Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Thoughts from Hamburg, Germany: 6.11.18

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. Garish but informative.

Matters Hamburg/German
  • Yesterday was another less-than-successful day . . . I returned to the main Art and Trade museum at midday, only to find it closed. So, I decided to walk to an Indonesian restaurant for lunch, as compensation. But Google Maps and I once again failed to understand each other. Forcing me to take a train back to the main station from where I shouldn't have been and then take another train to where I really wanted to be. Having finally got there, I sat on the station platform checking on my phone in which direction I now needed to walk. Whereupon my battery ran out, sucked dry by Google Maps. Not for the first time. No matter, I thought. I have a street map. But this only gave the names of main streets, not side streets. No matter, I thought (again), I'm sure the street I want begins with W and is a little north of the station. So, I walked in that direction and soon found a street beginning with W, right where I expected to. But no Indonesian restaurant. After 15-20 minutes of fruitless searching for it, I ended up having a Wiener Schnitzel and chips in the only eatery I could find. About as far from Indonesian cuisine as you can get. Once home, I checked again on the street name and location. And realised I should've walked a little south from the station, not north. When I would've found myself in the right street beginning with W. But what sort of city council has 2 streets beginning with W so close to each other - Wenden Street, where I wanted to be, and Wandelen Street, where I didn't. Or vice versa.
  • Anyway . . . Before all of that, I called into the Nespresso shop to buy replacement capsules for all of those I'm consuming in my host's flat. I was gob-smacked by the glitziness of the place. Nestlé are clearly making so much money from marketing coffee wrapped in plastic and aluminium foil that they can not only afford to use George Clooney in their ads but also open more than 700 'boutiques' in almost 70 countries. In any of these, I'm sure you'd feel at home if you were Aladdin. Or just a jeweller. They even have staff hanging around to help you as you walk in, like the 'Geniuses' in the shops of that other immensely expensive and profitable company, Apple. I confess to having an (8 year old) Mac but can just about justify the high price to myself. But coffee!?
  • The really good news about yesterday is that I got great value from my monthly travel pass. As it happens, though, I haven't seen a ticket inspection in more than 2 weeks. Which occasionally makes me feel I've wasted €31 so far.
  • Back to the impenetrable German language . . . In the article I posted the other day, Mark Twain alleged that you only need 3 words to get by in German – Schlag(20 meanings in English), Zug(28 meanings), and 'also', which, per Google, can be auch, ebenfalls, außerdem or gleichfalls. I don't know which one Twain had in mind. (Google, by the way only comes up with 19 meanings for Zug.) But, anyway, I thought of the word yesterday when I saw Aufzug on a metro station. It means 'lift/elevator'. Literally 'Up pull'. So . . . I wondered if this approach of combining words would mean that a 'corkscrew' was 'Out-pull', or Auszug. But, no, it's Korkenzieher. With a capital K, naturally. There is, of course, a word Auszug in German. Google gives 11 meanings for it - abstract, excerpt, summary, extension, exodus, departure, move, walkout, procession, recession, and (?)elixir. But not corkscrew. Which is a shame, I feel.
  • I wonder it Fart's ludicrous use of capital letters in what passes for English with him is a reflection of his German heritage. Perhaps his grandfather spoke to him in capitals. Whereas his absent father just threw money at him.
Matters Spanish
  • Here's what to do this month, if you're bored.
  • And here's a nice article of bits of Spain's immense architectural heritage.
The EU
  • The Italian problem is that it perfectly encapsulates the central, and potentially fatal, issue that the European Union member states and Brussels have repeatedly failed to grapple with in any meaningful sense, either from political cowardice or lack of will. As a result: The wealth divide between the north and south of the eurozone has deepened. For the full article on the panoply of the EU's even-bigger-than Brexit problems, click here.
Matters USA
  • Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European council for foreign relations, predicts that a good set of results for Fart today will unleash Trump from the wiser heads in the US administration. While a bad set could leave him unhinged. Dear god/Gott.
Matters UK: Brexit
  • Says someone, correctly: It is extraordinary, but even at this eleventh hour the British Brexit pitch is based on logical incoherence and wishful thinking.  
  • Below is a German view, with which I totally concur, even though I'm a long-standing Brexiteer. Or was before I witnessed the dog's breakfast the British government has made of the challenge of leaving the EU. I doubt if things could have been done more incompetently. Unless a miracle happens, I'd be prepared to vote to stay with the Devil we know. Assuming I had the vote. Which I don't, having been in Spain for more than 15 years.
Finally . . .
  • For new mothers, here's my younger daughter's amusing blog on her trials and tribulations in managing 2 'tinies'. She might not be the world's most organised mother but at least she recognises this. And, I'm sure, would welcome advice from those with experience I don't have.
© [David] Colin Davies, Hamburg: 6.11.18


Britain has never looked so foolish in the world’s eyes: Jan Fleischhauer, a columnist for Der Spiegel

I have always admired the British. We owe them afternoon tea, Monty Python and the Beatles. This is more than many nations have achieved in their history. I was also one of the few columnists in Germany who found it ridiculous to be angry at our British neighbours after they decided to leave the European club they had once helped to make great. I felt sorry whenever I saw the British prime minister stumble through a European summit, with her crooked smile and her even more crooked offers. Right now, though, I’m feeling less sympathetic. In fact, I have been catching myself thinking: “Go with God. But go!” Maybe this week could be the week things become clear. But who would bet on it?

The UK is making a spectacular demonstration of how to make a fool of yourself with the entire world looking on. What was once the most powerful empire on Earth can’t even find its way to the door without tripping over its own feet. When Theresa May arrives in Brussels with yet another proposal, you can be sure it won’t be worth the paper it’s written 24 hours later. She either presents ideas that Brussels has long ago rejected, her plans have been rejected by her own party, or Boris Johnson tears them to pieces in his newspaper column.

No deal is better than a bad deal? If you are convinced of this: go ahead. A hard Brexit will cost the rest of us a lot – there’s no question about that – but it is nothing compared to what is awaiting you Britons.

First the trucks will be jammed all the way to Wales, because the borders are back. Then the fuel will run out at filling stations and medicines will run out in pharmacies. And once all the Polish plumbers have gone home, there will be nobody to call when the toilet gets blocked.

So there you are: left in your water-damaged homes, without fuel and aspirins, but with extremely bad-tempered Russians as neighbours. And they will realise they have invested far too much money in the English real estate market and will be incensed because their investments are going down the drain.

When I mocked the Brexit chaos in Der Spiegel recently, I received a lot of mail saying that this wasn’t fair. One line of attack was that only the English had voted to leave the European Union, so it was not a British decision. Second, the government in London wouldn’t speak up for right-thinking people who want to stay close to the EU.

I can only say: sorry, folks, but it doesn’t work to declare the government a kind of foreign power, whose rise can’t really be explained. We Germans have tried to pull this nifty trick a few times ourselves. Unfortunately, in a democracy any government that has come into office not through a coup but through free elections is regarded as an expression of the will of the people. That is why we are talking about representative democracy.

Almost everyone who has had a say in this adventure seems to belong to the British establishment, meaning they went to an outrageously expensive private school and completed their studies at Cambridge or Oxford. What in the name of God do they teach them? It certainly can’t be skills that prepare them for the real world. Or would you trust a manager who regularly shows up to negotiations so haphazardly that they have to be broken off again after just a few minutes?

Wherever you look, you see buffoons. Of Johnson you can at least say the man knows something about intrigue. He’s also a brilliant writer, which naturally endears him to a columnist such as me. But, hand on heart, what does it tell us about a country when a man like Johnson is regarded as one of the clearest-thinking minds in the circle of power?

Two weeks ago May had a chance to present her ideas for an orderly exit to the other 27 EU heads. She left them confused, and trying to figure out the meaning of her presentation over dinner. Angela Merkel indicated that she didn’t really understand what May had said, but that she would ask the Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier to explain it to her. I didn’t make that up; Bloomberg reported it.

The disadvantage of being intelligent is that it hurts when you act stupid. The fool doesn’t feel this pain because they don’t have to pretend. For a nation, the problem begins when the level of stupidity at the top is unusually high, because the smarter people have thrown in the towel. This is generally the point at which decline becomes inevitable.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

Let me see. Twain would probably have 'auch' or 'ebenfalls' in mind, both of which can reasonably be translated as 'also'.

'Auserdem' rather translates as 'besides'. And 'gleichfalls' as 'likewise'.

As for your wonder over the corkscrew in German: 'zug' and 'ziehen' are of course closely related in the etymological sense. And there is that wonderful word - for playing Scrabble in German at least - of 'Korkenauszugbewegung', meaning the motion of uncorking a fine bottle of wine.


Colin Davies said...

How do you get Korkenauszugbewegung with 7 tiles? Do they play it with 20 in Germany?

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Given the average length of German words, I think each player gets about 144 tiles, to be arranged on a Scrabble board of 250 by 250 squares.

Different cultures, different ways.


Eamon said...

"We owe them afternoon tea, Monty Python and the Beatles."`Is Der Spiegel a comic book? The Beatles were the first sign Britain was becoming a sh&t hole and Monty Python was the confirmation.

Sierra said...

"... The wealth divide between the north and south..."

It's good to know that there is no such wealth divide in Great Britain after 211 years. The rose-tinted spectacles of the Brexiteers

Sierra said...

Re: Boars - 12 accidents caused by them last weekend in Lugo - also:


Country Girl said...

Are you sure you don't have the vote in the UK. Been here for more than 15 years.

Country Girl said...

* I do, and have been here for more than 15 years!!

Colin Davies said...

See this article, for example.


So . . . How do you manage it?

Country Girl said...

Did it online. Applied through my old UK authority. No problem. Easy peasy!!

Colin Davies said...

Hmm. I fancy you bucked the system. Were you asked how long you'd been out of the UK? Did they know you were?

Colin Davies said...

@Sierra. Stupidity is catching, it seems.


Country Girl said...

All above board. On official .gov site. And I told them year I left. Linked to where we paid council tax in the UK. Give it a try!