Saturday, January 03, 2015

Road deaths; NY cock-up; NY forecasts; The EU; 'Dinner for One'; Popular Putin; VAT on books; Shops; & The Guide for Yanks.

Well, not longer after I noted an upwards spike in Spain's road deaths, it's been announced that for the full year these were down, albeit marginally, on 2013's record low. The continuing fall is attributed to better roads and to the impact of Spain's relatively new points system. Tellingly, under you can eventually lose your licence for a range of offences possibly greater than anywhere else in the world. Need I say that, in parallel, motoring fines are also at a record level - at the high end of the scale, not the low.

I've mentioned the Spanish custom of gulping down 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight on 31 December - Las Campanadas. Well, the Andalucian TV channel, Canal Sur, screwed up royally this year, when it showed ads instead of the first 10 strikes. Here's Lenox on this. And here's one of several videos on youtube showing the reaction of one family. And, yes, they are speaking Spanish, but in the odd Andaluz dialect which largely eschews the letter S. Astonishingly, someone's head is said to have rolled for this cock-up, possibly reflecting just how important having fun is in Spain.

But what of this year in Spain? Here's yet another of The Local's lists. This time of 10 forecasts for 2015. At a quick glance, it seem to me they're not sticking their neck out very much.

And what about the EU? . . .
Quote 1: “The eurozone is sinking into corrosive deflation and it is too late to stop. We think the inflation rate in December may already have been negative. The ECB are in trouble, and they know it.”
Quote 2: “What we are seeing is the 'Japanification' trade,”
If these don't make any sense to you, you might find enlightenment here.

I've mentioned that many European countries have the festive period tradition of showing the old British comic film, Dinner for One. A German friend tells me that this year was the 50th anniversary of its first New Year's Eve showing. And that 14m folk tuned in to laugh at it yet again. As my friend pointed out, this is 16-17% of the German population and 23% of Brits. In Britain itself, roughly 0% of the population watched it.

A fascinating remark from the lead commentator on Russia's RT TV channel yesterday: "Outside the Washington beltway, Putin is probably the best known and best loved person in the world". Intriguingly, said observer/lapdog has clearly softened his strident tone since the start of the year. A new year resolution? Or just an accident? Vamos a ver.

If you're buying books through Amazon in Spain, you should know that, as of 1 January, you'll pay 21% IVA (VAT). This is the result of an EU directive and is the highest in Europe, comparing with the previous 3%. I'm not sure you can avoid this by ordering from the UK (8%), as the rate seems to depend on where you live.

A while ago, I noted there were 3 expensive dress shops in one small street in Pontevedra's old quarter and queried whether they could all survive. Well, 2 of them have gone, to be replaced by an upmarket tattoo parlour and a fair trade (comercio justo) outlet. Will they have any better luck?

Penultimately . . . And talking of shops . . . We went to a huge Chinese bazar outside the city yesterday. It was huge, cheap and bloody cold. I was disheartened to see that even these places now practice bundling of products. But at least I only had to buy 2, and not 3, reels of electricians' tape. While waiting to pay for these, I noticed there were bike lamps on a nearby shelf. I thought of buying several and chucking them at cyclists in Pontevedra, But, noting the price of 40 euros, I decided to forego this charitable act.

Finally . . . More from the 1942 Guide for Yanks in Limeyland:-

You are coming to Britain from a country where your home is still safe, food is still plentiful, and lights are still burning. So it is doubly important for you to remember that the British soldiers and civilians have been living under a tremendous strain. It is always impolite to criticise your hosts. It is militarily stupid to criticise your allies. So stop and think before you sound off about lukewarm beer, or cold or boiled potatoes, or the way English cigarettes taste.

If British civilians look dowdy and badly dressed, it is not because they do not like good clothes or know how to wear them. All clothing is rationed and the British know that they help war production by wearing an old suit or dress until it cannot be patched any longer. Old clothes are "good form."

One thing to be careful about – if you are invited into a British home and the host exhorts you to "eat up – there's plenty on the table," go easy. It may be the rations for the whole week spread out to show their hospitality.

Waste Means Lives. It is always said that the Americans throw more food into their garbage cans than any country eats. It is true. We have always been a" producer" nation. Most British food is imported even in peacetimes, and for the last two years the British have been taught not to waste the things that their ships bring in from abroad. British seamen die getting those convoys through. The British have been taught this so thoroughly that they know that food and gasoline represent the lives of merchant sailors. And when you burn gasoline needlessly, it will seem to them as if you are wasting the lives of those seamen – and when you destroy or waste food you have wasted the life of another sailor.

British Women At War. A British woman officer or non-commissioned officer can – and often does – give orders to a man private. The men obey smartly and know it is no shame. For British women have proven themselves in this war. They have stuck to their posts near burning ammunition dumps, delivered messages afoot after their motor–cycles have been blasted from under them. They have pulled aviators from burning planes. They have died at the gun posts and as they fell another girl has stepped directly into the position and "carried on." There is not a single record of any British woman in uniformed service quitting her post or failing in her duty under fire.

Now you know why British soldiers respect their women in uniform. They have won the right to the utmost respect. When you see a girl in khaki or air-force blue with a bit of ribbon on her tunic – remember she didn't get it for knitting more socks than anyone else in Ipswich.

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