Sunday, May 31, 2015

FIFA; The EU; In-words, Out-words; Brit-Am slang: & A young reynard.

FIFA: Russia, of course, voted for another Blatter presidency. I wasn't too surprised to see that RT TV reported things as a western conspiracy "to effect regime change". One wonders whether they could see a parallel elsewhere. Anyway, on the TV - but not in this article on their site - they produced a blue-red map showing the stark 'West-East divide' and I was surprised to see Australia and New Zealand painted red. Which they shouldn't have been, as they voted against Blatter. But it was enlightening to know that the affair had nothing to do with corruption or sport but was all about western power and greed. And annoyance that Russia and Quatar had been given the rights to World Cup matches. What a comfortably cosy world view. Final word - The FIFA federation was described as being 'bruised and battered'; but shouldn't this be 'blattered'?

Spaniards, we're told, are slowly cutting out the smoking habit. It's down to a third of the population, says a new survey. 90% of whom, I guess, are young women desperate to stay thin and look sophisticated. Deluded, suicidal fools that they are.

The EU: For those with a deep interest in the UK relationship with the EU and the real chances of a Brexit, this is the blog for you. There you'll learn that the situation has just got simpler - the "Swiss Option" is now judged to be dead. Which reminds me . . How's this for arrogance, from someone in Brussels:- "“Everybody is very aware that Britain is the next big problem on the horizon. The mood is that we’ve got to save the British from themselves."?

If you were to guess at what new words the Oxford Junior Dictionary included in its latest edition you might well come up with blog, broadband, bullet-point, cut-and-paste, and MP3. But, if asked to guess what words they'd removed, would you come up with any of acorn, beech, cygnet, fern, pasture or willow? I suspect not. Well, not if you're over, say, 40.

Finally, and talking of words:- Here's a list drawn up by an American anglophile of equivalent words and phrases as between US and UK English. I would quibble with only 2 or 3 of them:-
1. Tosser – Idiot

2. Cock-up – Screw up

3. Bloody – Damn

4. Gobsmacked – Amazed

5. Blimey! – My Goodness

6. Wanker – Idiot

7. Loo – Toilet/Bathroom

8. Nutter – Crazy Person

9. Her Majesty’s Pleasure – To be in prison

10. Horses for Courses – Won’t work for someone else

11. Sod Off – Piss off/ Go Away

12. Lost the Plot – Gone Crazy

13. Knackered – Tired

14. Taking the Piss – Screwing around/ Making fun of

15. Toff – Upper Class Person

16. Kip – Sleep or nap

17. Chav/Chavvy – White trash

18. Know Your Onions – Knowledgeable

19. Dodgy – Suspicious

20. Wonky – Not right/ Off

21. Knob Head – Idiot/ Dickhead

22. Stag Night – Bachelor Party

23. Hen Party – Bachelorette Party 

24. Blighty – Britain

25. Skive – Lazy or avoid doing something
25. Bits ‘n Bobs – Various things

26. Daft Cow – Idiot

27. Uni – College/University

28. Punter – Customer/ Prostitute’s Client

29. Chat Up – Flirt

30. Fit – Hot/ Attractive

31. On the Pull – Looking for sex

32. Shambles - Things gone wrong
33. I’m Off to Bedfordshire – Going to bed

34. Arse-over-tit – Fall over/ Trip on something

35. Bloody – Damn

36. Gutted – Sad/ Devastated

37. Slag – Slut

38. Biscuit – Cookie/ Cracker

39. Full monty – Whole thing/ Entire

40. Blimey! – My Goodness

41. Blinkered  – Narrow  or close minded 

42. Bob’s Your Uncle – There you go!

43. Motorway– Road/ Highway

44. Fanny – Vagina

45. Knickers – Panties/ Underwear

46. Throw a Spanner in the Works – Screw up/ Totally mess up

47. Made Redundant – Fired from a job

48. Abso-bloody-lutely – YES!

49. Dog’s Dinner – Ugly/ Dressed hideously

50. Rubbish – Garbage or ‘That’s crap!’

P. S. 7pm last night. Just driving out of a village, I spy a young fox trotting along the side of the road towards the village. How's that for domesticity?. Probably heading for the communal bins, to fight it out with the local dogs and cats.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Pre-election blues; FIFA; The EU; Motoring fines; Quis custodiet . . . ?; & Post office blues.

If you've got any spare cash lying around, consider investing in shares of electricity and shredder companies. Shocked by their losses in the recent regional and local elections and fearing a complete loss of power later this year, PP party members are quickly dealing with the archival evidence of their vast corruption of the last 5 years or more. As in the case of the mayor of Valladolid who ignored for 5 years a court order for the destruction of illegal 'attics' in the city.

As for Spain as a whole, Don Quijones of the Wolf Street Report says things are getting ugly. Not before time. Sampler: After game-changing municipal and regional elections in Spain, panic and fear are beginning to take root in the hallowed halls of government power and corporate HQs.

FIFA: Beyond parody, of course. But I, for one, have total confidence that Blatter will deliver on his heartfelt promise to do now what he's utterly failed to do over the last 16 years. Meanwhile, while it's easy to see why Russia voted him, one wonders why Spain did. Can the link really be corruption? Are things here really that bad?

Which reminds me . . . What could be worse than a committee designing a horse and coming up with a camel? Why, a committee of self-serving politicians and bureaucrats designing a functional supra-state and coming up with the EU, of course. At least a camel works.

As someone handsomely fined for listening to BBC podcasts on my iPod, I was amused to read the Canadian police had fined a guy for using a Google watch. And impressed that he's appealing on the grounds it's not a 'hand-held device'.

A couple of train guards in Valencia beat up a youth who refused to pull up his trousers over his underpants. As is the norm in this sort of case in Spain, the guards have filed a complaint that they were injured in the scuffle with the passenger. Old habits die hard.

Finally . . . For all of the week of my recent camino, I carried in my bag a large letter I really wanted to post quite urgently. But I didn't. So, I went to the Pontevedra post office yesterday, to find it strangely quiet. Using tape I'd brought with me, I fixed up the torn envelope and then went to find which of the 4 desks I needed to go to. But there was a notice on the machine: "Due to a breakdown in the numbering system, we can't take any letters or packets or do anything other than make money transfers." So I went to one of the 4 clerks and asked if this really meant I couldn't post the letter. Yes, she said. So I told the 4 of them they had my permission to go home. Which they thought was funny. So did I, but not in quite the same way. Was it really true that they couldn't revert to an alternative queueing system? Or did the notice mean that nothing electronic was working? If so, why hadn't they closed the post office or sent at least 3 of the 4 staff home? Perhaps they were waiting for the system to spontaneously fix itself. We'll never know. Spanish practices?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Emigrés; Quotes of the week; Headlines; The EU; & A funny video.

Spain's Opposition party says that 500,000 talented young people have fled the country in search of work. President Rajoy denies this and says the figure is just 24,000. Who to believe?

If the press is to be believed, said Mr Rajoy won't be President for much longer, given that there's a general election fight before the year is out. Especially since he's either piss-poor at spin or has some dreadful advisers. Perhaps that's why Tony Blair has quit his post as Middle East adviser, to help out Mariano.

Some decent quotes:-
- Spanish Food: The richly varied but somewhat rebarbative Spanish regional cuisine is based on the necessity of making poor food palatable.- Raymond Carr, 1977. Things have moved on since then, I believe.
- Looking obsessively at your smartphone to see if someones has sent you a message is like going to your front door every twenty minutes to see whether there's anyone there. Anon
-If I can make someone feel good today, then I'm a happy man. A wise humanist. 
- And
Before your mind just drifts away, 
Reflect a while upon your day, 
And ask yourself if you can say: 
'I brightened up two lives today'. - Ibid.

Recent headlines:-

  • Spanish nuns accused of exploiting their wards to boost conservative vote.
  • Lucía and Hugo - the top baby names in Spain in 2014.
  • Despite economic growth, the gap widens between Spain's rich and poor.
  • Spain has the fifth highest rate of inequality in Europe, after the UK, Greece, Estonia and Portugal.
  • The Opposition says the governments's 'gagging law' breaches the Constitution in 12 areas. Scope for arguments, I guess.
  • Spain's Constitutional Court has rejected the paternity claim against the abdicated King Juan Carlos of a Barcelona waiter. So, no great surprise there. What really would be astonishing would be the court demanding and using DNA evidence. But it seems to lack the will to do this. As ever.

The EU: Writing on the never-ending Greek crisis, one commentator says: These surreal negotiations bear no relation to the normal interaction between creditors and debtors. Because the elephant in the room during all these supposedly financial deliberations is politics, specifically the infatuated imperial obsession of the Brussels apparatchiks. They are behaving in character because not only the euro currency but the entire European project has, from its inception, been a purely political exercise. At every stage in the development of the EU, financial realities have been subordinated to political aspirations. This sedulously concealed fact is not only key to understanding the labyrinthine contortions of the Greek crisis, but the essential character of the EU.

Finally . . . Here's a nice nomination for the worst-ever election campaign video ever.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Camino recollections

Camino Recollections:

Hotels: As ever, we eschewed pilgrim albergues and stayed in 2 or 3 star hotels, except when we were compelled to use the Parador in Zamora. This place has hardly changed since I was there 18 years ago. The agricultural hair-drier certainly hasn't. But staff attitudes were better than I recalled and the place itself is magnificent. Essentially, though, it was over-staffed at Reception and under-staffed in the Bar. But at least I didn't have to try to squeeze soap from a tube on the wall.

Other 'pilgrims': We didn't meet any at all on our 5 walks. As the Via de la Plata is not as popular as other Caminos, we'd expected these to be few and far between but not quite this few. Though we did see 5 when were bussing back for Montamarta to our Zamora base.

The best walk: The stage between Fuenterroble and San Pedro de los Rozados - the day I was laid up in bed, fasting and contemplating death. And not losing any weight, apparently

Food: Almost universally good but we had a poor experience at Serafín in Zamora. See my review here, complete with typo - routing instead of routine.

Wine: Universally good. White verdejos and red Toro tempranillos. The boxes I ordered on our last day - from a bodega in Tordesillas - were delivered to my house a few hours before I got back yesterday evening. 

Weather: Also excellent. Never too hot but, to our surprise, there were bitingly colds winds in and around Salamanca before the sun got up and took the temperature from 5 to 20 plus. For the 4th camino a row, my bright red cape proved unnecessary, as of rain there was none.

The sights: Estupendos, to put it mildly. Not just in Salamanca and Zamora but also in Tordesillas, where the Mudéjar artwork in the Convento de Santa Clara is a must-see. Plus the restored Arab baths.  

Company: All old friends, so what can I say . . .?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spanish politics; & The final camino fotos.

The Spanish political kaleidoscope has been shaken and some of the glitter bits have settled. But many others haven't. The President of Spain, Sr Rajoy, has said that everything and nothing has changed. Things are as they were: his PP party got the most votes both nationwide and in individual regions and so remains Spain's leading party. Which rather glosses over the fact it retains the reins of power in only one region, and this in North Africa. Further, despite the loss of 33% of its supporters, the PP's best bet, says Sr Rajoy, is to leave him and his team in power. After all, the PP's setbacks were due to the old chestnut of "poor communication". Mr Rajoy was speaking, of course, from his bunker 3 meters below ground in the Saharan desert.

For a professional commentary, see the article printed after these final camino fotos, all taken in wonder-ful Salamanca this morning:

Small Earthquake in Spain

After Greece — runs the theory beloved of left-wing optimists and right-wing pessimists — comes Spain. In January the anti-austerity Syriza party, founded only ten years earlier, came to power in an election in Greece which humbled the centre right and obliterated the centre left. Syriza had turned the 26 per cent of the vote it received in the 2014 European elections, into 36 per cent of the vote in the general election.

This week regional elections were held in Spain and a party which was created in January 2014, Podemos (We can), won a substantial share of the vote. Candidates it supported took the mayoralty of Barcelona and at the time of writing looked likely to take that of Madrid. 

The ruling Popular party, which had its worst election results for a quarter of a century, suddenly looked like the Unpopular party. It lost control of eight regions, some big cities and the support of more than 2.5 million voters. The main opposition party, the socialists, also lost votes, in its case nearly half a million. With a general election in Spain quite likely this autumn, the anti-establishment domino theory looks plausible.

But perhaps we should take a breath before prophesying a Spanish meltdown. Spain, for all its sunny southness, is not Greece. While Greece was seeing very few of the benefits of a long period of austerity and was offering its citizens little but sweat, blood, toil and tears and then more blood, Spain seems to have overcome the post-2008 crisis and its economy is growing again. True, the unemployment rate is still 24 per cent, and it will take time for the benefits of growth to reach millions of Spaniards. And it is true, too, that the party of the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has been implicated in a series of corruption scandals involving tens of millions of euros.

Yet when the electorate was able to register a protest vote without jeopardising national policy, more than half still chose one of the two traditional parties. Podemos polled just over 14 per cent, which though remarkable for such a recent party, puts it for the time being in the Ukip rather than the Syriza category.

This lack of an outright collapse suggests both that the Popular party and the socialists are, for the time being, more robust than their counterparts in Greece, and also that voters do not feel quite the same sense of desperation. Although post-mortems were being held yesterday, and there was talk of pressure on Mr Rajoy, the political establishment in Spain would do well not to panic. It must purge itself of corruption, but there is much to be said for sending out the message that when it comes to the basics, it understands how the country must be governed.

This result, though difficult for Mr Rajoy, suggests that he has some time. And it gives the Spanish people slightly more space in which to consider whether they really want to hand power to insurgent parties. In the case of the anti-corruption but essentially liberal democratic party, Ciudadanos (Citizens), which polled 7%, that would not seem to be much of a risk. But Podemos, which is a Syriza-style coalition of anarchists, socialists, regionalists and pressure groups, is a different matter. Do the Spanish people, for example, want to leave Nato, as Podemos does?

We rather suspect not. In which case, if Spain’s leaders hold their nerve, this could be the domino that refuses to fall.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

More of Zamora and some of Tordesillas.

A church in Zamora
Another church in Zamora
Battlements and old gate of the Zamora walls
Zamora house
The Parador in Zamora
Err . . . A palace away from Pl. Mayor.
Nice modernish block near Pl. Mayor.
Another church, in Pl. Mayor
Galerías in Tordesillas
Pl. Major in Tordesillas
Where the Tordesillas treaty between Spain and Portugal was signed, dividing up the New World under the aegis of the bloody Pope. 1494.
Models of Tordesillas buildings.
Wine bodega in Tordesillas
Where Juana The Mad used to go to church, using a bridge between this building and the royal palace which uses to stand on the right.
Just one of mnay examples of Mudejar art in Tordesillas.
A convent built for rather more than the 9 nuns who remain. If you speak, they brick up your windows. If you speak again, they brick up you.
More Mudejar brickwork from centuries back.
Gothic/Mudejar portal
On top of Juana's church
Corner of same. The river Douro is in the RH corner.
And finally . . . A Mudejar bloody stork. On blue background.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Finally . . . Zamora to Montamarta.

Zamora's beautiful stone(s)
What's that dominating the city's eastern skyline? Is it a green corrugated iron shed? 
No. It's a modern museum, putting Pontevedra's to shame in its inappropiateness. Let's just hope the ('prize-winning') architect was later hanged.
A geriatric health facility, suspended because of austerity cuts. Only the old and the poor tend to suffer much from these, of course. Plus the ill.
The fabulous ochre soil of the Castille y León 'breadbasket'.
Has-been rape, apparently.