Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 22.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • This is a UK TV program on Spectacular Spain which you can get via MY5 TV Catchup, I believe. Worth it. If you can get past the presenter's coquetishness.
  • In a place called Cardona, up near Barcelona, there's a salt mountain, which also looks worth seeing.
  • Speaking of Cataluña, the tussle with Madrid goes on, ahead of the (illegal) referendum on independence set for October 1. Witness: Spain's constitutional court on Wednesday forbade the pro-separatist region of Catalonia from promoting its interests abroad through a foreign policy "secretariat." Madrid wants to rein in the wealthy northeastern region's unilateral drive for independence from the rest of Spain and the court judgment found that only Spanish diplomacy has the right to engage in "foreign affairs". So, how is it going to be stopped?
  • An interesting realisation this morning, born of enquiring about this development in my neighbours' garden:-
The Spanish for market garden/allotment is huerta. And for orchard it's huerto. Handy.
  • A bit more on Modelo 720 that I mentioned yesterday, following a check to see if there was any news on it:- A recently written page says that, as yet, there don't appear to have been any humungus fines (minimum of €1,500) for late submission. Wrong, mate, I can assure you. More depressing still was the comment that, even though the EU Court of Justice might 'eventually' conclude the fines really are as illegal as first pronounced, there's no chance of the Spanish tax office ever paying back the money illegitimately taken from taxpayers. It's not just the crooks who are dishonest here. There are also what the Spanish call thieves in white gloves.
  • Reader Sierra has followed up my comment about the commercialisation of Spain's 33[sic!] caminos to Santiago de Compostela with the report that he was given a sachet of sugar on an autovia advertising El Primitivo, the hardest but prettiest of the lot. Note: By the time you read this, there might well be 34 of them. 
I see that both BA and Iberia rank poorly in the latest list of world airline awards. They come in at 40 and 42 respectively, though BA has fallen from 26 last year, while Iberia has risen from 52. The fact that EasyJet is between them at 41 tells you a lot. Both BA and Iberia belong to the same group IAG, which also owns the Barcelona-based low-cost airline, Vueling. This ranks even lower, at 88. In 2006, BA ranked No. 1 . . .  Not really a success story, then. Big might not be beautiful. En passant, one of the airlines which rose most was Ryanair, presumably for having told us they'd stopped hating their passengers and would now refrain from treating them like pigs in transit to a slaughterhouse.

After the horrendous fires down in Portugal, the finger has been pointed at the eucalyptus forests which, as here in Galicia, take up huge chunks of the countryside. Back in 2006, when we had terrible fires here, I described how these ugly trees both contribute to fires and out-survive the native trees after the blazes. They really should be banned but won't be. Here's one comment I wrote at that time:- Something which certainly is a local plague are our eucalyptus trees. These, of course, aren't native(autóctono) and have been introduced as a cash crop. They're prejudicial to the local oaks, pines and chestnut trees, especially after a fire. Of which we have rather a lot. Not before time, the Galician government has proposed making it illegal to have these dreadful trees within 50 metres of a residence. Let's hope it goes through. At the end of this post is something I quoted back then on these antipodean monsters. 

Finally . . . I was amused to learn - who wouldn't be? - that 7% of (North) Americans think that chocolate is made with milk from brown cows. Of course, the figure might well be higher elsewhere. The research is yet to be done.

Today's cartoon:-

One of my all-time favourites . . . 


Here’s the translation of an article from yesterday’s Voz de Galicia. It is by Javier Montalvo who is, I believe, Professor of The Environment at the University of Vigo. It brings together several of the threads of the last few weeks and it also helps to explain why the reader who wrote today saw little evidence of devastation in the Lugo, Santiago, La Coruña triangle:-

The Fires are not the Problem

The wave of fires is exactly that, a cyclical and irregular phenomenon, just like waves, although its geographic and seasonal location varies. In the Rias Baixas the probability of fires and burnt wooded areas is ten times greater than in parts of Lugo province with a lower incidence. The arsonists are not the main cause of the annual burning of such an important surface area of Galicia. If all the Tuaregs in the Saharan desert were arsonists, the desert still couldn’t burn; there’s hardly any combustible material there, i. e. a vegetal biomass [leaves and woody material from trees and other plants, plus dead fallen leaves], dry branches and other vegetal residue on the soil. The amount of such combustible material is an important factor, although its quality and distribution are also relevant.

In the middle of the last century, the fires in Galicia were not a problem of today’s catastrophic dimensions. In 1940 the General Plan for Reafforestation was put into effect throughout the state. Since then, Galicia has seen the reafforestation of more than a million hectares, equivalent to more than a third of its surface area. The traditional and diversified use of the mountains [basically pastoral and agricultural]was replaced by a use which was uniform and industrial – wood cultivated for board makers, cellulose manufacturers and saw mills. The mountains were filled with millions of cubic metres of highly inflammable combustible material capable of rapid combustion and propagation. This has been particularly true on the ridges of the western coastlines of the Pontevedra and La Coruña provinces, where there is the greatest production of biomass. A million cubic metres of eucalyptus are left on the mountains every year [in part because in the last 10 years it has depreciated 40%].

The high quantity of combustible material is one of the structural causes of the fires; the pyromaniacs or other immediate causes merely light the match. The abandonment of the mountains contributes to this dangerous scenario but to consider it the only factor is simplistic. The fires also affect those mountains which benefit from planning and management, for example in Amoedo and Domaio.

The cultivated areas of foreign species [eucalyptus and pine] have a higher probability of burning than the Atlantic forests and the areas with deciduous native trees. 25 years ago, the area given over to eucalyptus was already burning 40 times more and the pines 10 times more than the oak or chestnut respectively. Pine and eucalyptus are pyrophorus species. That’s to say, more inflammable because of their resin, their bark and their volatile oily content. They favour fires because their populations persist and they extend their territory after the fires. The extensive areas repopulated by single species facilitate propagation of the fires. Additionally, the higher the trees the greater the speed and spread of the fires via their crowns. For this reason the mountains of Pontevedra and La Coruña are more predisposed to burn, where the fires spread through extensive areas of eucalyptus such as the mountains of Morrazo and those of Cerdedo and another four neighbouring townships in which 8,000 contiguous hectares burned.

What is the solution for ridding ourselves of the fires? Eliminate eucalyptus, convert pine woods into areas mixed with deciduous trees and break up those extensive areas with a propensity to burn by surrounding them with vegetation more resistant to fire. These are the strategic options on which to base a sustainable policy for Galicia.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 21.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

Note: If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • Last week saw the 40th anniversary of the birth of modern democracy in Spain. El País celebrated this with a 94[sic] page supplement. I wonder if anyone read all of it. Or any of it, in fact.
  • The Spanish tax office - the Hacienda - is now going after the Portuguese football manager, José Mourinho. It's good to see them seeking belated taxes from big names. But my impression is that, strangely, all these appear to be foreign - Messi, Ronaldo and now Mourinho.
  • Reading the book on English manners I cited yesterday, I began to wonder what the hidden rules of behaviour are in the Spanish culture. Assuming - in this country of very different regions - that such a monolith exists. I might start to write something. Suggestions very welcome.
  • The ECB has demanded that Spain investigates the capital flight from Banco Popular prior to its demise. Can't see this happening, myself. Spain's government is adept at ignoring rules and instructions it doesn't like. And at stretching out the appeal process until people in Brussels fall off their perches. Spanish criminals and their lawyers likewise.
Spain's right wing PP government is adept at stirring up passions around Gibraltar. Especially when it needs to distract attention from, say, its atrocious record on corruption. That last one was to say it would kibosh a Brexit deal, if it didn't get joint sovereignty over The Rock. So, I wonder what this development signifies.

As for said Brexit . . . Yesterday seems to have been the (much expected) first humiliation for the British negotiators. Hardly surprising, since they'd been sent into the room naked. See this site today and yesterday for the caustic comments of Richard North - a Brexiteer who, as I've noted, has long despaired of any intelligence among the British government and the 'serious' media. Like me, he might well believe that Brexit should be abandoned, if things continue as they are now.

Here's a foto of Pontevedra's Sunday flea market, or rastrillo. It seems the (unlicensed) gypsies have once again been banished but I confidently expect a return appearance. Quite soon.

And here's one looking in the opposite direction. To show you the dreadful new museum building at the end of the street. Truly a blot on the old quarter. But designed, of course, by a famous Galician architect.

I've noted that the number of camino 'pilgrims' passing through Pontevedra has rocketed upwards in the last few years. And that the forecast is for a doubling of last year's total within 5 years. Here's some data on this.

 I have to say that - when I did the first camino with a group of old friends in 2010 - there didn't seem to be that many more pilgrims than in earlier or later years. The numbers rose that year because it was a 'Holy Year', when the Vatican - on behalf of the Catholic god - dishes out more indulgences than usual. But at least it doesn't sell them any more.

Among the reasons for the increase on the Camino Portugúes are:-
  • Folk are finding the Camino Francés far too crowded these days
  • It's very pretty and not too difficult
  • The Portuguese and the Galicians are very welcoming people, and
  • A new variant of this essentially commercial enterprise is invented every couple of years. Always 'authentic' of course.
Finally . . . And still on things religious . . . While writing this, I've been half-watching an exposé of this 'enterprising' French priest, who became rich through fraud. Including perhaps the world's first phony begging advert: Poor parish priest needs cash to say Masses. You have to take your biretta off to him.

Today's cartoon:-

Also about misplaced faith . . . .

Open Sesame!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 20.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

Note: If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • Spain's driving examiners have gone on strike. This is great news for me as the test centre is close to my home and so every day I have to run a gauntlet of badly instructed learners getting close enough to town to park and walk in.
  • Here's more evidence of the gap between Spain's macro and micro economies.
  • It's good to know I'm not the only one highly irritated by the Spanish tax authorities (Modelo 720) and, in my case, the Revenue department of the Guardia Civil (motoring fines). The Real Madrid football star, Ronaldo, says he's leaving Spain because of the claim he's avoided millions in tax. Nice to have the option.
  • As regards said Modelo 720 . . . . This is tempting fate I know, but things seem to have gone quiet since the EU declared the fines under it illegal as being disproportionate. I don't see any evidence, though, of the Hacienda  paying back what they've already collected. Perhaps they've suspended things pending resolution of the case, in about 10 years' time. If you're a foreigner resident in Spain unaware of this 2012 tax measure, I recommend you talk to a gestor or asesor about it asap. Assuming he/she is on the ball.
  • Here's more on the reconciliation I've cited between Spain's parties of the Left - the PSOE and Podemos. Stranger things have happened. They might even get the centrist party, Ciudadanos, to join them in ousting the PP government. Now, that would be something. Meanwhile, I'm stupified by the universal condemnation of the PSOE leader by newspapers generally regarded as being of the Left. In the UK, the leader of the Left is mercilessly attacked by the media of the Right. Here, the dirty work is done by the Left's own media. He must have upset some important vested interests.

A few years ago, some friends lent me their copy of a brilliant book called Watching the English, by Kate Fox. I'm now reading the recent revision-cum-update and am again finding it hilarious. If you want to get an insight into The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour - many of them truly ridiculous - I highly recommend it. If you're partnered with one of us, it might just save your relationship . . .  In her intro, she cites the famously dubious anthropological study of Margaret Mead. But new to me was that of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas who "wrote a book entitled The Harmless People, about a tribe who turned out to have a homicide rate higher than that of New York or Detroit." But there's nowt wrong with Ms Fox's study. Ruthlessly accurate on the English. About whom a certain Dutchman - in 1931 - wrote a book entitled The English: Are they Human? Answering this himself, he declared that the world was inhabited by 2 species: Mankind and the English. How we laughed!

Here in Galicia, there's still a lot of moaning going on about the demise of the region's only bank, Banco Popular. I have to admit to finding Spain's localism hard to take at times. It's impossible to imagine, say, the residents of the county of Cheshire feeling bad about the takeover of the Cheshire Building Society by the Nationwide Building society. They're rather more interested in efficiency than in local - often corrupt - ownership and management. Besides, as I've said, Banco Popular's ownership wasn't remotely local.

Finally . . .  On the way to the house I used to own in the hills, they put an extra layer of metal at the bottom of the crash barriers on certain bends. This was to stop motorbike riders and their passengers being decapitated when they slid under the barrier after losing control. It seems that not all of our winding secondary roads have been so equipped. Certainly not the one between Cuntis and Moaña:-

A cartoon would be inappropriate today, I feel.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 19.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

Note: If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • For the second time in a year or so, a Spanish bullfighter has been gored to death. See here for details. Some folk deny that these men (and the occasional woman) are brave but I beg to differ. Without disagreeing with the contention that the fiesta nacional is cruel.
  • Yesterday was the Catholic feast of Corpus Cristi. I should have remembered why the procession and the flowers but had to rely on a friend for an explanation. It was, she confided to me, one of the 3 days of the year when 'there was more light than there ever is from the sun':- Corpus Cristi; the Assumption; and one I've already forgotten. (Maria? Sierra? Diego?). I used to participate, as an altar boy, in these ceremonies but they leave me cold these days. I can't imagine the poverty-loving Jesus endorsing the pomp that goes with them.

But I enjoy the bagpipes and the national costumes, even if they are an 18th century invention.

Here's a bit more on the developments on the left wing of Spanish politics.

Don Quijones writes on the German elections here, explaining how candidates there strive to outdo each other with disingenuous criticisms of the EU. As he puts it: These days it’s easy to tell when general elections are approaching in Germany: members of the ruling government begin bewailing, in perfect unison, the ECB’s ultra-loose monetary policy. By attacking ECB policy they can make it seem they take voters’ concerns about low interest rates seriously, while knowing perfectly well that the things they say have very little effect on what the ECB actually does. In brief, says, DQ: The ECB’s binge-buying of sovereign and corporate bonds has spawned a mass culture of financial dependence across Europe. And there's always the same outcome: At first, it’s deny, deny, deny. Then taxpayers get to bail out the bondholders. I guess it makes sense to someone.

At the end of this post, there's an article by my favourite gadfly - Christopher Booker - on high-rise flat-blocks such as the one in London which immolated more than 50 residents last week. Europeans who happily live in such blocks might well disagree with him.

Back to religion . . .  For many centuries in the Middle Ages, Popes excommunicated and then incommunicated temporal rulers on a whim. But the practice died out a while ago and even Hitler didn't merit it, though this might be because he'd dumped Catholicism before he started slaughtering people. Yesterday, though, I read that the current Pope is thinking about inflicting this punishment on (convicted) mafia members. What the hell took him so long? Or any of his predecessors.

And still on religion . . . Unless you're a Mormon, this video should amuse you.

Here's a genuine conundrum . . .  I pass a spot each day where 3 roads arrive at the same roundabout:-

I guess priority goes to the driver who arrives first but what if 2 or 3 of us arrive at exactly the same time, as happened yesterday? What does the Spanish equivalent of the Highway Code have to say about this?

Finally . . . So, one of the ubiquitous British duo, Ant and Dec, has revealed he's got drink and ('prescription') drug problems. We have his name. But does anyone really know which of the irritating bastards it is??

Today's cartoon:-

On a Christian theme . . . 


Grenfell Tower stands as a chilling tombstone to a megalomaniac dream: Christopher Booker

It was certainly an ominous coincidence that 1974, the year Grenfell Tower was opened was also the year that Hollywood released what was arguably the most famous “disaster movie” ever made, The Towering Inferno. On Wednesday, as we woke up to the horror of what was happening, I received an email that added another curious detail to this awful story.

It was from the man who back in the Seventies sold to the local council the original cladding for Grenfell Tower. As he explained, it consisted of Glasal panels in which were sealed white asbestos cement, so tightly compressed that no fibres could escape.

“It was totally safe,” he told me, “and would certainly have stopped the spread of any external fire; unlike this new cladding, which contains combustible plastics which can spread a fire up a building so fast that in some countries it has already caused whole buildings to go up, and in others it has been banned.”

A much more immediately relevant point, however, on which the forthcoming inquiry will certainly have to focus, is what might be called the “European” dimension to this tragedy. So far wholly missed has been the fact that making construction regulations, including those relating to fire risk, is an exclusive “competence” of the EU. Britain has no right to make its own, without Brussels permission.

Furthermore in 2014 the Department of Energy and Climate Change issued its National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, setting out how it planned to meet its EU targets for reducing “carbon emissions” (and also those set under our own Climate Change Act).

In particular, it emphasised the need to comply with EU directive 2012/27 on “energy efficiency”. This explained that the top priority was to improve the insulation of buildings, responsible for 40 per cent of all emissions. Local authorities were thus made aware of the section on renovating older buildings.

When Kensington and Chelsea council chose the new cladding for Grenfell Tower it would, therefore, have known that top of the list was the need for “thermal efficiency”. On this score, plastics such as polyurethane, polyethaline or polyisocyarunate rated most highly, despite their fire risk. There was even financing available under the government’s Green Deal scheme.

I long ago took a personal interest in the estate on which Grenfell stands, when I spent much of the Seventies investigating the disaster that had been inflicted on so many cities by the Sixties mania for massive “comprehensive redevelopment schemes” and giant council tower blocks.

When I began in 1972 with a book called Goodbye London: An Illustrated Guide to Threatened Buildings, listing all the demolition schemes then planned across London, it opened with a page of pictures showing the vast area of pleasant, human-scale 19th century streets in north-west Kensington shortly to be demolished for the estate that would include Grenfell Tower.

By 1979, I had been commissioned by the BBC to make a two-hour television film, City of Towers, which for the first time told the whole story of how the destruction of our cities had been inspired by the megalomaniac dream in the Twenties of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier; and how this led 40 years later to those vast dehumanised council estates, dominated by tower blocks like Grenfell, half of which have since been demolished.

The way our politicians, national and local, were taken in by this maniacal vision was yet another perfect case-study in the deluding power of groupthink. As so often, a beguiling dream had led in reality to a nightmare reality. Grenfell Tower stands today as the most chilling tombstone yet to that mad dream.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 18.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

Note: If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • As a Madrid resident of 10 years standing, my elder daughter is good with excessive heat. She's down in Trujillo this weekend, attending a wedding. Last night she told me that all the Spanish guests there are complaining of the heat. Possibly, she explained, because they all live in London.
  • I might finally have discovered why the marks for Spain's national university entrance exam (the Selectividad) are now out of 14 and not just 10 as before. I'm told you can increase your mark by taking extra subjects.
  • On this, the marks demanded in Galicia are possibly much the same as elsewhere in Spain and the same probably applies to the demand and supply situation. Here, the university of Santiago offers only 360 places for Medicine but has had 2,883 applicants. One wonders how many of these will get the high average mark required for this course. This is a ratio of 1:8. That for Vet Med is also high, at around 1:6. For Nursing it's 1:3 but for Law, it's only 1:2.4. They don't seem to have a course for Notaries but, if they did, I'd bet the ratio would be in the region of 1:5,000.
  • It seems to be impossible in Spain to hold any sort of event - even for young children - without deafening music. This is particularly true of any sort of race. Worst of all, the loud (always modern) 'music' is inevitably accompanied by a thumping bass element which shakes the very ground you're on. But few people seem to notice. Perhaps Spaniards go deaf quite young. It wouldn't surprise me. And it might help to explain why all (simultaneous) conversations are shouted.
  • The 4 tax offices I visited last week all prominently displayed a notice saying it was not a place of gender (i. e. male) violence. Are we to take it that all offices - say of banks - not doing this do actually countenance this?
In an interesting development, the left-of-centre PSOE and Podemos parties appear to be shuffling towards some sort of coalition - possibly involving the centrist Ciudadanos party - aimed at defeating the PP party. Though I doubt the far left wing of Podemos is happy with this belated reconciliation.

Despite numerous promises to the contrary, the Bank of Spain now admits that Spanish taxpayers will get back only a small percentage of the billions hosed at the inefficient and corrupt banks that the government saved, in one way or another. See here on this. And here's the take of the cartoonist of the Voz De Galicia:-
         BANK RESCUE                                  TAXPAYER 
Wait for the pun . . . . This shows the taxpayer being fleased . . . . I thank you.

Dear God! Facebook is now targetting me with details of motorhome and caravan groups. How on earth do they arrive at their algorithm? And can they we trusted to weed out posts from terrorist groups and pedophiles?

Finally . . . I saw a TV ad this morning for a pain-relief gel which is up to 3 times more effective than a non-medicated gel. Given that the latter wouldn't give you any relief at all, I imagine that this must be right. So it beats me why they don't claim that it's, say, a million times more effective. Or perhaps applying a non-medicated gel has some placebo effect.

Today's cartoon:-

Say what you like about Jehovah Witnesses - they're like lightning on burst water mains!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 17.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

Note: If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here. But bear in mind I haven't updated it for some years now.

Life in Spain:-
  • The Spanish, it's claimed have the highest interest (65%) of any EU population in having a referendum on leaving the EU. On the other hand, they have one of the lowest rates of interest (13%) in actually doing do. At first blush, this seems rather inconsistent. But, of course, if you know almost no one wants it, there's no risk in having a vote. See here for more on this.
  • As I regularly say, there's a large gap between Spain's much lauded macro economic performance of 3%pa GDP growth and what's happening down on the street. Here in Galicia, for example, the average income of our youth (18-35) is not only down from €11,300pa in 2011 to €9,900 in 2015 - probably less now - but it has also been overtaken by that of pensioners, who moved from €10,900 to €12,000 in the same 5 years. Or 21% more than the young folk. This is what (Berlin-driven) 'internal devaluation'/austerity has done here, and probably throughout Spain as well. Meanwhile, the rich have got richer and the politicians have got ever more corrupt. As if reducing wages weren't bad enough, most young employees face permanent 'precariousness', as beneficiaries of zero-hours contract. As elsewhere, the young and the poor are the ones paying the price for the introduction of a common currency without a true fiscal union.
  • See here for yet another article praising Spain for its top-level performance. though it's noted that: Real average wages are about where they were a decade ago. Unemployment is still close to 3.5m (or 17%)
  • Which reminds me . . . Spain is threatening to block the latest ECB bail-out of basket-case Greece. See here for the rationale. And here's the NYT on this development.
Here's Don Quijones on the latest developments in the Italian banking crisis. The ECB, it seems, is prepared to throw unlimited amounts of (new) money at the problem. DQ makes these comments about the Spanish situation:-
  • Banco Popular was liquidity challenged but passed all parts of the ECB’s 2016 stress test, which shows you how ineffectual these tests are.
  • Even days before Popular’s collapse, Spain’s Economy Minister repeatedly reassured investors that the bank was perfectly safe and solvent. All the while government agencies - including Spain’s social security fund, and regional government authorities - were emptying the deposits they held with the bank as fast as they could. The total is unknown but it certainly ran into billions of euros.
  • Even in Spain, which already restructured its banking sector years ago at a total cost to taxpayers of around €300 billion (including government guarantees), it didn’t take long for contagion to spread. The most affected bank was Liberbank whose shares collapsed by a third in the three days. 
The EU: The survey cited above suggests that the desire to ‘take back control’ that drove Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last year is widely shared across the 28-member bloc. The majority of the EU public - without wanting a version of Brexit - nonetheless want want their governments to have more control over trade and immigration policy. Doesn't seem very likely at the moment but who knows? The EU is in constant crisis/survival mode and might yet effect the major reforms that everyone says are necessary. If Berlin finally agrees to them. Personally, I think it'll be decades before the cautious Germans are prepared to take on the debts of the 'lazy' southerners.

On a happier note . . . I've been recommending Galicia's white godello wine for some years now. And it's red mencia. But this is the first reference I've seen to the former in the UK media. It's laudatory, of course. And this is justifiable. But it surely reflects the fact that the writer was treated to the trip and the tastings. Whereas I am not . . . I think I mentioned the lovely town of Valdeorras del Bierzo a few weeks ago.

The Spanish language:- As a regular - but gratis - translator of menus, I had occasion this week to learn these distinctions:-
Raisins: uvas pasas/pasas
Plums: ciruelas
Prunes: ciruelas pasas; ciruelas secas
Greengages: ciruelas claudias; ciruelas verdales
Damsons: ciruelas damascenas

If you want a good example of Donald Trump's [choose your own noun], take a look at this NYT report on how he stole a family crest and then changed the word Integrity on it to Trump. Says it all really. And you certainly couldn't make it up.

Finally . . . Facebook continues to recommend stuff in which I have zilch interest. Hot on the heels of groups that want Jeremy Corbyn as British Prime Minister have come items in Galician/Galego. This is presumably because I wrote an email about Galician chat-up lines a couple of days ago. The interesting question is  . . . How does FB know about this? Eerie.

Today's cartoon . . . 


Many of us are very, very unhappy about the way capitalism has gone over the last few decades. But the chap who wrote this article - an American - is clearly distraught. And very angry. I do wonder if things are quite as appalling in the capitalist countries of Europe, which are rather more 'socialist' than the USA, of course. And where it's hard to imagine a criminal buffoon like Trump rising to power. Well . . . in Western Europe, at least.

Reign of Idiots  By Chris Hedges

The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy. 

There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it. 

The idiots know only one word—“more.” They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses. They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes. They see the state as a projection of their vanity. The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov,  Wilhelmine, Pahlavi and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.
Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality—a sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his “beautiful” Twitter account. He is our version of the Roman emperor Nero, who allocated vast state expenditures to attain magical powers, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who funded repeated expeditions to a mythical island of immortals to bring back the potion that would give him eternal life, and a decayed Russian royalty that sat around reading tarot cards and attending séances as their nation was decimated by war and revolution brewed in the streets.  

This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races. It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited a grotesque figure like Trump. Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress. They used their technological superiority to create the most efficient killing machines on the planet, directed against anyone and anything, especially indigenous cultures, that stood in their way. They stole and hoarded the planet’s wealth and resources. They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end, and they still believe it. They do not understand that the dark ethic of ceaseless capitalist and imperialist expansion is dooming the exploiters as well as the exploited. But even as we stand on the cusp of extinction we lack the intelligence and imagination to break free from our evolutionary past.

The more the warning signs are palpable—rising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling class—the more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that what worked in the past will work in the future, that progress is inevitable. Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished. The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have deindustrialized the country and turned many of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s for white American workers. Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species. Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored. War is the principal business of the kleptocratic state. 

Walter Benjamin wrote in 1940 amid the rise of European fascism and looming world war: "A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress."

Magical thinking is not limited to the beliefs and practices of pre-modern cultures. It defines the ideology of capitalism. Quotas and projected sales can always be met. Profits can always be raised. Growth is inevitable. The impossible is always possible. Human societies, if they bow before the dictates of the marketplace, will be ushered into capitalist paradise. It is only a question of having the right attitude and the right technique. When capitalism thrives, we are assured, we thrive. The merging of the self with the capitalist collective has robbed us of our agency, creativity, capacity for self-reflection and moral autonomy. We define our worth not by our independence or our character but by the material standards set by capitalism—personal wealth, brands, status and career advancement. We are molded into a compliant and repressed collective. This mass conformity is characteristic of totalitarian and authoritarian states. It is the Disneyfication of America, the land of eternally happy thoughts and positive attitudes. And when magical thinking does not work, we are told, and often accept, that we are the problem. We must have more faith. We must envision what we want. We must try harder. The system is never to blame. We failed it. It did not fail us. 

All of our systems of information, from self-help gurus and Hollywood to political monstrosities such as Trump, sell us this snake oil. We blind ourselves to impending collapse. Our retreat into self-delusion is a career opportunity for charlatans who tell us what we want to hear. The magical thinking they espouse is a form of infantilism. It discredits facts and realities that defy the glowing cant of slogans such as “Make America great again.” Reality is banished for relentless and baseless optimism. 

Half the country may live in poverty, our civil liberties may be taken from us, militarized police may murder unarmed citizens in the streets and we may run the world’s largest prison system and murderous war machine, but all these truths are studiously ignored.

Trump embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world. He is its natural expression. He is the king of the idiots. We are his victims.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 16.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

Here's my weekly HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for some of today's items . . . 

Life in Spain:-
  • The death of Banco Popular - absorbed by Banco Santander - promises a tsunami of claims by shareholders who lost out via what they will claim were fraudulent public offerings. Any disgruntled ex-shareholder reading this can get help at this site.
  • Here's Giles Trimlett on a couple of new books on the fate of Spain's Muslims/Moors.
  • It's reported that a 'heatwave currently gripping the whole of Spain" forced courts and offices to close in Madrid on Wednesday. Well, this version of Spain appears to exclude Galicia, where it's been warm-to-hot this week but nothing like that. Today, though, is forecast to reach 33. So perhaps it's just late coming up from the South.
  • The governing PP party survived a vote of censure in Parliament this week. Given that this was a foregone conclusion, the fotos of PP MPs cheering President Rajoy to the rafters looked a tad bizarre. The motion was put forward by the 'far left' Podemos party, which was censuring the government for its infamous levels of corruption. Strangely, the latter was helped to bat this off by the support of the centrist Ciudadanos party, which is supposed to be 100% against corruption. But, as they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows. For its own reasons, the centre-left PSOE party abstained. Doubtless experts on Spanish politics could explain all this.
  • Should you want a list of all the 60+ PP corruption cases being investigated/processed right now, click on this article from El Diario.
  • Here's one comment on Rajoy's 'success', from the Voz de Galicia:-
  • Talking of Podemos . . . There are always severe tensions in parties of the Left over which faction is the purest. This party is no exception to this rule and there's been an ongoing battle for a while between 2 of its founders/leaders. And now the furthest-left section of this far-left party has come out in favour of a Catalan referendum on independence, set for October 1. Which won't do the party much good in future elections. At least not those outside Cataluña.
  • As regards Catalan secession, here's Don Quijones on the potential consequences of Catalan secession on the rest of Spain.
  • From Lenox: One of Spain’s best comedy ‘news’ sites is 'El Mundo Today'. One of Spain’s most alt-right news sites is 'OKDiario'. With this in mind, we read that ‘El Mundo Today' has announced it's giving up printing false news, as it says it can’t compete with 'OKDiario’.

Roger Bootle takes a look at Germany's role in the EU here and says he's increasingly of the view that the whole integrationist project of the EU is a form of fantasy, dreamed up by the European elites. Huge steps, such as monetary union, are taken without thought for the consequences.  . . Fiscal union is the shoal on which the EU will founder. Long-term readers will know this has always been my view. Which is not to say I support Brexit the way the British government has gone about it. For a longer - very informed view on Germany and her attitude to both the EU and Brexit - see the article at the end of this post.

Talking of the EU . . . Brussels says it'll be sanctioning Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic for their anti-immigrant policies. I wonder if the penalties - if any - will be as toothless as those previously applied to Germany, France and Spain for their various 'serious' fiscal offences.

Thin-skinned bully Donald Trump is naturally averse to being the butt of humour and so routinely blocks from his twitter feed 'sad losers' who indulge in this. See here for the identity and crimes of some of the latter.

Here in Galicia, our fishermen are complaining about the latest example of 'unfair competition' from our Portuguese neighbour. An accord is being negotiated between the 2 countries and our fishermen want their Portuguese counterparts to be prevented from working at the weekend.

What to to make of this? A Vigo investigation/trial of 7 drug traffickers which has taken 13 years has ended with the prosecution withdrawing severe prison demands, in preference for a €339,000 fine and sentences which mean only 1 of the accused will spend just a few weeks in clink. Relatedly, 1,200 kilos of cocaine en route to our coves was intercepted off the Canary Islands last week.

Finally . . . Some readers will have noticed that, in the Lion cartoon yesterday, Christians and Catholics were listed as separate entities. This left me wondering whether the cartoonist was a Jehovah's Witness, as they believe everyone else claiming to be a Christian is actually part of the antichrist community. But there might well be other Protestant sects who share the view that only they are Christian. Who can possibly keep track of all of them and their odd views of themselves and each other? I regularly wonder whether this - and worse - confusion is part of a cosmic joke being played by one or more deities.

Today's cartoon:-


Prospect Magaizine: June 2017

How the German elections could change the course of Brexit

Whoever wins in Britain, Berlin will seal our deal. Regime change there will spell trouble

by Paul Lever, ex British ambassador to Germany

Early in the morning after his dinner with Theresa May on 26th April, an account of which was subsequently leaked to a Germannewspaper by his chief of staff, Jean-Claude Juncker made a telephone call to complain that the British Prime Minister was living on another galaxy. The call was not to Donald Tusk, the President of the EU Council responsible for directing the Brexit negotiations. It was to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

This illustrates where power in the EU lies. In the past, the so-called Franco-German motor provided Europe’s political impetus. Now Germany alone is at the wheel. That is not because it has set out to lead or considers itself entitled to do so—phrases like “manifest destiny” or “the indispensable nation,” which so easily trip off American tongues when discussing their country’s role in the world, would be anathema to any German politician. It is because the rest of the EU has chosen to follow. 

Germany’s economic strength, the attractiveness of its social model and the quality of its senior politicians have given it an unprecedented dominance in EU affairs. In the challenges of the sovereign debt and banking crises, Greece and the euro and Mediterranean immigration, Germany has provided the response.

Germany set the terms for David Cameron’s abortive re-negotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU and it is Germanythat will determine the conduct and outcome of the Brexit negotiations. Any analysis of their prospects must start from an understanding of Germany’s own EU aims and how Brexit fits into them.

Germany has traditionally favoured something called a political union. But no German politician has ever spelled out what this union would look like. What German governments have consistently made clear is that it will not be a “transfer union”: there will be no big central budget, no common policies which require major expenditure and no pooling of member states’ debts. Germany’s energies are focused on dealing with the problems of the day. The only policies that Germany has proposed in recent times have been for tighter control by the European Commission of member states’ budgets, and more tax harmonisation. Both would suit its national interests, neither are exactly an integrationist clarion call.

Germany’s national interests are, of course, what German governments pursue in the EU. In this respect they are no different to other members: they are simply reluctant to admit it. For in German public discourse the EU is projected as something nobler than a transmission mechanism for Germany’s economic success. This is what motivates Germany in shaping the EU’s policies.

The current two priorities for Germany in the EU are sustaining the euro as a sound money currency and managing the problems associated with migration across the Mediterranean. Even before we decided to leave the EU, Britain was irrelevant to these interests: one reason no doubt why Germany was unwilling to pay too much of a price to keep us in. Brexit is, by comparison, if not a sideshow then at least a second-order issue.

This does not mean that Germany will pay little heed to the negotiations or is indifferent to their outcome. Order is a much valued quality in Germany and a disorderly British withdrawal from the EU—with no understanding on the terms of the divorce or the nature of the subsequent relationship—would, from a German perspective, be unwelcome. It would damage the EU’s international reputation, would spook the markets and would create a climate of uncertainty and instability. So Germany will be looking for an agreement and will use its political muscle to get one. But it will have its own interests to protect. These are the maintenance of unity among the 27 member states, the preservation of the integrity of the single market and ensuring that it does not have to pay any extra as a result of Britain’s withdrawal (hence the hard-line approach over the size of the divorce bill).

Maintaining unity among the 27 means that the EU will only deal with Britain through its appointed negotiators. Merkel will not engage in any bilateral diplomacy with May. When they meet, which in future will be rarely, she will listen to anything that the PM has to say about Brexit, but will not commit to any response. The tactic that Cameron employed in his re-negotiation of trying to sell ideas in advance to her and only advancing them if confident of her support will not work this time round.

As regards the single market, Germany will continue to insist that the four freedoms of movement—goods, people, services and capital—are indissoluble. May is right that Britain cannot stay in the single market without accepting full free movement. Germanintransigence on this point was a surprise to Cameron, who had hoped that Germany, which has its own public concerns about social benefits for Polish workers, would be more sympathetic here. But the issue was not so much one of principle, as precedent. If an exception had been created whereby a member state facing a high level of EU immigration could impose provisional restrictions on it, then other countries with balance of payments difficulties could demand their own restrictions, such as import surcharges,  on the free movement of goods—a red line for Germany.

Tariff-free access for exports to the UK is also a German interest, but not a central one. German manufactures sell on quality rather than price and most could absorb a WTO tariff regime without difficulty. Similarly, as regards customs arrangements, German car makers are less reliant on border-straddling supply chains, and could easily switch the sourcing of parts they currently import from Britain. BMW could manufacture its Minis in the Netherlands where it has spare capacity. So though the concerns of the German business community will be heard, as they always are, they will not be decisive. In any case, the German equivalent of the CBI has said the single market is its main Brexit priority.

In sum, Merkel will not show any particular sympathy for Britain during the negotiations. But she will not be vindictive and her decisions will be rational and predictable. However she may not always be Chancellor. She currently dominates both German and European politics and is, according to Forbes, the most powerful woman in the world. But she faces an election in September; and after 12 years in power she is not certain of victory.

Her opponent, Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats, was a surprise choice. He has no track record in German politics. His only national elected office was as a municipal councillor and mayor of a small town near Aachen. Since 1994 he has made his career in the European Parliament—where he led the Socialist group-—and served as its President from 2012 to 2017.

During his time in Strasbourg, Schulz displayed considerable political cunning, but was mainly interested in advancing the power of the Parliament itself. Since returning to Germany, he has presented himself as a man of the people and initially generated a bounce in the SPD’s poll ratings. Having hovered in the low 20s, they surged briefly to over 30 per cent. But the novelty soon wore off and Merkel’s CDU has re-established a six to eight-point lead.

In theory this should guarantee her the Chancellorship next time round. But German politics has become complicated. There are four parties in the present Bundestag: Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Greens and Die Linke, a far-left party which has inherited the support of the former communist party of the German Democratic Republic. But there could be two more after September’s election: both the long-established Free Democrats (social and economic liberals) and the newer Alternative für Deutschland, an anti-euro and anti-immigrant party, are currently polling above the 5 per cent mark, which is threshold for representation in the Bundestag. Schulz had already hinted that, unlike all his SPD predecessors, he might be willing to go into a coalition with the ex-communists. He has already pulled his own party to the left, by indicating a readiness to repeal the labour market reforms introduced by Gerhard Schröder, the SPD Chancellor from 1998-2005.

Schulz is a euro-fundamentalist, a close associate of Juncker and would certainly want to punish the UK, for which, like many other Brussels apparatchiks, he has an undisguised contempt. If Merkel and Michel Barnier remain the key Brexit figures on the EU side, a deal, though not guaranteed, is possible. If, contrary to what the opinion polls currently suggest, Schulz becomes Chancellor it is much less likely.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thought from Galicia: 15.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 
Life in Spain:-
  • Here's The Local's list of 10 tips for surviving the Spanish summer, rather more relevant for the South than the North.
  • Talking of the weather . . .  Can this worrying prediction be true?
  • My tax challenge . . . .Before I went for my 11 o'clock appointment with the state tax office (the Hacienda) yesterday morning, I thought I'd try the office I was referred to yesterday by the chap in the town hall. This turned out to be the municipal tax office, as opposed to either the state or the regional tax offices I mentioned yesterday. A charming lady there told she couldn't answer my question and referred me to the office with which I already had the appointment. So, having plenty of time, I went first to my ex-bank and then for a coffee and presented myself there at 11. When I was promptly seen and told by another charming lady that she couldn't help me as this was a devolved regional matter. I should to the office of the Xunta's Facenda. Where might this be, I asked. Right next door, she said. So off I went again and, in due course, spoke to the third charming lady of the morning. She advised me that it wasn't my responsibility to complete Modelo 600 and to pay the tax but my daughter's in Madrid. But, I replied, that wasn't the case when I sold my house, submitted the same form and paid the enormous 7.5% tax. No, she said, but property and cash transfers are treated differently and the latter have to be dealt with by the regional tax office where the recipient lives.
  • I guess it's possible that devolution of tax matters, differential rules on property and cash and the existence of 3 different tax offices in one town are NOT designed to confuse you and cause you to make mistakes, so that you can then be fined; but one does wonder. After all, a lot of small fry have to be hit to compensate for just one large fry stealing from the public purse and then, naturally, evading tax on his/her illegal income.
  • I went to my ex-bank – the now-dead Popular – to ensure my account had been closed. There I found I still had to sign something and to cancel a credit card I'd never used. I took up the offer of the bank employee to call the number and then had to repeat the same information to 3 people before I put the phone down in annoyance. I wonder if anyone ever listens to the recordings every Spanish organisation tells you it's making so as to 'improve customer service'. . . .
The Spanish state prosecutors are seeking a decent jail sentence for the corrupt ex-head of the IMF,  Rodrigo Rato. My guess is he'll be given less than 2 years and allowed to walk from the court. Or at least back to where he's serving a short time for a previous corruption conviction.

Nutters's Corner: Reverting to the issue of bad weather . . . 'Historian' David Barton says God gives us bad weather because we’re doing things that upset him/her. Maybe it’s not his choice. Barton stresses. Maybe it’s our own sins or our own unrighteous policies. Well, that certainly makes a lot of sense. An omnipotent god can do nothing about the consequences of our (alleged) sins. Even if we pray to him/her to do something about it.

You might by now think you know enough about the appalling character of Donald Trump. Or you might be fed up of reading about him. If not, take a look at this astonishing 1997 article on him, which I re-read yesterday. I thought I'd already cited it but can't find the post. 

I got lucky with the night train to and from Madrid. Very shortly, it'll be subject to 2 delays. The first will centre on bridge-strengthening in Arcade and will mean a bus from Pontevedra to Vigo. The second will arise from works around the AVE high-speed train tracks around Zamora.

New English Words?:-
  1. Drear: As in: . .  a passing infatuation for the media which was bored with the drear of politics as usual.
  2. Phubbing: A modern disease.
  3. Unsheeping: As in this Spanish site.
I hadn't realised that Banco Popular had Galician origins. With its demise, ABanca(TheBank) is now heavily promoting itself as Galicia's only real bank. Given it's 88% owned by a Venezuelan operator, you have to admire the chutzpah.

Here in Pontevedra, our 'emblematic' Savoy café in the main square certainly seems to be doing its best to discourage lingerers. At my first visit yesterday, I discovered that not only are there no newspapers but also that the price for a bottle of water - €1.80 - is up at Madrid levels. Won't be going back.

Finally . . . Five or ten minutes after my successful meeting in the Xunta's tax office (the Facenda), I realised that – as is my time-honoured custom - I'd left my panama hat in one of the 5 places I'd been to in the previous hour. So, I backtracked to the state and Xunta tax offices - going through the security check again - but without success. So I then made my way to the café, where an honest waiter had kept it for me. On the way there, though, I'd decided that, if he had stolen it, I would finance another purchase by going there for a coffee every day for a year and not leaving my usual 10 cents tip.

Incidentally, the Facenda office of the Xunta's building was on the the 3rd floor. Near the lifts, there were these 2 signs:-

They were not money well spent, as I was the only person taking any notice of them. And I don't even speak Gallego . . .  Well, not much.

Today's cartoon:-

Christians, Catholics, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics - They all taste like chicken!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 14.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 
Life in Spain:-
  • Taking a copa of wine in Dos de Mayo square in Madrid last Saturday, I wasn't surprised that they didn't have Galicia's godello white wine but I was rather taken aback that they didn't have albariño either. All that was on offer was rueda.
  • My daughter has owned a flat in Malasaña for 10 years now and has watched its gentrification gathering pace in the last few years. The barrio was once (in)famous as the epicentre of the movida after Franco's death and is now famous again, as the centre of Spanish hipsterdom. My daughter has an ático flat and has watched the tenants change from whole latino families to hirsute, single hipsters.
  • It would be easy to fill this blog with translation errors noticed on a daily basis, even in places where a lot of money has obviously been spent on setting up an exhibition. One will suffice for now – paradojas given as 'parodies' in a foto exhibition in Madrid. Oh, and scotched ham. Whatever that is. Or should be.
  • I went to the Pontevedra branch of the state tax office yesterday morning with my enquiry about completing Modelo 600 in respect of a donación to my daughter. To find that they'd changed the system yet again. Where there was once a receptionist who directed you to a machine which would tell you which office and desk to go to, now there's a receptionist handing out a brochure telling you you have to call a Madrid number or go through an internet process so that the national tax office can give you an appointment at your regional tax office. So, it is I have to return to the latter at 11 this morning. As usual, no apology for the waste of my time. It's a different concept here . . .
  • Undaunted, I then went to the local tax office - the one of the Galician Xunta, not the state - to ask about processing the form. Yes, it was true, the guy at the Information office advised me, that I'd had to come here with my Modelo 600 when I sold a house but this is dealt with by a different office when an asset is being passed as a donación. So I will go there at 10 this morning.
  • My daughter told me that when she went to register at the town hall in Madrid, she was directed to an office across the square. There she was told things had been moved to another building. Since when, she asked. "Seven years ago", was the reply . . . .
The Washington Post has an interesting take on the stand-off between Barcelona and Madrid on the independence referendum scheduled for October 1 in Cataluña. Click here for this. Contentiously, the author claims that: There is a growing conviction in Barcelona that Spain looks less like a democracy than a state still mired in the legacy of Franco-style authoritarianism

Which reminds me . . . In the face of growing disaffection with endemic corruption among Spain's politicians, President Rajoy has retorted: I won't deny that there have been corruption cases in the Popular Party, like in other parties. Some very serious. However, this is the exception and not the rule in Spain. Not from where we're sitting, mate.

The Spanish language: Can any reader tell me if there is a difference between huevos rotos and huevos estrelladosAnd possibly provide a translation that works in English. A normally very reliable site gives merely 'fried eggs' for the latter but I wonder if this is really what it means to Spanish diners.

Here in my barrio of Poio, across the river from Pontevedra, there's much rejoicing among many of my neighbours on the national Supreme Court deciding that its Galician equivalent was wrong to declare their houses illegal. Maybe some of the 40 or so empty ones will now be sold

Nutters' Corner: I can't resist citing this video of the execrable Jim Bakker in action. Enjoy. The End Times are clearly an ill wind that blows some good for some folk. What a lovely wife. Or is she the world's first face-lifted parrot?

Finally . . . How many people knew that Tom and Jerry were originally 2 street dandies – Corinthian Tom and Jerry Hawthorn – in Pierce Egan's verse story Life in London, published in 1821?

Today's cartoon:-

Note: Click here for my web page on Galicia and Pontevedra. You won't be disappointed . . . 

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