Friday, October 31, 2008

 

Cock Robin - the band

Here is another entry that has nothing to do with Galicia or any comparison between it and the UK. However for once it shows a rare failure in British (and American) music fans to spot a great band.

The wonders of youtube.com

I seem to spend more and more time on youtube.com. This despite the fact that I hate computers (even though I make my living through them).

I also detest mobile phones and consider them the single biggest human disease, and my feelings for other recent technologies are the same.

This is not born out of ignorance, I am highly qualified (actually in IT) and I use these “aids” on a daily basis – I was even next door sorting out my neighbours PC last week – There is no escape from things that use chips.

However, I can “almost” forgive IT driven technology when I turn back time and explore the millions (or so it seems) of music videos on youtube.

Cock Robin

The prompt for this post is my discovery of a band that I had long since forgotten about and who only enjoyed one minor UK and (albeit a different song) one minor US hit single.

They were/are called Cock Robin and they had a song called “The promise you made” back in the mid 1980’s. For some reason it came into my head earlier this week and I hunted for it on the aforementioned website.

When I found the song I realised that they had many tracks on youtube (thank you SonyBMG) and, with a little research, it quickly became apparent that, although missing the mark in English speaking territories, they were very successful in mainland Europe (apologies for the long sentence).

So, following up on that, here is a link to what I think is their best song (and I have listened to them all): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4JVUBXuVRA .

And to those comment makers on youtube who hate the female singer I can confirm that:

1. She does have a great voice.
2. Yes she does get very dramatic and she even bows at the end of a video – so what!
3. Maybe she did age in to a fat old woman by 2004. But in the videos for the 2006 album she is slim and almost unchanged in 20 years.
4. And, for what it is worth, the male singer has an incredible voice and the bass playing is sublime.


How did this band manage number one albums in Europe but do nothing in the UK and their USA homeland – it beggars belief?

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

 

England is a joke!


I think that the extent to which a society has fallen is often evidenced by the extent to which its population distance themselves from it and take a remote view of what is in essence their world.

An example of this came my way this morning in the form of a joke relayed to me via my sister, from her mother-in-law, who got it from a work colleague.

The joke is not so much amusing as it is a reflection of the shear helplessness felt by the majority of the English population (if you are Welsh or a Scot, then be grateful that your nation still has some self respect – and make sure that you keep it.)

Here is the joke.

I was in Tesco (a supermarket) the other day buying OXO cubes (stock cubes). They had the options of chicken, beef lamb, vegetable and England. What is the “England” one I asked the assistant? “That’s a new one we’ve just launched she replied, it’s a laughing stock!”

In that single joke you have the extent which the English now decry their own society as joke in itself. A society where political correctness has gone mad and where the only people with no rights are the ethnic English – especially if they happen to be employed, heterosexual, Christian and god forbid male – I do know as I am one!

Exemplifying political correctness and its sick societal perversions, here is an example.

I saw a TV documentary last week which included an extended item covering the equivalent of the Olympic Games for people who I think I should describe as “height challenged” or perhaps “less vertically extended” than the average person.

The interesting point however was that “they” chose to call themselves dwarfs and the event “The Dwarf Games” (This was a huge international event and pretty good too).

Given the fact that the word “dwarf” was created to describe someone of smaller than average height in a factually correct and none offensive manner, this seems quite correct to any balanced person.

Interesting therefore that those of restricted height actually choose to call themselves dwarfs whilst the politically correct morons who pervert and poison our society want to call them something else – not for the benefit of the smaller people, but for their own motivations.

Interesting website
The website that I have selected today is http://www.rateyourmusic.com/ which I discovered whilst trying to find a site displaying album cover art. The site is actually pretty extensive and includes features that allow you to vote /rate album etc. Well worth a look.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

 

Galicia - Opening and closing hours and the siesta

I wrongly thought that I had addressed all of the points listed back in early September, however it has been pointed out to me that I have not. So, continuing the theme, this post deals with the single most irritating and also pleasing aspect of Galicia and much of northern Spain – Opening hours.

Shops, banks, bars, you name them, open at various times between 9.00am and 10am. Many “non official” businesses are flexible within these hours and that means that one day they may open at 9.12am and the next at 9.28am. It depends which way the wind is blowing.

Closing times tend to be the same, both at lunch and at night, but this is where things become very different to the English speaking world.

At around 2.00pm everything except bars and some cafes close for 2 to 3 hours. These same establishments then start to come back to life at around 4.30pm, but that may stretch to 5.30pm and in some cases not at all.

I actually support this “siesta” as it represents a way of life that sees lunch as the main meal and time with the family during daylight hours (throughout the year) as important.

Where I do have a problem is in the effect of this prolonged lunch on tourist venues – Like everywhere else in the world they should be exempt and cater for their vsistors.

However, everything from museums to churches and castles to cathedrals close during the siesta and many never bother to reopen afterwards.

Great if you work there, but a nightmare if you are a visitor and a killer of the fledgling and desperately flagging tourist industry of Galicia and one that is headed by the appalling and disgraceful Turgalica.

Anyone wishing to do a management thesis on complete and utter mismanagement, reverse decision making etc, etc etc - take a look at Turgalicia, you will simply not believe how this Xunta funded quango are still in existence. But they genuinely would make a great case study in incompetence.

So why am I so scathing about tourism and Turgalicia?

Well its simple common sense. You are on holiday, you want to see the sights, but you also don’t intend to get up at 5.30 am. So say that you base yourself in Santiago de Compostela and take a late breakfast followed by a morning constitutional and then head off in the car to Pontevedra (not of course being familiar with the route).

By the time that you get there, find a parking space and search desperately for a tourist office it will be 1.30pm to 2.00pm. Everything worth seeing is now shut and the earliest that it is likely to reopen again is 5.00pm. But then again (and despite what the sign says) it may not open again that day. Your time is wasted, you are irritated and no one in Galician tourism gives a dam.

Try any other European zone, southern Spain, even much of neighbouring Asturias, and you will not encounter this difficulty, but in Galicia you are in the twilight zone.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

 

Conculding my points, plus saunas!!!!


I have not checked, but I think that I have now addressed the various points that I listed a month or two ago and promised to write about.

Others may of course take a different view to my observations about Galica, but my overwhelming thoughts on life in the “as yet almost tourist immune Galicia”, are that it is superior in almost every way to the UK.

Yes there are bug bears and also plain irritations, however the negatives that grate on me like those below are completely absent:

Speed cameras,
Surveillance cameras,
Partitions between customers and staff in so many financial businesses,
The obscene escalation of political correctness,
The use of untrue and unfounded claims of humanity destroying the earth to increase taxes,
Drunken and violent behaviour,
The presence of people who look like black letterboxes,
The capitulation of every aspect of what was once part of being British and decent to foreign and other political minorities…….


This list goes on, and on, and on, and on.

To my knowledge and awareness, non of these faults (because that is what they are) have yet reached the shores of Northern Spain. Long may it remain the case.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

 

Salutations and general good manners

I said last month that I would mention salutations and general good manners in connection with Galicia as opposed to those that one experiences or, more commonly, does not experience in the UK.

The concept of saying “hello”, “good morning” or anything else to someone that you do not know is almost redundant in the UK. In fact (and it pains me more than you can imagine to admit this) the only group of people who still seem to adopt these values in Britain are the Asians (not oriental) and primarily those of the Islamic faith!

For me this indicates how far British manners have fallen and how a nation, once renowned for its courtesy and good manners the world over, could actually learn something from a culture that I personally detest and loathe. Very sad, but also very true.

In Spain however, good manners are generally alive and well and in Galicia they certainly prosper.

Not surprisingly, those who initiate salutations tend to be the older adults (i.e. over 30), but this has more to do with an acknowledgement and respect based on age than any lack of intention to do so by those in their teens. Equally, initiating a conversation with anyone of any age is also likely to be greeted with interest and enthusiasm rather than the distain that greets most things in England. The Spanish and the Galicians are talkers and they do so actively.

Handshaking and of course kisses on both cheeks for the ladies, are also a part of any greeting with friends, or people to whom you are introduced. As an Anglo Saxon, I still find the latter slightly uncomfortable, but it is of course eased if the lady in question is young and attractive! Regrettably this tends not to be the case!

What all of these traditional greetings show is that acknowledging others is a big part of the Galician way of life. These greeting are as common between those in their teens as they are between those of advanced years, so good manners is not confined to a single age group.

It seems to me that in the UK we spend time ignoring people and even go to great lengths to do so. In other parts of the world however, the opposite is true and people actively look for the chance to say “hello” and start a conversation.
Interesting too that whilst owned by a massive proportion of the Galician population, mobile phones are rarely seen being used in public. Hopefully the superseding of conversation by texting is still some way off.

Orthopaedic Mattresses

Finally, if you have a bad back or problems sleeping, then this website, www.orthopaedicmattress.net, may have some useful information for you concerning the impact that your bed and mattress have on your health. You can find out about memory foam mattresses, Latex mattresses, and gets tips on how to get a better night’s sleep.

There is also info about pillows, bedding and lots of other bed and mattress types including those with electric adjustment, heat etc. If you are interested, or have a troublesome back check it out.

Friday, October 10, 2008

 

Eating, prices and value

The prices of everything have gone up significantly in Galicia since my first visit in 2000.

Indeed, when it comes to food, in some instances there has been a disappointing reduction in quality too. The latter is largely due to the introduction of more national rather than regional supermarket chains in Galicia.

Even so, good eating is cheaper than in the UK and certain types of food, primarily seafood and fish, are much more widely available and at a quality that is unattainable at any price in the UK.

As an example, we quite literally gorged ourselves on fresh king prawns on several occasions and when I say gorged I really mean it. The price of King prawns sized up to 5 inches in length varied between 7 and 10 euros per kilo making them astoundingly cheap.

As a result we purchased a full kilo (in fact more) on several occasions and fried them with proper garlic (not the little toys ones that they sell in the UK) in extra virgin olive oil. Eaten with fresh crusty bread and one of the wines previously mentioned this really is food for the Gods.

Another cheap and seasonal speciality are “pimientos de Padron” which are small chilli peppers that you fry in oil until brown slightly pitted. You then sprinkle them with sea salt and eat – again with bread and wine.

At the beginning of the season these peppers are quite benign, but by late season, i.e. September, you will get more than the occasional one that will blow your head off. When this happens, no amount of water, alcohol or bread will cool you off.

The price for these delights – just over a euro for a bag capable of feeding two! (that is of course when bread is added.)

No plugging of any sites about London, weekends or anything else in this entry!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

 

Galician banks

Banking in Galicia is certainly different to that in Britain and on every level.

The first big difference is that a bank branch (office) is a large open plan affair with no tills, no enclosed areas and no impact resistant glass. Everyone that you see and speak to is directly in front of you and there is no barrier of any kind between customers and banking staff.

Everything is done on a face to face basis and if anything requires more than a few seconds to do, you are invited to a seat at a desk where a member of staff will attend to you.

Opening a bank account takes about one and a half hours. Everything is done in front of you, in your presence and all forms and inputs are checked with you verbally. There is no processing centre, no mass call centres in India and Pakistan and commitments are given to you on durations, time spans and everything that will happen concerned with your account.

A further interesting point is the extent to which the bank goes to establish your financial credibility. You cannot just walk off the street and open and account, they want to know your income, profession and numerous other personal details – and not for junk mail purposes.

Finally, when you leave the bank you do so with a bank pass book (like they had in the old days in the UK) and your personal PIN number. You also need to call back in person a few days later to pick up your bank card. Nothing is sent through the post or passed out anonymously.

So is this a pointless waste of time and a boring exercise?

When I opened a bank account in Galicia and visited a few days later I was greeted with hellos from three different members of staff. I was remembered, I was now a valued customer, and when a question was asked, I was invited to take a seat again where I was attended to in a very happy jovial, but professional manner.

Finally, you may be interested to know the sum of money required to open this account and get this exceptional and friendly level of service. The figure was 100 euros.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

 

The credit crunch

Deviating from Galicia to the credit crunch! Collapse of the world economy! Banking crisis! Call it what you will, here is my experience of the tightening up of UK banking.

On Monday my 75 year old (retired without an employed income) mother got a letter from a bank offering her an unsecured £6,000 loan. All she had to do was sign the form, return it and the money was hers.

On Wednesday I got a similar letter and form from LLoydsTSB (or whatever they call themselves these days for £3,000. ( I guess as someone with a job and many years of employment left I was a less attractive target!)

On Friday my wife got an “un-requested” application form for a credit card – again from the aforementioned Lloyds bank and with a £3,000 credit limit.

It is reassuring to see the efforts to which UK banks are going to control the credit crisis! And, incidentally, the rewards that banking staff are getting for continuing this diabolical and irresponsible behaviour. A friend of ours has already told us how he expects an excellent bonus this year – he works for one of Europe’s largest banks!

Still on the credit crunch, I and numerous other people that my wife and I speak to seem unaffected by this crisis. We all avoid accruing credit, never overspend, have no HP agreements and make sure that our outgoings are less than our incomings.

So how do we do it? Amazingly it is not all that difficult. It simply requires enough discipline to say, “yes I would like that, but actually I cannot afford it, so I will do without.”

Easy to say and easy for anyone with intelligence to apply! But then again when banks continually bombard you with offers of credit cards and “low interest loans (for the first year at least), I guess many fall foul and succumb to the banks evil advances.

So what are the UK government doing about all of this. Not surprisingly they are doing the thing that they do best – nothing!

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

 

The non alcohol culture

As someone who likes a drink – and that means a drink and not 10 pints – the drinking culture in Galicia is one of which I approve.

We regularly have a glass of wine or lager with a meal and we are not adverse to having a glass or two of alcohol on an evening (although rarely at home other than on weekends).

So, with that in mind, it is a big plus in Galicia’s favour that our drinking habits seem to be pretty much reflected by the general population. Having regularly visited Galicia over the last 8 years I have yet to see anyone drunk, or even noticeably under the influence of alcohol, at a bar at any time of the day or night – and that includes every town and city in which I have been at that hour.

Obviously this is not to say that nobody ever gets drunk, but clearly it is an infrequent occurrence and, when they do, their behaviour is not loud and outlandish, let alone violent (as it is in the UK).

The other thing to bear in mind is that regular bars stay open until late, so this sober situation is a reflection of people at 2 and 3 O clock in the morning.

So, for the bemused English larger lout, what do these people do when they visit a bar?

The answer is that they practice the arts of talking and socialising rather than seeing how much alcohol they can “down”. This means that at least 50% of the drinks are coffees and those that do drink alcohol do so in a slow manner, often taking an hour or more to drink a 330cl glass of lager or a wine.

How do they do this you may ponder?

Well again, they are more interested in their friends company and enjoying the evening rather than getting blathered! It is also, quite rightly, still seen as a gross embarrassment to be seen drunk in public and would slur the reputation of anyone spotted in such a state.

I guess the final observation about these “limited alcohol” drinking habits is to conclude (if that is really necessary) whether or not this kind of “night out” is good or bad.

I would simply say that no one of any age is ever placed in a situation where the behaviour of others makes them feel threatened, uncomfortable or in any way ill at ease. That remains a constant in any location and at any time of the day or night. Regrettably, this is something that I am unable to say when in the UK, be it in the city centre, or in my own (relatively nice) neighbourhood.

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