Sunday, 12 May 2013

Hard times.

This week has gone from summer back to winter in a matter of days. Sunshine and high temperatures on Monday and Tuesday have been followed by wind and rain ever since. I fully expect to see all the new leaves falling off the trees. 

It’s been an odd week in other respects as well. Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United. Ever since the news has been full of eulogies to the gum-chewing Scotsman. It must be strange and rather disturbing to read your obituaries before you’re even dead but that is surely what’s happening. 

Personally, I like the suggestion from one of the panellists on BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz that he’s only leaving Manchester United in order to take up employment as personal trainer to Prince Charles in preparation for kingship. This is, of course, because of the presence of the Prince of Wales alongside his mother for the Queen’s speech, followed by the decision that he will replace his mother at the Commonwealth Conference. Speculation about abdication is in the air again. 

I commented recently on the proposed new five pound note featuring Sir Winston Churchill. Now I read that there is the possibility of court action to prevent this happening on gender equality grounds. Sir Winston Churchill will replace Elizabeth Fry, currently the only female on the currency apart, of course, from Her Majesty. A feminist campaigner and free-lance journalist by the name of Caroline Criado-Perez has collected 23,000 signatures on an on-line petition to reverse the decision to get rid of Elizabeth Fry and is now taking steps a stage further. It’s all very worthy, I’m sure, but aren’t there more important issues around than whose face is on our five pound notes? 

Over in Galicia, according to one of the newspapers I have been reading on-line, on Thursday they relaxed the rules which forbid “botellón” (mass drinking parties in public parks) in Santiago de Compostela on the occasion of the Feast of the Ascension. Now, why would a festivity celebrating Jesus going up to Heaven cause the authorities to turn a blind eye to young people going out and drinking in the city’s rather fine alameda? Apparently the botellonistas were shooed away from the main section of the alameda to a lower area away public view but were then allowed to get on with it. 

From the newspaper article I learnt a new word: “drunkorexia”. This is a different kind of drinking on an empty stomach. Many young (and some not so young) people don’t bother eating before they go out drinking so that they can get drunk faster. This has long been considered the English style of drunkenness but has been catching on in Spain for a while now. “Drunkorexics”, on the other hand, don’t eat because they are replacing the calories from food with those in the alcohol. It’s a fine distinction. I wonder how you tell the simply drunk from the “drunkorexics”. 

The young people interviewed rationalised their drinking in the park on economic grounds: you can buy a whole bottle of gin in a supermarket for what it costs for one gin-tonic in a bar. I have no doubt that this is so. I suspect that the principle reason we don’t see more “botellón” in the UK is the climate. Sitting around in the park in the rain with temperatures not far above freezing loses its appeal. 

Apparently the economic situation is also affecting the population of Galicia as a whole. The population stopped increasing in 2010 but in the last year has lost 17,999 residents. Of course, the older members of the population have an unavoidable tendency to die off but there are 8,285 more deaths than births each year. Add to that the increase in emigration as more and more young people seek work elsewhere and you have a greater problem. And because of unemployment people are postponing having families. 

Fewer jobs mean fewer babies. Trying times all round.

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