I've been a tad confused by evidence of growth in the Spanish economy, given there's no evidence around me of things improving. To the contrary, shops continue to close even in the very centre of town. So I wasn't surprised to read this article on what lies behind the stats. And to see the suggestion it's all another "illusionary mini-bubble", with the jury still out on whether competitiveness has truly returned. But we will see. I hope so.
Talking of economies . . . A French chappy - Felix Marquardt - has had some harsh things to say (in both the Spanish and British press) about his country and its governments. For example: France has oscillated for 35 years now between powerless, irresponsible and incompetent governments without ever experiencing a truly reformist one. Three-and-a-half decades of cowardice and populism across the political spectrum have led to the country’s current democratic crisis and the ascent of the Front National. You can read him in full here.
Talking of the French - Britain's traditional enemies, of course - here's a little song written a few hundred years ago by the chap who put music to God Save the Queen. It demonstrates what most of us already knew - that binge drinking by Brits is not exactly a recent phenomenon:-
THE BEER-DRINKING BRITON
Ye true, honest Britons, who love your own land,
Whose sires were so brave, so victorious, so free,
Who always beat France when they took her in hand,
Come join, honest Britons, in chorus with me.
Let us sing our own treasures, old England's good cheer.
The profits and pleasures of stout British beer.
Your wine-tippling, dram-sipping fellows retreat,
But your beer-drinking Britons can never be beat.
The French, with their vineyards, are meagre and pale.
They drink of the squeezings of half-ripened fruit;
But we, who have hop-grounds to mellow our ale,
Are rosy and plump and have freedom to boot.
Should the French dare invade us, thus armed with our poles,
We'll bang their bare ribs, make their lantern-jaws ring,
For your beef-eating Britons are valiant souls
Who will shed their last drop for their country and king.
The Diario de Pontevedra has a little exhibition of its front pages right now, celebrating its 125 years of existence. The most obvious difference between then and now is fotos. Back in 1889 there were none. Whereas now there's nothing but fotos, with a couple of lines of print and page references. Plus ads. An improvement? Not for me. One other noticeable change is that clerics no longer appear on the front page. Nor dictators, of course. And an example of the sort of story we no longer see is the announcement, under Franco, that train tickets would have to be stamped - with the image of St James.
Finally . . . We've had a truly glorious week of unseasonably fine weather and today was no exception. It seems, though, to have brought out a new breed of beggars - men in their 60s. Is it all a racket or is Spain's benefits safety net so inadequate that these men are compelled to humiliate themselves? I suspect it's the latter. If you've no family to support you, you're deep in the doodoo. No Pension Credit for you. Possibly no pension at all if you've worked on the black all your life