Friday, March 16, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 16.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • Damn my lazy brain. I knew Isabel Preysler wasn't Isabel Presley but I still typed the latter. And missed it at least 5 times.
  • For those who can read Spanish, here (HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas) is an article on the urgent problems in the Spanish economy which Brussels has asked Madrid to do something about. Translation below for everyone else. It makes for rather gloomy reading, justifying some pessimism about Spain's future after the Brussels taps are turned off. Or if tourism turns down, as Ryanair is predicting it will, as it resurfaces in other locations.
  • Don Quijones again addresses here the problems of Italian banks. And the implications for some Spanish banks. There's arisen, he says, a dangerous relationship of mutual dependence between governments and banks. Which is not good news for taxpayers, who always seem to foot whatever huge bills come down the track.
Life in Spain
  • My experience of the flashing amber lights for drivers at pedestrian crossings is that drivers will always stop if the pedestrian light is green. But, when it's red:-
  1. Most drivers won't stop for a pedestrian at the side of the road
  2. A few will stop
  3. A larger number will stop – though still a minority – if the pedestrian is standing on an island in the middle of the road.
Draw your own conclusions. And take your own risks.
  • It's easy to get on a Law course at a Spanish university, as the required Selectividad marks tend to be very low. So, the country is awash with abogados. And, of course, not all are competent, or even honest. Click here , if you want to know how to complain about one, for any reason.
  • I mentioned the dreadful Modelo 720 recently. Here's all you need to know about it.
The EU
  • Ambrose Evans Pritchard claims that: Europe’s political uprising is shifting to a second front. Once-silent intellectuals are starting to challenge the core assumption of EU ideology, indicting the project for moral vandalism and a reckless attack on the democratic nation state. There's been, he says, a shift in intellectual opinion. With the result that: The drive for ever closer union already seems an anachronism, yet monetary union cannot function without such union. AEP cites a professor who thinks it's theoretically possible for the EU to become a super-nation with the attributes of a state but that - Utopian or not - this goal isn't desired by the crushing majority of Europe. Like me – and I believe Don Quijones and Alfie Mittington, bless him – AEP would go further and characterise this goal as completely deranged. IOHO.
The UK
  • No sooner do I mention that Anglo lawyers have high status and make very good money than along comes a survey confirming this for the UK. Doctors might make more on graduation but lawyers overtake them as regards pay progression. Students of law came out best on this measure with median salaries ten years after graduation being a third higher than salaries five years after graduation.
  • There's a report in today's media about the Guardia Civil collaring a gang of Spanish and Portuguese drug traffickers. I was astonished to read they were down in Extremadura, not here in Galicia.
  • Which reminds me . . . The first chapters of Fariña are a great intro into how the smuggling industry arose and diversified here. At one stage – after economic fortunes had reversed – the commodity smugglers turned to the even-more-profitable game of bringing Portuguese folk into Spain. Through a border region which, back then, officially belonged to neither Spain nor Portugal.
  • BTW . . . I was able to read these chapters while waiting for over an hour to see my (private) doctor. I was, of course, the only person reading in a crowded waiting room.
  • After my complaints about Línea Directa, this is a bit embarrassing, in a couple of ways. Having never made a car insurance claim in the UK, I'm unversed in the workings of comprehensive(all risks) policies. I had assumed that accidents which were my own fault were not covered. But, incited by my neighbour Ester, I called the company and found that they are, and so they will pay €4,000 to repair the front of my car, after I'd driven (slowly but expensively) into a granite bollard. All that admitted, it was all done over the phone. No good writing to them in any form. Of course, my premium will rise, though not for the policy renewable in 2 weeks' time. Because the computer has already dictated what it will be for 2018/9. Computer says No. In my favour for now.
Today's Laugh

Courtey of Private Eye. Too good to ignore:-


The 10 most urgent problems Brussels sees in the Spanish economy: Juan Sanhermelando

The high level of public and private debt and the high unemployment rate are the main vulnerabilities.

Despite four consecutive years of solid growth, Spain remains vulnerable to a sudden change in market sentiment or a rise in interest rates due to high unemployment and public and private debt. This is the main conclusion of the European Commission's comprehensive annual diagnosis of the state of the Spanish economy. The report also warns that Spain will be one of the EU countries where pensions will fall the most in the coming years, which puts at risk the standard of living of retirees.

Brussels criticises the paralysis of Mariano Rajoy's government. Since 2014, little action has been taken to meet the EU's recommendations and correct economic imbalances. "The current minority government seems to concentrate its political capital on a few strategic issues and to avoid reversing previous reforms," the report said. The EU executive asks Rajoy to take advantage of the recovery and reactivate the reform drive to correct the problems of the Spanish economy before the next crisis.

1. High unemployment and abuse of temporary contracts

The unemployment rate continues to fall rapidly but is still the second highest in the EU (16.3%), behind only Greece. Unemployment particularly affects young people (36%), with the resulting potential for untapped talent. Almost half of the unemployed in Spain have been out of work for more than a year, which threatens to make the problem chronic. Brussels sees the need for continued wage moderation and warns that the increase in the minimum wage approved for 2017 and 2018 could have"negative effects" on employment, especially for young people and low-skilled workers. The study also criticises the limited effectiveness of public employment services and active employment policies in Spain.

2. The abuse of temporary contracts

The abuse of temporary contracts negatively affects productivity growth and exacerbates income inequality. The temporary employment rate in Spain is 26.8%, one of the highest in the EU. This reduces the incentives for workers and employers to invest in lifelong learning, which in turn hampers productivity. Temporary workers are at greater risk of poverty and accumulate fewer entitlements to social benefits. The Commission believes that the incentives approved by Rajoy to promote fixed contracts have had only 'minor effects'.

3. The ineffectiveness of social assistance

The population at risk of poverty or social exclusion has fallen from 28.6% in 2015 to 27.9% in 2016, but remains above the pre-crisis level and above the EU average. The risk of poverty is particularly high among the unemployed or single-wage households, as well as among children. In addition, family support and social benefits, such as regional basic income systems, are characterised in Spain by unequal coverage and low efficiency. "High levels of income inequality, early school leaving and child poverty can adversely affect equal opportunities," the Commission warns.

4. High public debt

After rising sharply during the years of the crisis, public debt in Spain peaked in 2014 at just over 100% of GDP, 65 points higher than in 2007. According to the latest forecasts from Brussels, it will now fall from 98.4% in 2017 to 95.5% in 2019. But without additional adjustments, it will remain at around 95% until at least 2028. Pension reforms ensure the sustainability of the system at the cost of lower benefits, but health expenditure will continue to rise. The Commission calls on the government of Mariano Rajoy to evaluate the effectiveness of all public expenditure strands.

5. Private indebtedness

Private debt reduction continues. It has already fallen 58 points from its 2010 peak to 159.9% of GDP. This has allowed credit to be reactivated, particularly for SMEs and families. However, construction and real estate service companies as well as low-income households or their unemployed members remain heavily indebted and have little capacity to cope with potential shocks, such as rate hikes.

6. Low VAT collection

In 2016, the tax burden in Spain stood at 33.3% of GDP, well below the EU average (38.9%) and the eurozone average (40.1%). Brussels complains in particular that Spain levies much less VAT than it should because it applies reduced or super-reduced rates to a large number of products. A rise in VAT on these items (in particular restaurants and hotels) would increase tax revenues by between 0.2% and 1.4% of GDP. Any negative impact on the low-income population could be offset by social assistance, according to the Commission. Environmental taxes and recurring property taxes are also below the EU average in Spain and therefore have room for improvement.

7. Educational deprivation

University students continue to face difficulties in finding suitable jobs, and both over- and under-qualification (25%) and under-qualification (17%) are widespread in Spain. Although the rate of early school leaving is decreasing, it remains among the highest in the EU (18.3%) and educational outcomes vary widely from one autonomous community to another. Brussels also criticises the use of temporary contracts to recruit teachers and sees insufficient efforts to teach students digital skills.

8. Bureaucratic obstacles to business 

The Commission complains that efforts to improve the business environment have slowed down in recent years. The Market Unity Law has not yet been fully implemented and has been affected by several rulings of the Constitutional Court. Mariano Rajoy's government has also failed to deliver on its promise to liberalise professional services. Regulatory disparities and restrictions that depend on the autonomous communities increase the burdens on companies, reduce the geographical mobility of workers and companies and prevent productivity growth. In contrast, Brussels believes that new public procurement legislation, if properly implemented, can improve the fight against corruption in Spain.

9. Lack of investment in R&D

Public and private investment in research and development in Spain remains very low. Spain spends just 1.19% of GDP on R&D, far short of the 2% target set for 2020. Small and medium-sized enterprises have a low capacity to take up innovation and benefit from digitisation, which also weighs on long-term productivity. Brussels also denounces the lack of coordination between the central government and the autonomous communities in the aid for innovation, as well as the lack of systematic evaluations of its results. Although Spain generates highly qualified researchers, their career prospects and scientific mobility are limited. [So, guess what happens]

10. The investment gap in interconnections

Bottlenecks at Spain's borders prevent closer integration into the EU gas and electricity markets and slow down trade flows in transport. In 2017, Spain's electricity interconnection level was 5.8%, a long way from the European target of 10%. Brussels also warns of the lack of investment in water supply infrastructure.

Colin Davies, Pontevedra, Spain

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 15.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • An editorial in El País says the journal welcomes the decision by the Strasbourg court, and views it as a breath of fresh air in a country that is intent on toughening criminal punishments and undermining freedom of expression. Yes, indeed.
  • Being one of the tribe, it pains me to say lawyers have a much lower status in Spain than in the Anglo world. And much less income. In part, this is because Spain is less litigious but mainly, I suspect, it's because those notoriously bureaucratic civil servants and 18th century relics – the notarios – do much of the stuff normally given to lawyers in the Anglosphere. And are treated as demi-gods as a result. So, what does it mean for Spain that the Prime Minister-cum-President is a notario and 75% of the country's politicians are lawyers who've never done a proper job? Compared with 25% in the USA.
  • Talking of the out-of-time Rajoy . . . Rumour has it that the PP big beasts are manoeuvring/conspiring to get shut off him so as to create an unbeatable right-of-centre fusion of PP and their clothes-stealing newish party, Ciudadanos. The new leader would be the photogenic Rivera, currently leading Ciudadanos in whatever direction he thinks it will garner him votes. This week.
Life in Spain
  • A couple of hours after I posted my comment yesterday on the failure of Línea Directa to show gratitude to a faithful client, the post brought notice of a 'loyalty-rewarding' gift from them. But I still think they're playing at customer service, via a computer. Actual service via emails has deteriorated and communication is now strictly verbal and mainly one way. If I call them - on a premium line – we might just get somewhere. At my expense. Or it would be, if I hadn't discovered a free number.
  • Being more positive . . . I've much enjoyed reading Tim Parfitt's A Load of Bull. Plenty of smiles, titters and quite a few belly laughs. He published it in 2006, about his (often mad) adventures in the Madrid of the late 80s and 90s. But some things haven't changed in 20 years. As far as I can see, there's still an obsession in the media with Isabel Preysler and Ana Óbregon. And lots of corruption. And the crazy Spanish horario, low sleep levels and copious partying. Oddly, there's even a mention of Donald Trump.
  • Something has changed in the White House in recent weeks. The turnover of staff, already dizzying, gathered even more momentum. Many close observers have described Trump as newly unfiltered and unshackled, with fewer and fewer pairs of hands to save him from himself. This has two components. First, more unilateral decision-making by Trump himself. Secondly, personnel. Trump is creating an administration in his own image, not likely to contradict him but rather to provide affirmation. Less a team of rivals than a chorus of praise singers. I wonder if he'll make them back out of the Oval Office, bowing, after seeing him, as the Shah of Iran used to do, before he was deposed.
  • If you want an insight into Moscow's disinformation techniques, click here.
  • Deutsche Bank has come under something of a cloud in recent years. It used to be the partner of the Post Office (Correos) here in Spain but this went south a couple of years ago. Here's an article on the bank's links with Fart and his dubious empire.
Nutters Corner
  • Countless US evangelists have tweeted to express their joy that Stephen Hawking is 'now finding out how the universe really was created'. Some wit has proposed a new statistic - The Stephen Hawking Number: It’s the amount of time between your death and when religious people start announcing on social media that you’re burning in Hell. Lovely people.
  • I should confess that at 5 of the 10 umbrellas I cited yesterday as having been destroyed by the elements were all lost in the first winter I was here – 2000-2001. When it rained and stormed from the end of November to some time in June. Seriously challenging my decision to move here. I spent 3 months of the following winter in Andalucia. Where it rained more than back in Galicia. Much to the amusement of my new-found Galician friends.

  • I'm an ardent fan of ginger and use it whenever I can. But a recipe for peanut noodles and double ginger[?] soba rather threw me. Soba turns out to be variety of buckwheat, called alforfón in Spanish, I think. (Little alfalfa grass?). Or maybe trigo sarraceno
Today's Cartoon

Talking of lawyers . . . And the Gender Wars:-

Colin Davies: Pontevedra, 15.3.18

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia,Spain: 14.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • Spain's infamous 'Gag Law' (Article 578) has come in for some stick both from Amnesty International and the European Court of Human Rights (here and here). But any revision is only likely to come if the very-right-of-centre PP party is ousted at the next general elections. The hapless but stubborn Sr Rajoy doesn't do change. Or much else.
  • I can't pretend to understand the Spanish education system as a whole, or even the arguments/developments over homework. So, I don't know why (some) parents are demanding nil homework over the Easter holiday. Perhaps they've seen that the Finnish education system tops the tables without any homework at all there, and feel at least part of the model should be adopted here.
  • Spain's prestigious – but largely government funded – think-tank, the Elcano Royal Insitute, has come up with some ideas for the resolution of the Gibraltar issue, taking advantage of the Spanish leverage gained via the Brexit development. I can't see any of them flying but I could be very wrong. Click here and here on this.
  • Spain and Japan are reported to have the worst sleep patterns. Interestingly, one of these has a reputation for hard work, while the other is famous for placing a premium on fun. I leave you to figure out which.
  • Talking of work . . . It's regularly said that the reason Spanish workers have the longest hours in Europe is that folk stay - pointlessly - at their desks of an evening in order to impress (gullible) bosses. Here's something on this issue. Essentially, overtime is not worth it for most employees. Not a huge surprise.
Life in Spain
  • Back to service levels, bad and good. . . .
  1. I called Línea Directa yesterday to ask why they hadn't replied to my email of 2 weeks ago about the measly amount they'd proposed to pay me for a new central heating pump. I got no answer to this question and, worse, they refused to budge on the payout. Reluctantly, I've concluded that I have to admit defeat and move to a company which has an office in town to which I can go for Spanish-style face-to-face discussions with new-found 'friends' there. Where I'll also talk about moving my car insurance next week from Línea Directa. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that customer loyalty over 17 years means nothing to the latter.
  2. On Monday evening I called a carpenter I hoped could fix the runners in my chest-of-drawers (una cómoda). He berated me for not calling him again after I'd called him 2 weeks ago and he'd called back but failed to get me. This is in line with the standard Spanish view that, if you don't call again, you're not really a serious potential customer. In other words, the onus is on you, not the product/service provider to take things further. Anyway, Tito arrived bang on the dot of 3pm, as promised, and turned out to be a jolly chap with one vast stomach and about 6 chins. He informed (an unconvinced) me that the metal runners on the drawers weren't available in Spain but he could fit some wooden ones. So we agreed on this, carried the cómoda and shelves downstairs and out to his van, and then chatted for 20 minutes about Spain and the negative impact of tourism. When he drove off, I returned to my kitchen, to find the scarce remains of the chicken in peanut sauce I'd put on – at the highest heat - just before the doorbell had rung. . . .
The EU
  • The Selmayer 'scandal' rumbles on, with few folk believing it will change anything. Junker and co aren't terribly interested in the opinions of others. Even, they say, when he's sober.
  • Last October, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin were reported to have entered a 'suicide pact'. If one of them was forced out, the other 2 would go. Well, now there's only 'Mad Dog' Mattis left. For not much longer, I guess.
  • The end of Tillerson's (alleged) 'adult' restraint means, say some, that 'Trump can now really be Trump'. Oh, frabjous day!
  • I've heard numerous management styles described over the years. I wonder how Fart's could be summarised in one word. As for the man himself, I currently favour jackass.
  • Russian state TV: If you carefully consider who benefits from the poisoning, it's the British. Simply to fuel Russophobia and so to justify an international boycott of the World Cup in Russia. An excellent special operation! YCMIU. But doubtless this will be swallowed whole by the populace. After all, it might well be true . . . That's the beauty of fake news.
  • Pre-order now your copy of my forthcoming Pilgrims' Guide to the City of Pontevedra. Special rates for readers, of course. I figure it'll be easier to make money this way than by setting up a massage business for the 100,000 weary pilgrims expected to pass through in the Holy Year of 2021. As I said to the man himself last year, I just wish I was John Brierley and could sit back and watch sales of his (excellent) guide to the Portuguese Way soar in line with massively increased numbers. Without the need to pay for any promotion. Not that he does sit back, by the way.
  • The impressive Stephen Hawking sold 10 million copies of his book A Brief History of Time. Which means there are at least 9, 999,995 people out there who never finished it. Or even got past page 10. What an achievement!
  • Meanwhile . . . I've belatedly added a dongle to this blog which allows you to sign up to receive it in your email every day. Enjoy!
Today's Cartoon

Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 14.3.18

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 13.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • Good to see Spain are about to qualify for the next Rugby World Cup, having thrashed Germany at the weekend. They've also beaten Rumania, who are a useful side. Who knows, given how England played against France at the weekend, the Spanish Lions could well defeat them as well.
  • I'm very saddened – but not, of course, surprised - that millions of prayers and tweets and social media postings did nothing to stop the murder of young Gabriel Cruz. God, it seems, is not as strong as an evil human. Though I guess theists will say it was work of that other mythical figure, the Devil. If that brings them some sort of solace or comfort, I guess it's harmless. If delusory. IMHO.
  • Far more relevant to daily life is the incidence of violence against women in Spain. The numbers are worse than ever but it's always possible that greater attention has led to increased reporting levels. Whatever, it's a real problem in Spanish society. Possibly augmented by the high levels of immigration from her ex-colonies in South America.
Life in Spain
  • Sometime you can't believe what you've just seen. Yesterday, I couldn't exit from a roundabout because I was blocked by a vast car transporter which was going straight on. In contrast, the driver who was planning to turn left had kindly left a gap for cars exiting the roundabout. Or so I thought. But, just as I was about to raise a hand to thank her and move forward, she drove into the space, thus keeping me blocked when the transporter moved off. Whatever her logic was it completely failed me. And it was a good job she didn't look in my direction but maintained that straight-to-the front stare that I know so well from recalcitrant drivers on zebra crossings. Perhaps she hadn't really noticed me – right in front of her – and had just run out of patience. Or possibly consideration for others. Never, as I keep saying, a huge factor in Spanish life. Unless there's the 'personal factor'. Then it's unbounded.
  • Anyway . . . Here's the matrix you need to understand at what speed you'll be fined (if snapped) by Spain's ever-increasing number of radar traps. Offences are Serious(Grave) and Very Serious(Muy Grave). The latter will cost you €600 and the loss of 6 of the intial/remaining points on your licence. Mind you, you'll have to be doing - for example - 80kph(50mph) in a 30kph(19mph) zone to be hit by these penalties. Which is just asking for it, of course. Far more likely, you'll be on a straight, unpopulated road outside a town where logic dictates that the limit is 90/100kph but, in fact, it hasn't been increased since the 30-50 limit of the town you left behind 5-10 minutes ago. Safety isn't always the prime consideration in these matters:-

  • The bottom line might be considered the most relevant - the speed at which the camera clicks on. By the way . . . Resist all temptation to question, insult or - most of all - take a foto of the guardia civil officer who books you. In PP's Spain, this could get you a jail sentence.
The EU
  • If you're interested, here and here is Politico on the Martin Selmayr rapid promotion 'scandal' – skullduggery cloaked in secrecy - and on the man himself. Much disliked, apparently. But possibly 'well-meaning and misunderstood'. And hubristic, ambitious and 'destructive'. A microcosm of the EU, then. A perfect leader. One can see why he soared so quickly to the very top. Reading the second article, I was reminded of my reference yesterday to endogamy.
  • No surprise here: US President Donald Trump's plan to deter school shootings does not include his repeated calls to raise the age for buying semi-automatic rifles to 21.  . . The president tweeted that there was not much political support for raising the minimum age on weapons sales. Well, not from Republicans, one could hazard a guess. Nor the funds-flushed NRA, in all likelihood.
Social Media
  • In the article I posted yesterday it was reported that Tim Berners-Lee has always maintained his creation was a reflection of humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly. It seems no one predicted just how much of the latter two we'd be compelled to witness. On a daily basis.
  • And I thought the environs of Pontevedra were dangerous for pedestrians.
  • I've reported on the shenanigans of the Franco family to keep hold of a palace that was 'gifted' to the Generalisimo by the people of Galicia in 1938. It's emerged that the management of the place was taken over a while ago by the Francisco Franco Foundation which has been using public visits as an opportunity to defend Franco's political legacy as a nation builder. As someone has said: It's unthinkable that there could exist in Germany a Hitler foundation or an Italian Benito Mussolini foundation glorifying the lives of these dictators. But Spain is different. At least under the PP party of the hapless Señor Rajoy.
  • What would be your guess at the answer to the question: Over the past 20 years, has the proportion of the world population that lives in extreme poverty:-
1) Increased by 50%
2) Increased by 25%
3) Stayed the same?
4) Decreased by 25%?
5) Decreased by 50%?
Well, 2 years ago some Dutch researchers asked of 26,492 people in 24 countries. Only 1% of these guessed correctly that it had decreased by 50%.

You'd never guess from reading or listening to the media, would you?

Colin Davies, Pontevedra  13.3.18

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 12.3.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • Good to know that Spain is currently going through a generational change among feminist movements. Click here for more. Hopefully, El País got this right.
  • Don Quijones continues to be sceptical about the strength of Spanish banks in general and of Banco Sabadell in particular. And he worries what will happen now that the ECB is finally prodding banks in the Eurozone to unload their bad loans. As for Sabadell, DQ notes this bank is getting treatment from the Spanish government rather better than that given to last year's failure, Banco Pastor. Taxpayer funds, he says, are flowing constantly in the direction of Sabadell – to the eventual tune of over €10 billion. With severe consequences for the fund which is supposed to protect private deposits. Brussels, he says, is again doing its Nelson act in respect of breaches of EU banking regulations. Which, incidentally, it says it will severely punish in the case of post-Brexit Britain. Details here.
  • Spanish justice again: A major corruption case: This week the judge presiding over the case ruled that the statue of limitations has unfortunately elapsed. As tends to happen with cases of white collar crime in Spain, the accused were cleared - not because they’d been found innocent but because the wheels of justice moved too slowly for a judgement to be reached.
  • Per Tim Parfitt today: Rajoy continued to say some crazy stuff. And I mean really crazy stuff. This week, it was: “I will speak with absolute clarity. I will do everything I can and a little more than I can, if that is possible, and I will do everything possible and even the impossible, if the impossible is also possible.” Don’t forget, he’s being paid to say stuff like that.
Life in Spain
  • Waiting for my neighbour to pick me up in town last week, I clocked that all 4 of the places reserved for ambulances next to Pontevedra's main health centre (ambulatorio) were occupied by cars.
  • Can anyone tell me what this combination of white and yellow lines means, in theory and in practice?

  • And what the rules are for pedesterian lights which flicker orange for drivers?
The EU
  • Here's me and others calling on Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron to have more common sense and face reality about the right EU model and now there's this announcement:- Paris and Berlin have postponed plans to propose an ambitious reform of the eurozone at the upcoming EU leaders’ summit on March 22 and 23, Germany’s Spiegel magazine reported Saturday. The power of the pen. Well, mine anyway . . . 
The UK
  • This is what should worry those who think there should be a second Brexit referendum: Two in three people Brits believe the EU is attempting to “bully” the UK in the Brexit negotiations. And that number surely isn't going to fall as Brussels plays hard ball over the coming weeks in the imminent 'substantive' discussions.
  • Of course, this is not necessarily true: Richard North – knowing more about the EU than anyone else in the UK - is an ardent Brexiteer. But he doesn't accept that Brussels is being hard on the UK. Rather the contrary: Throughout the whole Brexit process to date – the UK has taken a passive role and ceded the political initiative to the EU. The UK's role has been largely negative, declaring what it is not prepared to accept while continually failing to be specific about what it does want.  As a result, it is hardly surprising that the EU negotiators are running out of patience and, by the same token, it is difficult to sustain a credible argument that they are "bullying" the UK. In many respects, given the inflammatory statements from some cabinet ministers, M. Barnier and his colleagues have been a model of restraint. I'm sure reader Sierra agrees fully with that.
The Spanish Language
  • New word – Narcopiso. Click here for an article on them here in Spain. In a British newspaper.
Social Media
  • A warning from a man who knows about these things . . .
  • Spring is said to cause a rise in sap in both trees and males. It also seems to be the season for new beggars in Pontevedra. At least another 3 last week, most of them using the very polite, sorry-to-bother-you technique. Is there a school for begging somewhere near? Strangely, there was this bit in the Daily Telegraph this morning, addressing the issue of 'charm': Should we always give to beggars?: Pope Francis says we should always give to them. No excuses. I am grateful to the Pope for pricking my conscience. But is it, in reality, always true that one should give if asked? Should you give, for example, if asked aggressively, or by people who are very drunk or high? Is it always reasonable to assume that someone who begs is a “real” beggar? Might you sometimes be encouraging people who are not desperately poor but just like cheating? I have experienced such people. If you give automatically, might you not be making your own life too easy, feeling virtuous without bothering to work out real need? In practice, I find myself giving only to beggars whom I like or trust. One cold evening recently, I fell into conversation with a homeless Irishman. We had a friendly talk. I offered him money. He gracefully refused it. The next day, I found him outside a nearby shop, begging. As a sort of reward for refusing my money the previous day, I handed over £20. Was my judgment a fair one, or was I over-favouring charm? After all, the charmless beggar coaxes less out of the public, so he is the one with the greater need. Doesn't work with me . . .
  • Talking of drug smuggling . . . You can download - for free – here (in Spanish) the book, Fariña, which will cost you a small fortune via Amazon. It's now a major drama series here in Spain. If this link doesn't work, there are plenty of others on the net.
  • I rarely read restaurant reviews but this one, in The Guardian, caught my eye. Apparently its patrons are mainly blonde-tressed women, just bubbling and fizzing with food intolerances . . . Dairy- and gluten-fearing dietary warriors, seeking sanctuary from the terrifying world of modern food. The meal excoriated cost 55 quid (€60) each. But the place is in Chelsea.
In Memoriam
  • RIP Ken Dodd, who's passed away aged 90. A truly great Liverpool comedian and quite possibly that last of his kind as a stage performer. Fittingly, his last performance was in Liverpool on December 28 last. He never moved out of the house he was born in in Knotty Ash in Liverpool and was vastly loved by the denizens of that great city. And rightly so. Even if he wasn't everyone's cup of tea.

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