In many parts of the UK we had to accept first of all making our dustbins a feature of the front garden to avoid the dustbinmen having to walk round and collect them from the back of the house. Then it became necessary to put the bin in the street itself, where it could get in everyone's way, if we wanted our bins emptying at all. Time and motion studies have proved that this is a more efficient way of doing things, so it must be good.
Here in largely flat-dwelling Spain, there are large rubbish containers on the streets. Everyone has to put their rubbish in sealed plastic bags and take it down to the container. (In the summer it is usual to ask people not to take rubbish down until after 9.00 pm, for obvious reasons!) It's quite an effective way of making use of the multitudinous collection of plastic bags from the supermarketand ensures that you get at least a little exercise. You are encouraged to recycle and, to that end, there are separate containers for glass, paper and cardboard, light packaging and plastics, "brics" (cartons for orange juice and so on) and tins. So, good citizens, we walk with our segregated bags of rubbish to segregated containers. At some time in the middle of the night the dustbinmen come and empty the containers. Apart from occasionally noisy collections, the system appears to work fine.
Then, as I walked home from my yoga class this morning, I passed numerous overflowing rubbish containers with bags of rubbish piled up alongside them. The dustbinmen are on strike! According to the local papers, some 350 tons of rubbish are waiting on the streets of Vigo! Fingers crossed that they settle the dispute soon!
At the same time, the obras situation has not improved. If anything, there are more roadworks than ever going on around the city. Traffic is in chaos with lines of cars at a standstill in various parts of Vigo. The co-ordinator of the French reading group I go to at the library told us yesterday evening that it had taken her more than an hour to drive from the Citroen works to the library, a journey that should take about fifteen minutes.
A friend of ours believes that much of the digging-up and resurfacing of roads around the place is an attempt to provide some relief from high unemployment. Jobs are being created. If this is so, it is not really making much of an impression. Newspapers report unemployment at a record high with four million people out of work in Spain. Just when it looked as though things were improving on the job front, along came la crisis and everything just fell apart.
And now we have la gripe porcina from Mexico to contend with as well. There is only one confirmed case of this malady so far in Galicia. It is in Mos, one of the districts of Vigo!
However, here comes the mustn't grumble moment. Let us look on the bright side.
Monsieur Sarkozy is making his first official visit to Spain and has been welcomed by the royal family and Senor Zapatero. He is being upstaged though by his First Lady (just when did France start having a First Lady?) the elegant Carla Bruni. The fashionistas are having a ball comparing the outfits of Carla and Letizia, Princesa de Asturias, both tall, both slender, both expensively groomed. Good for them, I say, but personally I am growing just a little tired of Ms Bruni's bashful, head-tipped-to-one-side look.
Another reason to be cheerful that I have gleaned from the press is a timely rescue in Venice. Spanish actors have been in the news. Javier Bardem managed to prevent Pe(nelope Cruz) from falling into a canal there as she boarded a boat to attend a friend's wedding.
The country may be in crisis (and which country isn't at present?) but we can rely on high society to cheer us up!