Sunday, March 04, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 4.3.18

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.

  • Vincent Werner's book – It is not What it is - is a long read – more than 300 pages. And yet, despite going through a very long list of Spain's failings – including excess government, run-away regionalism, widespread corruption, incompetent politicians and businessmen, amiguismo, poor education, short-termism and a planning ethic conspicuous by its absence – he never once mentions the word 'meritocracy'. Not even to say it doesn't exist here. A strange oversight.
  • His (frequent) citation of poor/nil planning reminds me of how shocked I was in 2000 to hear on the TV a comment about a marvellous new thing called 'project planning', given that I'd been using this 15 years earlier in Iran. Werner gives the impression it's still relatively unused here. At least in any serious way. Hence all the major failures.
  • His description of a typical meeting in Spain brought back amused memories of the last meeting of the householders of my Community. Bewildered by the fact that 16 people could noisily hold 8 simultaneous discussions over 2 hours, I later asked the President what exactly had been agreed in respect of the agenda items. Oh, nothing, she said, I'll just write the minutes as if everyone agreed with me and no one will complain.
  • As I've said, I haven't actually learned much from Werner's (rather poorly edited) book and I wasn't surprised to hear that – thanks to (illegally) maintaining 2 Registrar jobs and (allegedly) receiving black cash every month from corporate donors - President Rajoy has amassed €20m in politics. What was news to me was the claim that he's helped 'at least 32' of his relatives and friends to become millionaires. A great example, then, to Spain's youth. I guess I really shouldn't have been surprised.
  • Like me and others who love Spain and its people, Werner expresses concern for Spain once the free cash from Brussels runs out and, perhaps, the easy tourism receipts fall as some people return to countries currently shunned. I have to say it's easy to be pessimistic. Very pessimistic. Werner fears the consequences for the EU of a Spanish collapse rather more than I do

  • A correction: The World Discoveries museum might well be worth the money. We went back and enjoyed the 20 minute Disney-esque boat ride through the lands 'discovered' by Portuguese mariners in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. I imagine kids would be enchanted by it.
  • And I repeat that all the staff there were charming and spoke excellent English. Most impressive, though, was the fact that the young lady we'd dealt with the previous day had left a note for her colleague, advising that we might return. I regret to say I can't imagine a Spanish employee doing this. Which rather bears out a couple of the things Werner complains about – a widespread lack of both efficiency and initiative.
  • An overall observation of mine is that the Portuguese try harder. Possibly because they don't have as much free sun and sand as the Spanish. And they do have real, not superficial, customer orientation, plus comfort in speaking at least English. If not Spanish and French as well.
The EU
  • Blimey . . . The day after I talk about the EU mandarins being religionists, a UK columnist has this to say: What Mrs May could not acknowledge was the most serious impediment to agreement, what everybody out there in the real world will have gathered by now: “pragmatic” and “cooperative” do not come into it. The EU project is theological and what Mrs May is proposing is heresy. The ties that bind EU member states are moral absolutes. They are deliberately transformative: specifically designed to alter the nature of nation states and make sovereign governments less powerful. Hence, the objection to “cherry-picking”: acceptance of the whole credo is essential. If you reject the essential truths, you cannot expect to get the benefits of some of the rituals. . . . Maybe she was hoping to embarrass the keepers of the holy relics in Brussels. Good luck with that. Amen. say I.
  • Werner poses a question I've frequently asked – Do the Brussels technocrats really know what happens to the billions sent here? Two more similar questions of mine: 1. Do they know it's a Spanish credo that gullible people with money deserve to be rooked? 2. Do Northern European taxpayers have the slightest idea of how much corruption there is here and how many of their euros end up – as if it were Africa – in Swiss or Andorran bank accounts?
  • One of the things Werner stresses is the naivety of North European politicians in assuming that their Spanish oppos are as efficient, as hardworking and as honest as they are. Though this is quite hard to believe, given all the evidence observed by those who live here.
The UK
  • I know she doesn't read my blog and isn't aware of Werner's book, so it must be pure coincidence that a Spanish friend of mine – doing an English course in Manchester – called me last night to ask for my daughter's number and then to launch into a 20 minute diatribe about the awfulness of England and its fat people. And then she reminded me of the Spanish trait of apologising profusely when caught doing something wrong by telling me she was very sorry to have to tell me all this, as she knew I was English. Amusingly, she was most irritated about the course-givers castigating her for arriving 20 minutes late every morning. This, of course, is not late at all by Spanish standards.
Nutters Corner/The USA
  • Fart: Maybe we should have presidents for life. It's claimed he was joking. Which might be true.
  • Given the statistical probability, this is very hard to believe . . . After leaving a cafĂ© we favour – owned by a Russian couple – we glanced into the next doorway and saw a large placard on an easel saying Welcome, Colin Davies. I hadn't realised Google was so bloody efficient.
Today's Cartoon

Inevitably . . .


Alfred B. Mittington said...

No fewer than NINE references to Werner...

Are you seriously taking your cues on Spain from a Dutchman??

A DUTCHMAN ??????? Whom you dislike so thoroughly.... ????

You never ever stop to surprise me, my dear fellow. Some day, I have
no doubt, you will even agree with Alfred B Mittington on the politics
of Inner Greenland!


Colin Davies said...

There are Dutchmen and Dutchmen . . . . I am selective.