Monday, August 31, 2015

Spain's economy; Franco; Tipping in Spain; Maxing out on kids; La Ultramar; UK trip; & Typos.

Is Spain at the head (cabeza) of the eurozone's economic progress league or is it at the tail (cola)? As El País says, it depends on how you look at things and which criteria you use. Spain manages to achieve both. But that's Economics for you. Guess what the government says.

Chilling . . . Franco continued to sign execution warrants - "without blinking" - until he died. In fact, the repulsive dictator spent his last month or so in agony, believing that this was God's will. It was the only decent thing he ever did.

One thing I tell my visitors is not to over-tip. Here in Spain, 5% is usually enough and 10% is really generous. If you tip Anglo style, you're ruining things for the locals. The latter may go up to 5% but often it's just whatever loose change they have in their pockets and haven't yet given to the multifarious beggars. Like the people in the next table to me, who've left 50c on a @16 drinks session. Or 3%. Of course, this doesn't apply in the tourist ghettoes of the south, where waiting staff have got used to much more.

If you were asked how many kids you think a woman could give birth to during her lifetime, you'd probably come up with 15, which is the average guess. In fact, thanks to multiple births, a Russian woman holds the record of 69. The male record is 867, some Moroccan emperor. Against that, we're all said to be descended from Ghengis Khan. Or was it Tamerlane(Timur)?

This, finally, is my review of La Ultramar restaurant in Tiffintown. They took a while to approve it. Interestingly, if you tot up the Excellent and VG reviews, it's 41. And the Average-Terrible: 34. Pick the eat out of that. I suspect the positive reviewers are more influenced by the single Michelin star than by the eating experience but perhaps I'm too cynical.

For my up-coming trip to the UK, I'm giving the car-sharing operation, BlaBla, a go but am not too optimistic, especially as my dates and route(!) aren't yet clear. Or even my mode of transport. But we're very spontaneous here in Spain. We need to be; we don't like planning or committing.

Finally . . . . Other words I always mis-type:
Girls - Grils
Interesting - Intersting
Birth - Brith

Antidisestablishmentarianism

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Spanish-English Words; Gib again; Celts; A local shooting; Nice nickname; & A major event.

I recently cited 10 (or 11) Spanish words that English might usefully add to its lexicon. As we ponder this, Spanish proceeds apace to add English words to its own vocabulary. 'Packaging' - would you believe - is one I saw yesterday. In a letter to El País last week, a reader listed the following as being both current and unnecessary. I felt for her:
Cool
Feedback
Friendly
Stress
On fire
Feeling
Brainstorming
Spain
Different

The Gibraltar government has accused the the Spanish Foreign Minister - Motormouth Margallo - of not using diplomatic language. This is rather like complaining that fire is hot. It's the nature of the beast. Gibraltar is also unhappy with the mayor of the adjacent Spanish town again referring to drug smuggling via The Rock. Which - given Spain's massive imports of cocaine - does seem a tad fork-tongued. Or at least ironic.

I'm a great admirer of Caitlin Moran, even if she does write for the evil Murdoch's Times. And this was before I found out yesterday that, like me, she has more Celtic blood/genes than anyone here in Galicia plus a Liverpool connection. My grandparents came from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. Hers - via that city, of course - from Ireland. Anyway, at the end of this post is a fine article she's written on migration into the UK. And on Celts.

The ex-drummer of a pop group has been shot dead here in Pontevedra province by the Guardia Civil. Not unusually, their account of how it came about is very different from that of his relatives and neighbours. But the truth will surely win out.

This may well be another challenge for Facebook . . . There's a UK newspaper editor whose staff refer to him as "a cunt in cunt's clothing." About which he's probably very proud. Being a cunt. Note for Spanish readers: This insult means absolutely nothing in Spain, where it's a term of endearment used even for kids. But in the Anglo world (especially the USA) it's even worse than cabrón. This, of course, is 'billy-goat' in English and, in a nice symmetry, is totally anodyne in our world.

Finally . . . There was a Second Coming in Tiffintown early yesterday, as these fotos show. I've informed my Catholic sister. My Jewish sister isn't interested:-


  





Why I’m migrant-friendly

As a Celt – and I don’t want to make you Anglo-Saxons feel bad – we were here first.

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams sketches, with loving detail, one of the minor characters – Mr Prosser, a council worker charged with knocking down Arthur Dent’s house. 

Although Mr Prosser is a classic jobsworth – “fat, forty and shabby” – the unusual thing about him is his ancestry. He is a direct male-line descendant of Genghis Khan, King of the Mongols.

As a consequence, when stressed, Mr Prosser is apt to have visions of houses being consumed by fire and his enemies “running screaming from the blazing ruins, with at least three hefty spears in [their] back”. Mr Prosser, Adams says, “was often bothered by visions like these, and they made him feel very nervous”.

I’ve been thinking about Mr Prosser a lot recently, as the migrant crisis rolls on, and we see the language that’s being used around it. Over the years, one of the most useful rules of thumb I’ve found is that when people talk about other people, they are apt to reveal an enormous amount about themselves.

This is particularly pertinent when talking about people we dislike or fear – when we discuss their presumed motives. When the language gets heated, we talk a little quicker, and the words tend to come not from our minds – measured things, latterly learnt; the correct things; the formal things – but from our bones, instead. From centuries down.

And, so, to migrants. The language used around the crises at Calais and in the Mediterranean has been telling: “Swarms”. “Floods”. “Invasions”. “Economic migrants”. “Endangering our national identity”.

The people using these terms are, fairly consistently, white British – that is to say, of Anglo-Saxon or Norman descent. Perhaps it’s because I am of Celtic descent, but the terms they use to describe migrants isn’t language I would ever use. Partly because my grandparents were migrants – from County Mayo to Liverpool, at the turn of the century – so, you know. I’m migrant-friendly, along with – as a general rule of thumb – my other migrant-descended friends, ie, Jews, Greeks, Sikhs and, in one case, a proud, possibly-too-embedded-in-ancestry.com Huguenot.

But it’s also because, as a Celt – and I don’t want to make you Anglo-Saxons and Normans feel bad – we were here first. Celts were the ones who lived in England before the swarms of Anglo-Saxons and Normans came over – some invading, some as economic migrants – and disrupted our way of life, flooding our towns and endangering our national identity, to the point where we only lived on in areas so wet and remote (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall) the Anglo-Saxons and Normans couldn’t be bothered to deal with the travel, and mildew, and left us alone to be pale and ginger.

Yes, this all happened centuries ago. But I do wonder if, like Mr Prosser, these things are embedded somewhere, deep in the psyches of Anglo-Saxon and Norman Britons. 

When I drive through villages in Suffolk and Surrey – householders tending roses, before strolling to the pub – I wonder if, underneath all this, there is a buried tribal memory of their ancestors coming to claim Surrey and Suffolk. The battles and invasions, the conquering and the taking of a whole country.

It would be weird if there weren’t. We are, after all, taught our history. We all have a sense, somewhere inside us, of how we got to where we are today. And here it comes out in our language, when we see others, across the sea, staring at our country – although these people, ironically, do not wish to invade, or subsume, us. They want to be part of our culture. They want to open a corner shop, or be heart surgeons. They are coming here not to kill us, but so they themselves don’t die. 

And yet, in our language, we ascribe to them the behaviours of our forefathers. Well, yours. Mine were busy heading west, in order to get rained on, then be oppressed.

“Swarms”. That was the biggest one for me. Our prime minister, David Cameron, referring to the migrants as “swarms”. Of course, it’s just one word, and he might have regretted it. But to see someone from a background of immense privilege talking about these traumatised families as “swarming” seemed both a brutal and inadvertently revealing word. 

For I could talk about white public schoolboys “swarming” – cherry-picking jobs in the media, the City, Parliament and business, at the expense of women and the working classes. The figures are there: 48 per cent of Tory MPs privately educated, against 7 per cent of the population; Britain 56th in the world rankings for its proportion of female MPs. Etc. Etc. 

But I would not use the word “swarm”, because then I would be revealing something – that I am a chippy, Celtic, working-class woman – about myself. 

That’s the thing about talking about other people. You end up talking, really, about your darkest self. You are the migrant. You are the swarm. 

Caitlin Moran.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cataluña cash; The national motto; Useful Spanish words?; Train security; Beggars; A nice song; & La Ultramar.

Accusations of political corruption hit the Spanish media headlines yesterday, a short while before the government there holds an election that's really a proxy for independence. A coincidence? I rather doubt it. More likely the Dirty Tricks Department in Madrid has taken a break from Gibraltar and moved to something far more important - calling the kettle black.

Yesterday I saw a T-shirt bearing the Spanish national motto - albeit in English:-
Fuck rules

Talking of Castellano . . . Is there really a Top Ten of Spanish words that English lacks? Well, The Local thinks so. They're:-
Espabilar
Maruja
Estreno
Cachondeo
Pagafantas
Guiri
Autónomo
Trapichear
Empalagar
Desvelado
Entrecejo
You can see what these 10 words mean here. All 11 of them. After which, you might wonder whether Spanish has anything like the word 'barrel-scraping'. Or even 'counting'.

How long before the selfie craze grinds to a halt? Yesterday I saw a couple walking backwards and wielding a stick to take pictures of a friend walking forwards scattering pigeons. Now, if she'd been machine-gunning them, I could have seen the point of this selfie. Which wasn't really a selfie,of course. Just 2 friends taking a video of you. Like they had a camera of their own.

I've wondered(worried?) for years about security on trains. So, last month I was pleased to see that, down at Tiffintown and Vigo stations, they'd introduced X-ray machines and changed access to the platforms so you had to go past them. Less encouraging was the shut-down of the machines the following day. And the fact that you could, anyway, by-pass the changed access and the machines by waiting for someone to exit through the old door and walking through it as they did. I wonder if the event in Paris will lead to a re-think of the re-think.

Beggarly Notes: 1. A newish addition to our catalogue - a woman in her 50s(?) and reasonably well turned out - last night hassled me while licking an ice-cream cone. She could hardly get her words out. I had no such difficulty; 2. The sweaty-shirted bag-man who stands all day in one quarter of our main square can sometimes be seen in another part of town, sitting on a bench and reading a paper he's fished out of a rubbish bin. He was there last night, with 10-15 variably-sized plastic bags of stuff. And reading a mobile phone catalogue. Good times or very bad times, then.

Finally . . . My daughter, Faye, left for Madrid yesterday afternoon. Which was saddening. Then again, three troublesome episodes of my life ended cleanly and happily. As the estimable (but dead) John Denver sang:- Some days are diamonds; some days are stones. And some days are both, of course

Finally, finally. . . . This is Tiffintown's newish, fashionable restaurant, in the environs of our not-so-newish but still ugly Edificio 6(Building 6) of our museum. I will definitely write my review on Tripadvisor later today. Now, in fact.



Friday, August 28, 2015

Angry Bulls; Angry tomatoes; Spanish queues; Product uses; Poor Old/Black Joe again; & A naughty picture?

Letting angry bulls loose to run through your village's streets is not the only daft 'fiesta' celebrated in Spain. Down in the town of Buñol, they have for 70 years now dedicated one day of the year to throwing tons of tomatoes at each other. This year Google tried to film the event from one of its cars and had it vandalised for their sins. Click here, here and here for more on this. If you can bear it.

Talking of the bulls . . . It's reported that 245,000 people from Santiago de Compostela have signed a petition against bullfights. Ironically, Santiago doesn't have any.

Queueing in Spain? Yes, it happens. But it can take odd forms. Here's an article on one of these. Which I've never seen, by the way. Nor my Madrid-based daughter.

Are there technicians' products which you find useful for non-technical challenges? For example:
  • Electricians' white insulating tape: For dealing with the problem of fraying Apple cables - a quality which seems to be built into them.
  • Black electrician's tape: For covering up scratches on my (black) car.
  • Wood glue: For fixing splits in the straw(?) of my panama hat. This goes on white but turns transparent. But may not survive a rain shower.
  • Two-sided adhesive tape: ??????? Didn't work with the Apple cables. Got very dirty and came off easily.
Filling the washing machine last night, I found myself singing the old spiritual Poor Black Joe, as it was called when I learnt it at primary school. I loved the song 'back in the day' but I don't recall shedding a tear then. Perhaps because I wasn't so much closer to crossing over. Anyway, here are the Paul Robeson and Jerry Lee Lewis versions of Poor/Old Black Joe. The plus of the latter is that it makes me tap my feet, as opposed to wiping away the tear drops.

Finally . . . Here's a painting which my elder daughter, Faye, thinks could be of her. In fact, it was done in the early 20th century by the Galician hero, Castelao, whom I mentioned not long ago. In the UK these days he'd probably be arrested if he ever put it on display. Or even if his cleaner saw it in the attic. Or on his computer.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

ID cards; My battery quest; Spanish evictions; Cannabis Clubs; UK immigrants; Flea-market fun; & A new (to me) museum.

Spanish nationals in Spain will soon be able to get a DNI 3.0, the latest electronic version of their ID card. Foreign residents - even those of us from the EU - will remain unable to get even a DNI 1.0. All we have is an A4 green 'certificate' giving our ID(NIE) number. As this lacks a foto, it's useless for anything other than keeping in a draw. To prove identity, we need a passport or a driving licence. Or maybe a library card. Except, that is, for those of us who (wisely but illegally) retained the old laminated card we used to be given, the expiry date of which no one (except a notary) ever checks. I guess it all makes sense to someone.

It was end April when I first started looking at getting a new battery for my Mac laptop. And end July when I ordered one from my local IT shop. Well, it's now end August and I'm still waiting to have one installed. This is partly because the shop sold the first one that arrived, on the grounds that I hadn't gone in to pick it up promptly enough, and partly because I've been waiting 2 weeks for the second one to come in. Or, rather, I'm waiting for them to call me to say it's in. But I'll go to the shop (for the 6th time?) today to see how things stand. I mention this because this sort of - not uncommon - experience contrasts so sharply with the speed and efficiency with which Tiffintown's old quarter is being prepared for our annual Medieval Fair on the first Friday and Saturday of September. But the latter is associated with fun and this often seems to make a big difference here in Spain. As I've said several times.

Here's something saddening on the issue of evictions in Spain, where the law is still decidedly on the side of the rapacious banks which gave mortgages out like sweets to all-comers at the height of the bum

And here's something on the rise of cannabis clubs in Spain. Not to be associated with ordinary clubs, whose neon lights are pink and where activities are more horizontal that vertical.

The numbers of new foreign workers in the UK will be published today. The one that interests us is that of Spanish folk newly inscribed on the social insurance system. This was 54,000 last year, an increase of 19% and a new high. However, Spain has lost its 2nd place (after Romania) to Italy, whence 58,000 job-seekers went to the UK, up by 37%. Their Romanian competitors totalled 152,000. Almost 3 times more than the Spanish. Details here.

Spoiler warning: This story is heart-warming. Down at the flea market last Sunday, I was taking pictures of the rubbish being sold from the floor by the gypsies and Rumanians:-




These compare with the traditional stalls like these:-


Anyway, as I was snapping, a girl of about 5 asked me who I was taking fotos of. 


She had a lovely face, with plate-sized brown eyes and I told her I was just photographing the merchandise. She asked if she could take one and then took this one:-


When I asked her if she'd like a copy the next weekend, her faced beamed with enough light to illuminate the city. So, I'd better get them developed pretty soon, or she's going to be terribly disappointed. Wouldn't it be nice to know I'd given her a life-long love of photography?

Finally . . . My blog friend, Anthea, has discovered the existence of a plaque on Pontevedra station, recording the 100th anniversary of the start-up of The West Galicia Railway Company Ltd. And of the the John Trulock railway museum up in Monforte de Lemos, near Ourense. Must get there one day. More on the museum here and here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Elephants of the colour white; Spain v. Gib.; UK exams; The Blood Donor; & Bloody salad.

During her easy-cheap-money-bum years of 2000-2007, Spain got very good at commissioning vast and, of course, expensive vanity projects. Some of these actually got finished and now lie empty but some were only part-completed. One of the latter was the scheme for the centralisation of all judicial activities in Madrid in a Palace of Justice. This cost €106m and operated for a few years before being closed recently, unfinished. Another scheme was the famous Castellon airport, for which there's never been any obvious rationale. This has lain empty - but manned - for a few years but now it's rumoured Ryanair might start using it - attracted by the appeal to Brits of its alleged proximity to idyllic beaches, numerous spa resorts and golf courses, plus vast, mountainous countryside, remote hideaways, mediaeval castles and other historic monuments. All seen as contributors to the 'very Spanish feel' of Castellón province. But which are possibly already accessible via other, commercially viable, airports.

Well, I asked what next. Here's the latest escalation in the transparent campaign of the PP government to enrage its far-right supporters over the Gib issue. So, what next? Who knows but, meanwhile, there'll be a completely different take on the story in Spain's media today. And these are EU partners, for God's sake. Not Russia and the Ukraine.

Here's an odd story, about a French kid who failed his French AS level exam. It seems to bear out concerns that education in Britain has become over-regimented and too oriented towards box-ticking exam assessment.

Tony Hancock was a brilliant comedian of my earlier years. Perhaps his best - or at least best-known - sketch was The Blood Donor. You can see it here(Part 1) and here(Part 2). What you might not know is that Hancock's drinking was causing problems by this stage of his career. He was drunk when he performed this sketch and he'd also failed to learn his words. He was helped by large cue-cards held behind the camera or the other performers. This explains why he's so often seen looking to the side or into the middle distance. In fact, I think you can see the shadow of the corner of a card when he and the doctor are discussing blood groups. Isn't it odd how, even though you know the exact words that are coming, you still find them funny. Down to the performance, I guess. BTW - the lovely nurse is June Whitfield, who's still going strong, I believe.

Finally . . . I never eat salad - possibly because my mother's idea of this dish was a lettuce leaf and half a raw tomato. To be joined by a dollop of Heinz salad cream, once we were a bit better off. Over the last few years I've enjoyed 2 articles on this subject:- 1. There's a basic principle that salad offends: Food is nicer when it's been cooked; and Why salad is so overrated. You can enjoy them here and here. BTW: I still love salad cream. Stuff mayonaise. Especially Alfie Whittington's.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Education; Dirty money; Galician crap; Vigo; Alternative med.; Jokes; A fashion query; & García Marquez at his best/worst

As elsewhere in the world, education is a political football here in Spain. The last 15 years have produced at least 3 new comprehensive laws, each with its own acronym. I forget the latest one. And now - coincidentally just ahead of the very imminent elections - the PP government has announced it'll be improving the teacher-pupil ratio, increasing grants to those entitled to them and upping the education budget by 11%. The Opposition says it's pure electioneering. Which is quite possibly true.

Meanwhile, looming on the September horizon is a book which threatens to blow the gaffe on the financial shenanigans of the PP party over the last couple of decades. And which might just impact on (tribal) voting intentions. See here for more, if your Spanish is up to it. The Google translation is the worst I've yet seen. So, forget that.

Even today, Galicia is a land which oozes legend and magic[Oh, yes?], and over 2,000 years ago, this was even more the case. In the modern-day[meaning?] province of Ourense, the River Limia was believed by the Celtic [yet again] inhabitants to contain special magical qualities, causing anyone who crossed it to lose their memory. Or their brains, in the case of this nonsense.

On a ranking of clean Spanish hotels, our neighbouring urban competitor, Vigo, came in a close third, with a score of 89%. So, at least it's got something going for it. As well as being an embarkation point for the lovely Atlantic Islands. Which score 100%. Or would, if there were a hotel on them.

Here's an amusing (but worrying) commentary on a meeting of British alternative medicine practitioners, from the ever-useful site, The Quackometer. 

My daughter has an old friend visiting from Oporto. On the drive from the station to the house, she told us that, when she'd last been in the UK, she'd been asked by friends if she wanted to go with them to the spa. Leaping at the chance, she (un)dressed accordingly and then re-met her friends. Looking at her in amazement, they said they'd meant the Spar grocery store. How they laughed!

Talking of amusement . . . This has been adjudged the best joke of the current Edinburgh Festival - Aren't all cars people carriers? Funny people. A 12 year old submitted: They keep telling me to live my dreams but I don't want to be naked in an exam room. Big future, I predict.

Just wondering - Why do people with gashed jeans not tear holes in their shirts as well?

Finally . . . For those with the staying power, here's a single sentence from The Autumn of the Patriarch, by Gabriel García Márquez. Obviously didn't have his grammar check on. Truth to tell, it reminded me of Alfie Mittington's stuff. Boom! Boom! 

All her life Bendición Alvarado would remember those surprises of power and the other more ancient and bitter ones of poverty, but she never brought them back with so much grief as after the death farce when he was wallowing in the fen of prosperity while she went on lamenting to anyone who wanted to listen to her that it was no good being the president’s mama with nothing else in the world but this sad sewing machine, she lamented, looking at him there with his gold-braided hearse, my poor son didn’t have a hole in the ground to fall dead into after all those years of serving his country, lord, it’s not fair, and she did not go on complaining out of habit or disillusionment but because he no longer made her a participant in his shake-ups nor did he hurry over as before to share the best secrets of power with her, and he had changed so much since the times of the marines that to Bendición Alvarado he seemed to be older than she, to have left her behind in time, she heard him stumble over words, his concept of reality became entangled, sometimes he drooled, and she was struck with the compassion that was not a mother’s but a daughter’s when she saw him arrive at the suburban mansion loaded down with packages and desperate to open them all at the same time, he cut the twine with his teeth, broke his fingernails on the hoops before she could get the scissors from her sewing basket, dug everything out from the underbrush of debris with flailing hands as he drowned in his high-flying anxiety, look at all this wonderful stuff, mother, he said, a live mermaid in a fishbowl, a lifesize wind-up angel who flew about the room striking the hour with its bell, a gigantic shell in which the listener didn’t hear the sound of the waves and the sea wind but the strains of the national anthem, what fancy stuff, mother, now you can see how nice it is not to be poor, he said, but she couldn’t feed his enthusiasm and began chewing on the brushes used to paint orioles so her son would not notice that her heart was crumbling with pity thinking back on a past that no one knew as well as she, remembering how hard it had been for him to stay in the chair he was sitting in, but not these days, lord, not these easy times when power was a tangible and unique matter, a little glass ball in the palm of the hand, as he said, but when he was a fugitive shad swimming around without god or law in a neighborhood palace pursued by the voracious swarm of the surviving leaders of the federalist war who had helped overthrow the general-poet Lautaro Muñoz, an enlightened despot whom God keep in His holy glory with his Suetonius missals in Lathi and his forty-two pedigreed horses, and in exchange for their armed help they had taken over the ranches and livestock of the outlawed former owners and had divided the country up into autonomous provinces with the unanswerable argument that this is federalism general, this is what we have shed the blood of our veins for, and they were absolute monarchs in their territories, with their own laws, their personal patriotic holidays, their paper money which they signed themselves, their dress uniforms with sabers encrusted with precious stones and hussar jackets with gold frogs and three-cornered hats with peacock-tail plumes copied from ancient prints of viceroys of the country before them, and they were wild and sentimental, lord, they would come into the presidential palace through the main door, with no one’s permission since the nation belongs to all general, that’s why we’ve sacrified our lives for it, they camped out in the ballroom with their respective harems and the farm animals which they demanded as tribute for peace as they went along everywhere so that they would always have something to eat, they brought along personal escorts of barbarian mercenaries who instead of boots used rags to clothe their feet and who could barely express themselves in Christian tongue but were wise in tricks of dice and ferocious and skilled in the manipulation of weapons of war, so that the house of power was like a gypsy encampment, lord, it had the thick smell of a river at floodtide, the officers of the general staff had taken the furniture of the republic to their ranches, they played dominoes gambling away the privileges of government indifferent to the entreaties of his mother Bendición Alvarado who did not have a moment’s rest trying to sweep up so much fairground garbage, trying to put just one little bit of order into that shipwreck, for she was the only one who had made any attempt to resist the irredeemable debasement of the liberal crusade, only she had tried to drive them out with her broom when she saw the house perverted by those evil-living reprobates who fought over the large chairs of the high command with playing-card altercations, she watched them do sodomite business behind the piano, she watched them shit in the alabaster amphoras even though she told them not to, lord, they weren’t portable toilets they were amphoras recovered from the seas of Pantelleria, but they insisted that they were rich men’s pisspots, lord, it was humanly impossible to stop General Adriano Guzman from attending the diplomatic party celebrating the tenth year of my rise to power, although no one could have imagined what awaited us when he appeared in the ballroom wearing an austere linen uniform chosen especially for the occasion, he came without weapons, just as he had promised me on his word as a soldier, with his escort of escaped French prisoners in civilian clothes and loaded down with goodies from Cayenne which General Adriano Guzman distributed one by one to the wives of ambassadors and ministers after asking permission from their husbands with a bow, for that was what his mercenaries had told him was considered proper in Versailles and so he went through it with the rare genius of a gentleman, and then he sat in a corner of the ballroom with his attention on the dance and nodding his head in approval, very good, he said, these stuck-ups from Europeland dance good, he said, to each his own, he said, so forgotten in his easy chair that only I noticed that one of his aides was filling his glass with champagne after each sip, and as the hours passed he was becoming more tense and flushed than he normally was, he opened a button on his sweat-soaked tunic every time the pressure of a repressed belch came all the way up to eye level, he was moaning with drowsiness, mother, and all of a sudden he got up with difficulty during a pause in the dancing and finally unbuttoned his tunic completely and then his fly and he stood there wide open and staling away on the perfumed décolletages of the ladies of the ambassadors and ministers with his musty old hose of a buzzard’s tool, with his sour war-drunkard’s urine he soaked the muslin laps, the gold brocade bosoms, the ostrich-feather fans, singing impassively in the midst of the panic I’m the gallant swain who waters the roses of your bower, oh lovely rose in bloom, he sang on, with no one daring to control him, not even he, because I knew I had more power than any one of them but much less than two of them plotting together, still unaware that he saw the others just as they were while the others were never able to glimpse the hidden thoughts of the granite old man whose serenity was matched only by his smooth-sailing prudence and his immense disposition for waiting, we saw only his lugubrious eyes, his thin lips, the chaste maiden’s hand which did not even tremble on the hilt of his saber that noon of horror when they came to him with the news general sir that General Narciso Lopez high on green pot and anisette had hauled a cadet of the presidential guard into a toilet and warmed him up as he saw fit with the resources of a wild woman and then obliged him put it all into me, God damn it, that’s an order, everything, my love, even your golden little balls, weeping with pain, weeping with rage, until he found himself vomiting with humiliation on all fours with his head stuck in the fetid vapours of the toilet bowl, and then he lifted the Adonic cadet up into the air and impaled him with a plainsman’s lance onto the springtime tapestry of the audience room like a butterfly and no one dared take him down for three days, poor man, because all he did was keep an eye on his former comrades in arms so that they would not hatch plots but without getting enmeshed in their lives, convinced that they themselves would exterminate each other among themselves before they came to him with the news general sir that members of General Jesucristo Sanchez’s escort had been forced to beat him to death with chairs when he had an attack of rabies that he got from a cat bite, poor man, he scarcely looked up from his domino game when they whispered in his ear the news general sir that General Lotario Sereno had been drowned when his horse had suddenly died under him as he was fording a river, poor man, he barely blinked when they came to him with the news general sir that General Narciso Lopez had shoved a dynamite stick up his ass and blown his guts out over the shame of his unconquerable pederasty, and he said poor man as if he had had nothing to do with those infamous deaths and he issued the same decree of posthumous honours for all, proclaiming them martyrs who had fallen in acts of service and he had them entombed in the national pantheon with magnificent pomp and all on the same level because a nation without heroes is a house without doors, he said, and when there were only six combat generals left in all the land he invited them to celebrate his birthday with a carousal of comrades in the presidential palace, all of them together, lord, even General Jacinto Algarabía who was the darkest and shrewdest, who prided himself on having a son by his own mother and only drank wood alcohol with gunpowder in it, with no one else in the banquet hall like the good old days general, all without weapons like blood brothers but with the men of their escorts crowded into the next room, all loaded down with magnificent gifts for the only one of us who has been able to understand us all, they said, meaning that he was the only one who had learned how to manage them, the only one who had succeeded in getting out of the bowels of his remote lair on the highland plains the legendary General Saturno Santos, a full-blooded Indian, unsure, who always went around like the whore mother that gave me birth with his foot on the ground general sir because we roughnecks can’t breathe unless we feel the earth, he had arrived wrapped in a cape with bright-colored prints of strange animals on it, he came alone, as he always went about, without an escort, preceded by a gloomy aura, with no arms except a cane machete which he refused to take off his belt because it wasn’t a weapon of war but one for work, and as a gift he brought me an eagle trained to fight in men’s wars, and he brought his harp, mother, that sacred instrument whose notes could conjure up storms and hasten the cycles of harvest time and which General Saturno Santos plucked with a skill from his heart that awoke in all of us the nostalgia for the nights of horror of the war, mother, it aroused in us the dog-mange smell of war, it spun around in our souls the war song of the golden boat that will lead us on, they sang it in a chorus with all their heart, mother, I sent myself back from the bridge bathed in tears, they sang, while they ate a turkey stuffed with plums and half a suckling pig and each one drank from his personal bottle, each one his own alcohol, all except him and General Saturno Santos who had never tasted a drop of liquor in all their lives, nor smoked, nor eaten more than what was indispensable for life, in my honour they sang in a chorus the serenade King David sang, with tears they wailed out all the birthday songs that had been sung before Consul Hanemann came to us with the novelty general sir of that phonograph with a horn speaker and its cylinder of happy birthday in English, they sang half-asleep, half-dead from drink, not worrying any more about the taciturn old man who at the stroke of twelve took down the lamp and went to inspect the house before retiring in accordance with his barracis-bred custom and he saw for the last time as he returned on bis way through the banquet hall-the six generals piled together on the floor, he saw them in embrace, inert and placid, under the protection of the five escort groups who kept watch among themselves, because even in sleep and in embrace they were afraid of each other almost as much as each one of them was afraid of him and as he was afraid of two of them in cahoots, and he put the lamp back on the mantel and closed the three locks, the three bolts, the three bars of his bedroom, and lay down on the floor face down, his right arm serving as a pillow at the instant that the foundations of the building shook with the compact explosion of all the escorts’ weapons going off at the same time, one single time, by God, with no intermediate sound, no moan, and again, by God, and that was that, the mess was over, all that was left was a lingering smell of gunpowder in the silence of the world, only he remained safe forever from the anxieties of power as in the first mallow-soft rays of the new day he saw the orderlies on duty sloshing through the swamp of blood in the banquet hall, he saw his mother Bendición Alvarado seized by a dizzy spell of horror as she discovered that the walls oozed blood no matter how hard she scrubbed them with lye and ash, lord, that the rugs kept on giving off blood no matter how much she wrung them out, and all the more blood poured in torrents through corridors and offices the more they worked desperately to wash it out in order to hide the extent of the massacre of the last heirs of our war who according to the official statement had been assassinated by their own maddened escorts and their bodies wrapped in the national flag filled the pantheon of patriots with a funeral worthy of a bishop, for not one single man of the escort had escaped alive from the bloody roundup, not one general, except General Saturno Santos who was armoured by his strings of scapulars and who knew Indian secrets of how to change his form at will, curse him, he could turn into an armadillo or a pond general, he could become thunder, and he knew it was true because his most astute trackers had lost the trail ever since last Christmas, the best-trained jaguar hounds looked for him in the opposite direction, he had seen him in the flesh in the king of spades in his sibyls’ cards, and he was alive, sleeping by day and traveling by night off the beaten track on land and water, but he kept leaving a trail of prayers that confused his pursuers’ judgment and tired out the will of his enemies, but he never gave up the search for one instant day and night for years and years until many years later when he saw through the window of the presidential train a crowd of men and women with their children and animals and cooking utensils as he had seen so many times behind the troops in wartime, he saw them parading in the rain carrying their sick in hammocks strung to poles behind a very pale man in a burlap tunic who says he’s a divine messenger general sir, and he slapped his forehead and said to himself there he is, God damn it, and there was General Saturno Santos begging off the charity of the pilgrims with the charms of his unstrung harp, he was miserable and gloomy, with a beat-up felt hat and a poncho in tatters, but even in that pitiful state he was not as easy to kill as he thought for he had decapitated three of his best men with his machete, he had stood up to the fiercest of them with such valor and ability that he ordered the train to stop opposite the cemetery on the plain where the messenger was preaching, and everybody drew apart in a stampede when the men of the presidential guard jumped out of the coach painted with the colours of the flag with their weapons at the ready, no one remained in sight except General Saturno Santos beside his mythical harp with his hand tight on the hilt of his machete, and he seemed fascinated by the sight of the mortal enemy who appeared on the platform of the coach in his denim suit with no insignia, without weapons, older and more remote as if it had been a hundred years since we saw each other general, he looked tired and lonely to me, his skin yellow from liver trouble and his eyes tending toward teariness, but he had the pale glow of a person who was not only master of his power but also the power won from his dead, so I made ready to die without resisting because it seemed useless to him to go against an old man who had come from so far off with no more motives or merits than his barbarous appetite for command, but he showed him the manta-ray palm of his hand and said God bless you, stud, the country deserves you, because it has always known that against an invincible man there is no weapon but friendship, and General Saturno Santos kissed the ground he had trod and asked him the favour of letting me serve you in any way you command general sir while I have the ability in these hands to make my machete sing, and he accepted, agreed, he made him his back-up man but only on the condition that you never get behind me, he made him his accomplice in dominoes and between the two of them they gave a four-handed skinning to many despots in misfortune, he would have him get barefoot into the presidential coach and take him to diplomatic receptions with that jaguar breath that aroused dogs and made ambassadors’ wives dizzy, he had him sleep across the doorsill of his bedroom so as to relieve himself of the fear of sleeping when life became so harsh that he trembled at the idea of finding himself alone among the people of his dreams, he kept him close to his confidence at a distance of ten hands for many years until uric acid squeezed off his skill of making his machete sing and he asked the favour that you kill me yourself general sir so as not to leave someone else the pleasure of killing me when he has no right to, but he ordered him off to die on a good retirement pension and with a medal of gratitude on the byways of the plains where he had been born and he could not repress his tears when General Saturno Santos put aside his shame to tell him choking and weeping so you see general the time comes for the roughest of us studs to turn into fairies, what a damned thing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Adulterers; The EU; Schlepping; Curating; The Galician AVE; & Tiffintown FC.

It's amusing to see that the Ashley Madison adultery site had members from the Vatican, as well as a Christian fundamentalist US reality star. He's admitted he was(is?) a hypocrite and assured us he's sent his apologies to God. Who possibly knew all about it. A British columnist has referred to the site as a 'penile Ponzi scheme' but I'm not sure it falls within this technical term, as newcomers didn't finance dividends for old-comers. As it were.

Olli Rehn was the European Commission’s top economic official at the height of the eurozone crisis. He's now gone on record as saying: "Political paralysis in the eurozone will force the bloc into permanent turmoil unless countries stop 'muddling through' and take responsibility for reforms". Thanks to political rifts between countries within the single currency block, he said, he didn't see it becoming a 'transfer union' where stronger economies paid for weaker ones. Which was totally predictable. See next para. More here.

If you're really into the EU and its shortcomings, here's a brilliant Paul Krugman article on "Europe's Impossible Dream".

The word 'schlep' appeared in an article yesterday and I had to check on the meaning, viz. 'To drag or haul (an object); to walk, esp. to make a tedious journey'. Or 'To carry clumsily or with difficulty. To move slowly or laboriously'. The noun means: 'An arduous journey'. I wasn't surprised to see it came from Yiddish - שלעפּן or shlepn - and is also a German word - schleppen. It's also spelt shlep. Just thought you'd like to know.

Talking of words I've had to look up recently . . . . 'To curate' and 'curation' seem to have become fashionable. The original meaning was to 'To act as curator of; organize and oversee'. But it may have morphed into something else now. Or is just de rigeur if you want to appear hip. Which you aren't if you use the word 'hip', I fear.

Here in Galicia, we're all agog at the Prime Minister's assurance that we certainly will have the AVE high-speed train to Madrid by 2018 - originally 2008, as I recall - but, then, what else is he going to say ahead of general elections?

Finally . . . After 4 years of just failing to do so, Pontevedra FC finally made it to the Segunda B (Second B) Division of the Spanish League for this season. The difference between this and the Segunda Division [A] is that there's only 1 league in the former but 4 leagues in the latter, devised on a largely geographical basis, I think. So, really our club is, at best, in the 3rd Division but possibly the 6th. But who's counting? Incidentally, they lost their first match on Saturday. But they wuz robbed, said the local paper.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

B of B Day; Spanish bank practices; Corruption; Adultery in Spain; Hidden Spain? Only in Spain? & Sainthood?

What a day it must have been . . . 75 summers ago the inhabitants of southern UK witnessed something they'd never seen before and would never see again. Day after day, above their heads, a battle raged that would determine whether Britain would follow the rest of Europe into totalitarian enslavement. For the first time in the island’s history, an existential struggle was fought out in view of large numbers of its citizens. The combat took place over city streets, fields and orchards. Those below had only to look up to see an unprecedented spectacle: huge formations of German bombers and escorts crawling across the sky while the RAF’s fighters swirled around them, scribbling chalky contrails in the blue and stitching it with the gold and red of tracer and cannon. They watched with a mixture of fear, excitement and above all admiration for the flyers on whose skill and bravery the fate of the nation so obviously depended. Battle of Britain Day, of course.

Back to modern struggles . . . Our friend Don Quijones writes, to no great surprise, I guess: Since the financial sectors of Southern Europe and Ireland hit the rocks during the height of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, many of their respective banks have grown dependent on the generosity of the ECB – a generosity that, as Greece recently learned to its great cost, has its limits. In the last 3 years, the banks of Europe’s biggest bailed out economy, Spain, have received ultra-low interest loans from the ECB worth some €140bn. To obtain this, the banks are required by law to deposit collateral with the ECB. However, Germany’s leading business and financial newspaper now reveals that some Spanish banks have received special treatment from Spain’s central bank, some of whose officials have shown no qualms about bending the rules. The German bank has learned that Spain's central bank repeatedly stretched ECB rules. It approved securities as collateral that were not sufficiently creditworthy. More here.

Corruption: I cited an El Mundo article the other day. The one I meant to link to was the one (in Spanish) at the end of this post: Red Lines in the Struggle Against Fiscal Fraud. Try Google Translate, if necessary.

Less seriously, one of Spain's cities is amongst the most adulterous in the world, according to the records of the Ashley Madison agency. It has 4 times as many, proportionally, as London. Click here if you want to know which city of this (allegedly) Catholic culture it is.

Even less seriously . . . The Local promised us 7 Spanish habits foreigners would never be as good at, and then gave us 6:-
  • Straight talking
  • Tanning
  • Swearing
  • Eating lunch
  • Chatting quietly at the top of your voice
  • Taking summer holidays.

More detail on each here.


Finally . . . I was cooking a curry last night and went to take the jar of cardamom pods from the spice cupboard. And then it was that this fell and scattered 143 of the things over the hob, the cupboard surfaces and the floor. But not a single one of them landed in the pan simmering on the cooker. I'm writing to the Vatican to claim a miracle. St. Colin of Poio. It has nice ring about it. No? As I typed this, someone on the BBC News, talking about strange forenames, said "If you really want your child to stand out, call him something like Colin". Another miracle! I rest my case.


Líneas rojas en la lucha contra el fraude fiscal

Hemos asistido recientemente, con estupefacción, al espectáculo provocado por ciertos casos relacionados con la famosa lista de 705 personas -el número exacto varía en función de la fuente consultada- que se acogieron a la regularización tributaria extraordinaria en 2012 (vulgo, amnistía fiscal). Dado que dicha nómina de contribuyentes es objeto de especial escudriño por parte de la Agencia Tributaria, y una vez reposado el polvo del estruendo mediático y político, toca ahora reflexionar con cierta distancia acerca de las consecuencias, implicaciones y recorrido del celebérrimo modelo 720 como ariete en la lucha contra el fraude fiscal.

Dicho modelo -sin duda la estrella de la amplia gama de formularios y declaraciones fiscales que acechan al contribuyente- no es otra cosa que la declaración que todos los residentes fiscales en España deben hacer con carácter anual para informar a Hacienda de los bienes y derechos que tengan en el extranjero. No es, por tanto, una declaración que sirva de base para ingresar cuota alguna en el Tesoro, dado que su finalidad es meramente informativa y no recaudatoria (al menos, con carácter inmediato).

"Quien se acogiera a la amnistía fiscal de 2012, lo haría a un coste atractivo; quien no, atuviérase a las consecuencias"

A estas alturas de la cuestión son bien conocidas las apocalípticas consecuencias que aguardan a quien incumpla esta obligación, es decir, a quien no presente el modelo 720 o lo haga fuera de plazo. Las más impactantes: la liquidación como ganancia injustificada de patrimonio de los bienes situados en el extranjero, la imposición de una sanción del 150% sobre la cuota resultante -con algún controvertido matiz técnico- y, finalmente, la imposibilidad de alegar el origen prescrito de tales bienes.

La gravedad de las consecuencias del incumplimiento es de tal magnitud que la Comisión Europea ha abierto una investigación y todo indica que propondrá la incoación de un procedimiento de infracción al Estado español.

En primer lugar, la Comisión razona que la sanción del 150% podría resultar desproporcionada en relación con infracciones similares de las normas internas españolas relativas al Impuesto sobre la Renta. Y, en segundo término, entiende que, por lo que respecta a la imposibilidad de probar la adquisición de los bienes en un ejercicio prescrito, la normativa española podría infringir el Derecho de la Unión Europea (UE) en lo que se refiere a los bienes situados en la UE y que estén sujetos a cierto grado de intercambio de información.

La batería de medidas fiscales que el Gobierno promulgó a raíz de la amnistía fiscal de 2012 tuvo un marcado carácter de ley de punto final, esto es, de última oportunidad para regularizar las cuentas con la Agencia Tributaria. Quien se acogiera, lo haría a un coste atractivo; quien no, atuviérase a las consecuencias, porque caerían sobre él las 10 plagas de Egipto, reducidas finalmente a tres (ganancia injustificada, sanción del 150% e imprescriptibilidad). Fueron, en suma, un conjunto de normas bienintencionadas enmarcadas en la lucha contra el fraude fiscal, dictadas al calor de un procedimiento de regularización extraordinario que supuso un enorme coste político para el actual Gobierno (nótese la vigencia de la teoría del palo y la zanahoria), pero que ha cruzado ciertas líneas rojas que, desde un punto de vista jurídico -el único que aguanta con cierta dignidad los inevitables vaivenes políticos-, son de obligada observancia.

Hace tiempo que España dejó de ser una isla -políticamente hablando-, pero desde su incorporación a la UE y consecuente asunción del acervo comunitario también dejó de ser una ínsula jurídica. Se produjo, por tanto, una cesión unilateral de soberanía que exige la adecuación de la legislación nacional al Tratado de Funcionamiento de la UE y a las prácticas y criterios que lo interpretan. Que ahora la Comisión Europea cuestione estas normas (con sólidos indicios de infracción por parte del Estado español) no es en absoluto una buena noticia. ¿No sería más prudente redactar las normas -en particular las fiscales- con un ojo puesto en Bruselas, que en la práctica viene funcionando como una instancia supranacional, como afortunadamente ya se hace con la Constitución? No parece que sea la actitud de moda entre nuestros legisladores.

"Obtiene un mejor trato fiscal el contribuyente incurso en delito fiscal que el mero infractor administrativo"

Se dirá, con razón, que el control ejercido por Bruselas -que acaso desemboque en una anulación de la norma- responde al funcionamiento normal de las instituciones y, en consecuencia, a qué rasgarse farisaicamente las vestiduras; más bien -se añadirá con lógica aplastante- cabría felicitarse por el engrasado funcionamiento y correcto engarce entre las instancias nacionales y comunitarias como un síntoma de normalidad jurídica. Cierto. Pero no parece sensato perder de vista los evidentes costes jurídicos, sociales y de reputación (el daño al principal intangible del país, la marca España) que las condenas de la UE acarrean, y que se podrían evitar con un mínimo de celo. Primera línea roja.

Si algo caracteriza jurídicamente a España es que se trata de un estado extremadamente garantista. Y aunque suene extravagante, también lo es -¿o más bien lo era?- en materia tributaria. La tendencia se inicia en 1998 con la disruptiva Ley de Derechos y Garantías de los Contribuyentes, y se consolidó en años posteriores con la Ley General Tributaria y sus retoques sucesivos. ¿Dónde quedan ahora las garantías del contribuyente frente al ius puniendi del Estado, en caso de no presentación o presentación tardía del modelo 720? Ya no puede invocarse la prescripción -entendida ésta como un límite a la facultad sancionadora del Estado-, y por tanto el infractor se verá eternamente expuesto a la capacidad punitiva de la Administración. En otras palabras, una infracción administrativa -es esencial resaltar esto- que no prescribe. Debe ser que esta conducta del contribuyente reviste especial gravedad y merece el más duro de los reproches, máxime si se compara con los delitos más abyectos de nuestro Código Penal (los de sangre) que, como es bien sabido, sí prescriben. Segunda línea roja.

Y, por último, la tercera línea roja, como una ramificación de la anterior.

Toda legislación debe respetar un principio elemental: la coherencia. Dicho concepto se traduce en variadísimas facetas, pero quizá la más relevante consista en la prohibición de incurrir en contradicciones. Las normas, por definición y sentido común, han de ser claras, simples y desde luego han de ofrecer soluciones congruentes. No caben, por tanto, escenarios absurdos e ilógicos. Y es aquí donde el modelo 720 y normativa circundante presentan la peor cara: se llega a conclusiones aberrantes. De tal modo que obtiene un mejor trato fiscal el contribuyente incurso en delito fiscal (más de 120.000 euros de cuota defraudada), quien podrá invocar en sede penal la prescripción del crimen -amparado en el propio Código Penal-, que el mero infractor administrativo (menos de 120.000 euros de cuota defraudada) quien, privado de las garantías que da el Código Penal, no podrá alegar la prescripción de su infracción y quedará expuesto al castigo ad perpetuam. ¿Es éste un escenario deseable?

En definitiva, no todo vale en la lucha contra el fraude fiscal. Los límites -creemos- son nítidos: los principios generales del Derecho y las garantías constitucionales que, por otra parte, no son sino la expresión de las normas básicas de convivencia que en su día este país adoptó. Traspasar alguna frontera consolidada puede resultar rentable a corto plazo, pero tendrá nefastas consecuencias a la larga. La víctima, esa sospechosa habitual: la seguridad jurídica.

Juan Alberto Urrengoechea Salazar

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Spanish plumes; Spain's gems; British benefits; Short tails; Tiffintown sons; The Ultramar; & Dubious honours.

Bloody 'ell. The latest threat to the UK is a 'Spanish plume". This is a weather pattern in which a plume of warm air moves from the Iberian plateau or the Sahara to northwest Europe giving rise to severe storms. At its worst this can bring in its wake extremely high temperatures and intense rainfall, with potential for flash flooding, damaging hail storms and tornado formation.

This is The Local's list of the Spain's tourism gems, or "Spain's 4 best-kept travel secrets". Enjoy. But no need to visit the Galician entries. We have enough visitors already.

What a strange benefit of colonisation - British TV is full of truly beautiful Asian news and weather-casters. They make an almost-old man very happy.

Did you know that evolution means we all have a tail in the womb? It normally disappears after a few months but people are occasionally born with tails that need to be surgically removed. Up to 30cm long and with hair and bones. The rest of us have 3 vestigial bones at the coccyx.

Here are what Google Images/Duckduckgo give you if you search for two of Tiffintown's famous sons - Miguel Quiroga and Castelao. Both are featured, of course, in our (ugly)new museum-cum-gallery building, attractively called "The 6th Building. Click this link for more on Castelao. He was prominent in the development of Galician nationalism, inter alia. One of the people you wish you'd known. And, boy,could he draw! It's worth visiting the eyesore just to see the top floor dedicated to him. And Quiroga.

Incidentally, there's a new and fashionable restaraurant in the grounds of this building. It's called La Ultramar and I'll be posting my (unfavourable) review of it tomorrow.

Finally . . . My favourite waiter in my favourite bar wants to set up his own place, just along the street where a house is for sale. Fine, but he wants my advice. Oh, dear. Better news is that this bar now officially serves Tortilla Colin - tortilla with potatoes, onions and ginger. What an honour.

Note: It's taken me ages to get rid of extraneous html instructions in this post. So, you'd better bloodywell enjoy it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Spain's RC church; Corruption; Gib again; Drugs; Insults; Car scratching; New beggar?; & Interesting facts.

Two of Spain's bishops have declared the Pope's Cultural Adviser a heretic. If you know anything of the (unreformed) Catholic Church in Spain, you won't be at all surprised by this.

Corruption in Spain: Here's an El Mundo article (in Spanish) for those who don't yet know just how pervasive this is in this (otherwise) wonderful country. It's about alleged corruption in the body (el CNMV) which monitors the stock exchange. This once again raises the age-old question: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who guards the guards?

Have there been any articles on Gibraltar in the UK press recently? I ask this because El País yesterday had a front-page item on the place, ostensibly on the current use of tunnels below The Rock. The sub-text was that this is where they protect the data of those who use this disgraceful 'fiscal paradise', which would be cleaned up(!) if Spain ran it. Roll on the general elections, after which this nonsense will surely stop.

Yet another drug bust in Galicia. Nay, in nearby Vigo. Of a Pontevedra family of well-known local narcotraficos. Two yachts were intercepted before they could offload in one of our numerous coves and huge quantities of cocaine were taken into police storage. From where, of course, some of the stuff has been known to get go astray.

Reading about the gross insults being exchanged between members of the British Labour party around the election of their next (semi)-leader, I noted that 'Tory scum' is still a favourite of the far left. I say 'still' as it was more than 20 years ago that I had to run the gauntlet of members of the Socialist Workers' Party (Trotskyists?) who were insulting and spitting at invitees to a dinner with the Minister of Health. If it hadn't been for a corridor for us created by the police and crowd barriers, I suspect we'd have been torn to pieces. A nice way to create a better world.

Is there a car in my street which doesn't have all 4 corners scratched? No, there isn't. One of them even has yellow paint marks on each corner, testifying to a wall of that colour. And a lousy driver, I guess. This is all very annoying when your car is new, especially when the scratches are caused not by you but by people scraping you as they leave a parking space. But you get used to it. And then you start to sympathise with the inconsiderate bastards who leave their cars a metre in front of and behind other cars. Almost.

I thought I saw a new type of beggar in Tiffintown yesterday, to add to our varied ranks of these - A smartly (if sexily) dressed young blonde woman, with a bag on each arm, moving from table to table. But not mine, as it happened. So, I asked the couple next to me what she was asking for. It turned out she was hawking bracelets of some sort. Probably Rumanian then.

Finally . . . Learnt from a podcast this morning:-
  • Cats are lactose intolerant.
  • A gene from algae is transplanted to the retina of the blind to restore their sight.
  • The animal eyes which are best for a full transplant to humans are those of the . . . . shark.

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