Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Ukraine; Racism?; Estate agents; Justice for some; Pamplona pomp; Chess 4 all; Happy Spanish; & Wallball.

You have to laugh. Or cry. Having failed to comply with last week's Minsk 2 Agreement, the Russians are now complaining that the Ukrainian President is ignoring it by calling for UN peace-keeping forces aimed at stopping the continuing fighting by Russia-aided rebel troops. I'm indebted to the Russian RT News channel for this information. Well, part of it.

There was an appalling incident earlier this week in Manchester at 5 in the morning. A drunken couple insulted two Spanish men and forced them off a bus. The female of the foul pair managed to contribute to this while holding a bag of chips in her left hand. The incident was shameful but was it, as the headlines suggested, 'racist'? Are the Spanish a discrete race? Or are we now conditioned to seeing all aggression as racism in one form or another?

It's always hard to feel sorry for them but Spain's estate agents were looking for a bumper 2015 and have now been knocked back by the rouble's decline. The Russian line in their budgets has had to be reduced or even eliminated. But there's still the ever-faithful British to rely one. It seems nothing can put them off, even reports of demolished houses and new tax measures aimed at forcing them to declare their assets back home. But we will see. Some town halls down south are reporting major reductions in the number of foreigners on their books and this might yet turn out to be an indication of growing disillusionment with Spain.

A thief who stole a valuable old book from Santiago cathedral - along with a million or two euros - has been sentenced to 10 years in clink. This is an unimaginable sentence for a politician who's pocketed hundreds of times more than this. Or even for a drug dealer. Does the Spanish justice system act on the same basis as the Tax Office - go for the easy ones? Grab the low-hanging fruit? It certainly looks like it.

Talking of corruption . . . The list of Spain's ludicrously expensive white elephants - ours is the City of Culture on the edge of Santiago - has now been augmented by Pamplona's spanking new sports facility. I can't say I understand why, but it seems this €58m construction will never be used. At least, not for the purpose for which it was planned. Perhaps it'll become an elephant house. It is, by the way, "a giant white cube, covered in 933 smaller illuminating cubes." And it will cost around €250k a year to maintain. And to keep a few people in pointless jobs. As with the redundant airport at Castellón.

Another mystery . . . As I understand it, it's illegal to warn another driver about a mobile radar patrol you've just passed. But now El Trafico have announced they're going to warn us themselves, as - pause for a laugh - they're not in the business of generating revenue.

But some positive news . . . Responding to the recommendation of some international body, the Spanish government is making chess compulsory in schools. The rationale is that this will improve both the mathematical and the linguistic skills of the pupils, who currently don't do terribly well in international tests.

More positive news . . . In an international assessment of which words in various languages sound most positive or 'happy', Spanish took the top slot. But some questions were raised about the result by the fact that Portuguese came in at no. 2.

Finally . . . There's something called Wallball played in Spain. I wondered whether this was similar to Fives or the Eton wall game but Wiki says it's a type of schoolyard game similar to butts up, aces-kings-queens, American handball and Chinese handball. Whatever these are. But, anyway, there's a European wallball championship and the sport appears to involve either 2 or 4 players, like squash. There's also a World Championship, scheduled for Calgary in September this year.

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