Friday, March 09, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 9.3.18

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.

  • This is a bit of reportage from El PaĆ­s which is an egregious example of either self-censorship or pure negligence. Or both. It talks of the Brits who've left Spain since 2012 without even a passing reference to the horrendous Modelo 720 law of that year which left many foreigners - when they eventually found out about it - very worried about humungous fines for even innocent, trivial mistakes in reporting overseas assets such as a house in the UK. And about the likelihood of future asset taxes. An astonishing lapse, given that the EU has declared the tax prima facie illegal. Not that this stopped the fines from the Hacienda. Or prompted the return of taxes already levied
  • Incidentally, for one reason and another, no one has the slightest idea of how many Brits are/were in Spain. Estimates range from 250k to over a million.
  • Here's Don Quijones on the relative failure of the central bankers' war on cash in Spain and elsewhere. But there has been some success: In 2006 Spain was in the midst of one of the most insane property bubbles of modern times and the €500 bill was everywhere. But now, 12 years later, the love affair is over. That said . . . For the moment there’s little evidence that Spaniards are sharply reducing their use of cash in transactions, despite the best efforts of government, banks and credit card companies.
  • Here's some Spanish stats from this site, some of which might surprise you, if you believe all the misleading macro-based guff about Spain being the economic poster boy of the EU:-
- The Kingdom of Spain is the 2nd largest country in the EU – with an area of 505,955 square km.
- The population of 46.4m the 6th largest in Europe.
- It is a relatively poor country. Its per capita GDP of US$26.5k ranks as no. 14 after such heavies as Germany at $41.9k, the U.K, at $40.0k, France at $36.9k and Italy at $30.5k.
- The country has major problems. Unemployment for the below-25-year-olds stands at 37% and the average annual salary of young people who enter the labor market is today 33% lower than in 2008.
- Spain has Europe’s biggest wealth gap – the combined fortunes of Spain's top three richest people are equivalent to the wealth of the poorest 30% of the country.
- 10.2 million live below the poverty line, equivalent to a poverty rate of 22.3%. This makes Spain the 4th country in the European Union [after Greece, Bulgaria and Lithuania] with the highest levels of inequality.
- Spain’s Gini coefficient, the most widely used measure for income inequality, ranks among the highest in Europe with Gini indices at 0.34 – 0 being the best and 1 being the worst.

Life in Spain
  • The article on the slow death of the 500 euro note reminded me of the experience of my elder daughter when she lived with me a few years ago. At the end of the first lesson with a neighbour, the woman proffered her one of these notes, rather unrealistically seeking €485 in change. We later discovered she owned 2 brothels along the coast.
  • I finally got to phone the Pontevedra office of the courier company (Seur) last evening, to be told I had to call the Vigo office. From there I was told that the packet would be delivered later last night to the shop in my barrio, fully 48 hours after I was told it was available for delivery. I told them this was atrocious service and slammed the phone down. Or I would've done if I'd been using a land line. As reader Maria and I have agreed, few providers here concern themselves with wasting the time and energies of their customers. Anyway, the lesson: Either don't change the delivery destination of your parcels or expect a 48 hour delay if you do.
  • By the way . . . The tracking option of the company, until late last night, was still only showing data 2 days old. Until, in fact, the packet had been delivered to the shop.
  • By the way 2: When I called the Vigo office, the first question was about my name. Knowing how confused Spaniards (and their computers) are by 2 forenames and only I surname, I asked whether it wouldn't be better to know the reference number. Which should, of course, have been the first question. But I've given up expecting logic or common sense when it comes to 'security' questions here. As I've said, I regularly cite an erroneous ID number to delivery folk, to no deleterious effect.
  • But, of course, good things also happened yesterday. Like the exchange with 2 women at the next table when I asked the waitress in my watering hole if the raucous nearby demonstration was against men. No!, they insisted with smiles across their faces. It's not against men but in favour of equality. With which – as the father of 2 daughters - I was more than happy to concur.
  • And then the owner of the bar told me that today she'd be offering both lamb and beef versions of the scouse recipe I gave her last week.
Italy, Germany, France and the EU
  • A chilling announcement on state-sponsored TV there: Whatever the reasons, whether you’re a professional traitor to the motherland or you just hate your country in your free time, I repeat, no matter, don’t go to England. Something is not right there. Maybe the climate. But in recent years there have been too many strange incidents with a harsh outcome. People get hanged, poisoned, they die in helicopter crashes and fall out of windows in industrial quantities.
  • And here's the Russian ambassador to Ireland: The Skripal case shows that Britain cannot protect people harboured in its lands. My own conclusion would be that for some reason the British territories are very dangerous for certain types of people. One wonders why.
  • And . . . 

The Media Wars
  • Who isn't going to be astonished to learn this?: A lie, it is said, gets halfway around the world before the truth can put its boots on. Scientists have updated the proverb, by discovering that a lie is also 70% more likely to be shared on social media.
  • Such is the increase in camino pilgrims – up to 55k last year from a tenth of that a decade ago – 2 more hostels are planned for Pontevedra. Ahead of the 100k expected in the Holy Year of 2021. Money to be made.
  • This local theatre group has been performing a Passion play in Holy Week for more than 40 years. This year, though, this cycle might well come to an end, as they can't get enough actors to participate in it. A sign of the (increasingly ex-Catholic) times, I guess.

Colin Davies, Pontevedra, Galicia: 9.3.18


Eamon said...

SEUR is getting worse with their deliveries. I have never liked them but lately before a delivery they have sent me an email giving me the date of the delivery. Twice now they have not turned up until the following day. Strange because when you look at the tracking it says out for delivery. Is the delivery man being given too many parcels to deliver on his shift?

Colin Davies said...

Yes. Same experience. Good question.