Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
The top/bottom countries:-
Czech Republic 31
And the bottom/top countries:-
Luxembourg 23 [Flush with black money??]
Pick the meat out of that!
Richard North has now described Mrs May as: The one person in the world who cannot bring the Brexit negotiations to any conclusion. She is displaying - he says - a degree of recklessness that would put the most extreme of the "Ultras" to shame. Almost single-handedly, she seems intent on wrecking any chance we ever had of achieving a sensible Brexit. In a nutshell: A vote for May is not so very far from tantamount to national suicide. North then turned his heavy guns onto the Daily Telegraph, accusing it of descending into a new level of madness. It's hard to disagree with him. Unless you endorse my belief that it's all a part of the brilliant May-Merkel Teutonic strategy to keep the UK in the EU. And to do down France . . .
But others point the finger at the ineffable Herr Juncker, asserting that he's acting as a recruiting sergeant for the Tories and legitimising a no-deal outcome to talks. And, in essence, turning out to be as bad as David Cameron warned he would be when he tried to stop Juncker becoming President of the EU. There's an amusing - possibly OTT - article from The Times on the hapless chap at the end of this post. Juncker, not Cameron.
I recently wrote that I'd been astonished to read that the desire for easy money had driven the number of caminos to Santiago, not to the 12 or so I thought it was, but to c. 30. I was less surprised to hear that yet another one has now been created along the banks of the river Ulla. Though, to be honest, this might well be the same camino as the newish coastal one I already had on my list. It gets confusing. Especially as some of the routes are not (yet) recognised by the camino authorities in Santiago.
As I've noted before, our many local newspapers are stuffed with stats which endlessly emanate from municipal, provincial and regional administrations. Here's a few from this week's journals:-
- Paternity tests in Pontevedra have doubled in the last 10 years. Divorce driven, I guess.
- A cup of (dreadful) tea cost only 70 pesetas when the euro came in in 2002. It now costs the equivalent of 266 pesetas. Almost 4 times the price. Much the same for coffee, of course.
- PTVs - Pontevedresas por toda la vida (stay at homes) - account for 51% of the city's population. I wonder how this compares with a UK city of 80,000.
- We will shortly have no petrol stations at all in the city itself, after the last one is demolished.
- Local police roadside tests for drugs hugely increased last year. And 40% of them were positive, against 1% for alcohol.
- In Galicia, almost a third of folk aged up to 29 work as waiters or shop assistants.
- At GP surgeries in our region, patient no-shows amount to 5,000 a year. The number is lower for specialist appointments - a mere 9%.
To my surprise, Galicia has the equivalent of Atapuerca. It's Covo Eirós, in Lugo province. Must visit it.
Finally . . . I watched the Celta v Manchester United match in a bar last night. There were 3 large TVs in a space of about 30 square metres - one in front of me and one on each side. What was most noticeable - apart from the usual very high level of noise - was the constant, non-match-related chatting which took place among the (95% male) spectators. Few of them actually seemed to be looking at the screen but all of them could detect somehow when something interesting was about to happen. Possibly the rise in volume and emotion of the commentary
I struggled to understand both of these 2 cartoons in the last edition of Private Eye:-
Until, that is, I realised that they formed just one cartoon . . . . One on top of the other. And then, as a good atheist, I laughed heartily . . .
THE JUNKER ARTICLE
Brexiteers should be grateful to the ghastly Jean-Claude Juncker: Alison Pearson, The Times
During the Referendum campaign, if I ever had a wobble about voting Leave, I found it very helpful to focus on the preposterous figure of Jean-Claude Juncker.
In a fair and just world, Mr Juncker might have risen to the dizzy heights of Mayor of Trumpton, somewhere small and fictional where he could do very little harm. Instead, this nonentity became President of the European Commission and one of the longest serving democratic leaders in the world.
As he doesn’t really believe in democracy, admitting he finds it more convenient to overlook the votes of the people in EU member states and kick an issue into the long grass until they come up with the correct answer, this is wonderfully ironic.
In addition to allegedly enjoying a drink or six (the joke in Brussels is J-C has cognac for breakfast), Mr Juncker is a touchy-feely kind of guy whose hands frequently come to rest on visiting female politicians. Both Theresa May and Angela Merkel have had to perfect a sideways swerve to avoid the clammy lurch of Monsieur Pat-le-Bottom.
If only the Marx Brothers had lived to make a comedy classic about the European Union, Juncker could have played himself. How very fortunate that this oafish embodiment of the arrogant, self-serving Eurocrat elite has nothing to do with the future prospects of our own dear country.
Exactly a week ago today, Mr Juncker came to Downing Street to dine with the Prime Minister. Picture the convivial scene: Theresa perhaps nursing a glass of Lemon Barley Water and fervently wishing she and Philip could disappear upstairs to watch MasterChef, while Jean-Claude moved onto his third bottle of claret.
According to the German newspaper which this weekend gave a blow-by-blow account of the evening, Mr Juncker was so “dismayed” by his hostess’s intransigent and deluded ideas about Brexit that he left Number 10 warning he was “10 times more sceptical” about the outcome of the talks. Within hours, he had tittle-tattled to his boss, Mrs Merkel, and the briefing went forth that the British PM was “living in another galaxy”.
Well, at least she was sober. Bravo, Mrs May for retaliating yesterday by pointing out she’s been described as “a bloody difficult woman” and the next person to find that out will be one Mr Juncker. That's not obstinacy, it’s guts.
Embittered Remainers, who are counting the days till Brexit fails and they can put up the “Told You So” bunting, seized on this shameless leaking of a private dinner as firm evidence that the prospects of getting a deal were already in trouble.
Nonetheless, I feel we should be grateful to Mr Juncker. If Mrs May had any lingering personal doubts about the wisdom of leaving the EU, here was just the man to dispel them.
Juncker has said he hopes that the British people will “wake up to the harsh realities before it’s too late”. And the British people looked upon Mr Juncker and they thought: “Whatever the harsh realities, mate, we won’t be told what to do by that nincompoop.”
Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, with bitter personal experience of EU negotiations, has given a chilling warning that the EU will play dirty and brief against Britain throughout. We have already got a glimpse of their tactics. On Saturday, European leaders agreed a rigid, hardline stance on Brexit in just four minutes. This is the same bunch that takes nine years to agree the specifications for a common European bathplug.
Who are they kidding? The EU is coming apart under the strain of the borderless Schengen zone. Terrorist attacks are almost a weekly event. Three million citizens, many from its most benighted areas, have come to the UK to look for work and settle down. At least half of the French, who are among Brussels’ main beneficiaries, have lost the faith. But the 27 countries must put on a show of unity to punish the naughty Brits for casting doubt on this charade.
See how the EU is already acting like the abusive partner in an acrimonious divorce. First, it must be put about that the soon-to-be ex-spouse is a bit loony (“living in another galaxy”) and has a totally unrealistic view of the marital assets. Then, we must be beaten down and accept that it is us who owe them money and we’ll be lucky to leave with the clothes our back.
If we don’t comply with their unreasonable demands, they can turn nasty over custody (Gibraltar, Irish border) and use the children as pawns.
The head of the EU parliament had the cheek last week to urge Theresa May to agree a swift deal on EU citizens’ rights in the UK, when the PM had already offered to do so several months ago and they ignored her!
It’s a contemptible way to treat a great and loyal ally, particularly one whose armed forces and secret services are propping up the security of the entire continent. Not to mention that little local difficulty we helped them out with in ’39-’45.
On the same evening that Mrs May was dismaying Mr Juncker with her firm views on Brexit, Himself and I went to see Their Finest. This enchanting homegrown film, starring Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy (both glorious), is set just after Dunkirk. It concerns a wartime propaganda unit charged with making a movie which would turn an embarrassing setback into something heroic and uplifting.
If Their Finest has a lesson for us today, it’s that this nation, in times of overwhelming adversity, has told itself great stories about the British spirit and that, if we can only believe it, a happy ending is there for the taking.
In the meantime, Jean-Claude Juncker is most welcome to come over here for dinner any time. His sheer ghastliness makes us “10 times more sceptical” about the EU, and confirms that, whatever the difficulties, we have made the right choice.
As for being dismayed by Theresa’s steely and entirely legitimate stand on Brexit, well, Mr Juncker could just have given us a new definition for that word. To be dis-Mayed: to be defied by an Englishwoman.