Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in SpainNote: As it's Thursday, couple of the items below have been borrowed from Lenox Napier's Business Over Tapas
- This is a tale of something or nothing but it reminds me that you are often (always?) reminded in Spanish museums half an hour before the official closing time that you need to leave within 15 minutes. Perhaps this wouldn't happen if the employees didn't have the ridiculously late working hours arising from Spain's split day.
- Several news outlets have warned against car hire companies' 'Spanish practices', especially those of Gold Car. Whose performance is at least consistent. Here's the Guardian's take. And here's that of The Olive Press.
- Andalucia has a reputation for being corrupt. After 30 years of PSOE rule, says Lenox, it was revealed were a lot of people and agencies drawing money while doing nothing. The region has had €100 billion from the EU over the years but remains one of the poorest regions in Europe. One is forced to wonder just how the money has been 'spent'.
- Spanish sports commentators can be harsh. Some Barcelona players got a nil rating after the team's astonishing defeat in Liverpool.
- Some amusing internet reactions to said defeat.
- Talking of being amused . . . Here's The Local on the fun of the Sevilla fair.
- More than merely amusing is the report from Rome of a congress for those who believe in the Devil and in exorcism. If you don't do so, says one priest, it's because the Devil is very active in social media and has already corrupted you. Impossible to argue with that . . .
- Lenox addresses the issue below of what he doesn't like about Spain. Much the same as the rest of us expats, I guess.
- You have to feel for Richard North . . . One of the particularly unwholesome characteristics of this country is a general lack of respect for intellectual effort. Thus, a vacuous demagogue [Guess who] can tour the country delivering meaningless speeches which offer no solutions to anything, yet be applauded for "doing something", while those are constructively seeking to provide answers are ignored – that is when the sneering classes are not simply trashing our work.
- Little wonder that he feels that: If people can't be bothered to pursue a genuine grassroots movement [The Harrogate Agenda], and take no interest in the products of a number of keen and experienced minds, they have only themselves to blame. Let them chase after the demagogues and see how far that gets them.
- Securing cross-party agreement is difficult enough but with two leaders like Mrs May and Mr Corbyn it is surely impossible given their personalities, one stubborn, the other ideologically blinkered. But even if they were both open-minded centrists, they wouldn’t agree because consensus is considered a dirty word in British politics. Parties adopt aggressively hostile positions on major issues almost for the sake of it even if the disagreements between them are small. As a result few major decisions are taken and those that are are unravelled by the next administration. Our political architecture is literally set up for adversarial politics. The House of Commons is one of only two legislatures in the world where the parties face each other directly - two swords lengths apart to stop them in the past skewering each other with more than debating points. This encourages confrontation even when there is not an especially wide ideological gulf on specific points or when achieving a compromise solution is essential to the long-term well-being of the country, as in reforming the NHS or agreeing a new social care system. Both require an all-party approach if anything is to happen. . . . If politicians search for solutions that are popular only among their own core supporters they will never achieve anything. But there are consequences for leaders who consort with the enemy, as Mrs May is about to find out, and maybe Mr Corbyn, too.
- As fr Mrs May . . . Please God, let the party and the Cabinet rise up and do what must be done [i.e. get shut of her]. It is not just the fate of the Conservative party that is at stake. It is the credibility of the country’s governing class and the integrity of its democratic institutions - which are, after all, what the whole Brexit cause is supposed to be about - that are falling into disrepute. What is the point of defending the principle of accountable government if the elected government refuses to be accountable.
- Here's the FT on the legacy of the ECB's bond-buying program.
- Nice to finally see at least some of Fart's tax docs. And to hear his ridiculous response.
- Almost as 'good' as his claim that this tariffs have cost the Chinese billions, when it's importers - and ultimately the US consumers - who pay them. The man is illiterate in so many ways. Would he stand a chance of re-election in any other Western state?
- Word of the Day: Cria.
What I don't like about Spain - Lenox Napier
I was once asked to make a list of ‘things I didn’t like about Spain’. It would be easy enough to make one about the things I do like, and it would run to many pages, but the things I don’t? Hum. Well, there's the bureaucracy which drives us all, Spaniards and foreigners alike, up the wall. Las cosas de palacio, van despacio, say the Spanish sententiously, as if by giving the creaking bureaucratic system an excuse, wrapped up in a popular saying, it all makes sense. In the past two years, for example, no one has managed to get Spanish nationality because the 25,000 people whose job it is to sort out the paperwork have instead taken a disturbingly long lunch-break.
People sometimes have to live rather poorly – a house with no water or electric for example – for a number of years because of some elusive bit of paper trapped in the bottom of a drawer belonging to a public official who has been off work with a runny nose for 36 months, but absolutely should be back any day now.
I try and live with the system, since I love it here. My Spanish wife knows nothing of HP Sauce and shepherd’s pie, and she has never had a Yorkshire pudding or even a mushy pea. I am nevertheless proud of her as she sips her English tea with milk and one sugar (my only remaining British weakness).
But, we were talking about Spanish wrongs – like corruption. How they get away with it defeats me. The country is positively leaping with crooked bankers, politicians and manufacturers of ladies hosiery. They stash millions in off-shore financial paradises, pay no tax, and – most remarkable of all – are highly esteemed by large swathes of the population. OK, in my personal experience, I’ve had more trouble from thieving Brits that crooked Spaniards (lawyers maybe – there’s always hungry lawyers here), but over the years, I’ve found that owning nothing helps keep them away, along with plenty of garlic.
So, the list. We’ve done bureaucracy and corruption, there’s also littering.
How can a proud nation like the Spanish merrily toss as much garbage into the countryside as is humanly possible? The beaches, the roadside, the streets and the public buildings are caked in debris. Everywhere is thick with plastic, flattened beer cans, bottles, graffiti, cardboard and rubble. I take my trash home with me, or leave it on the back seat of the car for a few years, but our friends and neighbours? They scatter it everywhere across this great country with gleeful abandon.
There, was that enough? No? Well, those paper napkins in the bars are pointless. They don’t soak up grease, they just smear it around. I have been here fifty years and they still use those paper servietas. Extraordinary!
Noise, I suppose. This country is deafening. Happily, with the passage of the years, I have become quite deaf, so am immune to the cacophony of the world’s second loudest country (after Japan who, for Heaven’s sake, have paper walls).
Lastly (and believe me, I’ve been thinking about this list for years), I would say, parking. There’s never enough, as though the designers feel they can squeeze more money out of shops and buildings if there are as few parking spots as possible. Then the few spaces that are there will as likely as not have a caravan of dustbins clogging them up.
As if there was a serious litter problem here!
So, many people (at least in my local village) will park two abreast – en paralelo – with their warning lights on. ‘I’m sorry, I really am, but I just needed to stop the car for a moment as I zip into the bank, buy a lottery ticket and have a very quick coffee with my lawyer’. You can always get past. Yesterday, I had to drive at least fifty metres along the pavement, because the road was completely blocked by two double-parked cars. Luckily for us all, they both had their warning lights on.
But what are a few minor niggles, when compared to the endless wonders of this great country we have chosen to call home?