Spanish Tidbits: As ever, I'm indebted to Lenox Napier's weekly Business Over Tapas bulletin for some of these. OK, all of them:
- The country's tourist sector grew in 2015 by more than 7%. It now provides nearly a million direct jobs and comprises 16% of Spain’s GDP. Thank God/Gaia for the sun and the coastlines.
- The second biggest foreign investor in Spain is . . . Spain. This is because Spanish companies route their investment via profits declared in Holland, Luxembourg and Ireland, where corporate tax rates are lower. I guess this makes sense to the accountants.
- The average spend on Semana Santa will be €874 per person. Or about €50 in my case.
- Eight % of Spaniards – 2.3 million people – will resort to borrowing money for their holidays this week, at an average APR rate of 18%. Live today, pay handsomely tomorrow.
- A very popular TV performer - El Gran Wyoming – claims that he sees himself countering the 'brutal' manipulation and appeasement of a news media which is in large part owned by the banks.
- Unsurprisingly, a recent study found that Spain’s media is the least trusted of 8 EU members.
Semana Santa: I discovered yesterday this is not the best week of the year to go shopping or to try to deal with civil servants. It's not just Good Friday that's taken off here. But the Turismo was open, though they suggested I come back next week to get the information I wanted. My compensation for all this frustration was that the owners of my regular tapas bar invited me to lunch with them and their staff. This began at 5 and ended around 6. When I discovered that the Post Office also works holiday hours all this week.
Which reminds me . . .
Odd Spanish Names: The Semana Santa processions have highlighted the groups (the Cofrades) which finance and deliver these. Two mentioned in yesterday's reports were Our Father Jesus of Silence and Our Mother of Great Pain. A spokesperson cited was María Jesús, whom I assume to be the feminine equivalent of Jesús María. But I could easily be wrong. I mean, it took me 3 chapters of Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday to realise that Mary and Joseph – Joseph and Mary? - was only one person.
Shakespeare: Scientists with equipment say they've proved the centuries-old rumour that some thieving bastard broke into his grave and looted his head. And no one now knows where it is. Shame Will isn't still with us to write a play about the incident. Incidentally, the inscription on Shakespeare's grave curses anyone who moves his bones. But there's no evidence he wrote it. Or that it's been effective. Sadly.
Renting in Spain: The most expensive places in which to do this are Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Pamplona, San Sebastián, La Coruña, Cádiz, Marbella and Zaragoza. And the least expensive are Huelva, Alicante, Castellón, Elche, Torrent, Granada, Málaga, Jerez de la Frontera, Almería and Jaén. For the life of me, I can't understand why the north coast Galician city of La Coruña is expensive. Unless it's related to the HQ of the impressively profitable and expansive Inditex, parent company of Zara.
Local Drug-trafficking: During a pre-'lunch' tiffin with a local friend yesterday, he pointed to an innocuous looking chap and said he was Pontevedra's leading narocotraficante. Last year, he added, competitors had beaten him up and left him for dead. Were we talking marijuana?, I asked. Yes. Plus cocaine and heroin, he replied. And something else that might well be crack cocaine. Yet everything looks so serene and civil on the surface here. Albeit far wealthier than it should on the basis of merely legal business.
Finally . . . I, for one, will never again be shopping in any of the numerous Inditex retail outlets. At the insistence of my younger daughter, I resorted to their upmarket Massimo Dutti shop for a rather expensive leather jacket. Said leather is so thin it rips if it catches on so much as a cotton bud. This unique feature demands regular repairs so I can get my money's worth from the garment. At least 15 todate. Some people would be ashamed to still wear it. Patently, I'm not one of these.
I can't recall if I've posted this rude list before. If so, feel free to enjoy it again: