Friday, January 06, 2017

Pontevedra pensées: 6.1.17

Today is the feast of The Epiphany, called in Spain 'The Kings' (Los Reyes). For most kids, it's still more important than Xmas Day for presents. But the majority naturally get gifts on both days. There's always a big procession on the eve of this feast-day - featuring the 'Wise Men' on horses, camels or floats. I haven't attended one for many years, having been almost crushed to death last time by adults trying to catch sweets thrown to the kids. But, anyway, here's something on the celebration from The Local.

As for the rest of 2017, here's a couple more helpful lists:-

So, I went to Vigo yesterday essentially to close an account at one bank and to set up direct debits with my new bank. The former was quick and easy, necessitating 'only' recitation of my ID number and access code, plus sight of my passport and my official residence letter. The latter task involved the photocopying of a lot of bills, the signing of these and much form-filling and signing. Which took quite some time. I couldn't refrain from commenting this could have all been done on the phone in the UK. Which might well be true.

Thereafter, I went for lunch to a Peruvian restaurant called Kero. My not-very-positive-review of this will shortly appear on Tripadvisor.

At 3.45, I decided to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, only to find that - unlike Pontevedra's museum and art gallery - this sticks to the traditional Spanish split day. And so was closed until 5. Which I wasn't willing to wait for, as I'm not a great fan of its contents. Especially the huge light-fitting made entirely of tampons that featured there last time I visited it. Admittedly several years ago.

Anyway, here's the view as you come down the stairs or escalator at Vigo's newish Urzaiz train station.

The no. 2 platform is on the other side of platform 1, accessed by a separate set of stairs or escalator. It put me in mind of the bizarre platform sequence at Pontevedra station, which goes something like 3, 6, 1, 4, 8. Not that you'd know this from the plan on the web page of the relevant company, Adif.

By the way . . . You might like to know that, if you're leaving this station, as you turn right at the top of the stairs/escalator, there's a concrete column which comes up from the left at a 45 degree angle. If you're texting as you walk, it's quite possible to meet this with your head. I imagine . . .

Today's cartoon . . .

BREXIT: Here's one commentator's solution to the issues that have arisen . . .

Europe could engineer a second referendum: Philip Collins

If Germany and France want to test Britain’s resolve to leave they should offer us a root and branch reform of the EU

Today is the start of Epiphany. The story of Boris, Liam and David, the three kings bearing gifts, enchants children the world over. It has been immortalised in The Epiphany by Hieronymus Bosch. In some traditions “king’s cake”, a rich, dense, typically English fruitcake, is eaten on Twelfth Night. In the British version of the tale the cake is both eaten and not eaten. Epiphany, the striking manifestation of the new, is a moment for everyone involved in the European Union debate to stop and start again as if nothing has happened.

Indeed, nothing is exactly what has happened so far, as Sir Ivan Rogers pointed out in his parting shot as Britain’s ambassador to the European Union. “I have unclasp’d to thee the book even of my secret soul”, as Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night. In this case, the secret soul was contained in an email in which Sir Ivan accused the government of lacking a plan. His accusation matters more than his resignation and he is right to complain about the lack of progress. In truth, the only way out of this mess is to have two deals, not one: the deal Sir Ivan failed to negotiate for David Cameron and the deal Sir Tim Barrow will now negotiate to leave the European Union.

The resignation of the British ambassador 11 months before he was due to go is an important event of the second order. But how perfectly it dramatised the boring, stuck-record nature of the European argument. For anyone reasonably disposed to the EU he was Ivan the Great. For anyone keen to leave he was Ivan the Terrible. Every event licenses the protagonist to remind us of an established view. It’s no wonder that Pavlov’s first name was Ivan. The EU referendum is becoming the original sin of British politics, from which every action of the fallen creatures can be traced. Before Twelfth Night turns into the thirteenth day all parties to this corrosive debate should pause.

If the prime minister wants to secure the unity that was her fond wish in her new year message, then she needs to give a substantive speech on her objectives for negotiation. The leading advocates on the Leave and the Remain sides need to stop dusting down the old arguments over every set of economic data. Change, for good or ill, will come glacially. The most vital epiphany of all, though, will have to come from beyond these island shores, from the leaders of the EU itself.

Imagine how different the argument would be if the EU suddenly granted the deal that Sir Ivan Rogers was unable to secure for David Cameron. The EU is far from the best of health. A single currency invented to encourage economic convergence has left no way to reduce the debts in southern Europe other than to cut spending to the bone. The scale of youth unemployment is staggering and shaming. Not surprisingly, lots of people have taken the opportunity to work elsewhere but the impeccable logic of allowing labour to follow where capital flows is not appreciated by the native populations of the host countries. The siren voices of protectionism, a danger-in-waiting rather than a solution, can already be heard and Britain’s departure will hardly help. Europe produces a quarter of global GDP but commits half of the world’s social spending. 

Serious leadership in Europe would recognise this now. During the British referendum campaign it was regularly suggested, as Tim Shipman reminds us in his definitive account All Out War, that leaving the EU would be the best tactic to give Britain the greatest leverage. Boris Johnson wrote an article appearing to have had this epiphany and then had to write another withdrawing it. More than one Tory MP who argued for Leave said the same to me. They actively wanted a second referendum on terms gained by a manifest threat. Why doesn’t Angela Merkel test their resolve? If she doesn’t, and if he wins the French presidential race, François Fillon may. A reform epiphany is not out of the question in France.

There is a template on the table. Take David Cameron’s Bloomberg speech from January 23, 2013 and enact the job lot. The EU should now instigate the fiscal integration required for the 19 members of the eurozone but create secure, second-tier guarantees for the EU members who are not. There should be a bonfire of vanity projects and labour market burdens. The EU budget should be tilted towards growth and away from agriculture.

The commission should be reduced in scope and size. The EU should establish a review of everything it does on the fine European principle of subsidiarity — that power should reside at the lowest possible level. This should be accompanied by symbolic transfers of power back to national governments, as set out in the Laeken declaration in 2001. Freedom of movement should be suspended pending a thoroughgoing reform. A target date should be set for the completion of the single market in services, energy and digital. On this revised basis, of a more flexible, variegated EU, Britain should be extended the offer to continue its membership of the single market, with all its privileges.

Thus far the response from the EU to Britain’s exit has been two parts insouciant to one part cavalier. But imagine if defenders of the EU, here and elsewhere, started taking its deficiencies seriously enough to fix them. Then suppose that all the benefits of this revised EU were offered to Britain just so long as we remained a member. Simultaneous with this process, Theresa May and Sir Tim Barrow will negotiate the best exit deal they can manage. Ministers will prepare for Britain to leave the EU, as they were instructed to do last June. Then, when the two plans are ready, they will be put, as rivals, to the British people in a referendum.

There would be no justified cry of betrayal because Leave would be on the ballot paper, in the specific form of a deal. So would an alternative that provided what many of the advocates of leaving claimed to want. This would allow unrepentant Remainers to argue for an outcome that was neither a denial of the referendum result nor a fantasy. This would not be June 23 redux. It would be a new start.

The very possibility, which is not likely, is in the hands of EU leaders. The alternative, as Sir Ivan pointed out, may work well for nobody. “O time, thou must untangle this, not I. It is too hard a knot for me t’untie”.


Les Revenants said...

Interesting signage for the Urzaiz train station. Many years since I've been in Spain, so I am curious about the style/terminology.

First, why bother to provide the translation of 'vía' when it seems the same word is used in the local language (Galician?)? Or is there some subtle (diacritical?) difference I'm missing.

I suspect this is more political than anything else.

Second, the English provided as a gloss is 'PLATFORM' (why all capitals when that is not the style for the Castellano and local script?). Is 'vía' used throughout Spain for platform? Isn't 'vía' line in English? Don't they use 'andén'?

I always enjoy your blog.


Colin Davies said...

Thanks. Sometimes it's not just single words but entire phrases which are exactly the same in Spanish and Gallego. But they are both printed nonetheless. No, there is no subtle distinction between vía and vía. Nor between vino and viño or camino and camiño. I could go on . . . It's the inevitable outcome of 'equalising' closely related languages. Or even very different languages as in Welsh and English - Telefon and Telephone.

I, too, as surprised that andén is not used but this might be a local practice only. It's the same at the bus station in Pontevedra.

I think they use andén down in the Madrid metro -

We need Maria's input . . .

Maria said...

Here go my two cents!

Vía refers to the track. The train you are catching is on track so-and-so. The andén is simply the platform where people walk next to the track. Whoever put up the signs in Urzaiz station missed an English class. It should say "track" instead of "platform." One is always directed to the vía where the transportation to a certain destination awaits.

The subway is andén because there are only two directions you can take at a station after choosing the blue line, yellow line, red line, etc. Or at least, that's my take on the subway nomenclature. Though my suspicions here are that it's a historical difference. Were there platforms at stations when trains first appeared? Or were they designed later for passenger convenience, and therefore the track has always remained as the specific point to catch a train? Whereas when subways were first designed, platforms were already incorporated? A historian might be able to refine that doubt.

Colin Davies said...

Thanks, María. You never disappoint!

Les Revenants said...

Thank you both.

María, I think you were on the money with your explanation about the subway. See below.

From Rick Steves’ Spanish Phrase Book & Dictionary (searchable on Google Books):

"While the terms andén (platform) and vía (track) can be used interchangeably, at larger stations one andén can have access to two different vías (one on each side)."

That suggests to me that it would be shorter and less confusing to direct passengers to Via 1 for a service rather than Andén A, Via 1 to distinguish from Andén A, Via 2.

I think...

As you say, María, the use of 'platform' as a translation is slightly off - it should be 'track' or 'line'.