As readers may be aware, I’ve just been to the UK for a few days.
Since almost everyone familiar with Business over Tapas will know the United Kingdom better than I do (current score: thirty days in the last forty years), there’s probably not much I can add about the place, beyond noting that I never saw a single electric scooter in the local towns and villages in West Sussex where I was staying, although I did notice that there are lots of expensive cars around, if not enough road for them all to share. I spent much of my time with my host on the country lanes stuck in long and tedious traffic jams.
That’s Conservatism for you, I thought. A fancy car in a queue.
I was staying in a place near Chichester: a genteel sea-village with a pebbled beach and a few fishermen dotted about selling dressed crab, and where some batty old dear knits woollen cosies and puts them on the lids of the letter boxes. To keep them warm, I suppose. The photograph of me posting a letter into one of these wholesome treasures unfortunately didn’t come out (due to the ill-placing of my chum’s thumb).
I did, however, pick up a joke:
A high court judge and his wife are returning from a very jolly dinner-party when they are stopped by the police.
‘Who are you, sir, and where are you from?’
‘I’m a high-court judge and I’m from Bognor’ said that worthy gentleman.
The policeman let them continue on their way.
‘But darling, we live in Chichester’ said his wife.
‘I know’, he answered, ‘but try and say that when you’re pissed’.
My old school friend and I had some distant memories to recall, a few local sites to explore, a decent curry to enjoy and a pint or two of local brew to quaff. Apparently, they hadn’t had any summer this year until I showed up. I expect they were glad to see me arrive. The temperature was high and the sky was sunny the five days I was there, but now it’s gone back to overcast with a chance of hail.
There are some things about Blighty, you know, that never change.
Some travellers – the non-aggressive British word for gypsies, and I believe that’s now out-of-date as well – were occupying a field by the beach in the village and the local bars had all promptly closed with ‘gas-leaks’ and other tiresome issues, no doubt to remain firmly shuttered until the group had been moved on to pastures new by the local constabulary.
They do like their doggies, the Brits. We had a meal in a Turkish tapa-bar (sic!) in a nearby pueblo, with the next table’s two customers in charge of no less than three dogs, the table behind with two more dogs and another table nearby with yet another pooch. All fulsomely excited, as only the canine-race can be, to meet new friends.
That wouldn’t happen in Spain – but then I suppose, neither would a Turkish tapa-bar.
Of course, I had a good time munching pork pies and once a scotch egg in an otherwise rather boring art museum and, now returned home and suitably refreshed, I’m quite ready for una caña de cerveza and a decent tapa.
They list these items under ‘mass-tourism’: From El Huff Post here: ‘Mallorca's dream is extinguished: an island on the brink of collapse despite the action of its residents. Associations denounce the mass tourism that plagues the Balearic island while taking action on the matter and asking institutions for solutions’. From Infobae here: The Costa Brava is drowning in tourism: “There is no room for more people on the beaches. There are no more resources”. The Catalan coast has been experiencing this problem for years as a result of uncontrolled construction and the millions of tourists who visit its beaches every year’. Tourism has long been considered as ‘easy money’ (that’s to say - for those who can get it). From The Times here (or here): ‘Spain’s beaches and restaurants targeted by anti-tourism activists. Protest groups have attacked hotspots and estate agents in the Balearic islands and on the mainland’.
Marina D’Or, the resort in Oropesa, Castellón, has closed early this year, following its (probable) sale by an American company to a Spanish one. ‘The owner of the holiday complex was the American fund Farallon Capital Management which sold it on to Grupo Fuertes, the owner of El Pozo or Cefusa. All that is missing is the approval of the National Markets and Competition Commission. If all goes well, it will join the Magic Costa Blanca company (based in Benidorm), the company’s trade name for a number of hotels that it owns in Spain…’ More at 20Minutos here.
From The Olive Press (article on Facebook) here: ‘Spanish carrier Air Nostrum has ordered twenty helium airships measuring 92m by 43.5m from British manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) for flights to the Balearic Islands. Dubbed the 'flying bum' due its bottom-like appearance, it features six inflatable studs underneath that mean it ‘can take off and land on virtually any flat surface, including water’. The design does away with the need for airports and making it perfect for inter-island travel in areas like the Balearics…’
‘Spanish banks have earned net benefits of 164,000 million euros since the 2008 crisis while carrying out 37,000 layoffs and closing 9,351 branches’ says Público here. ‘There’s a staggering lack of competition in the banking sector that does little to encourage change. They are more concerned about increasing profits by reducing costs than in winning fresh customers’ says Antonio Luis Gallardo from the Asociación de Usuarios Financieros.
Hacienda is working on removing the tri-monthly IVA declaration from autónomos (self-employed people) who earn less than 85,000 euros per year says El Economista here. The European-wide rule must be implemented by January 2025. Small-business (those under 85,000€ annual volume) will then be able to avoid charging IVA in their invoices and thus making an IVA declaration.
The INE official statistics agency now admit that they have understated Spain’s GDP since 2020, and have now revised their figures upwards – showing that Spain had recovered from the Covid crisis earlier and more forcefully than had been originally announced. The 2021 GDP (5.5% growth) is now revised to 6.4% and 2022 (5.5%) now reads 5.8%. The story at elDiario.es here. La Vanguardia also carries the story: ‘Spain grew by 6.4% in 2021 and 5.8% in 2022’.
Privatised Spanish companies, some now partly owned by foreign state-owned companies. That doesn’t sound right, says elDiario.es here with sundry examples.
From El Mundo, two days before the (doomed) Feijóo debate begins: ‘The PP calls for an event on September 24 in Madrid "in defence of the equality of Spaniards". It will be held in an open place to make it easier for society to show its "rejection" of the amnesty with which Sánchez wants to "perpetuate himself in power"’. That’s to say, for those who don’t want to see Catalonia forgiven for its illegal 2017 independence elections – or, put another way, to see Pedro Sánchez returned in October as Spain’s prime minister. José María Aznar and Mariano Rajoy will also be present at the rally, now fixed for the Avenida Felipe II (OKDiario explains the symbolism). But who is pulling the strings for this rally – the PP headquarters (often known simply as ‘Genova’) or ex-president José María Aznar? Who, in short, is the puppet-master asks El Confidencial here. The very same question arises in Saturday’s Letter from the Director at elDiario.es – ‘¿Quién manda en el PP?’ – Ignacio Escolar writes: ‘Feijóo had a plan when he landed in Madrid: to act like a statesman. Get Spain out of “sterile debates and overcome confrontation and polarization”. “Politics for adults”, he called it, “without wearing patriots’ paraphernalia, without hyperbole and without kids’ games”. “This is a new era” he solemnized in one of his first speeches after Pablo Casado's exit. Mike Tyson once said: “Everyone’s got a plan until they get the first punch in the face”. The quote applies perfectly well to Feijóo…’
The Government, for its part ‘labels Aznar a golpista (coup plotter) for calling for rebellion in the streets against the Catalonian (er, plotters’) amnesty’. El Comercio has the story here.
Meanwhile, ECD has the story of a retired non-commissioned officer who writes a letter to the King asking him to drop any proposal for the investiture of Pedro Sánchez. ‘He conveys to Felipe VI the popular rejection against a government pact with the confessed enemies of Spain’ says the article. Other plot stories, more or maybe less believable, are at Maldita.
It’s odd how politics divides us so deeply – whether in Spain, the USA, the UK or elsewhere – right down the middle. Right now in Spain we appear to have the two formidable choices: lefties, commies and secessionists… or rightists and fascists.
The ex-leader of the PSOE in the Basque Country Nicolás Redondo, a long-time critic of Pedro Sánchez, discovered that he had been expelled from the party while he was lunching with José María Aznar. Aznar, incidentally, will tell you that he sees an existential risk for the continuity of Spain as a nation – not that he hasn’t said it all before… (video).
20Minutos finds some (mainly retired) socialists who ‘are critical of the amnesty that echo in Sánchez's ears’. Felipe González… Alfonso Guerra… Joaquín Almunia…
Podemos (with five deputies within the Sumar grouping) insists that it won’t support an investiture with Pedro Sánchez unless Irene Montero is guaranteed her return as the Minister of Equality.
ECD looks at a possible fresh election (January 14th 2024 has been mooted). The article doubts that even then there would be much resolution. The PSOE’s necessary reliance on the independence parties, and the PP’s recent record in those five regional governments where they are allied with Vox.
For the time being, it will just be a political think-tank created by two of the leading (outgoing) Ciudadanos politicians Edmundo Bal and Francisco Igea, but the asociación Naxos – to be presented on Saturday in Madrid - could turn into a new political party says ECD here.
From The Guardian here: ‘On Tuesday, Spain granted Basque, Catalan and Galician languages parliamentary status. Deputies from the far-right Vox stage a mass walkout in protest at recognition of co-official languages’. Bringing those languages to Brussels, however (another sop to the independents), may be just too complicated to manage.
From Catalan News here: ‘Spain offers to pay cost of making Catalan language official in the European Union. Some member states ask for more details and are "open" to negotiate, while others have "doubts"’. Whether some countries have misgivings or not, much of the Spanish media are certain: El Español here: ‘The hornet's nest of languages in Europe that would shake up Spain if Catalan, Basque and Galician were official. Minority languages are sponsored by social and political movements that demand their recognition at the national and international level’. Tomedes here says that there are 287 European languages…
An enjoyable article about Gibraltar from the JSTOR library is here: ‘Where Two Worlds Meet, the Monkeys Roam’.
From BBC News here: ‘Eurozone interest rates have been hiked to a record high by the European Central Bank (ECB). The bank raised its key rate for the 10th time in a row, to 4% from 3.75%, as it warned inflation was "expected to remain too high for too long". The latest increase came after forecasts predicted inflation, which is the rate prices rise at, would be 5.6% on average in 2023’. Cadena Ser takes up the story here: ‘…Minutes after confirming the rate increase, the acting first vice president, Nadia Calviño, expressed her hope that it would be the last: "I trust that this will put an end to this rapid increase in interest rates and that we will enter into a time of greater stability," she said, recalling that Spain currently has the lowest inflation among the countries in the euro zone’.
Público finds ‘all the excuses’ from the PP for not unblocking the CGPJ, the constitutional body that governs all the Judiciary of Spain (now standing at almost five years past its renovation). It explains: ‘Preventing a progressive majority in the Constitutional Court and in the governing body of judges and wearing down the coalition government have been the objectives of the PP to boycott the renewal of the CGPJ’.
The Caso Neurona (January 2000) was about the illegal funding of Podemos. No one really believed it, but it made for good copy and plenty of judicial inquiries which (to no one’s surprise) came to nothing. Maldita has the background. The investigation was finally discarded by the judge earlier this month says El Periódico here.
The Junta de Andalucía reveals that it is acquiring 7,500 hectares to expand the surface of Doñana by 14% says 20Minutos here. The article adds that ‘…3,500 hectares of the farm ("one of the lungs of Doñana", according to the regional president Juanma Moreno), is currently artificially flooded, but they run the risk of ceasing to be so due to the closure of the local fish farms which have already stopped operating. This would bring the loss of the biodiversity of this space, which, at certain times of the year, is home to more than 300,000 aquatic birds: which represent 60% of the Doñana bird census…’ The farm that the Junta is going to buy near Doñana, says La Voz del Sur, belongs to one of the richest families in Andalucía. ‘The Hernández Barreras’, we read, ‘moved from northern Spain to Seville six decades ago and since then they have managed to create a ‘rice empire’ in Europe’. The land went for 70 million euros, partly covered by European funds.
The Olive Press is following Luis Rubiales and his diminishing fortunes.
(September 11) Luis Rubiales finally resigns: Spanish football boss tells Piers Morgan he is stepping down following ‘Kissgate’ scandal but vows to defend his ‘innocence’.
Motril-native Luis Rubiales descends from a long line of Andalusians who seem to think that one only goes into politics to enrich themselves and abuse the power bestowed upon them… (Opinion on Facebook)
Spain’s High Court accepts criminal case against Luis Rubiales over unsolicited kiss: Football Federation chief could face up to four years in jail.
Spain’s women’s football team stands firm and upholds decision not to play.
Spain’s public prosecutor calls for restraining order to keep Luis Rubiales away from Jenni Hermoso, as trial over forcible kiss begins.
Luis Rubiales is selling his €1.5m home in Madrid: Ousted football boss, 46, faces mounting legal bills ahead of trial over ‘non-consensual kiss.’
The Guardian (Wednesday) here: All but two of Spain’s boycotting players have agreed to be called up for the women’s national team, the country’s high council for sports has said, after a marathon seven-hour meeting that also brought an agreement from the football federation to make “immediate and profound changes” to its structure.
The Animal Welfare Law – compulsory insurance for one’s dogs, dog-owners’ school and several other rules – has been postponed for the time-being says Spanish News Today.
From ECD here: ‘The Guardia Civil has 325 drones used to control large events, to search for missing people and to help fight fires. They are also used in missions to pursue drug traffickers, emergencies, surveillance of agricultural operations...
We have seen how the car manufacturers make many vehicles which are too expensive for the ordinary buyer (‘The average Spaniard can only access 12% of the new car market without compromising his finances’ here). Evidently, the profits are higher on these vehicles. Furthermore, customers prefer heavier and larger SUVs over compacts. Here, elDiario.es looks at the departure of the Ford Fiesta (‘easy to repair, cheap to maintain’) and considers the economics of building more expensive cars. Meanwhile, the rest of us find ourselves obliged to check the second-hand markets…
From The Times of Israel here: ‘How dictator Franco built his regime vilifying the Jews, then tried to hide it. In his new book ‘Architects of Terror,’ Sir Paul Preston shows how Spain’s ties to Nazi Germany and use of anti-Semitic propaganda belied its claims of sympathy for Jewish refugees’.
‘Spain’s Lessons for American Decline’ from Compact here. An interesting article shows how empires must eventually fall, with reference to Spain’s world dominance in the 16th century and the lessons for America today.
Who were the Visogoths (wiki) and how did they fall? For more than two centuries, the Visigoths wrote a very important chapter in the history of the Iberian Peninsula. The names of many kings have come down to us, but their works of art, their treasures, their laws, their battles and their end before the Muslims at the beginning of the 8th century are also famous… Oddly, they’ve been almost expunged from the popular memory. A video on YouTube (in South American Spanish) here.
As the Government now allows Spain’s minority co-efficient languages to be used in the Congreso de los Diputados (to what practical advantage – isn’t clear), we find that the issue of different tongues in Spain is a complicated one. A few article that have shown up on our radar here: Felipe IV, in a letter written by him here, decided that he wanted to learn ‘all the languages of my subjects, so that they wouldn’t feel obliged to learn my own’. He learned to speak Portuguese, Aragonese and Catalán – and even French and some Italian. The idea of second languages nevertheless remains unpopular with the far-right (‘Abascal prohibits Vox deputies from speaking in Catalan, Basque or Galician in Congress). Wikipedia has an essay on ‘Language policies of Francoist Spain’ here. La Voz de Asturias brings an item about ‘when it was illegal to speak anything other than Spanish on the phone’. This was back in the early nineteen hundreds apparently. Presumably the telephone operators were in the pay of the police. Ian Gibson at InfoLibre considers the language issue in Spain here.
Artificial intelligence can now put together a video of someone talking an unfamiliar language perfectly, with proper mouth movements (hitherto, the bane of the dubbing industry). Público has the story of El Fary (wiki) speaking in Chinese. Also a short video of an American saying the same thing in English, French and German. Amazing. But, you can’t have these miracles of technology to hand and not have some fun with them. Here is Núñez Feijoo speaking perfect English, with his lips in synchronisation with his words, talking about how the PSOE has no excuse for its attempt to divide the country. Interesting, because the PP leader doesn’t in reality speak a word of inglés.
Valencia became València with the lefties a few years back, but is now once again Valencia with the new conservative government. See, they’ve been busy. El Mundo has the story.
From IFL Science here: ‘Unprecedented 24,000-Year-Old Paleolithic Art Sanctuary Found In Spain’. The ancient artists used a range of techniques not seen at other cave art sites. The cave is located in Millares in Valencia.
La Razón brings us ‘Europe’s only desert’ – that’s the one in Tabernas, Almería.
The history of the Roman aqueduct that bisects Segovia, on YouTube here.
A visit to Estella (Lizarra in Basque) in the province of Navarra (wiki). Estella was briefly the capital of Spain (1835 with Carlos V). National Geographic is our host here. A few more pictures are here.
Muy Interesante takes us around the most important archaeological sites in Spain here.
Venezuelan-born singer Maye with La Canción on YouTube here.