Friday, February 10, 2017

Pontevedra Pensées: 10.2.17

My god but Holland is quiet! So quiet, in fact, I might think this even if I weren't coming from the aural hell of Spain.

One odd aspect of The Netherlands is that they aren't in the van when it comes to the use of credit and debit cards. I had my Spanish Visa card rejected several times, though not so with my UK card, which I was able to use to buy train tickets at least. A little research suggests you're going to have card problems there unless your issuing bank is Dutch. So, be aware. Get enough cash if you don't want to be embarrassed in supermarkets and restaurants. It's said that the Dutch abhor debt but this hardly explains why debit cards – foreign ones, at least – are not widely accepted.

Ironically, I've also had the opposite problem in The Netherlands – not being able to pay in cash. At a café near Haarlem station last year, I was told I could only pay €2.50 for a coffee via a local debit card. In the end, I resorted to a Spanish solution; I told the young lady to give me the coffee and keep the money for herself. In a city attractive to tourists, this seemed rather odd. As indeed does the general situation.

But now I'm back in the UK, where things work but – generally speaking – perhaps not quite as well as in The Netherlands. And where you're regularly aware you're being ripped off in a country where capitalism is more red in tooth and claw than in either The Netherlands or Spain. Which is not a nice feeling. Even if it does make the wheels go round. Train travel is the obvious example, of course.

To be honest, after a smooth exit from Holland, I wasn't too impressed with my re-entry into the UK. Despite paying for roaming, I couldn't send messages at the airport. And, as I waited for a train at the airport station none of the free wifi networks seemed easy to get on. Finally, I had to find and press a button for the so-called 'automatic' doors at Heald Green station. And Heald Green is rather more dowdy that any bit of Holland I've seen in the last week. But, hey, a big Ferrari drove past as I left the station. So, someone's doing well.

I haven't mentioned the Russian propaganda channel – RT News – for a while. The Economist has fun with its viewership claims here, pointing out that: RT has a clever way with numbers. Its 'audience' of 550m refers to the number of people who can access its channel, not those who actually watch it. And that: The network’s practice is to buy the rights to sensational footage and repackage it with the company logo. RT hopes that the authenticity of such raw content will draw viewers to its political stories too. This sounds like a canny strategy, but it doesn't work. RT’s most popular videos are of earthquakes and grisly accidents. Among the top 15, the closest to a political clip is one of Vladimir Putin singing 'Blueberry Hill'. Couln't happen to a nicer channel.

Finally . . . Back in Galicia, the Tax Office's relentless pursuit of new things to hit may well result in the demolition of many of the region's characteristic grain stores, the hórreos. These – admittedly valuable - assets are to be treated separately from the homes whose gardens they're in and given their own municipal tax, the IBI. What next? Statuettes of gnomes? Swimming pools? Oh, no, they're already levying a tax on the latter. As everyone says, the low-hanging fruit. Easy to pick off.

Today's foto: My granddaughter on hearing I was coming back today . . .

In truth, she gave me a wonderful welcome of endless smiles.

1 comment:

Diego said...

A person i know here in Oviedo had his local taxes, the IBI, tripled last year. The reason is that he is now charged separately for the land he owns and the house that sits in it. Like you say, i guess it makes sense to someone.

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