Saturday, October 31, 2015

Catalan Corruption; Kids; Our gypsies; Ruling the world; & Funny ads.

CATALAN CORRUPTION: Rumour has it that the €40m I cited yesterday in respect of the Pujol clan could rise to as much as €900m. But it is only rumour.

KIDS: Bertrand Russell was of the opinion that 'To tell a child not to make a noise is a form of cruelty producing in him exasperation leading to grave moral faults'. Must have spent some time in Spain.

OUR GYPSIES: The shoot-out last week involved our big clan with the 'Zamorans'. But it turns out these were last in that city at least 75 years ago. Since then they've been here, fighting for some of the market trading and generally losing out. Even being exiled at one stage. Which helps to explain why they tried, but failed, to take out the 'Prince' of our truly local gitanos last week. And are now said to be living in abject terror. Understandably, armed police are now patrolling the markets.

RULING THE WORLD: See the article at the end of this post for the views of a woman I first thought might be an idiot but whom I finally adjudged to be a genius.

FINALLY . . . Check out the ads of the US company Direct TV. Their campaign against cable TV is hilarious.
http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/directv-get-rid-of-cable-commercials

CORRECTION: I suspected I might have got it wrong . . . The new English school is called 'Ling-ish', not 'Lang-ish'. But 'What is truth?' asked Pilate.

IF I RULED THE WORLD

Joyce Carol Oates

In my kingdom firearms would be rigged so as to fire backward. Even as the avid gun-wielder pulls the trigger he is doing his small part in eradicating a global problem. So too if one is operating a drone—the drone-target would include whoever is giving the orders as well as the operator. Sport and trophy hunting to be allowed but hunters would hunt their prey on the ground, in the animals’ natural habitat, without manufactured firearms or weapons and using just hands, feet, and wits.

Hens, badly mistreated in our world, would be treated with enormous respect and reverence of the kind accorded “sacred cows” in India; the widely varying breeds of hens (and their eggs) would be championed as sports teams are now, with devout fans attired in appropriate clothing.

Where now there is the academic convention of a “gap year” for undergraduates, there will be a “trans-species year” for individuals of all ages during which time they would take up residence in species other than their own. Some, inhabiting animals bred for slaughter, might not return to their previous lives but would ride the jolting truck to slaughter and would not be able to escape the terrible blades that cut into their flesh, nor being hung upside-down and “bled.” However, the experience cannot fail to be educational! Similarly, those who believe that they hate individuals with skin that differs in hue from their own will be required to take up residence inside those skins for at least three months.

Nobel prizes would be awarded for the most astonishing acts of endurance, courage, and ingenuity in animal species. Butterflies, birds, fish that migrate extraordinary distances under the most arduous conditions would be honoured.

In addition, Nobel Domestic Life prizes would be awarded to individuals who have contributed inestimably to our quality of “private life”—homemakers, for instance, who have lived lives of devotion to others; individuals who may not have invented or discovered anything but who are unfailingly kind and generous and who make us smile when we think of them.

Oppenheimer Awards in Science Education would not be named after Robert Oppenheimer, mastermind of the atomic bomb, but for his younger brother Frank, a physicist blacklisted during the McCarthy period who became a pioneer in the development of American science education. Oppenheimer Awards would be given to individuals who promulgate science and humanism in public education and stand up fearlessly to the forces of censorship and intimidation.

As images projected on a screen fade when bright lights are switched on so “God” or “gods” would fade in the light of this global focus on rational, scientific education. Formerly “holy” texts would be reclassified as fantasy fiction and reshelved in libraries. Elegies and laments celebrating the lost deity or deities would be tolerated. For those so psychologically dependent upon the notional “God” that they are permanently unhinged by the loss it will be an acceptable substitute to worship cats, dogs, horses, cows, exotic creatures, constellations, scenic mountain peaks, oddly eroded rock formations and the like.

Identification with the natural world—the “environment”—would be inculcated in all, beginning in infancy. Any leftover nostalgia for God might be evoked here as the environment could be posited as a “sacred, living thing” albeit without a personality or infantile wrathful nature.

A sense of humour would be cultivated in all, especially the opinionated and self-righteous. Individuals would be required to observe themselves in three-way mirrors when pronouncing their most inane and inaccurate convictions. Their remarks will be played back to them; in the most extreme cases the individual will be trussed up like the psychopath Alex in A Clockwork Orange, eyes taped open, made to witness his or her own ranting.

Campaigning in the US presidential election would be limited to one week. Donations would be limited to 50 cents per person or corporation. During the campaign candidates will be televised with electrodes attached to their brains that will reveal if or when they are lying. As candidates speak, parts of their brains will light up indicating degrees of bloviation, obfuscation, prevarication, subterfuge and plain lying. Their scrolled thoughts will appear on screens so viewers know what they are really thinking.

Political problems that are seen as “insoluble” would be solved by a toss of the dice. Any national leader who seeks to declare war will be obliged to send their own family members into battle. Those that refuse to do so would be required to “fight it out” bare-handed in front of howling partisan crowds. As a final command—I would order the discovery of one of the director Stanley Kubrick’s lost masterpieces, which was allegedly filmed in the late 1970s.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Corruption; Words; A funny ad; Our station; & A new kennels.

CORRUPTION: I wish I could tell you which is the most scandalous case garnering the headlines at the moment. Perhaps that of the 'father of Catalan nationhood' and his family. The money in their overseas accounts now stands at c. 40m euros, having started at 3m. But there's plenty of competition for this accolade.

WORDS: Among several things, Tony Blair stands accused of 'granulation' in the context of his recent 'confession' on Iraq. I wish I knew what it means.

A STRANGE AD: I've admitted to having the Russian news channel on as I write my posts. For the last week I've been wondering why a cleaning product is called 'Spanish Gold'. But I finally looked at the ad yesterday and saw it's really 'Vanish Gold'. Talking of strange pronunciation, check out the female voiceover on EuroNews. She has a bizarre view of the stressses in English sentences. EuroNews today reports the arrest of a woman for selling Ukrainian propaganda and of inciting racial hatred there. Moscow is an expert on this, of course. BTW: This item didn't figure on RT News this morning. 

FINALLY  . . . PONTEVEDRA TRAIN STATION: Below is a diagram showing the odd platform numbering I've cited. Also see the new route to the platforms, which takes you past the X-ray machine. Assuming it's operating. But this can easily be avoided by gliding past someone who's exiting. By the way, a sign above this door reads NO PASAR. Someone has decided this is best translated as NO TRESPASSING.

I have no idea why the diagram is upside down. If it is.

FINALLY, FINALLY : . . . Dog and cat owners in Galicia will be pleased to know of a fine new kennels set up recently by the daughter of an English friend - CENTRO KENNELS. Click here for full info. www.centrokennels.com

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Sp. Economy; Sp. Politics; Our local economy; & Local services

THE SPANISH ECONOMY: If you can't access this link to a FT article, the text is at the end of this post.http://m.ft.com/cms/s/3/716be3d2-7bc8-11e5-98fb-5a6d4728f74e.html

SPANISH POLITICS: The always-unimpressive President Rajoy, playing to his neo-fascist gallery, insists the Catalans won't achieve any of their goals because he's going to hit them with every political and legal weapon in his armoury. Stand by for a change of tone if he's still president in January.EUROPE: How many people recall that, before 1914, yo could travel around Europe without a passport? And that there was a currency zone involving most of the continent? How many of ever knew? A golden age, all achieved without bureaucrats.

OUR LOCAL ECONOMY: Perhaps because this is driven by the (frozen) salaries of civil servants and the invisible drug trade, there are no real signs that the recession has ended. But one booming sector is the teaching of English. The latest operation I've clocked is called LANGU-ISH, a play on 'language' and English, I guess. You can see why they didn't go with LANGUISH.

FINALLY . . . LOCAL SERVICES: The second engineer came to fix my washing machine yesterday. The first one threatened to sue me for coming twice when I was out. When I pointed out he'd ignored my instructions, he retorted that, if they took stock of customer requirements, they'd never get anything done. BTW . . . The engineer found a pencil and a biro in the machine but none of the 12 missing socks.

Confounded by Spain

Martin Sandbu

Perverting the good news

The looming general election has, quite predictably, made Spain a political battleground over the merit of the policies pursued by the sitting centre-right government led by Mariano Rajoy and his People’s Party. But the politics is playing catch-up: for several years, Spain has also been the focus of a battle of economic ideas, about how best to understand the eurozone crisis, the aborted recovery of 2010-11 and the right policies with which to address downturns in a currency union.

The Spanish growth record — which for the past two years has left the eurozone overall in the dust, as the chart above shows — is now being touted by the government and by much of the eurozone establishment, as vindication of their strategy of tough budget consolidation and labour market liberalisation. A long report by the FT’s Madrid bureau chief Tobias Buck explicates the argument (which is not always analytically made — it includes the government’s campaign video featuring a patient going from cardiac arrest to recovery).

The chief components of that story are that reining in deficits brought panic under control, and reforms to push wages down caused the strong performance of exports. There is much that is wrong about this rhetoric, and it fortunately provokes intelligent criticism, most recently in the form of a policy brief by Simon Tilford from the Centre for European Reform. Tilford pokes some well-judged holes in Madrid’s narrative. Among them are to point out that fiscal consolidation can hardly be credited with the recovery, because it was only when austerity eased that growth returned (he could have added that there was also less austerity than had first been promised). Tilford also usefully points out that Spanish job growth, welcome as it is, still leaves unemployment shockingly high. It puts things in proportion to know that the number of jobless falling below 5m is enough to boost Rajoy’s re-election prospects; the unemployment rate remains well above 20 per cent. And as we noted in a Free Lunch in August, the new jobs are exceedingly precarious, as in much of the eurozone.

But while criticism is certainly warranted, there is a strange tendency among the critics of the Spanish story to overdo their naysaying. This was our take on a previous round of comments on Spain’s recovery (by Simon Wren-Lewis and Matthew Klein) this summer. Tilford, too, joins in a sort of admonishment against making too much of the recovery, which they all see as less impressive than some, and worry will not last. And paradoxically, the chief reason for the critics’ concern lies in a piece of diagnosis where they entirely agree with the austerity-and-reform proponents. That point is to attribute Spain’s recovery, such as it is, to “internal devaluation”, that is to say a cut in wages to make exports more “competitive”. The difference is that the Spanish government and its friends (such as the Finnish one) see lower wages as the way to succeed in the euro and celebrate policies to drive wages down; whereas the critics see lower wages as the way to succeed in the euro and lament that fact.

So it is worth restating some crucial facts. Spain’s export growth has little to do with squeezing workers by reducing “economy-wide unit labour costs” (which, in any case, arithmetically reflects a redistribution of national income from labour to capital rather than “competitiveness”). The prices of the goods and services Spain exports have developed roughly in line with the eurozone average and no more “competitively” than in other large eurozone countries. The graph below shows this visually; and our earlier note on Spain referred to more detailed numbers.

The labour cost of producing goods and services in Spain has, in contrast, been more restrained than most other eurozone countries. That, of course, is not enough to show it caused the export boom: other countries have reduced unit labour costs faster without a similar export performance. And even if exporters pay lower wages, it is an open question whether they choose to expand sales as a result or simply pocket the greater profit (the answer will depend on credit conditions and how competitive the relevant product markets are). But in any case, it is important to realise that in Spain’s case the cost reductions have not mostly been achieved by wage restraint. As the graph below shows, a good amount — until 2014, more than half — of Spain’s more efficient unit labour cost evolution relative to the eurozone has come from more output per hour worked, not more repressed wages.

Not that wages haven’t been repressed — they have — but the real lesson Spain shows is surely that significant productivity improvements are possible. Realising this, and prioritising them over wage cuts as a matter of policy, is long overdue.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Kamikazes; EU benefit; Poland?; The RT kettle; & A conundrum.

ZAMIKAZE DRIVERS: These are folk who drive the wrong way down autopistas. Spain seems to have a lot of them. Galicia even more so. One can only guess at the reasons. Since most of them are geriatric, possibly a loss of some marbles. And the fact they've never had to take a driving test.
    
AN EU PLUS: Never let be said I don't write anything positive about the EU. Or at least report it. For here's a laudatory comment from Timothy Garton Ash: "For all its faults, the EU is the world’s most effective exercise in political socialisation. Through those endless meetings, where the new ministers spend more time with their fellow EU ministers than they do with their own families, they discover that the way you advance your national interests in 21st-century Europe is through negotiation and compromise". So there.

POLAND?: In the same article, TGA describes the outgoing Polish government thus: "Orbanisation means that this dominant party abuses that power to undermine the foundations of liberal constitutional democracy. . . For example, it creates an over-mighty executive, co-opts business interests, misuses security services and erodes the independence of courts, the central bank and the media, thus ensuring that the next election is not really free and fair." I'm put in mind of another right-wing administration facing elections . On the tip of my tongue . . .

RUSSIA TODAY: From the people who gave you the green men in the Ukraine . . . "American words about its actions in Syria don't match the facts on the ground".

FINALLY . . . A CONUNDRUM: Can a plant be alive and dead at the same time? I ask this because the bougainvillea I've trained up the back of my house is both shedding old leaves and sprouting new leaves and flowers. To some extent this happens every winter but never to this extent. Down to our Indian Summer?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Sp. economy; The EU; The 500 euro note; Cyclists; & Retraction of a retraction.

THE SPANISH ECONOMY: Here's a 30 year review. Click if you read Spanish. Or are happy with a machine translation.
http://economia.elpais.com/economia/2015/10/21/actualidad/1445445853_063766.html

THE 500 EURO NOTE: This is said to be handy for moving large amounts of black cash. Spain used to be thought to have 25% of all the notes in circulation. Now it's said to 33%. So much for The anti-corruption measures, of the last few years, after the closing of the stable door.

THE EU: 1. An El Pais columnist thinks this has become an engine of destruction in poorer states. Click below this para. In Spanish again. 2. In an article at the end of this post, there's an account of standard Brussels democracy in action, in Portugal. How much longer can this go on?
http://economia.elpais.com/economia/2015/10/20/actualidad/1445349656_572344.html

PONTEVEDRA CYCLISTS: These happy folk are faced with a number of tough decisions: Should I ride on the road or on the pavement/sidewalk? Should I ride fast or slow? Should I keep in a straight line or weave in and out of pedestrians? Should I wear a helmet? Should I have lights at night? If not, should I at least have a reflector at the back? If not, should I ride down the edge of the road or right in the middle of it? In short, should I obey a law which I know isn't policed? LIfe can be hard at times. Especially for pedestrians.

FINALLY . . . LOCAL SERVICE: I take back what I took back last week. The engineer never arrived to fix the washing machine. And when I called the central booking number, the guy put the phone down on me when I asked him to repeat something. Nice.

A MASSIVE MACHINE OF DESTRUCTION

Whether it’s non, nee, nej or oxi, we’ve come to learn that “no” to European projects rarely means “no” once it’s been translated by Brussels. Nations that reject EU treaties in referendums tend to be asked to vote again until the approved answer is achieved. Regrettably, from Ireland to Denmark to Greece, that is what they have done.
I hope the British are pluckier if we vote to leave the EU’s embrace, because the Europhiles will insist another vote is held to ratify the terms of any divorce. “Outers” will probably have to win two referendums, while the integrationists will only need to win one. And, my goodness, can you imagine how Brussels will treat us if we vote to stay? Eurocrats will correctly conclude we huff and puff about the EU’s lack of democracy and its declining competitiveness but ultimately we’ll swallow whatever gruel they dish out to us.
The latest erosion of democracy within the EU has not come in a referendum, however, but in a general election. Earlier this month, Portugal’s ruling conservative party lost its parliamentary majority and a fifth of its voters. The country’s communautaire president has insisted, however, that it continue in office, even though a left-wing bloc that won more than 50 per cent of votes and seats is ready to govern.
Aníbal Cavaco Silva explains that it is his “duty” to stop “anti-European forces” and has vowed to deploy all of his powers “to prevent false signals being sent to financial institutions, investors and markets”.
This is the shrivelled reality of democracy in the eurozone. If voters protest at the euro straitjacket, they are punished. Bailout criteria are tightened. Austerity becomes deeper. That, after all, was Syriza’s ultimate “achievement” in Greece.
While I share President Silva’s concern at the Corbynomics of his country’s left bloc, these democratically elected parties hold the parliamentary balance of power, and the economics of his beloved single currency are just as crazy. Youth unemployment in Portugal is at 30 per cent. In its biggest exodus for 50 years, 500,000 Portuguese have left to find work in countries that aren’t suffering so badly from the eurozone’s one-size-can-never-fit-all interest-rate regime.
Without many of its brightest and best, western Europe’s poorest nation is condemned to remain so. And not just poor but supine, too. The power is not in the parliament in Lisbon but in a central bank in Frankfurt.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cataluña: A modest proposal: Bullfighting; Spain & the EU; & A new Galician facility.

CATALUÑA: The value-for-money Don Quijones says things are getting worse by the minute. Who could disagree? A case study in political incompetence. Details here.
http://wolfstreet.com/2015/10/24/barcelona-threatens-to-print-parrallel-currency-madrid-seethes/
CORRUPTION: Given that most Spaniards accept that all their politicians are corrupt, and that all Spanish politicians seem determined to live up to this expectation, I have a proposal which reflects the widespread belief that the problem is really only one of excess:- Introduce a law under which politicians would be allowed to cream off an index-linked amount - according to seniority - and would only be prosecuted if they exceeded this. I'm sure they'd all abide by this, especially if the max were high enough. Maybe.
BULLFIGHTING: The odds on this surviving into the next century are lengthening, it seems.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/25/bullfighting-spain-national-fiesta-now-divides-its-people
SPAIN & THE EU: Being a member, good. Having the euro, bad. It seems. I'm reminded of the sacking years ago of a British politician who said the euro would be exactly what it's turned out to be - "A German racket". And to think the British government was excoriated for predicting there'd be winners and losers because of the one-straightjacket-fits-all assumption.
http://wolfstreet.com/2015/10/21/ecb-sheds-doubt-on-its-power-euro-stuck-in-limbo/
MY SAMSUNG EARPHONES: I take it all back; wrapping the long lead around your neck really is smart. Provided you put it round the back, not the front, it stops the leads falling to the floor when you take the earpieces out.
FINALLY . . . A NEW FACILITY IN GALICIA: The daughter of an English friend has opened a kennels here. Click here for details:
www.centrokennels.com

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cataluña; Zara; Spanglish; & My funny earphones.

CATALUÑA: The police have swooped on 12 civil servants and businessmen, accused of operating a system of illegal commissions used to fund a secessionist political party. If you think that, ahead of December elections, this is a coincidence of timings, you need to get out more.

ZARA: This store is part of the Galician company Inditex. Founded by a  chap born in neighbouring Asturias, this highly successful operation has, says Forbes, made him the richest man in the world. There aren't many fotos of him. Oddly, he doesn't look happy in any of them.

SPANGLISH: Two new examples? 1. "Los jeggings". Some sort of trousers.? 2. "Tratar". To run, jog, trot?

FINALLY . . . SAMSUNG PHONE EARPIECES : A friend assures me 
this isn't a fault and that one lead is designed to be 3 times longer than the other. To allow you to wrap it around your neck, so you don't have leads hanging down your front. But I'm not convinced. Nor by the suggestion it allows you to let a friend listen at the same time as you as you walk.

I have no idea why this text is centred. Or how to change it. Bloody smartphone. Suspect it has something to do with the foto.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Spanish economy; The EU; Keynes; RT TV; & Galicia.

THE SPANISH ECONOMY: Here's an FT article on this. Sorry if this can't be accessed by everyone.'
http://m.ft.com/cms/s/0/74f9e24e-77de-11e5-933d-efcdc3c11c89.html

THE EU: Here's an article on the possible disintegration of this institution. Something which some of us have been predicting for quite some time now. The author feels the EU needs urgent fixing before it collapses. But this ship might already have sailed.
https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/crises-drive-europe-disintegration-by-philippe-legrain-2015-10

KEYNESIAN VIEWS: This great economist "proposed tecnical experts as a new brand of leader, beyond the clutches of traditional political parties, vote buying and tribal loyalties. These were the new objective leaders who would best manage change now that old notions of statecraft were obsolete. He pictured the patrician civilisation that he valued as under threat from a mob that was massing and surging forward to breach the park gates. But economists offered a new statecraft that might prevent peoples, nations, and continents from sliding into mutiny, decline, violence and waste". This, of course, is the anti-democratic EU model and its rationale. So, one wonders what JKM would think If he were still with us and could assess its track record.

RT TV: Hats off to a chap called Ed Hussein, who yesterday refused to be browbeaten by the RT interviewer into accepting their line that the West is the cause of all Syria's problems. Leaving the latter rather flustered, as she isn't used to being disagreed with. Here's EH's pedigree:-
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Husain

En passant . . . RT has approved of the appointment of Seamus MIlne as Jeremy Corbyn's head of strategy and communication. Normally, this would end his career. But not in these strange times.

FINALLY . . . My neighbour, the lovely Ester, yesterday referred to Galicia as Galifornia, possibly because of the wonderful weather we've had in the last week. Or because we're on the West coast. Ironically, we woke this morning to the Atlantic Blanket. And a lot of rain.

The RC church: The price of bread; Gypsies; & Living/working in Spain.

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: Ahead of the December elections, the left-of-centre PSOE party is promising to laicise the constitution and to diminish the role of the church in education. One can only guess at the frantic rearguard action taking place behind the scenes. And the future exhortations from the pulpits to vote PP.

ELECTRICITY: Since 2008 the price of this here has risen by 30 times more than that of bread, to reach the highest level in the EU. It's now double what it was when La Crisis began.  One wonders why.

GYPSIES: I'm sorry I didn't go to Vigo on Wednesday. For I might have witnessed a shoot-out on the motorway between rival gangs of traders. These are always referred to as a "settling of accounts" and this one was between a local clan and an angry one from Zamora. Call me sceptical but I don't expect any convictions.

WI-FI: Hallelujah! I can now get my contracted 3 megas at certain times of the day. This is 6 times more than what I got from Telefonica but less than 10% of that of my regular bar. BTW . . . Telefonica doubled my speed to a magnificent 1 mega after I told them I was moving to another provider.

FINALLY:

http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/12/17/inenglish/1418816737_691083.html

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Spanish economy: Car cleaning; Banking; Begging; & More RT gems.

THE SPANISH ECONOMY: For those sceptical of the claim that Spain has the fastest growth rate in the EU, here's the article for you.
In case that doesn't work .  . .
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11940977/Why-theres-no-easy-way-out-of-Spains-insurmountable-economic-mess.html

CAR CLEANING: You can't move in the UK without stumbling over an East European outfit eager to valet your car for loose change. Here? Despite Romanians being the top immigrants, there's no sign of any entrepreneurs. Apparently, they seem to prefer to beg. Though it could be the 300 euros tax a month demanded by government whether or not you make a profit.

BANKING: It would be unfair to suggest the takeover of my bank has been smooth and efficient. I made my 4th visit in a week yesterday,  this time to get statements for the last 5 months and to acquire the ability to get stuff on line. On leaving, I was collared by the woman who sat next to me last week, who wanted to complain about, among other things, her business account being transferred to another city.

BEGGING: is there any city in Spain more afflicted by this than Pontevedra? They're even more intrusive now that there  are very few tourists to hassle.

FINALLY: MORE GEMS FROM RT:-
- There's nothing wrong with Russian society but a hell of a lot with US and UK societies.
- The US is hell-bent on expanding its empire.
- Western media isn't free, whereas . . .'
- The US media is controlled by the government and is a tool for achieving US hegemony.
- Russia is doing the right thing in Syria - bombing all 'terrorists' and helping Assad - but no one else is.
- The Russian view that Assad must stay in power is supported by all countries outside the West.
- Russian diplomacy is superb but America's is a disaster.
- The US's year-long bombing campaign has been ineffective whereas Russia's has been a complete success within a matter of days.
- It's a blatant lie that the Russians are bombing civilians in Syria.
- Everyone knows that all western markets and stock exchanges are rigged.

Of course, the one thing we don't get any news on from Russia Today is . . . Russia. One wonders why.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Verbalising; Gypsy crooks; Spanish fun quotient; & The Daily Mail.

VERBALISING: Some reckless fool is going to try to put words to the instrumental Spanish national anthem. The last idiot to try this about ten years ago was suffocated by a tsunami of anger and laughter in equal measure from this fractious country's several constituencies.

GYPSIES: The Royal Academy has finally come to its senses and stopped including 'swindlers' as a synonym for these. I can't recall whether or not they've also desisted from including the pejorative meanings of Gallego/Galician that are current in South America.

FUN: Before the last elections, the governing PP party said it would shift Tuesday holidays to Monday, so there'd be fewer 'bridge ' opportunities, when most people take 4 days off. But they didn't. So it'll be business as usual next year. With Spanish employees having more leisure than in most - all? - other EU countries.

FINALLY . . SEXISM: Private Eye asks whether this isn't the most Daily Mail headline ever: 'Rachel Weiss showcases her English-rose beauty in pretty feminine shoot as she discusses sexism in Hollywood'. Probably.

The Santiago train crash; Word-eating: Words; & Russia Today.

THE 2014 SANTIAGO TRAIN CRASH: The court has confirmed that the only guilty party was the driver and that the lack of an effective safety system is irrelevant. Which must have come as a relief to government and corporate officials, if they ever were worried about being fingered. On the other hand, relatives of the 80 dead are less than impressed or comforted.

WORD-EATING?: I take it all back. I had to phone 3 companies yesterday about repairs and everything went very smoothly. One company sent an engineer straight away and another will send someone this morning. But it's not all good news. My new wi-fi speed is certainly higher than my old one of 0.5 megas but, at 1.0, it's far from the (still low) 3.0 I was promised. And a visit to my bank yesterday was unproductive. Some days are diamonds . . .

WORDS: Anyone with an interest in UK politics will be aware of the popular compound nouns: - 'Hardworkingfamilies' and 'Poorworkingfamilies'? But will they have noticed what I see as the next buzz-word: 'silo'. You heard it here first.

FINALLY .  . . RUSSIA TODAY. As I write this blog every morning, I have the RT TV program on, as an always-entertaining background noise. I've learned a lot from it and here's just a few of the gems, off the top of my head. More may follow:-
- George Galloway is the best commentator on UK politics.
- The West's emphasis on individualism is pernicious.
- Russia is a misunderstood, peaceable country.
- Russia has never invaded any country.
- There are no Russians in the Ukraine.
- it might well be a Russian missile which brought down the Malaysian plane but it was on obsolete model only deployed by the Ukrainian government.
- Jeremy Corbyn is an admirable politician.
- Mr Putin is a very nice chap, with a superior global perspective.

So, what's there to disagree with?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bullfighting; Shopping; The EU; & Smartphones.

BULLFIGHTING: With this minority interest dying as an art form, desperate measures are called for. At least from a right-wing government. So it is that the education ministry is considering the inclusion of the subject in the post-16 curriculum. Only in Spain?

SHOPPING: This is always hit and miss in Spain - for me at least. Especially when so many places have closed. A success rate of 50% is my norm. But I had a new experience yesterday - the key-cutting kiosk was open but there was no one behind the counter. But he turned up just as I was leaving. BTW - The latest shop to close is the one where I used to go for specialist bulbs and fuses. Onwards and downwards.

THE EU: Funny how left-wing parties love the EU when one of its singular achievements has been to make the rich (northern) states richer and the poor (southern) states poorer. I guess it makes sense to someone.

FINALLY . . . SMARTPHONES: Don't you just hate their magnetic qualities? The only solution is to switch them off for long periods, leaving you incommunicado. Which rather defeats their purpose, of course.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Middle East: Debate: JC: & Crushed eggs


THE MIDDLE EAST: For those who want to better understand the ambitions of modern Iran, I recommend Tom Holland's 'In the Shadow of the Sword' - a rivetting read which primarily addresses the origins of the 3 Semitic religions and their overlaps. With many surprises. 

DEBATE : Nice to note the Romans had the same phrase as the ubiquitous Spanish 'Y tu mas' - 'Et tu quoque'. 'You too'. Those emotional Latins, eh?' 

JC: These are the initials shared by Jeremy Corbyn and the (alleged) son of the Christian god. 'Private Eye has obtained the report from 'The Biblical Times' which I've tried to reproduce below for students of the British political scene. 

FINALLY . . . For those interested in 'crushed eggs', the Spanish menu entry was 'Huevos estrellados'.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Spanish: Corruption; A Sp. breakfast; & Gas smells.

THE SPANISH: On the one hand, they live longer than any others in Europe. On the other, they're among the fattest, with an obesity rate of 24% for those over 18. Pick the meat out of that.

CORRUPTION: The photogenic judge, Mercedes Alaya, has been removed from the big ERE case. I, for one, am not sure why but wonder whether it was because she was too aggressive in pursuit of big names.

A SPANISH BREAKFAST: In a cafe in Segovia, I saw a chap pour vodka into his coffee. I was astonished; it's normally brandy.

FINALLY . . . YES, IT DOES HAPPEN: Smelling gas during the night, a Pontevedra resident lit a match to trace the source. Three people are now recovering in hospital. While their flat is rebuilt.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Only in Spain? : SP. Nationality: Queen Leticia: & A foto failure:

ONLY IN SPAIN?: At my bank yesterday , there there were 3 people in front of me. The first took only a few minutes but the second took an age. The next customer, sitting beside me, started to mutter and I noted that the woman at the desk was showing a stack of fotos to the 'adviser'. I was quite relaxed but the woman next in line was quietly furious. She'd already waited an hour, she said, and was not impressed by the lack
consideration being shown to her. Nonetheless, when her turn came, she indulged in quite a bit of social chit chat. Everything's relative, I guess.

SPANISH NATIONALITY: As of yesterday, you'll need more time, effort and money to get this. And even when you've qualified for it, you may have to wait a few years before you're actually given it. My friend, the lovely Lucy, has already been waiting for 2 years and probably won't now get to vote in the December elections. The reason offered is that priority is being given to several thousand Sefardi Jews to whom Spain has offered nationality, in compensation for their exile 500 years ago. Lucy is so incensed that she wrote last week to El Pais. Who have yet to print her complaint.

QUEEN LETICIA: There's a cabal of folk in Spain who detest this beautiful - but over-skinny - lady, for one reason or another.  Indeed, they certainly wouldn't regard her as a lady. Rather, they insist she's more free with her favours than the Roman empress famous for her competition with the city's most prolific whore. It takes all sorts. They even have their own web page and Twitter feed, I believe.

FINALLY . . . ANOTHER FOTO FAILURE: Planning a feature on Las Guapas de Pontevedra, I asked a waitress if I could take her foto but was summarily turned down. So I was wrong about young Spanish women. Or perhaps not. When asking her, I realised she was more muttonish than lambish. Miaow.

Changing Spain: The AVE

CHANGING SPAIN: The rate of change here is not terribly rapid. So it was interesting to read that some supermarkets in Madrid are to be open from 7am to 2am. We should get this here in Galicia in 10 to 15 years' time. 

THE AVE HIGH-SPEED TRAIN: Driving through the mountains of Galicia,  I finally saw some evidence that this mythical beast really is slowing making its way here. Still on track for 2018, I guess. At least a decade late. Meanwhile, it's reported that the AVE will still be losing money in 50 year's time.

POLITICS: Ahead of the December elections, the governing PP party has suffered 2 body blows: The EU has said its pre-election budget is essentially fiction. And the small party with which it will certainly have to seek a coalition has refused to countenance President Rajoy staying in power. In truth, it's hard to believe anybody in the PP actually wants this.

THAT BASILICA : it isn't the first church I've had to pay to get into but it is the first to operate an X-ray machine.

FINALLY: A bit of Spanglish? I saw a sleeveless puffer jacket described as a 'corse'. From 'corset'??

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sic transit gloria mundi

I've just come out of the most depressing place I've ever visited. And I know a lot about depression. I imagine only Auschwitz could have a greater impact on me.

This was the basilica in the Valley of the Fallen outside Madrid. The location of the tomb of the tyrant Franco, which I had the pleasure of walking over. Twice.

This vast, dour memorial to the fascist dead was carved out of the granite mountainside by republican slave labour, who are not even mentioned in the memorials to the glorious dead.

Both its preposterous exterior and interior are reminiscent of every Nazi construction you've ever had the misfortune to see. And the interior tells you everything you need to know about the grim and guilt-ridden relgion in which I was indoctrinated.

There are huge virgins and angels on all sides. Not to mention the several gory representations of an agonized Christ. All offset by a gaudy giftshop on the way out

As i left. I felt I should have been even more angry but my primary temptation was to vomit.

As Franco was Galician, the restaurant next door is naturally called something like 'The Pride of Galicia'. I feel ashamed eating my lunch here

But I plan to sleep in the car and to try to dream of Franco's month--long death agonies. The will of God, you understand. Which, as a good, stupid Catholic, he endured without medical help. Once a fool, always a fool.

The Fiesta Nacional: That basilica: & Columbus.

Monday was a national holiday in Spain - the Fiesta Nacional. I've always thought this was the term used for bullfighting but it seems it also refers to this annual holiday in honour of the Spanish state. Confusing. Unless you think they are the same thing.

There was a 2nd tombstone displaying fresh flowers in the basilica I wrote about yesterday. As it only displayed forenames, I didn't realise it was of an earlier dictator, so I failed to walk over it. BTW - The restaurant is called Viva Galicia. And I should also add there was a baby changing table in the Gents. Nonetheless, my view remains that the whole place - and the huge cross above it - should be blown to smithereens. The fact that this isn't under discussion here says a lot about Spain and the people who run it. Not to mention the residual power of the  (moribund) Catholic Church. Which retains quite a grip on education. Or indoctrination, as many of us prefer to see it.

Finally . . . October 12 was Columbus Day in the USA. Somebody asked whether this meant she could go into any shop she liked and claim ownership of everything.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Yet Another Day

Another indifferent night, being awoken several times by the  sound of high heels on the hard floor of the corridor. The latest at 3.50. And then at 4.50 by the sound of something creaking in my environs. Which can be painful. I begin to wonder whether the hotel is frequented by ladies of the night. Or by transvestites. Which might explain the automatic check-out system.

06.35: Unplug the fridge because of the irritating gurgling sound it's making. Find it has nothing in it except a plastic fork. Read the hotel Rules and note they don't accept responsibility for 'loutish' acts committed in the public car park in front of it. Start to worry about local louts.

06.55: After 10 minutes of pondering the issue, decide that the irritating running water sound isn't coming from either the defrosting fridge or any bathroom but from the bloody rain.

07.00: Give up on sleep and switch on the tiny TV.

08.00: Leaving the room, I'm asked by the cleaner to be quiet. I tell her I'm not disposed to keeping my noise down for the  benefit of revellers who woke me up 3 or 4 hours previously.

09.15 We take one look at the pouring rain and decide to forego further walking in Valladolid and to head for Avila.

11.00: We arrive in Avila ahead of the rain and the tourist hordes.

12.00: They catch us up and join us on the famous walls. We get wet.

12.55: We beat the hordes to our chosen restaurant and dine very well.

16.00: We give thanks to Santa Teresa and depart for Madrid airport, beneath a blazing sun.

18.30: I drop off the rest of the group and head north for a 20 minute  drive to the house of my lovely friends,  Lucy and David.  Where I arrive an hour later. And where I am fed and put to bed in an electric blanket. Just as you would with an old dog in pain. I guess it could be worse

Sunday, October 11, 2015

ANOTHER DAY. . . .

Back into Segovia this morning to visit the Alcazar, the cathedral and the Jewish education centre. TheBack into Segovia this morning to visit the Alcazar, the cathedral and the Jewish education centre. The numbers on the streets are about one tenth of the previous evening. 

On entering the last of these, I'm surprised to see an array of leaflets on that famous Jewish personage, St. Teresa of Avila. Talk about ecumenical. 

The vast underground car park near the aqueduct labels its spaces with a number and a 3 letter word. These include fly, far, gay, ' etc and ddt. Less salubrious, perhaps, are bum and dik.

Then off to Valladolid, where our lunchtime waitress kindly bring us an English menu. But then has to get a Spanish one as she can't tally the English dishes with their Spanish equivalents. BTW . . Does anyone know what 'Saquito de Brick' is? Or what 'crushed eggs are in Spanish?

We go for an evening urban camino and enjoy a small glass of expensive, low quality wine in Plaza mayor. Followed by an attempt - not very successful - to find the tapas dishes the city is famous for. But the buildings and monuments are marvellous.

And so to bed. Tired but happy. Surely the way everyone wants to do it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Day in the Life . . .

07.30: Breakfast of 2 glasses of cafe americano. Am pleased not to be asked if I want milk with these.

Agree with colleagues we don't want  to repeat yesterday's experience of ending up stranded in a tiny village of 30 souls, 28 of whom appear to have gone to meet their maker and 1 of whom - the bar owner - has gone to work in Segovia fot the day. And where there is no hope of getting back to Segovia except by summoning a taxi from there.

 08.45: Set out in my car for Coca, 40km away, to do a circular walk of 17 km.

09.35: Almost reverse into the only other car on the roads when I'm parking the car.

09.45: Breakfast of a shandy and a jamon sandwich.

10.00: Set off on the walk under a blue but cloudy sky and in a temperature which demands a pullover.

10.45: Remove pullover as the the clouds have thinned and the  temperature is now 10 degrees higher.

11.00: Observe that, as yesterday, we are clearly the only 'pilgrims' on this Camino stretch.

11.15: We are nearly run down by a bastard on a bloody bell-less bike.

11.30: Take fotos of 3 buzzards circling above small wildlife or large wilddeath.

11.45: Arrive at irrigated fields of carrots, leeks and spring onions. Argue among ourselves as to how to distinguish between the leaves of the latter two .

11.46: I take a foto of a vast field of carrots. And am sprayed with water as I do so.

12.00: Arrive at our destination. Lunch of 2 shandies and chips with 5 sauces - 2 more than is customary. Although I speak in Spanish several times to the bar owner, he puts up 10 fingers to show the price and asks whether we want a pilgrims' stamp using appropriate hand gestures. I thank him for his kindness, without using my hands.

13.00: We resume the walk and argue about which return path to take. I ask a man with a dog and claim victory.

14.00: I demand a 10 minute break as my legs are aching, possibly because we've walked through quite a lot of sand beneath the ubiquitous pines.

15.00: Arrive at the last 200 metres, a steepish haul up from the river to Coca.

15.10: Collapse at the top of the incline.

15.20: Climb painfully into the car and drive 100 metres to Coca's astonishing Mudejar castle. Finally decide to get out of the car to take fotos.

16.15: Get back to hotel and sink into very hot bath.

17.05: Drive into Segovia, taking not 45 minutes to park this time but a mere 8. Which is stll 60% more than claimed in the hotel brochure.

Spend a very pleasant evening in the city and confirm with a nice policeman that 'my brother' should not have driven through the pedestrian area the previous night.

22.00: Collapse into bed and resolve to get up at 5 to write this post.

Which I did, dear reader.

Segovia

Segovia: Spain is blessed with several superb medieval cities but Segovia is possibly one of the superbiest. But there are one or two rules to observe when first visiting it:
1. Get a street map before you go.
2. Place no reliance whatsoever on your satnav/GPS. They can't cope with the city's one-way system nor with its practice of bollarding off of its streets that you can get into.
3. Go in the cooler months of spring and autumn but avoid 'bridge' weekends, when Spanish tourists take up most of the hotel rooms.
4. Remember that, as elsewhere in Spain, the Turismo office maintains neither Spanish nor normal hours and closes at 6. Or, rather, 5.45 - to allow the employees to leave by 6.


As a result of satnav problems, we took at least 30 minutes to get out of the city on Thursday night and 45 to get into it today from our hotel 8km outside it. And this included a long stretch through what may well have been a pedestrian area down to the aqueduct. Which didn't do much for my popularity.


Finally: A sign inside the bus station: 'TOILETS: We are reforming the bus station. Please, you should surround the building and enter through the front door to access these. '

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Corruption : Spanish nationality : Spanglish: Banking in Spain.

CORRUPTION : President Rajoy has admitted he hasn't done enough to counter this. He also agreed the Pope is a Catholic and that bears defecate in the woods. HT to Private Eye.
SPANISH NATIONALITY: There are said to be two of these: 1. Spanish, and 2. Anti-Spanish.

SPANGLISH: You'll be familiar with food trucks from which you can buy various fare. In Madrid, I'm told, these are increasingly common, in a trend known as 'Madreat'. Geddit?

FINALLY: Having noticed papers piling up on my desk, I decided to check why. They were primarily bank chits for the last 5 months, reflecting the absence of statements for that period - since Banco Pastor took over my bank. Checking with the lovely Ariana, I learned this wasn't because they now only issue  internet statements but because they hadn't got their act together yet. Impressive, eh? No communications on this, of course.


Off to Segovia with friends today, to do a bit of sightseeing and walking. Service may or may not be normal.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

LIFE in Spain : Iran: Doing things in Spain : & Editing

LIFE IN SPAIN: Fed up of being assailed by the people they fail, the country's driving inspectors have gone on strike. Given Spain's low levels of violence, this is a tad surprising. Unless the problem is confined to certain parts of Andalucia. Where people do occasionally shoot each other.

IRAN: I wonder how many people, looking at its ambitions for regional hegemony, realise just how large its empire was before Alexander the Great destroyed it. As with Putin and Russia, of course. If you see what I mean. One can understand, if not sympathise. The Brits next?

DOING THINGS IN SPAIN: Around 2000, John Hooper asked if the Spanish, in the age of the internet would give up their preference for doing things face to face. I have to say that's not my impression. Others may differ, of course, but I still seem to need more time than I should in solving problems.

FINALLY: Reader Q10 kindly provides me with a free editing service. So it is that that I have to confess it wasn't a cartoon in El Pais which lampooned President Rajoy as catatonic but an article below it.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

PP SECTS:As if the governing party didn't have enough problems already - it now looks as if ex president Aznar is setting up either himself or someone else, should there be a disaster in the December general elections THE POPE etc. As I look at the fotos of the Catholic prelates in their silk and gold, gathered for a congress on the family, two qestions leap to mind:- 1. What experience do any of them have of a family? Even the gay ones. 2. If he came back today, would Christ really go in for all that pomp and circumstance? And that,folks, is all for today. My hard disk is defunct, it seems. And I'M struggling to write this on my new phone.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Sp. banks; Easy money; Socialist Workers; Alegal; & A Good Cartoon.

The Spanish Banks: What an easy business this appears to be. Governments are not going to allow you to fail nor do anything about the truly obscene earnings of your top tier. And, when the dust settles after any trouble, you can simply start introducing all sorts of new or massively increased fees without telling anyone about them. Such as double ATM fees on cash withdrawals, one for you and one for the bank the money is being taken from. Or a charge for sending to someone else the money you've paid into the bank over the counter - a 'correspondence' charge, in the days of electronic transfers.

Other Easy Money: The valor catastral is the notional value of you property used, for example, to calculate your IBI or your annual 'rates'/municipal taxes. For a long time these lagged behind the real market value. But the slump of the last 8 years and the ability of local councils to increase both the base number and the percentage they apply to it have rather changed the situation in the last few years. But the proximity of your property's value to that of the market will depend on your local council. Pontevedra is has seen a 34% increase in recent years. Needless to say, this being Spain, no one ever advises you of changes. You just see them in the (small print) text of your bill. Which is obligatorily paid through your bank account. Usually.

The Socialist Workers' Party: This is a group to the (near/far?) left of Labour's new leader, Jeremy Corbyn. As I know from my own experience, if you attend an event they disfavour, the police will have to protect you, as these people claw and spit at you. So, it's a tad ironic that their favourite epithet for those whom they viscerally despise is 'scum'.

Illegal-ish: HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for the news that there's a useful word in Spanish - alegal - which means 'neither legal nor illegal'. Like new houses which have some permits but not all. The dictionary of the Royal Academy defines it as 'Neither prohibited nor permitted. Such as alegal radio stations'. So, there you have it. A useful nuance, I guess. Especially here.

Finally . . . A Nice Cartoon: El País's El Roto yesterday had the simple question: Can anyone wake up the president? A reference to the almost catatonic and seriousluy uninspiring Sr. Rajoy. Of Pontevedra.


Correction; Reader Q10 has asked for the source of my claim that Saudi Arabia has sacked the Spanish consortium building its high-speed train. I may, indeed, have mis-read my scribbled note. They were certainly given a 'final warning' in September but it does look like they haven't yet been given the boot. And may never be given it. Vamos a ver.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Good Sp. News; Bad Sp. News; The Failing EU; Germany; Stupid dog; & Onion Soup.

Good Spanish News:
1. Tourism income continues to soar.
2. Foreigners are again buying properties in the South.
3. The AVE high-speed train is about to reach Asturias, leaving only poor Galicia without a link to Madrid. But never mind, ahead of the general elections, the government guarantees it will arrive within 2 years or so. Just as it did 10 years ago.

Bad Spanish News:
1. Fed up with delays, the Saudi government has finally sacked the Spanish consortium installing their high-speed train system.
2. The central bank says the rate of economic growth is slowing down.
3. The summer seasonal employment hike was not as much as it usually is. Implications?

The Failing EU: Another nice comment: The EU cannot be regarded as a flawed concept for this reason:- The very essence of the single currency was to launch an incomplete construct in the knowledge that the stresses would create political pressures which would drive further integration. This is the mechanism of 'engrenage', at the core of the so-called Monnet Method, relying on the doctrine of the beneficial crisis. The European Union was designed to act in this way. Quite a design fault, then. Under-estimating the frequency, the nature and the size of the crises. But that's what happens when politicians make forecasts. Even of things they keep to themselves.

Germany: A friend there expresses the hope that Germany won't have problems with the huge numbers of refugees invited in by Mrs Merkel. On the one hand, he says, West Germany absorbed many more East Europeans but, on the other, there are already clashes in the camps between groups of Christians and Muslims. And, of course, between Muslims and Muslims. How many radicals, he wonders, are included in the latter two groups. Time, as ever, will tell.

Lhasa Apso: This is a dog breed I had to look up. To discover it not only looks stupid but also ranks as one of the thickest canines you can buy. 68th out of 79. No prizes for knowing that border collies top the list. RIP Ry.

Finally . . . Success in the kitchen: Blessed with a surplus of the things, I made onion soup for the first time yesterday. I didn't use a recipe, so it's rather more like wine-and-vinegar-and-ginger-with-a-hint-of-onion soup. And excellent. Recipe on demand.

Finally . . . Finally: An Update on the Update of the Update: I couldn't get my new smartphone to display my Spanish number on whatsapp, instead of my UK number. So I went back to the shop again. The nice young lady couldn't solve this either. So I resorted to the switch off-switch back on option and uninstalled the app and re-installed it. Success, though I lost all my chats. So, not so smart a phone.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Spain & Cataluña; Syria; The EU; The UK & the EU; Update on How Things Happen; & An Update to the Update.

Spain & Cataluña: What next, after the utterly inconclusive elections of last week-end? Well . . . The [bizarre] separatist alliance will now enter into tough negotiations to form an accord with the Left-wing CUP, a citizens' group that does not want President Mas to lead the separatist movement. "We are going to appoint someone who has nothing to do with spending cuts, privatisations and corruption," said CUP's number two candidate Anna Gabriel Sabate. So, times that are not just interesting but fascinating. From a distance.

Syria: You have to laugh. The Russian defence - on RT TV - to the allegation that they're bombing not just ISIS but also forces rebelling against Assad is to show pictures of the respective forces side by side and to imply: "They all look the same to us". Nowt to do with us, mate.

The EU: This Wolf Street article contains charts which are: A demonstration that the euro doesn’t work for so many diverse economies and political environments and that 'Vulnerable countries' would have been better off sticking to their banana-republic francs, liras, pesos, etc., and that devaluations and defaults by individual countries would have been better overall than the current international taxpayer-funded bailout and 'austerity” circus'. No one can say this wasn't predicted before the (totally political) decision was taken to introduce the euro in 2002.

The EU & The UK: For the first time for as long as anyone can recall, there are more folk in the UK in favour of a Brexit than against it. This surely reflects the recent economic and social failures of the EU and the growing realisation that, firstly, Cameron is never going to get major treaty changes favouring Britain, and, secondly, that it's virtually certain that France will achieve its aim of getting the UK relegated to Associate Status. So, the negatives of membership without a real voice. Then, of course, there's the obviousness of what some of us have always seen as the naked truth, viz. that the EU never will be - because it never could be - a democratic institution. But what a challenge it's going to be to get shut of all those technocrats and bureaucrats who've lived high on the hog for so long. Oil those tumbril wheels, mes frères!

How Thing Happen in Spain: Update.

1. My mobile phone: Well, the gods were with me and the SIM card was installed midday yesterday. Mind you, I then had to wait 18 hours for it to start working. I didn't bother to ask why. Maybe this happens in other countries as well. My thanks to reader Sierra for advising me, just a tad too late, that Europa Network will rapidly complete an application process - for mobile phone, ADSL, wi-fi and UK TV - in English, over the phone and with almost nil paperwork. Great to know!

2. Telefónica: After I told them on Wednesday I'd be cancelling my wi-fi contract, I got a text message yesterday saying they were about to a install fibre network in my building. Even if I'd been dumb enough to be tempted by this ploy, it was too late. I'd signed the contract on Tuesday evening. Just one of those extraordinary coincidences, I suppose.

Finally . . . Update to the Update: I'm able to use whatsapp on my new phone now but my messages show my UK number. I've tried all sorts of things to stop this but I'll be going back to the shop again this morning. As predicted.

Friday, October 02, 2015

How things happen in Spain; & Telefónica/Movistar.

How Thing Happen in Spain: At least to me:-

1. My laptop battery

Five months ago, I decided not to pay Apple in Vigo €150 to change this. Instead, I opted for my local IT shop, which said it'd be €60-70. Since then, I've made between 10 and 20 visits to the shop and I still don't have the battery. Two batteries have been bought and then returned by them because I 'didn't come in soon enough'. This was because - as I'd told them in advance - I was out of town for 2 and 3 weeks on each occasion. Apparently, they didn't take this on board. Or didn't believe me. I now await the 3rd battery - or possibly the same one - fully aware that the shop won't deliver on their promise to call me when it comes in and that I'll have to make several more trips to check. Not helped by the fact they keep rather idiosyncratic hours. Leaving notes on the door to tell us when we might next see them.

2. My mobile phone

Every Spanish resident an ID card. Foreign residents no longer have a card but, instead, an A4 certificate which gives an ID number but not a foto. As a means of (endlessly) proving your identity, it's less than useless. So, you have to use your passport or, if you have one, a driving licence. Some of us have not only a passport and an ID number but also a NIF number (don't ask). In a country famous for the quantity of paperwork (el papeleo) and where human error is hardly unknown and computers stupidly logical, you can imagine the problems than can arise. And that's before you factor in different surname systems. For example, here's what happened in the Yoigo shop when I went there - for the 3rd time - yesterday to terminate my Telefónica (all boo!) contract and to get a SIM for my new smartphone:-
Here's the 'utility bills' you asked for yesterday when you rejected the real bills. Though they're not real bills(facturas), of course; they're bank chits showing payment (justificantes).
That's because we need to see your bank account number.
Well, it would've been useful if you'd said this when I came in 2 days ago.
Anyway, thanks for the chit. Now, is your ID number the same as it was? Because I've been told your ID card expired in 2011
Yes, the number is the same but your government no longer gives ID cards to foreigners. Instead it gives us a certificate with the number on it but no foto.
Do you have it with you?
No. I know it's never accepted as proof of identity. But I have my passport. And here's the 2 contracts I've had with Movistar, where you you can see that Telefónica have always used my passport number, because I didn't have an ID when I first dealt with them in 2000.
Yes, but the problem is Yoigo doesn't accept passport numbers for contracts, though it does for the prepayment option. It only accepts ID numbers for contracts. Is your ID number also mentioned in the Telefónica contract?
No. Do you want to try my NIF number as well?
No, let's start the process with your ID number and see what happens. If you're lucky, Telefónica will accept our instruction to switch to us on the basis of your ID number and you'll be able to operate your phone by this time tomorrow.
Yes, I've always found them to be very cooperative when you're trying to end a contract with them.I'm not sure they even have my ID number in their system, so probably won't accept a YOigo instruction using it.
Well, let's keep our fingers crossed that it's all done by tomorrow. I'll be here until 12.15 tomorrow.
Thanks. See you tomorrow. And possibly the day after too.

Foreign friends/readers: Am I unlucky or does this sort of thing happen to you too? As I regularly say, this is a wonderful country in which to live if you're retired and have a steady income. But I'd really hate to have the challenge of being self-employed here. Many Spaniards take this on, of course, and I take my panama hat off to them. Or I would if I hadn't left it somewhere and if the finder had rung the number on the inside of it.

P. S.: Telefónica just called me on, first, on my mobile and then on my land line. This caused me to have to run upstairs and then downstairs, on an ankle I twisted 2 days ago. A woman wanted to know (at a phenomenal speed) if I was really leaving them and, if so, why. I let her have it with both barrels about the 15 years of excuses for why I could only have a wi-fi speed of around 0.5megas against up to 20 down in town. And I told her I was so utterly fed up with Telefónica I was ending my internet contract with them as well. And then I put the phone down on the poor woman. What a terrible job, having to deal with the millions of us disaffected with this ex-monopoly supplier! Which now calls itself Movistar. As if this helps.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Spanish Politics, 1, 2 and 3; Sp. Internet Access; & A Nice Politician.

Spanish Politics 1: It's not only the majority of voters who are unimpressed by the government of President Rajoy; after the Catalan debacle of the weekend and the first  half of this week, his predecessor in PP power - José María Aznar - has publicly harangued him with ‘Your position is seriously compromised’. "People will be asking" he claims, "why the Party of Government was incapable of leading the Constitutionalist forces in Catalonia?". We all know the answer to that - utter incompetence and rigid dogmatism. Not to mentions a total lack of common sense and diplomatic skills.
 
Spanish Politics 2: As the PP wallows in ignominy, incompetence and corruption, the "centre right' party to watch is now Ciudadanos. This started in Cataluña not so long ago but is now national - in the Madrid, not Catalan, sense of the word. Its rise has been meteoric and it will be fascinating - even to we residents who aren't allowed to vote - to see how the party does in the December general elections.

Spanish Politics 3: Cataluña: Here's the estimable Don Quijones on the Catalan imbroglio. And here's the equally estimable, always readable John Carlin on the same issue. DJ opines The bitter tensions and divisions, both within Catalonia and between Catalonia and Spain, seem set to deepen and widen further, especially with the separatist factions determined to continue with the secession process and Spain’s central government seemingly determined to create judicial martyrs out of Mas and his colleagues. And JC opines: The point now is that the Spanish government has to show some maturity and pragmatism and deal with this issue: the world is as it is, not how we’d like it to be. If for no other reason than political expediency, the starting point has to be respect, which is precisely what Rajoy and company have so conspicuously failed to show over the years. And the result is political chaos in Spain and Catalonia, a chimps’ tea party. Some hope.

Spanish Internet Access: The national average is said to be a download speed of 8.9 Mbps. I had to laugh. For 15 years, mine has never reached even 1Mbps. Which is why I signed an 18m contract yesterday for radio wi-fi which will rocket me up to a (promised) 3 megas! I'll be like a fly in the proverbial. At least for a day or so.

Finally . . . A Nice Politician: I think I'd find it easy to vote for Inés Arrimadas, leader of the successful Ciutadans party. Whatever their policies are. Superficial? Moi??  Which reminds me . . . Someone told me last night that I have a reputation in Pontevedra for being obsessed with women. It's true, I replied. What on earth is there better to be obsessed about? I suspect it was meant to be a criticism.





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