Sunday, December 28, 2014

Electioneering; Unfree speech; Pensions; The A(P)8; Traffic fines; Trafficking; The bagpipe; & The Yanks Guide.

With an election looming, it's a racing certainty we're going to get a lot more of charisma-deprived President Rajoy telling us about the economic miracle he and his party have wrought. Right now, few Spaniards - less than 20% in fact - believe things have really improved and that Spain is standing on the springboard of economic take-off. Perhaps because, even more than elsewhere, nearly all politicians are seen as lying crooks. The only exceptions are those running the new left-of-centre Podemos party. Who'd win the election if it took place tomorrow. We wait to see what dirt the government digs up on them, even if has to be found where it doesn't exist. Politics, as they say, is a dirty business and politicians revel in dirt. The good ones, anyway.

An even smaller percentage of Spaniards - 12% - support the government's planned - and ludicrously named - 'Citizen Protection Law". This is a blatant attempt to control free speech in advance of next year's general elections. It'll be interesting to see if it's retained if the opposition socialist party gets back in. My guess is Yes.

One reason for citizen discontent could be that while local, regional, national and EU politicians and bureaucrats continue to line their pockets, the increase in pensions for next year will be 0.25%, or less than 2 euros a month, on average. The annual Galician average will then be a whopping €738 a month. Directors and bankers claiming responsibility for Spain's economic miracle will possibly get more. Per day. Even if the recovery was financed by taxpayers' money.

Very good news: The final stretch of the north coast motorway - the A8 - will open on Dec 31, thus fulfilling the promise that it'd be completed in 2014. I wonder if it will close again on Jan 1, until it really is finished. But, anyway, it will cut a bit more time off my drives to and from Santander, only provided that the high Mondoñedo stretch hasn't been closed because of fog. The only thing I have to worry about now is how long it will be before the free A8 becomes the AP8 toll road and crushing fees are imposed.

Which reminds me . . . Over the last 3 years, the Traffic Police in Galicia have fulfilled their revenue-raising responsibilities by extracting €61m from motorists. I wonder waht the amount was pre-Crisis.

Penultimately . . . Thanks to a famous Galician bagpipe-player, we now know that it was Gallegos who introduced this wonderful/appalling instrument to Scotland, in 1435. And that a Galician battalion fought with Rob Roy against the English at the battle of Glen Shiel in 1719. In revenge for this, he says, the British sacked Vigo in the following year, also doing a bit of damage to Pontevedra, I believe. Wikipedia, by the way, refers only to the 'Spanish' allies of the Scots. Who lost.

You Couldn't Make It Up Department: The police inspector and chief of the Anti-narcotics Group in Murcia have been arrested in connection with drug trafficking. HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for this tidbit.

Finally . . . More from the 1942 Guide for Yanks going to live among Limeys:-

The Country

You will find out right away that England is a small country, smaller than North Carolina or Iowa. The whole of Great Britain together – that is England and Scotland and Wales together – is hardly bigger than Minnesota.

England's largest river, the Thames (pronounced "Tems") is not even as big as the Mississippi when it leaves Minnesota. No part of England is more than one hundred miles from the sea.

If you are from Boston or Seattle the weather may remind you of home. If you are from Arizona or North Dakota you will find it a little hard to get used to. At first you will probably not like the almost constant rains and mists and the absence of snow and crisp cold. Actually, the city of London has less rain for the whole year than many places in the United States, but the rain falls in frequent drizzles. Most people get used to the English climate eventually.

If you have the chance to travel about you will agree that no area of the same size in the United States has such a variety of scenery. At one end of the English Channel there is a coast like that of Maine. At the other end are the great white chalk cliffs of Dover. The lands of South England and the Thames Valley are like farm or grazing lands of the eastern United States, while the lake country in the north of England and the highlands of Scotland are like the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In the East, where England bulges out towards Holland, the land is almost Dutch in appearance, low, flat and marshy. The great wild moors of Yorkshire in the north and Devon in the southwest will remind you of the badlands of Dakota and Montana.

Age Instead Of Size. On furlough you will probably go to the cities, where you will meet the Briton's pride in age and tradition. You will find that the British care little about size, not having the "biggest" of everything as we do. For instance, London has no skyscrapers. Not because English architects couldn't design one, but because London is built on swampy ground, not on a rock like New York, and skyscrapers need something solid to rest their foundations on. In London they will point out buildings to you like Westminster Abbey, where England's kings and greatest men are buried, and St. Paul's Cathedral with its famous dome, and the Tower of London, which was built almost a thousand years ago. All of these buildings have played an important part in England's history. They mean as much to the British as Mount Vernon or Lincoln's birthplace do to us.

The largest English cities are all located in the lowlands near the various seacoasts. In the southeast, on the Thames, is London – which is the combined New York, Washington and Chicago not only of England but of the far-flung British Empire. Greater London's huge population of twelve million people is the size of Greater New York City and all its suburbs with the nearby New Jersey cities thrown in. It is also more than a quarter of the total population of the British Isles. The great "midland" manufacturing cities of Birmingham, Sheffield, and Coventry (sometimes called "the Detroit of Britain") are located in the central part of England. Nearby on the west coast are the textile and shipping centers of Manchester and Liverpool. Further north in Scotland, is the world's leading shipbuilding center of Glasgow. On the east side of Scotland is the historic Scottish capital, Edinburgh, scene of the tales of Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson which many of you read in school. In southwest England at the broad mouth of the Severn is the great port of Bristol.

1 comment:

Perry said...

Colin,

T'were the Romans who likely introduced bags o' wind to the Scots.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=DOfuAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA15&dq=askaulos&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JHByVO2tBIOJiwKns4D4Aw&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=askaulos&f=false

...........bagpipes are explicitly mentioned in The Canterbury Tales (written around 1380): A baggepype wel coude he blowe and sowne, /And ther-with-al he broghte us out of towne.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagpipes#Ancient_origins

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