Spanish Eating: I mentioned that my elder daughter was unhappy about the number of fast food options replacing old shops in her barrio of Malasaña. Spot on time comes a report that 'Spain's healthy diet is under threat from such establishments'. Which ties in with earlier news that the country's kids are now the fattest in Europe after those of Malta. Though I find this hard to believe.
A Cultural Difference: Sky News on Saturday stressed that, because of viewer sensitivitity, they wouldn't be showing corpses of children on beaches in Greece. In contrast, El País showed no such reluctance on the front page of yesterday's issue. Your guess is as good as mine.
In an international survey of 'economic freedom' (ease of doing business, I guess), the UK ranks 10th and Spain 43rd, down in the 'moderately free' group. So, no great surprise there. Ambrose Evans Pritchard notes that the EU doesn't do well on the whole, endorsing his belief that this misguided political project will die within the next 10-15 years. “It continues to exist”, he says, “only out of inertia”.
Talking of the EU . . . As this has been such a success over the last 60 years, I'm proposing – as the solution to internecine warfare - a Middle East Union(MEU). This would bring together such different races as Arabs, Iranians and Jews and such different cultures as those of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel et al. Not to mention the various major religions and their schisms. I mean, if the EU can transcend these obstacles so impressively in post-war Europe, surely it can be done not so very far to the east. All they have to do is pledge 'ever closer union', install a vast bureaucracy, introduce a common currency and then ignore whatever the people of respective countries want or deserve. A benevolent dictatorship, in essence. With the benevolence - as in the EU - going mainly to the politicians and the bureaucrats. Especially those who've retired. Who could really doubt that this is really the only solution to the age-old problems of the region? But do I hear anyone tabling this solution, building on the successful EU model? No, I don't. Political pygmies, all of them.
Another non-surprise . . . The Spanish ex-IMF chief Rodrigo Rato is stand trial for fraud, along with more than 60 other executives of Caja Madrid and Bankía. Somehow, they managed to use company credit cards to spend €12 million on themselves and their wives/girlfriends. As usual, no date for the trial has been set and time may eventually run out.
Festivals: TheLocal tells us that February is the month of these in Spain. Seems a bit early to me but here's their article.
Finally . . . Unhappy Pontevedra News:
- When I came here 15 years ago, the mayor said the nearby wood pulp factory (and its smell and smoke) would be gone by 2018. He's still in power – though, naturally, under investigation – but Madrid has announced that the company is to be given another 60 years lease on the site.
- There was a small but devastating fire in the city last night, in a building which fronted both a street just outside the old quarter and a granite arcade in the main square of the quarter. Sadly, the firemen started at the former, meaning more destruction in the square than might have been the case. As I was on a train from Madrid, I didn't see the fire from my window overlooking the city but I'll certainly see the consequences later this morning.
That apart, it's good to be home.