Thursday, June 30, 2011

I attended a meeting of my Community tonight.

I wasn't sure what time to arrive as the notice had said there were to be two convocatorias, the first at 7pm and the second at 7.30. None of the Spanish friends I asked could explain what this meant but they all added that notices of community meetings always took this form.

I had planned to go for 7 but in the end – after a long lunch and a late siesta – I got there for a little after 7.35. To find things well under way.

The meeting took place around two plastic tables on the terrace of the little house down near the pool and, apart from the two(sic) women from the offices of the administrator, there were nine owners there. Which is about 25% (ie a quarter) of the total of thirty seven. I was interested to note that, in the master list of owners, twenty-nine of them only had a male name as the proprietor. One of whom – divorced – has long since gone, having given the house to his (unnamed) wife.

The backcloth to the meeting was a magnificent sunset over Pontevedra below us and the noisy to-ing and fro-ing of a yellow plane dumping water on a fire in the hills behind the city. But since everyone shouts, this didn't interfere with the proceedings in any way.

After a few minutes of desultory chat – dominated by the demonstrative ex president – the meeting was called to order and the Minutes of the last meeting were read out, followed by a brief report from the current president, my neighbour, Manolo. I intervened briefly during the first of these to ask that they be read out at less than a hundred miles an hour. As ever, this resulted in a reduction to around 95.

The meat of the meeting was quickly established as the question of whether we all contribute to the cost of repairing/replacing malfunctioning drains in some of the houses. The ex president was again the most vocal in rejecting this idea. Which struck me as ironic as we'd all contributed handsomely to expensive improvements in the facilities near his house when he'd been president.

It wasn't much of a problem to follow the proceedings when only one person was speaking – or even two - but when things broke up into numerous simultaneous side discussions – particularly when seven of the nine owners were speaking at the same time – things became rather more difficult. Needless to say, this happened on numerous occasions. My main difficulty was with the unfamiliar word arqueta. So, I asked Manolo what this was and was told it was where all the waste water and sewage ended up. But how this differed from a pozo negro or a fosa septica I couldn't determine.

As I say, the ex president dominated the rather fractious proceedings. Clearly a man who likes the sound of his own voice. Coincidentally, I know his son from the English Speaking Society in Pontevedra and he's certainly a chip off the old block. And both are fond of the word coño.

At 8.30, a tenth owner arrived and immediately entered the discussion/argument, despite knowing nothing of what had happened in the previous hour.

At 8.40 we moved from the discussions of the drains to a review of the accounts for 2010. One owner probably spoke for all when he expressed astonishment that everyone was up to date with their monthly payments and that there was a (small) balance in the end-year accounts. I imagine there always is. But perhaps there's sometimes a loss.

At 8.50, an eleventh owner arrived and, a minute later, the guy who'd arrived at 8.40 departed. Leaving himself exposed to election as the next president. Which then happened.

At 8.55 the meeting broke up, leaving me without the slightest idea of what had been decided. But I'll check with Manolo tomorrow. The last meeting I attended – more than ten years ago in November 2000 – went on for three hours and ended with the sole decision that all decisions would be postponed until a second meeting in two weeks time. Which never took place.

I live in fear that one day they'll round on me and tell me it's my turn to be president. Especially if I don't forfeit hours and hours of my life by attending all the future meetings. Que pena.

Postscript: I bumped into my neighbours Amparo and Manolo after the meeting. I asked them what had been decided and they just smiled wryly. Nothing it seems. I told Manolo of the first (and last) meeting I'd attended but he easily topped this. At the first meeting he'd attended there'd almost been a fist fight and the question had arisen of law suits. Anyway, he congratulated me on avoiding the presidency for another year. I replied that I couldn't be president as I didn't speak Spanish.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hugh Thomas's book, Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, is almost 700 pages long. One reason is that there's no known fact that goes unstated. With the welter of data he provides on family connections (e.g. for those on Columbus's ships), it's sometimes like listening to a Pontevedra pija telling you who's who in the city's social circles. Anyway, I hope his other facts are more accurate that his statement that Bayona/Baiona lies in the mouth of the river Miño. It doesn't. Unless they've moved it since I was last there. And destroyed La Guardia.

So, the Greeks will be given the next tranche of cash, with which to pay back foreign banks. Did anyone in the world seriously believe they wouldn't be?

Here in Spain, there's much talk about next year's elections being brought forward to late this year. There's also some talk of La Crisis forcing the elimination of one level of government – that at the provincial level – but I can't see this happening before the elections. If at all. Even though there's probably an irrefutable case for it.

And here in Galicia we've taken note that Portugal has cancelled sine die the AVE high speed train link between Lisbon and Madrid, originally targeted for 2013. And that someone has cast aspersions on the opening of the line between Santiago and Ourense in December this year. Not looking good.

Which reminds me . . . I should correct my statement of yesterday that an average of only nine people a day were using the AVE between Toledo and Cuenca. In fact, it was six.

Spain's quota for mackerel has been doubled. Which rather surprises me, as it's a much undervalued fish here. And so sells for only around two euros a kilo. Strange people. Especially as they adore the bland hake.

I finally had the oak trees trimmed at my house in the hills yesterday, essentially to please my neighbour. Being Galician, she then asked - with a straight face - if she could have the branches that had been cut off. You can imagine my reply. Anyway, the point of mentioning this is that – not for the first time – I realised that the guy who'd done the pollarding had forgotten how much he'd verbally quoted me. And that I could've got away with giving him at least 20% below this. But I didn't. Next time, though.

Catalunya Caixa, a savings bank, claims that Spain had 800,000 unoccupied new homes at the end of 2010. Of these, 85% were built as holiday homes along the coasts. The banks forecasts that this 'overhang' will increase by 150,000 new homes this year and 125,000 in 2012. To say the least, this conflicts with government claims that there'll only be 200,000 new properties left on the market by the end of 2013. As to the truth, it's anyone's guess. And I do mean guess.

Talking about guessing . . . Here's Moody's view on the Spanish regional debt problem:- In the absence of credible commitments by the regions to take the steps needed to achieve sustainable improvements in their fiscal positions, we believe the central government will find it very hard to achieve its overall fiscal targets. This is likely to exert further downward pressure not only on the ratings of the fiscally weak regions but also on the sovereign’s rating as it risks derailing the country’s fiscal consolidation plan. More here.

Finally . . . I've received a bizarre email from someone calling him/herself Ecleon. This is the text:- Ya se me paso, aqui estoy feliz, si si si, sientame ya. Mientras te mando al chinopu.” I don't know and can't find out what a chinopu is but the attached picture seems to be of a very small penis. A Google search suggests this isn't either a virus or a spam. So, can anyone shed any light on it?
I see that San Sebastian has been chosen as one of the European Cities of Culture for 2016. It'll be interesting to see how it's referred to in the non-Spanish press, as it has two names – San Sebastian (Spanish) and Donostia (Basque).

Reader Sierra has pointed me in the direction of the news that the AVE line from Toledo to Cuenca and Albacete is being cut because it costs 16,000 euros a day to carry an average of nine people. Does nothing to reduce my pessimism about the year in which we'll be able to get to Madrid in less than 7-8 hours. I'm currently going with 2018, against the official prediction of 2012.

Talking of sad news, I heard this on the radio this morning: “Pecha Galicia Hoxe. A crise económica e o radical recorte das axudas institucionais converten en inviable o proxecto do único diario en galego. Herdeiro de O Correo Galego, publicouse por primeira vez o 17 de maio de 2003. Dezanove profesionais, entre periodistas e filólogos, quedan sen traballo. O Grupo Correo Gallego manterá o espírito do xornal na rede dende www.galiciahoxe.com.” I would translate this but there wouldn't be much point, if you don't already understand it. Suffice to say Galicia's only newspaper in Gallego is closing because La Crisis has reduced subventions. Though I will, on second thoughts, add this view from a Professor of Gallego in the UK:- “It was indeed a dark day yesterday for the pluralism of the Galician media, and for Galician-language media. Note that no government intervention in the form of a rescue package was forthcoming. There may be a link between this failure to intervene and the very critical tone taken by many writers from Galicia Hoxe towards the Feijoo government. There are now no all-Galician print newspapers in Galicia. Thirty-six years of normalisation are being dismantled with alarming rapidity. Even more alarming is the lack of a collective, dynamic response to these measures in the vein of the Nunca Mais movement or from a political grouping. That suggests a lack of policy-making in the opposition and/or a lack of collective will to defend Galician interests. Either way it is not encouraging.” On a point of detail . . . “normalisation” is the term used for the process of increasing the number of Gallego speakers in Galicia. Sometimes by compulsion. I always find it a very Orwellian term.

With two days to go to the deadline, I finally got round to submitting my 2010 tax declaration today, on line. This was tremendously efficient, once I got past the problems of finding out what they meant by my NIF (turned out to be not my NIF but my NIE) and which of my three names they regard as my 'First surname' (turned out to be David, as in Davies David Colin.)

Following up Edward Hughes' comments on Spanish banks yesterday, here's the comment of someone who thinks that the French/EU plan for Greece is seriously flawed:- “One theme of Spain’s economy returned to haunt it yesterday as El Confidencial reported that her banks have hidden some 50 billion euros of bad housing related debts. This was likely to be concentrated in the savings banks, or cajas, where the official policy of mergers has done little to sort out the obvious problems." Still waiting for that transparency.

Finally . . . The Quote of the Week:- What else is Twitter but a Darwinian process for sorting out the human race very efficiently into leaders and followers. Well, I'm pleased to say I'm neither. But I've no idea where that puts me on the evolutionary ladder/tree.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I forgot to mention that, while we were dining so well during the night of San Juan/Xoán in Combarro last Thursday, a chap of advanced years appeared with about six large rockets in his hand. With ne'er a care for either us or his fingers (assuming he had any left) he then proceeded to light them, wait for them to fizz for a few seconds and then launch them into the ether. After which he nonchalantly wandered off, while we mentally counted how many crimes he would've committed in the UK.

The other thing I was reminded of by the short drive to Combarro was that I'd written about ugly new buildings in and around Pontevedra. The worst of these – in the modern toilet style – just happen to be on the outskirts of this port. Click here for the fotos.

I'm still fascinated by the Iranian version of news from PressTV. Or, as it should be called, All-the-bad-stuff-we-can-find-about-the-USA.TV And I was stimulated to check out the conference on the prevention of terrorism recently held in Tehran. According to the Tehran Times, the subjects covered included “The roots of terrorism, the roles of international and regional organizations in the campaign against terrorism, and the view of divine religions on terrorism.” It must have been tremendous fun and you can read the end-of-conference press statement here. Though I don't suppose you will. Sadly, there seems to be no definition of 'terrorism'.

Talking of organisations with a poor public image . . . Since it does such a good job itself, how can Ryanair possibly sue someone else for defaming it? Should make for an interesting judgement.

We were down by the community pool yesterday evening, where there was a British family who were staying with a neighbour and whose son had clearly run in one of the weekend's triathlon events. There were eight of us in all, seven Brits and one young Spanish girl of around 19. Everyone was reading but the difference was seven of us were reading a book and the eighth was reading texts on a Blackberry. So a qualitative as well as a quantitative difference.

Incidentally, I'm told that Blackberries (Blackberrys?) are all the rage with the kids of Pontevedra. Not done to be seen without one, apparently. And, as a fashion item, they come in all sorts of colours. Spoilt brats.

Finally . . . If you're a bit confused about evolution or subscribe to the Creationist school, click here for a marvellous strip cartoon. And an interesting set of Comments.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Briefly on my EU theme - “Europe worked on the assumption that if it ever stood still it would fail. As a result, it went at breakneck speed and bent its own rules along the way. In the planning of the euro, the [political] desire to create a massively ambitious currency union across much of the EU was achieved only by ignoring its own economic rulebook.” With predictable (and predicted) consequences, of course. More here.

It's been a while since Edward Hugh commented on the Spanish economy but here he is with his latest reservations about the optimism of others. EH covers all the bases, including bank debts and export growth. One interesting fact - “77% of the total stock of Spanish savings is invested in property and around 85% of Spaniards own one or more homes. Which means, as the Spanish themselves are now discovering, that as property prices go down you suddenly start to get poor in just the way you formerly got rich.” And on exports: - “Spain needs to produce sufficient exports to cover ALL imports, and then some more to generate a surplus to drive GDP growth. . . The key point about Spain's export sector is not that it is not competitive but that it is FAR TOO SMALL for the job it now has to do.”

But there are, of course, challenges bigger than the saving of merely Spain. Here's the site of a good friend of mine who'd like your help in saving the entire world:- A pragmatic idealist's common-sense proposal for saving the world. Don't hesitate to write with your comments.

Penultimately . . . Here's a couple of fotos of possibly the worst parked car I've seen in ten years. Not only was it on a zebra crossing and a metre from the pavement, it was also parked on a blind bend. This forced cars to, first, brake and then overtake it as other cars came down the hill around another blind bend. It's possible the car broke down here but, against this, there was no sign of the warning triangle that's compulsory in this situation. Incredible.



















Talking of driving. . .  Although the price of oil is now higher than when the Spanish government imposed its 'energy-saving' speed limit of 110kph, it's now decided to put this back to 120. No one can understand why. But, as I've said, it'll certainly help any relative in the sign-writing/erecting business.

Finally . . . For those interested, here's how the price structure works down at the Asian restaurant:-
Original price (including drink) – 12 euros.
Reduced price – 11. With drink: Minimum of 12.50
Availing yourself of the discount of 10%
1. Not available for the weekday reduced price of 11. So, 12.50
2. With the non-reduced weekend price of 12: – 10.80 With drink: – 12.30

So, despite both the reduced price and the 10% discount, you always end up paying at least 12.30 if you have a drink. In other words, you always pay more than the original inclusive price of 12 euros. Clever stuff.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

There were actually two deaths during the San Juan/Xoán celebrations in A/La Coruña on Thursday night. The poor chap who fell in the fire and another one who drowned. Both are thought to have over-imbibed. In Pontevedra province more than a dozen people suffered burns so I'm guessing there were around 50 incidents in Galicia as a whole. And who-knows-how-many around Spain. But I doubt there'll be calls for more caution next year. Meanwhile, there's a bit more about the celebrations here.

Here in Pontevedra, we went down to see the European Championships Senior Mens' triathlon race this evening. And I'm pleased to report that the first two places went to Brits. Brothers no less.

Could there be anything funnier than Tehran advertising a conference on the prevention of terrorism? I rather doubt that one of the final recommendations will be that the terrorism-sponsoring government of Iran be ousted.

Talking about politics . . . Here's a eurosceptic take on how the eurozone economic crisis is being used to promote the very political aims that caused the crisis in the first place. As I've implied myself when referring to past mistakes - “Ideological bureaucracies do not admit error: they rush to reinforce it.”

And here's a few fotos:-

The new taxi rank to go with the splendid new bus-stop down at the roundabout. Recession?



The endangered Asian restaurant at the top of the shopping mall by the roundabout.


And, finally, the hydrangeas that the gypsy girl was climbing over my gate to take a closer look at.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Another sign of tough times – One of Poio's three brothels – the charmingly named Factory Girls - is resorting to fliers on car windscreens. These boast of new management and 'Erotic spectaculars'. Not to mention a free second drink. One can only guess at the cost of the first.

Hearing the bell at my gate buzzing repeatedly last evening, I took my normal precaution of checking who was there before answering it - to see a gypsy girl of six or seven climbing over the gate, presumably on the assumption there was no one at home. When I asked her what she wanted, she said “Something to eat”. I told her to get down from the gate and depart. At the same time, Tony next door was telling her companion “Yes, I do have food but I'm not going to give you any. Go and ask the mayor of Poio. There's free sardines tonight”. Desperately trying not to be racist, I'll merely say I assume the young girl wanted to get into my garden to have a closer look at my hydrangeas.

Anyway, there were free sardines down in Poio because 24 June is the feast-day of St Juan/Xoán and the tradition is to eat sardines, drink some wine and then jump over bonfires. Health'n'Safety considerations are so conspicuous by their absence that the surprise is that more people aren't killed or injured than there are, and not that one can read something like this the following morning - According to witnesses, the young man was jumping "small" bonfires when he fell onto a larger one, that was almost three metres high and 'there was just no way to get him out' and he was engulfed by the flames.”

That said – and well before this tragedy in La/A Coruña – my guests, Spanish friends and I had a great evening out in Combarro, a place just along the coast famous for the number of horreos in what was, ten years ago, still a small fishing port. Great company and lots of excellent seafood and Albariño and Ribeiro white wine. Galicia/Spain at its best.

As my guests again slept in this morning, I went down to the bottom of the hill to take a coffee and to go on the internet. Only to find all three cafés were closed. I put this down to the owners sleeping in after fiestaring all night but I later realised it was because, while it might not have been a holiday in Pontevedra today, it was in Poio. The reason – St Xoán is our patron saint.

I'm reading Hugh Thomas's “Rivers of Gold – The rise of the Spanish Empire”. He naturally takes the view that Christopher Columbus came from Genoa and not Poio. But I was interested to read that CC probably learnt his Spanish in Lisbon and so littered his discourse with Portuguese words. I guess these might be the source of the 'Gallego' words found in his notes and on his maps. Just a thought.

This article “explains how the EMU works, why it is failing, and why it will resort to fiat money printing to solve it.” Opening para:- “The eurozone is in serious trouble and Greece is just a symptom. Whether or not it defaults on its debt may not matter as similar problems plague Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and even Italy. The European Monetary Union (EMU) is built on a house of cards and it doesn't have the time for needed radical reforms. Like all sovereigns that owe more than they can pay, it will resort to monetary inflation to bail itself out.” Nice to have a real prediction.

Finally . . . We went down to town this evening to see the European Junior Mens' Triathlon race. While there we got chatting to a 16 year old English Girl who'd competed in the earlier Women's race. Asked how she got on, she pulled a face and said she'd had to retire with heat exhaustion. I suggested this was better than retiring because of hypothermia, as happened in a race here two years ago, but she seemed less than convinced. So, I stressed it was ironic we were being hit with a heat wave this weekend. With similar success. Hey, ho. Kids today!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

 My elder daughter's partner, Jonny, is something of a musician. Apart from the sax and piano, he's recently taken up the bandoneón, an instrument of astonishing complexity. I had thought it was impressive of me to start playing the piano in my sixties but tackling the bandoneón is like typing on four different vertical typewriters, with a blindfold over your eyes. And that's without the complication of the fact the accordian-type feature of this monster means that the little knobs play a different note when it's being squeezed than when it's being extended. Quite why he's inflicted this torture on himself is rather beyond me.

Talking of music . . . Jonny has introduced me to my first purchase of an Apple app - One that provides me with a phenomenal amount of easy-to-use piano chord info. And all for a mere 9 quid. A good example of the benefits the net has brought us. Along with all the porn.

Anyway, the Asian restaurant was still open last night. In fact, there were more customers there than I'd seen on any of my three previous visits. But, then, we do have the European Triathlon Championships in Pontevedra this weekend. Which explained the Bulgarian family at the next table. Whom we got to know when the waiter asked me to tell them how the place worked. I had hoped to use one of the fliers I'd collected to get a 10% discount but I was told this didn't apply in June because of the (false) price reduction. Only at weekends, when the price reduction doesn't operate. Unless you've got a discount voucher. Confused? I certainly was. But, as I said, clever these Chinese. In compensation, we were all given a little gift as we left. Although Jonny's was only a packet of tissues, against the teacup (with lid) which I got.

Greece and the EU:
In The Times yesterday the ex Labour Chancellor of the British Exchequer, Mr Alastair Darling, contributed an article which rehearsed some of the EU mistakes made over the years when politics triumphed over economics but, nonetheless, came down in favour of continuing this process, on the basis of “strong visionary leadership”. And in the continuing absence of this?
The writer of this second article also believes the break-up of the eurozone should be prevented by arranging for “the solvent north to bail out the stricken south on a more or less permanent basis”. Something which he sees as being “progressively forced” on the former anyway. However, his support for this acceptance of “harsh reality” is based on a belief that, firstly, Britain won't have to contribute and that, more importantly, it will be beneficial to the British economy in the longer run. He does, though, accept that the chances of the EU allowing the UK to cherry-pick in this fashion must be “open to question”.

On a hill outside Santiago de Compostela, there's a constellation of buildings (the "City of Culture") which is generally seen as a vanity project initiated by the multi-term President of the Galician Xunta, Manuel Fraga. It's said to be nearing completion but over the years it's been more famous for its apparent white-elephant uselessness, its huge cost overruns and the fraud involved in its construction than for its beauty. However, here's an article from the Wall St. Journal, of all things, which extolls the latter - “Mr. Eisenman's marvelous new architectural landscape is a masterly and vigorous achievement - an enhancement of a region of Spain that deserves to be much better known.” At least the last bit's true.

Spain and Greece . . . The FT today pronounced that “Last week’s spike in the 10-year bond yield is not fully justified; Spain is far ahead of Greece in its state finances and economic culture. But the needed reforms – to address a dysfunctional labour market and poor productivity – have an eerie similarity.” Mmmm. Meanwhile, exports continue to do well.

Finally . . . Two concepts new to me:-
      1. You can become a Mormon saint, even if you lived a couple of centuries ago. A couple of millennia even.                                                                                                                                              
      2.Vajazling. I think it'd be easier if you clicked here.
An extra post . . . .

Oh, dear. I seem to have upset Alfie. Here's his letter to me this morning:-

Now you did it! You smeared my good name and reputation. You make me out to be an insensitive monster, me, Alfred B., known for his charity and his mild opinions!

I never said, nor would I even say in jest, that I desired a bullfighter to die. I do not desire anyone to die in a bullfight, man, beast or aficionado! I merely want toreros, matadors, picadors and the rest of the shabby bullies to go out and do something useful with their lives that does not involve bloodshed for fun.

So kindly correct this or face my five lawyers!

Yours,

Alfred. B. Mittington.


As my own lawyer has advised, I'm offering a sincere public apology for traducing him. And I will be making a large contribution to a charity of my own choice. Honest.

Meanwhile, scroll down for last night's post.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An interesting discussion about Greece on the BBC last night. All four participants clearly shared the view that Greece would leave the eurozone at some point. But no one cared to guess/predict when or how. Or what the gravity of the consequences would be. As the FT correspondent put it "This is not now an issue of economics but politics; the Greek people have become a key factor and no one knows what they will do."

As if the EU has ever been more about economics than politics. Off the top of my head, I could list 5-10 huge errors that have arisen because of the preponderance of political dreaming over economics. But I have no confidence we'll ever hear any EU politician (or reader Moscow) own up to any, never mind all, of these. That said, an ex Labour cabinet member in the UK has opined this week that the people should be told the truth and that the government should stop using "weasel words" about the crisis. Just as he and his colleagues didn't when they were in power. The luxury of Opposition!

Anyway, the most interesting comment last night was from a German economist. He took the view that not only would Germany never leave the eurozone but it would move heaven and earth [assuming the German people would accept this] to save the EU. But, if Greece had to go, so be it; Germany then would marshall all its forces to protect the weaker members such as Spain. No mention of Portugal, Ireland, Belgium or Italy. So the inference to be drawn was they'd be allowed to leave as well, allowing shrinkage back to a hard core membership of (morally and economically) pure countries. Predominantly in the north of europe, of course. But vamos a ver. These are exciting but worrying times. How much will my (southern) euros (New Pesetas?) be worth next year?

Finally on this theme . . . An angry Greek writes . . . “Like most Greeks – who suffer from it – I know that the heart of our problem is a huge, parasitic and inefficient public sector, which EU funds, unwisely and often corruptly distributed by our politicians over the past two decades, made even bigger and less productive.”

Finally on this theme 2: “Greek default is still likely despite last night's vote of confidence in the Greek parliament. . . For the next three years, we're going to see different economies work out different problems. For European economies, especially Greece, it would be through default." More here.

Interestingly, Belgium is one of the very countries to increase its per capita income over the last twelve months. And it's the only one not to have had a government over the same period. Perhaps there's a lesson there somehwere.

As for Spain's economy . . . The IMF, while praising progress, retains considerable concerns. For Spain itself and, thus, for the eurozone as a whole. Click here for details.

More evidence is said to be merging of Iranian involvement in the crackdown in Syria in the face of denials from Tehran. You'd never guess from watching the “impartial” Tehran-based Press TV. Their major concern is that the US and UK governments are helping the corrupt Bahraini government to stay in power.

It's enough to make Ozymandias laugh. As one of the consequences of the country's loony EU-driven construction bum, Spain is awash with airports redundant to need. And I'm not talking about the two we really can't justify here in Galicia. At least these have flights. And planes. Click here for info on the follies that don't. And for the comment that, as I've long suspected, “Signs abound that Spain has not fully learned the lessons of its profligate spending.” And that “Spain has a history of pouring public money into dodgy projects to fuel the careers of ambitious politicians and local entrepreneurs” And that “The airports and other projects illustrate how regional governments and government-linked savings banks drove themselves into a debt swamp from which it will take years to emerge.”

Less appealing was the comment in the article that “Spain recently announced a high-speed rail link to the sparsely populated northwest region of Galicia, a plan many economists see as an extravagance.”

By the way, this article, like a multitude of others, cites Spain's 21% unemployment rate as if it were gospel. But no one here believes this figure. Everyone knows there are people – especially down in Andalucia – who are both working and collecting dole. Why? Because, as with the phoney redundancy payments that the Andalucian government has just owned up to, an official blind eye is turned to things which are seen to help maintain the 'social peace'.

Which reminds me . . . Even the Bank of Spain is now demanding that the regions produce accounts of what they are up not. Not just me. Given that they spend about half of the country's money, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was about time. It's not quite Greece but it's in the same ballpark. With everyone here accepting, as they do in benighted Greece, that all politicians are corrupt and self-serving. Something to smile (or perhaps sigh) at when times are (apparently) good. But not when the cows are leaner than anyone can recall.

Bullfighting: I've read recently both that this is dying and that it's in very robust health. I wouldn't have the faintest idea myself. But here's IberoSphere on the subject. They are, it seems, in the pessimistic camp. Whatever, I'm guessing we won't have José Tomás in this year's corridas in Pontevedra in August. Incidentally, he was thought by some to be at risk of dying after the goring he received in Mexico a year ago. My friend Alfred B. Mittington was disappointed the risk didn't materialise.

Talking of Alfie . . . Here's his response to my point that he cared more about dumb animals than about his (smoker) self:- "Yes, I do indeed value animals higher than myself. As it happens, I value them higher than human beings. Let us not forget that animals are 'Before Good and Evil,' as the paraphrase goes. Hence they are, by definition, innocent of all crimes and sins. Which is not what one can say of any human being. Or, to put it in those hallowed words of Frederick the Great: 'Now that I know Man, I prefer dogs…'"
After getting this, I asked Alfie - "So, starving in a raft on the sea, you'd eat your fellow men before the ship's dog??" To which he replied - "A hypothetical question which allows for no answer. What I do know, however, is that the other fellows would eat me before the dog ever would."
In answer to another question, he advised - "'Beyond Good and Evil' is a book by Friedrich Nietzsche. His Übermensch was supposed to have escaped the shackles of - mainly Christian - morals of Good and Bad. Animals have not escaped that. They never got there. They did not eat that bloody apple (which wasn't an apple, incidentally, but a kind of wild grape)."
But at least we agree on one thing . . . Alfie again:- "Of course the dog would be eaten first. And after that people would begin eating one another."

Finally . . . I bought something at our local DIY store (BricoKing) this morning and was asked to pay about 50% more than what was on the price tag. When I pointed this out, the checkout girl muttered something about it being a new price. Well, no. The price was the same when I checked it out around two weeks ago. So, was this incompetence or dishonesty? As so often, I'll never know. More on retailing tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Interestingly, the Daily Telegraph line on Greece is contrary to that of its columnist Boris Johnson. Here's their leader, arguing that - although  Greece should never have been admitted to the eurozone - she must be saved and stay in it. Pro tem, at least. The paper sees Greece being rescued, stabilised and then kicked out - "The hard reality is that, unpalatable though it may seem, there is no real alternative to shoring up Greece. Its economy must be stabilised before serious thought can be given to the long-term restructuring of the single currency, which must now surely be unavoidable." 

A Greek commentator in the rather-more-left-of-centre Guardian also sees Greece leaving the eurozone - "Greek default and exit has always been the most likely outcome of the eurozone crisis. The truth is that economic and monetary union has failed, not least because it has created an unsustainable gap between core and periphery. For peripheral countries, EMU membership is likely to be a source of stagnation and income inequality. For Greece it has already been a failure of historic proportions . . . Even a first year undergraduate could have worked out that the last thing a bankrupt needs is further punitive loans and a cut in income; inevitably the stabilisation plan has been a disaster, missing just about all its original targets. . . . What, then, is the point of the fresh bailout ? The answer is rescuing international bondholders and buying time for banks. Jean-Claude Trichet, the ECB president – an unelected bureaucrat – has imposed his will on Angela Merkel, Europe's most powerful politician. In 2015 Greece will be bankrupt but its debt will be held overwhelmingly by public lenders: the EU, ECB and IMF. When default comes, the banks will be out of it and Europe's taxpayers will bear the burden." More here.

So Greek exit is just a question of how and when, then. Meanwhile, the (acting) head of the IMF has instructed the EU politicos to at least cobble some sort of unified act together. Other than deciding to postpone decisions until a later meeting.

I'm fascinated by the Iranian rolling news channel, Press TV. After George Galloway, it was again no surprise to see Ken Livingstone in the studio this evening. In fact, they were there together, discussing press freedom in Iran. Or, rather, as this would make for a very short program, chatting about the lack of press freedom in the West. And the persecution of Press TV. An odd conclusion giving the fact that it's broadcasting its US-obsessed garbage 24 hours a day. The hilarious highlight came when George and Ken expressed shared astonishment that people could regard Press TV as a mouthpiece of the Iranian government. God forbid anyone could have come to this outrageous conclusion! I suspect these two are nowhere near as inane as they seem. They are not, in other words, useful idiots but have merely worked out how to plough a very lucrative furrow, without a care for what the rest of us think about them. It's a job I suppose.

My water bill includes a fixed amount called the cuota and, on top of this, my actual usage. So, why do I mention this? Well, because I'm convinced this is what's going to happen with my new Vodafone XS6 account. And this despite the fact I've  been assured four times that it won't. During my last visit, I gave the girl three examples of usage and asked her to tell me what the bill would be. In no case did the cuota figure. But, just in case it does, I recorded the conversation - with all its denials and the assurances - and so I'll be well armed if and when I have to go to El Consumo to justify non-payment of my bills. Suspicious . . . Moi??

I'm getting good at tackling my neighbours about the things that trouble me. Or, in tonight's case, the chica who cleans Ester and Jacobo's house. As I was giving my car its bi-annual wash, she drove up and parked right in the middle of a large gap, thus denying parking space both in front and behind her car. So I politely asked her to put it closer to one of the others as this would leave a space and someone - possibly me - would not have to walk a couple of hundred metres to find a space. She was just as polite in agreeing to this but it was pretty clear from her initial reaction that the thought had never, ever occurred to her. As I suspected.

Well, the Asian restaurant at the bottom of the hill may well go under even earlier than I anticipated from the outset. In my mailbox today there was a flier which not only promoted the place and stressed the (false) price reduction but also provided a 10% discount voucher. Having been there last Friday, I gauge the seating at several hundred. Against the four of us who were actually eating there. I do hope it doesn't actually close before my I take my elder daughter and her partner there tomorrow night!

Talking of mailboxes - Yesterday, when I was out, the postman tried to deliver an urgent package from the UK. Normal mail takes 2-3 days but this had taken 8. Plus the (bizarre) compulsory 24 hours before I'm allowed to pick it up at the Post Office as I was out when the postman called. I guess the delay arises from additional paperwork in Spain. Always fatal to speed. And often productive of error. By the way, in the Post Office today, I had to sign the sort of electrical pad used in Mercadona. Impressively up-to-date. But I still also had to sign and date the piece of paper left by the postman. Why?

El Mundo has performed the public service of telling us about the quality of all the milk products on the Spanish market. Click here for this.

Finally . . . If you want to  know all - and I do mean "all" - about the Kingdom of Galicia, click here, while noting that it may not be totally accurate.

Finally, finally . . . Another fast car from the streets of Pontevedra. Possibly as it came out of the factory and so not un tuning.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Here's the Mayor of London with his response to yesterday's question of how long the pathetic Greek saga can continue. Or tragedy as Boris-the-Classics-scholar inevitably calls it:- "We are all still kidding ourselves that the moment of reversal can be avoided. All the other governments of Europe, including, alas, the Coalition, are pretending that Greece can remain in the euro. If only the EU finance ministers can just have a bit more lunch in Brussels; if only Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel can hammer out another plan to reschedule the Greek debt. All it would take, say the European elites, is for the government of George Papandreou to discover a crazed Thatcherite zeal that inspires them to sell every Greek asset from the Port of Piraeus to Olympic Airways to the remaining marbles of the Parthenon. The Greek debt crisis is deepening and there are only two options. We could continue down the road we are on, in which the euro shambles becomes an invisible and surreptitious engine for the creation of an economic government of Europe.  . . . The trouble is that there is just no democratic mandate for anything of the kind. As Angela Merkel is constantly obliged to point out, the German people would never have supported joining the euro if they had been told that they would become the guarantors of the debts of Greece. The Greeks would never have gone into the euro if they thought it meant the complete surrender of their economic independence and the destruction of their standards of living.  . . . For years, European governments have been saying that it would be insane and inconceivable for a country to leave the euro. But this second option is now all but inevitable, and the sooner it happens the better. We have had the hamartia - the tragic flaw in the system that allowed high-spending countries to free ride on low interest rates. We have had the hubris - the belief the good times would never end. We have had nemesis - disaster. We now need the anagnorisis - the moment of recognition that Greece would be better off in a state of Byronic liberation, forging a new economic identity with a New Drachma. Then there will be catharsis, the experience of purgation and relief."

Politics has long known as the art of the possible. So, when will Europe's leaders (and reader Moscow?) come out and admit they were overambitious, stop pissing against the wind and accept reality? So that they can save at least the honest/sensible core of the EU dream. What will it really matter if this means a two - or even three - speed Europe for the foreseeable future? Will anyone care if this means a crashing of the gravy train for some in Brussels whose jobs will have no justification?

Anyway . . . . As it says on the can, some random thoughts:-
o Not too surprised to see George Galloway (Jorge el Gilipolla in these parts) on Iranian TV.
o Amused to see horsemen in Lugo's Roman Fiesta lopping the tops off GERMAN cucumbers at speed.
o The number of tents in our Indignados' camp is down to 22. All zipped up and silent at 10am this morning. Tiring work, revolting.
o One of the poorest places in Galicia is said to be A Lama in Pontevedra province. Possibly because most of its inhabitants reside in the huge prison there.
o The richest place is said to be Oleiros, near La Coruña. I rather doubt it. Drug dealers don't by and large make tax submissions.
o "Con Faldas y A Lo Loco" - Typical Spanish butchering of the original film title - "Some Like it Hot". Why?
o On the N550 from Pontevdra to Os Anxeles/Los Angeles near Santiago, the speed limit changes on average every 400 yards, or c. 366m. Sometimes very irrationally and confusingly. Great fines potential.
o There is a surprising number of physiotherapy clinics along this road. Why?
o And a (new?) ozone-therapy place in Pontevedra.
o You can tell summer's about to arrive by the increasing frequency with which you have to rip fliers for summer courses off your windscreen.
o The folk who were recently arrested for dynamiting fish say they're rather surprised to be copped because they've been doing it for 20 years. Who can blame them? For being surprised, I mean. I blame it on the EU.
o Camino numbers to the end of May this year were lower than last year's (Holy Year) total but still the second highest ever. Next year's should show another rise, stimulated by the film "The Way".
o New book, by (Catholic) Christopher Howse - "A Pilgrim in Spain" - "A book whose myriad eccentricities mirror those of the Spain it celebrates."
o Celta Vigo didn't make promotion to the Segunda A. But they fared better than Deportiva La Coruña and Pontevedra, who both went down.
o It's official. As I predicted, the Savoy Café in the main square won't be open by the end of spring. And nor will the new book-café a few yards away from it. No one will be surprised.
o However sociable, affable and/or noble the Spanish can be, they'll always be considered rude by other nationalities until they learn to respect other people's space and their right to peace and quiet at, say, 1am in the morning. Whether this is in the house next door, a hotel or a pilgrims' hostel on one of the caminos. And until they stop reacting to comments like this with "This is our country. If you don't like how we behave, piss off."
o I've withdrawn my invitation to Amy Winehouse to sing in my home. Enough is enough.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Well the doomed euro has been saved yet again. In the words of the current favoured phrase, by "kicking the can even further along the road". Or, if you like, by typically British muddling through. Along with a Canute-like ordering of the tide to halt. Canute, of course, knew this was impossible and wanted his sycophantic nobles to face up to reality. We don't know what the European leaders really think about the expedients they regularly have recourse to. In a word, how long can this go on before Greece defaults and/or is persuaded to leave the EU so it can devalue its currency and pay for its financial crimes itself? And will the whole pathetic saga end with 'more Europe' but for a (much?) smaller EU?

Meanwhile, one of the advantages of
France24's low spend on global news is that it's forced to have (cheap) studio discussions. One of these last week was on what Greece was doing to get itself out of its hole. Or not doing, to be more accurate. The panel members were scathing about the Greek government's total failure to implement commitments on privatisation made over a year ago. Again I ask, How long can this go on? Mrs Merkel may be willing, at the last moment, to back off her tough demands but how long will the German taxpayer be prepared to finance a dysfunctional Greece? Or Ireland, Portugal and/or even Spain? And how long will it be before the social picture is the same in the latter three countries as it currently is in Greece? And what will the politicians say and do if and when it is?

This is an article by Will Hutton which asks the same How Long? question as me but comes up with an answer. Or at least a proposal - "The alternative [to Armageddon] is to cut a grand bargain and to do so fast. Global finance has to accept it has responsibilities, not usurious claims that must always be met in full whatever the pain. Greece's creditors must accept write-downs and write-offs of their loans. In return, they should be allowed to swap their lending into new financial assets that they can freely buy and sell. The same deal needs to be extended to Portugal, Ireland and Spain. The funding would be financed by the EU, IMF and Germany – along with Britain, the US and even the Bric countries. The Greek government would rescind the worst of its spending cuts, but stay in the euro while its rules, too, were reformed. The risk of disaster would be averted." Maybe but can anyone see the politicians putting this deal together?

If you want an example of how duplicitous politicians can be, you need look no further than the issue of a national health service in the UK. I've been meaning to write for a while about how amazing it is for a Brit to read an editorial in a left-of-centre paper (
El País) which not only accepts as a reality differential levels of care around the country but also calls for co-payments by patients. Embracing these in the UK would cost all MPs their seats. And yet, as a columnist writes in today's Daily Telegraph about the UK's NHS- "Yes, it's true: everybody knows – and has known for quite a long time – what needs to be done. And almost nobody is prepared to tell it straight. Even though many voters know it, too, and would almost certainly be ready to accept that their own instincts were sound if a political leader enunciated them with the kind of unblinking conviction that inspires confidence. It is not just passion or demagoguery that is called for here, but fearless, trenchant argument. Why cave in the face of vested interests who caricature your health policies as an 'American-style market free-for-all' when you could make it clear that there is an alternative European model of mixed public and private provision that delivers better outcomes than the NHS? Why not make the case that our rationed state-monopoly health care is out of step with more competitive and patient-centred systems in countries such as Sweden, Germany and Denmark? Why not talk to the country in the honest way that you talk to each other and to your trusted confidantes?" If you are intrigued as to what the answer to this might be, click here.

Back down on the micro scale here in Spain, an editorial in today's
El País's Business Section says there'll continue to be fear about Spanish debt until such times as the regions come clean and show what they've got. Which sounds about right. Presumably the silence means transparency's not going to be in everybody's interest. Either that or they've got no accounts.

Anyway, that's quite enough serious stuff. Tomorrow is another day.

Postscript: Since I wrote all this, I've read an article with an alternative solution - "A 
single European currency encourages trade and investment across frontiers, and thus growth. But countries with inflexible, badly run economies should never have been allowed to join the euro. The sooner the eurozone shrinks, the sooner it will stabilise." See here for more on this "right-of centre" view. Which endorses my own comment that the politicians are never going to get a rescue act together - "There are two reasons for pessimism about the eurozone. One is the bickering and dilatoriness of Europe’s leaders. The euro is like a patient on a sick-bed, surrounded by doctors who do not agree on the nature of the malady or the medicine required to cure it. Leaders have failed to convince markets that they know what they are doing. The second is the growth of eurosceptic sentiment across the EU. In 'peripheral' countries there is increasing opposition to further spending cuts, given the meagre prospects of a return to growth. In core countries such as Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, there is growing hostility to further bailouts. So even if the doctors find the remedy, parliaments in northern and southern Europe may spurn it."

So, better a sub-optimal option than one which exists only in theory.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

In my desperate attempt to find some counter-Crisis news to bring you, I've identified another three shops that have opened recently:-
1. A delicatessan. Little passing traffic. Must fail.
2. A seamtress. Joins lots of others.
3. A party shop. Franchise. Great location. Should succeed, if only because it's managed by my lovely neighbour, Ester.

Another trip to Vodafone today, to ask again about the 6 euros cuota, before signing up to the XS6 service. This time I was told it's not relevant because 'it's something internal to Vodafone'. But an hour later I noticed this sentence in small print at the bottom of the ads in today's papers- "Cuota 7.08€/mes con consumo minimo de 10.62€/mes (cuota computada)". Suspecting this endorses my suspicion that your actual spend will be added to the cuota, I went down to the shop this evening (armed again with my digital recorder), only to find it wasn't open. So, I'll be there first thing Monday morning to ask what my bill will be in three different cases. One day I'll get to the truth. Let's hope it's before I need to go to the Consumo again.

Talking of truth  . . . At the Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) celebrations in Poio yesterday, the chap who gave the opening address asserted that anyone who denied the great navigator came from these parts either knew nothing about him or was 'lying like a Genoan'. Anyway, the fiesta continues tonight and tomorrow night and will be a long-standing tradition by, say, 2018.

Talking of 2018, I think this is my forecast for the start-up of the AVE high speed train between Galicia and Madrid. Against this, the 'hybrid' train which will eventually run on the tracks is being tested here. If this is an attempt to convince us the original deadline of 2012 will be met, then it's giving us all a good laugh.

My good friend Alfred B Mittington is very averse to the bullfight. I believe this is because he finds totally unacceptable any cruelty to animals inflicted for the gratuitous pleasure of man. Against this, he smokes quite heavily. Yes, dear reader, this means that he thinks more of dumb animals than he does of his very clever self. Which is to be admired, I guess. But I imagine he'll have a view on this . . .

I bemoan the absence of consumer-orientated sites here in Spain. But, of course, there's always the other extreme - too much information. Here's a UK observer on this . . .  "Once the consumer’s mantra was 'That’ll do nicely'; now it is 'Go compare'. To blithely sign your child up to the nearest school is now a dereliction of duty: you must scour league tables and Ofsted reports. Buying anything from a fridge to a holiday begins with a dreary online price comparison or scrolling through recommendations on TripAdvisor, however partisan and planted by hotel owners they might be. Armed with a range of opinion and amorphous mass of data we believe our internal consumer jury can cogitate and decide.  . . .  Adam succumbed to the apple of knowledge; we can’t resist the AppleMac." Least of all me.

There was another anniversary celebrated today - that of the 1809 Battle of Pontesampaio, when Galician forces, assisted by the British navy, defeated the French a few miles outside Pontevedra. The battle features in my friend Peter's superb book, The Treasure Hunter of Santiago. Which you can and should buy on Amazon. Hurry. Only 2 left in stock. If you're too late to get the book, you can find a relevant extract here. In the 4th Appendix.

Finally . . . Gentlemen, Do not be tempted to buy Lord disposable blades. They may be cheap (8 cents each) but they're useless and won't even give you a single good shave, never mind the 3 or 4 (or possibly 8) I wring out of a Wilkinson or Gillette blade. Incidentally, I was going to heap ordure on Carrefour for selling this tat but I was saddened to see them on sale in Mercadona too this week. So, I won't.

Finally, finally . . . Some amusing news.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It seems rather ironic to me that the CEO of the new bank resulting from the merger of Galicia's two Caixas (Novacaixagalicia) is called Castellano. I  feel he should at least have been made to change it to Castelano (or even Castelao) as a prerequisite of getting the job.

Still on local matters. . . La Crisis is now hitting our annual fiesta in August. The bullfights in particular. Instead of the usual four, this year we'll be having only three real corridas and one novillada. The latter involves only young (i. e. cheap) bulls. So I might put my own name down for a round or two.

Walking past the Indignantes' (shrinking) camp on our Alameda today, I noticed they have a water standpipe and that electricity is wired into the HQ tent. Wonder who's paying for these.

And still on Galicia . .  . The Xunta is reported to be planning to curb civil servants' phone bills. Wonder why they never did this before. And they're also planning to make teachers (or at least those called maestros) work another four hours a week. It's not yet Greece but things are travelling in the same direction.

Finally on Galicia, I often say that Spain's multitudinous (and very visible) brothels besmirch the country's image. This dreadful news from Lugo will help to explain why. In a word, I refuse to accede to the widespread Spanish male view that these are just places of fun where the girls enjoy what they do.

Well, the 10% price reduction at the new Asian restaurant at the bottom of the hill turned out to be a deceit. They no longer include a drink in the price. And, as all drinks cost more than the 10% reduction, you end up paying more than before it was introduced. Clever, these Chinese.

Incidentally, reader CafeMark. has supplied the ten commandments of Chinese business. I will now check them to see what, if anything, is said about price reductions.

And reader Sierra has supplied evidence that hearse racing certainly does take place. In the USA of course.

This allows me to end with the old joke about the hearse that lost its load as it was going up a steep hill and the back door opened. The contents raced down the slope and crashed through the window of a pharmacy. As they came to rest, the pharmacist was alarmed to see the lid open and the incumbent sit up and ask "Have you got anything to stop this coughin'."

Thank-you and goodnight.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unmistakable signs of tough times:-
1. One of the Chinese shops ('bazaars') in the city is closing,
2. The Somali umbrella seller tried to rip me off twice this warning. Firstly, by selling me a broken brolly and then substituting another broken one for the good one I'd chosen.
3. All the brollies he was selling were second hand. Presumably either stolen or bought from cafés and bars where they've been left. As I did with mine yesterday.
And
4. The phone shops now only have one person behind the counter instead of the customary two that allowed them to chat to each other while you were waiting for attention.

Which is a nice link into the inaugural lunch of the Rías Bajas chapter of the Anglo Galician Association (the AGA). Apart from costing me my umbrella, this was a great success. In so far as we were able to put in some serious eating and drinking. The next meeting will get down to the trivia of what we want to do as an association. And how we're going to do it. Anyone interested in knowing more can contact me via the button above. Especially if they've got some ideas . . . By the way, 'Anglo' denotes that the proceedings are all in English, not that the AGA is confined to Anglo nationalities. It's open to all with an interest in Galicia.

Which reminds me . . . I've formed another association recently and, again, indications of interest are welcome. This is VOGA - the Victims Of Gallegas Association. Which is pretty self-explanatory, I think. In time, we may go nationwide with this. In which case, it'd have to become the VOEA. Which doesn't trip off the tongue quite as well. Perhaps if I exchanged 'Españolas' for 'Brujas', to form the VOBA. But the real problem would surely be that, if we opened this to all nationalities, membership could run into the millions. Perhaps we'll just start with the Galician version, the Victims Of Bruxas Association. Vamos a ver.

In the UK, it's illegal to put on the hazard lights of a stationary car. Here in Spain it's virtually obligatory. What they signify is that the vehicle isn't doing what it looks like it's doing - causing the traffic to slowly slalom along the street, blocking the traffic entirely, or parking on a zebra crossing, for example. In fact, the basic understanding to which we're all expected to subscribe (including the police and the car-pounder) is that the vehicle simply isn't where it looks like it is. And, truth to tell, the drivers normally get away with it and nobody complains. The police certainly drive past the cars as if they didn't exist, raising their popularity among the locals, I suppose.

Accidental discoveries are regularly made in Pontevedra. The most recent of these is a stretch of the medieval walls near the basilica of Santa María. As pictured here.



The council is - very slowly - restoring these. But it's not clear if they'll go as far as to rebuild the tower that used to stand above a gate at this point. Let's hope so.

Finally . . . I asked three companies to quote for both a small and a large-tree cutting challenge up at my house in the hills. The first two quotes came very quickly and the third arrived last night. And here they are, in euros:-
Smaller job
1. 225
2. 350
3. 600
Larger job
1. 350
2. 900
3. 1000 (Yes, virtually three times the lowest quote).

So, a no-brainer. The best quote came from the guy who charges 25 euros an hour. Which, as a few readers pointed out, is relatively cheap. Let's hope he doesn't fall and cause problems because he's got no insurance. Of course, if he kills himself, I'll just bury him behind the house. Under a new patio.

Finally, finally . . .  Somebody sent me this list of things to know about satellite dishes. May be useful.

Finally, finally, finally . . .  Here's a web page which may or may not provide at least some info on how money is raised and spent in Galicia. And here's another which might just prove useful to someone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

So, Belgium still doesn't have a government, twelve months after elections there. Which is a world record. And a good model for the EU, I guess.

Driving - slowly of course - behind a hearse today I couldn't help but notice that It was a Mercedes equipped with a turbo booster. Is there any conceivable reason why a hearse would need this? Do they race the things?

Talking of questions . . . I asked a friend of mine who's the senior partner in a major accountancy firm in Vigo how I could get a handle on the Pontevedra municipal and provincial accounts. The essence of his reply? You can't. So I'll never know how the public works are being financed, I guess.

I predicted a few weeks ago that the new (and pretty good) Asian restaurant in the mall at the bottom of the hill would not survive. I certainly hope it does but the big sign today announcing a 10% price cut is not, in my book, a good omen. As I said back then, I'd better patronise the place as often as I can before they give up the ghost. If this does happen, it'll be a major blow for the Game Café next door, which has slot machines and a DIY roulette table. And which, more to the point, is inevitably popular with the Chinese waiters. And also with me, as it's the first wi-fi café in the complex.

At the alternative Vodofone shop this morning, I was treated to the sight of the Sales woman leafing through file after after paper file in search of details of the account of the young woman in front of me. After ten minutes of this, she asked the latter for details of her identity document and then spent five more minutes on the computer and the phone in another vain search for the details. Finally, she gave the classic Spanish pronouncement that the customer should come back another day, when she hoped she'd have what was needed. Despite all the high tech phoneware on display, I felt I was back in the nineteenth century. But, anyway, I did finally get the chance to ask about the 6 euro cuota in the new XS6 package, due out on 18 June. "It's included in the 9 euros minimum", I was told. " So what is the point of it?", I asked. " I don't know", she honestly responded.  My latest theory, then, is that this cuota will rise over time until it's (well) over the 9 euros minimum. A semi-hidden price increase, in other words - in line with the Telefónica catch-'em-and-screw-'em policy of gradually attaching a price to all the free elements you initially got with their land line service.

Finally . . .  Here's a cautionary tale from reader Midnight Golfer. Worth reading by anyone with a computer:-

My desktop computer, up until this week, had been a little Mac Mini. It seemed I had just barely finished setting up, with my desk and monitors and everything, in preparation to being able to work from my new home here in Madrid, after having moved from Málaga...


And Pow! Pow! Two lightning strikes within a minute of each other, right near my new home. The first one caused my backup battery system to work as designed, in order to give me enough time to turn everything off and shut everything down, and switch to my laptop. However, it did still sends sparks flying out the wall panel circuit breaker, burnt out the garage door motor, and left a very strange metallic smell in the air everywhere, even outside the building.


As I was waiting for the computer to shut down, and I had already (thankfully) unplugged the monitors, the second bolt hit, and fried the TV receiver, the ADSL modem, the landline phone, the desktop computer itself, the power inverter for charging the laptop battery, and a USB+Firewire hub, and went backwards through the backup battery system, ruining this as well.


I now know to unplug everything first, and isolate the batteries from everything else, including the aerial antennae, the phone line, and not just the line (mains) power. 


At least the hard drive is okay, And I've still got a little old Powerbook G4 laptop, but it isn't compatible with a lot of what I need for work, and the battery's almost dead, so... the iPhone it is.


I just wish I'd got my renter's insurance up to date before using the computer in an electric storm. 


All be warned: Pay your insurance. Unplug your phone and antennae, and power. And ground your masts, while you're at it. Also, if you have a three year warranty on your hardware, including a three year warranty on your battery back up system, and it's been over three years since you purchased said hardware... You're 'living' on borrowed time anyways. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Whenever I meet readers of my blog, they invariably ask me the same question - How is Nice-but-Noisy Tony? Well, there's bad news and very bad news. He's still alive and shouting. And he hasn't been to sea since very early in the year. Worse, he claims not to know when he will go to sea again. So, he may well be out of work. Thus, the 'balance' I once had in my life - six weeks at sea, six weeks at home bawling - has gone from my life. And I am the poorer for it.

We have Nationalist movement here in Galicia. A terrorist movement even. This week the Resistencia Galega set off a bomb in the offices of the right-of-centre PP party in the town of Ordes. Fortunately, no one was injured. But it was a near thing for two workmen who'd walked past the offices a few seconds earlier. Imbeciles. The bombers, of course. Not the workmen.

Which sort of reminds me . . . I walked past a meeting of the Indignantes this evening and numbers were well down on a week or two ago. Can't see the camp lasting much longer.

I do not like shopping at Carrefour. At least, not here in Spain; France may be a different prospect. There are a number of reasons for this but one of the main ones is that, whenever you want to know where something is, there's never anyone to ask. The contrast with Mercadona is astonishing. So, no wonder the latter is gaining market share.

Talking of customer service . . . I've managed to find a site which compares mobile phone operators, at least at a superficial level. Hope it helps someone.

Here's an insight into the murky world of Spanish football.

And here's a nice article on the sexualisation of kids in the UK and the hypocrisy of the tabloid press there. An easy target really.

And here's vital news for those who have to give a speech or take any sort of decision. Which just about covers most of us, I think.

Finally . . .  Do cars regularly drive into the sea along other Spanish coasts? I ask because this is a regular occurrence here in Galicia, the latest incidence being this week in Vigo. Perhaps it's connected with the bizarre local practice of not putting on one's lights, however dark it is.

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