almost - and raises the question: Would the world really collapse if bankers leap-frogged lawyers and were all hanged with piano wire from the nearest lampposts? Here's just one article on this outrage. Perhaps the most intriguing question of detail is - Who got the jewels on which many thousands were spent - wives or girlfriends? I imagine this is being asked in a few homes.

My Portuguese driving normally takes place between the Spanish border and Oporto, where there's little or no traffic on the A3. So, someone flashing by at 180kph is not much of a problem or threat. But on the highway between Lisbon and Oporto this morning, the driving left me with my jaw on my chest. I have rarely - if ever - seen such fast and aggressive driving, featuring dangerous tailgating and arrogant light-flashing by even small-engined cars. Surprisingly, my satnav issued no warnings of radar checks between Coimbra and Oporto and I guess the lunatics think/know they can get away with anything. I've just checked the road death statistics and wasn't surprised to read that Portugal's are 2 to 3 times higher than Spain's, depending on which measure you use. One wonders how many of these are on the motorways, generally considered safe in other countries. I knew the Spanish thought the Portuguese were crazy drivers but I hadn't really believed this. I do now.

Talking of my satnav . . . I switched to an English voice to have a laugh at the pronunciation of Portuguese street names. I also enjoyed these:-
IP8 - Eep8
IC24 - Ike24
E01 - East01
AP9 - App 9
But she did vet Vri right - Via Regional Interior.

No opportunity is missed here in Spain to point up the (many) deficiencies of the British National Health service. So perhaps the Daily Telegraph is getting its own back by headlining this article: "Ebola medics better trained in Sierra Leone than in Spain."

If you're pining for the return of chubby Korean dictator, Kim Something Orother, here's the Facebook page for you.

Finally . . . I was delighted - nay, thrilled - to see that the Portuguese (unlike the Spanish) rate mackerel(carapaus) highly enough to have it on their menus. Sadly, though, this is not the season for this fish.

Finally, finally . . . I got home from Portugal today to find that my internet didn't work. After wasting quite some time trying to establish a connection, I called loveable old Telefónica (Movistar, as is) and then spent more than half an hour dealing with a malfunctioning central computer which was more interested in telling me Movistar is sponsoring a yacht race than in fixing my problem. After 5 or 6 abortive attempts at going through the process, I eventually got to speak with a human (albeit with a mechanical voice) who told me what I already knew - that there was a fault on my line. And I should await a call from a technician to tell me when he/she will come to fix it. This from the most profitable company in Spain. God knows how they'd treat their clients if they had profitability problems.

Finally, finally, finally . . . A technician didn't call. As before, a connection was established within an hour and then someone called to confirm this. Problems at the centralita? We'll never know.

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